Monday, 9 March 2009

This morning on the bus - the pleasure of glimpsing other people's reading material

It is one of my secret pleasures to try and work out which language people will be reading things in on the bus. I take pleasure in fishing a book in German out of my bag now and again. The morning rather than the evening bus seems to be more conducive to reading for most folk. I notice other people reading the free paper in someone else's hands or looking with interest at the books other people are diving into with such early morning relish - have I read that, should I get it?
I had a bit of a judgemental moment this morning on the bus - perhaps because I didn't have any of my own reading material with me. A youngish man in his late 20s early 30s started reading a new book. It looked a rather badly self-published book - the design and layout weren't that great. Then I saw that it was what would be called an esoteric book, it was all about the healing powers of crystals and special stones ... and I was sad.
I suppose I was sad because I thought how could I encourage this person to want to read something more meaningful. Here was someone obviously looking for something deeper in life - deeper certainly than my normal bus-journey reading of thrillers and crime fiction. As I watched him flick through the contents pages and begin reading I found myself wishing, hoping, praying perhaps that his search for something deeper in life might get beyond the quick fix of magic crystals to find a life-giving word on some other pages.
Meanwhile the woman next to me was doing her Arabic homework - I dream that if I glance at her work enough perhaps some of the knowledge will rub off on me and by the time I get to work I may know part of the alphabet in Arabic. Quick fix language learning! There was a very elegant young woman who only ever gets standing room on the bus becasue shes gets on at a later stop but always has a paperback with her, today she was reading a Fred Vargas I've not got yet and I was jealous. The woman who often reads a well-thumbed Bible was not on my bus today but there were school children revising for their tests who had their papers open and office-workers reading through reports on the banking collapse in the international English that is not their mother tongue.
Tonight looking at my bookshelf as I decide what to read in bed, I think I shall treat myself to something a bit better than usual. Poetry rather than more pages about crazed serial killers. Really, when I look at the shelves of pointless crime fiction in my house what right do I have to be judgemental about someone else reading about healing stones?