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Book Swap

By Luke Francl in Culture
Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 04:41:23 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

I recently attended a book swap hosted by some friends. A book swap is exactly what it sounds like: you get together with a bunch of people and exchange books. A book swap is a sort of literary stone soup. Everyone who attends adds a little something, and the result is greater than the sum of its parts. It's surprisingly fun and very interesting to see what gems people dig up.

The books you'll find at a book swap will run the gamut from campy to classic. You can tell some books are there because people just wanted to get rid of them. But others are clearly important to their owners, who've contributed them to pass them on to someone else. These are the best books.

My girlfriend and I didn't really know what to expect from the book swap. We didn't know how many to bring, so we emptied our shelves of books we didn't want or wanted to give away, ending up with 14 books. Some were worthwhile (like A Clockwork Orange and Pillars of the Earth) and others were not.

We were a bit early, but after a while the people (and books) started pouring in. People milled around the table, checking out the recent additions and browsing for books. Amusingly, four pairs of books were duplicates, brought by different people (The Outsider, One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Pillars of the Earth, and Memoirs of Geisha). After a while, people started claiming their choices and contributors tried to pawn off the books they'd brought.

At the end of the night, we ended up with 16 new books:

How to host a book swap

As you can see, a book swap is a fun and cheap way to get some new books to read. Here's how you can host your own:

  1. Pick a time and place and send out invitations. To reach critical mass, you need to have people there who don't know each other, so invite a lot of people. Mention the minimum number of books attendees should bring. Three is a good number (at our book swap the number of books people actually brought ranged from 0 to 24 books).
  2. Get a large quantity of alcohol or the socializing drug of your choice, or recommend BYOB. This will help people mix and swap books.
  3. Clear off a large flat surface to put the books on. Your table will work nicely, but you'll find it's probably not big enough (the table at our book swap was stacked 3 books deep). Make sure there's plenty of standing room around the table for browsers.
  4. Wait for people to arrive and deposit their books. Have a few beers and check out the selection. After everyone has had a chance to look at the books, start grabbing 'em. Each person should only take as many books as they contributed.
  5. Sit back and enjoy!

At the end of the night, you'll probably end up with quite a few books that nobody has claimed. These books are fair game for anyone who wants to take them home, even if they've already taken their share. After that, you'll probably still have extra books. I recommend donating these books to your local library, Good Will, or a book charity like Baltimore's Book Thing.


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Related Links
o The Giver
o The Theory of Peasant Economy
o Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
o Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat
o The Plague
o A Separate Peace
o Bridget Jones's Diary
o Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
o The Shipping News
o Worlds of Pain: Life in the Working-Class Family
o One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
o Book Thing
o Also by Luke Francl

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Book Swap | 48 comments (41 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Tom Wolfe (4.33 / 3) (#1)
by jij on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 07:42:31 PM EST

Um, Ken Kesey wrote that one.

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric

Oops. (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by Luke Francl on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 07:47:51 PM EST

Where did that come from?

[ Parent ]
"The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test", maybe (2.50 / 2) (#5)
by jij on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 07:58:37 PM EST

Tom Wolfe wrote it, Ken Kesey was in the book.

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric
[ Parent ]

Amazon.com (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by Luke Francl on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:06:34 PM EST

I notice that if you follow the link I give to One Flew over the Cuckoo's nest, Amazon.com has one of those "buy these books together" things for The Electric Kool-aid Test...I probably just read the wrong spot on the page.

[ Parent ]
Both books are worth reading (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by jij on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:14:12 PM EST

No harm, no foul. :)

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric
[ Parent ]

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest... (4.66 / 3) (#6)
by watercrazy on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:02:02 PM EST

...was written by Kesey, not Wolfe. It's a decent but misguided novel, sort of unreflectively anti-authority. One of only a handful of cases where the movie version nearly matched the aesthetic quality of the book. It's more interesting, ironically, to read about what Kesey did with the Merry Pranksters in Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test".

I think book swaps are corny anyway though. They're entertaining and somewhat rewarding, perhaps, but no more so than is browsing through a used book store.

"Greatness recognizes greatness, and is shadowed by it." --Harold Bloom

MLP (3.25 / 4) (#9)
by nih5oruk on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:23:15 PM EST


Tracking books given away (none / 0) (#27)
by I am Jack's username on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 07:04:16 AM EST

BookCrossing.com is a site where you can register books, put a sticker on them (or just write the registration number, URL, and details inside), release them somewhere interesting, and get emails when someone else comments on finding them. Very cool project. I've released one book so far.

See also Where's George - a fun USD bill tracker.
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Isn't this generally considered theft? (2.93 / 49) (#11)
by Steve Ballmer on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:33:00 PM EST

Books aren't sold: they're licensed. Sharing your book with another person is bound to be a violation of your End User License Agreement. This "book swap" you propose is nothing more than a meatspace version of Napster.

