Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On how to throw a book swap party

Confession: I threw a book swap party before I had ever attended one.
I worked at a senior housing community for a while and had the idea when my church group announced they were holding one - several months in the future. So about a month before I attended my first book swap, I threw one.
It actually turned out okay! We had a few raffles, a table out for books, and some treats. We had a decent attendance (though not great). The funniest part was that I had several people feeling sheepish about not having any books to donate (they must have been book hoarders - which I completely understand), so they all showed up after the party to swipe a few books before I could donate them. I was proud to be part of a community that obviously valued reading and I was really excited to attend more book swaps.
Now that it’s time for you to throw your own book swap, here’s exactly what you need to do:
  1. Decide what will happen to any books left over - This, in my mind, is an important first step. Traditionally, any remaining books are donated to a local library or thrift store (one book swap I attended sold the books to Half Price Books and donated the money to a local church - they only got about $7, but it’s a nice thought that can motivate more people to come and bring books). However, if you don’t want the pressure of having to donate boxes of books, you can dictate that any books that aren’t claimed must be taken back by their owners.
  2. Plan a time/location/invite list - Once you’ve decided what to do with your books, it’ll be easier to nail down some of the other details. If you’re going to be donating books that are left, you may want to make it a smaller group so you have less books to haul around. However, if you rent a room at your local library for the swap and plan to donate your books there, having a lot of guests (and leftover books) won’t pose as much of a problem. Picking who to invite can also be difficult - you want to make sure you have people who enjoy reading and who will be able to find a new home for their old books while still finding something new for themselves. Inviting folks with compatible book tastes may limit your guest list - or you may decide to simply invite every book-lover you know so that everyone will have an opportunity to try something new. It’s up to you.
  3. Invite people! - This is a pretty straightforward step, but there are some adorable ideas online for cute invitations. If you want to browse a bit, check this Pinterest page. If you want someone to just give you an invitation idea, check this blog for an invitation freebie download.
  4. Pick a theme - You can center your party around a specific book or genre. You can have a library theme. The book swap I threw had a Spring Cleaning theme, with various cleaning products as raffle prizes. Another book swap I attended didn’t have a specific theme and just encouraged people to delight in the magic of literature.
  5. Don’t forget the food! - I’m a lazy party planner, so I tend to like serving simple foods - finger sandwiches, fruit salad, lemonade, store-bought cookies. Check this Barnes & Noble post ( for some fun book-themed food ideas.
  6. Book introductions - I didn’t do this at my book swap party, but if you want to motivate people to take home new and interesting books, have each guest plan to quickly spotlight one book they’ve brought so the rest of the party-goers will know why it’s such a good book - and why they should take it home. Alternately, you can have your guests write a quick note for each book (or even just their favorites) about why it’s worth reading and stick it in the book. That way, any interesting individuals will have a ready-made recommendation while they’re looking at the book.
  7. Get partying! - Once you have all this in order, it’s time to collect your books, get your theme and food items ready, and swap! Hopefully you’ll come away with some interesting books and a good evening to remember.

Have you ever thrown or attended a book swap? What thoughts or suggestions would you add to this list?

