Someone wrote into The Paris Review and asked what books they could read to attract interesting strangers. (My answer: read the book you think is interesting.) The letter writer said she was deluged with attention from fans of A Moveable Feast.
Paris Review responded: "The trick is to choose books that have cult followings, and so create a sense of secret fellowship—but that large numbers of your fellow-riders have actually read."
Here's a list they compiled, which is mainly an attempt to game the New York City subway system, but you can apply it anywhere (Lexington Avenue for the swank crowd; G train for the hipsters, etc.)
On the Lexington Avenue line, The Transit of Venus. For the G train: War and Peace, A Dance to the Music of Time, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 2666, Gravity's Rainbow, the complete works of James Michener, etc., etc., etc.
I will instantly take a friendly interest in anyone I see reading Ta-Nehisi Coates's memoir The Beautiful Struggle, Norman Rush's Mortals, IJ, anything by Adam Phillips, or the essays of Charles Lamb. [Paris Review]
And just a reminder for those who like reading books on a computer: sexy strangers can't see the titles you're delving into on a Kindle.
What are the books you've found that caught the attention of strangers — in good or bad ways?