How Not To Read On A Train


There’s so much to read in the world–and, if you commute, so much time to get that reading done. But why not succumb to exhaustion and paralysis? Books aren’t merely made to be read–they give your bag a nice shape and structure when carried, unopened, for months!
  1. Bring a book you’ve been meaning to read for years, the kind that you “meant to read in college.” Maybe you were assigned it; maybe you were assigned it in several courses! Post-colonial literature, your Salman Rushdies, work well for this, as do George Eliot and her dense, impenetrable sort. If you want to “keep up with the news,” a back issue of The Economist is perfect train non-reading.
  2. Be really tired for nondescript reasons. The best way to tire oneself out is to get to the train station late and run to catch a train, then miss it, then spend twenty minutes or more waiting, a length of time in which one does not want to get started on one’s reading “only to be interrupted.” Physical exhaustion won’t get in the way of one’s reading, but ennui will.  Go buy a soda or a beer and a snack. Maybe get an easy magazine for the wait. Finish it, feeling a bit dumber.
  3. Get on the train. Sit next to someone whose activity is more exciting than your book. Suggested activities to look for are: studying a foreign language textbook and mouthing words quietly to oneself; reading a New York Post whose pages one can see, if only slightly; talking on the phone; being attractive; texting; reading a different and easier-looking book through which one can discern vital-seeming aspects of that readers’ personality.
  4. Have one’s own book next to one. Pick it up and open to a spot 150 pages or more removed from one’s current place in the book—anywhere in the book is fine if one hasn’t yet begun reading it. Ponder how much reading, how many train trips, one would have to take to get there.
  5. Think about all the great reading one did in college. Make a mental list of the books one will read as soon as one finishes this one, this big one, the big one that one has meant to read lo these years.
  6. Have a phone! This is essential. If possible, have a Twitter account, and refresh it frequently. One more refresh, then I’ll start reading,
  7. Get to your stop. Put your book in your bag, and arrange random papers atop it so you won’t find it, or think of it, until the next commute, when you’re so bored you’ll find it again. Go about your day.

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image – Mo Riza