Justin Wong reads on the Brown Line last year. (Andrew A. Nelles photo for…)
In the immortal, most memorable words of Frank Zappa: So many books, so little time. Not in Chicago. We seem to have nothing but time, especially during our daily commute. And much like Zappa's pigtails and mustache say a million words about him, what we read says a lot about us. Or so we think.
Here is a list of some of the most popular reading material I've observed on the CTA. I've broken it down by what the reader thinks it says, and what everyone's actually thinking (because when you play the game of reading on the train, you win or die—there is no middle ground).
'A Game of Thrones'
Reader thinks: I'm an adult who isn't afraid to admit I have a whimsical, fantastical side. I mean, I read all the "Harry Potter" AND "Hunger Games" books. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a good fantasy.
Everyone else thinks: You're either late to the party (which is understandable with all the other series you needed to finish first) or you want to be the jerk at the TV viewing who constantly reminds everyone, "Well, in the book, Eddard actually ... ." We get it; you can read. Have some more cheese dip.
'The Art of Fielding'
Reader thinks: I am a sensitive person who enjoys a good success-to-failure story.
Everyone else thinks: You've finished the sports section of the newspaper, are up-to-date on the latest stats and heard every word of "SportsCenter" while getting ready this morning. You must be passing the time with this sports novel, and just breezing through the boring relationship parts.
'The Mortal Instruments'
Reader thinks: I read all my Anne Rice in college, watched every episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (twice) and finished the entire "Twilight" series. I GUESS I'LL READ THIS NOW.
Everyone else thinks: You read all your Anne Rice in college, watched every episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (twice) and finished the entire "Twilight" series. GUESS YOU'LL READ THIS NOW.
Let's just all be perfectly honest and admit that anyone "reading" this book on the CTA is not actually reading this book but blankly staring at the pages and hoping someone thinks, "Wow! What a deep person, reading a book like that!" Be prepared to be asked by other "readers" about the subject matter in depth. People love talking "Infinite Jest."
Reader thinks: I am someone who doesn't want to commit to a novel, where the characters end and have no greater good. I have the endurance to see a character through a lifetime, through all his toils and troubles, through all the planets saved, through thick and thin! Just ask me about any character from his or her origin until rumored future and I'll answer whatever you want to know.
Everyone else thinks: You will spend money on these books even when you are too broke to buy food.
Anything on a Kindle
Reader thinks: I am able to have as many books as I want at a moment's purchase. I am saving money, creating valuable bag space and protecting my privacy.
Everyone else thinks: You're reading erotic fan fiction. Just admit it already. Then they wink ... because why not? Winter is coming.
Nikki Pierce is a RedEye special contributor.