Okay, confession time: I live my life by bullet points and checkboxes.
Anyone else a compulsive to-do lister? My planner never leaves my side, and on its heavily-worn pages are color-coded tasks, lengthy lists, and chicken-scratch notes. Like many of you, I often feel like I’m running on the endless hamster-wheel of life, fighting the business of day-to-day responsibilities, social obligations, caregiving, service efforts, and quotidian minutiae. It’s exhausting, AMIRIGHT?!
So most of us don’t need another thing to do, an additional bullet to add to our already-bloated schedules. But even with our own individual rat races, we know we need more real in our lives. Internally, we all desire to disconnect from tech, foster more meaningful connections, and nourish ourselves to personal fulfillment. And in the world we live in, that’s not easy.
But Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich are striving to make it easier. Through their unique brainchild, the Silent Book Club, the two founders are spreading a new book club model: an “introvert happy hour, a twist on the traditional model — no assigned reading, “homework,” or pressure to sound ultra-intellectual; just food-and-drink-fueled gatherings that encourage reading in companionable, community-building silence.
What began in 2012 has grown to include more than 70 active chapters, (with new chapters being created every week) and expanding reach. And it’s more than inviting; forget the stress of leading scintillating book discussions, maintaining regular gatherings, keeping up with reading schedules, or vacuuming your carpet for guests. With Silent Book Club, book-lovers can join with friends, enjoy their favorite beverage, chat easily, and get lost in the company of a good story — in no-pressure, introvert-friendly peace. Gathering in communities, breaking up with your iPhone for a while, and enjoying “real, live, breathing-the-same-air social, not hearting-you-on-Instagram social” — it’s at the heart of the Silent Book Club. And it’s exactly what we need.
So shhh, we’re reading! Bar-hoppin’ book lovers and introverted bibliophiles, meet headed-for-world-domination SBC boss-babes Guinevere and Laura!
Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Laura: I grew up in Western Michigan, spent a dozen years in the Bay Area, and moved to Colorado last year. My older brother and parents taught me to read when I was quite young, and we were frequent library patrons.
I can’t think of a time when being a reader wasn’t a central part of my identity. I used to get in trouble for staying up reading with a nightlight or flashlight when I was growing up. Though the quantity of books read has gone up and down depending on life, I’ve always loved reading.
Guinevere: I was born and raised in Hawaii and moved to the Bay Area in 1994 to attend UC Berkeley as an undergrad. I’ve worked in publishing for the last 20 years in San Francisco, including many years at Chronicle Books, and more recently at a start-up called Storybird, a creative writing platform for kids. I am now a full-time writer.
I grew up in a family of readers and academics so I was fortunate to be surrounded by books from the very start. As a child I was a voracious reader, and as an adult I generally prefer fictional characters to real-life ones.
How did Silent Book Club get its start?
Why do you think the Silent Book Club model is appealing, versus the typical book club set-up?
Guinevere: We hear again and again from members and SBC hosts that they love the lack of stress that comes along with Silent Book Club. We remove the homework of having to read an assigned book and contribute something smart or insightful to the discussion. It’s a core tenet that ALL readers are welcome (e-readers, print, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, cereal boxes, whatever you want to read). Silent Book Club is an inclusive, no-judgment reading zone. And, added bonus, hosts don’t have to prepare snacks or vacuum the living room for guests.
Why is an introverted happy hour so important in our generation?
Guinevere: We are living through the most divisive political and cultural climate in decades, at least in the West. With the rise of digital technology, people have become more isolated, more siloed, and much less connected to their communities in real life since so much of our day-to-day existence (work, life, entertainment) is mediated by a screen. The fallacy of social media is that it brings people together and forges deeper connections with the people you care about. The reality, and science is backing this up, is that social media has contributed to a generation of kids and adults who are less happy and have fewer meaningful relationships with their friends and families. Always-on technology has resulted in longer work hours, increased levels of stress and burnout, and has generated a tremendous amount of personal wealth for a lucky few while the majority of the American population is struggling to make ends meet working more than one job. Things are a mess, and people are really suffering. The aim of our “introvert happy hour” is to give people permission to schedule some downtime into their packed calendars. It’s hard to carve out space for self-care, but Silent Book Club allows you, at the very least, a couple hours a month to put down your phone, pick up a book, and spend some time in the company of kindred spirits. You don’t have to make awkward small talk, you can say hello and then bury your nose in a book. But you are part of a shared experience, a group of people communing in real time in a public setting. It’s a simple idea, but we think it’s more important than ever.
