The Secret to Reading on your Commute

The Secret to Reading on your Commute

Get comfy

Forcing your way on to an over-crowded train or bus is not the ideal way to top and tail your day. But if you’re lucky enough to get a seat, make it your home for the duration of your journey. From squashy head pillows to trying your best to get a window seat, the comfier you are, the easier it will be to read. If you do have to stand on a train, though, a book makes an excellent barrier between you and the sweaty armpit of the person standing next to you.

Pick your music

Are you in the ‘distraction’ or ‘helpful’ camp? Listening to music while reading is a subject that certainly divides our office. While a lot of people aren’t able to concentrate on a book with the Top 40 blaring in their ears (this constitutes as ‘multi-tasking’, after all), many find it is less distracting than inadvertently listening to the surround-sound of other passengers’ conversations. Why not try listening to calming, ‘no-lyric’ songs, such as classical or chill-out tunes? This way, you won’t be tempted to sing a long, but you’ll be sure to drown out the hubbub.

“I listen to karaoke albums on my commute. The music is familiar and fun to listen to but without the distracting words” – Megan Murphy.

Choose your neighbours carefully

There’s nothing worse than getting to the turning point of an Anthony Horowitz novel and being interrupted by the gentleman behind you who has suddenly developed a hacking cough – so pick who you sit next to carefully. Do they look like they have a cold? Do they look like someone who could potentially initiate small talk? Do they have headphones in that could get noisier as the journey progresses or – worse still – have your neighbour tapping their feet or drumming their fingers throughout the commute? Picking the perfect neighbour is something that comes with practise, and you may have to go through a bit of trial and error in order to get there.

Keep headphones firmly in your ears

This is a little sneaky, but your music doesn’t actually have to be playing; we all know that ‘headphones in’ is the universally-recognised symbol for ‘do not disturb’. If you don’t want to get stuck next to a soap-queen telling you all about what happened in last night’s episode of Corrie, hear all about someone’s holiday plans or why they hate their boss, just pop your headphones in as soon as you sit down and they’ll know that the only company you want on this journey is your book. If they don’t, they’re clearly unaware of commuter etiquette.

The commuter community

Often, you’ll see everyone on your commute reading the same book at the same time (think Gillian Flynn’s recent success with Gone Girl since the film came out); if you’re in a chatty mood, this is a great conversation-starter (although remember – no spoilers!). If you’re reading Mockingjay and they’re reading Catching Fire, it can almost be tempting to stand up and give them a high five in commuting-whilst-reading-The Hunger-Games solidarity.

“My favourite commuter community moment was when I was sitting near a girl who was reading the third Game of Thrones book. Every time I glanced over at her she either had a look of shock, concern or anger on her face. I had a lot of fun trying to guess where she was in the story” – Kate MacDonald.

Be inspired

Admittedly, it can sometimes be quite a challenge to surreptitiously see what other passengers are reading, but when they are sniggering, gasping or even crying at the words on the page, you’ll just have to find a way to sneak a peek. More often than not, it’ll be a recent best-seller, but occasionally it can be a not-so-well-known novel or a classic. Spying the title of these great books can be a fantastic way of giving you inspiration for future reads – especially if your co-commuter looks utterly engrossed.

Use an eReader

Like to have lots of options? Sometimes, you get onto a train only to realise you’re not at all in the mood for a spine-tingling thriller and what you really feel like reading is an entertaining autobiography. With an eReader, you don’t have to lug 20 books around in your bag; the options are virtually limitless. And that’s not to mention the weight; eReaders are light as a feather (almost) and have a remarkable resemblance to real paper, unlike laptop screens which can strain the eyes – especially when the light is glaring through the train or bus window. eReaders are also great if you really like to keep yourself to yourself and want to prevent others from seeing what you’re reading (*spoil sport*).

Think outside of the novel

When you think of reading on your commute, you’ll undoubtedly think of novels. Yes, you can lose yourself in a novel, but don’t forget to spice things up a bit sometimes by also reading other materials. Planning a trip somewhere? Why not buy a travel guide on your destination and do your homework? Or perhaps you’ve always been meaning to brush up on your French? Start reading a language guide and you’ll really be putting your time to good use. Or should we say, “bon usage du temps”.

“I like to read autobiographies on the bus as the tone of voice is usually a lot more chatty than a novel and I find it more relaxing at the end of the day” – Simon Turner

Prevent travel sickness

Most people only tend to get travel sick when reading in a car, but if you find you are feeling a little queasy after extensive reading on the train or bus, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, it may help to sit where you can see out of the window, so that the scenery is in the background behind the book. Try to sit in a forward-facing seat and take short breaks between pages to look out of the window. If the sickness gets too much, don’t give up on books on your commute altogether; choose one of the fantastic audiobooks out there and become immersed in the story that way. Plus, no one will dare talk to you with your headphones in.

Do you have any tips or tricks for reading as you commute? Share them in the comments box below for our readers to try out.

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