How to run a book swapping book group

How to run a book swapping book group

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:

The host

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.

This post has affiliate links, which means could I receive a bit of money if you make a purchase using the above links. 

I want you to know that I only affiliate link to products I use, love and adore. Any money made will probably go towards my chocolate and red wine habit! 


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    • Tooting Mama
      September 29, 2016 / 5:12 pm

      It’s been a brilliant way to meet like minded people – even better when there’s good food and wine thrown in!

  1. September 28, 2016 / 2:41 pm

    This is a really fab idea!! Like you say, great food, wine, the chance to meet new people, as well as a haul of books-there seems absolutely nothing not to love here!! I’ve just started reading again-the children have been so full on, and any spare time I did have, was spent working on the blog, I hadn’t actually read a book since before the smallest was born 2&1/2 years ago! I’ve just bought the two latest JK Rowling crime novels (using the Robert Gailbraith pseudonym,) because the last book I had read before the smallest came was her first one of that series!! I’d love to try this, it sounds like brilliant fun!!

    • Tooting Mama
      September 29, 2016 / 5:14 pm

      I have to say the book swap isn’t my idea but it’s still a fab way to run a book group. I love those Robert Gailbraith books they’re fab. Kate Atkinson also writes crime fiction and they’re brilliant too – well worth a read!

    • Tooting Mama
      September 29, 2016 / 5:16 pm

      The book swap is such a great way to recycling and re-energise your book collection and to get you reading again, well worth a go!

  2. September 27, 2016 / 2:12 pm

    This is such a fantastic idea! I love exploring new food, books and wine! What a perfect night out. I want to come too! 🙂 Thank you so much for the handy tips on how to start up – this is great and sharing it on #FabFridayPost x
    Su {Ethan & Evelyn} recently posted…#FabFridayPost Linky #50 {23.09.16}My Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 29, 2016 / 5:18 pm

      It’s a pretty perfect meet up if you love food wine and books!

  3. September 27, 2016 / 12:55 pm

    What a great idea and the whole socialising side really appeals to me. I adore reading and I try to read every evening before bed to relax. I would love to read more and I hope to as the girls get older. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x
    Laura – dear bear and beany recently posted…Review: Halloween Shopping with B&M…My Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 27, 2016 / 1:55 pm

      I love the #SharingtheBlogLove linky. I love to read too, but these days only manage to grab about 5-10 minutes each night. But it’s better than nothing!

  4. September 27, 2016 / 10:27 am

    Great ideas. I love the idea of a book swapping group. I need to start making more time to read again.

    • Tooting Mama
      September 27, 2016 / 1:51 pm

      Now that’s my problem – all this blogging is seriously eating up my reading time!

  5. September 26, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    A swap club’s a great idea. I read quickly but I’m not sure I’d always want to read the books set. #sharingthebloglove

    • Tooting Mama
      September 27, 2016 / 1:50 pm

      The swap is a fab idea, you just swap books you have loved, and return, only if you like them, get other books you might want to read. It’s pretty much a win-win. Happy reading!

  6. September 26, 2016 / 7:52 pm

    Oh this sounds like a fantastic idea. I love the twist on a regular book group. I have actually been in a few book clubs. They were great but I always felt such pressure to read the books in a certain timeframe and that didn’t always happen. I love this idea. And the good food and wine make it sounds even more genius. Hugs Lucy xxxx
    Mrs H recently posted…Giveaway with Bambini & MeMy Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 27, 2016 / 1:47 pm

      I wish i had thought up the idea but it wasn’t me! It’s been in Paris for a number of years, but such a brilliant idea. I agree, so much less pressure to read a book and turn up prepared to have a discussion – bring out the food and wine and enjoy!

  7. Yvonne
    September 26, 2016 / 6:52 pm

    I have never heard of this, what a clever idea. Love that it has an added bonus of wine and socialising 🙂 Good luck with setting something up in London when you go back, i would certainly be interested if you do xx

    • Tooting Mama
      September 27, 2016 / 1:46 pm

      Thank you! I do hope I manage to get something set up!

