I’m not sure if you’ve seen those photos online of books wrapped up in brown paper with a description on them? The idea being that buyers literally “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” but instead choose a book based on what the person has said about it. We'll that’s what I decided to do with a group of friends at a recent afternoon tea, book swap.
I’d planned to do this last year but with my health being the way it was I never got round to organising it. This year however I managed it and it really was great fun. Always nice to see my friends but it this was something a little different than our usual catch ups and gave us a chance to have a different kind of chat and take a bit of a breather from everything else going on in our lives. Not everyone in the group knew everyone else but I knew everyone would get along, and of course they did. I’ve never joined a book club but I feel like this was like a book club minus the pressure of having to read a specific book before the meeting. We got to chat about books we’d read at school, what books had really got us in to reading, times we’ve got out the habit of reading, kindles v “real” books etc and of course we had a nice cuppa (a mocktail or two) and some yummy snacky treats too.
So how did the whole thing work?
I set up a Facebook event and invited all my bookworm friends along. Everyone brought a book they would be happy to give away, wrapped it up and wrote a description on it. Something about the story and/or why you might like the book eg you’d like this if you enjoy mysteries.
Everyone really considered what book to bring along and I was touched at how much people had thought about their choice and what to say about it. It was also quite amusing to see how everyone (including me!) was a little nervous about a) would anyone want their book, b) was it wrapped okay, c) did the description make sense and d) could other read our handwriting!
On the day I set up a book tin for everyone to put their books in, S, who couldn’t make it on the day had handed in a book beautifully wrapped in a gorgeous pink velvet using the Japanese fabric wrapping technique called furoshiki. With a number of crafters in our group we did spend a bit of time closely examining this to see if we could work out how it was done and when G picked that book she was genuinely hesitant to unwrap it, then once she had she spent the next 10 minutes trying to wrap it back up again!
There’s various ways you could run this kind of get together, given the numbers we had we decided to take turns picking our book out of the box and reading our description to the group, we could then ask questions about the book to find out more about the style, setting, characters etc and what the swapper liked about it. We definitely got more comfortable with what we were doing as we went along and one thing we all agreed on is that it’s really difficult to talk about the book without giving too much away. We’ve all found a new respect for those who have to write book cover descriptions!
After we’d all take our turn reading our descriptions we laid all the books out and I asked if anyone had any particular preferences. There were a couple who were maybe not so sure about a particular subject matter and of course there were some who really liked the sound of a particular book. In the end we all pretty easily managed to pick a book we fancied. I’d wrapped up a couple of spare books in case someone picked a book they had read before. As it turned out we did use one of those as it was a better fit for the swap than the book I’d put in myself (it was a bit of a high risk choice to be fair but I knew I had back ups!)
As it turned out when I read the introduction to the book I’d chosen (given by G), the reviewer actually said it reminded her of the book I’d put in the mix and that C had picked! Clearly we have similar tastes and hopefully that will mean we’ll enjoy the books we’ve picked.
Now, if you know me in real life you’ll possibly be aware that I do like nothing better than organising a wee activity (it’s my inner Monica Gellar!) and so you won’t be surprised to learn that I set up a wee book themed quiz for the day. Nothing too serious and one where I hoped it would be a fairly level playing field and if people didn’t know they answers there was a reasonable chance of a fair guess.
The group divided into teams and from my yellow chair I was the self-appointed quiz master.
I based the questions on the top books written by female authors, based on goodreads votes. Round one was to match the picture of the book cover with the author and the title. I had printed out the lists and of course photo shopped out the title and author on the book cover. Some were particularly easy (Harry Potter was unlikely to get confused with Pride and Prejudice!) and some were a little more subtle and you benefited from knowing the story. After that round two was putting them in date order. Fun fact: did you know Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were published only three months apart? Then round three was a quick quiz on pseudonyms used by a number of the authors on the list, my favourite being Jane Austin’s pen name, A Lady :)
Believe it or not it was a draw after each round, and with one team most definitely out to win (C & D, you know I’m talking about you!) luckily I had a tie breaker all ready. Everyone got a point if they had read a book on the list and another point if they’d seen the TV show or film adaptation. All points added up and the winning team was C and D and the individual winner was C who was very pleased with her Book Nerd bag!
Everyone really enjoyed the day and whilst yes I did spend a bit of time making up the quiz it really wasn’t a lot of effort to organise and as I have incredibly supportive and lovely friends, they did all the tidying up afterwards so I could rest.
I loved that there were several mentions of “next time” from those there on the day and a few friends who couldn’t make it have made it clear I need to arrange another swap that they can come along to. My only question now is what can I make my next quiz about!