Written by Adam Vorobok, Reference Librarian, Downtown Main Library
Pause for a moment and listen.
What do you hear? Whatever it is, it is almost undetectable.
Inside the small but open banquet room, five tables and a booth are cramped with chairs, food, drinks, and forty-three people reading. One has the book perilously close to their face as if the words might jump off of the page and swim into the reader’s eyes. The others rest books comfortably in their lap, flipping pages causally. A person in a gray cardigan leans against the bar counter, sipping water while focused on the yellowed pages of an old paperback in their hands.
Just what is that strange sound, that strange, crisp sound? The aroma of fried potatoes and savory galettes fills the pale, inviting room. For a moment, someone outside the window has a cell phone conversation, but their voice trails off into the distant hum of city life. The lull is broken by that sound, again and again, slightly louder, slightly sharper.
Then it makes sense: it is the sound of a roomful of pages being turned with enthusiasm.
What you are hearing is the Silent Book Club.
In 2012, Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich were tired of traditional book clubs. They felt the assigned readings and pressure to contribute to discussions were too demanding. They simply wanted to enjoy reading and help other people do the same. Since its inception, Silent Book Club has started new chapters in 100+ cities worldwide and garnered a few news stories from NPR, Times UK, and Oprah.
Silent Book Club runs differently than your traditional book club. There is no assigned reading. Bring whatever you want to read in any format you want. Newspapers, magazines, manga, comics, clay tablets, e-tablets with your favorite blog post are all acceptable. In fact, if you bring headphones and listen at a soft volume, audiobooks and playaways are great.
For one hour, everyone at Silent Book Club just reads. Then, and only if you really want to, there is a half-hour of social time. Some people talk about what they are currently reading, others what they have read in the recent or distant past, want to find time to read, want to read but must read other books first, or have claimed they have read but they secretly know they only got through the first two chapters and are hoping to one day have an excuse to go back and finish it.
Think of Silent Book Club as a mandatory relaxation hour. Think of it as a time to read for other books clubs. Think of it as a means to learn about new books. Think of it as a means of meeting fellow lovers of the written word.
The Cincinnati Chapter started the night of January 14th. We expected a small crowd and were delighted with the room Taste of Belgium provided. One bookworm was already there, beyond excited that we organized this event. Not sure if everyone would remember to bring something, we started to fill up a table with various, colorful books from different genres as the first few groups of people arrived. But soon to our astonishment, more and more people arrived until we were scrambling to find more chairs and seating spaces. A small, brave faction agreed to read away from the main group and sat inside the actual restaurant.
Smiles lit up bright faces as markers, name tags, and menus were passed around. Reading works up an appetite and many dishes were ordered at a kind 15% off discount, though eating and drinking were by no means required. After a brief welcoming speech, we sat gloriously for an hour and read. Nobody minded how full the room was. We were busy.
When the hour was up, people continued to sit and enjoy the company at their table, exchanging contact information, book titles, and their love for literature of all kinds. From the get-go, Silent Book Club has been a smashing success and it was a night I’ll never forget.
Silent Book Club is held every second Tuesday of the month from 6:30-8 p.m. The location may change so please check our active Facebook group, opens a new window.
Looking for something to read? Why not try our Book Hook Up, opens a new window service and get three exciting recommendations from trained staff members? Looking for more traditional book clubs? Check out our calendar of events, opens a new window. Join us on Facebook in the Silent Book Club group, opens a new window.
Now that you are super excited about this and sharing it with all of your friends, I do have one favor to ask. Can you please keep your voice down? I’m trying to read.