#Bookswap Therapy

Well, well well.  Readers.  The AOW Bookswap went down an absolute storm.  It’s still going down a storm, as I type…and will continue to do so until the end of February, which is when all the books should be with their lucky recipients.  We’ve heard stories of books landing on doormats, the authors of which have never been heard of before…we’ve heard tales of people being introduced to their new favourite story.  We’re heard a LOT of gasps of sheer delight. 

The Questionnaires

We devised a questionnaire and send it out to the masses.  Outrage ensued.  “How can you ask me to pick a favourite book?  It’s like picking a favourite CHILD”.  “Does the Collected Works of Shakespeare, Harry Potter 1-7 and a dictionary count as my three desert island books?”

The main challenge was allocating bookswappers, book swappees and their questionnaires.  After we had pulled off an organisational feat unrivalled in the blog’s history, involving a new medical condition entitled “the spreadsheet sweats”, everyone had a recipient, and their questionnaire.

And so the choosing and sending began.

And you know what?  I found it hard.  Really, really hard.  It’s surprisingly difficult to pull yourself out of your reading comfort zone and look at what someone else loves and choose something for them.  It’s easier if they share your taste, of course.  But you have to look at what you know of your recipient, think of the books they may already have read, and pick something that you hope they will love.  Not something YOU love (that’s easy), but something they will love.

The sending and receiving

Rach M’s parcel, ready to be mailed from Hong Kong.  Have you ever wanted to open anything more?

Books grew wings and flew (and are flying) from Kuala Lumpur to Philadelphia to France to Austria to all over the UK.  Packages are being unwrapped, some with little extras, cakes, a bookmark, most with a handwritten note.

Mine, wrapped and ready to go, with a couple of Penguin postcards for good measure. My bookswapee still hasn’t received this.  I’m hoping the postman hasn’t nicked it.  However, the thought of Postie reading by the fire is a pleasing one.  

  Crysta took the brief and sprinted off with it…including headwear for her lucky recipient, Amy, for Any Other Hen Do.  What a parcel to unwrap!

What do you get when you cross a baking scientist, a book nerd and a bookswap?  A parcel like this, that’s what.  To Fee, from Katielase.

Some people just couldn’t choose…and the act of narrowing their book down to one choice was so viscerally painful that they had to include a list of the books they could have chosen (I’m looking at you, Katielase).

I defy you not to go running to your local library right this second, armed with this list.

I received a card when I got home on Tuesday evening, the very best kind of card.  It announced what books were winging their way to me right that second, and contained a list of the books that would have been chosen for me, by Claire, my assigned bookswapper, had she not had to pick just ONE BOOK (oh cruel world).  The card contained the brilliant line “I got rather carried away trying to choose books with “strong characters, a beautiful plot and thwarted love” and emailed poor Aisling for help!”

Claire, I deeply apologise for my ridiculous brief, and you absolutely nailed the books.  Nailed them.  I love them. 

What we wrote

Quite a few of you have asked to see what we wrote in our questionnaires.  Our answers were by no means the most intellectual, or the funniest, but if you wish, you shall.  Come back at 1pm to find out!

Bits that made us crylaugh (it’s a word)

I just want to wrap up by sharing something that Claire wrote in her card to me.  “The front cover of the book made me laugh as this is obviously how all bookswapees will look whilst reading their books!”

It’s true.  We all will.  That’s how I look, right this second, typing this post. 

And this was written in the inside cover of the book that Aisling received.  It slayed us.

Happy bookswap, AOW.  It won’t be the last.

Categories: Behind the Scenes at AOW, Books, Written By Anna
45 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Elsie
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    It’s possible that Carly’s note has perfectly captured how everyone who takes part in AOW feels. I know that for me starting the day armed with a pot of tea reading AOW, or checking in with Twitter and seeing what AOW-ers are upto is like starting the day sat round the kitchen table for breakfast with good friends and excellent chatter. I didn’t join in with the Book Swap, I am slightly kicking myself now but excited for the next one when I will (I will, I will, I WILL) join in. xx

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I agree with this so much. Breakfast just isn’t breakfast without AOW and checking in with twitter. And Carly’s note definitely captures the way I feel about AOW, too.

