Reading the Rails, Part 5: The iPod and Other Distractions

By Heather Holditch

If you’re like me, you can read and listen to music at the same time. If you’re like me, trying to do even one more very simple thing — like, get off the subway at your stop, while reading and listening to music — is virtually impossible. Many times I have found myself tuning in just as the doors close on my stop, then having to ride the subway to the next stop only to double back again.

The iPod, and other like distractions, are wonderful in their own right, but how do you decide between reading and listening to music during your commute?

The benefits of a personal music device are obvious:

Your hands remain free. Important if you aren’t lucky enough to snag a seat and need to grip the hand bars lest you be fired across the train like a torpedo. Or if the train is so crowded you can’t even raise your hands in front of your face.

Drowns out the noise. There is a lot of noise on the subway, which can lead to distraction, which can lead to re-reading the same paragraph several times.

Portability. Even the slimmest book can’t compete with the size of an mp3. And you can continue to enjoy your mp3 while walking to and from the train or bus. Not so easy with a book.

No surprises, it comes down to preference. Though I love to read on my commute, listening to my own personal soundtrack comes a close second. I’ll just have to work on m multitasking, or maybe find a common ground and download an audio book to my iPod. Finding a book you like, or current book, in this format, however, may prove to be difficult.

This week’s Commuters Choice: Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures


A novel that reads like a short story, Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures is a fantastic read for every commute. Winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures follows the lives of three medical school graduates through love and death while they try to navigate their relationships and careers. Read a single chapter or a larger portion, if any reader material is going to keep your attention on your daily train ride, it will be this one.

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