They sit on ottomans amid flickering candlelight in the lounge, swilling wine and beer. Funky dance beats play over the speakers. End tables brim with spring rolls and fried olives.
It's a traditional setting for a night on the town, but this gathering is all about books. Welcome to theBOOKPROJECT, a new literary social group that meets monthly at the Riverhead Project in Riverhead.
"It's so cool to think about taking the book club out of the house and into boys night out, girls night out, couples getting together," says group co-founder Yvonne Lieblein, 43, of Greenport.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Members are men and women, ranging in age from their 20s to their 40s. There's no cost to join and no need to RSVP before meetings. Heck, you don't even have to read the book.
"We don't want people to feel like they can't come because they didn't read the book," Lieblein says.
"This is not homework. This is fun," adds co-founder Jason N. Hefter, 40, of East Quogue.
The group reads all genres, but often focuses on local authors, who attend meetings. On this night, about a dozen people are discussing "A Deep Scratch in the Vinyl" by Michael Kirkbride of Manhattan.
Meetings also offer a way to meet new people interested in books, with complimentary hors d'oeuvre to boot. That was a perk for Kaitlin Dayton, 24, a recent transplant to Riverhead from Huntington. "I've met everyone here, including publishers and authors," she says. "Of course I'd love to write a book one day, so it's nice to make new connections."
AT THE BOOK CLUB
Conversation flows as Hefter interviews Kirkbride about his novel, which focuses on two friends who go to '80s rock shows at CBGB together and find their friendship tested by the perfect woman. New mom Melissa Martin, 32, asks Kirkbride how he carved out two hours a night to write. Others wonder how the editing process went and whether certain passages stem from personal experiences.
Later, Martin, of Baiting Hollow, says she was inspired by the dialogue. "The fact that I was able to hear what he had to say . . . I feel like, you know what? I could do that," she says.
The intimate but lively setting was a draw for John Bruschi, 27, of Riverhead. "I think you get a lot of . . . diverse questions out of it," he says, sitting at the bar at the end of the night. "We're done with the book club, but everyone's still hanging out."
WHEN | WHERE Next meeting 7:30 p.m. June 27 at the Riverhead Project, 300 E. Main St., Riverhead. This meeting will focus on "Fifty Shades of Grey" with a panel of men and women who love or abhor the racy romance novel. Cash bar and free hors d'oeuvres.
OTHER BOOK CLUBS
Niche book clubs abound on Long Island. These three are free to join, but require advance registration.
Read or Die Under 35 Book Club
Usually drawing readers who are under 35, this co-ed club focuses on young-adult, fantasy and sci-fi genres. Meets at Book Revue in Huntington.
Bellmore Book and Wine Club
Books and vino are a classic combo for this group that meets every fourth Wednesday at The Vine Wine Bar in Merrick. Members -- mostly women in their 40s to 60s -- typically read fiction with strong female characters.
Empty Nest Moms Book Club of Long Island
Catering to women in their mid-40s to 60s whose children have left home, members read mostly contemporary fiction. The group of about 10 meets twice a month at gardens, parks and beaches in the summer.