‘Sitting across from me in the subway in Toronto, a woman is reading the Penguin edition of Borges’sLabyrinths. I want to call out to her, to wave a hand and signal that I too am of that faith. She, whose face I have forgotten, whose clothes I barely noticed, young or old I can’t say, is closer to me, by the mere act of holding that particular book in her hands, than many others I see daily. (Alberto Manguell, History of reading, 1996, p. 214)
This quote of Manguell spoke to me, because I often feel – sitting on the train or subway – the voyeuristic urge to check what other people are reading. Sometimes knowing the title they are reading makes you feel connected to them, sometimes you are surprised because you didn’t think that title would fit that person. Books seem to say something about the person reading them, or at least they do to me.
That is why I hate e-readers! I cannot see what people are reading, when they are reading on an e-reader! That is also why I was delighted when I discovered ‘The Underground New York Public Library’. This project by Ourit Ben-Haim features photographs of people reading on the New York Underground, and they are beautiful! It shows these intimate encounters between people and the books they are absorbed in. Plus, it comes with the title of the book featured in the photo – and a link to a library nearby or an online bookshop, and so it satisfies my curiosity as well.