I'm so happy that Meg Waite Clayton, bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters, was able to stop by my Open House. And I'm so happy that she's sharing, so appropriately for this blog, her book club's holiday tradition. My book club does something somewhat similar, though up here in the Northeast we call it a Yankee Swap, and we haven't done it with books,and we argue every year about just how the swapping is supposed to happen. But I digress, read on for a great idea that your book group might want to adopt!
A Holiday (Book Club) Tradition
My book club first started meeting in January some years ago, so it was a year before we had to face the what-if-anything-to-do-for-the holidays thing. Like most clubs, we spend one evening a month discussing a book we’ve all read, and we do love that, but by the time our first holiday together rolled around it seemed not quite festive enough for what had evolved from a disjointed collection of neighbor acquaintances into a gathering of true friends.
There were more than a dozen of us that first year, though – we now count twenty-four members – and none of us wanted to add that many names to our must-buy-for list.
I'm sure there are lots of ways to have fun with a Book Club at the holidays, but we started a tradition that first year that has become our most-looked-forward-to gathering each year: dinner and a holiday book swap in lieu of a December read. I can’t begin to tell you why it’s so fun, but try it and you’ll see:
Everyone brings a book they enjoyed reading (not one we've ever read for the group), wrapped in swanky paper and bows. (Mine is always the pathetic-looking one; I flunked Fancy Wrapping 101!)
We pile the presents in the center of our circle, then draw numbers. No, wait! First, we pour some fancy, not-too-alcoholic drink that usually includes champagne, and we nosh a little. Then we draw numbers (nothing swanky, just numbered scraps of paper thrown into a bowl).
The person who holding #1 gets to choose a present. Feeling and shaking of unopened packages is permitted, and even encouraged. Sadly, different books don’t shake all that differently, so not much is to be learned.
Whoever brought the opened book tells us all a little about it.
The person holding #2 then gets to choose either to open another package or to steal #1's book. If she chooses to steal, #1 opens a second book.
#3 then gets to open or steal, and can steal any of the books that have been opened. If a book is stolen, the poor member left bookless gets to open or steal again – any book except the one just stolen from them or one that has already been stolen 3 times.
Once everyone has an opened book, #1 can put her book in the center and steal any book she wants, even the thrice stolen ones. At which point the stealing goes on until someone wants the book in the center. Which never does seem to happen before our spouses will all have gotten our children safely to bed and asleep.
It's really great fun, and we end up learning about new reading possibilities, even if we didn't get to take them home. And an added bonus: it gets us thinking about what we might read together in the new year.
Happy Holiday Reading! - Meg