It was just after we arrived in Paris, I was trawling through Meet Up when I landed on the book swapping book group page. I love books, and we had shipped our whole book collection to Paris, so this was something I had to try! And maybe, as well as getting a few new books, I might make a friend or two.
When is a book group not a book group?
The book swapping book group is perfect.
A book group where I didn’t have to read a book, but bring an old, beloved book I was willing to part with, and in return, come home replenished with new literary treasures.
For my first meet up, November last year, I lost my bearings and wandered around rue du Faubourg St Martin, looking aimlessly for Les Vinaigriers restaurant.
I arrived forty-five minutes late, wracked with nerves, hoping I’d find someone to swap my books with, and desperately hoping that they didn’t think I had really bad taste in reading.
But they had waited patiently for this London newbie to Paris. The food turned out to be great and the company warm and welcoming.
I have been back to pretty much all the book swapping meet ups. And some of the books I have chosen to give away include: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, Brick Lane by Monica Ali, Happily Ever After by Jenni Diski. I have even unleashed Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman. I always return home with quite a haul!
I love the book swap as well as the books I get to try a new restaurant, drink lots of wine and meet new people. And yes I’ve made friends through the book swapping book group.
When I get back to London I’d love to set up a book swapping book group. Eat, drink and read. Seriously what’s not to love!
How to host a book swapping book group
I wrote about this book group in my Mid-life making friends post, and I received a quite a few comments about it. If you like the idea of hosting a book swapping book group; here’s how we run ours:
A good book swapping book group needs a good host.
Ours in Melissa, a book lover who adores food and wine. It’s host’s job to set the date for the meet ups, choose and book the restaurant, welcome book swappers and kick of the book swapping session.
There is no chairing discussions about the ins and outs of plot or character dynamics. Hosting is purely a social function.
Our book swapping book group meetings are held monthly, with a break for the summer. At the end of the meet up we set the date for the next book swap – we are that keen.
Now, this is critical.
Melissa our foodie host searches out the restaurants. We’re happy to trust her judgement.
Each meet up we gather in a different venue and we haven’t been disappointed. We’ve booked swapped over Thai, Ethiopian, Basque, Italian, traditional French food, and a place that did trendy small pates (we may have to go back there again). It’s a chance for us to get out and discover new places. Also it makes people want to come back and attracts newcomers. It isn’t just about the books you know.
The book swap is our night out, away from the kids, cooking dinner, mopping floors. We make the most of it. Three courses is a must, and wine is essential, we can’t do book swap unless we are consuming excellent French wine (if you’re pregnant, you are excused).
Talking about the books
There’s no rushing our food.
We leave talking about the books until after the main course is cleared away and before the dessert arrives (French desserts are just far too distracting!). This is the perfect window of opportunity for book discussion.
We take it in turns to talk about our chosen books:
- Giving a short synopsis of the plot (helps to have read the book!)
- Why are we giving it away, why might someone else like to read it
- Did we enjoy it, even if we didn’t someone else might
Once books have been discussed, we swap, pudding arrives, and we eat again.
And for next time
We make a date for the next book swap, and leave happy.
Getting the word out
Our book swapping meetings aren’t closed, it’s open to any mum or dad who wants to join, whether it’s one meet up or all. There have been book swaps with three people, book swaps with over eight.
There are the regulars book swap groupies (yup me!) and people who want to try the restaurant that’s been picked, or because it’s on a night they can do, but so long as books are brought for swapping, people are welcome.
Meet Up and Facebook are the chosen shout out methods – works us!
Let me know if you get a book swapping book group going, any questions – just post a comment.
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