If you’re anything like me, you’ll take any excuse to celebrate your love of reading. Whether it’s your birthday, Halloween, or just a Friday night gathering—it always seems like a good idea to get all dressed up and decorate your home to look like you just stepped into the pages of a book. Everyone loves a good costume party, and it gives you a reason to talk about your favorite characters all night—hooray!
So you’ve decided on a literary party, but here’s the tricky part. How on earth are you supposed to narrow down which of your favorite novels should be the theme? Here are my ten suggestions for the greatest literary party ideas of all time (because we all know The Great Gatsby has been done to death).
1. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
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OK, so the name doesn’t sound particularly cheery, but Vile Bodies (original title Bright Young Things) is basically the British Great Gatsby. To throw an amazing Vile Bodies party, tell your guests to get inspiration from this fantastic extract from the book, about all the incredible themed shindigs that the characters go to:
“Masked parties, Savage parties, Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as someone else, almost naked parties in St. John’s Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths, tea parties at school where one ate muffins and meringues and tinned crab, parties at Oxford where one drank sherry and smoked Turkish cigarettes…”
2. One Thousand and One Nights by Anonymous
This collection of fairy tales celebrates the very act of storytelling, making it the perfect theme for a literary bash. Guests can use any of the legends as their muse: Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp, perhaps, or Sinbad the Sailor. The rich and varied history of these stories gives you freedom to explore this theme however you wish; while many of the yarns originated in the Middle East, others are European fables.
3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
For the dreamiest celebration you can imagine, draw from the Bard’s creativity. (And then cross your fingers and hope for good weather, because this is such a great party to host outdoors.) Think long white dresses and floral crowns, fairy lights and tea candles—and maybe a donkey or two for good measure.
4. Mr. Men and Little Miss by Roger Hargreaves
For something a bit fun and silly (but definitely not just for children)—how about a Mr. Men and Little Miss party? There are 91 characters in the series, so your guests can pick from costumes such as Mr. Messy, Little Miss Chatterbox, Mr. Mischief or Little Miss Star. All are bright and colorful, with distinctive hats or hairstyles, and you could even make a game out of everyone staying in character all night.
5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
This one needs no explaining; it’s like the book was written specifically to be a party theme. Playing cards and clocks make fantastic decorations—and even if you’re too grown up for a tea party, you can serve your guests cocktails out of colorful teapots.
6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The ‘90s were a great era for fashion, so expect to see a ton of tartan skirts, crop tops, and Doc Martens at your Perks of Being a Wallflower get-together. And while the book is filled with a lot of hard-hitting moments, in amongst these is a strong, uplifting message about living in the moment, and participating fully in life.
7. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
All the kids are having Frozen parties, but that doesn’t mean the adults shouldn’t get in on the fun, too. For your Snow Queen gathering, turn your living room into a winter wonderland, and have your guests show up in traditional Danish dress. Just nobody dress up as Elsa, please.
8. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Even if your friends don’t want to read the book, an I, Claudius bash is the perfect justification for doing something you probably haven’t done since your college years: hosting a toga party!
9. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
This may be another children’s book, but the appeal of Dr. Seuss never fades—even when you’re a sensible adult. A room full of people in red-and-white hats and bow ties is bound to be quite a sight—and for a fun touch, serve all your drinks with funky striped straws.
10. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
This might be the party theme I’m most excited about. Not only would the costumes be adorable (think gorgeous tea dresses, retro dungarees, and patterned aprons), but the novel also includes a load of delicious-sounding recipes for you to serve up. Candied yams, anyone?
Image credits:Photolyric/iStock.com, nensuria/iStock.com; Vile Bodies (Clockwise from top L): Ina Peters/iStock.com, vgorbash/iStock.com, Little, Brown and Company, TeodoraDjordjevic/iStock.com; One Thousand and One Nights (Clockwise from top L): sakari37/iStock.com, Penguin Classics, Sevulya/iStock.com, anna_isan/iStock.com, itakefotos4u/iStock.com, Thomas Bethge/Shutterstock.com; A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Clockwise from top L): lucop/iStock.com, CoffeeAndMilk/iStock.com, Modern Library, knape/iStock.com, knape/iStock.com, danymages/iStock.com; Mr. Men and Little Miss (Clockwise from top L): All covers from Price Stern Sloan, Catherine Lane/iStock.com, JoeLena/iStock.com; Alice in Wonderland (Clockwise from top L): badmanproduction/iStock.com, fotogaby/iStock.com, Ulyashka/iStock.com, Puffin Books, harmpeti/iStock.com, Barcin/iStock.com, antsmarching/iStock.com; The Perks of Being A Wallflower (Clockwise from top L): SchulteProductions/iStock.com, DanielBendjy/iStock.com, MTV Books, Rohappy/iStock.com, MrsWilkins/iStock.com, ventolin/iStock.com, djordje zivaljevic/iStock.com, 101dalmatians/iStock.com; The Snow Queen (Clockwise from top L): kobrin_photo/iStock.com, Hythloday Press, Poike/iStock.com, SolStock/iStock.com, Yuri_Arcurs/iStock.com, IvanMikhaylov/iStock.com, Pattie Calfy/iStock.com; I, Claudius (Clockwise from top L): ROMAOSLO/iStock.com, igorr1/iStock.com, Tntk/iStock.com, ZU_09/iStock.com, Vintage; The Cat in the Hat (Clockwise from top L): longtaildog/iStock.com, Random House Books for Young Readers, HelenaQueen/iStock.com, bhofack2/iStock.com, Nobilior/iStock.com, 221A/iStock.com; Fried Green Tomatoes (Clockwise from top L): Thaddeus Robertson/iStock.com, Random House, CSA-Printstock/iStock.com, pjohnson1/iStock.com, Funwithfood/iStock.com.