#bookswappers anonymous

Amanda’s ‘I am tearing my hair out!’ Fee’s ‘buyer’s guilt’. Caroline google-stalking her recipient…. #bookswap anxiety has well and truly hit, folks. (I’m only enjoying you all flapping on twitter a *tiny* bit, promise. Actually, who am I kidding. I’ve given myself a ridiculous mountain to climb with my person – it’s going to take a LOT of research!)

Anna and I thought it might help some of you if we could all sit around the metaphorical table, with the hypothetical tea and the imaginary cake and pitch in ideas or worries or full on HELP MES. We’ve even included our answers below for you, for no other reason than a bit of nosiness and maybe some inspiration. Anna’s answers are green, mine are purple. Though I’m certain you could have guessed that for yourself.

Come on then, let the #bookswap therapy commence…

Who is your favourite author?

Isabel Allende

Of all time, Margaret Atwood. At the moment, for ease of reading, Philippa Gregory.

What is your favourite book of all time and how would you describe it in three words? The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. Magical, lyrical, adventurous.

 The Great Gatsby – huge, magical, torturous

What was the best book you read in 2013 – again, describe in 3 words?

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m cheating with the word count, but it was an epic family saga with love, loss, adventure, vivid characters and beautiful turns of phrase. I also really enjoyed The Night Circus.

The Constant Princess – Phillipa Gregory. Touching, sad, momentous

What was your least favourite book you read in 2013 and why – in no more than 50 words?

Gone, Girl by Gillian Flynn. I enjoyed the plot, fast-paced, gripping, suspenseful, but it was completely overshadowed by the characters who were Grade A privileged idiots, who complained a lot and had nothing but first-word problems. I can’t enjoy a book unless I care about the characters.

Any Jodi Picoult sincce approx 2008 – the days of My Sister’s Keeper and The Pact are gone, Jodi. Let it go.

If you could only take 3 books to a desert island, what would they be?

The Passion (see above), The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. (Basically anything with strong characters, a beautiful plot and I’m a sucker for thwarted love)

Wicked by Gregory Maguire – could read it a thousand times and still find amazing newness. The Harry Potter Anthology (don’t know if there is one but I’m trying to make out that it’s ONE book. Ssh.) Vanity Fair, because I started it at uni and never finished it but I remember thoroughly enjoying what I did read…

What was your favourite book as a child?

Goodnight Mr Tom

The ‘Little House on the Prairie’ series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Or Matilda. Or the Mallory Towers books…. Stella is currently obsessed by all things Julia Donaldson, I think I would have been too had The Gruffalo been kicking around 25 years ago – the woman is a genius.

Categories: Behind the Scenes at AOW, Books
56 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Katielase
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Gah my problem is that I instantly now want to recommend books to you both!

    I have been super lucky again this year with my bookswap partner, my only dilemma is that I can think of so many books I want them to read. I may need to give two. And write a list of other authors they should try…

    I think I have an addiction. I need to find a job where hearing what books people love and recommending them new ones is a viable thing I can be doing.

    KL x

    • Katielase
      Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      Just realised this could come across impossibly smug. I’m sorry, I know I’m lucky to have got someone I can think of books for!

      KL xx

    • Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Isn’t that job called ‘running a bookshop’!?

      • Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        Like the book spa place! And you could bake for people too KL….do it!!!! :) xxx

  2. Fee
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    After a frantic text conversation between Caroline and I yesterday, I am sticking with my choice. For now. I think. Maybe.

    I so love love love the book I’ve chosen for my person that I would be sad if they didn’t like it. So if I buy for you, pretend to like it. Many thanks!

    And if you have me…. as you may tell from my questionnaire, I have very eclectic taste and so will like whatever you choose. Unless it’s by Cecilia Aherne. The exception.

    For anyone who is really struggling, there is a dirty version of Pride and Prejudice. Problem solved!

  3. Becca
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I’m ordering two. There is no way I can limit it down further when I started with 50. Got down to short list of five which I’m re reading to get the best two.

    It’s a hard life.

  4. Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I feel like I ought to find this easy, I’ve met my person several times so do know her unlike those poor souls who don’t even know who their bookswappee is… But am still struggling. I’ve never read ANY of the authors/books she lists as favourites…. There are lots of things I think she might like, but not based on what she’s actually written!

