Dubbed (or subtitled, perhaps) “Introvert Happy Hour” by its co-founder, the Silent Book Club is a growing, somewhat social outlet where bibliophiles assemble each month in nearly 250 cities around the world (including Kanawha City) to read together — in a largely nonverbal environment encouraged to leave all participants enlightened — and virtually speechless.
No set reading material or common title is required or assigned for membership. Instead, members are invited to simply B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Book) of their choosing.
Silent Book Club members are welcome to enjoy coffee or a similar beverage or snacks as they read together.
“SBC is about treating yourself. Sitting in a cafe with a book. Reading in companionable silence with bookish friends. Interlacing gossip with recommended authors. And you never have to worry about whether or not you finished reading the book before the meeting,” the Silent Book Club website declares.
An informal, 30-minute-or-so meet-and-greet session opens each of the monthly meetings, followed by reading. Meetings conclude with a brief discussion of area book-related events and other topics.
Silent Book Club originated at a San Francisco wine bar in 2012, where a pair of friends, Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich, opted to read together in companionable silence without a “quota” of books to read (or insights expected to make) that are often integral to traditional book clubs.
“The first West Virginia chapter was the Charleston chapter, which started in September of 2019, but there are now chapters in Shepherdstown and Weirton,” Charleston chapter founder Vivian Taylor said.
A Kanawha City resident, Taylor has belonged to seven book groups and, along with the Silent Book Club, still participates in three local book discussion groups.
Building interest — and convenience — for her fellow Kanawha Valley readers presented a scheduling challenge, she said.
“We had seven people show up at our initial meeting and five at our second meeting. We average three or four people per meeting, which isn’t unusual for a town of our size. We get a lot of people expressing interest in attending on Facebook, but they rarely show up, something I’m told by the club originators is quite normal,” Taylor said.
She decided that being an early bird might catch the most bookworms to broaden the Silent Book Club membership base.
“Realistically, there is no great time for everyone. Evenings might work for some, but with people working and having families, they often just want to get home and spend time with their families. Weekends seemed the best, but, again, if they have families there are often family activities on the weekends to consider. I went with mornings, so we start early and people could, hopefully, get to do whatever they might need to do with the rest of their day,” Taylor explained.
“Vivian and I met years ago in a book group I started when I was at the library,” said SBC member and retired Kanawha County Public Library Associate Director Toni Blessing of Charleston in an email (she is wintering in Florida currently). “We have been in quite a few book groups together. We’re both entirely obsessed with books, and we discuss them constantly, so when she decided to start the Silent Book Group, she invited me to join.
“I was very hesitant at first,” Blessing confessed, “because I didn’t think I would feel comfortable reading in a group and not talking. But it turned out to be a lot of fun.
“It’s fun to meet people who share your passion and find out what they are reading. It’s good to make connections with other people face-to-face and not limit our socialization to Instagram and Facebook,” Blessing said.
“I read broadly, both fiction and nonfiction, but historical fiction is probably my favorite,” she said. “I read a lot, but Vivian reads more than anyone I know.”
Blessing also encourages everyone to join a book group, either the Silent Book Club or a more traditional one. “Book groups are beneficial in so many ways. We read and discover books that we would probably never try on our own and we also devote more time to reading. Meeting other people who share your passion is a great way to make lifelong friendships, and I’ve seen it happen over and over.
“If you are looking for a book group to join,” Blessing said, “come and try the silent group. It’s a great introduction to book groups and it’s very low-key. You can read what you want. If you are looking for a more traditional group, start with your local library.”
Additional information about the Charleston group and upcoming meetings can be found at facebook.com/SilentBook ClubCharlestonWV or silent book.club/blogs/events/silent -book-club-charleston-wv.
Email correspondence can be directed to: email@example.com.
The Kanawha Valley area Silent Book Club group will next meet from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, March 14, at the Daily Dose Cafe, 52061/2 MacCorkle Ave., S.E., in Kanawha City.
“Vivian approached us about it, and we said it would be something we’d be interested in,” Daily Dose Cafe Manager Chelcee Amos said.
“We weren’t open very long when they started,” Amos added. “The first time, we had a lot of people here. Sometimes, they only have two or three. Some days it does blow up. It just depends. On our social media, a lot of people still comment, ‘This is the place they have the Silent Book Club.’”
Future meetings are also scheduled this spring at the Daily Dose Cafe, taking place from 9 to 11 a.m. on April 11 and May 9.