Forget polite clapping and gentle cadences—this spring brings a new kind of reading. Mainstream authors are staging events that are as much theater as recitation—everything from shuffleboard to shepherds. Some examples:

Rodney Rothman: The author of My Fake Retirement—in which a 20-something abandons urban life for a Florida retirement community—did a reading at the community last week... at 11 a.m. "I'm pretty sure it was a first for S&S," said editor Geoff Kloske of the bagels-and-lox event.

Sam Apple: Yiddish folk songs, shepherds and a Holocaust museum. No, not a new Jonathan Safran Foer story—a reading for Apple's nonfiction Schlepping Through the Alps.The author brought his main character, an Austrian Jewish shepherd fond of singing as he guides his flock. A packed house joined in on faves like "A Pasterkh's Tsores"("A Shepherd's Sorrows") at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Jonathan Ames: Okay, it wasn't technically a reading, but any event that has Rick Moody with a room full of transsexuals should count for something. For Ames's Sexual Metamorphosis, Vintage broke out colorful condoms and transsexuals at an event Gawker called a "bookish festival-o-gender."

So why has the author reading taken a turn for the weird? Because of attention span. "Readings are a dime a dozen now," said Vintage's Sloane Crosley. "An alternative venue tricks people into thinking they're not going to a reading until it's too late."