BYOB (Bring Your Own Book!)

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Last night I attended a Silent Reading Party at Brewdog, Dundee.

If you’re new to the concept of the Silent Reading Party, the premise is to go along with a book of your choosing, order a drink and make yourself comfortable, and then after an hour or so of silent reading, mingle with other readers.

It’s a somewhat unconventional idea and needless to say I was slightly apprehensive – not only about going into a pub alone, but also about how self conscious I would feel sitting there with only a book for company (and protection). But always eager to engage with other readers – and to widen my social circle – I decided that such an event was a must for the contentedly curious…

Planning ahead, I felt that my choice of reading material would be key to ensuring a positive experience. Other readers would surely be making judgements about me based on whatever my eyes were glued to. Should I go for a heavy literary classic? Or something breezy like Grazia magazine? I settled on Do It Like A Woman, a feminist tome by Caroline Criado-Perez that I had checked out of the library a couple of weeks before (but hadn’t yet managed to start due to being gripped by T.R. Ragan’s Lizzy Gardner thriller series on my Kindle).

As I battled Storm Henry on the way to the event I started to worry that I’d be the only person to turn up. (Or worse – that I’d arrive looking like I’d been dragged through a bush backwards). Upon entering Brewdog however I was greeted by an extraordinary sight: a pub full of people with noses in their books instead of their mobile phones. Low volume chatter and murmurings of classic rock in the background provided a welcoming vibe to the scene.

I gave the famous craft beers a swerve in favour of sparkling water (hey, it was a Monday night, OK?!) and perched on one of the few remaining stools. I thought the better of pulling out Do It Like A Woman (in this unknown, potentially hostile environment I wanted to avoid provoking debate – exhausted from work and the storm, I lacked the wherewithal to defend myself in any case) and so instead reached for my trusty Kindle. I would keep people guessing…

Over the next 50 minutes or so I was mostly engrossed in reading, occasionally looking up and wondering when it would be appropriate to start a conversation with the girl opposite without rudely interrupting her.

My chance came when I noticed the girl pull on a sweater.

It’s getting a bit chilly, isn’t it?” I empathised, wrapping my scarf tighter and cursing myself for having reverted to the typical British conversation starter instead of a clever opening line worthy of this audience of literary types.

I needn’t have worried; our chat quickly moved on to our respective books, reading interests, writing novels and our shared obsession with to-do lists. Over the next hour I learned about the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge, and her brilliant motto, ‘Do no harm but take no shit’. Before saying goodbye we swapped book recommendations and email addresses.

My first Silent Reading Party was a resounding success. I met a smart, interesting and inspiring character – in real life, not just in the pages of a book! I headed back out into Storm Henry with a spring in my step, having made a friend and looking forward to the next reader’s night out…