‘absorbing second mystery . . . stunning resolution.’ [Stage Fright]


What people are reading on the train

Posted on Sep 9, 2014 in Foyles, Our Man in Havana | 4 Comments

Or. at least, what they were reading on the 17.34 from Victoria to Peckham yesterday. The young man sitting next to me was reading Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana. The one opposite was reading Murakawi’s 1Q84. The  young woman who got off the train in front of me was reading a Virago Modern Classic, but I couldn’t see which one. I found all this evidence of serious reading very heartening and it’s very nice to know that people are still reading Greene’s comic masterpiece. These were all actual books.

What was far from heartening was arriving at St Pancras at the week-end to find that Foyle’s had closed. I’ve spend many a happy quarter of an hour in that shop and bought many a book. There’s going to be a branch of John Lewis instead. This is sad news for those of us who regularly arrive at and depart from this station. Now there is only the very limited selection of books available from W. H. Smith. It’s a sad sign of the times, that a station the size of St Pancras International doesn’t support a proper bookshop. .


  1. Peggy
    September 10, 2014

    Isn’t it wonderful when people are reading real books and you can see the titles. iPads and Kindles are nice, you can pack a ton of books in them when you’re traveling and only tote one device, but there isn’t anything like a real book.

    I will miss Foyles at St Pancras the next time we’re able to travel to England. That was a nice bookshop and it was quite busy when we were there. I have a magnet on our refrigerator from that location. We took the Eurostar to Paris. I still miss our Borders stores here in the states (and the one in London that closed before ours did). They had such nice shops at the airports. We don’t have independent shops in our area so Borders was always my favorite.

  2. Christine Poulson
    September 10, 2014

    Yes, I always feel a bit frustrated when I can’t see what someone is reading on their Kindle!
    More and more bookshops are vanishing. It’s sad.

  3. Naomi
    September 11, 2014

    Hi Christine,
    There is a wonderful website called Underground New York Public Library which is comprised of pictures of people reading books in the New York City subway (aka underground). I don’t think the owner has been too active lately but scrolling through the pictures is wonderful.

    Also, re Foyles – so sad. I wonder why they didn’t consider downsizing into an airport kind of store with a well curated selection of books travelers might like to read. By well curated I mean high and low, contemporary fiction, some mass market, etc., but I’ve never been, so who knows, maybe that’s what is was. I recently was in the airport in Newark (NJ) and a similarly-conceived store was doing very well – and it was a bookstore, there were no newspapers or candy, etc. for sale.

    • Christine Poulson
      September 12, 2014

      Thanks, Naomi, good to hear from you. That website sounds great!
      Foyles was well curated – I know exactly what you mean – and had an especially good children’s section. It was already quite small and I think I read in the paper that the rent had gone up too much.


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