Literary Salons-The Social Trend for Those Who Love Books

Many love to read and talk about books. Imagine if you attend an event, dress up, connect with others who share this same cultural passion, and meet some exciting authors at the same time. It turns out that something like this exists and is quite popular in the UK- literary salons, and now it’s becoming a thing stateside.

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Literary salons were popular gatherings in Europe’s 17th and 18th centuries. These salons were hosted by influencers who invited intellectuals, writers, artists, and other prominent individuals to discuss literature, art, politics, and social issues.

Painting of the salon of Madam Geoffrin in Paris in 1775. Literary salons are back in style, thanks to creative intellectuals and those who love being with them at a unique events.

The salons provided a platform for emerging writers and thinkers to showcase their work and for established writers to share their ideas with a broader audience. The salons were important social events, providing opportunities for individuals from different social classes to come together and exchange ideas.

The format of literary salons varied, but they typically involved a hostess, who set the agenda for the discussion, and a group of guests, who would engage in lively and often heated debates. The discussions were usually structured around a particular theme or topic, and the participants would take turns presenting their ideas and responding to each other’s arguments.

Today, the tradition of literary salons continues in various forms, with book clubs, writing workshops, podcasts, and literary festivals serving as modern-day equivalents. 

Author Tom Turner is one of many accomplished authors who calls Palm Beach County home. You never know whom you’ll rub elbows with at a literary salon.

Ella Berthoud is a bibliotherapist from the UK. She hosts literary salons of her own and for Damian Barr’s Literary Salon, described on his website as;

Where the world’s best writers reveal their own stories, it’s where readers and writers meet through special live events and online content…Want to hear Maggie O’Farrell read from Hamnet for the first time?… You’re in the right place. -Damian Barr’s Literary Salon

Berthoud explained how Barr got started. Barr would have three or four authors as guests. He would have them speak for a half hour each and interview them. The audience was riveted, and they got to experience hearing authors speak for the first time who eventually became hugely popular, such as JoJo Moyes, who read from her book Me Before You, which ultimately became a world-renowned bestseller and movie. 

UK-based Bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud hosts a glamorous literary salon and has her own show called Bibliotherapy Live. Her book, The Novel Cure, has great reading recommendations, or connect with her for a live one-to-one personalized session.

Berthoud says that Literary salons are a unique experience. Barr’s salons have become quite popular and opulent. He’s hosted salons for four hundred people at a ballroom at London’s Savoy hotel. Although upscale, they’re inexpensive to attend to ensure they’re accessible to anyone who wants to participate. Damian Barr hosts a podcast and can be found online and on Instagram @damianbarrliterarysalon.

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Berthoud hosts her salons for thirty people at a beautiful, artistic, intimate club with oversized chairs where people can nibble on something and enjoy a cocktail. People get very dressed up for the evening. People float in early to talk and socialize. She usually interviews one author. Her events are from a unique bibliotherapy angle. She talks to the authors about what books they read as a teenager and what books have made them who they are today. 

Berthoud always opens discussions to the audience and “prescribes” a book. Berthoud says that to make an event a salon experience; 

There needs to be an element of exclusivity attached to it. It must be a unique opportunity. Lucky people in the know get to attend the event. It’s something that can’t be replicated. That’s what makes it special. Part of the experience and glamour is knowing you might rub shoulders with someone from the literary world. -Bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud

Berthoud’s Bibliotherapy Live can be seen Wednesdays on Instagram. Berthoud’s show is based on a theme guaranteed to be thought-provoking, such as snails in literature, dogs in literature, and orgasms in literature. Her next live event, about women in literature, is Wednesday, March 22nd. Berthoud always dresses in keeping with the theme, which makes me wonder what she wore during the orgasm show. Good thing I can watch it on her Youtube channel @ellaberthoud8291.

You can also book a one-to-one bibliotherapy session at I’ve done it, and it’s phenomenal.

Ella Berthoud’s latest project is a card deck with book recommendations for whatever is going on in your life. Bibliotherapy for Modern Life from Laurence King Publishing 1290 Avenue of the Americas New York. The card deck can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Literary salons have become upscale experiences. You never know whom you’re going to rub shoulders with. It is sure to be a unique, intellectual, fun experience.

Sarah Martin from Lake Worth Beach, Fl, runs an upscale literary salon, the Book Stack Book Club, at the Ben Hotel in West Palm Beach. A book author facilitates the events, and guests enjoy a dinner menu chef Marc Rosen chose based on the book’s theme. The Book Stack Book Club is an elegant and elevated literary event in a luxurious setting. Martin’s next book event is with author Judith Brenner, who will discuss her book, The Moments Between Dreams. It is at 6:00 PM, May 12th. For more information, email [email protected]

CEO of Experience Epic Events and founder of The Book Stack Book Club, Sarah Martin (center), seen here with Juan David, VP of Sales and Marketing for Duracell, and Eric Roby, Executive Director of The American Red Cross of Palm Beach and The Treasure Coast.

Book clubs saw a rise in popularity during the pandemic. Now, people want to get out, get dressed up, and connect with people in real life. They want an intellectually stimulating experience, different from the typical charity gala. Literary salons are just the ticket.  


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