BBC Culture

Reading and Riding

What’s everyone reading on the London Underground?

About the author

Olivia Howitt is the picture editor of

  • Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

    Aisling McGuiness: I haven’t actually got that far into it but as far as I’m aware, it’s about World War I. It’s a bit slow to begin with, so I’m hoping it picks up. I think a lot of people are reading more from Kindles and iPads than actual books, which I think is quite sad. I really like the old classics.

  • Looking for America by Ian Mutch

    Gary Wyatt: It’s about his travels on a Harley Davidson through America. I think he’s on Route 66, and he’s stopping off at motels and talking about the people he’s meeting. Reading kills the time, doesn’t it? The best thing is to have a book and you get from A to B quicker. People were reading a lot about a year ago on Kindles. I wanted to get one but I never got round to it. But I’ve noticed people not doing that so much now – I don’t know if they’ve gone out of fashion. People probably should talk a little bit more to each other on the trains really – it would be nice.

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Ioanna Nteni: My boyfriend gave it to me because he says it is nice to know how to talk to people and influence them. I just started it. I’ve noticed everyone reads on the Underground. Most people read the newspaper. It’s the only way to forget that you’re trapped on the Tube. The distances in London are so big, it gives me time to read – I can’t play with my phone so I just read a book.

  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

    Nadia Natour: It’s a book of case studies – he’s a neurologist who studies the mind and science. It’s about memory loss – people who have amnesia and stuff like that. I don’t really read that much to be honest. I normally just read the newspaper when I’m on the Tube. It makes the journey go much faster. You’re just in your own world – you’ve got your little book and then you’re at your destination and then you’re like: off you go!

  • A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

    Nicole Otieno: I’m reading the first Game of Thrones book. There’s so much to tell about it. I’ve got 40% of the way through and it’s got really interesting, going on about a lot of battles, a lot of people going behind each other’s backs. When I read I don’t really see anyone else. Londoners are quite inhibited, we don’t really speak on public transport. People spend so much time travelling that it’s nice to have that time to sit and read.

  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens

    Richard Kirkby: I’m only on the first couple of pages. I just finished David Copperfield which is great and prior to that I read Great Expectations. I’m just trying to tick off as many [books by Dickens] as I can this year – I’m really enjoying them. I think the majority of people are now reading from electronic devices. It’s very convenient and no-one knows what you’re reading. Funnily enough the only novel I saw people reading in paperback was always Fifty Shades of Grey! This is my second Kindle now. I exhausted the old one – it was knackered to death.

  • Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

    Simon Temple: It’s one of Evelyn Waugh’s earliest works, written in about 1930, that I just happen to be re-reading. I read it about 10 years ago and really enjoyed it. I happened to see it on the shelf when I was heading out, knowing there was a journey ahead, so I just grabbed it as I didn’t have a book on me. I don’t use the Underground that frequently. If you’re just travelling from point A to point B, you may as well fill the time doing something.

  • Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre

    Stephen Wilcox: The book is a follow-on from The Man Who Never Was by Ewan Montague, about an operation in the Second World War to deceive the Germans into thinking there was going to be an invasion through Greece and Sardinia rather than through Sicily. I don’t come on the Underground all that often because I’m retired – I’m coming in just for the day today. I don’t find people read books, they all listen on their iPods or whatever – you don’t see a lot of people reading. Last time I was in about a fortnight ago, a fight took place on the platform and I just carried on reading. I don’t get involved.

  • The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    Suzie Murray: I’ve not read very much of it but so far it’s about a man whose wife has died and who is now revisiting him as a ghost. [There are] definitely less books, more screens and a lot more people who you would think would be reading, and you notice that they’re playing games or watching something. I don’t usually get public transport to work because I am lucky enough I can walk. But I really value it when I get 40 minutes to myself to read a book – especially with a seat.