The Best Readings & Talks in Seattle: Summer 2018

Picks from Seattle Art and Performance for June 11–September 16, 2018
June 6, 2018
Don't miss This American Life creator Ira Glass when he comes to Tacoma in June to talk about "Seven Things I've Learned."

This summer, writers who cover everything from outer space to motherhood, celebrities like Ira Glass and Bill Clinton, pop-culture-obsessed poets, and funny New Yorker writers are just some of the people who will come to town to expand your mind and (maybe) your bookshelf. Below, we've compiled all of our critics' picks for the season's literary events. You can also find a complete list of readings & talks in Seattle this summer on our Things To Do calendar, or check out the rest of our critics' picks from Seattle Art and Performance.

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Jump to: Fiction | Poetry | Sci-Fi/Fantasy | Essays | History | Memoir/Biography | Politics/Current Issues | Science/Nature | Sociology/Psychology | Music | Book Releases | Open Mics/Storytelling


Tommy Orange: There There Literary writers with good taste keep telling me that Tommy Orange is the next big thing, and all the early reviewers seem to agree. Publishers Weekly gave There There a star and called it a "commanding debut." Kirkus also gave it a star and called it "astonishingly wide-ranging." The story follows 12 different Native American characters en route to California for the Big Oakland Powwow. Reviewers point out that the novel's diverse array of contemporary characters goes some way in resisting the genocidal notion that Native Americans only live in the past, while also acknowledging that the past haunts the holy fuck out of each and every one of us, and vice versa. Though it sounds like one of those books whose chief pleasures lie in the intersectional storylines, nearly every reviewer mentions Orange's "fast-paced" storytelling and poignant prose. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)

Thurs June 14

recommended Fredrik Backman: Us Against You The Swedish author of the bestsellers A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry will read from Us Against You, a novel about a town's increasingly ominous conflict over two hockey teams. (Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 7 pm, $28)

Sat June 16

recommended Ulysses Bloomsday Staged Reading Calling Irish literature nerds: What are you doing for Bloomsday? If you haven't made plans yet to mark the date on which James Joyce's mammoth novel Ulysses takes place, during which the protagonist Leopold Bloom travels picaresquely through Dublin, don't sweat it. This year's reading picks up from last year's with Chapter 8, "Lestrygonians," and Chapter 9, "Scylla and Charybdis." Whether you've read the great 20th-century classic or not, this is a great way to commune in love for the possibilities of the English language. (We're not sure we should add this, but apparently Joyce set the book on June 16 to commemorate a particularly significant real-life handjob. Just so you know what you're celebrating.) (Central Library, 2:30 pm, free)

Wed June 20 & Fri July 13

Susan Carr: The Rat Tree Seattle's pre-eminent voice instructor follows up her novel The Ballad of Desiree with this illustrated story set in 1950s Portland, in which "a big family of grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins gather for their annual summer pool party. As the sun shines on the family, two young cousins explore the attic of the mill where grandfather stores his tools, trunks and secrets. In a locked trunk they find clues to his hidden Nazi past and generations of abuse." SN (June 20: Third Place Books Lake Forest Park, 7 pm, free. July 13: University Book Store, 7 pm, free)

Thurs June 28

Joseph O'Neill: Good Trouble O'Neill regularly publishes beautifully structured, hysterically funny stories in the New Yorker. If you don't believe me, read "Pardon Edward Snowden," which is one of the 11 stories included in this collection. In the story, O'Neill uses a conversation between to poets to lambast the language we use to discuss art's "utility," as well as the language that drives the various political conversations dominating the culture of writing at the moment. Ultimately he wonders if writers would do better to shut up about the #resistance and actually start resisting. Press materials suggest that the political lives of poets isn't the only bourgie preoccupation that O'Neill takes aim at in this collection. Other stories involve a lonely wedding guest talking to a goose, a cowardly husband letting his wife fend off a possible home intruder, and a co-op renter in NYC struggling to find someone who can give him a character reference. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)

