literary food blog, for readers with good taste.

How to start a book swap club

How to start a book swap club | www.paperplatesblog.com

Being a bookworm can be expensive. These days I'm trying to find ways to get more books onto my shelves without the two-week limit of a library nor the cost of buying. That's why I thought of doing a book swap club.

What is a book swap club? Unlike a traditional book club, this kind of club doesn't force everyone to read the same book, nor does it require you to hit scheduled reading milestones. Truth be told, I like the idea of regularly meeting to chat about books, but I think traditional book clubs are too inflexible. Heck, that's why PAPER/PLATES club is virtual, ongoing and commitment-free.

Back to the point. A book swap club is a fun, low cost way to socialize and get new books. Here are some tips for starting your own.


Because let's be honest — with fewer than four people, it's not much of a club, is it? I recommend having at least this many people to bring in a variety of voices and book selections. As your group grows, you may want to add friends, but each meeting should top out at about 10 people. If someone makes it some meetings and not others, no worries. 


Our group set a rule that each person should bring two physical books each. Physical because it's pretty tough to share digital books and two because, again, it gives you more to talk about and a bigger selection of titles to browse.

Have each person introduce her book, explain why she liked it and describe the type of person who might enjoy it. When the introductions are complete, pass the book around to give everyone a chance to read book jackets and first pages, then politely decide who will take which one.


Each person should take home one books that's not their own, but no more than two. She can pick books from any of the others, and should be okay with taking any of hers home if no one picks them. It's not personal. 

In terms of returning, groups must decide if each book must be returned at the following meeting. For groups meeting frequently, it may make sense not to give back books the next time you meet. The point here is to read for pleasure, not deadlines.

Swapping books over donuts and coffee at Stan's Donuts in Chicago.

Swapping books over donuts and coffee at Stan's Donuts in Chicago.


The "when" of meeting is frankly more important than the "where." This past weekend, our club met at Stan's Donuts. Next time, we might get together at one of our apartments. Since you'll probably only meet for an hour, the location can be flexible. It's more important to pick an interval — monthly seems reasonable — for scheduling and planning purposes. Just don't forget the snacks.


Start an email chain, Facebook group, Goodreads group or some other means for group members to communicate. This is a good way to figure out where and when to meet next, but it's also useful for letting someone else know if you'll be keeping her book longer than expected. Plus, you can use that forum to share interesting tidbits or follow-ups between meetings.


Don't get hung up on the world "club." Your book swap club can be as formal or as casual as you want. In my opinion, keeping it open to those who may not be able to participate every time, for example, is a great way to meet new friends and (even better) new books.


The titles we shared at our book swap club meeting last weekend were: Cutting For Stone by Abraham Varghese; Freedom by Jonathan Franzen;  Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott; The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri; Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo; Love, Inshallah by Nura Maznavi and Ayesha Mattu; Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay; and Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

I chose Cutting for Stone and The Lowland.

The TBR List: Flight

The TBR List: Flight

"Me Before You" by Jojo Moyes — book club discussion and menu