It happens in the lobby of the Sorrento Hotel, seen here in 1909.
It happens in the lobby of the Sorrento Hotel, seen here in 1909. Courtesy of Sorrento Hotel

It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means the silent-reading party is tonight. Here's a written description of what it's like at the reading party. If you prefer to hear what it's like, listen to this radio segment about the reading party.

The short version: You bring whatever you feel like reading and sit there and read silently, to yourself, while Paul Matthew Moore plays piano and waiters bring you things. Paul plays from 6 to 8 pm, and the reading-party menu lasts until 9 pm.

The silent-reading party started in Seattle, and it has since expanded to other places, including Brooklyn (The New Yorker called it "a literary social gathering for people who don’t like readings"), Phoenix, Portland (where they have "a beautiful old bell, like something a Victorian schoolmarm would have on her desk, that we ring at the end of the session"), San Francisco, and Scotland ("Silent reading party craze from America creating a noise in Dundee").

According to Poets & Writers's magazine, it's also sprung up in Washington, D.C.; Birmingham, Alabama; Des Moines, Iowa; Oakland, California; Andover, England; and Melbourne, Australia.

But we started it in Seattle, and we do it best. Here's where the reading party happens. It's all ages, and it's free. But bring a cash tip for the musician.