Silent Book Clubs, which put focus on reading, launch in Inland Empire (2024)

Have you heard of Silent Book Clubs? They are taking the world by storm — quietly.

The concept is this. People who like to read might like to read with others, but without being forced to read a book they don’t want to read or to go to the bother of forming opinions about it, as with traditional book clubs.

I was aware of Silent Book Clubs — by reading about them, naturally — but hadn’t encountered one. Then an email newsletter arrived touting the inaugural meeting of the Twentynine Palms Silent Book Club.

The newsletter linked to a Washington Post story about the trend, explaining that of the 950 official chapters, 400 had started in 2024.

“Recent additions hail from Abu Dhabi; Marietta, Georgia; and Twentynine Palms, California,” the desert newsletter noted, “proving that a hatred of small talk is universal.”

The first gathering would be April 21. By happy coincidence, I was going to be in neighboring Joshua Tree that weekend. This looked like fate.

Silent Book Clubs, which put focus on reading, launch in Inland Empire (1)

Two days prior, Francoise Lazare filled me in. She and husband Patrick Zuchowicki own Desert General, a general store in Twentynine Palms with a growing selection of books. The couple organized last fall’s Twentynine Palms Book Festival, which will be back Nov. 8-9.

They are also sponsoring the Silent Book Club chapter at the request of a shy customer, who said she wanted to be part of a book club but didn’t want to talk. According to the Silent Book Club website, meet-ups usually take place in coffee shops, bars, libraries or bookstores and involve one hour of silent reading, followed by optional conversation.

“It’s like a book club for introverts,” Lazare told me. “The rule is there are no rules, no assigned reading. Everyone comes with their own book, audiobook, comic book. It’s a community gathering of people who like to read.”

Like any host, she worried aloud whether anyone would show up.

“It’s not that a lot of people come,” Zuchowicki chimed in reassuringly, “it’s that the people who come are happy.”

I put some thought into my choice of book. It was — highbrow alert — Marcel Proust’s “Swann’s Way,” the first book in his series “In Search of Lost Time.”

It wasn’t a book I was reading. In fact, it was a book I’d assiduously avoided reading, ever since buying it at a 60% discount 13 years ago during the Borders Books closeout sale.

What I knew about “Swann’s Way” was that it has long and winding sentences, page-spanning paragraphs and very little plot. In other words, it’s not a book to dip into during dull patches of a San Bernardino council meeting.

A full hour of distraction-free reading was a perfect way to get started.

Just before 11 a.m., I arrived at the Corner 62 complex and walked into Desert General, wearing a Ray Bradbury “Fahrenheit 451” T-shirt for the proper pro-reading tone.

A familiar face entered. Twentynine Palms local Mike Vail asked with surprise why I was in town, then asked what I was reading. I explained my long-term avoidance strategy.

“Your experience with ‘Swann’s Way’ is the same as mine,” Vail admitted. “I’ve had a copy on my shelves for years and haven’t read it.”

Lazare, by contrast, has read all seven books, and in the original French. She quoted the action-packed first line from memory: “For a long time, I went to bed early.”

“I am jealous of you,” she confided. “You are starting these books for the first time.”

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It was a warm, sunny day. We congregated in the courtyard patio, where there was outdoor furniture, a shade sail and refreshments, including bagels from 29 Loaves.

Despite Lazare’s fears, 15 of us showed up. (Twelve were women. I like that ratio.) At precisely 11 a.m., observing the “Silence While Reading” sign, books opened and the chatter stopped.

The first rule of Silent Book Club is that nobody talks during Silent Book Club.

At 11:20, sounds were few: conversation drifting from a shop’s open door, the fluttering of a bird’s wings. The turning of pages from yards away was audible.

At 11:30, a late arrival took the chair next to me, pulling out a brick by Sarah J. Maas, “Crescent City,” and opening it. The next time I looked over, she’d put the book down and was leafing through an issue of Hi Fructose.

At noon, Lazare called time.

I was only on page 23, but that was a good place to stop, right before a four-page paragraph.

Lazare got things rolling, telling us about the nonfiction book she was reading, “The Conquest of Morocco.”

Vail spoke about a mystery, “Prague Fatale,” in which the protagonist is a homicide detective in World War II Berlin. “He’s constantly referring to how ‘I’m trying to solve one murder and my countrymen are over in Ukraine and the Soviet Union murdering thousands every day,’” Vail said.

Seven other readers followed, commenting favorably in most cases about historical fiction on the building of the Panama Canal (“The Great Divide”), a literary romance (“Lessons in Chemistry”) and a modern retelling of a Jane Austen classic in which a renter fights back against a corporate CEO gentrifying her neighborhood (“Pride and Protest”), among others.

