I've always loved books and diving into other worlds. When I was little enough to have to rely on other peoples' ability to read, I inhaled stories to such a degree that gifting my father time off from reading to me was a very valid birthday present. Needless to say, I'm always on the prowl for good book suggestions.
When I moved to New York, I started Subway Book Review out of a desire to connect with the many vibrant personalities that make New York the place it is. Once I had that on my mind, I quickly noticed how much New Yorkers read and how dedicated they are to printed publications. The subway feels like a microcosm of the New York literary world. Within one car, you can find it all: self-published work, the next bestseller and beloved classics. It's the perfect place to get an unusual and often surprising tip from a stranger about what to read next.
There are layers to Subway Book Review that I find very satisfying. First, the book cover or the person holding the book sparks my curiosity. They create greater context for the story of the book, before the reviewer says a word. That's why the photography aspect of Subway Book Review is so important to me. Next I ask for a summary of the story and why they are reading the book. One of my favorite moments is when a reviewer tells me how the book relates to their life or how they see it reflect current world events. I type with my thumb on my phone, often while holding on for my dear life, especially on the L train. The pictures happen on the fly. Sometimes I get more time with a person; sometimes they only have one or two stops before they need to get off. Regardless of the time span of the conversation, I more often than not part ways with a reviewer feeling like I made a new friend who I would like to see again above ground.
Subway Book Review hopes to bring this conversation and feeling to book-lovers all over the world. I follow three rules: Reviews must be held underground. A portrait of the person and their book must accompany the review. Printed books only. Some of my followers are writers, which inspired me to hold author interviews on the subway. I am excited to see what else I can add to the Subway Book Review experience.
At the center of all of my projects lies a deep love for finding and capturing unique moments with people. Because in the end that's what I love -- connecting with people and hearing good stories.
Take a look at these book reviews by New York City subway riders:
Review by @jamproxy, on the B train
Jamilya: “It’s sort of like a modern fantasy story. The main character Shadow gets swept up in an ancient war that is way beyond his scope. As he falls deeper into battle he learns more about himself and what he’s capable of. He also learns about the Americans Gods, who were brought over as slaves and settlers and now have weakened powers because no one knows who they are. People don’t believe anymore. They’re too caught up in other things like technology. I just finished the chapter about slavery. America is a pastiche of cultures. We’re a recently developed country. It’s interesting to think about how we’re forming solidarity and are trying to reconcile past differences in order to build on what we have now."
Review by @juliehelquist, on the M train
Julie: “The book describes Patti Smith’s arrival in New York, where she meets her friend and soulmate Robert Mapplethorpe. They start out as lovers but as their relationship grows they become kindred spirits rather than lovers. They share an important part of their life, but he takes a path where she can’t follow him. That’s the part of the book where I am now. Patti Smith’s writing is captivating. With the glasses of youth, everything is new to her. She is inexperienced but you can feel she has a power that will inform the woman she will come to be. It’s cool she can still tune into that side of herself. I hope there’s always a side of me that’s open to grow. There’s a quote I really like: ‘The creative adult is the child who survived’. I think people who’ve lost their inner child are seriously fucked. That innocence and appetite for live has to be there."
Review by @apostrophekola, on the G train
‘kola: "Truman Capote describes a fictionalized true murder that happened in Kansas. For me it’s the author who’s interesting. He’s a great writer and very engaging. If you’re into suspense this is not the book for you, because he tells the reader in the first pages who will die and ‘who did it’. What captivates me is that Capote is very descriptive about Kansas and its misery. The book is overdue at the library. I’m paying 25 cents a day now to read it."
Review by @cinders_gallery, on the F train
Kelie: “NPR reported recently that long books are more popular now. People want to invest in the story and like how long it is. What I love about 1Q84 are its two opposing stories and its two different realities - one of which is potentially an illusion. In the story, the way characters know which reality they’re living in is by how many moons are in the sky. All Murakami characters are soulful but banal characters. There’s depth to them but they are not dramatized. I love Murakami. Lately I’ve been looking for two moons and think I might be in a two moon reality."
Review by @Neonmorgan, on the L train
Morgan: “I recommend this book. It’s hard to explain in a short amount of time, but it’s about learning a more productive way of approaching mistakes rather than basing justice on punishing. It asks: how do you define honesty? I work for an internet company and we are trying to establish a blame-less culture. I’m learning how to facilitate post-mortum meetings and how to better address mistakes. People tend to think bad people are out there, but it’s not that simple. Good people sometimes make honest mistakes."
Review by @mongrelfourlife, on the G train
Laurel: “This book is fantastic. For people who like her blog - this book is written in a similar style. If you don’t know her, it’s essays by a black woman in who grew up in Chicago in the suburbs, she never went to college. Irby captures a 30-something female life in a city perfectly. “I want to write your moms match.com profile” - I like that essay. She talks about moms in a “I’m more like your mom than your peers” kind of way.
Review by @YB_NICE, on the Q train
Eugene: “It’s a fictional story about a young, minority football player coming from a small town, going to a big town. He deals with the trials & tribulations of becoming a star. What stands out about the story is this whole concept of him trying to be somebody he’s not -- he’s a great football player, but not good at the other stuff that comes with stardom. I can relate to the changing of who you are -- morality vs reality. It’s a very good book."