X Close

Centre for Publishing


Where book lovers unite


Archive for the 'Commuter Insights' Category

The Best Books to Read on Your Commute

By uczcslo, on 9 March 2016

As term comes to an end, so do my commutes and thus my commuting blog. As a final conclusion to this series, I thought it would be appropriate to explore what books have made my train rides a little bit easier.

This choice proves to be a difficult challenge, as books serve certain moods and moods can fluctuate depending on how your day is going. From personal experience, you need to find a book with depth. Not a book that makes your attention wander occasionally, but one with a strong plot that sucks you in.

Out of all of the genres I have read on trains, I would say sci-fi or fantasy is the best, and if not, a textbook. I haven’t chosen the textbook because of its entertainment factor – admittedly, they can be quite boring. If you need to get through a textbook however, you’re more motivated to do it in an environment (with fewer distractions) that isn’t your home. Of trade books, sci-fi and fantasy is the best choice because of its ability to pull you into an alternate and action-packed world, thus distracting you from the quiet and boring train ride.

Although these books may not apply to everybody’s tastes, below are three examples that kept me entertained during train journeys.

  1. The Publishing Business From p-books to e-books, Kelvin Smith

“It explores the publishing process from writer to reader; examining the key roles performed in the editorial, design, production and marketing departments.”[1]

Out of all of the textbooks I have read on commutes, The Publishing Business From p-books to e-books is the most user-friendly because of its straightforward content, clarity, and colourful images and diagrams. Although I’m now in my twenties, my love of books with coloured pictures will never die. It keeps my brain active by giving me no option but to dart from image to image in order to understand the content. A welcome distraction from the commuters standing beside me. If you’re a publishing student, I’d recommend this as the best book on publishing. If you’re not a publishing student, then look for colourful, illustrated textbooks on your subject!

  1. Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell




This is one of my favourite trade books because of its dystopian setting. If you like stories such as The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, then you’ll enjoy Nineteen Eighty-four which preluded The Hunger Games explosion. Nineteen Eighty-four is a prime example of a book sucking readers into another world. The world is similar to that of modern society and the cramped trains I sit on, but the book manages to morph this setting into something else entirely. The book’s core theme – dictatorship – makes you take a step back and rethink moaning about a menial train ride.

  1. Room, Emma Donoghue

“Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.”[3]

The third and final example is slightly different to those above. Room provides the reader with an insight into the world of an innocent five-year old and distracts commuters from the adult setting that is central London. Regardless of commuting, this is a great and unique read that opens up a whole new literary world. It is by far one of the most moving stories I’ve read!

There are plenty of other books that I could recommend (not just for commutes), but the list would go on forever. If you’re interested in learning more about what I think of books then have a read of my personal blog www.readreview.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @SarahLouiseOs. I hope this blog helped you with any commuting qualms, but keep your eyes peeled next month for my new blogging series, Tackling a Dissertation!



[1] The Publishing Business: From p-books to e-books, Kelvin Smith, AVA Publishing SA, 2012

[2] Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, Penguin Books, 2013

[3] Room, Emma Donoghue, Picador, Pan Macmillan, 2011

Commuter Insights: Books for London

By uczcslo, on 10 February 2016

Photo by: Saïda

Photo by: Saïda

Following on from my last blog on Books on the Underground, I’m going to discuss a similar book campaign called Books for London, which was established by Chris Gilson in 2011.

Books for London aims to establish a book sharing scheme across London’s tube stations. The scheme is entirely dependent on volunteers, and their first aim is to reach as many tube stations as possible. They hope to “cement London as a capital of literacy.”

This campaign differs from that of Books on the Underground – rather than leaving books on tube seats, they instead establish shelves within stations, and commuters can either pick up or donate books. Books can be distinguished by their labels. So far, book swaps are recorded at 11 known London stations – hopefully more in the future!

In December 2011, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said, “I think it’s a very good idea and would say something powerful about the kind of city we are and our commitment to literacy, which obviously we are trying to demonstrate in lots of ways particularly with young people.” Books for London won the #ideas4Mayor competition at the London Policy Conference.