Sat June 30

Bill Clinton Love him or loathe him, Bill Clinton comes to Seattle with his new his new political thriller, The President is Missing, a collaboration with blockbuster crime novelist James Patterson. It's an intriguing combo: Patterson is a master storyteller and Clinton has more inside knowledge of D.C. politics and national security than almost anyone on the planet (especially compared to the current occupant of the Oval Office). While the novel is entertaining enough, this is also your chance to see a U.S. president who actually won the White House and knew how to run it. KH (McCaw Hall, 7:30 pm, $69—$199)

Fri July 13

Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation Ottessa Moshfegh, whose celebrated novel Eileen was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker prize and named a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, will read from her latest work, My Year of Rest and Relaxation. It's a first-person narrative about a wealthy young New York woman who feels an inexplicable emptiness and turns to drugs. (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)

Wed July 18

Kate Christensen: The Last Cruise A brilliant writer equally adept at fiction (The Great Man) and food memoir (How to Cook a Moose, Blue Plate Special) returns with the story of the Queen Isabella, a 1950s luxury ocean liner on its final voyage. SN (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)

Wed Aug 8

Keith Gessen: A Terrible Country Keith Gessen (All the Sad Young Literary Men) returns with a novel about a young Russian-born New Yorker who leaves his American life to care for his grandmother in Moscow. Andrei’s new Russian life ensnares him in politics even as he tries to cope with culture shock, and with reminders of his country’s turbulent history. (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)

Thurs Sept 6

Patrick DeWitt: French Exit The (former Seattleite) author of Booker shortlister The Sisters Brothers and the excellent Undermajordomo Minor returns with the story of a proper NYC socialite facing financial ruin and public scandal who seeks solace in Paris, and instead finds chaos. SN (Central Library, 7 pm, free)

Mon Sept 10

Gary Shteyngart: Lake Success Per Christopher Frizzelle: "If you enjoy clever page-turners and you have never read Gary Shteyngart's first novel, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, an unbelievably funny specimen of the immigrant novel, get yourself to a bookstore ASAP. He has since published several other hilarious, globe-spanning novels and one hilarious, globe-spanning memoir, Little Failure. He was born in Russia and lived there as a young child, so he ought to have fascinating things to say about our new overlords and about the role satire plays in authoritarian societies." And he's got a new novel out—Lake Success, set during the 2016 election, about a self-absorbed hedge fund manager who ditches his family when his three-year-old is diagnosed as autistic. (Broadway Performance Hall)

Last Tuesdays

Loud Mouth Lit The writer Paul Mullin, winner of a Stranger Genius Award, curates a "fresh, local, organically sourced" monthly literary event called Loud Mouth Lit dedicated to "the amazing writers living in Seattle." (St. Andrews Bar and Grill, 8 pm, free)


Sat June 23

Lindy West, Kate Durbin, Stacey Tran You all know by now that New York Times columnist (née Stranger staff writer) Lindy West is the funniest and most incisive feminist with 1,200 words due twice a month, but you might not know the other two insanely good writers supporting her on this bill. Writer and performance artist Kate Durban, who's often the most neon-colored entity in the room, literally wears her obsession with American and international pop culture on her sleeves. (I once saw a photo of her in a Disney princess dress composed of drawings of Disney princesses in dresses.) Tran's debut book of poems, Soap for the Dogs, is a spare and gorgeous look at family history and food. Her "Fake Haiku" series is great, and the last few lines of the title poem punches me in the gut every time she reads it. This reading kicks off Gramma Poetry's quarterly series, which pairs national writers with local talent. You'll want to keep up with this one. RS (Erickson Theatre Off Broadway, 7 pm)

Wed June 27

Terrance Hayes: American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin There have been many attempts to reckon with the rolling shocks of Donald Trump's election and presidency, but nobody has done it better than Terrance Hayes in this collection of 70 sonnets written during the first 200 days of Trump's reign. Following in the grand tradition of the American sonneteer (c.f. Wanda Coleman, Gerald Stern, Jean Toomer, Rita Dove), Hayes employs the form to wrestle with America's particular paradoxes and contradictions. His sense of humor and powerful musical phrasing serve as sturdy handrails as he guides us through the fucked-up time warp we're living in. In the line I can't get out of my head, Hayes addresses his past and future assassin, roping in the Trumps before Trump and all the Trumps to come: "It is not enough / To love you. It is not enough to want you destroyed." RS (Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute)

