The first District line train out of Upminster in the morning is the first train anywhere on the underground network. It leaves the depot at 4.53, the only train anywhere in the system to set out from its base before 5am ... if you catch that train, you might be tempted to say ta-dah!—except you probably wouldn't, because nobody is thinking ta-dah! at seven minutes to five in the morning; certainly nobody on this train. People look barely awake, barely even alive. They feel the same way they look; I know because, this morning, I'm one of them.John Lanchester on the experience, at once aversive and hypnotic, of catching the London Underground. Lanchester's article is an extract from his forthcoming entry in the new Penguin Lines series of tube-reading-friendly books released to commemorate the Underground's 150th anniversary. Meanwhile, the Guardian have compiled a collaborative Spotify playlist of songs that mention Tube stations, for those so inclined.
The Secret Lives of Readers Books reveal themselves. Whether they exist as print or pixels, they can be read and examined and made to spill their secrets. Readers are far more elusive. They leave traces—a note in the margin, a stain on the binding—but those hints of human handling tell us only so much. The experience of reading vanishes with the reader. How do we recover the reading experiences of the past? Lately scholars have stepped up the hunt for evidence of how people over time have interacted with books, newspapers, and other printed material.