Just before going to sleep last night I had a thought that I should make a few suggestions for books/stories for commuters to read.
There’s something special about reading Hemmingway in Florida, Death in Venice in Venice, one of the gorgeous histories of Rome in Rome. (Not all novels need this added dimension to them) I’ve have a strong suspicion the novels/stories I’m about to suggest should be read anywhere but on your daily commute.
253 by Geoff Ryman.
Hang around me long enough and I’ll eventually suggest you read 253. Geoff Ryman is a hero of mine for all sorts of reasons. (Thanks for writing this post Jon, you’ve crystalised my adoration of Geoff) 253 started life as a hyperlinked website (which allows you to take a serendipitous journey through the story) but I prefer the paperback/ebook edition.
The story concerns 253 passengers (and one driver) on a perfectly filled (everyone has a seat) London Underground train. Every passenger is described in 253 words that tell you what they look like, and what they are thinking and doing.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
Does this novel need any kind of intro? I’m going to assume not and just let you go read it.
Don Quixote by Cervantes.
There is nothing finer when trapped on a delayed train than dipping into the Quixotic adventures of the man of La Mancha himself. What did people use to describe a Quixotic adventure before Don Quixote?
I also suggest you get into listening to the 99% invisible podcast; yes it’s about design and architecture on the surface but each episode tells one story but that one story is really the story of us all and it’s perfectly produced. From Roman Mars’ soft introduction through to the end, it’s brilliant.
Whisper Cities is a lovely podcast but appears to have stalled a little. Similar in style to 99% invisible and the escalator episode from here appears in an expanded form on 99% invisible.
On Being with Krista Tippet. I know there’s a few people that will skip On Being because it’s faith based but there are some real gems. Krista is an incredible interviewer, she’s always well informed about her interviewee and seems to always ask just the right question. Seek out the following podcasts but hit up the unedited interviews: Rosanne Cash, Joanne Brooks, Karen Armstrong and Alain De Botton. (The unedited interviews are slightly longer but they’re fascinating as you get to hear the whole process from when the mic is switched on to the very end of the interview)
Three podcasts to subscribe to and three books to read. Should keep commuters busy for a while.