Thurs Aug 9

Word Works: Ben Lerner Ben Lerner started off writing nerdy books of poetry that were so good you could actually feel your brain and heart growing as your read them (see: The Lichtenberg Figures and Angle of Yaw). Then he turned his attention to reinventing the American novel. Both Leaving Atocha Station and 10:04 were phenomenal, genre-altering books that blurred the lines of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry as they explored contemporary politics, art, the life of artists, and the shallows and depths of love. Humor and intelligence abound in these books. Expect as much at this lecture, where Lerner will "examine the novel as a curatorial form." RS (Hugo House, 7—9 pm, $15)

Second Mondays

African-American Writers' Alliance Poetry Reading Hear poets from the Northwest's African American community in a reading organized by the NW African American Writers' Alliance, which promotes emerging and seasoned writers and publishes anthologies. (Third Place Books Seward Park, 7 pm, free)

Third Thursdays

Margin Shift Margin Shift is a poetry reading series that emphasizes the contributions of anyone who might normally be at the margins of the mainstream literary scene—"poets of color, LGBTQI poets, poets from out of town, poets who are new to town, women poets, undocumented poets, experimental writers (whatever that might mean!), and brand new writers." (Common AREA Maintenance, 6:30—10 pm, free)


Tues June 19

Clarion West Presents: Daniel Abraham You may best know Daniel Abraham as the writer/executive producer of the The Expanse, which Charles Mudede hailed as "a masterpiece of TV sci-fi." But he's also written books under three different names: MLN Hanover for urban fantasy, James S. A. Corey for futuristic sci-fi, and his own name for epic fantasy. Tonight, he'll read new work and answer questions about his craft. (University Book Store, 7 pm, free)

Tues July 17

Clarion West Presents: Karen Joy Fowler Hear work by the much-praised Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and many smart, emotional, literary spooky stories. (Central Library, 7 pm, free)

Tues July 24

Clarion West Presents: Ellen Datlow She's the badass editor behind a huge number of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy anthologies, including all of those collections featuring modern re-tellings of classic fairy tales (2014's Silver Birch, Blood Moon earned the World Fantasy Award and featured contributions by Neil Gaiman, Robin McKinley, and Tanith Lee, among others). She's also the fiction editor of OMNI Magazine, and acquires short fiction for, the website of one of the country's biggest sci-fi and fantasy publishers, Tor Books. She has more than 35 years of experience, which means she'll likely share much insight about elements of a story that grab her interest, and those that turn her off. LP (University Book Store, 7 pm, free)


Mon July 2

Chelsea Hodson: Tonight I'm Someone Else Chelsea Hodson's debut collection of lyric essays explores "the myriad ways in which desire and commodification intersect." It is a book about about sex, power, privacy, looks, endurance, submission, art, and money. In fragmented, hypnotic prose, the writer roams from LA to New York to Mars (almost literally—she worked on a NASA Mars mission) but finds the most surprising terrain within. "I had a real romance with this book," says Miranda July. I will be interviewing Hodson onstage at this event. CF (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Tues July 17

Kathleen Belew: Bring the War Home Did you know "a small but driven group of veterans, active-duty personnel, and civilian supporters" got so pissed about the U.S. leaving Vietnam that they re-invigorated the white power movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which led directly to the "alt-right" and other similar terrorist organizations in the U.S.? Historian Kathleen Belew makes the case in Bring the War Home (Harvard University Press), drawing a direct line from these postwar maniacs to Timothy McVeigh to today's white supremacist shitlords in "the first full history" of the movement. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Tues June 12

Ellen Forney: Rock Steady The Offbeat Bride (Ariel Meadow Stallings) will continue her book club series with special guest Ellen Forney. Forney's wonderful cartoons have enhanced The Stranger's pages for years. Her new book, Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life, "serves as a practical (and extremely useful) follow-up to Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, her memoir about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder," according to Rich Smith. (Ada's Technical Books, 6:30—8 pm, $10/$25)