Begone, foul Microsoft creature! (3.00 / 3) (#13)
by jij on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 08:47:34 PM EST

Go back to your monkey dancing and take your anti-fair use spam with you.

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric
[ Parent ]

-1, US centric (3.00 / 4) (#14)
by andrewm on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 09:08:35 PM EST

That may well apply in the US for all I know, but in many other parts of the world, second hand books, software, etc are completely legal - and no EULA can do anything about that.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, whoever you really are :)

[ Parent ]

down troll, down (3.00 / 3) (#17)
by mscholz on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 09:48:38 PM EST

It's possible you are engaging in "sarcasm" or "satire" in which case you need to seriously re-examine your phraseology.
you are a shining light streaming up through a hellish, smoking chasm of stupidity. - webwench
[ Parent ]
Oops (none / 0) (#21)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 12:22:58 AM EST

Wrong account.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. (none / 0) (#26)
by edhall on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 06:42:16 AM EST

The FBI would have started raiding used bookstores long ago if your argument had a shread of basis to it.

Begone, troll.


[ Parent ]
Wrong site... (none / 0) (#33)
by curunir on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 02:05:29 PM EST

Perhaps you should be posting here. Take what you've written here and post it verbatim to any story posted there and you will get the "+5 funny" that you seem to have been trying for.


[ Parent ]
Humor, people! (4.25 / 4) (#39)
by pla on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:19:49 PM EST

He *so* obviously meant that as a joke, not as a troll. Get out of the house, folks. Interact with other humans. Learn that people don't always mean what they say literally. We have these subtle concepts called "sarcasm" and "parody". Sometimes they don't come out so well in print, but in this case, it seems glaringly obvious.

If the text itself didn't give away the intended humor, the big bold quote by (of all people) Steve Ballmer should have clued at least a few people in...

+5, not that it will help much against the 40 other ratings (as of my vote).

[ Parent ]
Interesting idea (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by DesiredUsername on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 09:13:11 PM EST

I can see where this would be kinda fun--getting to see what trashy books other people are reading or getting/giving good ideas for classics you've/they've never heard of. But as a means to getting new material for free, it seems like it would pale in comparison to even a small-town library.

Play 囲碁
Quality of Books/Quality of Friends (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by jck2000 on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 08:36:16 AM EST

Several posters have questioned whether a swap among friends is better than other secondary market sources of books (used book store, library or even library-sponsored used book sale). Well, that depends on the type of books your friends have and are willing to give away. If they have poor taste, or are just looking to dump their garbage, maybe so. If, instead, they are looking to expose their friends to something interesting, provocative, unusual or otherwise worthwhile, then such waps have potential advantages over these other sources.

I had a friend in high school who was two years older than me. When he left for college, he gave me a set of books (mostly SF, but some plain F and some NF), subject to my promise that, once I read each (or decided not to read it), I had to give it to someone else, and procure the same promise from them. When I first got into Linux and learned about the GPL, I thought back to this event -- funnily enough, the friend went to MIT and looked like RMS (as I am sure a decent percentage of MIT does/did).

[ Parent ]

ooh Malzberg (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by anonymous cowerd on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 10:39:53 PM EST

The Destruction of the Temple is very good. I liked Beyond Apollo a lot too. Come to think of it, though, those stories were real time-dependent, in the sense of "you'd have had to be there to understand it." Then again maybe they can bring the undercurrent of those days to life for you ahistorical youngsters.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net.

A drowning man asks for pears from the willow tree.

Having a hard time getting into it (none / 0) (#24)
by Luke Francl on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 12:53:47 AM EST

That could explain why I'm having a hard time getting into it. I started reading the first couple of chapters. I'll give it a few more before I give up.

I picked up that book because it was one of the few science fiction books there (besides my own copy of A Clockwork Orange) and it looked kinda interesting...

[ Parent ]

HAHAhahahaha (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by JChen on Sun Dec 01, 2002 at 11:09:44 PM EST

The Giver. Is it The Giver? You know what I'm talking about.

Anyways, I had to read The Giver for sixth grade. It was another one of those Ayn Rand-ish books with lots of good metaphors. Unless you like doom-prophesizing (in the sense that society will turn into some dictatorship) and a hero who breaks the shakles of his oppressors, it's just another "one of those books".

Let us do as we say.

Yup (none / 0) (#23)
by Luke Francl on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 12:51:44 AM EST

I never read it when I was younger but lately I heard it was a good book. I added it to my "books to read" list but never seriously considered buying it.

It was pretty good, though I'm glad I didn't have to pay for it. I finished it in a couple of hours.

I describe it as Brave New World for Tots.

