Reading Alone Together: The Gardner Silent Book Group
Groundhouse Coffee Shop in Gardner Kansas is hushed but lively on a Monday night. The air is rich with the smell of fresh ground coffee. The rolling murmur of voices from the various tables is punctuated by the occasional hiss from the machine behind the coffee bar. At the very back table, by the fireplace, we sit together silently reading, all seven of us. We are each reading our own book, wrapped in the splendor of our own private world, but we are together. As 7:30 rolls nearer, we stretch and put our bookmarks in our books. I ask one of the participants about the mystery she’s reading. She taps the shadowy cover of her book and smiles. “They found the killer,” she says, “just in time!” We all let out a sigh of relief.
This is the Gardner Silent Book Group. It is a nontraditional sort of book group without any assigned reading, that means no homework! Each participant brings a book he or she is interested in. We discuss them for a bit in a casual atmosphere, just sharing the books we brought and how we feel about them, how far we’ve gotten. Then we open the books and start reading for maybe forty five minutes. It’s great to see everyone locked into their literary worlds but doing so as a group. It appeals to the introvert and the extrovert in all of us – reading as a social activity!
We understand that it is difficult, with all of today’s distractions, to carve out time in your schedule to read. The Silent Book Group offers a chance to get through some of that book you’ve been meaning to take down from your shelf. It’s also a great way to make friends with similar interests, but with different backgrounds and perspectives. I’ve seen plenty of new faces since we started in January, 2018, and plenty of the same faces coming back as part of their monthly routine. My role, as a librarian, is to facilitate discussion and occasionally offer suggestions of similar books as food for thought. The participants usually bring small notebooks with them to write down any suggestions that I or the other participants might make.
The group meets on the first Monday of every month, provided it isn’t a holiday, from 6:00 to 7:30. We spend some of the time getting to know one another and what everyone is reading, then we spend the bulk of our time reading the books we brought. We end with a brief catchup – is the killer in your novel still on the loose? Has the alien race been vanquished? What do you think of the story? The atmosphere is casual and friendly. There’s plenty of room at our table by the fireplace.