Semi-Social Reading

Reading, unlike sports, is not an inherently social activity. The words exist in the book. The brain consumes them. Much of the social activity surrounding reading happens before and after the fact: discussions about reading among people who read. Author readings are somewhat social but are usually just a different mode of delivering the words.

Reading Corner: Reading in a group is always more fun than reading alone. (Greg Williams - CC By-Nc)

A few days ago I copied an idea I’ve seen promoted in The Stranger. I invited my Facebook friends (all people I know in real life, it’s just that some of my actual friends don’t use Facebook) to join me for an evening of reading together. We take over a coffee shop and read and chat. Last night four friends joined me at Roy Street Coffee and Tea, the fake Starbucks on Capitol Hill. I’m no fan of corporate coffee, but they do have a lot of comfortable seating. We brought books, drank a little bit of coffee, read, and occasionally chatted.

Despite a setback, I pronounce the evening a success. During one of the chatting breaks, I nearly died from lack of oxygen due to cracking jokes about cat ass. (Don’t ask, cause I can’t remember now.) I got 80 pages out of Salvage the Bones read. Setback was that Roy Street Coffee and Tea had a jazz band come in and play, and the seats we’d chosen were about 10 feet from the band. When they started setting up, we decamped to Espresso Vivace a couple blocks away, which had better coffee but less comfortable seats.

I will do another one in a couple of weeks.

For the record, the participants last night were reading the following books:

  • MicroTrends by Mark Penn (Heather)
  • Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (Kim)
  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Phil)
  • Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine (Lori)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (Deirdre)

Writing about this has got me thinking about social reading. There will be a post.

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3 Responses to Semi-Social Reading

  1. Marie says:

    I love this idea and wish I could have joined you. If I tried to do that here everyone would spend so much time snipping over the wheres and whens we’d never get anything done.

    • Philip Weiss says:

      I didn’t put the wheres and whens up for discussion. I just asked if anyone would be interested in such an event. One person suggested the coffee shop unprompted. I had 6 or 7 people say they were interested, so I just picked a day that was convenient for me, made a Facebook event, and invited everyone who said they were interested. A couple people said they couldn’t make it on that date. I’ll switch the day of the week around next time, but I’ve found trying to find the “best” day to schedule events is usually a losing proposition.

  2. Biblibio says:

    I’ve long wondered about social reading (and semi-social reading in contrast), so I have to admit that your experiment here is actually very interesting to me. I tend to define semi-social reading as something along these lines – sharing the reading experience, but not necessarily out loud…

    Personally, I’m more attracted to semi-social reading than outright social reading (maybe it’s the fact that I can’t plan my reading…?) and so your evening sounds like it must have been quite enjoyable. The variety of books read by your group further goes to show that the book-club model isn’t the only successful form of social (or semi-social) reading.

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