By December 8, 2011 2 Comments Read More →

Christmas Book Swaps

The practice of a Christmas book swap between participants at a December meeting has really caught on this year. I know this because I’ve repeatedly overheard book group members at my library discussing the practice. In fact, I’ve been privy to this conversation so many times that I’m starting to think that I’m in my own version of the Christmas Carol, receiving visitations from the ghosts of Christmas. It isn’t too much egg nog and fruitcake before bed, I swear!

I like the idea that such a swap frees members from feeling an obligation to buy presents for their book group friends. And encourage the trade of used books. Money’s tight for many this year again!

Overhearing all of these conversations (four at last count), I’ve picked up a few tips and a few questions. Some of the groups require that the swapped book be one that the giver has already read and enjoyed. That’s wise. This shouldn’t be a chance to dump unwanted books or a “regifting” opportunity. If you want to include silly choices, consider a Yankee Swap format (if you don’t know what that is, try a web search), making a Christmas game of the exchange.

Another possibility is to ask each reader to bring several books, put them all in the middle, then draw for turns at selecting a book each. Leftover books can be passed along to the local library or reclaimed by their donors.

A couple of groups whose members use our library are apparently tieing the book gifts to their future selection process. In one, each reader is “giving” one favorite to the group as a selection for a future meaning. While this kind of solo, rotating selection is common practice in many groups, use it with care. At least consider providing guidelines for book selection to members so that readers don’t accidentally pick books that others can’t locate, borrow from a library, or purchase at a reasonable price. Talk collectively about the qualities that good books for your group would possess and write these up so bad choices don’t ruin future meetings.

Another group is using a more staged selection process. In their format, each reader will bring a book that they have enjoyed to the swap in December, then the recipients will bring books that they also enjoyed back to a January schedule selection meeting. In this way, they hope to have two stamps of approval on books that go to the full group. This method is perhaps a bit convoluted, but there is wisdom in it as well. Book selections often work best if they involve some kind of consensus.

What does your group do for Christmas? Will you be swapping books, taking a month off, or doing something else this year?

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About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

2 Comments on "Christmas Book Swaps"

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  1. ckubala@columbiactlibrary.org' CarolK says:

    We’ll be doing a Yankee Swap where each member brings a book (new or used), wrapped creatively, for exchanging. Each member will draw a number and then the fun begins. The member with number one gets first choice and opens their book. Number two can then choose to take the book that the first person has or choose another to open from the pile. Swap continues until all have chosen. The person who started it all, number one, may then swap their book with any of the others. It’s always fun to see what the popular book is and what person dares to claim it as their own.

  2. kgordon3@roadrunner.com' KateZ says:

    Our book club read Ben Ryder Howe’s memoir My Korean Deli this year for our December meeting. We are are bringing a gift selected at a convenience store (the Korean “deli” is really a convenience store in Brooklyn).

    Last January we did this book swap idea though – everyone brought a favorite book from the previous year (a different kind of “Best Of” thing and then we selected from the pile in the middle. Everyone was to read their selection and then report back (a couple of months later). A few of the selections ended up being passed around several times.

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