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Mystery Book Exchange

Updated: Jan 10

Unlock the mystery of a bookish soirée like no other – it's time to host a Mystery Book Exchange!

Picture this: a room filled with anticipation, wrapped books shrouded in secrecy, and a sense of literary intrigue hanging in the air. Get ready to unravel the secrets of hosting the ultimate Mystery Book Exchange – a gathering that promises not only literary surprises but an evening of bookish delight!

Untitled book on a table with candles
Mystery Book Exchange

After four years of our neighborhood book club's holiday white elephant gift exchange, where we aimed for gifts the giver would genuinely appreciate, we found ourselves in a loop of familiar treasures—scarves, blankets, wine glasses, and candles galore. With a desire to shake things up, we opted for a different kind of excitement this year!

Mystery Book Exchange

I had heard about Mystery Book Exchanges a few months ago and my interest was peaked. This can certainly be done at ANY time of year and it does not exclusively apply to book clubs. It could very well be adapted for use within:

  • Classrooms

  • Work environments

  • Children's parties

  • Girls Night In

  • Family reunions

  • And many more groups!

Instructions for the HOST

A Mystery Gift Exchange can be handled in many ways, but the typical way would be to follow the traditional rules for a "White Elephant" Gift Exchange:

1. Set a Budget: Establish a spending limit for the gifts to ensure fairness among participants.

2. Bring a Wrapped Book: Each participant brings a wrapped gift, concealing the contents. (see further instructions below)

3. Random Gift Selection: Participants draw numbers or pick names from a hat to determine the order in which they'll choose a gift.

4. Gift Unwrapping: The first person selects and unwraps a gift. Subsequent participants can choose to unwrap a new gift or "steal" an already unwrapped one.

5. Stealing Rules: Different variations exist, but commonly, a gift can only be stolen a certain number of times, and there may be restrictions on immediate steals.

6. Continue the Cycle: The gift exchange continues until everyone has had a turn.

7. Final Steal/stay: In many versions, the cycle continues BACK to the first person. No remaining gifts are left, but he/she may have the option to steal any gift without restrictions or stick with the original gift that was selected.

8. Good Sportsmanship: Participants should approach the exchange with a sense of humor and good sportsmanship, as the element of surprise and potential for steals can add a fun and unpredictable twist to the event.

Instructions for PARTICIPANTS

The host should provide the budget guideline for those attending the function and explain the basic concept. As a gift exchange based solely on books, you can choose to leave it broad (any book) or narrow it down based on relevancy to your groups age (children, young adults, or adults) and the interests of the group. Participants would:

  1. Wrap their selected book using brown bag wrapping or wrapping paper.

  2. Write a brief description on the wrapping to entice others. Options include:

    1. Bullet points with genre and 2-3 clues

    2. First sentence of the book

    3. Draw a Picture related to the book

  3. Exchange gifts!

Participants should have fun with this! Even if they aren't creative or struggle to draw, this game can be appreciated by everyone. One of our favorite mystery books only had TWO words on the cover: Scary and Trees. (The book was In a Dark, Dark Wood and this description was not only perfect, but hilarious!)

Additional Twists

Our book club added a fun twist to the game by pairing a bottle of wine with our wrapped book. We had full creative liberty to come up with how the wine was associated to the book and it added an additional hint of mystery and made the exchange even more exciting.

Another way to use Mystery Books, isn't in an exchange, but as an exciting gift giving solution for a book lover. Wrap several books with a brief description (like above) OR get creative and write suggestions for when they should read the book ("Perfect for on the beach", "Read when you want a good cry", "Ideal on a snowy night by a fireplace").

Yet another option for Mystery Books is when one is trying to encourage a reading habit. For example, to make the holidays exciting for a young child, wrap enough children's books for advent. They get to pick out a new book to read each night throughout the season.

Have a growing TBR bookshelf and feel overwhelmed when making a selection? Wrap your books to remove the anxiety by blindly selecting your next read. You know it should peak your interest already as it's on your bookshelf. Now all you are doing is taking the anxiety out by eliminating the need to 'choose' which book to read. Much like how some successful billionaires have a very basic wardrobe - they don't want to even have to think about their selection as they want to focus on other things (like reading the book in this instance!).

Cleverly wrapped books with descriptions
Mystery Book Exchange Examples

The books featured in the video above are:

  1. Historical Fiction cover with a Daisy = Daisy Jones and The Six

  2. She loves him so deeply = The Love of My Life

  3. The third book is also The Love of My Life - but notice how different each participant presented the book! Do not worry about multiple copies!


As the final wrappers are torn away, and the last laughs echo through the room, remember that the joy of a Mystery Gift Exchange extends beyond the surprises within the packages. It's about the shared moments, the playful anticipation, and the memories created. Whether in a book club, classroom, girls' night, or workplace, this unique twist on gift-giving adds a touch of magic to any gathering. Embrace the mystery, savor the smiles, and let the warmth of shared stories linger long after the gifts are exchanged. Happy gifting!

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257 views4 comments


I might be stealing this idea for our friends next get-together! Mystery Book Soirée sounds so much fancier and intriguing.


Blue Tea Tile

Replying to

Right?!?!? Soiree sounds so fancy when you say it like that! Kind of like how we mispronounce Target to be Tar-Jay!


Dec 17, 2023

We tried something similar put for work but with any gift! It was a bit more ruthless, ie. Dirty Secret Santa!

Sheila Hirschauer
Sheila Hirschauer
Dec 20, 2023
Replying to

Oh my gosh - that sounds hilarious! I've been remote for well over a decade, so have missed out on the holiday work environment. I'd be laughing so hard!

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