The Big Idea

I was standing at the end of a subway car, the R train, almost home, hanging onto an overhead bar, listening to music and trying to play solitaire on my phone with one hand.  A woman nearby was reading – Dry: A Memoir, by Augusten Burroughs.  It looked interesting, but I never read memoirs.  I thought about what I had been reading lately – anything non-fiction about Stalin, Lenin or the former Soviet Union (I majored in Russian in undergrad), and my usual round of magazines (Harper’s, The New Yorker, Natural History).  I was in a rut.

The plan started a bit rigid.  I decided I’d read Dry, and, when I finished it, I would look around the subway and, whatever book I saw first, I’d read that, and so on.  I thought about what I saw people reading, though, and quickly realized I needed a few outs: no religious tracts, no textbooks, no books I’d already read.  And I’ve loosened up a little more in the 4 months since I started: I don’t have to finish the books, no romance novels and no sci-fi books with gold embossed letters on the cover (ok, that was just the one time and might not be a real rule, but it looked terrible), but I’ve tried a lot of new stuff, and even liked most of it.

I’ve decided to share my idea, and my thoughts on the books I read, because there’s something interesting about seeing this particular slice of New York through this particular lens.

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