June 26, 2022

Malala Yousafzai, Steph Curry and Richard Branson organize new book clubs

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Book clubs, virtual or otherwise, are great in theory, but there’s always work for participants to do. Sometimes moving to acquire the book can take longer than reading it.

And at celebrity book clubs, like those run by Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, there aren’t many online chats or debates, if any, with the celebrity host. But Literati wants to give readers the experience of a virtual celebrity book club with the ease of home delivery and an app that will encourage discourse with an in-depth discussion forum.

A monthly subscription book service for children, Literati extends to monthly adult book clubs which are organized by notable personalities, known as “luminaries”. Curators include Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, NBA star Steph Curry, bestselling writer Susan Orlean, entrepreneur Richard Branson and scholars from the Joseph Campbell Foundation.

There will be multiple chat rooms in each club depending on where you are in the book. Through an app, each luminary will log in several times a month to join and participate in the discussion with their readers.

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Yousafzai, who recently turned 23 and is often known as Malala, has a lot going for her. Recently graduated from Oxford University, she continues to work as an activist and co-founder of the Malala Fund, an international non-profit organization that defends the rights of girls to “free, safe and quality education”. Her most recent book, “We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World”, was published in 2019.

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With so much going on, why start a book club?

Along with engaging young people and exploring new books, Yousafzai tells USA TODAY that she thinks there’s also an educational purpose. And education is dear to the activist’s heart.

With reading, “we learn so much about the past, about different cultures, traditions, and literally about the world we live in,” Yousafzai says. “Sometimes we can be quite ignorant of ourselves, our society and those around us, and reading helps to realize that. It helps you develop, it helps you grow and it helps you become a better citizen.

Officially launching on October 1, themed book clubs cost $25 per month for a monthly subscription or $20 per month with an annual subscription. Members will receive a printed copy of the book each month with a note and special packaging. The club will also include an iOS app, currently in beta, which will connect members with their club host and act as a chat platform. It is this speech promise that Yousafzai is most looking forward to. After all, sometimes the best part of reading a book is the discussion that follows.

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“What other people think (of a book) is an even more fascinating experience. So I look forward to having discussions with readers,” says Yousafzai. “Discussion is really a healthy process to make sure we’re exchanging ideas; it really enlightens our minds and enlightens our society. So I’m really excited about that part.

His club rightly carries the “Fearless” theme. Yousafzai actively fought for her and other girls’ right to education after the Taliban closed and destroyed many schools and banned girls from attending her native Pakistan. At the age of 15, she survived a Taliban assassination attempt designed to silence her.

According to the site, Fearless will feature “the voices of authors the world too often overlooks.” That means a lot of new writers and young women writers, especially women of color.

“There are a lot of young women who have only read books by white western men. And often they assume that this (literature) is not their field, this (literature) is not their domain, and that they are often afraid to share their ideas and concerns.

So what will book clubs read and discuss?

The club’s inaugural title is “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith. Published in 2000, Smith wrote the novel while still a student at Cambridge University. The novel tells the story of two World War II soldiers, the very English Archie Jones and the very Bengali Samad Iqbal, who become unlikely friends.

“(Smith) has written an incredible, detailed story of a family from different cultures, living across generations. It’s truly fascinating. It’s fun. It’s engaging,” Yousafzai says, noting that he is important to support books by young female authors because “they inspire other women and other young women, especially women of color, to come out and share their stories. And that’s how we can diversify the Literature.”

“We believe in the power of books to inspire lifelong learning and spark deeper conversation,” said Jessica Ewing, CEO and Founder of Literati in a statement. “Our luminaries seek to provide something of unique value to the world. Whether it’s bringing out outsider writers, showcasing new female voices, or sharing beloved books from their private collection, their selections have a deeply personal meaning.

What are the other luminaries reading? Also kicking off Oct. 1, Steph Curry’s Underrated Club will play “The Other Wes Moore,” by Wes Moore; The Private Collection of Susan Orlean’s Club will read “Dept. speculation” by Jenny Ofill; Richard Branson’s Reading with Richard club will read Richard Stengel’s ‘Mandela’s Way’; and the Joseph Campbell Foundation Myth & Meaning Club will read “The Wayfinders” by Wade Davis.

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Yousafzai, in addition to organizing future selections, says she won’t take too much at this time. After recently finishing her senior year of college and graduating during a global pandemic, she plans to take a moment for herself as she thinks more recent graduates should, especially in the midst of the pandemic.

“My whole life has been based in my bedroom, in my bedroom at home…and it’s been quite difficult living with two young brothers and a family. And it can be exhausting at times.”

But the activist tries to keep a positive attitude.

“What we need right now is hope, it’s optimism. And, and what we need is to continue our hard work for a better world.