The award winning MARTA book club*, Atlanta's premier public transportation reading club continues its civic duty of reflecting life in the city by tracking what people are reading on the trains and buses of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
The list begins with a book that I have reading during my commute City by City: Dispatches from the American Metropolis (2015) edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb of the n+1 literary magazine out of Brooklyn. This collection of dispatches (not really essays; not really articles) about life in different cities are often either personal (“Miami Party” Boom by Emily Witt) or more analytical like Dan Albert's history of interstate highways cutting through cities. This discontinuity gives the collection a kind of unevenness instead of something more cohesive.
Three of the articles have metro-Atlanta connections.
One dispatch is Shawn Wen's account of the the Jennifer Wilbanks disappearance on the eve of her wedding back in 2005 near Lawrenceville. Basically, Wilbanks got cold feet (and later returned unharmed) but to Wen, her “kidnapping” and the reaction to the kidnapping was a sign of the changing times in suburban Atlanta. In 1970, Duluth had a population of 2000, of which was 95 percent white. In 2010 that population has increased to 26,600 with a 40 percent white population.
The second piece is Lawrence Jackson “Christmas in Baltimore” about going back to a funeral in his hometown of Baltimore. Jackson, who is a professor at Emory University begins his intensely personal story when he is robbed at gunpoint in Atlanta.
Alex Sayf Cummings who wrote the lengthy “Atlanta's BeltLine Meets the Voters.” about the controversial BeltLine, the comprehensive transportation and economic development plan, which encircles the city. The project includes parks, trails, new housing and a proposed 22 miles of light rail connecting 44 Atlanta neighborhoods. (Boy, will that boost MARTA book club membership!)
Cummings makes every attempt to be fair minded about the BeltLine and goes to great lengths to explain its funding mechanism that is intertwined with financial support for the Atlanta Public Schools. Gentrification or improving areas has had negative effects on working class and African American families, although there are efforts in the works to provide some affordable housing around the BeltLine. Cummings shows how Atlanta's urbanization problems are not much different than other cities and how Atlanta is a “helpless giant, tied down by suburban Lilliputians on all sides.” ** (In the photo taken during their recent reading at the Carter Center, Jackson is on the left and Cummings is on the right.)
What People Are Reading
And now back to our regular programming where we list what other books people are reading while riding MARTA – another view of the city, so to speak. Even though it has been hot and humid as hell on the platforms and sweat is running down and stinging our eyes, commuters are still reading:
Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung
Underworld by Dom DeLillo
The Surfing Lesson by Elin Hilderbrand
Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
The Client by John Grisham
Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug
The Mammoth Hunters by Jean Auel
Consider the Lobster (and other essays) by David Foster Wallace
Wanderlust by Danielle Steele
The Bible (not just any Bible, but one of those humongous King James Bible with a zipper and Jesus quotes in red letters.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy by John Davis
NYPD Red by James Patterson
Smokin' 17 by Janet Evanovich
Books by Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, and Dean Koontz
If you are interested in past lists visit here, otherwise keep reading and get to work on time.
* Post script #1 Award Winning?
Yes, check out the last posting MARTA Book Club #27 about being nominated for the Georgia Commutes Honors Road Warrior of the Year. As a follow-up, the book club did win along with several other hard core commuters. A chunk of hardware now rests in my office.
** Post script #2 Acknowledgements
Thanks to the publisher Farrar, Straus to Giroux for providing my reviewer's copy of City By City, which I now am willing to share with any interested book club member. I can leave it in a Free Publications kiosks near one of the MARTA stations.