‘Shhh…I am reading.’ — Every reader’s dream, a silent reading community

Cubbon Reads get together in Cubbon Park.

By Akshaya Sajimon

Cubbon Reads started with the mission to build a community of readers; not one that pulls apart a book piece by piece, but one that silently reads their own books, together.  

It was a particularly hot day for monsoon in South India. I was splayed under the cool shade of a tree and reading Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie beside my best friend who was reading one of her books. Looking around, I could see more people reading; some with a drink, some with snacks, and some with furry friends. These were my comrades in a mission of silently absorbing the words on each page turned.  

I was on a trip to Napier Museum in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala and got the chance to attend Trivandrum Reads, a quiet reading community chapter. This reading movement, which started from a small park in the city of Bangalore has now grown to have over 60 chapters nationally and internationally.  

About Cubbon Reads

Cubbon Reads started with the mission to build a community of readers; not one that pulls apart a book piece by piece, but one that silently reads their own books, together. The focus on the act of reading reminds readers of the fundamental, innate part of a book experience: just reading.  

During December 2022, the co-founders and curators, Shruti Sah (31, professional baker and marketer) and Harsh Snehanshu (33, entrepreneur), made a habit of cycling and reading in the scenic and tranquil Cubbon Park (Bangalore, Karnataka) every Saturday. The experience was comfortable and made them nostalgic for their childhood homes.  

They posted about this on their personal social media accounts. With interest expressed from their reader friends, the first official Cubbon Reads happened on 14 January 2023. In just seven months, the personal Saturday ritual became a weekly observance for hundreds of readers in the city.    

The rules are simple. Bring:

You can read absolutely anything that you want: books, research papers, newspapers, course books, or even product labels. Loud conversations are discouraged to maintain the peaceful, silent atmosphere for other readers. The reading happens from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday.  

People can come and leave anytime they want. Readers are invited to join the group for lunch at a nearby restaurant. No bookings, no forms. Complete anonymity and… moderate silence. The simplicity of the community is definitely appealing to me.  

Whole families join in the silent reading in Cubbon Park in Bengaluru, India. Image from Instagram/@cubbonreads. Used with permission.

 A reading community that works for readers in many ways  

Due to the mostly fixed nature of the community gathering, readers feel encouraged to attend every week and get in touch with their books more. A reader commented on the Cubbon Reads Instagram page, ‘Today was my first day and I thoroughly enjoyed the time. My daughters also enjoyed the reading session with their own books. Planning to catch up every Saturday.’  

For readers facing reader’s block like me, being in the same space as other readers will work as great motivation and help create a reading regimen. The co-founders said that they personally felt more accountable due to the discipline they have cultivated: ‘Earlier we’d start books and leave them midway, now we read through the week as well as in Cubbon, because we want to take a new book next Saturday.’  

Beyond the community, people who encounter the silent reading groups on Saturdays, might also feel like picking up a book and maybe even join the larger group. The park setting and its highly public nature plays right into this. The co-founders commented, ‘Reading in the park does a great service to society more than for our own community. People who are passing by see people reading for pleasure and it reminds them of their reading habit. Some passers-by come and sit with us, and we lend them an extra book or two that we are carrying to read with us.’

Silent reading under the trees in Cubbon Park in Bengaluru, India. Image from Instagram/@cubbonreads. Used with permission.

While Cubbon Reads has created a social, quiet, comfortable reading space for hundreds of people and continues to do so, there are many others that we cannot overlook. Over the years, many silent reading communities and their chapters have welcomed readers all over the globe: introverts, the socially anxious, those looking for motivation and routine and for everyone in between and beyond.  

Does this sound like something you want to do on your weekend?

The Silent Book Club’s Melbourne chapter meets at Micro-Labs Melbourne, Bourke Street on the last Sunday of each month. More information can be found on their Instagram page @silentbookclubmelbourne.  

In the end I wonder, with the widespread reach of silent reading movements and book clubs that create a safe, comfortable space to be one with books, whether these will have a significant impact on the publishing industry in the longer run. Nevertheless, a boundless reading culture is being evoked across the world which will eventually impact how many people read and what kind of books get read.  

Let me know in the comments below what you think about silent reading groups and whether you would like to attend one. You can also go to GSP’s official Instagram and let the team know; maybe we can start a group of our own!    

Akshaya Sajimon is a Masters of Publishing and Communications student at the University of Melbourne. She loves reading all kinds of thrillers and whodunits and tends to like fictional characters more than real people.   

Main image is a Cubbon Reads get together. This picture is from their Twitter profile Twitter/@cubbonreads. Used with permission.

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