How to Throw the Perfect Book Swap

Need more room for all the summer books you’re picking up this month? Time to host a book swap! For a fun, memorable, lit-filled evening, follow our 7 simple rules below. By the end of the night, you’ll have extra space on your shelves as well as some surprise additions that may become new favorites.

1) Be ruthless with your guest list. Only invite hardcore book nerds—OR significant others of hardcore book nerds who are staging an intervention by cleaning out their beloved’s overflowing shelves. The point is, for a perfect book swap you need a wide variety of books from a well-read crowd, which means inviting guests who’ll give as good as they get. If 20 people show up and 10 of them bring the same bestseller from last summer, the party’s a dud.

2) Encourage a shame-free environment. Literary fiction doesn’t trump cozy mysteries starring cats, motorcycle club romances, true crime, historical fiction, pulp sci-fi, or YA dystopias. All are welcome, because you never know who’ll make a love match with an unexpected suitor, once the right friend introduces them. Half the fun of a book swap is seeing who you can lure to your side of the genre fence. Which leads us to…

3) Set a time for “Boasts and Toasts.” Each guest should come prepared, nay, chomping at the bit to explain why one of the books they’ve brought is a must-read. Pitch it like your life depends on it. Consider reading a (brief) excerpt to get everyone in the room intrigued. Hopefully a pile-on will occur, or even bloodshed.

4) Purchase or create literary-themed refreshments. Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist, by Tim Federle, will get you started, with drink recipes for “A Rum of One’s Own” and “Gin Eyre.” You could also print up some Grapes of Wrath labels and stick them on your wine. If you want to go authentically old school and drink Hemingway’s daiquiri (he called his creation a “papa doble”), pick up a copy of Bar La Florida (1935 Reprint), by Ross Bolton. If you want to raise a glass to Gryffindor, here are some Harry Potter–inspired alcoholic drinks. (And for the youngsters, why not some homemade pumpkin juice?) As for food, either serve dinner during Boasts and Toasts and give your guests a chance to clean up after, or keep it simple with dry appetizers such as pretzels or cheese and crackers. You don’t want all the books gettin’ greasy.

5) Organize by genre. Place notecards with category names in different segments of the room—on tables, chairs, sofas, desks, whatever’s handy—for easy display and browsing. It’ll be interesting to see which sections are most popular.

6) Reward partygoers with prizes at the end. When guests arrive, count the loot they’ve brought. At the end of the night, reward the person who brought the most books, left with the most books, offered up the best “so bad it’s good” book, and/or spoke most passionately during The Boast. Prizes can include the ability to steal a book someone else snatched (a la a White Elephant Party), or, if you prefer less contentious prizes, a bookish gift or a B&N gift card.

7) Have a backup plan. Any lonely books with no new dance partners by the end of the night should be donated to a school, library, thrift store, shelter, or charity.

Bonus Host & Hostess Resources:
I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, by Amy Sedaris, in which the actress and comedian offers tips on entertaining.
The 12-Bottle Bar, by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, whose cocktail recipes range from the simple and sublime to the complex and stunning.

Shop the Bookstore >

Follow BNReads