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I considered how to summarize the start of “Swann’s Way,” in which the narrator reminisces about being a nervous boy who couldn’t sleep unless his mother gave him a goodnight kiss. It seemed best to stay silent.

People seemed to enjoy the event and asked when the next one would be. Lazare scheduled it for May 26.

It turns out the Inland Empire has two other chapters of the Silent Book Club, in Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga. You can find them both on Instagram.

Redlands’ chapter had its first meeting April 21 as well. How about that?

Rancho Cucamonga’s has been meeting monthly since December. Its next meet-up is from 6-8 p.m. Monday, April 29 at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, 8140 Haven Ave.

As the Twentynine Palms meeting ended, Vail shared that he hadn’t known what to expect but found he’d gotten a lot out of the experience.

“I have to confess,” he said, “that even though I’m an author, I hardly ever read for an hour.”

David Allen writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, something to shout about. Email dallen@scng.com, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.

Silent Book Clubs, which put focus on reading, launch in Inland Empire (2024)

FAQs

What is the book club for shy people? ›

Silent Book Club® is a global community of readers and introverts, with more than 900 chapters in 50 countries around the world led by local volunteers. SBC members gather in public at bars, cafes, bookstores, libraries, and online to read together in quiet camaraderie.

What is the focus of book clubs? ›

Book club reading and discussions must focus on reading, on students making connections with what they are reading and generating ideas, and then discussing these ideas and connections. The em- phasis is on comprehending the reading and being understood as they communicate their connections during discussion.

What is a reading club? ›

Reading club is a platform for students to narrate, discuss and reflect on what is read. This forum intends to promote reading among the students and gives the opportunity to present book reviews regularly. Creativity, analytical and critical skills of the students are enhanced through these meetings.

How does a book reading club work? ›

Book reading clubs

The group can either allow interruptions for comments and questions from the members at any time, or agree to allow such input at chapter or section endings. Such a club makes reading a shared experience and frees the busy members from the "homework" of having read the book before coming to the club.

How do I find a local book club to join? ›

Finding Local Book Clubs

One of the easiest ways to find local book clubs is by visiting your neighborhood library. Libraries often host book clubs or can provide information on local groups that meet to discuss their latest reads.

What not to do at book club? ›

Refrain from demeaning, discriminatory, or harassing behavior and speech. Be mindful of your surroundings and of your fellow participants. Alert book club leader if you notice a dangerous situation, someone in distress, or violations of this Code of Conduct, even if they seem inconsequential.

What is the difference between a reading club and a book club? ›

Book Clubs aren't usually held more than once a month, or once a term. A Reading Club is a totally different story. Not necessarily remedial, a Reading Club is usually run by schools once or twice a week, and often in the morning before school officially starts.

How does a silent book club work? ›

Silent Book Clubs Offer Introverts A Space To Socialize : NPR. Silent Book Clubs Offer Introverts A Space To Socialize When the bell rings, it's reading time. At over 70 chapters around the world, people gather at Silent Book Clubs to read whatever they like, as long as it's in silence.

What do you mean by silent reading? ›

Silent reading is reading done silently, or without speaking the words being read. Before the reintroduction of separated text (spaces between words) in the Late Middle Ages, the ability to read silently may have been considered rather remarkable, though some scholars object to this idea.

What problems do book clubs face? ›

The Problem: A member always takes the group off-topic. The Solution: It's not uncommon for members to want to chat about non-book topics when they get together. The best way to combat off-topic chatter is to have a designated time for it built into your plans.

What is the first rule of the book club? ›

So as you can see, there aren't many rules to book club. But there is one that I'd say is most important: Read the Book!

What is the main purpose of a book club? ›

Book clubs offer an affordable way to connect with others. Socialization helps sharpen your memory and cognitive skills, which leads to an increase in your sense of happiness and well-being.

Is anxious people good for book club? ›

Fredrik Backman's Anxious People is a thought provoking book, with overall an uplifting and feel good vibe. It encourages us to be kind and reflect on what really matters in life. The plot is clearly thought out and effectively executed. The way all the loose ends are tied up at the end is incredibly well done.

What is the Girly book club? ›

What is The GBC you ask? The concept is simple. We're a global book club for likeminded women to discuss great books! All members of the book club read the same book over the same period; members then meet up in their respective cities at the end of each month to discuss the book and exchange views.

What are the rules for the Silent Book Club? ›

The rules of Silent Book Club are simple: Read, wine, repeat. Grab a book, any book, and head for the bar. Bring some friends and share what you're reading. Or just read on your own.

How to overcome introvert shyness books? ›

These six empowering books — “Quiet,” “The Charisma Myth,” “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” “The Gifts of Imperfection,” “Quiet Influence,” and “The Confidence Gap” — provide valuable insights, practical strategies, and inspiration to overcome social anxiety.

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