Friday, September 04, 2009

Books on the Bus

I always have a book with me including when I ride the bus.
When I am out and about I prefer to leave the heavyweight tomes at home so among my current reading Infinite Jest: a Novel by David Foster Wallace (heavyweight in more than mere pounds), Paris 1919: Six months that changed the World by Margaret MacMillan and Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin are left at home next to my comfortable reading chair.
Last night I was reading Out Stealing Horses: a Novel by Per Petterson while riding down to Old Town to meet a friend for dinner and today as I rode downtown and back to meet some former coworkers at Ceres I took along Gene Smith's slight but fascinating biography of Woodrow Wilson's last years, When The Cheering Stopped: The Last Years of Woodrow Wilson (highly recommended). Now what these two disparate books have in common is that they are both lightweight and easy to carry. They also may be read with a little less concentration than that required for Wallace's tome.

While I enjoy reading I equally enjoy noticing what my fellow bus riders are reading and there are always a few readers on board any bus with more than a handful of passengers. Call me a biblio-voyeur if you will, but I cannot deny my interest. Usually the books are not worth the glance, for the buses are filled with people reading Twilight or its clones, the latest romance novel or some Ludlumesque thriller-chiller (all of which I personally find unreadable - but that's just one reader's perspective).
Today, on the other hand, while returning home from lunch I saw someone standing near me (it was early on Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend and the bus was a bit more crowded than usual) reading Knowles' A Separate Peace ; and another sitting in front of me reading Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. Now those are both books worthy of consideration, in fact I've read A Separate Peace and have the Gawande book on my "to read" list, although I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to it. These books provide evidence that there is a bit of gold among the dross of most books being read on the bus. It reminds me of the time several years ago that I struck up a conversation with someone who was reading No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I had recently read it myself and could not help sharing the joy of the experience by discussing the book with a fellow reader - no stranger, for we were connected by our shared reading. While that was an exception, I usually have my nose buried in a book - my own. There is nothing like taking books with you and reading them on buses; enjoying them while traveling to and fro.

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