    Btw is bookswap reciprocal? Ie is the same person buying for me?! If so then please don’t worry. I read EVERYTHING. Really I do. Despite my princessy questionnaire answers….

    Fee- dirty version of P&P?! WHERE?! What’s it called?! I really want to read ‘Longbourn’ which is P&P from the servants perspective…

    Oh and Anna -I’m in the middle of The Goldfinch right now and I love it. Nearly intentionally missed my tube stop the other day so I could keep reading ‘it wouldn’t be so bad to stay on for an extra 10mins, then come back for another 10mins so I get at least 20mins more reading time….’ Is worrying, I know. Such a long time since I’ve become so wrapped up in a book.

    • Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      Darnit! Completely forgot to include the most important point I wanted to make. For anyone who is really struggling there’s a website whatshallireadnext.com where you can put in a book/author and it recommends books you might like based on that. I *might* have been making lists based on it…

      • Posted March 19, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Anita – thanks to this website I have lost a day making “to read” lists. If Katielase were a website, this would be it.

    • Fee
      Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      It’s called Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts and is by Mitzi Szereto! What a name!

    • Posted March 19, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      The Goldfinch, I know. Oh I wish I’d never picked it up so I could read it again for the first time. That woman is a master of her craft.

      Bookswap is only reciprocal if two people have been really specific about where they are willing to post – so two readers in the US who want to post domestically will be swapped. Otherwise you won’t get the person who gets you. More surprise!

  5. Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I’ve ordered mine, but now the book swap doubts are setting in….what if she won’t like it?! What if she’s already read it….?!

    But this is why I looooove the book swap so much, because everyone puts so much thought and effort into it :) xx

  6. ChirstyMac
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I have STRUGGLED as you all seem so literary and I’m, well, not. BUT I felt a little mini inner-whoop in that I TOTALLY concur with both of your least favourite book thoughts:
    Gone Girl – yes! How awful were the characters? I can’t care if I actually hate them. Almost didn’t finish it.
    Jodi Piccoult. This too. Stop now.
    If anyone got me: sorry. Suspect my answers aren’t very helpful. But I will read anything and other people often seem to pick great books for me: Wonderful Bex Olive Dragonfly did herself proud last year with my choices :) X

  7. Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I am also having buyer’s doubt…. And have had to buy two as I really think she would enjoy my current favourite but want to do something based on her answers too….but now am wondering if there’s something even more perfect that I’ve overlooked. Argh!!

    Can I request MORE questions in the questionnaire next year?? To help with choosing but also because I love doing questionnaires and I wanted MORE….


    • Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      I don’t see why not… Any suggestions for additional questions?

      • Aisling
        Posted March 19, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        We should be asking ALL THE QUESTIONS EVER so that the replies give a complete character profile – then there would be no bookswap anxiety!

      • Posted March 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        Ooh ooh loads (probably crap and possibly crossover)
        Best holiday read
        Best highbrow read/book you would choose to sit in a cafe by yourself reading in order to look super clever (I may or may not have done this- got me into the Russians though)
        Favourite character of all time
        Book you studied and still cherish
        Guilty pleasure


        • Posted March 19, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          These are ALL going in next year’s. Fact.

          • Posted March 19, 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

            These are BRILLIANT questions. I said Pride and Prejudice was my favourite book and it does indeed come of having studied it at school aged 14 and falling in love with Mr Darcy and, and…well, the rest is history…

        • Katrina
          Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I love these questions! Great idea!

  8. Caroline
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I was all smug and happy with my choice when I stumbled across something during my *ahem* stalking which said that she was midway through reading what I had chosen. Thankfully it was before I had bought the book. Now I’m a bit stuck… I have one book that I could get which I haven’t read but have heard is really good or one that I could get which I loved but might not necessarily be what my lady likes.
    Risky business.
    Ps I’ve got pride and prejudice on my kindle but have never read it. Dirty or original. I MUST get on with that!

  9. fbird
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I have a massive trip of the guilts because I used my married name on the questionnaire and that has made me essentially ungoogle-able. *Hangs head apologetically*. This is made worse by the fact that Google has been a mine of information about my bookswapee. I feel like I know her already!

    • Katielase
      Posted March 19, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      If anyone googles my name they will be under the impression that I’m an actress from
      Waterloo Road. I am not. Although, to be fair, I’m sure I’d like any book chosen for her too. All books are welcome round my place!

