Silent Book Club

Tuesday, Mar. 12, 6:30, free

Bull City Ciderworks, Durham

I have no truck with the Myers-Briggs Industrial Complex, but I respect these tests insofar as they accurately peg me as introverted. I love reading, and I hate sharing in small-group settings. A traditional book club, where you discuss an assigned book, merges the joy of literacy with the specter of clammy conversation. For me, it holds no appeal. But reading alone is also fraught. Even in perfect conditions—on a sofa, feet up, drink in hand— distractions are ever-present; at any moment, I’m four seconds from scrolling through Twitter and half a chapter from falling asleep.

Fortunately, there’s a third way. On the second Tuesday in February, I trekked to Bull City Ciderworks and read quietly, alongside more than sixty others, in the Durham chapter of Silent Book Club. Founded in San Francisco in 2012, the club now has chapters in eleven countries; Durham’s is in its second year, and a Raleigh expansion is in the works. The concept is simple: Bring a book. Make small talk. Then, read for an hour in silence. When the timer sounds, you can mill about and chat—or, just leave, with no obligation to listen to pedants try to make sense of Pynchon.

The worst-case scenario is great: an hour spent reading a good book. But that shortchanges the experience. Imagine SoulCycle for shy people. The background music and the bar hubbub both fade to make room for a concentrated, quiet energy. The non-readers, perplexed yet wary that something is happening at the picnic tables where folks sit shoulder-to-shoulder eyeing books, not smartphones, pipe down. After an hour, I felt a mutual sense of accomplishment; the conversations that followed had the ease of strangers who have survived an escape room together.

More important, the nature of the group fosters a commitment that makes one say (internally), “I came here to read, so I better actually do it.” And by creating this sanctuary in a bar, 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. 

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