I have been hosting a party for many years now that I call Books and Bottles. This year marked the 7th time I have hosted the event and in many ways, it was the best ever.
I was introduced to the idea by a friend of mine on the West Coast, many years ago. He shared the idea as a casual, easy-to-host party that brought people together to share some of their favorite literature. I remember thinking how engaging the event was; how much fun it was for people to take a moment and talk about a book that had really touched them. It was many years after I attended his party that I started hosting my own. I never forgot his event and in fact remembered it fondly. I knew when the time was right, I would try hosting my own.
At my first party I'd just moved to a new community and I didn’t know a lot of people. I recall inviting just about everyone I'd recently met. None the less, the party was on the smaller size but what we lacked for in size we made up in enthusiasm. People were eager to get the discussion and exchange part of the evening started and it quickly became a lively conversation of all our favorite books.
Since that first year, I have met many more people and while the crowd ebbs and flows from year to year, old friends returning and new faces attending, I have gotten particular about who I invite. Because there is a focused program during the evening, I have to keep in mind the number of people attending. If you have too many people the discussion and book exchange can take a very long time! One has to manage simple things like having enough seating for everyone to sit together in a circle and being able to hear each other.
Its also important to invite friends who are what I think of as ‘real readers’. What I mean is most everyone reads something or another but not everyone reads and really cherishes books. If people show up with books they casually read or don’t have much attachment to then you get an exchange that lacks a bit of passion. However, if everyone brings a book they have read and really love then you get a more lively and meaningful exchange.
Some people bring books that have changed their lives or opinions for the better. Others bring books that moved them in a special way or that they recall fondly from their youth. Perhaps they bring a novel they really love because they can relate to the character. In all of these examples you end up with someone else’s amazing book. In a way, you end up with a part of them or at the least you have gotten to know that person better.
The other key to having a great B&B is some bottles of drinks. This may sound funny but I truly believe it. I personally try to offer a couple of drinks to my guests as quickly as possible. This helps everyone to loosen up, mingle, laugh and chat with each other. It may also help relieve any nerves someone might have about giving a small speech about their book. And let’s face it, some people are sharing books that come from a very personal and sometimes vulnerable place for them.
Many people ask me if guests find I hard to give away their favorite book and indeed many of my friends do find it hard to. But no one has to bring their only copy. They can track down a used copy and give it away. Plus keep in mind, when we give away a book that really has meaning for us we are giving something of ourselves to another person.
Others challenge themselves to give away a thing they love as a way of letting go of attachment and enriching the lives of others. It can be a good challenge.
ALSO -For those of you who are big fans of books and reading please check out the website of one of our friend's and a guest at this year's event Leigh Kramer. Her blog and her Instagram are packed with great info on the books she amazingly plows through in record speed. Plus, she has a great article worth checking out titled, How To Host A Books And Bottles Party.