Reading in public places



It was a one of those beautiful, late autumnal days here a few weeks ago. A clear, crisp morning, warm enough in the sun if you kept moving.

I was hurrying to meet someone, late, and saw a young guy in his twenties on the opposite side of the road. He was walking slowly along, head down, totally immersed in a book. No deadline or destination hurrying him along. He was totally transfixed, weaving a little, both hands locked on the book, head bent over, the whole curve of his neck and shoulders screaming concentration.

I caught up and slowed down to his pace from across the road (couldn't help it!) He was towards the end of the book, turning the pages faster as his feet slowed down. Something made him look up and across the road at me. He shot me a grin of open joy and I grinned back. There it was in a moment - the shared happiness about a book so good you literally can't put it down.

I've missed bus stops countless times, hopelessly entrapped by a good yarn. A few years ago in Martin Place, Sydney I watched a very well dressed man stand, reading at the lights while pedestrians waited, then crossed without him. He read on, oblivious, through four sets of light changes, totally immersed, the world standing still while his story rollicked on.

Yesterday, walking home I saw a woman in her bank uniform on a seat outside. She read frantically, checked her watch before returning to her book, then singed herself as a cigarette burnt to ash, forgotten, between her fingers. 

This is the power of a good book. To entertain, to transport, to enthrall, to move us into new worlds and out of our own. I have no idea what these book lovers were reading, but they were gone, totally sunk by their book.

How about you? Missed any bus stops lately? Recovering from a book hangover after compulsively reading well into the night?

Or perhaps felt the joy radiating off someone reading in a public space. For a brilliant street photography project celebrating the joys of reading on the New York City underground, check out The Underground New York Public Library. Love it!

*Above photo courtesy of Lauren Finkel (Creative Commons license)




10 comments:

  1. I can totally relate. There is nothing like a good book to make the time go faster than you ever imagined, resulting is missed things. But who cares, the book was so damned good, right? Thanks for the post, it was lovely to read. xx

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    1. Sarah I totally agree. Who cares cause the book totally rocked and it's such a great feeling to finish it!

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  2. Firstly, I love the link to the NY photos. I read whenever I can, and love the opportunity to read on the train or bus. When I see others reading, I always want to try and see what they are reading!

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    1. The UNYPL photos are awesome aren't they? It's great seeing what people are reading too, especially when they are totally into their book.

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  3. Oh gosh - there's a term for the condition I've experienced for most of my life? Book Hangover - LOVE it! Great post by the way :)

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    1. Hi Lisa It's how I think of it because I do book hangover ALL the time, even when I know it's going to hurt the next day!

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  4. This hit such a cord! The last time I missed my transport reading was back in the heat waves in January - I missed three trains at Southern Cross and then another at Warragul when we had to change trains! This was the last time I was on public transport by myself and could lose myself in a book! But book hangovers… a lot more recently!
    I love the link - nosiness and books - perfect!

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    1. What a classic Kirsty! Must have been an awesome book and sounded worth it - hopefully you were in an air conditioned train too. I know, the photos are fascinating aren't they!

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  5. Love, love, LOVED this post! I have to purposefully dedicate time to read nowadays, which means I don't have any funny stories about missing buses or anything due to being head down, bum up in a book but I'm just happy I can still block out a good few hours to reading and getting lost in a story.

    I really enjoyed the UNYPL photographs, too - such an awesome idea, makes me wish I'd thought of it!

    Jacquie

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  6. Hi BirdandFox glad you liked the post and the link - an awesome street photography project I thought too!

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