Apparently these quiet reading groups grew out of dissatisfaction with standard book clubs where reading material is "assigned" and, as often as not, members cram their assigned reading just before a meeting in a manner that's termed "demanding."
In contrast, members of silent book clubs meet up in a public space with a book of their choice, then spent an hour reading in silence.
"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," states the article.
As a further explanation:
The idea began with two friends reading together at a bar in San Francisco, annoyed by the assigned reading of a demanding book club.Thus was born what some are terming "introvert happy hour" (or "SoulCycle for shy people") with chapters meeting all over the country. They often meet in bars or other public areas, enjoy a drink, and act as convivial as only introverts can act when they have a good book and are surrounded by other book-lovers.
"I wished that I had a book club where basically there was no assigned reading but you could just show up, hang out with your friends, talk about what you were reading and then just sort of read your book with no pressure to prepare snacks or vacuum your house or do any of the things that normal, traditional book club hosting entails," says Guinevere de la Mare, who co-founded the organization with Laura Gluhanich in 2012.
Here's how the founder describes it:
Once a month, a group of friends meet up at a bar after work. We sink into leather couches, we order drinks, and we pull out our books. There’s chatter about who’s reading what, author recommendations mix with gossip, and a few books swap hands. The drinks arrive, a cheese plate appears, and the books-and-wine tableau is snapped, filtered, and hashtagged. As conversation dies down, we put our phones away and begin to read. It’s a Monday evening so the bar is quiet. A classically trained pianist drifts from Bach to Adele without rustling a page of sheet music. We order more drinks. A few late-comers trickle in and are greeted warmly. We turn back to our books, and read.
Apparently many book swaps happen at these events ("Hey, I'm interested in reading XYZ, does anyone have a copy I can borrow?") and no one is pressured to get any "assigned" reading completed.
"By creating this sanctuary in a bar," notes a British chapter, "the club endorses reading as not just important, but also entertaining. It’s hushed, but don’t be fooled: Once a month, there’s no place more happening."
If I lived closer to a city, I'd seriously consider joining (or starting) a chapter. As it is, I can't justify a two-hour round trip for an hour's reading time in a public location.
But still, what a cool idea! Check it out.