[ Parent ]

TheGiver=one of the best books I've ever read (nt) (none / 0) (#40)
by auraslip on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 11:59:07 PM EST

[ Parent ]
A Separate Peace (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by SwampGas on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 01:46:21 AM EST

Yeah...required reading for 10th grade English...but still a decent book.

I appreciated it more when I wasn't forced to read it and quized on it, though.

Oh my god (none / 0) (#43)
by CarryTheZero on Tue Dec 03, 2002 at 12:48:57 PM EST

My girlfriend and I were just talking about this thing a few days ago. What a terrible piece of crap! Who cares about those worthless prep-school losers and their stupid problems? I think the only way this still gets read is that schoolkids are forced to.

You said I'd wake up dead drunk / alone in the park / I called you a liar / but how right you were
iTunes users: want to download album artwork automatically? Now you can.
[ Parent ]
I never got the ending: (none / 0) (#44)
by JChen on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 08:49:37 AM EST

did the kid's friend die of a blood clot being jammed in his brain or something?

I mean, seriously. Doesn't that kind of stuff happen to old people? The protagonist was weak and insecure, whose indecision and stupidity as well as a willingness to conform to the WASP prep boy image. Furthermore, outside of mindless chatter, the book has no climax: one learns of his friend's death by third-party sources. In all, it fails to give the reader a sense of satisfaction and conclusion.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]

* indoors is stupid. (none / 0) (#46)
by eann on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 08:20:32 PM EST

This was (and is) a longtime running joke among my clique of college friends, from the time we discovered that we'd all had to both read it and watch the insipid movie version in vastly disparate high schools, and that the movie had made the original Finny quote ("Swimming indoors is stupid.") significantly more asinine ("Jumping indoors is stupid."), presumably only because they didn't have the budget to film in some school's natatorium somewhere.

We most commonly apply it to driving, when forced to use a parking garage.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.

[ Parent ]
hmm (3.66 / 3) (#29)
by corian on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 08:51:20 AM EST

Something's not right here. :)


we emptied our shelves of books we didn't want or wanted to give away, ending up with 14 books.

At the end of the night, we ended up with 16 new books:


After everyone has had a chance to look at the books, start grabbing 'em. Each person should only take as many books as they contributed.

and, further on: (none / 0) (#30)
by llimllib on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 08:54:34 AM EST

At the end of the night, you'll probably end up with quite a few books that nobody has claimed. These books are fair game for anyone who wants to take them home, even if they've already taken their share.

[ Parent ]
now it gets more difficult (none / 0) (#32)
by corian on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 11:27:59 AM EST

so here's the game, then... figure out which of the 16 books listed the author chose, and which two were the leftovers. This will take some thought.

[ Parent ]
3 were leftovers (none / 0) (#36)
by Luke Francl on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 04:23:52 PM EST

Actually, 3 of the books were leftovers. We initially only took 13 books (one less than we brought). At the end of the night, we grabbed 3 more that no one wanted. One of the was A Theory of Peasant Economy but I can't remember the others.

[ Parent ]
give away my books? never ever! (5.00 / 6) (#31)
by anotherda5id on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 09:06:04 AM EST

at first, it sounded like a fun idea. heck, it might even save money. you might get some good books by getting rid of the ones you are not going to read again anyways.

but then, i would never part with my books. i won't throw them away, or give them away. certainly not the good ones.

so all i have to contribute would be the books i don't like anyways. probably because they are meaningless, badly written or badly translated. i would believe others would think the same. so in the end you have all the book noone wants anyway.

of course, your example says the opposite. which kind of surprised me. but then again, i would be the dumbass who only brought bad books, which would make me feel bad.

One man's trash... (nt) (none / 0) (#35)
by KnightStalker on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 03:17:44 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Just you wait till you have to move. (none / 0) (#37)
by Apuleius on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 06:10:49 PM EST

Then you'll be far less enamoured with your library. That's why before moving I go to used bookstores and do a barter (I usually get about 4 ounces back per pound.)

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
nah, no way ... (3.66 / 3) (#38)
by mami on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 07:14:53 PM EST

I don't know how often I moved my books (even over the Atlantic), but I guess it's more than eight times. I hated it, but I did. I didn't give up my books and would not easily do now. I attach to the books, even the ones I didn't read, memories. At least I remember always when and why I bought them, and then I remember all the dreams I had to read all of them and to learn all that was in there, though I ended up lately never to be able to read them. (ah, can you imagine how people enjoy to ridicule me for that).

I admit I have given up, or let's say life hasn't been nice with me and I had to ship them to storage and am not capable to get them back since over two to three years now. I can't afford a place large enough to hold my books and all other stuff I don't want to give away. I live with a fraction of my books since over eight years.