      KL x

      • Posted March 19, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        I WANT my person to Google me just so they can discover I have my own IMDB entry. Because I’d never be so boastful as to just casually drop it into conversation. Oh wait….


        • Katielase
          Posted March 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          *Googles Penny*

        • Linsey
          Posted March 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          Just googled myself and discovered I do too! With one programme I worked on at BBC, obviously the others didn’t warrant it :)

          • Posted March 19, 2014 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

            In the club! With, like, Leo and Angelina and stuff! *high fives*

  10. Posted March 19, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I picked a book immediately. Now I’m a bit concerned I was too hasty, but my mind has gone a complete blank of any other possibilities, so I’m running with what I’ve picked! Aargh, the stress.

    But I’m going to add some prettiness to my parcel in the hope that if I’ve got it wrong (or she’s read it already, or hates it), she’ll forgive me and love the other stuff (aka the bribe).

    • Aisling
      Posted March 19, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      I love that you’re honest enough to call the other stuff ‘the bribe’, Lucy! This is exactly what I will be doing. With no shame.

  11. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Ugh, I have bookswap panic AND bookswap guilt having not given it a second thought since receiving the email due to impending house move + work shizz.

    PLUS my person has THE OPPOSITE taste to me – arrggghhh

    Oh well, at least I get to go and browse bookshops.

    also re: Gone Girl – hated it.

    Also also re: The Goldfinch – loved it, devoured it, was sad when it finished (though did anyone else get slightly annoyed that the last few pages were a bit … metaphysical??

    • Posted March 19, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      I can’t believe I forgot about Gone Girl for my worst book of the year!! And the Goldfinch was a VERY close second to my actual favourite.


  12. Posted March 19, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I’m really not sure what book to get my person either but I kind of enjoy mulling it over. Does that make me weird? Books are just fab and utlimately everyone taking part in bookswap are a lovely member of the AOW community :) xx

    • Posted March 19, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      What a lovely thing to say Roz, I totally agree with you! :)

  13. Posted March 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m so excited. Actually ridiculously excited. I chose my book to send before I’d even got to the end of the questionnaire but then I panicked slightly and felt bad that I hadn’t put more thought into it and have since been scouring my brain for alternatives to send. This is where Amazon recommends comes in handy!! xx

  14. Anni
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Argh, I’m having serious bookswap anxiety! It’s so hard! And I can’t google them as I don’t have their last name! Has anyone read the second Chocolat book? Off book shopping tomorrow, might end up buying them two! Xxx

    • Gemma N
      Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      Think I have, I read two or three of Joanne Harris. One about quarters of an orange? Think I preferred that one to chocolat, think if someone enjoyed chocolat they would like the others.

  15. Cathiewales
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I am going into mild book swap panic again ( first panic was filling out the questionnaire ) this is my first book swap and worrying the person I’m buying for won’t like my choice – when I finally make it. – or has already read it. If my person is reading this apologies in advance if I make a balls of my choice.
    I’m going to spend my weekend in a bookshop now with the questionnaire in hand!

    • Cathiewales
      Posted March 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      Arghhh I’ve just looked at my book swappee again and realised who I have…. This is going to VERY tough :-/

  16. Bex (The Ginger Bee)
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    I have all the doubts too! Haven’t met my person but feel like I have a good handle on likes and dislikes but still not sure!

    to whoever has me – I read everything and anything!! literally!!

  17. Linsey
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Woohoo, my comments are working now! I started off feeling ok about my book swappee but now I’m feeling a bit more nervous in case she’s read the books I choose. The dilemma…

    • fbird
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Me too Linsey, so difficult to pick something ‘out there’ enough that it won’t already be on their bookshelf but also something they’d like! Eek!

      • Posted March 21, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        This! Totally struggling to find something as we have quite different taste too. Have drawn up a shortlist and am planning a trip to Waterstones to evaluate them all – I’m definitely a girl to quite literally judge a book by its cover!

  18. Amanda M
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    From the hair-tearing camp….

    Last year I felt more sanguine – although managed to buy a book she’d read and a book she couldn’t get on with but I guess there’s always that risk. But together with a cake and some book plates, I felt I did okay – and I could relate to her questionnaire.

    This year! I can’t stalk my person – I can’t find her at all on social media! Her choices bewilder me and I have been flailing about in a panic for ages. Good advice from Penny was just to buy her a couple of my favourites but I’m worried I’m just too low-brow and she’ll despise me!* Obv will do the bribery bit….. but what if it’s not enough to distract her from my plebian taste?!!