Monday, October 16, 2017

On bookstore dates

Once you’ve discovered that your potential love interest is as bookish as you’d hoped, it’s time for the next level: going to a bookstore together. This can be a daunting (and serious) step to get to in a relationship and you’ll want to keep this as light and enjoyable as you can (no matter how much you’re freaking out inside. Here are a few ideas for how to turn a serious step in your relationship into a lighthearted date:
  • Pick each other’s books - This is one date that I’ve done a few times and it’s a really enjoyable way to get to know someone. Together, search the bookstore and pick out a book for your date with details of why you picked it and why you love that book. You each take your new book home, read it, and then talk about it on your next date.
  • Scavenger hunt - A scavenger hunt is a fun date that can require some planning, but is superfun. There are a couple different ways you can do this:
    • Find books that fit certain criteria that will help you get to know each other better.
    • Find things within the books and magazines at your store - i.e. favorite jokes in a jokebook, recipe you want to make with your date, etc. There are some ideas here and here.
  • Read children’s books out loud to each other - I’ve done this on tons of dates (with a few different folks) and it’s a lot of fun. Each person picks out a few books, shares why they chose that book to read, and then reads it to their date. It gives you a chance to get to know your date without having to constantly come up with new questions to ask - the conversation flows better as you hear stories about each other and learn little likes and dislikes that normally wouldn’t come to light. It’s also a silly way to connect and have fun.
    • For a variation on this, go to the children’s storytime with a date. These are absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. If you feel uncomfortable being the only adults, bring along one of your kids or borrow a child (with the parent’s permission, of course).
  • Making out in the back - This is a very silly and sweet thing you can do in just about any bookstore. All you have to do is find a spot where you won’t be disturbed for a few minutes and lock lips for a bit.

Do you have any other bookstore date ideas? Have you tried any of these or do you have fun stories regarding bookstores and dates?

Friday, October 13, 2017

On songs that I wish were books

This post was inspired by the Broke and the Bookish.

There are plenty of songs that tell a bit of a story, but not enough of one to satisfy book-lovers like me. Here are a few songs that I wish were books:

  • “The Shankill Butchers” by The Decemberists - A terrifying tale about what the Shankill Butchers do to little kids who don’t listen to their parents. I would totally read this book and it would be chilling.

  • ”Elevator Operator” by Courtney Barnett - This story of a man who just wants to be an elevator operator would be a delightful novella. I’d love to read more details about him giving his tie to a homeless man and talking with the woman in the elevator.

  • Splendor & Misery album by .clipping - I know this album already is a story (it even got nominated for a Hugo Award), but I’d love to read this in book form.

  • ”Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1”  by the Flaming Lips -Who doesn’t want a heroine who battles robots with martial arts? This book would be hilarious and delightful.

  • ”Crawl Out Through the Fallout” by Sheldon Allman - There are plenty of post-apocalyptic love stories, but this would be my favorite book.

  • ”Five Years” by David Bowie - If everyone finds out the world would be ending in five years, what would happen? Bowie addresses it wonderfully in this song, but I’d love to see more details about an individual and their experiences during the last five years of Earth.

  • ”Touch-tone Telephone” by Lemon Demon - I have absolutely no idea what this song is about (except he’s studying UFOlogy), but I think it’d be a hilariously random book.

  • ”If I Were a Pirate Ninja Zombie” by Captain Ambivalent - What would happen if someone was a pirate ninja zombie? Would he finally win her heart? This book would be so sweet and silly.

  • ”Ouija Board” by Morrissey - Boy meets girl. Girl dies. Boy debates using ouija board to call girl? I want to read this horror novel.

  • ”I Love You More Than I Hate My Period” by Say Anything - Stalker fangirls can be kind of funny and also terrifying. I want to read this book about musicians and killer fans.

What songs do you wish were books?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Series Review: The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.
Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge. (Steelheart description taken from Goodreads)

Brandon Sanderson’s The Reckoner’s trilogy about superheroes (and the terrible consequences of superpowers) is fun, fast-paced, and hilarious. I first read Steelheart when I was stuck in an airport for several hours and needed something to read. I managed to find an autographed copy in an airport bookstore (Thanks, Brandon) and read the entire thing before the plane showed up. It was a nice way to spend the day and immediately got me interested in finishing the series, which I did when a Sanderson-obsessed friend lent me the next two books. While this is not my favorite Sanderson series, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it for YA readers.
And now, for some pros and cons:

