An Informal Survey of the Reading Habits of Brooklyn Commuters

The advent of the Kindle and other electronic readers had everyone (well, maybe not EVERYONE, but lots of people that I know) despairing over the end of literature and of tangible books. Well, that didn’t happen. Every time I ride the subway, the sheer number of people propped up against poles or hiding their faces behind big books impresses and interests me. Not just because I’m heartened to see that literature is not dead and that good, old-fashioned book reading is alive and well, but also because I love seeing who’s reading what. Because people read all sorts of stuff. And they’re reading it in public.

There was the girl on the L train who was reading The Fountainhead who told me that she was reading it because it was a classic and she was “trying to read all the classics.” I hardly knew what to make of that. Then there are all the women who read “Fifty Shades of Gray,” these are the women who you notice staring intently at their E-Readers, lips tightening to prevent knowing smiles from blooming. And there are the men. Men, mostly, in my informal observations, don’t read that much on the subway. But those that do read? Love to have their pictures taken. Women read. But those reading self-help books, particularly the books on the subject of marriage, don’t like having their pictures taken AT ALL. The reasons that people choose the books they do can be trivial or they can be well-thought out. But people are reading underground, getting from one place to another in the city and on the page.

All photos Kristin Iversen

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