Like Books on the Underground, Books for London are looking for regular volunteers and if you’re a regular commuter and book lover like me, then: firstly, it won’t take up too much of your time, and secondly, you’re helping to reinvigorate people’s love of literature,

As many as 13 million books are sent to UK landfills every year – quite a devastating figure that we should aim to prevent. Campaigns like Books for London are a great way to cut back on the 13 million, and will help create a more sustainable environment. World Book Day is fast approaching (March 3) – what better way to celebrate your love of books by helping a campaign like Books for London?

There are so many campaigns like this that typically go unnoticed – help spread the word and keep your eyes peeled when commuting. Or, have a look at the links provided on the Books for London website (right-hand side bar) and see how you can get involved.

More information can be found on their website, twitter, and facebook. If you’re interested in helping out then send them an email at londonbookswap@gmail.com.

My next commuting blog will be the last blog of the commuting series – details will be revealed next month!

Commuter Insights: Books on the Underground

By uczcslo, on 13 January 2016

So, I’ve had a month off from commuting and what a pleasure it has been! As I haven’t got much to say about commuting this month, I thought I would discuss a “project” (if you will) called Books on the Underground.

The title, Books on the Underground speaks for itself. They place books in random trains on London’s underground. They are placed there with the intent that they be taken, read, and shared with others. Books on the Underground is a not-for-profit organisation that describes itself as “your local library”.

The project’s sole purpose is to brighten people’s days in the bustling capital, and they merely ask commuters to return the books after reading them.

Books can be found via images posted by Books on the Underground. These images often feature a book in front of a station’s sign. They are always looking for other generous volunteers who are willing to distribute books, as well as any book donations.

Their idea has been so influential that there is now an established Books on the Subway in New York, and Books on the Metro in Washington D.C. Books on the Underground has also created a book club where they give out 20 free books a month to those who attend.

It’s a great idea that aims to spread the enjoyment of literature among busy commuters, many of which may struggle to find time to read and relax. It’s a thoughtful and selfless act that aims to break the repetition of daily life as a commuter, and I wish I had thought of the idea myself! It makes me look forward to the dreaded commutes, and I anticipate discovering one of the books myself. I just hope that commuters can continue to respect and appreciate the project for what it is, and fingers crossed that Books on the Underground will continue to grow!

If you want to find out more about them then have a look at their Twitter, Facebook, or website.

Next time I will be discussing a similar scheme, called Books for London.

Commuter Insights: Thoughts on writing

By uczcslo, on 16 December 2015

I’m back with commuter diaries; this time providing you with some contemplative thoughts, inspired by a train journey.

So, I was sitting on the train home, reading Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips, when my phone vibrated, interrupting my focus. As I turned, a lady who had previously been studying me from afar found an opportunity to ask me, “What do you do in publishing?”

“Oh, I’m a student at UCL” I replied, “not yet officially ‘in'”.

The lady then went on to describe how she was writing a book that she was interested in publishing, and listed all of the difficulties it entailed. I fully understood her troublesome feelings, but instantly it highlighted the kind of industry I was going into – a challenging and eternally changing industry: one which can change a writer’s life, but one that can also shatter a dream. I felt as if it wasn’t my place to advise her, as I need to get my foot in the door first! But all the same I encouraged her, promoted social media as a useful tool to gain recognition, and told her not to lose hope.

Photo by: Gerry Balding | Flickr

Photo by: Gerry Balding | Flickr

On reflection – with a greater understanding of publishing – it has made me realise the need for publishers to nurture hope in aspiring writers. We see time and time again writers rejected on the basis of their work not being good enough; not filling a market need; not having a well known name. Occasionally we see lives turned around; a single mother who wrote on a train… was rejected by many… but soon became one of the biggest selling authors in the world – J. K. Rowling.

J. K. Rowling for me, like for many others, has been an inspiration to continue writing, and has kindled my belief that, yes anything is possible. Although, over the course of this degree, I have become increasingly concerned about my chances of getting published, I won’t let this kind of thing ruin my ambitions, nor should it for anyone else. Like Rowling, I like to think that when I graduate I will spend hours on train journeys, up and down the country, writing books (although of course, not during rush hour). Despite being confined to a chair, I can spend hours absorbing inspiration from the life around me – the business, the diverse group of people I encounter, and the contradicting, yet pleasant blur of countryside and city through the window.

It’s easy to get lost in deep thought on a quiet journey.

