Shhh… we’re reading here! Dublin’s first Silent Book Club

Once a month, Mish.Mash Art Cafe on Capel Street hosts a Silent Book Club. It is exactly what it sounds like, an evening where anyone can come down with any book of their choosing and just read. The phenomenon that took the world by storm, finally came to Dublin in late 2023 and has only grown since. 

The original idea for the silent book club started in 2012 in San Francisco, by two women, Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich. According to the Silent Book Club website, the two friends decided to start the club because they both loved books. The previous book clubs they were part of never stayed alive long enough and would always fizzle out.  

It doesn’t follow the normal structure of a book club; there is no assigned book, genre, or author of any kind. As long as you have a book, you are welcome at the Silent Book Club. It follows a BYOB rule, not the one used typically in everyday life; for the book club, BYOB stands for Bring Your Own Book.  

When walking into the cafe, you were greeted by one of the two women who organised the event, Maeve O’Brien, who kindly asked if you were attending the club. After exchanging a few words, you can pick any seat in the cafe. Though the seat selection was slim, every single one of them was very comfortable and you get offered a blanket depending on where you sit too.   

The Mish.Mash Art Cafe is about the size of an average kitchen, small but warm. On the days of Silent Book Club it fills up with people from all different backgrounds who are all trying to soak in the atmosphere. The owner of Mish.Mash is a woman named Carolina who is just as big a bookworm as the people who are attending the book club, according to one of the organisers, Zoë Colman.  

Once you are comfortable in your seat and the cafe is full up, the book club begins. It only lasts two hours but the attendees can come before the club starts if they wish. The first hour consists of reading whatever you have brought with you, and the second hour is a lot more social. You can introduce yourself at the start of the club and say what book you are reading so by the time it gets to the second hour you can decide who you talk to based off their book choices.  

Colman told The Liberty: “So my friend Maeve (O’Brien), who’s my co-organiser, one Sunday, last summer maybe, we spent the afternoon reading in a local pub in silence with each other and we just thought it was a really lovely thing to do and then she found out about this thing that was started in America called Silent Book Club. 

“We do this voluntarily and because we love books so I don’t think it’s something that we would want to do (expanding to more locations) but it’s totally up to people if they want to set up their own kind of book clubs and we have had queries from people who want to change the time or the venue but we don’t have ownership over the Silent Book Club,” Colman added.

The two women owe a lot of the success of the club to the Mish.Mash owner, Carolina. As mentioned previously, the owner is a huge book nerd, so it was a no-brainer for her to agree to stay open a little later one night a month to adhere to the book club. The cafe gained a lot of popularity in 2020 after it featured in a scene in the world-renowned series, Normal People, which also started off as a book. 

Book lovers will be delighted to hear the Silent Book Club is hosting two events in May. They will host their usual event in Mish.Mash but the second event is a little more exciting; they will be part of the International Literature Festival of Dublin on the 23rd of May. After talking to the women who organised it and getting a feel of the book club, it is something readers of all ages and backgrounds would enjoy.  

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