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Made for Summer Nights–The Girlfriend Book Swap

Here’s a hot summer party idea that’s guaranteed to generate good times, great reads and girlfriend conversation all summer long. Our Girlfriend Book Swap party is designed to help you learn more about your friends, meet some new ones, and gain some super summer reads for free! Give it a try on a starry night, and you’ll probably want to make it a tradition like we did.


You may want to limit invitations to local girlfriends (reasonable driving distance); this makes it more convenient to pass the books on to the next borrower. Make your own invitations on the computer, or order custom ones from one of the many great online sources. We ordered ours from Impressive Inscriptions. The invitation text (minus the date and time details) went like this:

“Sip sangria under the stars

Swap some summer reads

Share sparkling conversation!

Girlfriends’ Summer Book Swap  

It’s the season for summer reading! Please bring a book or two that you think a girlfriend would enjoy (fiction, nonfiction, self-help, beauty, humor—anything you have appreciated as a woman). Everyone will leave with a “new” book to read and return. Bring a friend if you like!”

Setting and setup

This party could work at any time of year, of course, but to us it simply screams summer–that time of year when we actually seem to have more time for reading. Holding the party outdoors, under the stars, makes for one enchanting evening. We like to hold ours on the summer solstice (the longest day of the year; this year it’s June 22). We used plenty of candlelight and blue-and-gold starry decorations to play up the “summer night” theme. Here are some setup tips:

  • Arrange your backyard furniture into “conversation areas.”
  • Provide a table to display the books. 
  • Download and print our simple form for guests to fill out and insert in each book. (Click HERE.) If you would rather make your own form, include space for the book owner’s name, address, phone number and/or email. Then, include spaces for your girlfriends to sign up as borrowers of the book. Leave space for up to three borrowers’ names and phone numbers, as well as a space for comments when they’ve finished the book. 

Food and drink

A summery and super-simple menu includes Fruity Sangria Blanca (recipe here) and appetizers. Be sure to make enough of this delicious sangria; it disappears quickly! Your girlfriends could bring the appetizers, simplifying things even further. Otherwise, here are some simple ones that go nicely with the sangria. Trader Joe’s is a great source for almost all these items:

  • Chips and salsa
  • Guacamole and various veggie dipppers
  • Spicy nuts
  • Chicken Chipotle Quesadilla Rolls from Market Day 
  • Celery and blue cheese dip
  • Cream cheese with mango salsa poured over it, served with flatbread 
  • Key lime cheesecake 

Show, tell and swap

Have guests fill out their swap form and insert in their book(s) when they arrive. Then leave all the books on the central table for browsing. After everyone has arrived, chatted and had a cocktail, ask your friends to say a few words about the book they brought. This is not a book report; just say why they liked the book and/or why they think a girlfriend might enjoy it. (We know, we know, some of you are cringing at the thought of this little public-speaking exercise. Don’t chicken out. The effort really does pay off by adding some substance to your gathering. You’re among friends, and besides, your first glass of sangria should have kicked in by now.) If there are too many books/people to make this feasible, you can split into small groups.

Now it’s time to swap! We suggest asking everyone to sign up as the first borrower in one book only, then sign up in other books as available. Everyone leaves with their first book, to read, comment and pass on to the next borrower. The comment forms are a way of continuing the dialogue all summer. Try to read your book and pass it on promptly, especially if other borrowers are waiting.

If a girlfriend doesn’t want her book back at the end of the summer, she can simply write “please pass it on” in the “owner” space on the swap form. Or you may to keep the fun going by registering it at and leaving it in a public place for a lucky finder.

Party favors

You’ll want to give bookmarks, of course! Find some pretty ones at the dollar store, make them yourself from cardstock and rubber stamps, or do like we did and order custom ones from Impressive Inscriptions. They have great service and the beautiful laminated bookmarks made our guests feel special. You can even get them personalized if you know all your guests’ names in advance.

This party created quite a buzz among our local girlfriends and we are all looking forward to a bigger and better book swap this summer. Please be sure to let us know if you try this Girlfriend Celebration by commenting below!


  1. I really loved this idea! I love to read. I am throwing a party for my mom and her friends.

    Comment by Sunny Rae — June 20, 2007 @ 1:24 am

  2. Tonight I am hosting a summer book swap party to launch off summer reading for my entering 8th grade daughter and 20 friends…All the girls are excited about the swap and the parents are even more excited about the reading!!!

    Comment by Kim Keefe — June 21, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  3. I came here to find information about having a book party and was thrilled to find the reference to the link I love the idea and will share it at my party!

    Comment by SmashGal — November 2, 2007 @ 12:04 am

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  10. This is such a great idea. Too bad summer is almost over. I will have to think about doing this next year with my friends great excuse to throw a party.

    Comment by Susan — August 24, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

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