A Yankee book swap, which we added to our Christmas tradition for the first time this year, builds on the tradition of Yankee frugality while spreading good books around. We raided our bookshelves for gently used books we were willing to part with, books we thought someone else in the group might enjoy. Then we used some bookstore gift cards to choose a few more to round out the collection. On Christmas Eve, between dinner and dessert, we held the swap.
In a Yankee swap, people draw numbers. In order, they then choose from a pile of wrapped gifts. When you open your gift, you can choose whether to keep it or to swap it for something already opened; the other party has no say, and has to meekly accept your reject.
We had enough books to go through our group of recipients twice, the second time in reverse order, although nobody in the second round was allowed to raid books chosen in the first round. At the very end, there were still a few books left over, so those who felt shafted by the process had one more chance.
I ended up with a thriller (not by choice) and a set of three novels by the great Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz. But what was really fun was the discussion surrounding the books - six kids in their twenties, a twelve-year-old, and three of us from older generations describing, reading the flaps aloud, exclaiming over old favorites, and making their choices. From science fiction stories to New Yorker cartoons to women's fiction to a travelogue of Afghanistan and a Bernard Lewis book on Islam, each book found a home with someone who will savor it, which is a wonderful fate for a book.