How to host a book swap

13 June 2023

When I hosted my first book swap in 2019, it was such fun that we vowed to make it an annual thing, or at most an every-other-year affair. Well… you know what happened next. But here we are, four years later, living our best readerly lives at a book swap once again, and it was a delight. In case it might inspire some of you to host a swap of your own, I’d love to share some photos and details from this weekend. (And if you’re just here to vicariously enjoy our readerly shenanigans, that’s a-ok, too.)

This time around, my beautiful friend Bethany agreed to be my co-host. She’s an avid reader, a wonderful cook, and an even better friend – plus, she has an inviting home with many large surfaces on which to display books (so you can see why she was a slam-dunk pick).

One Paperless Post invitation later, our guests were a mixture of Articles Club gals, preschool mom pals, and neighborhood buddies, plus a smattering of book-loving friends from other corners of our respective lives. It can feel a little nerve-wracking to bring together different groups of friends, but books are the great uniter, aren’t they? We invited 24 guests and had about 16 attend with summer travel and a few last-minute sick kiddos.

Food for a book swap brunch

We opted to host this year’s book swap in the morning – 10am – and so we kicked off the party by piling plates high with brunch food: two kinds of quiche; mini white chocolate baguettes from a local bakery; a mini pancake platter with nutella, soft butter, and syrup; smoked salmon sliders; and a monochromatic fruit salad inspired by a long-ago Cup of Jo post. (I’ve been holding on to that inspiration for 8 years! It finally had its day in the sun!)

We also served sparkling water, mimosas and bellinis, and coffee.

Book swap activities

Most guests brought their plates out to the sun porch and patio where we had scattered two literary quizzes for a little fun. The first listed groupings of characters and challenged guests to supply the book titles; the second required matching literary quotes to their books. Turns out both were quite challenging, ha! You can download them here for your own book swap, if you’d like: Literary Quote Quiz and Literary Character Quiz.

We also had little stickers with “ask me about…” written on them at the door. In lieu of their name, guests could write in the name of a book they love to discuss. We were hoping this might spark conversation, and it did!

How our book swap worked

While some people style their book swap like a Yankee Swap, my goal in hosting was to clear out my shelves, pass on well-loved books, and get several new books in return. Because of this, we allowed gals to bring up to 10 books to swap that they already owned. (One book was totally fine, too! I’d say most people brought about 3-5.)

Any kind of book was welcome – fictionnonfiction, memoir, cookbook, coffee table book, and even kids’ books this time around. The only requirement was that they had to be GOOD! We asked guests to write a little sticky note with what they loved about each book and stick it on the cover.

Upon arrival, we asked each gal to “shelve” her selections – we had designated areas for fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, and “everything else.” This was a great way to break the ice, give people something to do right away, and get everyone moving around the room.

The actual swap happened at the very end – after much browsing, guests took home as many books as they contributed. If there were any leftover (which there were!) after the initial round of picks, they were open to all.

Bookish decor and favors

Bethany’s home is very lovely, and just a few bookish details made it shine for our book swap: a watercolor book garland cut from a calendar and teeny little watercolor books scattered as confetti throughout the downstairs. Bethany also supplied flowers from her garden – what a treat!

As a last fun detail, we gifted everyone an illustrated bookmark as they headed out. I considered making our own design, but what a delight it is to support other creative women doing what they do best.

And there you have it! Book Swap 2.0 was just as good as the first time around, and I intend for it not to be the last.

Feel free to drop any questions in the comments! I’d also love to hear what book you might write on your name tag (remember: one that you love to discuss!). I considered The Coddling of the American Mind, Habits of the Household, and Being Mortal, but ultimately went with The Penderwicks :)

Affiliate links are used in this post and thank you kindly to Stephanie for sharing some of her photos with me!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
June 14, 2023 10:01 pm

I hosted my own book swap this week thanks to your idea and it was so much fun! Everyone said we should do it again at the end of the summer. Thanks for your great ideas. :)

June 15, 2023 8:08 am

Do you have a list of all the books that you could share that were available for the swap? You are a great resource for me when looking for the next book to read :-)

June 16, 2023 12:58 pm
Reply to  Peggy

Oooh yes! I was zooming in on all the pictures XD

June 15, 2023 7:03 pm

Such a fun idea! We just moved to a new part of town and what a fun thing to host to meet new neighbors! Would you be willing to share the wording you used for the invitation so everyone knew what to do?

June 22, 2023 5:57 pm
Reply to  Meg

Yes! That would be fantastic!

June 16, 2023 9:31 am

I love this! We talk a lot in my circles about why reading for pleasure so often drops off right around the start of middle school (more homework and after-school activities) but I think one key problem is that many kids never see adults reading, which leads to them thinking that reading is for kids and needs to be outgrown. How great is this book swap as a very concrete way to model that reading is for life!

June 16, 2023 12:58 pm

Oh my gosh I love everything about this!!! I’m already dreaming about hosting one this fall! Can you post the quiz answer sheets??