There are so many alternative opportunities today if you struggle to get traditionally published. If you want to write then write, don’t let the rejection of others ruin your own ambitions. Learn about publishing. Put yourself in uncomfortable positions. Explore and get inspired. But, don’t quit. Keep fighting. Keep adapting until you get where you want to be. I do believe anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Oh, and publishers, be supportive of writers. Don’t write off their dreams, or tell them they’re not good enough – after all, one day in the future, saying no may be your biggest regret.

Find author’s writing tips here:




Tips and Struggles from a Commuting Student

By uczcslo, on 18 November 2015

Today is the first blog of my blogging series: Tips and Struggles from a Commuting Student. I’m going to start off with basic tips that every commuting student needs to know. Everything I have written below is, of course, written in jest, but is also reality.


Photo by: Sarah Louise Osborne

Photo by: Sarah Louise Osborne

1. Accept the fact that commuting may be your future.

Commuting can be tedious and time-consuming. On average, I wake up three hours before my lessons start, and on every commute, I miserably compare the commuting time to the time it would have taken if I lived near campus – which equates to an extra two hours of sleep! In spite of this, I’ve tried to see the positive side of commuting. I’m only at university twice a week, if I complain now, then what is it going to be like when I work in London full-time?

2. It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

When it comes to getting a seat on a train during rush hour, you are more than welcome to frown at the fortunate individual who claims the last seat from under your nose. That is the reality of commuting. If your station is one of the first stops, then you will probably not encounter this problem. However, commuting back from London at 5pm will undoubtedly be the opposite. Sometimes, you may encounter circumstances that do anger you. For example, people using spare seats as laptop stands or foot rests – you are well within your rights to take the seat!

3. Make the most of the commute.

When you’re studying a Masters, working, interning, blogging, and trying to desperately sustain any form of social life, you cannot afford to waste time on a train. Yes, sometimes standing on a train makes it difficult to concentrate, so allow yourself to play Solitaire or Uno on your phone for a while. But make sure this isn’t a regular occurrence! Bring two books (a textbook and a reading book) – the textbook for when you’re determined and energetic, and the reading book for when you need a break. You never know what mood you’re going to be in.

4. Be quick.

Keep your travel card close by at all times. Time spent searching through your bag at a turnstile, wastes everybody’s time.

5. Protect your belongings.

The most obvious piece of advice – keep a close eye on your possessions at all times.

6. TEA or coffee…

Commuting can drain your energy; it can be tiresome staring at the back of a chair for half an hour, so make sure you get a caffeinated drink either before or after the journey. Always make sure you have money reserved for these little necessities!

7. Last-minute homework.

Although I shouldn’t be admitting this, train journeys are great for last minute bits of homework. I don’t mean assignments (I’m not that crazy), but if you really didn’t have time to finish your homework, then train journeys may be your saving grace. They are particularly useful if, for homework (UCL MA in Publishing particularly), you are required to make public observations of reading spaces.

8. Acquiring a cheetah’s stealth.

Once you’re off the train, people will try to jump on the train before allowing you off – this can make you angry. You must therefore adopt the speed, and sneakiness of a cheetah. If you are short like me, then you will adapt quickly. Slip under arms and through the sides of people, and think ahead. Watch out for pedestrians who are about to walk into you. A lot of people march through the station assuming people will dodge them. Avoid slow walkers who think they’re on holiday, and rapidly accelerate in front of them. Sometimes, it can shock you how fast you make it from one side of the station to the next.

9. Comfy clothes are key.

Forget nice clothes! Wear something comfortable and find a balance. Long sleeve tops and jumpers are obviously advisable during winter, but expect to sweat on the underground. Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to walk in. Debate whether laces will negatively impact your speed, or whether a skirt will be awkward on an escalator ride. Always be prepared for all types of weather – after all, this is England.

10. Travel light.

Finally, travel light. If you want to bring your laptop, then sacrifice something else, like a notepad. Half of the time, half of what you bring with you, isn’t used.


I hope these few tips are useful for everybody, even if you’re not an MA in Publishing student. If you enjoyed my witty remarks, then please follow us on Twitter @UCLPublishing or via my Twitter @SarahLouiseOs. Bear these tips in mind during Christmas. I can imagine train journeys will be even more hectic, and I’ll follow up with some of my personal, commuting encounters next month!