New club to mix books and beer

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Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA — The Schenectady County Library is starting a new book club — and there’s already a wait list to join.

Why? Well, this time there’s beer involved.

“It’s not the dusty old one your grandmother belonged to,” said Doug Bixler, a Niskayuna resident who handles design and communications for the Schenectady County Public Library system.

Leah LaFera, a librarian at the central branch, first came up with the idea to hold a book club that looks a little more like happy hour because she realized that was the event she’d want to attend.

“I actually cannot remember the book I was reading at the time, but I was like, ‘Man, I really want to talk to somebody about this book; this is a really interesting story,’ ” LaFera said.

“We already have quite a few different book clubs, but they all meet during the day or in the afternoon, so people who work can’t really attend them,” she added.

LaFera orders the fiction offerings for the library, so she’s always keeping an eye out for unusual but fascinating works that she would want to share with friends and family. Sharing with the neighborhood seemed like a natural next step, she said.

The first book up for discussion is “California,” an apocalyptic novel by Edan Lepucki. The second, slated for late April, will be “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz.

“I’ve seen this done sort of on a national level, book clubs that meet at bars,” said LaFera, who was hired at the library in August. “It always sounded really intriguing to me.”

Bixler and LaFera haven’t really even advertised, outside of the library’s email newsletter and word of mouth. As it turns out, good books, friendly conversation and a little something on tap pretty much sell themselves.

“People are like, ‘Yeah, I’ll try that,’ ” Bixler said. He isn’t surprised the reception has been positive, but he admits he didn’t expect people to put their names on a waiting list to get in.

The book club’s founders plan to rotate the event among local restaurants. First up was Bier Abbey in Schenectady on March 24, where the owners agreed to set aside the cozy front room and even give a discount to book club members who remember to bring their library cards. The size of the room limited the attendance this time, but for the April meeting, which will be held at Mexican Radio downtown, there will be more space.

“It kind of breaks down that intimidating barrier of reading a book and showing up at the library,” LaFera said. “Quite a few people have said they’ve never been to a book club before, but this sounded great.”

To register for the April Read and Greet Book Club meeting at Mexican Radio in Schenectady, visit and look for “Programs and Events.”

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.