“Wanna do a virtual scavenger hunt?”
My friend, Allison, posed this question during a four-way video call, the social-distancing equivalent of dinner with friends. After all, even those of us who are perfectly content to grab our books and social distance for days in a row need a “night out” now and then. When Allison gave us our first mission, to find a book with something written on the inside cover or title page, it suddenly occurred to me that a virtual scavenger hunt is a brilliant way for us book lovers to stay connected with friends—and with our books—during COVID-19 social distancing.
The virtual scavenger hunt is a simple concept. Take turns assigning missions, decide on a deadline, and text each other photos of your finds. If you’re a competitive bunch, you can make it a contest, either with timing or with the quality of the find. Whether or not you turn it into a competition, it’s a fun excuse to spend some time rediscovering your books. And because your personal library is a reflection of you, it also presents an unexpected opportunity to let your friends get to know you better, even if it means revealing a few embarrassing tidbits about yourself.
In my case, for example, during the first mission of our virtual scavenger hunt, I found and shared the Dewey Decimal System I made up as a child for my beloved books:
While my friends learned how far back my book nerd roots run, I learned that my friends come from families who cherish books enough to pass them down through generations. One friend found a Bible that belonged to her grandmother, another a Girl Scout handbook that belonged to her mother. Another friend shared her copy of Shel Silverstein’s Everything On It with a handwritten inscription from the friend who gave it to her, reminding us that sometimes a book is the best kind of gift.
Not every virtual scavenger hunt mission needs to inspire meaningful discussion, but you never know which ones will. When it comes to creating missions, the sky is the limit. To get you started, here are few ideas, from random to meaningful to story-themed missions.
Bookish Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Random Missions
From physical characteristics to content details, these missions are a lot of fun, but also potentially challenging.
Find a book with:
- A first sentence that is five words or fewer.
- A first sentence that is at least 20 words.
- A first sentence that is dialogue.
- A first sentence that mentions the name of a city.
- A first sentence that contains a number.
Bonus: If you’re feeling ambitious, give any of these missions a competitive twist. For example, the first bullet would be: Who can find the first sentence with the fewest words?
Find a book that:
- Features a character with your own name.
- Features a character who is an animal.
- Is set in your hometown.
- Has at least one photo.
- Contains a recipe, but isn’t a cookbook.
Find a book:
- That is at least 12 inches tall.
- That has the most—or the least—number of pages in your collection.
- That is the same color as the shirt you’re wearing.
- That has a torn page in it.
- That has an animal on the cover.
- The book in your library with the oldest year of publication.
- A first edition book from earlier than 1950.
- A book that was published in the year you were born.
- An advanced reader copy that hasn’t yet launched.
- A book that is now out of print.
Miscellaneous Random Missions
- A book of which you have more than one copy.
- A print edition of a dictionary or thesaurus, or a volume from an encyclopedia set.
- A print edition book of which you also own the ebook or audiobook.
- As many New York Times bestsellers as you can find.
- A book by a local author.
Bookish Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Meaningful Missions
We book lovers can go through every title we own and tell you where, when, and what we were thinking when we got it, why we still have it, and what it means or doesn’t mean to us. So these missions give us the perfect excuse to reflect, share, and mercilessly tease each other.
Inside the Front Cover
Find a book:
- That is signed by the author.
- That has a handwritten note from the person who gave it to you.
- That has something written by you inside the front cover.
- That has something written by a stranger inside the front cover.
- That has a hand-rendered drawing or illustration inside the front cover.
Moments in Life
Find a book:
- That got you through a hard time.
- That helped you make a decision.
- That you read the year you _________ (insert milestone that everyone in your group has experienced).
- That helped you realize you were in love.
- That sparked your love for books.
Find a book:
- That was given to you just when you needed it.
- That was given to you by a family member.
- That you give to everyone else.
- That you wish someone hadn’t given to you.
- That was given to you by someone who is no longer in your life.
Miscellaneous Meaningful Missions
Find a book:
- That features a character you wish you could be.
- That you wish you’d written.
- That you’ve owned the longest.
- That you bought in another city.
- That you thought you wouldn’t like, but then you did; or that you thought you’d like, but then you didn’t.
Bookish Virtual Scavenger Hunt: Story-Themed Missions
When you’re ready to take your hunt away from the bookshelves, challenge your friends to find a list of household items inspired by your favorite book. Here’s an example of a virtual scavenger hunt designed around Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.
Little Fires Everywhere–Themed Mission
Search your home for as many of these items referenced in the book—in whatever form you’d like—as you can find. Just in case it’s been a while since you’ve read the book, I have included page numbers for the appearances in the story of some of the more obscure items.
- Photo of a mother and baby
- Moleskin notebook (page 51)
- Toothpick (page 82)
- Net (page 327)
- Hockey chest pad (page 327)
- Origami bird (page 328)
- Collar stay (page 328)
- Feather (page 329)
- Black leather boot (page 329)
Now that you have a few ideas to create your own bookish virtual scavenger hunt, here’s to many happy hours searching, finding, remembering, and sharing. And maybe even rediscovering some books on your shelf that deserve a second—or third or twentieth—read.
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