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A die-hard little book club pops up in the unlikeliest of spots — a local sports bar. 

Barflies and Bookworms

Go into Out Of Bounds when it's slow and you won't find bartenders plopped in front of the NBA playoffs, throwing darts or practicing "the perfect Mudslide." You will find them pouring all right, but they'll be poring over a novel. Three bartenders and one customer here have started their own informal book club in the most unlikely of places — a sports bar on Broad Street.

During the last four months, these four have read and shared more than 40 books. They each have at least two books going at the same time, some three or four, which they carry with them everywhere: in the car, at home by their beds, and sitting open at the end of the bar. In fact, that's how their unofficial book club started.

"Sometimes books get left here, and sometimes our noses get stuck in them," says bartender Nita Minor.

Minor is a voracious reader who averages a new novel every other day. She has "Hanna," the main character from an epic fairytale poem she's working on, tattooed on her back. At the start of the new millennium, the only person she traded books with was a bar customer, Dennis Madigan. Since then, more members have enlisted.

"The first time Dennis came over to my apartment," Nita remembers, "he went to my bookshelf and said, 'All right, I'm taking this ... and this ... and this .…'"

One of the books was Anne Rice's "Witching Hour." Madigan then went on to read Anne Rice's entire Witch trilogy. Barside discussions soon followed. Eventually, another liquor jockey, Chris Campbell, came into this bookish fold, bringing with him his love for Robert Ludlum's spy thrillers.

"I like Ludlum because I went to VMI, and he's got the one hero like James Bond," says Campbell, "a guy who knows how to get the job done and can crack a joke when it's time."

Madigan also was fond of Ludlum. Figuring Campbell to have the same tastes, Madigan turned him onto his favorite author at the time, master of pulp fiction, Elmore Leonard.

Campbell is now hooked on Leonard's "Cuba Libre." But ask him about his all-time favorite author, Nelson DeMille, and he gets wide-eyed and excited.

"With DeMille's latest, I know I'll burn right through it," he says. Campbell could go on for hours about DeMille — which is what he did — and that's when another bartender Nichole Anderson got interested.

But their interest in books, and talking incessantly about them, didn't manifest itself in an Oprah-inspired organized book club. In fact, the only time you'll find these twentysomethings spending hours in Barnes & Noble is when they're searching for their next selections. They've never visited the store on a Saturday afternoon specifically to sit in foldout chairs and listen to a widow go on about how "Snow Falling On Cedars" parallels the lives of her cats, Captain Jeepers and Twitters.

"For me, it's much better when it's not organized," Anderson says. "It's a lot better when it's with somebody you already know."

These bibliophilic bartender vanguards have done it on their own, casually, behind the bar, trading Ludlum, Leonard, DeMille, and Anne Rice.

With all this reading going on, you might be asking, "Excuse me? Who's pouring the drinks?"

Never fear. Anderson reads at work "only when it's slow — as long as people are getting taken care of and all the dishes are done." Campbell reads "when it's dead," and Minor also reads on the clock, "but you're not supposed to know that," she says.

Madigan doesn't have to worry because he reads at Out Of Bounds between working doubles at Red Lobster.

What does their boss, Lane McColl, think about all their book trading? He's not even surprised.

"They're intelligent, thinking people," says McColl, "and they crave mental stimulation."

So an informal book club? Big deal, right? Make no mistake, book clubs are a risky predicament. Enroll in a bad one and you've got colossal waste of time. Everyone suggesting a novel for the group sounds fine and dandy and very democratic. But who knows what sort of sorry tastes strangers have? And bartenders at Out Of Bounds take their reading very seriously.

Anderson quotes her mother, a librarian, to prove the point: "My mom says, 'There are so many good books out there to read. It's not worth wasting your time reading bad
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