This coming weekend is one of the favorite evens in the department where I work, The Yankee Book Swap. It’s sort of our answer to a holiday party, but about a month late, because students leave pretty early in December, and what with finals and everything, they’re a little busy at that time of year.
The basic premise is that of the White Elephant Gift. Everyone brings a wrapped book and then everyone draws a number. The person with number 1 can select any present from the pile (I keep wanting to type under the tree here) and then opens it for everyone to see. The person with the number 2 is allowed to either take Person 1’s present or pick their own. If Person 1’s present is taken, then they go back to the pile to pick another present.
Then comes Person 3. Person 3 is allowed to take any of the books that have been unwrapped or any book that is still in the pile. Anyone whose books has been taken may steal from someone else, providing there are books to steal, so long as it wasn’t stolen from them before (at least I think that’s how it works, there are some variations in the way the game is played). There are some regulations as to how many times a gift can be stolen, but they very and I’m not sure what they are.
This is my first year participating (because this is my first year working here), but from what I’ve been told chaos pretty much reigns king. Everyone tries to bring a hot item book (or a good gag gift) and there are certain titles that go round and round the room.
Selecting a book to bring for this year’s Yankee Book Swap was a rather stressful task. I wanted to pick a great book that would just go around and around, something that was brand new or something from the bestseller list. But what? And if it’s from one of those lists chances are I haven’t read it, and I don’t want to bring something I haven’t read because what if it’s awful? And to make things even more stressful, these are English Majors that are going to be unwrapping these, bring anything too fluffy and it reflects on you.
It was driving me crazy.
So weekend before last I headed down to the bookstore and spent a long time perusing the shelves and tables looking for the perfect book.
I finally found a great one, it probably won’t go round and round the room, but it’s a good English joke and should get a laugh or two if nothing else.
It brings to mind questions of aesthetics and taste and questions of what will and will not sell (or be stolen in the case of the Yankee Book Swap). I’m beginning to see a little clearer part of the difficult jobs that editors and agents have in finding the good books in between the everything else.