All of the attendees I talked to—from the woman intent on W. G. Sebald’s “Austerlitz,” in the corner, to another reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” who was there with her mother—said that they became interested in these parties because they seemed to offer a chance for undistracted reading. This was superior to their apartments (too noisy), libraries (too institutional), and parks (too unpredictable). But the thing they seemed to value most about the event was what one man, reading Russell Hoban’s “Riddley Walker,” called “a mild peer pressure” that made them uncomfortable about looking at their phones.
I can understand the appeal for some people, because there is an energy to being in a room filled with people thinking hard to themselves.
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