Anyonecan read in bed. Reading on the couch is not exactly difficult. If someone boasted about managing to read on a chaise lounge we would surely laugh at the meaninglessness of that achievement. Being able to read a novel on the Metrobus, on the other hand, is a different story. A reader who can finish a book on the subway deserves to be celebrated. Not everyone can read a longform essay on a steamboat on the Bosporus while massive waves toss the ship and engines hum. After all, "On the Road" is not only the title of a great Kerouac book, but also the state in which most of us do our reading.
I am addicted to reading on the go. During the last decade I have been writing on the go as well. I wrote parts of my first novel on coaches and trains in Munich and Rotterdam. Just like lions who enjoy wandering across open fields, some writers love the freedom that comes with the idea of being able to write anytime, anywhere.
Although I can write on the go, I can't say I write better paragraphs while on wheels than I do in the comfort of a library. I can write while commuting on the subway but I would much rather use that space to write a shopping list, instead of an essay on Thomas Piketty's "Capital."
When it comes to reading, the opposite seems to be the case. The popular theory about the profound relationship between walking and good thinking applies to commuting and reading as well. I read and comprehend what I read better while crossing the Bosporus bridge at 50 km/h on a Metrobus. In that confined space I struggle against falling down, and also try to balance my reading and my posture. To me, that is the most interesting aspect of reading on the go. Why do I "get" a text much better when I approach it vertically?
Reading on the go requires a utilitarian approach to your reading material. Is it possible to read as much as possible on the road, while managing to comprehend the text as clearly as possible? That is the balance one wants to have while reading on the go. Here are some tips. Upon entering the subway, you should focus on the text and make sure that all the commuters around you remain outside your thoughts. After focusing on your smartphone, tablet, magazine or print book, you have to find the right rhythm for the text. You can't treat every text in the same way. The other day, while reading a book by Haruki Murakami, I found myself moving very slowly on the subway.
On the escalator I didn't rush to reach the platform. I took my time in the tunnel that connects Gayrettepe metro station to an adjacent shopping mall. On the moving walkways I stayed on the right side. Since the tunnel is around half a kilometre long, there was more than sufficient time to finish the chapter I was reading.
Meanwhile, a steamboat journey from Karaköy to Kadıköy can be ideal for getting one's daily dose of politics by reading a few columnists. You even have time to reflect on their pontifications afterwards.
When the subway or Metrobus is packed, one needs to carefully create a personal space and stop other commuters from invading that space. If you can't hold up the book (or your gadget) properly in the air, then you won't do much reading during your commute. A good way to protect your reading space, is to look a bit intimidating. Hold your book in such a way that others will think that it contains the most serious argument ever written. Act as if reading a book by Karl Marx, even if you are actually reading the second "Harry Potter" book. And then there are times when you come across a traffic jam. I am one of those readers who can't stand staying put on a bus whose function is to take me from point A to point B. When the vehicle refuses to move, I stop reading. I reach for my ear plugs, and start listening to an audio book.