    • Carly
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Whoever gets Elsie in the next bookswap is very lucky if her Heartswap is anything to go by!!


    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink


    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Yup, echoing the feeling here. Carly totally nailed it. Thanks AOW everyone (staff of course who make it happen) and this amazing community of all of you girls here :) You make my day everyday!

  2. Mahj
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I am (un)patiently waiting for my Bookswap book to arrive and this has made me even more excited!

    Utterly brilliant and genius ideas AOW Ladies. Knighthoods for all!


  3. Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I think if I knew the crown would make it onto these pages, I may have made a bit more of an effort! It was a brilliant idea, and I’m already giddy with the thought of another one. For the first time ever I want to come back home from a holiday, because I wake up every day and wonder if it’s arrived while I’m away!

  4. Marlene M
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I finished my book last night, cant wait for the next book-swap in fact I’m looking to join in a book club!
    Thanks AOW xcx

  5. Carly
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I love the bookswap. Am halfway through mine & I love it!

    Meant every word of what I wrote in Aisling’s book. AOW is as much a part of my daily routine as eating and going to work.


    • Sharon
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      AOW is part of my daily routine too x

  6. Sarah
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Ooh – my bookswap parcel is heading off today! Still more to come hopefully : ) x

  7. Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I agree very much. It is an absolutely great idea and I loved it but gosh it was hard!! I think it made me realise how narrow my ‘comfort zone’ of books normally is – I should read more! I hope my bookswapee likes my choices. I am loving mine :)

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      So glad! :)

    • Elsie
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I saw on Twitter the book you got, I loved it when I read it so glad you’re enjoying it too x

    • Jess F
      Posted February 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Katylkh, I am lucky enough to be your book swapee! I loved my books (spoilt having two!) Your choices were fab- cannot believe how good they were. Thank you so much for thinking so carefully about me- despite my idiotic answers!

      I also think it should be an annual swap- what a great idea.

  8. Amanda M
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I had a minor freak out when I saw that one of my swapee’s favourite authors was one I loathe! So I got her a book I think is amazing and a book that a friend who liked the other of her favourite authors likes. Oh yes, much agonising went in to this.

    Just waiting for my extra something to arrive to tuck in for maximum reading pleasure (and a sop in case she doesn’t like the bookes) and then it’s off on its way.

  9. Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Ooh I am excited to get mine (and I hope my swapee has received hers!) – I keep frantically checking the post each evening but nothing yet – eep!

    THANK YOU to Clare, Anna and Aisling for sorting all of this out, it must have been a logistical nightmare (but I am sure the spreadsheet did you proud!)

    K xx

  10. Posted February 21, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    My bookswap parcel from Katielase was the highlight of my month! Am very nervous about sending mine out today. Eek!

    • Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      I know I am repeating myself but I was insanely excited that I got you, and knew straight away what to get! I so hope you do actually like it now!!

      K x

  11. CarolineH
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I actually LOVE the bookswap! Thank you thank you thank you to AOW for organising it, I’m so excited about reading my book.

    But, given all the beautiful parcels, wrapping paper, cards and decorations, I feel I should apologise to my bookswapee for the VERY poor wrapping of the parcel. I had lots of good intentions of doing lovely pink wrapping and swirly bits – but instead ended up rushing the post office at lunch time, wrapping it (badly) on the spot, resiting the temptation to smash the stupid “post something now” machines that should be called “post something in about three hours when we’ve decided to function again” and getting it into the post box. So – Bella – sorry! I hope the contents of the parcel make up for its appearance…

    caroline xx

  12. Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I have loved this. Still don’t know if my swappee got her book yet though (and am now anxious) but I LOVED my parcel of joy, and found the questionnaire TOO HARD but was then relieved that so many others did too.