  • UNIQUE AND ENGAGING STORY - There aren’t a lot of superhero books that aren’t comics (at least, not that I’ve seen) and this series has an interesting take on superheroes - what makes someone with superpowers good or evil? How did they get their powers? What are the consequences of living in a society where a handful of people have superpowers? Sanderson addresses all these questions and gives a superhero-infested world a more realistic and dark mood. Especially interesting (to me, at least) is that the story follows a group of individuals who are not super, but who actively oppose the superheroes. This is something that we, as consumers of superhero franchises, have been conditioned not to expect. Stories are usually told from the superheroes’ points of view, right? Not in this case. And this unique perspective gives the reader a much-appreciated break from normal superhero lore and storytelling.
  • HILARIOUSLY TERRIBLE METAPHORS - This is honestly one of my favorite parts of the series. David, the main character, is awful at metaphors.
But even a ninety-year-old blind priest would stop and stare at this woman. If he weren’t blind, that is. Dumb metaphor, I thought. I’ll have to work on that one. I have trouble with metaphors.
He certainly does. And that’s not even the best awful metaphor Sanderson gives us. Here are a few more to whet your appetite:
He was right. I was letting myself get distracted, like a rabbit doing math problems instead of looking for foxes.
They looked so dangerous, like alligators. Really fast alligators wearing black. Ninja alligators.
It would be like finding out that you'd drawn lots for dessert at the Factory and been only one number off, only it didn't matter because Pete already snuck in to steal the dessert, so nobody was going to get any anyway - not even Pete, because it turns out there had never been any dessert to begin with.
  • CLASSIC SANDERSON TWIST ENDINGS - My favorite thing about reading a Sanderson book is that I can never be sure how it’s going to end. He’s a master at making you think one thing is going to happen and then going in a completely unexpected direction (that, in hindsight, actually makes a lot of sense and seems obvious upon a reread). This series was no exception. There are enough twists to keep things interesting and fun without giving the reader whiplash.

  • MEH CHARACTERS - I really didn’t connect with any of the characters in this series and I wasn’t that bothered by any character deaths, honestly. Prof was probably the most interesting character and even he was kind of dull and kind of a stereotype. I attribute this partly to this being a YA series (which aren’t exactly known for their insane character development).
  • A LITTLE CONVOLUTED - I’m a fast reader, meaning that sometimes, I skim books and miss important details. For most books, this isn’t a problem. For this series, it was a huge issue. I had to read far more carefully or I’d miss important details or new characters or the reasons for things happening or excellently bad metaphors. By the end of the series, there was so much information and conflict to keep track of that I was ready for it to be done and far less invested in the final book that I had been in the early books. This can be a pro if you’re someone who enjoys complex plots and lots of characters and drama, but for me, it was a bit much.

Have you read this series? What did you think of it? Who would you recommend this series to?

Monday, October 9, 2017

On books to help you finish Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge 2017

Book Riot’s Reader Harder Challenge is one of the more interesting reading challenges I’ve come across in recent years. It’s a lot to handle and it’s definitely a big commitment, but it broadens your bookish horizons in interesting ways and forces you to think about the books you read from new perspectives. If you’re working on this challenge (or if you even just want some new ideas of books to read), here are some suggestions for fulfilling each category in the 2017 challenge before the end of the year.

Read a book about sports.
Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn

Read a debut novel.

Read a book about books.
When I Was a Child I Read Books

Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
Signal to Noise

Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel

Read an all-ages comic.
The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury

Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4)

Read a travel memoir.
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

Read a book you’ve read before.
  • I’m afraid I won’t be much help for this one, but I reread Redwall by Brian Jacques

Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
The Golden Gate

Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
Beasts of No Nation

Read a fantasy novel.

Read a nonfiction book about technology.
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Read a book about war.
When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II

Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Lies We Tell Ourselves

Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
Saga, Vol. 1 (Saga, #1)
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

Read a classic by an author of color.
Kafka on the Shore

Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, #1)

Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
The Kindness of Enemies

Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel
The Paying Guests

Read a book published by a micropress.
The Third Squad

Read a collection of stories by a woman.
Six Bedrooms

Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei

Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.
Here Comes the Sun

What books are you reading for the Read Harder Challenge? What books would you add to these categories?