Nadia Z. tells us about urban reading and her Humans of New York-style photo blog
URBAN reading is a thing. Cafés, streets, and open spaces (provided it’s not pouring down) are generally filled with people reading books. Once, I counted over ten people enjoying the printed word and the sun on a green lawn. It warms my heart to see that this gentle art has not given way to mindless internet browsing on phones. Since when did reading become a public activity?
Reading a book is traditionally associated with silence, seclusion and deep submergence in an imaginary world.
In a busy café or in a crowded park, fragments of conversations intertwine with the narrative, and it becomes easy to get distracted, but this doesn’t deter the urban reading population.
I often find myself picking up a book and going to Boston Tea Party, which at times resembles a beehive. I’m used to doing things outside of the house – work, studies, volunteering – so staying in my room is somehow synonymous with rest and procrastination. Anyway, you find more distractions at home than outside. Your cosy bed, a new online series, the TV, flatmates – you name it. Reading outside looks like a date with a book. No one else is invited – and we do tend to go to a busy place for a romantic evening.
I first became interested in the concept of urban reading when wondering if the right reading atmosphere is important for other people as well. I received more than 200 hundred replies to my survey on where people prefer to read and why. Apparently, many people are able to switch off from the outside noise and incessant movement, and they prefer an environment with other people. Mainly because it is easier to discipline yourself in the presence of others.
There is another reason that is even simpler and more elegant. Urban reading is primarily a successful attempt at incorporating a book into your everyday life. Reading between lectures, after shopping, before work, or with a friend – a book is there to fill the gap, to make every second of your life productive.
I was not only interested in why people prefer reading outside, but also what an urban reader looks like by photographing them. I document my encounter with fellow book-lovers on my blog. When looking at them, I often try to guess their character and hidden dreams. Are they a romantic? An adventurer? Or a silent rebel? Perhaps you can judge a reader by their cover! A book is certainly able to provide an insight into a personality.
Join the community. Find Nadia’s blog at: urbanreading.tumblr.com – no special dress code needed, wear your favourite shirt and take a book you always wanted to read but never had the willpower to begin.