THE BOOK RIOT 50: #12 Move Over Book Clubs, Let’s Start Reading Parties

Jennifer Paull

Staff Writer

Jennifer Paull walks quickly.

To celebrate Book Riot’s  first birthday on Monday, we’re running our best 50 posts from our first year this week. Click here for the running list. This post originally ran November 9, 2011.


We’ve all had that book club moment, when the scales tip and bad feelings outweigh the good. The guilty debate over whether to reschedule (again!) because you haven’t finished the book. The dread of faking it. Chafing at the need to finish a book you would rather dissolve in an acid bath. When all the fun’s draining away, why not get back to the core pleasure? Ditch the book club and start a reading party.

Instead of getting together to furrow your brows over a certain book, make reading itself the raison d’être. After all, it’s a luxury to spend a couple of hours just reading. Bring a few friends in and hey, it’s social reading, without that delightful seventh-grade-revisited hellbrew of frustration and embarrassment.

You won’t have to cram to finish an assignment. No risk of loathing your fellow book-clubbers for locking you into Freedom. Instead, everyone gets to indulge in a leisurely read, preferably with snacks. It’s not a hush-hush study hour; at a certain point, you raise a glass or cuppa and talk about what you’ve got your nose in. But you do get time to lose yourself in the pages – uninterrupted, but in good company.

The Setup:

So apparently the library-salon at Highclere Castle is overbooked. In lieu of leather-bound classics, hunting dogs, butlers, and sherry, though, all you need is a well-lit space with comfortable places to sit, maybe a floor cushion or two, and a few surfaces for mugs and such. Ringers off.

For snacks, aim for things you can eat or sip with one hand and not make a mess (nothing too crumby or sticky). The simplest stuff can be insanely satisfying when you’re absorbed in a book – for me, animal crackers are to novels as popcorn is to movies. You could get creative with a particular theme, if the reading group is digging into a particular kind of book. Girl Scout cookies for a YA huddle, scones and tea for Victorian novels … if you serve mead at a Game of Thrones read-along, I won’t tell.

What to Read:

There’s nothing stopping you from synchronizing your book selection, but at a reading party, you’re off the hook of obligation. The only goal is to read something you enjoy, something you’d like to talk about afterwards.

If your friends are game, you could coordinate to a looser extent – everyone grabbing a volume of P.G. Wodehouse, say. (Which inevitably leads to reading out loud, because British slang like “knee deep in the bullion” just can’t be held in.) Even if people read widely different books, though, you can have a juicy conversation about them, swapping impressions and recommendations.

The Payoff:

Communing with a good story at your own pace. Immediate gratification of biblio-chat, without the usual book-club constraints. A dash of boarding-school fantasy.