What People Read on the Subway? Toronto Culture

Torontonians read on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) Subway, but not enough in my opinion. From my “participant observation” I started to count the number of people actually reading, and the numbers were different from what I expected. I noticed that during the morning and evening rush hours, when I often travel, 10 to 20% of the riders read, even when subways are crowded. In the mornings, most readers pick up the Metro newspaper, which is free and available in subway stations and bus stops. However, in order to get a better picture of what Torontonians read,  I decided to log their reading preferences for four weeks. Below is a list (rough estimates) of my observation of about 100 riders (per trip) from which 20 people were reading on the subway during morning rush hours.

40% (of the 20 people) read the Metro newspaper; I only identified four individuals doing the crossword puzzle in it. The Metro gives readers a quick dose of news, and it’s free!

30% (of the 20) read the 24H magazine, which is also free and available at the subway stations and bus stops. Known for its celebrity gossip articles, and short-articles

17%  read popular books and novels

5%  read from Kindles, Smartphones, or Blackberries

5%  read academic books/papers

3%  read local newspapers such as the The Globe and Mail and                    The Toronto Star

During the evening, readers prefer books over newspapers. Thus the number of book readers increases to 30%. Below I am sharing an inventory of books that Torontonians prefer to read on the subway during the morning and evening rush hours. Although I couldn’t catch some book names, in a sneaky manner I captured some of the following titles:

  • “The Magician”  by Lev Grossman – A New York Times bestselling literary fantasy from Lev Grossman that introduced the world to the Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy and opened the doors to the land of Fillory
  • “The Book of Awesome” by Neil Pasricha –  Describes 1000 awesome things that we take for granted in the everyday life
  • “State of Wonder” by  Ann Patchett – It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side
  • “Imperial Japanese Navy Light Cruisers 1941-45” by Mark Stille – Concise and complete study of all 25 ships of the 8 light cruisers classes, from their design and development through to their ultimate fates
  • “First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK,” by Tao Le, Vikas Bhushan and Herman Bagga – On clinical knowledge
  • “The White Queen” by Philippa Gregory – The story of a common woman who ascends to royalty by virtue of her beauty, a woman who rises to the demands of her position and fights tenaciously for the success of her family, a woman whose two sons become the central figures in a mystery
  • “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou” – Autobiography, poet Maya Angelou recounts a youth filled with disappointment, frustration, tragedy, and finally hard-won independence
  • “Paper Towns” by John Green – Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery
  • “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett – A story about a Black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who has always taken orders quietly until she begins to fight back against the racism that was characteristic of her time
  • “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid – A Pakistaniman called Changez tells a nervous American stranger about his love affair with an American woman, and his eventual abandonment of America
  • “Left Neglected” by Lisa Genova – After a brain injury, Sarah must learn that her real destiny and true true life,  may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets
  • “The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival” by John Vaillant – An exciting examination of the plight of the wild tiger
  • “The Vampire Diaries:  The Return, Midnight” by L. J. Smith – Young adult vampire horror series of novels
  • “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround” by Louis V. Gerstner Jr. – History’s dramatic corporate turnarounds
  • “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde – The author imagines a screwball future in which social castes and protocols are rigidly defined by acuteness of personal color perception
  • “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami – The author is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers
  • “The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity” by Richard Florida – Looking toward the future, the author identifies the patterns that will drive the next Great Reset and transform virtually every aspect of our lives, from how and where we live, to how we work, to how we invest in individuals and infrastructure, to how we shape our cities and regions
  • “Happy Birthday” by Danielle Steel – A novel brimming with warmth and insight, beginning on one birthday and ending on another
  • “A Discovery Of Witches” by Deborah Harkness –  It’s about a 1,500-year-old vampire. Mix of history and magic, mythology and love
  • “The Hunger” by Whitley Strieber –  A novel  that centers on eternal youth as a  wonderful thing for the few who have it, but for some is a curse

I noticed very few people reading academic books or papers. I did see one person reading an article about economics (on elastic and inelastic demand) and another reading a piece on the writer Peruvian Vargas Llosa, while a few others, students I assumed, appeared to be reading their course notes.

Joyfully I spotted two riders drawing.The non-readers stared at the void, slept or listened to music.  As for me, click on my “Favourite Reads” to learn what I read on the subway.

What Do You Read on The Subway?

Do you read different things at home than what you read on the subway?