    This was an excellent swap. A lot of my friends want to join in next time too and now realised that AOW is a place for them to be! :)

  13. ClaireH
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I am there with you all on the agonising and fear! I was instantly convinced that Anna K had FAR better taste in books than me and spent ages getting lost in Amazon via the ‘people who have read these books have also read…’ function.

    A big thank you for the bookswap from me too, once the fear had passed it was so lovely to send a present to someone and exciting to think that someone else has picked a book out just for me – glad I’m not the only one frantically checking the post each day either!

  14. Zan
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Another one checking the post every day…! I sent out my book yesterday, was one I’ve read before but loved and though they’d love too. I hope. Fingers crossed! :)

  15. Kate G
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Three things:

    1) I agonised for weeks over what to send and had to…cheat and send 2. (I couldnt bear to choose and felt awful having sent by amazon for choice, but sacrificing personalisation. And when I see the pics above…Sob.)

    2) My book arrived today and the thought and beauty and CARE that had gone into it almost reduced me to tears. In the office. Over my keyboard.

    3) Thank you to you Team AOW for arranging this spectacular event of wonder. Its been special.

    Have a great day everyone x

    • Sandie
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Eeeeeeeeee, Kate!!! It arrived safely on Aussie shores!! So glad to hear! xx

    • CarolineH
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      I cheated and sent two as well! cx

  16. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I am LOVING the book swap (though hangs head in shame that have not actually posted said book yet!). Am remedying situation as soon as the extra is unpacked from a moving box, stupid moving-house-in-middle-of-book-swap scenario (though on plus side, chance to re-arrange books in new order, spend ages browsing own shelves whilst ‘unpacking’ etc etc)

    Its coming I PROMISE!

    • your surprise sender
      Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Dear deltafoxtrotcharlie! I believe you are my swappee. You should have gotten your book by now, I hope you liked it ? I am remaining mysterious here not to spoil the mystery for you in case it did not arrive yet… but I am curious did it get to you?

      • DeltaFoxtrotCharlie
        Posted February 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        Ooooo, I DID get it, and your lovely letter (yes people, a real letter, written with a pen and everything!!). Thank you so much.

        I can’t wait to start reading it, I’ve never read any Mexican literature before. Lots of north and south American but no Mexican.

        Lots of book swap love
        DeltaFC xxxx

  17. Katie
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    AOW book swap is genius. Loved choosing a book, but oh the pressure to get it right, and then hoping my swapper has not already read it.

    My book arrived in the post this morning – thank you Hannah. Can’t wait to start reading it. Looks right up my street.


  18. Beth
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I bought the book within a week of getting the questionnaire through but then got *the fear*. I finally packed up my bookswap parcel last night and wrote a mad note to go with it. I am now really scared I’ve got it all wrong but also super excited to send it. I really really hope that my swapee enjoys the book I have chosen for her! I can’t tell you the amount of pleasure it has given me to carefully think about what to choose based on her likes and dislikes. And it made me remember a book I haven’t thought about for years but really loved. Hooray for bookswap – thank you for going through the spreadsheet sweats to organise it for us! B x

  19. Lottie
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink


    So exciting! I sent mine yesterday to Lorna! I, through my powers of deduction, do believe my swappee is the very same, wonderful Lorna who wrote Monday’s post. Loved the post and I hope you love the book choice.

    I love AOW book swap. Can it become a yearly event? Tis so wonderful!

    Lottie x

  20. Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    This has been such a wonderful idea!

    It really took me out of my comfort zone as I haven’t ever read books by the authors my swappee listed, but it’s reminded me just how many books are still out there for me to read. I’ve taken a complete gamble with the book(s) I’ve chosen – I have a serious case of Bookswap Fear. I’m wrapping and posting my books tomorrow and then leaving the country. The two aren’t necessarily connected, honest.

    The book I received from the lovely Lorna arrived on a day when I got home late and stressed from work – I’d forgotten I would be getting a book too and it really cheered me up to know that someone had put so much thought into choosing something for me! It’s sitting on my bookcase waiting to be packed for our holiday and I cannot wait.

