Sunday, 22 February 2015

Books, wine and red noses

I love books.  Not just reading, but books.  I surprised myself by disliking my Kindle very much when I got one -  I loved my iPhone and iPad, I'm not technology-averse, but I hadn't realised how much the physicality of a book mattered to me. A Kindle is handy for travelling (which I rarely do) and it would save on shelf space (a constant issue).  But if I really want to read something, I need an actual book.

The downside of this book fetish is that we never have enough space to keep all the books we have.  With 3 reading-mad kids the problem is only getting worse, so some years ago I hit on the perfect way to pass on books - a book swap party.

This is how it works:

I invite everyone I know on an open house basis. We all pile books we aren't likely to read again on the tables, have a good rummage for new things to read,  drink a lot of wine while chatting to people about the books, and put £1 in the charity pot for each book we take home.

Genius, don't you think?  Everyone gets rid of books they don't need and can choose new ones, we have a good time and whichever charity I've picked gets some money.  A good deal for everyone.

This year I chose to raise money for Comic Relief.  Red Nose Day is a month away but there's no reason not to start early.  Also, I'd been looking forward to the craft book Comic Relief was issuing this year, so I guess they were on my mind.

Miss B was enthusiastic 

She did a lovely job on the signs and negotiated a later bedtime so she could chat to people and look for books.

I'd baked some cheese straws, although as it was nearly St Valentine's day I made them in heart shapes.  I love cheese pastries. I use a Nigella Lawson recipe from the kids' section in How To Eat, but with mature cheddar and smoked paprika. The trouble is, no matter how many I make they never quite last long enough.
2 of 6 trays I baked
When the people came I had a brilliant time.  We chatted, I poured drinks and offered snacks, greeted newcomers and prevented my over-enthusiastic kids from absconding with the crisps. I relied on the shared experience of the books to get people talking. I love the book chatter I hear from the swapping tables - the "I loved that one," "Ooo, my mum read this and liked it," even the "Just hated it." The shared experience and enjoyment, or the strong difference of opinion... it's just ace.  Books are such parcels of happiness.

My Very Excellent Mate Emma brought along a copy of her latest book for children, Wild Thing Goes Camping which she kindly let me raffle off on her behalf, and dedicated the book to the winning child.  Another tenner for Comic Relief and a very lucky girl - thanks Emma!

The last of my friends left about 11:30, leaving behind a kitchen full of used wine glasses and a full charity jar.  There were some bottles of wine too, so Mark and I "bought" them from the book swap and popped money in the jar.

I was too wide awake at that point, so I settled in with The Great British Sewing Bee to unwind.  I can't resist the Bake Off, Sewing Bee and Allotment Challenge.  I love enthusiasts having a go. Fearlessly attempting, even.

The next morning, having raised over £90 for Comic Relief with the books we swapped, there were still heaps left.  I could have had another event with the leftovers! by evening they were all delivered to the charity shop and we'd moved the furniture back to its normal position.

That's it until next year.  I wonder how many more book swaps I can host before ebooks kill it off.  A fair few more, I hope.

J xx


  1. Fantastic idea :) When we were clearing belongings and fundraising to head off travelling I had a couple of open house book sales with tea, biscuits and books for sale - really popular, lots of run, good fundraiser and as you say book related chatter is lovely :)

  2. I think I might have to do this for the local sling library or something.