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How to Host a Successful Book Swap

Last updated: March 27, 2024

The only thing better than reading a great book is sharing and discussing it with others.

My friend Marcus decided to host a book swap and cocktail party for 17 of his friends. They all loved it!

In this blog post, I’ll show you how to host a book swap so your friends can share their favorite books. Read this post to learn:

  • The best party RSVP platform
  • How to set up your venue for a book swap
  • Which book categories and themes work great
  • How to help your guests socialize with icebreakers
Why you should listen to me: Hey there! My name is Nick Gray, and I have hosted thousands of parties. I even wrote a book about hosting cocktail parties. A book swap is one of my favorite types of parties. It allows you to share and discuss your favorite books with your friends.

Book Swap RSVP Page

One of the most important things you need to do is set up your RSVP page. I like using Mixily for my own parties as it’s easy to use and you can collect your guests’ emails for your party reminders.

Marcus created his RSVP page on Luma. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I’ve heard great things about it.

RSVP page on Luma for cocktail party and book swap event
Marcus’s RSVP page for his Cocktail Night and Book Swap

Marcus chose the best place to host his party – his own house.

His party was from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This gave his guests enough time to finish their workday and eat dinner before arriving.

The Book Swap Setup

Having plenty of space and tables for a book swap is essential.

You can arrange your dining table and side tables so that your guests can easily see all of the books.

Table filled with books
The book table filled with books brought by the guests

During the event, Marcus asked people to take a look at the books and make a note of which book they would like to take.

At the end of the event, people would take whichever title they wanted on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Books laid out on a sofa with a note, Book Sofa
There was not enough table space so Marcus improvised with a book sofa

Another good idea is to set guidelines for the condition and genre of the books you want your guests to bring. This will help your guests know which of their books to bring and what to expect at your party.

Food & Drinks

Having some basic snacks at your party is a plus. But don’t go all out with the snacks, your guests came for the books and not for the food.

Here are some of my favorite snack options that are easy to prepare:

  • Chips and Dip: Offer a variety of chip flavors and dip options such as guacamole, salsa, hummus, or ranch.
  • Veggie Platter: This is always a healthy and popular option! You could include carrots, celery, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Cheese and Crackers: A simple and elegant choice that can be made more festive with the addition of grapes, olives, or nuts.
  • Pretzels: A great salty snack that can be served on their own. You can even pair them with mustard or cheese dip.

Marcus set up his island counter as the drink and snack counter. He prepared wine, whiskey, gin, soda, and water for his drinks.

One brilliant idea he had was to put some sticky notes on his table. This informed his guests about the various types of alcohol, allowing them to select their own drinks.

5 Book Swap Icebreakers

Icebreakers are a great way to spark new connections and conversations at your events.

I love to use these icebreakers at my parties:

  • What was the first book you remember reading?
  • What is your favorite book of all time?
  • Which book has left the most lasting impression on you?
  • What book is on your bedside table at the moment?

These icebreakers will help your guests know what other people are interested in.

Guest Feedback

Marcus’s guests thought his book swap was a blast! Here is what Marcus told me after his party:

“It was so nice and fun to see people coming together!

Being my first time, I definitely had areas that I needed to sharpen and improve for my first event. I actually love the idea of having the book swap, as it allows people to bring something tangible home.

I’m doing this again!”

Marcus got lots of great comments about the event, which is encouraging for his first swap party.

Here are two comments from his guests that stuck out to him:

“Marcus! Thanks for hosting this really cool networking night and book swap. Really novel idea and fun to chat about books, interests, and perspectives with people! Really loved the night and great on hosting/facilitating that made this an enjoyable night for all!”

“Hi Marcus! Thanks for the invite again, I really REALLY enjoyed myself. I felt assured on so many levels.”


Hosting your own book swap with the concepts from my book makes for a great combination.

I’m glad that Marcus hosted this party, and I’m proud of him for making it a huge success!

To host your own book swap, you’ll need to remember:

  • The best party RSVP platform
  • How to set up your venue for a book swap
  • Which book categories and themes work great
  • How to help your guests socialize with icebreakers

Read this article if you’re planning to host a party for your book club.

My name is Nick Gray. I wrote a book called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party that teaches you how to have a successful party regardless of whether it’s your first or hundredth time hosting. I’m really proud of it.

When is your party? Send me an email and I will give you some bonus tips, including a pre-party checklist that you can print out. Plus I’ll answer any question you have, free of charge. I love talking about parties and I’m on a mission to help 500 people host their first party.

Leave a comment on this article here.

About the author

Nick Gray is the author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. He’s been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and in a popular TEDx talk. He sold his last company Museum Hack in 2019. Today he’s an expert on networking events, small parties, and creating relationships. Read more about Nick Gray here.

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