  21. Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE bookswap and this post so much (despite the associated agonising and therapy bills)…

    Making it an annual event sounds like an excellent idea in my book (sorry, I couldn’t resist) xx

  22. Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I got overexcited at the prospect of posting mine so it was not very prettified unfortunately. It was wrapped in a poem/song though.

  23. Posted February 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh I LOVED the bookswap!!
    It was such hard work- first filling in the questionnaire and then picking a book for my swapee based on her answers but it was also amazing to hear back from her and then to get my own beautifully wrapped parcel in the post with a book, letter and some nice tea all the way from Spain!!
    I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been to sort out all the different pairs even with a massive spreadsheet- thanks so much AOW ladies for all your hard work!!!
    I definitely second the annual event idea- more books for all!

  24. Sharon
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Posted mine today….so hoping they like it. I also included a list of books that I almiost bought them as I found it so hard to narrow the list down.

    Love rushing home to check the post – it’s making chilly feb much more exciting.

    Thanks for organising, hope the spreadsheet sweats weren’t too awful. Can’t wait for the next book swap

  25. Jen G
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m another one with the posting fear! The book has been purchased but is waiting to be prettified… I came so close to getting two – my swapee is a mega-reader and I’d hate to send something she’s already read (even worse if she’s read it AND hated it! eek!). Who knew book buying could be so hard?!

    Thanks for all of your incredibly hard work AOW ladies!

  26. Posted February 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    AOW swap was the best idea ever. It is true that it was hard trying to find a book the recipient might like, specially when some of the favorite books of my pen-pal were unknown to me (though some were also favorites of mine). I made sure I sent something that I had read before to be sure I liked it and it was good, but that also fitted her taste.
    I hope it arrived.
    Still waiting for mine, checking the mail box everyday like a child on Christmas morning.
    So much fun. Thank you , thank you, thank you AOW . And I am loving all those photos and grabbing that list of books for future use :)

  27. Posted February 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    My book came this morning and I was SICKENINGLY excited. I did a little dance. I jumped up and down a bit. I hugged the book. And I was so so delighted to get what I got, it’s quite rare for someone to buy me a book I haven’t read, so Fiona, you were amazing and I can’t wait to start it :-)

    This has been the most fun thing to participate in. I have to admit to being one of the people who was lucky enough to know straight away what to buy, but then as you can see above, I did then think of another 15 books I COULD have bought, and had to write them down. I genuinely woke up at 3am, thought of a book Fee might like and got out of bed to go write it down. I was, and remain, too excited by this whole thing. Just wonderful!

    K x

  28. Liz
    Posted February 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I received two book on valentines day! And a map explaining the relevance of one, which I loved as I am a complete map geek! Really looking forward to getting stuck into them – thank you Linsey! Fingers crossed my swapee likes my choice for her…

  29. Rach M
    Posted February 22, 2013 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Oh ladies, it was brilliant. I LOVED bookswap. I hope the book I sent has arrived and that my swappee likes it. Totally agree with Carly and everyone about how much AOW means to me. It feels like we already know each other from the daily chat, natter and discussions, but to actually get something chosen with care, beautifully wrapped, just for you? Well, it’s like a hug from a friend. With a book in it. And, for me, Yorkshire teabags.

    Mahj you are the bomb! x

  30. Posted February 22, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Such a great idea, agonising though – who knew how hard it would be to pick just one fave children’s book? (I cheated and just didn’t, crazy rule breaker that I am!).

    And now I feel bad for not prettying up my book for my swap-ee, but I did spend a long time choosing a book I though they would love. My excuse is that I was doing our flat up to put it up for sale, so I couldn’t have found anything in all the chaos, and it would have been covered in white eggshell paint anyway!

    Not got my book yet in the post, crossing fingers it comes soon as I’ve run out of library books and I’m dying for another book to read!

One Trackback

  • By An anniversary of sorts on March 5, 2013 at 8:58 am

    [...] We had book posts, and Books that made me me posts, and then, to cap it all off, we did the AOW Bookswap. Every single book that’s been mentioned has gone on to my wanted list. These book posts have [...]

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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