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Shhhh ... Silent Reading Parties (Quietly) Pop Up In Phoenix

By Annika Cline
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 - 4:26pm
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 9:13am
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(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Changing Hands Bookstore started a monthly silent reading event in September.

When you were a kid, it was probably either the best or worst time of day — silent reading. It was when the teacher told the whole class you had 15 minutes to read on your own.

No talking!

Well it’s back, this time for adults. 

It did not sound like a room of 50 people, but the event space at the Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix was packed Monday evening. And everyone was immersed in another world, which is why there wasn’t a peep, just the occasional page turning.

“It’s the first time we’ve done this, and the concept is really simple,” said Lauren Peugh.

Peugh organized the event, which somehow manages to be both social and individualistic at the same time.

“It’s just people coming together to read whatever they’d like silently for about an hour, and afterwards if they’d like to stay and chat they can; meet new friends. Otherwise they’re just kind of reading in companionable silence,” she said.

Silent reading parties like this one started showing up in places like New York and Seattle a few years ago, in hotels, bars and bookstores. And they’re now beginning a new chapter in Phoenix.

But let’s be real - a silent party sounds kind of like an oxymoron. So why do people come to them?

“There are so many opportunities for people these days, there are so many things you could be doing or learning, and so sometimes people just are too tired or just don’t take the time to read,” Peugh said. “And at home you’ve got Netflix, you’ve got your bed. So here it’s saying set aside this time to come out and do this thing.”

That’s exactly what Demetra Presley needed.

“I am reading "The Bookstore." It’s a guilty pleasure of mine— it’s chick lit fiction,” Presley laughed.

She said she loves reading, but she’s all too familiar with dog ears that never get lifted again because life gets in the way. 

“You get in your day and you have a bunch of different things happening. You get home and you’re tired; you just want to go to bed,” Presley said. “For this, it’s on my calendar, it’s part of my schedule. This is where I’m going to go, and I’m going to sit, and I’m going to read. You know, it just made it official.”

At first, Presley tried to sign up for a different silent reading party in Phoenix, happening later this week at a hotel.

“And I went back to get a ticket, I think maybe a couple days later, and it was completely booked,” she said.

Changing Hands hosts a more conventional book club, where everyone reads the same book and discusses it. It brings in about 80 to 100 people a month. But these silent reading events are helpful for people who can’t quite commit to getting all those pages in. There’s no homework for this one.

“I’m reading "The Da Vinci Code," actually, by Dan Brown,” said Jason Wilson, who was just a few pages into the bestselling thriller.

Wilson sees silent reading parties as part of a larger trend to get people off of their screens and back to the basics.

“I think people are kind of seeking that excuse to go out and really kind of go back into the roots of things, whether it be like the mom and pop stores. So I feel like there’s something to be said about having paper in hand,” Wilson said.

Wilson went to the event with his wife and a few friends. They enjoyed drinks from the bar. But I asked him, would he make this a habit on his own, coming to a store or coffee shop just to read?

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I enjoy the idea of everyone coming together for that same purpose.”   

No matter what page you start on.

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