For years, people have been begging for more chances to come to the silent-reading party, where you bring whatever reading material you want and read silently to yourself while servers bring you snacks and a musician plays piano. We started doing it in Seattle in 2009, and since then it has been replicated in cities around the world, but we did it first, and we do it best.
The reason people are always asking for more reading parties, more venues, more times of the month they might be able to attend, is because there's a line out the door long before the party even starts.
The secret is the musician: Paul Matthew Moore has been the resident pianist at the party for years, and no one is better at playing exquisitely soft music that enhances rather than distracts from the act of reading. The spell he casts is amazing.
Well, good news for anyone who's tried to get a seat at the party but hasn't wanted to wait in that line, or anyone who lives in a different country and has always wanted to attend...
We are holding the first worldwide silent-reading party on April 15, 6 pm PST, and the prices are on a sliding scale. If you can only afford $5, pay $5. If you can afford $20, pay $20. The money will be split between The Stranger and Paul, a working musician who didn't get to play his reading party set earlier this month because the April party at the Sorrento was canceled.
Usually when people hear about the reading party for the first time, they have a lot of questions, so let's see if I can answer a few here.
What's the coolest thing that's ever happened at the silent-reading party?
Oh, easy. The couple that fell in love coming to the silent-reading party. After three years of coming to the party on dates, Ryan proposed to Jessica at a reading party, and everyone else in the room looked up from their books and applauded when she said yes. They recently came back to the reading party as a newly married couple, and showed me their wedding photos.
What kind of books do people read?
Whatever they want. Novels, nonfiction, mysteries, histories, dystopian sci-fi, Us magazine, children's books, Moby-Dick...
Sure! Whatever you want. Does Us magazine still exist? The point is, it doesn't matter what you read. The point is to set aside time for reading and then actually do it. The whole world is conspiring against you, at all times, to keep you from reading. Your phone is programmed to make you addicted to it. Tiger King is programmed to make you addicted to Netflix. At this party, there is no such thing as the internet. At this party, everyone comes ready to focus on reading. Reading with a bunch of other people who are also reading at the same time makes it easier to do, and weirdly fun, and honestly kind of romantic.
Does anyone read on a Kindle?
Yes, there are two in every crowd.
Did you say children's books?
Yes, the reading party has always been all-ages.
But isn't it usually held in a bar?
No, it's held in the Fireside Room at the Sorrento Hotel, which is in a different room than the bar, so children can be there too. Anyway, those rules don't matter for April 15, because you'll be at home, where the drinks and snacks are free.
What kind of music does Paul play?
His own very mellow arrangements of Erik Satie, Radiohead, Duke Ellington...
How does he play for two hours straight without taking a break?
Magic plus hard work plus he's just naturally gifted.
Do some people end up just listening to the music and staring into space?
Yes. Every time Paul plays Erik Satie, I take a little break from whatever I'm reading, tilt my head back, and melt into my chair.
This party sounds kind of weird. No talking? Why is it so popular?
Honestly, I'm just as surprised as you are! After all, it's a party where nothing happens. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, to help celebrate the Sorrento Hotel's 100th anniversary in 2009, and it was so popular they asked us to do it again, and then when that was even more popular than the first one, it became monthly. Sometimes there are people sitting on the floor, just because they want to be in that room with everyone else, and servers are stepping around them and trying not to accidentally kick them as they serve people food and drinks.
What made it so popular?
The first party in 2009 was fairly crowded, but it wasn't until this piece about the party went viral on Reddit that we started seeing packed rooms with a line out the door. In 2014, the novelist Gary Shteyngart wrote in Travel + Leisure that "it's the best reading series in Seattle," which also helped get the word out. Gary loved that it's a reading series that does "not involve any writers at all... No bearded poets mounting the podium here. People simply gather with their books and read. Kind of like your college library, except it is held in the Sorrento’s gorgeous Fireside Room, replete with plush banquettes, an original fireplace, and, very much unlike your college library, an excellent selection of liquor."
So how will it work virtually?
After you buy a ticket, you will get login information emailed to you the day of the party. At the appointed time, you will join a big Zoom group with people all around the world, and you can turn on your camera and show yourself sitting there reading if you want, or you can turn your camera off and just watch Paul. He's going to set up his camera so that you can see his face in profile and his hands on the keys at the same time.
Can we all share what books we're reading?
Sure! If you email me a photo of the book in your hand, I will include it in a Slog post I publish an hour before the party starts. For extra credit, include something else in the frame—your favorite reading chair, your adorable kitten, the view out your window. Deadline to email me your photo is April 15 at noon, PST (send to firstname.lastname@example.org).
What kind of drinks and snacks should one make at home to go with this party?
Whatever you want. Longtime reading party regular Chris threw his own reading party earlier this month, when the April 1 party was canceled, and it looked like this. But if you have recipes for cocktails or snacks you'd like to share with other would-be reading-party-from-a-distance attendees, you can put them in the comments on this post.
How long does the party last?
Two hours. But you will be fully in control of your experience and if you don't feel like reading for two hours, you can drop out at any time.
Who else should I tell about this party?
Anyone who knows how to read. Seems to be a dwindling percentage of the population. All jokes aside: Many people always mean to set aside time for reading, but never get around to it. This could be good motivation for that person. If you don't know what to read, my favorite neighborhood bookstore will give you a personalized recommendation on what to read next and then ship it to you, if you want. But yes, the more, the merrier. People often come to the party in pairs or groups, so yes, make this a group activity if you can think of other people who might enjoy it. That said, many people also attend the party solo—I usually do—and this is a perfect way of making this next Wednesday night at your place a little less lonely.
What if I live in London and want to attend, but 6 pm Seattle times means 3 am in London?
Guess you'll have to set your alarm.
Will you consider having more of these parties at other times, too, if this one goes well?
If you want to be one of the lucky people participating in the very first worldwide silent-reading party, sign up right here. Ticket buyers will get an email the day of the event with login information.