“Introvert Happy Hour”. Three words that Guinevere de la Mare would use to describe the Silent Book Club. Bookstr had the chance to (virtually and cross-coastal) sit down with the group’s founders and get an SBC blurb.
Silent Book Club is a renowned hobby-turned-business that longtime friends Laura Gluhanich and Guinevere started back in 2012. What began as two friends carving out reading time in their busy lives, grew into an ever-expanding organization of groups of readers meeting to read together, in public, in silence. According to the founders themselves, SBC is an easy, low-friction way for people to connect with a shared passion.
The Silent Book Club has an origin story worthy of a New York Times bestselling novel. Laura and Guinevere are both incredibly busy women and in 2012, they decided to meet at a local bar in San Francisco, committing to reading at least one chapter of the books they had on the go at the time. They followed this up with gossiping and chatting, before deciding to make it a regular occurrence. Guinevere herself even harks back to the early days of SBC as “an excuse to have a glass of wine!” Whenever Laura or Guinevere posted on their social media about their meet-up, they deployed an instagram hashtag. Friends started asking to come along, and for the first year or two, it was a core group of ten or so. When a friend moved to New York, they decided to co-ordinate bi-coastal meetings, using their trusty hashtag to virtually link up.
This new chapter starting up in Brooklyn, alongside another in L.A., was “the seed that put it [Silent Book Club] into the world”. Afterwards, a Facebook group was launched, along with a website. Suddenly SBC was not just a core group of friends, but strangers started joining and the group took on a life of its own. The growth hasn’t stopped since.
image via silent book club
In February of 2019, Silent Book Club was featured on Oprah’s website – that’s right THE Oprah. Later the same year, in August, they were featured in an NPR article. This article, in particular, caused an explosion of growth. Within six weeks, they had doubled the number of active chapters. Positive press, alongside word of mouth, have benefited Silent Book Club immensely, allowing for continual growth and movement from strength to strength.
What this growth meant for Laura and Guinevere is that they now had an organization to run. Luckily, as self-professed “tech veterans”, they were no strangers to start-ups. Their familiarity with that world gave them expertise they could tap into. Most importantly, they both had experience in building communities and at the end of the day, Silent Book Club is one big reading community, connected by a shared love of books.
The community aspect is hugely important to the group’s founders, and requires active effort. Guinevere points out that the twitter community of readers (or book twitter) used to be a wonderful, nurturing, intellectual and funny space, before it was “eaten alive by marketing and all that it is now”. Silent Book Club tries to avoid the same fate, keeping the ethos of understanding and lack of judgement paramount. Judgement does sometimes come externally, though, but the people that are scornful of the groups or look down on them generally don’t come out from behind their online avatars.
A Silent Book Club, while not stringent in its execution, does follow a formula. Turn up, order (or not), take a seat, have a chat, an hour of reading, and maybe some more chat. The administrative side of operations has its own formula, too. When you join the network, you have to agree to some guidelines. Rule number one is Be Kind and that stays true online. On their Facebook page, all members answer screening questions, are monitored for spam and all posts are pre-approved. Guinevere points out that neither she or Laura have any qualms about kicking people out if they aren’t adhering or are being rude as “Facebook is not a public town square” for arguments. The group share a set of core beliefs and acceptance is one of the most important aspects. “All readers are welcome, even e-readers!” Now that’s truly inclusive.
image via pinterest
While book clubs often have a stereotype of being inherently female, the SBC has a more balanced demographic. Their London chapter is fronted by a male organizer and he is one of the longest running organizers of the group. By taking the pressure of an assigned book off, the book club is opened up to a lot of different people with different interests. Publishing and book selling or buying is often skewed towards women, but as Guinevere points out; “men read”. The SBC offers a space for anyone and everyone, so long as you come bearing a book!
The group’s founders find it rewarding to see the spread of Silent Book Club, and to see how many people it impacts. Laura and Guinevere also cite their continued connection as one of the best things to come out of their hobby-turned-business. Starting a business with a friend can destroy a relationship but theirs has flourished. Every once in a while, they even meet up just the two of them like the days of SBC yore.
Guinevere and laura | image via silent book club
Take a look at their finder here to find one nearby, and if you can’t, start your own – bring a little slice of the Silent Book Club community to your own city! One thing is for sure, the SBC is only going up, and we for one, can’t wait to see their trajectory.
Featured image via read it forward
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