I think we can all agree that on a good day, your daily commute is a mild inconvenience. But on a bad day, a long commute can be a Dante-esque level of hell. You're shoved into a small metal tube, oftentimes underground, in sweltering heat, and forced to touch and/or smell a great number of your fellow human beings, sometimes before you've had your morning coffee. Lucky for you, though, commuting doesn't have to be quite so much of a living nightmare: here are a few books that are perfect for commuters, to help you get through your commute in one piece.
After all, the upside of a long commute is that you have built-in reading time twice a day, everyday. Forget crushing candies or staring vacantly into the middle distance — a commute is the perfect opportunity to read. Don't waste that time feeling sorry for yourself or wishing you lived closer to the office. Stick your nose in a book, and you can travel to far off lands, solve heart-pounding mysteries, and try to understand poetry, all from the comfort of your subway seat.
So, whether it's on paper, kindle, or audiobook, here are a few great reads to get you through your daily travels:
'Vampires in the Lemon Grove' by Karen Russell
Karen Russell's odd, enchanting short stories are sure to take you far away from that city bus stuck in traffic. Every story is a new, wildly inventive world full of human silkworms, haunted scarecrows, and frustrated vampires. Pick up Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and turn your morning commute into something magical and faintly terrifying.
'A Game of Thrones' by George R.R. Martin
Look, high fantasy novels featuring several hundred characters with the same 10 names aren't for everyone. But if you're the kind of person who enjoys grand, sweeping, confusing epics, then A Game of Thrones and its various sequels, prequels, and additional history books will keep you occupied for many commutes to come. Why sit on the train when you could be sitting on a dragon?
'The Thing Around Your Neck' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Thing Around Your Neck is a collection of short, sometimes funny, always poignant stories on navigating life and love between Nigeria and America. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie finds humor and heartbreak in everything from armed revolutions to babysitting. Each story will give you that extra burst of energy you need to survive the journey from home to work and back again.
'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel
There's something slightly apocalyptic about rush hour with any kind of public transportation. Lean into the sense of dread and panic with Station Eleven, a clever, Shakespearean, and surprisingly upbeat novel about the collapse of civilization. When a flu decimates the global population, one ragtag band of actors and musicians is determined to keep some kind of art alive as they trek across the former American midwest.
'Lunch Poems' by Frank O'Hara
Need some inspiration to start that book of commuter poetry? Read Lunch Poems, a collection of ruminations written by Frank O'Hara during his lunch breaks. It's not exactly pulse-pounding action, but it's a beautiful, thoughtful book of poetry you can return to time and time again. And it proves that a lot can happen during those quiet moments on a lunch break or an early morning train ride.
'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman
Ever get the odd feeling that there's a world full of magic and danger hidden beneath your city's public transit system? Journey into the depths of the London underground, where girls can double as doors and great beasts reign over bizarre citizens. Neverwhere blends fantasy with all the weird realities of city living, and it'll definitely add some adventure to your hum-drum train journey.
'Kafka on the Shore' by Haruki Murakami
Young Kafka Tamura has run away from home to avoid being a part of a horrid oedipal prophecy — or perhaps to find his missing mother and sister. Either way, Murakami is about to plunge us all into a world of talking cats and raining fish. Kafka on the Shore is undeniably weird, but also gorgeously written and utterly fascinating, and sure to make your commute just a little bit stranger.
'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay' by Michael Chabon
If you spend your daily commute wishing desperately for some kind of escape, then you can read all about the daring Escapist in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay may not have superpowers themselves, but together they're determined to break into this brand new American industry of comic books. Equal parts funny and heart-wrenching, this is one absorbing adventure that will suck you in until you arrive at your destination.
'Crazy Rich Asians' by Kevin Kwan
Sometimes, to make your commute bearable, you just need a book that can make you laugh. If that book can also help you to accurately fantasize about being outrageously wealthy, even better. Because when Rachel Chu travels to Singapore to join her boyfriend, she has no idea that she's stepping into a world of private planes and petty feuds. Crazy Rich Asians is a hilarious novel, a comedy of manners for a globalized world, and it'll turn you into that weird person laughing out loud in public.