Train of Thought: A Top Ten List

I just started god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

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Brian Lehrer interviewed Christopher Hitchens last week on NPR , the morning after his debate with the Reverend Al Sharpton at the NY Public Library. While I tend to think Hitchen’s voice sounds a bit too much like Alan Rickman in Harry Potter—“Potter, God did not make us, we made God!”—I am seeing his well articulated point. Watch this Anderson Cooper interview and hear Hitchens-Snape defend secularism (and John Donne):

I paid $27 for the hardback. I can’t remember the last time I paid $27 for a book. $27 is 30 minutes of bodywork at the Chinese massage place next door to the theater, or 27 $1 PBR’s at Anytime , or a weekly Metro Card.

Which brings me to the train. I am not only lugging around a cumbersome book but a controversial one. What happens if I sit beside a Hasidic Jew on the G? I’ve already gotten a few off-putting looks. Some people, believe it or not, do not want to share subway space with the girl reading “god is not Great.”

So I made a list of my train intolerables. These are the books I simply will not stand for—or rather, will stand for, as in: I’m moving seats, this is creepy, I’m uncomfortable.

#10 Life After Prison
Chances are, they’ve already read “Life During Prison.” And had a long time to do so.

prison1.jpg

#9 Giant Millipedes: The Enthusiast’s Handbook
“Enthusiast” and “Millipede” do not belong together. Especially not with “Giant.”

millipedecover.jpg

#8 Always Talk to Strangers: 3 Simple Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life
I don’t want to be that stranger.

strange.jpg

#7 Train Wrecks: A Pictorial History of Accidents on the Main Line
Come on! We’re on a train!

train.jpg

#6 Head Lice to Dead Lice
I suspect this isn’t a prevention book, but rather aimed at those who already have head lice.

lice.jpg

#5 Angry All the Time: An Emergency Guide to Anger Control
What if I’m listening to my showtunes too loud?

angryalltime.jpg

#4 A Night Without Armor
Poems. By. Jewel.

jewel2.jpg

#3 The Professional Stage Pickpocket
It’s never a good idea to sit too close to a pickpocket actor who is probably in a low-budget adaptation of a Charles Dickens’ novel and needs the money.

books_pickpocket1.jpg

#2 National Socialism: Vanguard of the Future
Hitler: The rise of Nazism.

national.jpg

#1 Sexiest Soles: Erotic Stories About Feet and Shoes
It’s mid-May. I’m wearing sandals.

shoes.jpg

What books have made you do a double-take on the train?

39 responses to “Train of Thought: A Top Ten List

  1. i sit next to anyone who is reading harry potter. i squeeze in if i have to. and then i smile at them.

  2. i sit next to anyone who is reading harry potter. i squeeze in if i have to. this means that i will possibly be sitting next to johnny. and if so, i then try to hold his hand (before he slaps it away… :)

  3. Like a moth to a flame.

    In England I would definately sit next to someone reading a book on how Religion Poisons Everything they’d be less likely to blow the train up.

    #6 strikes a cord, head lice are a plague on an almost biblical scale in English schools. If I have to comb my 4 boys hair with the “nit comb” one more time I will definately need # 5. You clear them up and within two weeks they start scratching again. I’ve had them and in my Brendan Fraser in “George of The Jungle” hair it is a complete pain the ass.

    David “what’s that rustling noise” Ross
    England

  4. I got some dirty looks on the train when I was reading Chris Kraus’s “I Love Dick” (http://tinyurl.com/yp46bd), but not as dirty as the looks I gave anyone reading “The Da Vinci Code.”

  5. An obvious choice for a double take is “The Anarchist’s Handbook.”
    Holy smokes—I just rememered I saw a woman on the train today reading “Ferraro.” Yes, Geraldine…. A page turner? Indeed; and a reason to go to the other side of the train.

  6. Joseph Conrad’s “The ______ of the Narcissus.”

  7. “Good in Bed” by Jennifer Wiener got me some interesting looks on an airplane once.

  8. I was once reading Allen Carr’s Easy Way To Quit Smoking on the train and two things happened, neither of which were cool. First, a teenager across the aisle laughed at me and pointed me out to their friend and they snickered for several stops. Then a guy came up to me and said he read that book too. He went on to tell me how it really helped, and that he’d quit smoking for a few months but that his mother had died the week before, and he was having a really hard time with it and so started up again. Don’t read that one in public, every smoker has a story. Or someone will laugh at you and make you feel like a loser.

  9. found a ponderous tome called “Medieval Latin” will keep other travellers from bothering you.

