Need a Reading Partner? Dog-Ear These Cool NYC Literary Gatherings and Book Clubs

Don’t forget your bookmark.

Book Club NYC
Photo courtesy of Reading Rhythms
Photo courtesy of Reading Rhythms

When it comes to that adage about the best things in life being free, for many New Yorkers, reading in public tops the list.

Tossing a book in a tote and plopping down at a laptop-free cafe, hidden green space, or favorite street bench can be an activity in and of itself. But it’s equally as fun to share that imaginative experience with others. And while making friends at niche bookstores is one way to possibly keep your circle strong, larger literary happenings—from erotic poetry readings to bookshop bar events—are also having a moment in New York City.

These groups are uniting bookworms across the city, making it socially acceptable to ask, “What are you reading?” Because let’s face it: We’re all a little guilty of nosily peering over our neighbor’s book on the subway. To help you form human connections worthy of poetry, we rounded up the best reading groups in NYC.

Book Club NYC
Photo courtesy of Reading Rhythms

Reading Clubs in NYC

Various locations, $20
Reading Rhythms wants to make it clear that it’s not a book club; It’s a “reading party.” The idea is to show up, engage in two sessions of sustained silent reading (save for the ambient music), and break in the middle for a literary gab with fellow readers. Whether you discuss the passages you just read, the next book on your must-read list, or even the new subway fare gates, that’s entirely up to you. Events take place every few days across Brooklyn and Manhattan, though they tend to sell out quickly, so make sure you secure a spot in advance.

Book Club NYC
The Center for Fiction

Book Clubs NYC

Locations vary, Free
The New York Public Library puts together a wide array of book clubs taking place at libraries across all five boroughs. The discussion groups are organized by genres, like mystery or romance; formats, like books under 100 pages, or short stories; and more open-ended conversations, like “What Are You Reading Now?” On February 14th, Staten Island’s South Beach Library will host their bi-monthly discussion dedicated to the classics, and the Valentine’s Day pick is the apropos Like Water for Chocolate.

Fort Greene, $30 and up
The Center for Fiction is a non-profit literary organization dedicated to connecting readers and writers. In addition to previously welcoming famous authors like Salman Rushdie, Rachel Cusk, and Cherríe Moraga, the literary community runs workshops for emerging writers, as well as reading groups on classic and contemporary fiction. The next event will be a conversation about The Nighlighters by Catherine Lacy.

Various locations, $5
New York’s favorite bookstore hosts a selection of book clubs that are wonderfully niche in theme. The “NYC To Its Edges Book Club,” for example, seeks to escape the “diluted and anonymized New York City” of contemporary literature and points readers to novels, poetry, and nonfiction that paint a more vivid, 20th-century picture of the city. Other discussions might focus on “unusual appetites” or the “decadent, debased, and degenerate.” The latest addition to the line-up is the “McNally Jackson After Hours,” essentially a mixer for bookish singles.

Book Club NYC
Book Club Bar

Reading Series and Events in NYC

Crown Heights, Free
On the second Monday of every month, this Brooklyn beer garden hosts readings from emerging and established authors and poets, who in the past have included Roxane Gay, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, and more. While you listen to some lines, enjoy craft brew specials and enter a raffle for the readers’ latest titles. February’s event will welcome Marie-Helene Bertino, reading from her new novel, Beautyland, as well as Emily Schultz (Sleeping with Friends), Sidik Fofana (Stories from the Tenants Downstairs), Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy), Will Mountain Cox (Roundabout), and Anita Gail Jones (The Peach Seed).

Various locations, Free
At the Perverted Book Club, listen to local celebrities like Jemima Kirke reciting all kinds of fanfiction and erotica at unexpected venues, like the Burger King in FiDi, or the Sbarro’s in Penn Station. Orchestrated by Dream Baby Press, which was founded by creatives Matt Starr and Zack Roiff, this raunchy book club is bringing together New Yorkers who are keen to have a good laugh, redefining overlooked spaces in the process.

East Harlem, Free
Harlem’s beloved scoop shop, Sugar Hill Creamery, shows its love for community with weekly Ice Cream Socials, taking place every Wednesday from 6:30 pm to 8 pm. Neighbors can connect over a range of topics, “from discussing a controversial newspaper article or book to how best to navigate the public school system to sharing resources on how to obtain affordable housing.” The latest addition is a Book Club led by Dr. Misa Dayson, discussing books by Black authors on topics related to our current social and political moments. February’s read is How We Get Free, edited by Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor.

East Village, Free entry
In a city where so many coffee shops close at 5 pm, Book Club Bar might just become your next, late-night reading spot. The independent bookstore, which also sells coffee, beer, wine, and cocktails, is reminiscent of a snug living room, inviting you to treat it as a third place. The community hub hosts all kinds of events, from "Drink ‘N Draft” creative writing workshops and East Village Wordsmiths literary salons to book clubs and author events. On February 22nd, the bar will host a conversation with author Jordan Salama on his new book, Stranger in the Desert.

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Jessica Sulima is a staff writer on the Travel team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.