Exclusive: Commuters Who Read While Walking Are Better Than Those Who Don't

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 11 months ago
Exclusive: Commuters Who Read While Walking Are Better Than Those Who Don't
The gentleman on the far right is better than everyone else in this shot, because he is not stationary. Photo: Magic Pea

Commuters who can read a book while walking to work are far better people than those who can't, Londonist can exclusively reveal.

Weaving in and out of your fellow commuters while devouring the latest Zadie Smith with your eyes — and without ever deigning looking up from the page — invariably earns you immeasurable respect among the commuting community.

Whether or not you manage to read a single word, it has been confirmed, does not affect your being better-ness.

The art of reading while walking started out in 13th century London, when the monks of Whitefriars, Greyfriars and Blackfriars tried to be better than each other by walking around with unwieldy copies of the bible.

By the early 19th century, the practise was widespread among Londoners, as shown here:

A bearded man walking the streets with his hat under his arm deeply engrossed in reading a book. Etching by J.T. Smith, 1815. Image: Wellcome

When the underground network opened in 1863, over 2,000 commuters turned up at Paddington with books, in order to prove they were better than other all the other people who had turned up. Chaos ensued.

While, in 21st century London, smartphone and Kindle reader/walkers are widespread, it is only a paperback reader/walker who is actually better than everyone else.

Explained champion walker/reader Jen Fuller: "Me. Ulysses. Bank station. 8.45am on a Monday. Bring it."

Last Updated 27 January 2017