Tripping Over a Great Read

I love the many varied ways that books come into my life.

Sometimes they arrive wrapped in brown paper with a note written on a used envelope that pleads with me to please read this immediately. Thank you Dad.

Sometimes I wander through a bookstore on a hot summer morning and end up leaving with three more titles to add to the rapidly growing TBR (to be read) pile on my dresser. Thank you lack of self control.

And sometimes, because I live in what I consider to be one of the most literary-friendly cities in the world, they are left in my path to stumble upon when some mystical reading god decides it is exactly the right moment for me to read that particular title. Thank you New York and your boroughs.

That's what happened last weekend. There I was minding my own business, doing my thing and walking more miles than is sane in the middle of winter because I'm too cheap to get a gym membership, and there they were: four paperbacks left on a dry stoop in Brooklyn just waiting to be riffled through by the passing hordes. Three of the four were nonfiction, technical-type books that held no interest for me. The fourth was a battered paperback copy of Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

Now, I don't know about you, but Neil Gaiman is one of those mythical authors who writes for many ages, has a rabid following on social media, and maintains an impenetrable cool while being incredibly warm and friendly at the same time. Even if you are not a reader of books that feature magic or myth, you need to pick up one of his novels and give it a try. His prose is elegant and approachable. I've yet to meet someone who has taken the time to read one of his books cover to cover who hasn't fallen in love with some aspect of his stories.

So there I am, walking along, minding my own business, and the book-reading gods must have powwowed and said, "It is time for Rachael to read American Gods." They left me this little mass market paperback and the gut feeling that I had to read it.

It was the perfect time. I had finished my last read only the day before and was shuffling through my TBR pile trying to decide which book felt best in my hands before I slept. Needless to say, dear reader, I picked that book up, took it home and married it.

No, I'm kidding. You can't marry books. If you could marry books, being a crazy old book lady would not be such a cliche. It would just be another accepted relationship choice.

But I did take the paperback home in my pocket, and casually started reading it that night cuddled up under my comforter with three pillows at my back.

I'm still reading it. If I had the time, I probably would have just holed up in my apartment with nonperishables and read all week until it was done. But I'm an adult with a job and so that is not always the option even if I wish it was.

With the same thankfulness that I have for the city that throws books into my path and insists I read them, I love the long commute I have every morning on the subway because I get to read uninterrupted and unbothered for almost a solid two hours every day. And I'm with my people. As I said, New York is one of the most literature-friendly places on the planet, and I spend my commutes surrounded by other people equally engrossed in whatever they are reading. Sure, some are playing games on their phones or tablets, but I'd say at least 75 percent of the other train passengers every morning are reading something rather than playing something.

We read sitting comfortably in seats. We read sitting squashed together on benches that we all like to pretend fit four per section even though they really only fit three. We read standing up, one arm and an ankle wrapped around a pole for stability. And the most graceful read standing up with one hand grasping a hanging pole that sways with the movement of the train. It's true of subways and trains and buses alike. The interiors are quiet aside from the roar of mechanics and engines, and I will give you a dirty look if you are one of those idiots listening to music so loud I can hear it through your headphones and mine from four or five people away.

It's pretty much the perfect reading environment. Aside from the occasional bridge or above ground section of track as you get further from Manhattan, there is little to no cellular service so there's nothing to distract.

Books have come to me through these commutes too. I find myself surreptitiously noting and writing down the titles other people are reading and going out to find used copies of them in the following days and months.

How do books come into your life, reader? Are you a browser of Amazon? A wanderer of bookstores? A receiver of bookish care packages from well-meaning family members?

There are so many great ways to find your next favorite book, and I'm always eager to try a new method. Tell me how to find my next favorite!