  8. September 26, 2016 / 9:32 am

    I love this idea! I read almost exclusively on my kindle these days, but I do love having an actual book in my hand #bigpinklink

    • Tooting Mama
      September 26, 2016 / 10:51 am

      I’m a kindle convert, and there’s some great reads I’m dying to swap. I’ve decided to get some vintage versions of my kindle reads to swap.

  9. September 26, 2016 / 6:42 am

    Oh my word I love the idea of this so much more than a book club. I love the romantic pull of the Parisian setting though – seems a long way to come and join your group though! But just how wonderful?! #fortheloveofBLOG
    justsayingmum recently posted…The Teen Years Interview Series: Kate OrsonMy Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 26, 2016 / 10:50 am

      Hey set up your own, you could have themes – cook book swap, go to a French restaurant, swap classics, what ever!!! Go on do it!!

    • Tooting Mama
      September 26, 2016 / 10:49 am

      Thank you.

    • Tooting Mama
      September 25, 2016 / 6:10 pm

      Aww thank you! It sure does tick all the boxes, thanks for stopping by.

  10. September 25, 2016 / 11:51 am

    I love this idea – I love introducing people to books that I’ve really loved. Holding it in a restaurant each time appeals massively to me as well. I desperately want to read more (in fact, I’ve had the ‘new’ Kate Atkinson on my shelf for I think around a year and a half now), but never quite manage to find the time. I think like Laura above I’d love to think about doing something like this once Max is a little bit older. Thanks so much for joining us again at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Katy – Hot Pink Wellingtons recently posted…5 Happy Things #23My Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 25, 2016 / 6:11 pm

      I love Kate Atkinson – you must read it! It’s tough when they’re little to find reading time, or just the energy to consume a good book. So when Max is a little older – get the book swap book group started! You’ll love it!

  11. September 24, 2016 / 9:31 pm

    This sounds like a really good and fun idea! A great way to find new authors to read.

    • Tooting Mama
      September 25, 2016 / 11:24 am

      Yes, it’s been great to be introduced to new writers. I meet quite a few Americans and Canadians so have got introduced to their writers. Likewise I’ve introduced people to British writers I have enjoyed reading.

  12. September 24, 2016 / 7:16 pm

    I’ve never heard of a book swapping book group before but it sounds great. It’s a really good way to meet like minded people. Glad you’ve met some new friends. Jo x

    • Tooting Mama
      September 25, 2016 / 11:22 am

      I hadn’t hear of the concept before I arrived here, and I love it. It’s been such a brilliant way to meet new people. Thanks for stopping by.

  13. September 24, 2016 / 3:26 pm

    I attend a book club but to be honest it is getting a bit stale and could do with a shake up, this sounds like a great idea. I have hundreds of books some dating back to my time reading English at University so it would be a good way to recycle them. Glad that you are still finding great ways to meet new people. #fortheloveofBLOG

    • Tooting Mama
      September 25, 2016 / 11:21 am

      Thank you! Sounds like you can shake things up with your book club, I say go for it!

  14. September 24, 2016 / 11:55 am

    What a great idea, especially when you move to a new country. My two favourite things food and reading, swapping books before dessert sounds essential.

    • Tooting Mama
      September 25, 2016 / 11:20 am

      Thank you! Dessert deserves uninterrupted attention!

  15. September 24, 2016 / 10:45 am

    A great idea on all counts – friendship, good food, and books 🙂

    • Tooting Mama
      September 25, 2016 / 11:19 am

      Aww thanks, the book swap is one of my best nights out.

  16. September 24, 2016 / 10:13 am

    This sounds like so much fun! I would love to do this as it sounds much more social than a book club discussing books all evening but pretty much all the books I buy new these days are on my kindle! Hard to swap a kindle! #fabfridaypost
    Kat recently posted…Travel Photography – Part OneMy Profile

    • Tooting Mama
      September 24, 2016 / 10:38 am

      That’s my challenge, but I’ve decided to buy some second hand books to swap! I’m not missing my night out!

  17. September 23, 2016 / 6:12 pm

    I would love to start a book swapping group but I never find the time. This was really helpful in explaining how to start one, I think that when the children are a little older I will finally get round to sorting one! #fabfridaypost

    • Tooting Mama
      September 23, 2016 / 7:22 pm

      I do hope you do get a book swapping group together, it’s a great way of getting hold of new books and recycling your old ones.

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