The Girl Who Played With Fire on BART

During my short ride from the 16th & Mission BART stop to Montgomery I did my usual scan for any book-toting passengers. The woman next to me seemed to be reading one of those harlequin romance-esque books you pick up at the grocery store and didn’t exactly catch my fancy. Casting my glance a bit farther, I quickly caught site of a brightly covered book, squinting my eyes a bit to make out the title, I realized I had stumbled upon The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.

I don’t know much about the book or the series it is a part of aside from the fact that the books are being made into movies with the first installment, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, having received fairly positive reviews.

Have any of you seen the movie? Does it compare well to the book? Anyone read the series?

On the L Taraval…

I journey to the east, where I have been told, there are men who have taught death some manners.

I went through a Tom Robbins phase in my later college years.  When I lived abroad, I used to give away copies of Still Life with Woodpecker along with a pack of Camel Light cigarettes as gifts to my ESL friends.  So it was a real treat to see what I remember as my favorite, Jitterbug Perfume, on the L Taraval a few mornings ago.  The reader and her traveling companion had some big bags with them.  Perhaps they were setting off on an adventure somewhere.    On my bus ride home later that day, a woman walked by me, followed celebrity bodyguard-closely by an aggressive wall of sweet jasmine-esque eau de parfum.  And I smiled.

Can You Attract More Flies With “Heart of Darkness” Than You Can With “War & Peace”?

A coworker of mine had an interesting question/observation about reading on public transportation that I had to twist her arm so that she would love to share with you!  You see, this is sort of the inverse problem we have here at betweenthelines.  Normally, we are trying to decide whose book to showcase on here, or with whom we can do a little interview about the book (s)he is reading.  But what about when it’s YOU doing the reading?  Can you get different people to notice or talk to you based solely on what you’re reading?  Or, as she put it….

Do certain books attract different types of people?

I’ve gotten into a habit of reading on Bart while commuting to and from work. Recently, I have realized that I get approached by different, errr “people,” (Ed. note: I think this is her way of saying these “people” are “dudes”) depending on the type of literature I am reading…

Exhibit A: War and Peace.

Usually an intellectual type, well-traveled, slightly socially awkward but genuinely just interested in the fact that someone else has read the novel. One particular person explained he finished the novel while on a train traveling Europe (it must’ve been a loooooooong train ride).

Exhibits B-C: The Picture of Dorian Gray and Heart of Darkness.

I have recently started a book swap with a friend; he sent me these two books. These books have gotten me into more random (often awkward) conversations with men than I care to admit.

From these interactions I have dubbed these books “dude reads,” as it seems every guy (or the ones that read books anyway) has read these and has an opinion about them that he wants to share with me. Possible reasons: 1)  they’re short enough to hold the (male) attention span, 2) the main characters are of course male, or 3) the main focus of both novels is the corruption of man.

Well, we do love corruption, that’s for sure.  Thanks for the input!  I wonder if people find someone reading War and Peace more intimidating?  I could definitely see Heart of Darkness as a Dude book, though it might have more to do with Apocalypse Now than anyone will ever admit.

Worst Case on the 38L

While riding the 38L to work the other day I noticed an older woman reading Worst Case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.  While I didn’t think much of the book,  I was slightly intrigued by the fact that there were two authors for what appeared to be a work of fiction; what mostly piqued my interest was the few remaining pages the woman had left. She appeared to have 3 – 4 pages remaining, at most, and kept furtively glancing to see which stop we were at. When we reached her stop she hurriedly put the book in her bag and walked off the bus. I immediately thought, “how unsettling! She only had a few pages left! The story was probably wrapping up! Someone could be on their death bed, uttering their last few words, finally divulging the secret they have been holding onto all these years!” But alas, her stop was reached, she had to close the book and continue on with her day.

What do you do readers, when you find yourself in this situation? Do you stay on until the next stop? Do you sneak the last few pages in while waiting in line for your morning coffee? Do you (gasp) take the book into the bathroom with you?

I just hope the reader was able to reach the end without too long of a wait. Who knows, maybe she was even transferring to another line.

Diversity is King (or Queen)

I have always been interested in what others were reading around me on public transit, but lately as I have been paying more attention for your betweenthelines reading pleasure, it has become blatantly apparent how diverse the reading preferences of SF public transit riders truly are. Yesterday I found myself surrounded by the following four readers:

Reader number 1:  A twenty something woman completely engaged in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

Reader number 2: A thirty something man reading a thriller novel by Brian Haig entitled Private Sector.

Reader number 3:  A mid thirties woman dressed very nicely trying to secretly read Eclipse: The Twilight Saga on her kindle (and looking around her every few minutes so as not to get caught).  Perhaps she was trying to get caught up for the movie to be released this summer.

Reader number 4: A middle aged man with glasses and briefcase in hand was reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann. The Lost City is a New York Times Bestseller about a British explorer searching for a lost civilization.

Each reader was immersed into another world and as I looked around, I realized that those worlds could not be more different!

So here’s to you sf public transit riders, and the diverse mysteries, thrillers, romance novels, historical non-fiction, and otherwise enthralling novels you pick up!

Spotted on (the Open) Market: Financial Crisis Post-Mortems

Much ink has been spilled about what exactly happened in 2008, who did it, and how to prevent it from happening again.  For many writers and journalists, it appears that the best way to recover  lost retirement accounts was to write about it and sell it to you.

So how do we choose the ones that provide useful and interesting insight, and know when to ignore those with faulty post hoc reasoning and useless finger pointing?

One of the more frequently spotted, as John C told our friends at Muni Diaries, is Michael Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.  Its recent ubiquity is probably a function of its recent publication, as well as its recent coverage by NPR, because we SFers love our NPR!

I’ve read a few excerpts from the book and I found it to be very readable, and from a very interesting perspective.  Despite the gigantic amounts of money being shoved from fist to fist, it appears that only about three  people really understood wtf collateralized debt obligations were (baskets of mortgages and other debt); and they bet on them going south.  It should especially prove interesting in light of the SEC’s recent complaint against Goldman Sachs, because as it turns out one of these prescient guys betting on the instruments’ failure actually helped set some of them up.

How about anyone else?  (Dis)like this book?  Got a better one to suggest?