Victor Van Scoit, the founder of Fort Worth’s Silent Book Club chapter, began working at Hotel Dryce shortly after it opened in 2021. Van Scoit attended Silent Book Club in San Francisco, where it was founded, and thought of bringing that to Fort Worth. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Guests lined the low-lit Hotel Dryce Lobby Bar Tuesday night as indie tunes played loud enough to hear but low enough to concentrate, and each was nose-deep in a book.

One reader at the Silent Book Club learned about the history of Palo Alto, California. Another read about the Hart family murders, and one historian read about the history of North Korea

The book club started by bartender Victor Van Scoit has a “no homework no social pressure motto.” He started the club to create a shame-free environment for those who never end up reading, getting rid of rigid expectations often implied.

“I’m often told by people, ‘Hey, sorry, we didn’t end up reading. We hadn’t seen each other in a while,’” Van Scoit said. “I’ve just quickly seen that it’s a shame-free way for people to show up for themselves.”

Van Scoit participated in the Silent Book Club in San Francisco, where founders Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich started it in 2012. He fell in love with the spaces it was held in, and when he made his move to Fort Worth years later, he wanted to bring that to his city.

The club has 25-35 active “members” who show up to Hotel Dryce every Tuesday to read — or mingle. No fee or membership is required. 

The club resembles a traditional book club in a few ways — it has a set time for meet-ups and people reading. It has no assigned readings. People don’t even read the same book.

“It’s very easy for somebody to say, ‘You can read anytime. Just come out anyway.’ So it helps people have a healthy respect for their own boundaries. They can say, ‘Oh, I got Silent Book Club on Tuesday,’” Van Scoit said. “It’s an excuse for introverts to say they have plans.”

Organically, the club has also turned into a constellation of people in all different industries and expertise, Van Scoit said. Without having to go to an event to strictly network, guests can network. “What I found in going and enjoying it was that people who read are interesting anyways.”

Brooke Wilson, a historian in Tarrant County, read about the history of North Korea as she sat by the bar. She’s been trying to get back into avidly reading after a short work hiatus.

Wilson received her master’s degree in history from the University of Houston and later made the move to Tarrant County. She first attended a Silent Book Club in Dallas, she said, but even though she loved it there, the distance prevented her from sticking with it.

The Dallas club hosts its reading rendezvous monthly on Saturdays, something that Wilson found hard to make it to as it took up a large part of her day, especially after hard work weeks.

Her friend, who founded a Silent Book Club chapter in Clear Lake City, recommended she attend the Fort Worth Silent Book Club — she’s been going since.

The book club also partnered with long-time Hotel Dryce food resident GUSTOS burgers + stuff on a BookIt-style program that exchanges club visits for free burgers. Readers are given a stamp sheet and one visit equals one stamp. After readers make 10 appearances, they can exchange their stamps for a free burger.

GUSTOS founder Jonathan Arguello said it’s fun collaborating with people. 

“It just plays on nostalgia, and I feel like our burgers have played into nostalgia. It’s just like a fun pairing to have,” Arguello said. 

In March 2023, the burger spot moved its smash burgers away from Hotel Dryce to Tulips FTW, but their stamp deal continued.

“It’s been really cool to see people come to Tulips with a card. That’s so awesome. It’s already happened a few times. It kind of spreads the whole community idea,” Arguello said.

Ultimately, for Van Scoit, the book club is all about the readers and their experiences.

“This is your thing, not mine. If y’all don’t show up, there’s no club,” Van Scoit said. “Sometimes people don’t want to read the book that everyone else is reading. Or, you know, the social pressures? Sometimes they don’t have something smart to say about the book.”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...