    * Please note I am not sex-and-shopping books, clogs-and-shawls or titles with shiny cerise lettering; I just avoid anything worthy or that’s won a literary prize.

  19. Amanda M
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    It could be a bit like that TV programme where you send someone rich to live in squalor with a poor person for a wekk. In literary terms (go with my analogy here please)…

    • Posted March 19, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Amanda, this made me laugh a lot. I have a serious fear that someone is going to buy me one of my desert island books, which are all way too highbrow for me to have actually read in real life, and why I would only ever read them on a desert island. Argh.

  20. Posted March 19, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I too have the fear that my swapee will have read my book/s, or hate them. Felt incredibly confident upon first reading it in a “all her favourite books are on my wish list and to read list” kind of way, until I realised that was not the same as my having actually read them. So I’m picking ones that I enjoyed that vaguely fit what she likes! I think my main fear is that she answered yes to the reviewing question, and now I am terrified that my crap choices will be splashed all over AOW. ARGH.

    I also have the fear that I was “too helpful” on my questionnaire and may have come across as a knobber by accident.

    • Amanda M
      Posted March 19, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      I really want to read you being a book-knobber! (Aren’t there laws against that sort of book abuse…?!)

      • Posted March 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

        I want to read it too Gwen! And I’m also afraid that my questionnaire makes me come across as a moron (an indecisive moron too…)

  21. Gemma N
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I have no knowledge of my persons favourite author / genre and her worst book was what I put as my favourite! So don’t know whether to do a ‘amazon reccommends’ type thing on her favourites which would essentially be a complete guess, or send one I like which she may well not as it looks like we have v different taste! Argh!

  22. Katrina
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Just in case the person who got me is reading, I totally want to apologise as I don’t think that I wrote enough to represent me in my questionnaire so probably haven’t made it easy, I am such a book worm and read everything and anything I found it so so so hard to pin down my answers (hence having about a zillion childhood favourites and then realising that I’d missed a key one off…), really must try better next year. But also agree with Penny, more more more questions and creative random ones I think would be great to help understand the person better!

    I also may have already bought a few (i.e. more than 2) books as I keep changing my mind as to what my swapee would like, so indecisive… I think i’ve whittled it down to 2 now but we’ll see how many times I change my mind between now and posting the parcel…..

  23. Kate G
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Laughing as I read this, I love all the comments. Im also nervous to buy something my swopee has already read, or got! Pity we cant all meet up for a proper bookclub evening and debate our best and last book of the year ….I can imagine there would be a fair amount of debate fuelled by cake, wine, endless tea…. for example I agree with some of the Gone Girl comments, (Horrible unlikeable characters) but got so sucked in by the dark twisty plot that I loved it! Then again, as beautiful and imaginative as the Night Circus was, I just couldnt relate to Celia, she reeally irritated me! So its in the no pile for me.

    Does anyone feel they like some books more or less reading kindle opposed to “real” books? I’ve got the Goldfinch on Kindle but havent made inroads into it, but think I might have if I had it as a proper book. Is this mad?

    • Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      That’s a really great idea! An AOW BookSwap Anonymous meeting…where you’re no longer anonymous. I’d love to meet fellow swappees. I could bring cake!

    • Katrina
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      agree with this also!

    • fbird
      Posted March 20, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      It is not mad. I love my kindle but feel like since I’ve had it I have read/enjoyed less books. Sad times. Kindles are great for making my handbag a bit lighter but to be brutally honest I don’t need to carry thirty pens in a pencil case, a calculator, a wallet full of used up gift cards, three tins of lip gloss, two sets of keys and a load of old train tickets with me everywhere I go, but I do. Have reverted back to proper books mostly.

      One thing I also find about my kindle is that it doesn’t have enough variety of fonts! This might be just me but if you finish one book and start another immediately it is really difficult to get the screen looking a bit different… like the pages of a book might. So you don’t get the visual “fresh start” between books, which put me off using it a bit.

  24. Posted March 20, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    It´s funny to read all these comments. I am also struggling with my options, I know the books and authors she like, but that´s exactly the problem I am pretty sure she already read the options I´ve in mind. Time is running, also I don´t want to send it at the last minute, but it seems possible, I am so bad taking decisions when I have time!

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