What to Read on the Subway


What do you guys do on your commute? If you take the subway, do you read or listen to a podcast, maybe music? I love using my commute times on the subway for reading since it's a block of time during which phone service is not guaranteed and it's easier to stay focused on a book. 

The best subway books will keep you entertained, but they are easy to jump in and out of. They're not too heavy to carry in your bag and, ideally, will give you a better understanding of the world or at least just your city.

The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
An iconic story of the city, Fitzgerald writes of a couple who awaits their inheritance while under the influence of cosmopolitan ambition and the New York nightlife. It follows the path of destruction caused by the couple's desire for luxury but aversion to work. Kind of a 1920s Gossip Girl, if you will. 

Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser
Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard, discusses why the city is our greatest hope for the future, explaining why (contrary to popular belief) cities are the healthiest, greenest, and wealthiest places to live. 

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
In this unique book, Olivia Laing discusses the loneliness she felt when she moved to New York City, a phenomenon that most city dwellers experience. She explores this idea through the artwork of Andy Warhol and Edward Hopper as well as why loneliness is an integral part of existence. 

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford
If you want to use your commute to learn something new, this is a great choice. This book is essentially a field guide for behavioral economics, explaining the economic principles that affect things like traffic jams and the price of coffee. 

Living, Thinking, Looking by Siri Hustvedt
Short stories and essays are great options for subway reading as you can read just as many as it takes to get to your destination and not feel confused when you jump back in later. This collection from Siri Hustvedt's essays use insights from philosophy, neuroscience, and literature to discuss personal stories, memory and emotion, and visual art. 

Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders
This collection of short stories is focused on over-arching themes such as class disparity and the visions of the 'average' person.. These stories are enrapturing and could very well be read in one sitting, but they also have the ability to be broken up during your commutes. For a little sample, check out the title story here.

The Industries of the Future by Alec J. Ross
Another great pick for using your commute for educational purposes, this book is about the fields that will see great innovation in the future and potential obstacles that will create needs for new industries. Some topics are commercialized genomics, cybersecurity, and big data. Ross is the former Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State, so he certainly knows what he's talking about on this subject. 

Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara
This book contains various poems written by the late Frank O'Hara on his lunch breaks in Manhattan while working at MoMA. Poems are perfect for commuting because you don't have to commit to reading more than one and these will add a little bit of beauty to your day.