Vintage Post: Carrie’s Weird Book Rule

This is a vintage post from 2006 that I found when copying over my archives.  Figured I might as well put this up top - though it's so vintage I don't even work any more, and thus have no commuting book at all.  Oh, I finally did finish stupid Augie March.

I have already referred to one of my weird reading practices (i.e. the time I decided to read three hundred young adult books in alphabetical order). Today I am going to share another – namely, the deep dark secrets of my weird commuting book rules. It is not weird to have a commuting book. No self respecting bookworm travels without a book to read at all times, and reading on the bus/subway is a time honored method of squeezing more reading into your day (and protecting yourself from the public transit wierdos).

Here is what is weird about my particular commuting book rules:

1. I walk to work. This means, I don’t actually have a chance to read while I commute. Even on days when I don’t walk all the way, I usually walk half an hour to the subway, and then take about a five minute subway ride. Very occasionally I ride the bus, and get some more serious reading in, but that is by far the exception. I do read as I ride the elevator down from my office to the lobby in the evening (but not in the morning, cause that would be odd). Which means that on the average day, I get from two to seven minutes of reading in.

2. I leave the book in my bag, only to be read on my commute. Even if I really like the book, I feel like it’s cheating to pull it out and finish it not on my commute. This means that I have been reading The Odd Women by George Gissing since late December. I will very occasionally cheat if the book is not-put-down-able, but I feel guilty about it. Oddly, reading the book during my lunch break is not cheating – since my commuting book is also my work/stuck in a waiting room book.

3. I have an elaborately odd system for choosing my commuting book. I decided one day, pretty arbitrarily, that I was not reading enough of my shelf-sitter books. So I decided that my commuting book would become the delivery system for all those abandoned books that I had bought and never read to get read. It would force me to read the things that I had been putting off for whatever reason. Then I decided it wasn’t enough to just read any old shelf-sitter that caught my fancy. I needed to spread them out. I decided that I needed to pick one from each shelf of my bookshelf. Which is to say, I would read something on the A to C shelf, then the D to F shelf, etc. I also decided to start this system in the “M”s. I have since doubled back to the G’s. I have only read fiction, though – I made a stab at reading non-fiction shelf-sitters, but it was too dry and required too much attention for this weird disjointing five page at a time system I have developed.

So, that’s my system. Sort of weird and OCD, I know. I have stuck to it, too. And actually, as sort of nerdy as it sounds it has worked for me. It has forced me to read a whole bunch of great books that I otherwise would have ignored. Just a sampling includes: The Poetry of E.A. Robinson (one of my best books of ’05), The Little Girls by Elizabeth Bowen, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore. And I love the time when I go to my shelf and pick out a new book that I haven’t ever read, and, without this little game, maybe never would have. The only complete failure was The Adventures of Augie Marsh, which I just could not get into – maybe that one needs more dedicated attention. Plus, it weighed a pound and half – commuting books ideally do not weigh ones bag down quite so much.


So, now that I have confessed yet another reading weirdness – what sort of odd book rules have you made for yourself?

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017