Mon June 18

Shirley MacLaine Shirley MacLaine holds an important place in American cinema—aside from her Academy Award-winning role in Terms of Endearment, she turned out great performances Billy Wilder's Irma la Douce and The Apartment, Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry, Bob Fosse's Sweet Charity, and Jerzy Kosinski's Being There. She'll dish on her past and current career with interlocutor Carolyn Douglas. (McCaw Hall, 7:30 pm, $60—$130)

Sun June 24

Seven Things I've Learned: An Afternoon with Ira Glass The creator of This American Life, Ira Glass, not only hosts his own blockbuster radio show and podcast, he's also produced film and television, danced with a famed ballerina company, DJed with our own DJ Dan Savage, and influenced an entire generation of current storytellers and radio producers. If there's a podcast you love, chances are, Ira Glass has had some kind of influence on it, and he'll be talking about both his life and his work when he brings his latest act to Tacoma. KH (Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, 3 pm, $29—$85)

Mon July 23

Marti Jonjak: Inside Witnesses The writer Marti Jonjak survived the Twilight Exit shooting in the Central District in 2013. She miraculously made it out of the bar unscathed, but on her way she saw a pool of blood and the bouncer, who'd been shot, lying nearby. Jonjak later documented the incident and its aftermath in a column for McSweeney's. The bouncer sustained serious injuries, but survived, and eventually could walk again. He will appear at this event in conversation with Jonjak. CF (University Book Store, 7 pm, free)

Mon Aug 27

Nancy Rommelmann: To the Bridge Attn: fans of local true crime. What drove Amanda Stott-Smith to throw her two children into the Willamette River almost a decade ago? Nancy Rommelmann combs through stacks of public records and conducts hours of interviews to get to the bottom of this unimaginable story of infanticide that ultimately led to the death of one child and 35 years in prison for the mother. Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, called the book a "tour-de-force of both journalism and compassion, in the lineage of such masterpieces as In Cold Blood and The Executioner's Song." That's high praise from another of the master of the genre. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Fri June 15 & Wed June 20

Looking Back at Forward Thrust: A Community Conversation Hosted by Shaun Scott A little history lesson: Activist Jim Ellis pushed for civic change with a number of ballot initiatives called Forward Thrust from 1968 to 1970, and that's partly why we have so many lovely parks, pools, and playgrounds. Historian Shaun Scott invites you to revisit Forward Thrust in the light of the city's new needs, especially in terms of mass transit, at this Town Hall-sponsored conversation series. (University Lutheran Church [June 15], Pigott Building [June 20], 7:30 pm, free)

Tues June 12

Ken Auletta: Frenemies New Yorker columnist Auletta (Three Blind Mice, Greed and Glory on Wall Street, World War 3.0, Googled) will continue his coverage and criticism of the media world with a book about the ad industry, subtitled The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else). (University Book Store, 7 pm, free)

Leni Zumas and Tiffany Hankins with Megan Burbank: Red Clocks and Reproductive Rights Drawing on her dystopian feminist novel Red Clocks, Leni Zumas will discuss reproductive rights issues in the real world, with the help of Tiffany Hankins of NARAL Pro-Choice America and reporter Megan Burbank (formerly of the Portland Mercury), at this Town Hall event. (The Hillman City Collaboratory, 7:30 pm, $5)

Wed June 13

Michael Eric Dyson: What Truth Sounds Like Michael Eric Dyson, sociology professor at Georgetown and author of Tears We Cannot Stop, will present his new book What Truth Sounds Like. It's about the 1963 meeting between AG Robert Kennedy, James Baldwin, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and activist Jerome Smith. Complex questions arose, and Dyson relates them to Black Lives Matter's complications today: "BLM has been accused of harboring a covert queer agenda. The immigrant experience, like that of Kennedy versus the racial experience of Baldwin is a cudgel to excoriate black folk for lacking hustle and ingenuity. The questioning of whether folk who are interracially partnered can authentically communicate black interests persists. And we grapple still with the responsibility of black intellectuals and artists to bring about social change." (University Temple United Methodist Church, 7 pm, $25)

