In Rancho Cucamonga, the Silent Book Club meets quietly (for the most part) – Daily Bulletin

The communal table at this Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is filled with readers April 29 for the final meeting of the Rancho Cucamonga chapter of the Silent Book Club, with other book lovers at the overflow tables. Launched in December, it is the most established of the three Inland Empire chapters of the Unconventional Book Club. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

Books in hand, more than a dozen of us gathered last week at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf for a meeting of the Rancho Cucamonga chapter of the Silent Book Club.

At the appointed time, rather than reading, we talked. Say what?

It turns out the first 30 minutes are reserved for sharing our books. The last 30 minutes too. In between we read for 60 minutes. The schedule was designed as a buffer for people arriving late – it was a Monday at 6 p.m., after all – and ordering drinks. Logic.

At the Twentynine Palms chapter – whose first meeting, on a Sunday, your book-loving columnist, coincidentally while planning his trip, was in town to attend – we read for an hour, then had an hour to talk from our book to the group. if we wanted to.

Different strokes for different nerds. Or something like that.

What is a silent book club? It’s about escaping the usual constraints of book clubs: the tyranny of other members’ questionable choices or the pressure to formulate or defend opinions during the discussion.

Instead, you simply bring a book to enjoy among your fellow readers. Maybe you’ll make a friend or get a book recommendation. At least you’ve snagged an hour of uninterrupted reading.

This can invite jokes.

“I’ve seen this type of silent reading before,” said Ron Vander Molen of Pomona on my Facebook page. “Weren’t they called libraries?

I’d give him a rimshot, but it’s a quiet moment.

Of course, I’m the last person to discourage visiting a library. But note that libraries do not serve refreshments, unless the water fountain counts. And other patrons, if they’re actually reading rather than studying, browsing, or napping, may not appreciate you coming over and whispering, “Can I tell you about my book?”

At Rancho Cucamonga Coffee Bean on April 29, we occupied a communal table and spread out to adjacent tables. Most of the participants were between 20 and 30 years old. The chapter has met monthly since December.

As in the desert, my book was “Swann’s Path,” the first novel in Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” series, otherwise known as “Remembrance of Things Past.” It was a book that I had owned for years and had always wanted to start one day. And now I had it.

Before sitting down, I ordered an iced tea from a barista. At the checkout, I was amused to see among the impulsive choices a snack quite appropriate for Proust: a small packet of madeleines.

In “Swann’s Way,” the adult narrator eats a tea-soaked madeleine, a treat his aunt gave him as a child, and the experience awakens a flood of childhood memories. Proust’s madeleines are always invoked for a taste, smell or sound that brings back forgotten memories.

Damn, I bought the madeleines.

A perfect match: a packet of madeleines and those of Marcel Proust "Swann's path," in which one of the cookies provides the narrator with a revelation.  (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
A perfect pairing: a packet of madeleines and “Swann’s Way” by Marcel Proust, one of the biscuits being a revelation for the narrator. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

At first, we each took turns holding up our books and talking about what we were reading. Most members owned modern novels, as they probably should. It was with a certain sheepish air that, when my turn came to speak, I held up “The Way of Swann”.

Another impressed reader said: “I’m not intellectual enough to read this. »

I replied, “We’ll see if I’m intellectual enough to read it.” » People smiled.

We gathered and stacked our books, including a tablet and a phone, for a group photo. Then, at 6:30 p.m., the club manager announces: “We’re super casual, but you can start reading now if you want.” ” We were doing.

At least that’s what the young members did, opening their books and reading in silence at the common table. The newcomers on either side of me at the side tables were chatting quietly. They were middle-aged and older. Maybe they don’t have the attention span of our country’s youth.

In search of calm, I settled into a comfortable armchair in the corner. It was also an imperfect solution. The cafe music seemed louder here.

Should I have brought earplugs to Silent Book Club?

Erasing distractions as best I could, I immersed myself for an hour in a difficult, but warm and enriching book. Occasionally, I would dip a factory-made madeleine into my cup of peach iced tea. Perhaps Proust would have appreciated my effort.

By the end of my second Silent Book Club, I was on page 74. Since I hadn’t read any “Swann’s Way” books in the previous 13 years, this was progress.

At my meeting, I spoke with the chapter’s founder, Laina Gallegos, an unassuming young woman who says the club is a group effort, not really hers.

“It’s nice to see it growing,” Gallegos told me. “At least our people find us.” This is our best entry so far.

Gallegos was reading Emily Henry’s “Funny Story,” a current bestseller described as “a shimmering, joyful new novel about a pair of opposites with one bad thing in common.” Shimmering and joyful are adjectives rarely applied to Proust.

What is encouraging about this meeting is how we colonized a space. For an hour, customers would come in and see more than a dozen people with their noses in a book. He made a statement (while perhaps raising questions).

Have we normalized the act of reading? It’s a heavy task. But reading together was, if not shimmering, at least joyful.

Now let’s talk about future events.