Local Book Club Enjoys The Silence

Karen Ponzio Photos.

Silent Book Club New Haven selections for September.

Are you one of those people who grabs a book with all intentions of plowing through a decent number of pages and ends up not reading any — distracted by the phone, the TV or household chores? The Silent Book Club might be perfect for you.

The New Haven chapter of the Silent Book Club — a national program — began meeting every third Sunday of the month this past August at Fussy Coffee on Winchester Avenue with a simple premise: people meet up and talk books, then read any book of their own choosing, silently in the company of others for an hour, then talk books again (or keep reading if that’s preferred).

According to their website, the original Silent Book Club began in 2012 when two friends, Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich, read in companionable silence at our neighborhood bar in San Francisco.” It has now grown exponentially, with chapters all over the world and coverage in the likes of O magazine and NPR

Britt Rivera of New Haven found out about the club from a viral TikTok and thought it sounded really cool.” After researching the website and gathering more information she became interested in starting a New Haven chapter, applying through the website and using the club’s guidelines to establish a local group. 

The inaugural meeting last month had 10 people show up, which was more than I expected for the first meeting,” she noted with a laugh. She continues to research what other clubs have done and are doing in order to decide how to navigate this one.

Britt Rivera, Silent Book Club New Haven’s host

It’s still new,” said Rivera. I’m still figuring it out.” But she also wants people to know that the basic guidelines include being open to everyone” and all types of books,” including audiobooks, Kindles, comic books, graphic novels, and even school books if someone needs to catch up on their classwork. Unlike the more typical book club, everyone is not required to read the same thing.

Its just nice to meet other people and share a love of reading and local community,” she added. It’s nice to have a dedicated hour to just read. It’s easy to get distracted at home sometimes.”

Sunday was the second meeting of the group, which happened on the patio of Fussy Coffee to accommodate the larger attendance. Sixteen people in total joined, many for the first time — including Alyssa Korzon and Caroline Shelton, friends from the New Haven area who met in grad school and started doing buddy reads” during the pandemic, which they referred to with a laugh as the smallest book club ever.” The two run an Instagram account called Bookish Babes and Brews, which documents, among other things, those buddy reads. They found out about the Silent Book Club via Bookstagram, which is an extensive community of book lovers that can be found through its hashtag on Instagram. Today the two of them were starting another buddy read, The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston. 

Alyssa Korzon, Caroline Shelton, and their buddy read.

The first half hour consisted of participants introducing themselves and what book they were reading, which inevitably led to other conversations. As certain book titles were shared, other readers answered with such statements as that’s on my list” or I loved that one,” highlighting the interconnections that already existed before any of them had even gotten to know one another. 

There were even local connections, as one participant brought Ninth House by Yale alum Leigh Bardugo, a book that is part of a series that references Yale University and New Haven. Many had already read it and were looking forward to her newest book, which was set to be published soon.

Rivera then announced it was reading time, and slowly everyone made their way out of their conversations and into their books. This reporter took full advantage of this dedicated reading time to dive into The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, which was published last year and had been sitting on her to-read pile since its debut.

The Candy House is a companion book to Egan’s 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. Minor characters from Goon Squad become major characters in Candy House and visa versa, but the main similarity between the two is Egan’s vivid language and a narrative that tests the boundaries of what is expected. The Candy House begins with tech whiz Bix Bouton heading out into the night, looking for human connection and interaction in a world that he has helped make less connected. It seemed like apt reading material to consume during an event meant to bring people together, in person, in a unique way.

All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms.

After the hour was over, Rivera said, it goes by really fast, you’re like, wait, that was an hour?’” Everyone agreed.

She told the group they could keep reading or talk, whatever they liked. The majority of the group got back to their bookish conversations and enthusiastic exchanges, but also made time to add their selections to a book pile that became a lovely photo opportunity for all. It was the perfect end to a perfect couple of hours, basking in the last of the late summer days with a new book, new friends, and new additions to everyone’s to-read piles.

For more information about Silent Book Club, please visit its website. For more information about the New Haven chapter, please visit its Instagram page.

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