On the L and A lines (A New Series)

Have you ever visited the blog “Seen Reading”, by Julie Wilson? She caught commuters reading and imagined their interaction with a few sentences of the book they had in hand. The blog is now on a break (she landed a book contract!), but the archives are still there, celebrating a so-called “literary voyeurism”. It is a fascinating mix between daily facts and micro-fiction and offers the advantage of giving you a brief (if not representative) view of a book.

I personally love to watch people reading books during their commute. Of course, now that a lot of people have Blackberries, you can’t tell if they’re reading Faulkner or just Facebook updates. But people on the train carrying battered paperback novels, or hardbacks protected by a cover (so as to discourage fellow commuters’ curiosity, or to respect the book? I wonder), or library loans under plastic wrap, all give me hope for the old unfashionable book-on-paper industry.

I have about 40 minutes’ commute every morning and evening. I take a suburban train and then change to an express train for the last few kilometres. This express line has the heaviest daily traffic in France, about 1 million commuters every single day, representing 25% of all suburban public traffic around Paris. The population is very diverse, from the up-and-coming junior managers for big corporations (I dare say the senior ones rather come by car) to the lower class. But in the morning, among the million people travelling, I always see, sitting close to me, a few people reading. Perhaps they are the same I get to meet online in blogs. I’m so grateful of this daily presence of books that I decided to celebrate this daily reading zone by naming the few titles I caught sight of in the morning.

I hope that over a few months, I’ll have a subjective picture of what people read for fun. I won’t go into describing the readers, because I have my own reading to do as well! I expect quite a lot of Stephanie Meyer and Dan Brown and whatever is hot in the moment, but also some hidden gems! Perhaps the anonymous crowd will inspire my own book choices.


  • Lauren Weisberger, Chasing Harry Winston (2008)
  • James Ellroy, Clandestine (1982)
  • Emmanuel Carrère, The Adversary (2000)
  • Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (1964)
  • Shi Nai’an, Water Margin (also known as The Outlaws of the Marsh), a classical Chinese novel from the 14th century

One thought on “On the L and A lines (A New Series)

  1. When I was working frequently in New York, I loved watching what people read. Since I live in a city without any public transportation to speak of, I almost never get to see people reading. It’s sad not to see books outside of bookstores and one’s own shelf. But I know there are readers out there! 🙂

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