  10. mooreorlessinnyc

    A young couple, possibly from the Bronx, were startled when they saw me reading “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning” recently. I tried to explain what the book was about, but they just lost interest…

  11. HobokenBiscuit

    I picked up “The Bedside Book of Death” specifically to alienate people on the subway. Trouble is, it tends to attract a small but creepy segment of the population.

  12. books are good, but i’ve found bringing my mini dvd player on the train and watching rosemary’s baby- particularly the devil/sabbath scene easily removes me from sharing seats.

  13. My Emily Strange journal seems to work well. The cover reads, “I Want YOU! To Leave Me Alone!”

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  15. I liked Jewel’s book..
    however I am a little odd..
    sometimes I wouldn’t even
    sit next to me!

  16. I’ve gotten weird looks for the amount of sheer books i drag around with me ( like two thick ass ones), but the best weird look i ever go was when I was perusing some HR Giger artbook. Nothing like a field of ass and dicks to make people feel very nervous.

  17. I love Jewel’s book, I had to scroll back up to make sure you said intolerable, of course next to my copy of “A Night Without Armor” is “Self Matters” by Dr Phil…

  18. It’s not a book per se, but I’m studying Vergil in school, and I find that muttering Latin hexameter quietly to oneself on the train tends to discourage proximity, not to mention unwanted conversation.

  19. Also, you should read Beau Sia’s “A Night Without Armor II: The Revenge.” He took the titles of Jewel’s poems and wrote new poems for them, and they’re hilarious.

  20. Looks like you’re doing a good job here and I wish you the best!

  21. Reading How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson gets you allll kinds of stares.

  22. My sister was reading ‘Good in Bed’ a while back and her mother-in-law commented that it was nice that she was reading a self-help book.

  23. Riding the Red line in Los Angeles, I’ve had the most interesting responces from “How To Please A Woman In & Out Of Bed by Daylle Deanna Schwartz” and had an hour long converstion with this women when she noticed me reading “The Low Down on Going Down: How to Give Her Mind-Blowing Oral Sex”.

  24. Please tell me you’ve read #9 ;)

  25. I made a dust jacket for my on-board books and people tend to leave me alone when they see I’m reading “Advanced Mind Control Techniques Through Casual Eye Contact”

    When I think someone’s looking at me, I glance up and hold their gaze until they look away… about a half second.

    One guy returned my gaze and muttered ‘Oh god, it works!’

  26. I just read my dungeons and dragons books on the subway. gauaranteed to keep fellow travellers quiet… and nervous.

  27. Come on – millipedes are perfectly harmless creatures. It’s centipedes that are the nasty ones.

  28. erik curtis' "friend" Steve

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  29. Planes not trains: I find it creepy to fly next to someone reading a “Left Behind” novel– someone who gets on an airplane in the apparent belief that the pilot and copilot could disappear to go live with the baby Jebus at any moment.

  30. I admit a certain morbid fascination for books about train wrecks. I used to avoid reading them while actually on the train, but no longer….

  31. I’ll wait for the audio version of Hitchens, read by the author.

    “No man ish an (*hic*) ishland…Jeeves, you wahnt to freesin up this drihnky a bit…Ah..OK..No man ish an (*hic*) ishland…”

  32. Great blog. Congratulations!

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  34. You might like Daniel C. Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” if you liked Hitchen’s book. I haven’t read Hitchen’s one though. Sounds like they’re on the same subject. Cheers!

  35. There’s a local entertainment paper you can pick up for free in Tampa area restaurants and bars. Every week they publish a swell hard crossword puzzle in it, and I sometimes while away my lunch hour by working it out. The puzzle takes up half a page, divided by a vertical line. So I extract that page and fold it over so the only thing showing on my side is the puzzle.

    However, they always publish this puzzle on one of the last pages in the paper, amidst their luridly illustrated advertisements for sensual massage shops, swinger’s clubs, gay chat lines and sex toy stores.

    So as I’m walking out of the restaurant, carrying my folded page and staring intently at the crossword-puzzle side whilst puzzling out what a middle eastern monetary unit is or who composed “Rule, Brittania,” other folks in the restaurant see me strolling past holding up high a brightly colored 5-1/2″ x 17″ banner displaying “FULL BODY MASSAGE (404) 555-1212,” a shirtless dude with a Captain’s hat talking into a telephone, and a woman staring all cold and mean into the camera, wearing a black negligee and thigh-high patent-leather boots as she holds up a dildo and a cat-o-nine-tails.

  36. All I know is that back when I was reading a biography of Friedrich Nietzsche (with a cover that screamed NIETZSCHE in block type visible 50 feet away), I was approached on subways and at bus stops by more weirdos and wackos than I’ve encountered at any other time in my life.

  37. While I agree with the premise of the book, Hitchens is a vile creature and that would keep me from sitting next to someone reading his spew.

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