I have books on storage in Germany, and in two storage locations in the US. I miss them every day. But I don't give up to one day have a place of my own, big enough to hold what I collected during the last fourtyfive years.

You must have a good memory, if you can afford to give away your books. What if you want to reread something?

Anyhow, I am a nut person with regards to books. People laugh at me, because I can't read anymore all I want to read. I am getting old. But one day it will be my day of revenge. I am going to live on my nest egg and do nothing but enjoy all the books as slow and thorough or fast and superficial as I want to. Nobody can take that away from me. I wouldn't give my books away, never.

I took all books over my father left us. And soon I will take over all books my mother will leave behind, tons of books about flowers, can you imagine? I always wanted to create a garden like she did, but helas one other dream unfulfilled.

It's true that I ruined my knees, because I always had to carry my book boxes and all the other stuff by myself and they are too heavy to lift on a regular basis all by yourself, at least if you have sixty boxes and more.

But hey, better bad knees and a lot of books in my old age than bad knees and no books in my old age.

Bye, you bookless infidel of a book reader.

[ Parent ]

You're not alone (none / 0) (#45)
by zakalwe on Wed Dec 04, 2002 at 11:34:19 AM EST

Absolutely! The concept of giving away my precious books seems obcene to me. My current collection isn't (yet) that huge ( ~650 books at last count, divided between my parent's house and my far too small room.), but its big enough to have completely used all available flat surfaces, and requires that some be stowed in several large boxes.

I find it bad enough that the book I want to reread might be at the bottom of a box, or worse - not even in the same building - never mind actually selling it so that its unavailalble at all. However, I share your dream - one day I'll have a house where every wall is one big bookcase and finding the book that I get a sudden compulsion to reread requires only a simple browse. Hopefully this will happen before the pile of books beside my bed falls over and crushes me some night.

[ Parent ]

dream on ... (2.00 / 1) (#47)
by mami on Sun Dec 08, 2002 at 05:24:53 PM EST

- one day I'll have a house where every wall is one big bookcase and finding the book that I get a sudden compulsion to reread requires only a simple browse. Hopefully this will happen before the pile of books beside my bed falls over and crushes me some night.

I thought so too, but then I realized that the walls of American houses are so thin that they would fall apart, if I really would try to hang shelves all over the walls to hold my books. I figure they would fall all apart and crush me some night.

So, better start searching for stones and start building a real house. Never trust an American developer to build the right house for all your books (and all your other dreams)... these folks are too greedy, they build you a kitchen so large you can dance in or slaughter two pigs at once, but who would want to dance with two dead pigs ... they certainly won't build walls that protect your privacy and security. Strange Americans ... :-)

[ Parent ]

you'd THINK that but... (none / 0) (#48)
by postindustrialist on Sat Dec 28, 2002 at 12:42:15 AM EST

people differ in their opinion of what's good or bad.i mean i hated moby dick but others loved it. same with the great gatsby. i'd gladly trade these in for a 1984 or collection of e.e.cummings poems. part of what's nescessary for a good swap is a variety of tastes and a willingness to try something new.besides, if ya thought what you swapped for last week was trash, just swap it for some new chance at something different next week. you never know what you might get.
oooh.. looks likes somebody has anger problems.
question everything.
this sig is only one hundred and fifty characters long and it's still not eno
[ Parent ]
Something similar... (5.00 / 3) (#34)
by curunir on Mon Dec 02, 2002 at 02:26:59 PM EST

We have a book swapping thing at my work.

The people who started used a combination of company funds, their own collections and donations to seed the collection. Now people are free to swap any book in the collection for one of their own (people are on the honor system to only contribute books they've enjoyed.)

I've found a number of great books there that I would otherwise never have read. It's also interesting to see when books re-appear after someone has read them. Sometimes really good books will show up multiple times because people want to discuss them with their friends. IMHO, this is a great thing that companies can do for their employees that doesn't end up costing very much at all (ours cost $200 and some shelf space.)

free books some where else (none / 0) (#41)
by auraslip on Tue Dec 03, 2002 at 12:02:00 AM EST


go see my diary entry.

The book diner (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by Silent Chris on Tue Dec 03, 2002 at 08:40:05 AM EST

There's a diner in Massacusetts, USA (forget what it's called -- always used to visit it on my trips back and forth from a certain college) where you can basically walk out with books for free.  It's practically a library.  People donate books (usually leave them on the doorstep) and you're permitted to take a few after your meal.

There were two sections of the diner.  The top half was free books, and the bottom half you had to pay for (more newer, mainstream titles).  Still, you could easily walk out with 10-15 books from the free section (after a hearty turkey meal) and they wouldn't say a word.  Very cool place.

Book Swap | 48 comments (41 topical, 7 editorial, 0 hidden)
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