June 26, 2022

Celebrity book clubs are the new big thing. But are their picks worth reading?

Celebrity: Reese Witherspoon

Brand as: Reese x Hello Sunshine Book Club

Good choice if: You are a modern woman who bends and slaps to pick up a book.

Book credit: Turned “Big Little Lies” into an HBO series; wrote the next “Whiskey in a Teacup”, a book about the celebrity lifestyle – that rare kind of a genre.

Recent readings: “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton and “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Notes on the cliffs: If there’s a book club known since Oprah’s, this is it. Witherspoon has good taste, favoring contemporary fiction by women – often historical novels and mysteries – and her production company has claimed the rights to several of her monthly selections. But don’t expect a nuanced discussion of the books; this is more of a “What’s Reese’s reading” situation.

Brand as: Andrew Luck Book Club

Good choice if: You ever said “Do you even read, bro?” with a straight face.

Book credit: Generally considered the unofficial librarian of the NFL.

Recent readings: “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi and “A Girl Named Zippy” by Haven Kimmel.

Notes on the cliffs: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Luck has been on the disabled list for a long time, which has apparently freed him up to read. He offers two choices a month: one for “veterans”—what he reads now—and one for “rookies,” with books he loved as a kid. It’s a great way to show that sports and reading can co-exist, especially for kids, and that these aren’t light stadium reads. Luck favors philosophical works and good non-fiction, usually with a historical bent.

Brand as: Oprah’s book club

Good choice if: You have passed Reese’s group.

Book credit: Winfrey is the OG. Would we have celebrity book clubs if it wasn’t for her? (Would we have reading material? Would we have books?)

Recent readings: “The Sun is Shining” by Anthony Ray Hinton and “An American Wedding” by Tayari Jones.

Notes on the cliffs: From the moment she started her club in 1996, Winfrey’s recommendations have instantly turned into bestsellers, and she continues to pursue a career in writing. Expect serious fiction that explores topics such as race, class, and injustice. The choices are reliable – of course they are; this is Oprah we’re talking about – and the reading guides are nuanced and thought-provoking (though you should bring them to your own discussion group).

Celebrity: Florence Welch

Brand as: between two books

Good choice if: You are the enlightened artistic type.

Book credit: Author of new poetry and lyric book “Useless Magic”.

Recent readings: “On Boxing” by Joyce Carol Oates and “The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison.

Notes on the cliffs: This is the club all those edgy-cool girls from high school would have belonged to. Welch, the lead singer of English indie rock band Florence + the Machine, loves poetry, literature and art, and tends to select cult classics, memoirs on feminism and collections of literary essays. The group has read 34 books over the past six years, and there are usually handwritten prose descriptions explaining why each choice resonated with Welch.

Brand as: Our shared shelf

Good choice if: You care about women’s rights.

Book credit: Portrayed the book-obsessed Hermione Granger in “Harry Potter”.

Recent readings: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf.

Notes on the cliffs: Watson’s two-year-old gang of mean women was born out of a desire to devour anything written about equality. Over 200,000 people have joined the Goodreads group, and it feels more like a movement than a book club. Watson’s bimonthly picks are well-written and important, and the club sets the bar for high-quality discussions.

Brand as: Tonight, summer reading show

Good choice if: You always curse your IRL book club for a 7 p.m. meeting, which is way too early to talk about books.

Book credit: Author of six books, including last year’s “Everything Is Mama” for children.

Recently read: “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi.

Notes on the cliffs: In June, when Fallon found himself without a summer reading, he asked viewers to vote for five different candidates. The leaked winner was “Children of Blood and Bone,” a YA fantasy written by 24-year-old Adeyemi. Fallon shared chapter-by-chapter audio recaps, and he did a Q&A on YouTube and Instagram in July. TBD if he’ll keep adding to your TBR roster, but he’s been doing pretty well at book club so far, so we’ll stay tuned.

Good choice if: You want thought-provoking reads that aren’t about the beach.

Book credit: Self-proclaimed avid reader.

Recent readings: “Dead Girls” by Alice Bolin and “Welcome to Lagos” by Chibundu Onuzo.

Notes on the cliffs: Why call yourself something so mundane as a bookworm when you could be a Belletrist girl? This is how Roberts and his co-founder Karah Preiss refer to its members. The two started the group as a way to hold themselves accountable for reading all the books they buy — a worthy cause, but they don’t shorten those TBR piles by featuring a must-have independent bookstore each month. Roberts enjoys literary fiction, memoirs, and authors like Joan Didion and Ariel Levy. There are good discussions on Instagram and in the band’s newsletter.

Angela Hauptis a District-based writer and editor.