The Paperback Game

Looking for a game to play at a party or when on vacation? A writer for the New York Times has what looks to be a hilarous way to pass the time while on vacation or at a party where there are lots of books lying around.

Here’s what you’ll need to play: slips of paper (index cards work well), a handful of pencils or pens and a pile of paperback books. Any sort of book will do, from a Dostoyevsky to a Jennifer Egan, and from diet guides to the Kama Sutra. But we’ve found it’s especially rewarding to use genre books: mysteries, romance novels, science fiction, pulp thrillers, westerns, the cheesier the better. If you don’t have well-thumbed mass-market paperbacks in your house, you can usually buy a pile from your library, or from a used-book store, for roughly 50 cents a pop.


Once you’ve gathered your loved ones at the table — 4 to 10 is optimal — and opened fresh bottles of wine and perhaps put on an old Ry Cooder record, here is how the game unfolds. One player, the “picker” for this turn, selects a book from the pile and shows its cover around. Then he or she flips it over and reads aloud the often overwrought publisher-supplied copy on the back cover.


The other players absorb these words, and then write on their slips of paper what they imagine to be a credible first sentence for Ms. Lindsey’s novel. Essentially, they need to come up with something good — or bad — enough to fool the other players into thinking that this might be the book’s actual first sentence. Players initial their slips of paper and place them upside down in a pile at the center of the table.

Meanwhile the picker — the person who read the back cover aloud — writes the book’s actual first sentence on another slip of paper. He or she collects all the slips, mixing the real first sentence with the fakes, and commences to read each one aloud. Each person votes on what he or she thinks is the real first sentence.

Here’s how score is kept: If someone votes for your bogus sentence, you get a point. If you pick the real first sentence, you get two points. (The picker doesn’t vote in this round.) Now go around the table clockwise. Someone else picks a book, and you repeat the process until a round ends – that is, until each person has had a turn at being the picker. Or you can play until the wine bottles are drained, and it’s time to go outside to gawk at the stars.

You can read the entire article here.

This would actually be a fun game to play at my parents home where there are tons of books lying about. I’m heading over there for the 4th but alas we already have tickets to a demolition derby. However, it’s something I’d like to try next time I’m at a party or hanging out with the family later this summer.

If any of you have played The Paperback Game (or something similar) I’m curious as to how much you enjoy it. According to the author you don’t have to be a book worm or a writer to excel at the game—just creative.