Look at your coffee table. Okay, now look at the corner of your living room. And now your bedside table. Do you see what I see? A dozen plus books “I’m definitely gonna read,” books I couldn’t bring myself to finish, and more than a year’s worth of magazines full of articles I just know I’ll need to reference someday. It feels so wrong to just get rid of them!
Books and magazines are avenues to growing your mind, but they aren’t doing you much good if the visual clutter is driving you mad. Now, if I could clean up my bookshelves, both mental and physical, and fill them with something fresh — well, that’d be just about perfect. Enter: The Lit Swap.
Lively and Short
Perhaps not ideal characteristics for a mate, but a good guideline for enticing busy professionals. Keep the party relatively short with distinct start and end times, such as 5:30 to 7:30. Think “cocktail party,” not “dinner party.” This makes it easier for guests to commit and for you to say goodbye graciously when the mood starts to wane.
No Judgment Here
Hi. My name is Janice, and I’m reading the Percy Jackson series. Yes, it was written for 10- to 14-year-olds. Yes, I’m in my thirties. I read what I enjoy and it isn’t necessarily what everyone else is reading, which makes my Lit Swap guests very lucky. If everyone shows up with the same books, audiobooks, and magazines the party is something of a bust. Nobody wants what they already have.
Remind guests that “eclectic” does not mean “undesirable” by including a list of your offerings in the invitation. For instance, I’d like to unload Confessions of a Shopaholic, a few issues of Family Handyman, issues of GQ from 2010 through 2012, and two books about genetics. See? Not only is it a cocktail party, it is a peek into the inner lives of your friends and colleagues, and a treasure hunt!
Remember, this is a mix-and-mingle (and swap) affair, so your menu needs to reflect that. Prepare a variety of bite-sized foods that will encourage guests to nosh as they browse, chat, and trade.
- a cheese board with at least three cheeses ranging from mild to bold
- assorted Spanish olives
- salted nuts, such as almonds
- dried apricots, figs, and plums
- pita chips with a tasty homemade tapenade
- Melon and Peach White Wine Sangria
- Plum Deluxe Reading Nook Blend Tea
Social Hour, Not Study Group
A lit swap is not a book club (although it might be the catalyst for one); it is more of an excuse to get together, have a drink (or two) and some food, and unload reading material you no longer want. Conversations will pop up around books and magazines several guests have read, and that’s great so long as light-hearted chatter doesn’t turn into heated discussion. Part of your role as the hostess is to constantly mingle with your guests, making sure everyone has enough food, drink, and good company. This naturally allows you to drop into conversations and steer them out of deep waters if needed.
For those interested in starting or joining a book club, Ali at Gimme Some Oven has some great suggestions.
Throughout the evening, check in with each guest to see if she found some intriguing new lit or at least made a connection with someone over a common interest. About thirty minutes before your party is set to end, start asking guests if they’ve had a chance to look over all the goods — a sort of “last call,” if you will.
For the final chapter of the lit swap, take an informal vote on what to do with any orphaned books and magazines: return to the bringer, randomly distribute among guests, or donate to a library or shelter.
Photo Credits: Anna T, LollyKnit, Aristide Event Center, and Sage Ross.