Books

Silent book clubs allow book lovers to read alone, but together

Vicki Ziegler is a member and organizer of a Toronto silent book club and she shares what silent book clubs are and how they work.
The co-founder of Toronto's Silent Book Club loves to read poetry and novels. (Maggie Macintosh/CBC)

You've heard of book clubs ⁠— a group of book lovers decides on a book, they read it and then meet to discuss it. But if the pressure to read a book to deadline and have something meaningful to say about it is too much, a new kind of book club may be the alternative you've been looking for: the silent book club.

Vicki Ziegler is a member and organizer of a Toronto silent book club. She spoke with CBC Radio's Here & Now about what silent book clubs are and how they work.

How it works

"We gather at a public place — our particular group meets at a coffee shop — and everyone brings with them what they are currently reading. It can be in any format. Largely people bring physical books, but there are e-books and audiobooks.

"For about the first half hour to an hour, we go around the table and everyone briefly describes what they've been reading recently and what they plan to read during the silent reading period. Then we commit to a complete, uninterrupted undistracted hour of reading.

"At the 55-minute mark, one of us raps on the table to let everybody know the hour's almost up. When we complete the hour of reading, sometimes people hang around afterwards and discuss their books some more."

There's no pressure

"There's no pressure in a few ways. Nobody has to host it. Everybody can read what they want. There is no preparation beforehand. At the appointed time, you grab what you're reading and read it. I also wanted to find out how other people read and what they were reading and expand my own reading comfort zone by learning what others were reading.

"Traditional book clubs can go deep on a particular book or genre. But if you don't like the book that was chosen or you feel pressure preparing something beforehand or you feel intimidated by your fellow book club members, it can take away the appeal of reading."

It's about building community

"Start with a handful of your friends or some neighbours. If possible, support a local business or destination. In our particular case, it's a coffee shop. Other people have picked things like local bars. Pick one and communicate with them to make sure that you've got the table space and the time allocated. The coffee shop we go to appreciates the business and we keep in touch with them to make sure we're booking at good times. It feels like a home away from home."

Listen to Vicki Ziegler talk about her silent book club on Here and Now 

Vicki Ziegler says Silent Book Club chapters are popping up across Canada because they are a stress-free alternative to traditional meetings that don't require members to finish a book on time, share reviews and take turns hosting. 5:21

Vicki Ziegler's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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