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Silent and yet sociable: that’s a Silent Book Club

Woman reading and holding coffee

It’s not anything like a silent disco, and it’s not the same thing as Goodreads’ Book Club for Introverts, an online program allowing for self-paced discussion posts about a designated reading choice for the group. The growing trend of Silent Book Clubs appeals to people who love books and enjoy reading and maybe even exchanging book recommendations and opinions with other readers in person, but in a less-restrictive social environment than typical Book Clubs.

The actual guidelines for Silent Book Clubs are few. As described in a Northwest Public Radio story last month:

“Members meet up at a bar, a library, a bookstore or any venue that will host them. Once the bell rings, silent reading time commences. After an hour, the bell rings again.

“Other than that, there are no rules.

“Liberated from the orthodoxy of traditional book clubs, participants can bring whatever they’d like to read and chat about anything, before and after the designated reading time.”

In other words: no pressure to slog through a book you realized you loathed within the first few chapters or risk looking like a Book-Club Slacker; no pressure to read Tolstoy with the group when you’re in the mood for a Harlequin romance; no pressure to come up with something meaningful to say about anything you’re reading or anything else. No deadlines, no homework. You can be as social or anti-social as you want to be.

There are some cons to this approach: the lack of structure can turn off some participants, who are used to the more traditional model of book clubs. It also requires a good chunk of time set aside to just read, and less structured time for the social aspects of the club. There’s also a certain camaraderie to reading the same book.

Still, the idea of silent book clubs is gaining traction. The two young San Francisco women who started this notion in 2012, “reading in companionable silence at our neighborhood bar,” now host a web site and other social media pages to advise and connect more than 70 Silent Book Clubs around the world, from Thailand to Toronto to Tucson. (There is only one in New Jersey, up in Matawan.)

Does this sound like something you’d like to try? Let us know and we’ll see what we can organize! We may even come join you with our books!

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