Tag: NPR

Finally! A Book Club Anyone Can Join Anywhere

“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

The Silent Book Club has over 250 chapters in twenty-seven countries. Check out the crew in Pasadena, Innsbruck, Fort Wayne, New York, Newport, Geneva, London.

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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Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan Writer and LGBTQ Activist, Dies at 48

Sad news in the writer’s world. Binyavanga Wainaina, a deeply influential Kenyan writer and LGBTQ activist, has passed away at age 48, according to NPR. He was the founder of Kwani? a literary magazine and loose collection of Kenyan writers that bounded together to foster creativity, passion, and fostered the work of Kenyan young writers. He also won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002 and became widely known for his written piece, “How To Write About Africa”, cheekily instructing Western writers how to do just that. The full piece is below:

“In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty with rolling grasslands and huge herds of animals and tall, thin people who are starving. Or it is hot and steamy with very short people who eat primates. Don’t get bogged down with precise descriptions. Africa is big: fifty-four countries, 900 million people who are too busy starving and dying and warring and emigrating to read your book. The continent is full of deserts, jungles, highlands, savannahs and many other things, but your reader doesn’t care about all that, so keep your descriptions romantic and evocative and unparticular.”

 

An African writer lounges on a couch in a green jacket

Image Via The Star

It was first published in Granta and became a sensation, often used as a descriptive shorthand to show the laziness Western writers use when approaching Africa in their work. The author came out as gay in 2014 and since then, had been an outspoken for LGBTQ rights. He publicly revealed his sexuality in an essay titled “I Am A Homosexual, Mum” a piece often hailed as extremely brave considering homosexuality is illegal in Wainaina’s country of Kenya. The piece earned him widespread recognition, including a nod from Time, who named him as one of the most influential people in 2014.

Unfortunately, the next few years were not kind to him. Wainaina suffered a stroke in 2015 before he was diagnosed with AIDs in 2016. Wainaina continued to push ahead, announcing he was getting married in 2018 but succumbed to his illness nonetheless on May 21st, 2019. For his part, Wainaina announced he did not fear death and was the happiest he could have been due to finding love.

 

Kenyan writer Wainaina stares at the camera, parts of his hair dyed blue

Image Via BOMB Magazine 

 

Wainaina is truly was one of the most influential writers, not just in Kenya, but to the world. His passing will be very much missed, robbing the world of a great talent far too early. Nonetheless, his work will live on through the community that supported him, carrying on his legacy of love.

 

Featured Image Via NPR 

The Green Brothers smiling.

John Green and Hank Green Strike Exciting Podcast Deal

The all-round excellent brothers John and Hank Green have recently struck a partnership with the brothers to have two of their podcasts remastered and relaunched while also co-producing a new podcast focused on science. 

 

John Green is primarily known for his bestselling novels such as The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. As well as gaining fame and acclaim for his YouTube videos along with John, Hank is also known for his book An Absolutely Remarkable ThingThis new deal includes podcasts such as Dear Hank and JohnThe Anthropocene Reviewed,  and their new podcast SciShow Tangents.

 

Laura Walker, President and CEO of New York Public Radio (NPR) said: 

We are so delighted to welcome John and Hank Green to the WNYC Studios family. They are master storytellers, creative powerhouses, and voices that will no doubt resonate with new audiences.

 

I cannot wait to see what WNYC has in store with the Green Brothers.

 

Featured Image Via Trending All Day