close
close

Triad City Beat | At Greensboro’s Silent Book Club, low pressure reading is the goal

Featured photo: María Perdomo started the Greensboro chapter of the Silent Book Club in 2023 with her friend. (courtesy photo)

Tucked into the back half of Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro, two members of a unique book club ponder the logistics of how a ghost might read a book: all at once or by flipping the pages one by one? Another pair discusses the length of their “to be read” list on Goodreads. 

Patrons of the bookstore browse the “used” sections surrounding the perimeter and ask the group of readers how the Silent Book Club works. 

Rather than all of its members reading the same book, what differentiates the Silent Book Club from others is that participants read different books based on their own tastes and at their own speeds. There is no set schedule to read a certain amount or questions to discuss. 

On a recent Sunday, about a dozen members sit in the circle of chairs and introduce themselves along with the books they have brought to read. Their tastes range from Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Collection to The Yellow Wallpaper to The Greatest Beer Run Ever

One participant introduces a book they brought last time but decides partway through their introduction that they would rather crochet instead. Some participants bring Kindles or audiobooks. 

Then, the group begins one hour of silent reading. 

María Perdomo founded and held the first meeting of the Silent Book Club’s Greensboro chapter with her friend Eddison Wilkinson, in November 2019 after hearing about the idea on NPR. She had returned to Greensboro and wanted to find community.

“Really taking the pressure off of reading is really important to me,” Perdomo says. “To dismantle a bit of what we think reading is.”

The Silent Book Club is a way for people to come together and engage in low-pressure reading. (courtesy photo)

Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich of San Francisco created the concept in 2012 after finding that they enjoyed reading with other people but did not like the pressure of book clubs. Since then, chapters of the book club have popped up all over the world. 

After putting the club on hold during the pandemic, Perdomo revived the book club in March 2023, this time by herself. 

One of the advantages to the Silent Book Club is how easy it is to customize depending on the city it is held in.

Consistency has been the best strategy for the Greensboro chapter, Perdomo says. This includes meeting at Scuppernong Books every second Sunday of the month from noon to 2 p.m. The space works well because it is quiet enough for members to focus but busy enough with customers that conversations from the book club are not bothersome. 

Elizabeth Lantzas moved to Greensboro recently and wanted to find a community who shared her interests. 

“This felt like a good low pressure way of doing that,” Lantzas says.

Members comment on what it feels like to get an hour of uninterrupted reading time, Perdomo says.

“Whether you’re a parent or have a busy work schedule, a lot of folks feel a relief that comes with being able to do it and commit to it,” Perdomo says. 

Participants can bring any book they like to read. (courtesy photo)

Accountability is another aspect of the book club that participants find helpful.

“Some people might think reading with a bunch of strangers is really weird. I think it offers an accountability piece that’s really important.” Perdomo says. 

For example, when she starts to look at her phone, she feels a pull to come back to reading and being present with the group through the informal accountability they have with each other. 

There is pressure to read quickly on social media, Perdomo says. This leaves some readers feeling inadequate, Perdomo adds. Instead, Perdomo tries to reframe some of the language used to describe reading to be more positive. If a participant describes themselves as a slow reader for returning to the book club with the same book from last month, she does her best to correct it on the spot.

“It keeps us from enjoying literature, reading and talking about books. You don’t have to be a certain type of person to read a book and share and enjoy it,” Perdomo says.

She believes this makes this book club different from others. 

“I try really hard for us to be like, ‘It’s okay if it took you one year to read that book. We don’t think any less of you, as long as you enjoyed it,’” Perdomo says. 

Kim Mercer has been to three meetings. 

“Reading is a solitary activity, and yet all of us here are book readers,” Mercer says. “It can be hard to find that community, and this is a way to find camaraderie even if it is a solitary activity.” 

Silent Book Club meets the second Sunday of the month from noon to 2 p.m. at Scuppernong Books. The next one takes place on July 14. Stay updated at scuppernongbooks.com or on Instagram @silentbookclubgso. 

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *