Reading: The Best Commuter Pastime

My commuting buddy has never left my side. Through every highway twist and turn, through choppy waters and construction delays, my books have always kept me company.

It’s an oft-mentioned rule that you officially become a New Yorker after fifteen years and certainly a ‘power commuter’ after five. After twenty, I’ve truly fulfilled my mother’s image of a modern woman: Melanie Griffith in ‘Working Girl’ with dress pants, sneakers, perhaps a rogue shoulder pad.

While my methods of getting to work have often changed over the years (due to new job, new apartment, subway construction, what have you), my need for a morning read has always followed. It’s a part of the commute routine: no matter how I travel, if I don’t start my day by reading, then the rest of the day feels…off.

Commuting Train Bus Ferry

On the Staten Island Ferry, you could find me cramming college textbooks into my bag and pouring over theater scripts as I headed into ‘the city’ for an audition. On the Metro-North to New Haven, Connecticut, you’d find me with everything from a magazine, to a Kindle, to a well-worn copy of A Treasury of Kahlil Gibran I have from the 1950s. Just like Kira’s post a while back, I’d lose myself in a deep read on the subway then find myself in the Bronx unexpectedly, a good ten station stops too far. And for a brief time, I even commuted as a passenger on a motorcycle: strapped to the back, I would listen to an audiobook, on full volume, to pre-occupy myself from the terror that is 85 mph on the West Side Highway. These days, I read while waiting for the bus and there is nothing like a really good book to get you through the pain of a rush hour queue.

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Glancing at my fellow commuters, I often wonder if they are as attached to the habit of reading every morning as I am.

For those of you who commute to work or travel often, do you bring along your commuting buddy: the book?

Lovely commuter images via,,, and

  • I commute by car, but on the odd day I need to go to London for work, I always take a hardback vintage book (they survive the travelling better than paperbacks). I sometimes look across the sea of ipads and smart phones, kindles and laptops and notice someone laughing at me.

  • Wow, you read by train, car, ferry, bus, and motorcycle! How cool. Like I said in my post, I really miss my time reading on my NYC subway commute.

    You know what else I miss? Spying what other people are reading….

  • techeditor

    When I lived in San Diego, California, I used to take a bus to and from work, about an hour’s ride each way. I intended to read while I waited for the bus and during the ride. But I learned that commuting by bus, regardless of what Kate Rados says, does not leave much reading time.

    First, if you read while you are at the bus stop, you stand a darned good chance of missing your bus, especially if your book is good. That’s because you have to look up each time a bus comes to see whether it’s your number, which is impossible if you are reading.

    The bus I took was what was called an “express” bus, that is, it picked up people at various bus stops, but once it got on the freeway, it drove nonstop until it got downtown, about a 20-minute ride, and then dropped off people at various stops. If you weren’t looking up at all the stops, you missed yours.

    So I had abpit 25 minutes to read. Except try reading anything but a large-print book on a bouncing bus. It’s not easy, especially when you’re going the other way during winter at the end of the day. It’s dark then, so you have to use a booklight. Not only is your book bouncing, but so is your light.

    I found I had more time for reading if I drove myself to and from work.

  • Wolfie

    I commute about an hour and a half each way, daily. Wouldn’t survive without a book to read. I take 3 trains each way, and in the afternoon, I add a shuttle ( I walk in the morning) I have only read through my stop once or twice, but many times I want to stay on the train, and keep on reading. If I see anyone reading, I always try to peek to see what their choice is.

  • Christine L

    I commute by car so “reading” would be a little dangerous. However, that does not stop me. Audiobooks have gotten me through many a traffic jam. I have also found that book I know I would never have finished were I reading them, were wonderful to listen to because of the excellent readers. KUDOS!! to the talented readers of the audio books. I find now I not only have favourite authors, but favourite readers as well.

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