I always enjoy checking out the articles at Bookriot. It’s a younger crowd that are often interested in different books than I usually read, but they love reading and always are coming up with interesting ideas for readers or to encourage reading.
Recently, they ran an article on hosting silent reading parties. That sounded like an interesting idea. I notice that we often read alone, but not alone–for example, in a local Starbucks, or even the cafe’ of a local bookstore. And, if you can avoid the person who insists on talking loudly on their cell phone with a business client, or the conversation where someone is going through the excruciating details of a relationship breakup, it can be a good place to be around people, yet read.
Silent reading parties take this a step further. The idea is simply to find a comfortable place to gather a bunch of people for the express purpose of reading — silently. The location featured in the article is a brew pub in an old house with a parlor.
The article talks about friendly but clear ways to enforce quiet, such as business cards with “Shh!” printed on them to be handed to those who can’t resist being chatty. It suggests a maximum of two hours, letting people know when the time is up. Some non-distracting background music can be helpful to make it less awkward to be silent with others.
The fascinating thing to me was that many people really enjoyed being silent with others and having a break from “high-contact socializing.” It is also interesting to me that there is not necessarily a discussion of what people read afterwards, although I suspect some do this. How exceedingly rare it is to be silent with others around! I’ve been in some retreat settings where this has been so. The writer commented that this is almost “church-like.” I sighed because I find it is rare to sit silently in church without someone feeling they need to break the silence.
I wonder if this is a dimension of life we overlook, that these silent reading parties are re-discovering. We need silence, but this doesn’t always mean solitude. Sometimes we find great comfort in silence in the company of others. Whether it is communing with a book, our own thoughts, or God, we find it strangely comforting to do this at times without words with others who can share that silent communion.