June 18–19

Michael Bennett: Things That Make White People Uncomfortable Former Stranger editor-in-chief Tricia Romano called Michael Bennett "the best Seahawk," and for good reason. In addition to being a Super Bowl champ, a three-time Pro Bowler, and one of the best defensive ends in the country, Michael Bennet is a powerful voice in the Black Lives Matter movement, and also a fucking hilarious person. (Remember that time he stole a police bike and rode it around CenturyLink stadium to celebrate winning the 2015 NFC championship?) In his new memoir Things that Make White People Uncomfortable, co-written by Dave Zirin, Bennett recounts the path that led him to where he is now and articulates his thoughts about racial dynamics in the country. Though the title seems confrontational, he knows what he's doing with it. "I believe you need to be uncomfortable to become comfortable with different people," he told Lois Nam at the Undefeated. RS (Temple De Hirsch Sinai [June 18], First Baptist Church, [June 19] 7:30 pm, $5. Presented by Town Hall)

Thurs June 21

Roxane Gay: Not That Bad Roxane Gay, whose collection of essays, Bad Feminist, launched her into the public eye, is back with a new anthology, Not That Bad, which includes authors and other figures both known and new, like actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union, and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. These essays are wide-ranging and include explorations of the impact of rape, harassment, and violence, but, at heart, they are all about what it is to be a woman in today's world. While sometimes it really is that bad, Gay, in person, is sure to deliver. KH (University Temple United Methodist Church, 7 pm, $17—$27)

Thurs June 28

Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility Non-white people tend to speak regularly and freely about the pernicious nature of racism because they deal with its stresses on a daily basis. Recent headlines remind us that black people in particular can't nap in common areas, drive around in cars, or barbecue in the park without someone calling the cops on them. But white people, as UW professor Robin DiAngelo argues in White Fragility, "live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress." This environment has softened them to such a degree that whenever they experience the slightest hint of discrimination—or whenever they have to talk about race at all—they freak out and elect Donald Trump to the presidency. DiAngelo describes this phenomenon with admirable academic rigor, and she proposes good, common-sense suggestions for dealing with it. RS (Central Library, 7 pm, free)


Tues July 10

Jonathan White: Tides Tides is the latest work by writer/sailer/surfer Jonathan White, combining memoir, science, and anthropology for a cultural and scientific investigation into the significance of (you guessed it) tides. White travelled around the world conducting interviews and assessing the impact of these mysterious moon-driven forces. (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)

Sat July 14

Thor Hanson: Buzz Washington native and conservation biologist Thor Hansen is one of those science writers who can poke and stoke your curiosity no matter what he's writing about. A few years ago he championed one of the tiniest but mightiest forces of nature in The Triumph of Seeds. In Buzz, he's moved up one rung on the taxonomical ladder with a comprehensive book on bees, an insect that started out in the world as a wasp that "dared to feed pollen to its young." They've been pollinating the earth's flora for 125 million years now, but, like everything else on this planet, they might not be buzzing around for much longer. Find out everything you can about these honey bugs before we find some way to shrivel them up for good. RS (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Wed June 13, Wed June 20, Wed July 18

Angela Garbes One of the finest writers who ever worked at this newspaper, Garbes (author of "The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am," the 2015 story that broke our website's traffic records) presents her first book, an investigative reflection on an aspect of childbirth that receives surprisingly little attention from the medical establishment or the baby book publishing industry: the mental and physical health of the mother. "Your OB will cautiously quote statistics; online sources will scare you with conflicting and often inaccurate information; and even the most trusted books will offer information with a heavy dose of judgment. To educate herself, the food and culture writer embarked on an intensive journey of exploration, diving into the scientific mysteries and cultural myths that surround motherhood to find answers to her questions that had only previously been given through a lens of what women ought to do-instead of allowing them the freedom to choose the right path themselves." SN (June 13: The Summit, 7:30 pm, $5, Town Hall event with Lindy West. June 20: The Riveter Capitol Hill, 7 pm, with Anika Anand. July 18: Third Place Books Seward Park, 7 pm, free)

