Subway Book Review: Books help us remember ‘we are part of the same human storyline’

What women in New York, London and Mexico City are reading

Yasmin in London, left, Yrsa in New York, center, and Ingrid in Mexico City, right. (Marta Bausells; Uli Beutter Cohen; Laura García Sandoval)

Books are part of our identity. They represent our fears, our secrets, our hopes. Asking a stranger, “What are you reading?” has become my way of gaining a new perspective on life.

For the past four years, I’ve talked to strangers on the New York City subway about their books and have collected hundreds of stories. In doing Subway Book Review, I’ve realized that it’s important to see what people around the world are reading. A common denominator like a book helps us to remember that we are part of the same human storyline.

This month, I’ve spotted classics like James Baldwin and J.D. Salinger on the New York subway, and also couldn’t help but notice that poetry is having a moment.

“In London, we’re in a Joan Didion craze,” says Subway Book Review contributor Marta Bausells. “I see women going back to classic writers of the 20th century.” New Yorkers, too, are sharing the current obsession with Didion.

“A lot of young people, especially women, read books by philosophers like Nietzsche and Camus in Mexico City,” says local contributor Laura García Sandoval. “Writers like Gabriel García Márquez are still huge in Latin America, but younger generations are reaching for books outside of magical realism.”

Read on to find out what inspires the book selection of three women in New York, Mexico City and London.


New York

(Uli Beutter Cohen)

Yrsa

“‘Salt’ is a beautiful collection of poetry. The author wrote it for people of color, and I find so much strength in it. I love things that are rich in imagery and magic. I’m a storyteller myself. Sometimes I tell stories in films, other times in writing. I don’t call myself a filmmaker or a poet because I don’t like labels. We’re always changing — and that’s okay. Poetry is absolutely having a moment right now. I think it has to do with social media and how shareable it makes poetry. It’s no longer for academics and intellectuals. It belongs [to] us all, we all have a right to it.”

Uli Beutter Cohen for Subway Book Review in New York


Mexico City

(Laura García Sandoval)

Ingrid

“The story is about a man who attends his mother’s funeral and the reactions he does and does not have. I just started high school and our teacher let us choose between this book and ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude.’ I chose Camus. I usually prefer it when authors write about their own experiences and when you can relate to them, but this story is different. I like it. I’ve never read a philosophy book and thought philosophy would be harder to read, but it doesn’t feel like that. I want to study marketing, but who knows. Maybe now I’ll change my mind.”

Laura García Sandoval for Subway Book Review in Mexico City


London

(Marta Bausells)

Yasmin

“This is my first time reading Didion. I started with this book, because it’s about the ’60s and ’70s, when it was going crazy politically, and I thought: Now seems like the right time. So far it’s not giving me that much hope — one book that did was ‘Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit — but the more I read, the more I like it. I still haven’t reached the very famous essay about Didion arriving in New York, and then leaving the city in her late twenties, but I feel like that’s what I need to hear about. It’s difficult to find a book that you can relate to when you’re a female in your twenties. You constantly feel lost, or like you’re not doing enough. Reading about what other women went through can help.”

Marta Bausells for Subway Book Review in London