What have you learned as Silent Book Club has grown?
Guinevere: I think what has been most rewarding for us is to see such great enthusiasm for Silent Book Club from readers all over the world. From South Africa to Malaysia to Alabama to Manhattan, there is this shared sense of relief and delight to have “found your people.” It’s a powerful reaffirmation that we are all part of the same tribe—at least, we introverts are.
What book do you always recommend to others?
Laura: My longstanding two favorites are Franny & Zooey and Pride & Prejudice. I’ve always loved Agatha Christie as well. More recently I’ve really enjoyed memoirs. The consistent thing that I love is an author who enjoys the characters they are portraying.
Guinevere: I love literary fiction, particularly sweeping, multigenerational family sagas. Some recent favorites include The Immortalists, Pachinko, and The Great Believers. I have a hard time labeling favorites, but I often credit Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier as the book that had the greatest influence on making me a reader.
Your ideal reading drink?
Laura: I love a good rosé for summertime reading. And hot cocoa (with marshmallows) in the winter.
Guinevere: A latte anytime before 3 pm. Rosé anytime after that.
How can interested readers start their own Silent Book Club chapter in their area?
Laura: We have a how-to on our website, and welcome anyone to reach out to us if they have questions. Once you create an event and share it with us, we send you a welcome kit, invite you to our organizer-only group, and help promote your meetup and chapter where we can.
Tell us about one of your favorite Silent Book Club meetup experiences.
Guinevere: A few months ago, a San Francisco member named Deborah brought her 4-month old son along to Silent Book Club at the Palace Hotel and we joked that he was the youngest member to join the club. But it wasn’t even his first time. When Oprah magazine paid us a visit last fall, Deborah was pregnant, and so he was sneakily in the photograph that ran in the magazine. Deborah was one of the first strangers to join us when Silent Book Club first expanded beyond our immediate circle of friends about five years ago. Over the years, she has become a close friend, and she and her husband are both regular SBC attendees. Now they bring the whole family! I love that.
What is your ultimate vision for Silent Book Club?
Guinevere: Our goal is world domination, and we’re only kind of kidding. We currently have more than 70 active Silent Book Club chapters around the world, on every continent except Antarctica. But we’re pretty sure the scientists down there spend a lot of time silently reading, so I think that counts.
The Fun Qs:
What book are you currently reading?
Guinevere: Just started The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (reading it aloud to my son at bedtime).
What literary character do you wish you could meet IRL?
Laura: Oooh – that’s a good one. I’m going to go with Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov from A Gentleman in Moscow.
What do you do when you’re not reading?
Laura: For fun — ski, climb, play tennis, work on our new house. I love seeing live music and try to travel to one music festival a year.
Guinevere: Gardening and spending time with my family outdoors hiking, surfing, and traveling. We have a 9-year-old son and a 1-year-old puppy who keep us on our toes.
Worst book-to-movie adaptation? Best?
Laura: Best will always be the BBC Pride and Prejudice 1995 miniseries. I try to avoid anything considered to be a terrible adaptation so I can’t think of anything too terrible that I’ve seen!
Guinevere: The Golden Compass (Philip Pullman) with Nicole Kidman was the worst. That was such a huge disappointment, but I think the BBC is having another go at it as a limited series, so I’m excited for that. The Handmaid’s Tale on Netflix was better than the book. Terrifying.
Guinevere: @silentbookclub of course.
What is your favorite bookstore?
Laura: My local shop is BookBar. I love all of the events they do, their community involvement, and selection of books.
Guinevere: It’s a tie between Green Apple Books and The Booksmith in San Francisco. Both of them are absolutely integral to their local communities, and the owners have been great advocates and supporters of Silent Book Club from the beginning.