Like many of the book clubs I’ve visited for The Wednesday Sisters chats, my book club forsakes reading for a holiday book swap in December. We gather over pot-luck appetizers and desserts for what generally becomes a brawl over books.
This year’s appetizer and dessert pot: two appetizers and over a dozen cookies, cupcakes, and other sweets! Seriously, we had to move a fruit bowl from the dessert table (a huge one in the dining room) to the appetizer end table.
For our swap, 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 (nothing swanky, just numbered scraps of paper thrown into a bowl). And each member, when their number comes up, can “open or steal”—the only limitation being that a book can only be stolen three times. I have a more detailed explanation on the page about my own book clubs on my website. Suffice it to say, it’s a ball!
This year’s gathering was a special year in many ways. We started with champagne and a toast to Rayme Waters, a member who just gained agent representation for her first novel. We oohed and ahhhed over the printed version of a photo another member, Adrienne Defendi, has graciously allowed me to include in an essay that will be included in the paperback of my first novel next summer. Adreinne has had a lot of much-deserved success this year, among other things having some of her amazing photos picked up by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artists Gallery.
#3 stole my book! So I got to open another book. The truth: I’m always happy when someone steals my book in the first round, as I love to unwrap.
This year, Diana Darcy was #1, so she started the second round brawl by placing the book she’d ended the first round with in the center and stealing another one. I think it was Room, but this round gets so chaotic and so fast-moving that it’s hard to keep track. The second round is so much fun that #1 almost always tosses her book in, because if she doesn’t then the book swap ends and we all have to go home.
Somehow, round two never does seem to end before our spouses have gotten our children safely to bed and asleep.
The book I brought home this year: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
And the one I brought: Blue Nude by Elizabeth Rosner. It’s a lovely book made all the more special because I got an inscribed copy at a reading at A Great Good Place for Books on the first night of Hanuka. I’ve been to many bar mitzvahs and seders, but this was my first Hanuka celebration. Liz lit a menorah and sang the prayers before she read, making the evening and the book I bought even more special–and the book harder to part with. It was a popular choice in the brawl, though, with multiple steals, and I expect it will show up on my group’s reading list this yea
Happy Holidays! – Meg
Meg Waite Clayton, author of the national bestseller, The Wednesday Sisters, the forthcoming The Four Ms. Bradwells (March 2011), and The Language of Light (paperback reissue, summer 2011), and host of 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started. Visit her online at her: website, Twitter or Facebook.