Thurs June 21

Dr. Jordan Peterson Depending on who you ask, Jordan Peterson is either a life-changing self-help guru who is saving young men from a future of video games and jerking off in their moms' basements, or a huckster who is guiding the same young men toward nihilism, misogyny, and the racist alt-right. Whatever your opinion, the famed Canadian psychologist and best-selling author will be in Seattle for the second time in as many months. Is he a savior or is he a fraud? Perhaps the best way to find out is to listen, and judge, for yourself. KH (Moore Theatre, 7:30 pm, $32.50—$100 [sold out] )


Wed Sept 5

Mark Anderson: We Are The Clash There is no shortage of books about "the only band that matters," but this one zeroes in on the band's final years, as it grappled with internal tensions, even as its massive pop success threatened to devalue the primacy of struggle and resistance at the heart of their identity. The result of all this wrangling was Cut the Crap, an album as divisive as all their other divisive albums. SN (Elliott Bay Book Company, 7 pm, free)


Wed June 13

Moss: Volume Three Release Party The four-year-old PNW-focused indie literary journal will throw a party for its third volume collection with alcoholic drinks, snacks, and readers. Past contributors have included Leni Zumas, Nikkita Oliver, The Stranger's Rich Smith, Shankar Narayan, Elissa Washuta, Anca Szilágyi, and many other very talented Seattleites. (Type Set, 7 pm, free)

Sat Aug 18

Paulette Perhach: Welcome to the Writer's Life Book Launch Former Made at Hugo House resident and Stranger contributor Paulette Perhach offers a book that's "like freshman orientation for writers," published at Seattle's own wonderful Sasquatch Books. Learn all about the business of writing from an author with a funny, relatable voice. (Hotel Sorrento, 7 pm, free)


Last Tuesdays

Literary Happy Hour Capitol Cider invites poets and authors to read their work to a happy hour audience ($1 off drafts before 6). (Capitol Cider, 5—7 pm, free)

First Thursdays & Third Fridays

Seattle StorySLAM A live amateur storytelling competition in which audience members who put their names in a hat are randomly chosen to tell stories on a theme. Local comedians tend to show up, but lots of nonperformers get in on the action as well. First Thursday readings take place at the Fremont Abbey, followed by third Friday events at St. Mark's Cathedral. (Various locations, 8 pm, $10)

Fourth Sundays & Second Wednesdays

Pundamonium: Pun Slam Competition Okay, listen. I know there are only two types of people in the world when it comes to puns: the kind who recognize the degree to which they reveal the depth and soul of humankind's relationship with language, memory, and verbal dexterity, and the rest of you idiots who don't get it. Still, this event sounded pretty sketchy at first. Participants are given a bit of lead time to write a short, pun-based monologue based on a prompt pulled out a hat when they sign up, then, based on the response of judges, they are pitted against one another in a head-to-head improvised pun-off in subsequent rounds, until one is crowned the winner. Because I flatter myself with the reputation of a bit of a brainbox dynamo with the old wordplay, I strolled into the Peddler Brewing Company thinking I would dazzle everyone and easily mop up the competition. What happened instead is that I had to go up first, and I totally disgraced myself, because guess what: It's very difficult, and the other competitors were top-notch. Though undeniably square and indisputably not for everyone, Pundamonium is also two things: 1) very fun, and 2) astonishingly popular. On a cold rainy night, the outdoor seating section was totally crammed with people, dogs, beer, and puns. SN (Peddler Brewing Company, $6)


First Wednesdays

Silent Reading Party The silent-reading party turns nine years old in 2018. For almost a decade, people have been gathering in the Fireside Room of the Sorrento Hotel to escape the distractions of the city, and the distractions of their cell phones, to read silently to themselves in overstuffed chairs or couches in front of the fire while waiters bring them things and Paul Moore plays exquisite piano. It's an odd phenomenon—nothing happens—but it's as popular as ever. At last month's party, there was a line out the door. Get there at least an hour early for prime seating. CF (Hotel Sorrento, 6 pm, free)

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