If you love reading but are starved for time, a new reading group started by two Singaporeans might be perfect for you.
In this group called the Slow Reading Movement Singapore, you do not have to read a book before a session or discuss it afterwards. You do not even have to read a specific title or a book in a specific language.
You just have to show up and read a book - any book - for one hour without interruption.
This means participants should not talk or use their mobile phones during the hour, unless absolutely necessary.
The main objective of the group, which was started two months ago, is to get people to set aside time for reading.
Unlike regular book clubs, which promote reading and discussion of specific material, this group promotes the act of reading itself.
It was formed after its founders - Mr Alfred Lau and Ms Fann Sim - came across a Wall Street Journal article about the benefits of slow reading, such as reducing stress levels and improving one's concentration.
Mr Lau, 24, who runs a design agency, says: "There are slow reading groups in the United States and New Zealand. It was the appeal of allocating one hour to read out of our busy schedule that prompted us to start a similar group in Singapore.
"We have a love for reading, but found ourselves lacking the time and dedication to do so."
Ms Sim, 24, a reporter at 938LIVE and a close friend of Mr Lau's, adds: "I used to be an avid book reader when I was younger. But I didn't keep up with my reading habits over the years."
"I wanted to get back to the habit of reading again, so we started this club," adds Ms Sim, who is single.
Reading is inherently a solitary activity, says Mr Lau, who is in a relationship. "But coming together with other like-minded people creates a more conducive environment for reading."
He says jokingly: "We can also keep an eye out for one another to adhere to the time."
The group communicates only through its Facebook page. So far, it has had two sessions - one last month and one last Saturday.
The first session, held at The Reading Room, a cafe along Bukit Pasoh Road, attracted eight other people. The oldest was in his 30s and the youngest - Mr Lau's niece - was seven.
They brought a wide variety of books, such as Stephen King's horror novel Carrie, Charles Duhigg's self-help book The Power Of Habit and Malcolm Gladwell's non-fiction book Outliers.
After the session, the attendees stayed back to introduce themselves and talk about their preferred book genres as well as their occupations, interests and hobbies.
Says marketing manager Sian Ng, 30, who attended the first session: "I'm quite sociable and I enjoy group activities, even if it's reading in silence with other people.
"Reading in a group is different from reading by yourself. In a group, peer pressure keeps the mobile devices away, which is a good thing.
"I read the novel Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and enjoyed it. I came out of the hour feeling refreshed, like I had been immersed in a magical world."
Five people attended the second session last Saturday at the Woodshed cafe along Rangoon Road. A third session will be held on Dec 20, from 3 to 4pm, although the location has not been decided.
For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/ slowreadingmovement
This article was first published on December 2, 2014.
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