Sunday, March 16, 2008

Live in Paris; Read More?

In my ever-active mind, I have been bemoaning the fact that I don't read nearly as much as I used to. I was a huge reader in my pre-motherhood days, and even when my kids were small I managed to get through quite a few books since reading was about my only personal hobby.

Now between work, the house, cooking, driving my kids all over the place and yes, of course, the computer, the only time I find to read is right before going to sleep -- and if you're a busy parent, you know how long that lasts.

This year I have had the chance to go to Paris a few times for work, and was impressed by how many people I saw reading in the metro and RER. As you can see above, there are even poems posted in the trains just in case you don't have anything to read on you -- how Parisian!

When I'm in Olympia for the summer, even though there's no subway, I often see people carrying around books in order to devour a few pages if they find themselves with nothing constructive to do. And I've realized that here in Aveyron, I never see people dragging books around to read on the bus, in cafés, or in doctors' waiting rooms. I wonder why that is?

I'm not saying people don't read here. Au contraire! The main local bookstore does a booming business, as a recent article in Télérama points out:

La Maison du livre,avec son fonds sans défaut (30 000 titres) et ses conseils avisés, dégage un chiffre d’affaires annuel de 3,5 millions d’euros, qui, rapporté aux 272 000 habitants du dépar­te­ment, en fait une des librairies les plus dynamiques de France.


But reading seems to remain a private activity here, carried out in the
confines of readers' homes.

What's the "reading in public" situation where you live?

21 comments:

Samantha said...

I used to spend two hours on the train per day commuting, and I often read. Now that you mention it though, I don't ever really recall seeing others read books. There were students studying notes, business men reading the paper, and women doing crosswords - but no one reading an actual book! Strange.

Alison said...

In our local coffee shops I see more people on laptops than reading. And when I go to bookstores, I often see people just sitting in the comfy chairs with books. I don't take the public transportation here, so I don't know about that.

I also just have to comment on the poem in the photo. I learned a bit about those verb tenses at the Alliance Française way back when, and I got a big kick out of them just now. Opiniâtrasse! M'assassinassiez!

tut-tut said...

I read quite a bit, but I've gotten away from feeling obligated to finish every book I start. If I don't feel synergy with the author/text/characters, forget it. But I must say, if it's not a novel, it's got to be pretty compelling material to keep my nose in between the pages. . .

Betty C. said...

Samantha -- I assume this was outside of Paris?

Alison -- I used to know those tenses too! But I don't think I knew them very well, because they didn't stick with me too long.

tut-tut -- If you read French, you should read "Comme un roman" by Daniel Pennac. It talks about readers' "rights" like the right not to finish a book one starts -- just what you are talking about.

Samantha said...

Yep, it was here in Bretagne.

blueVicar said...

I rarely read in public because I am usually occupied with tasks...driving, shopping, talking. I see others in cafes and lolling about outdoors in nice weather reading, so that's good. In France, there were always lots of people reading on the buses or trains or at the beach. I'll have to start paying closer attention here!

Meilleurs voeux!!

Tinsie said...

People read a lot in London - newspapers, books, freebie fliers, anything they can get their hands on. I guess it's because of the long commutes, there's only so much staring out of the window you can do when you're undergound.

I used to read a lot more when I had to travel for 45 mins to get to work, but these days I'm only ever in a train for 10 mins at a time, and I don't get the chance to read anywhere near as much as I used to.

Tanya said...

Like you, I read when I go to bed but usually by then I'm so tired that I barely make it through a couple of pages. If I go somewhere that I know I'll be waiting, I toss my book in my purse, like car line at school, a dr's appt, etc. Sometimes, since I stay home, I will read with my lunch :)

Betty C. said...

bluevicar -- Unfortunately my transport time is now spent driving, so obviously I can't read then, LOL!

Tanya and Tinsie -- I have slipped a small novel in my handbag to see if I find some time during this week.

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

How fascinating. I'm a book hound, but not so much in public anymore due to my little one. In thinking about our little area of Germany, I haven't seen an abundance of people reading. Occasionally you will see it in restaurants if someone is dining solo. I haven't really seen it on the trains here. But now I am intrigued and will keep my eyes open :)

Rosie said...

my area of Bretagne is similarly lacking in book readers. People seem to like gazing into space in doctors waiting rooms or at me if I speak to my family in English in a normal voice instead of whispering like they do...

Cécy said...

I always have a book with me (except today because I finished it and the library only opens tomorrow). However I see very few people reading here in public. Same as you: I rarely notice books in the Dr waiting room. Weird.
I always need a book with me.
I think that the lack of mass transportation affects this. When you take the bus or the metro it is nice to have something to do besides staring at the walls.

Function of Time said...

Reading books is huge on the bus. I see people walking and reading in the U-district. Also, blackberry texting is HUGE. These people run into me all the time.

spacedlaw said...

Since I am a compulsive reader I am glad to take public transport opportunities to eat my way through the reading pile. But I am the only person I see do this. Sometimes I will see somebody working but people reading magazines are very few and far between. Book readers are virtually NIL. And yet there are many bookshops in Rome...

eleonora said...

C'est un très bon français que voilà sur ce tableau..Elle est belle la langue française..Merci de tes petits mots Betty et passe une bonne semaine..à tout bientôt.

Terina said...

i love reading and most of my friends do too. i haven't really seen others reading in public though. i don't get out much since we're new to the area and we have one car. public transportation really doesn't exist on fort bragg....
i read late at night. and i do bring a book with me if i know i'll have sitting time. but usually i have to keeps my eye's on two small children. doesn't make for productive reading.

Randal Graves said...

Given that I'm either at work, on the bus to/from, or at home, I don't have the opportunity to observe much, but less people seem to read on the bus than used to. And as much as I adore reading, I can't blame them. For me, it's hard to get absorbed in something while careening over roads flush with potholes, grinding engines and blabbing riders. The bus is probably the one place I never read.

Poems on the metro? No wonder I dig France.

Angélique said...

I used to live in Paris, and noticed that even the homeless men, sitting on the road with their bundle of belongings, also read paperbacks while waiting for their hat to fill up with coins.

Here in the Languedoc-Roussillon, I seem to be the only person with a real book while lounging in cafes, football game or the beach. Everyone else has the current newspaper or a magazine.

b said...

This is a great, thought provoking post. I think that in a lot of cities, you do see people desperate to cram in a few pages of reading when they are commuting. I think it is a lot like food and seeing people eat "on the go." People so overbook their lives, that they frantically try to cram in what matters most in the least amount of time. I love the idea of a slower life... enjoying a book in the comfort of your home and/or when you have plenty of leisure time to enjoy it fully. We've just become so consumed with being "efficient" and "productive," two words I tend to despise!

b said...

I will add that I do bring a book with me often and as an eager reader, I happily take whatever time I can to read my book, even if just a few pages. :) Perhaps people are not just trying to cram in some reading, but there are many readers that live for whatever time they can find to read more!

Betty C. said...

b -- I agree more with your second post, especially when considering people who have to spend several hours in public transport during the day. I mean, what else can they do? They may love reading, or they may have grown to love it -- I still think it's great to see.