The book club where people come together to read in silence. In Amsterdam, the Silent Book Club has been meeting once a month for nearly two years and has steadily grown in popularity over time.
The Silent Book Club (SBC) began in 2012 with a couple of friends in San Francisco, California. Fast-forward a decade and the volunteer-led club now has chapters in approximately 300 cities around the world, Amsterdam being one of them. Marije van der Schaar launched the Amsterdam chapter of the Silent Book Club after she attended an event online during the COVID-19 lockdown. “The feedback has been really good. It started kinda slow – the first winter we had meetings with just two people – but I’m happy that the group is getting bigger and getting to know more new people,” explains Marije. Today, the club’s monthly meetings regularly have over twenty attendees.
There are several quirks which set the Silent Book Club apart from a ‘normal’ book club. The first is the one hour portion of every meeting that the SBC dedicates to reading together in silence. The second attribute unique to the SBC is the books themselves. Unlike traditional book clubs, at the SBC people read whatever books they like, whenever they like. There is no coordinating which book is read when nor are there specific discussions held by all. Interestingly, “Welcome to introvert happy hour” is the headline of the Silent Book Club’s ‘About us’ page of their website.
That said, Silent Book Club meetings are much more than just reading. After the reading hour, attendees are free to share with the rest of the group what book they are reading, a summary of the subject, and how far they have read. From these short introductions, longer exchanges slowly spring up. Discussions begin about the books and lead to conversations about everything from beloved authors to societal issues. The meetings are attended by people of many different ages and backgrounds who all share one common interest: reading. Some are reading in physical paper books and some are reading on tablets.
Issa (24) is one of the people attending this month’s event. She has lived in Amsterdam for three and a half years and, although she has attended only two gatherings of the SBC, she is happy with her decision to come today. “I read weekly but I really appreciate these meetups to come here and have a space to meet people and share my interest. We live in such a huge city like Amsterdam and you can feel tiny, so I think it is important to go out and find people with the same interest. I feel that reading is really decreasing in society but then you go to events like this and you realize that at least you are not alone in this interest. Making this step of investing time and going to social events, it can really make a difference in your life.”.
According to a recent study from Yale University School of Public Health, reading not only enriches your life and expands your knowledge, but might even extend your life. The study found that, regardless of factors such as health, wealth, or race, individuals over 50 years old who read books regularly have a 20% lower risk of dying in the following 12 years when compared with non-readers.
Issa explains that reading for her means quiet time, learning new information, expanding her world, and connecting with great minds. “Writers who put a lot of interest and effort into thinking, putting their thoughts into words, and making a book, I think it is amazing. With authors like Nietzsche and Wittgenstein I feel like I’m having conversations with the author when I read. If you read fantasy, then wow you are getting into a fantasy world and the mind puts something together. So it means a lot for me and makes a big difference in my life,” explains Issa.
The Amsterdam chapter of the Silent Book Club grows with each monthly meeting while the global SBC community expands with each new chapter opened. The success of the Silent Book Club reminds us all that there is no ‘right’ way to connect, but no matter what your way, there are connections out there waiting to happen.