There’s this thing I do. It is not considered very cool, exciting, or fun, and that is why I have been quite reluctant to publicly declare my love for it for quite some time. But I feel it is finally time to open up and tell you all about one of my favourite pastimes. Every month or so, my friend rings my doorbell. I hurry downstairs, she leaves her bike at my place, and we walk the remaining two minutes to the location of the event. We make sure we’ve brought what’s asked of us, and discuss why we’ve chosen for these titles. And as soon as we’re there, we make sure we get a nice spot which allows us to observe both the collection and the people who have showed up. The only thing we need now is a drink, and then we can get settled and the event can start.
What kind of event is it then? You may wonder. It is a book swap.
A book swap, I hear you think, really? (Really.) That’s not a particularly cool, exciting, or fun thing, is it? (Oh, yes, it is!) Only nerds go there, don’t they? (Obviously, what did you expect?) I know, I know. I’ve already got more books than I can possibly finish in one lifetime, and I make sure of this fact by buying more books with every chance I’ve got. So why would you only make things more complicated by giving away books of your own, and trading them for others? Well, here’s why:
If you’re like me, you tend to read a lot. Reading a lot of books inevitably means you also own a lot of books (no comments on the perks of having an e-reader here, please). No matter what kind of books, whether it’s fantasy, romance, adventure, the sporadic detective, and so on, they all have their own special place on the bookshelf.
Also if you’re like me, it might happen occasionally that you read a book which you, dare I say it, do not like. Or worse, that you are reading a book which you think is actually a complete waste of time, but you’re too proud to admit this to yourself and finish it anyway. The only problem, then, apart from having to give a two-star review on Goodreads, is having a book on your bookshelf that you feel doesn’t belong there. It annoys you when you see it, it reminds you of the time you wasted being annoyed by this stupid book you wish you hadn’t bought. In the past you would think about what you could do with it: give it away? (Definitely not; friends would hate you for recommending a bad book and never trust you again). Give it to a charity shop? (Not sure; you might be ruining a perfectly fine shop with drivel.) Throw it away then? (Oh no. It’s still a book. You can’t destroy books. Please.) So here’s the perfect solution: you just know that someone else might like it, the next time a book swap is organised. And judging from the range of books people bring, your book will definitely be welcomed with open arms.
Here are some examples:
There are books which clearly weren’t liked by their original owners, and were brought here just so the previous owner could laugh at the unfortunate person taking this waste of ink with them. Other books are there because they had a twin, and one was quite enough. There are the lucky books, gems completely overlooked in the house they came from, and therefore welcomed with open arms by anyone present. Some books are left there because, well, their owner clearly didn’t want to be there but tagged along anyway; while not in possession of a real book, they decided to stretch its definition and bring anything that has a cover and print in between; a Donald Duck activity book or a Time magazine, for instance. And then there’s my favourite: books that have no idea why they’re there. Some books are simply too weird, like history books on the most obscure topics, or an instruction manual of machinery that is so outdated I hardly know what it is, or the Automobile Association Illustrated Guide to England. And the best thing about their books is their owners.
I think that I like the people who show up even more than the promise of getting new books, and that’s because there it is such a diverse crowd. For instance, there are those who attend these events on their own, get rid of their old books, get new ones straightaway, and are perfectly happy reading one of them while still there. There’s people who do the same thing, but make sure they show up with at least one other person. Some really want their friends to come along, so there’s always a really happy person with a not-so-happy one sitting next to them. There are groups of people who are turning this into a full day of entertainment, buying lunch first, followed by drinks and dinner, all the while talking about books, and occasionally other topics too. What they all have in common is the way their eyes light up with every newcomer, who will bring fresh stock and possibly their next favourite book. When they have added their books to the collection, all talk ceases, drinks are ignored, and the race to the new books starts. Some are lucky, and others are disappointed. Until the next person shows up, and the hunt can start all over again…
As for us, we like to pretend we’re there just to meet up every once in a while, and get a new book while doing so. We like to pretend we’re better than the eager ones who charge towards the table every time a new book is added. We act like we don’t really care about which book we’ll be taking home, as long as we have fun and discuss the collection of books and people we’ve observed. We’re definitely not part of those people I’ve discussed before, these book-obsessed people who run towards the pile of books every time a new one is added… Oh, of course we are! We love this event, which is very cool, exciting, and fun, indeed.
And you should try it too. Do you want to know what it’s like to attend a book swap? Just look up if there’s a book swapping event in your area, or set one up if there isn’t! Or, if you have been to one already, share your opinion in the comments! Please do not forget to like and subscribe, too.