It started with Oprah. Here’s a look at 5 celebrity book clubs — and some of their top picks
Oprah Winfrey pioneered the celebrity book club trend more than 25 years ago
It started more than 20 years ago with Oprah Winfrey — and several celebrities have since followed suit.
Now, there’s a number of celebrity book clubs that have helped authors and their works gain exposure and popularity. Here’s a look at a few of these clubs, along with some of their book recommendations.
Oprah’s Book Club
Winfrey formed Oprah’s Book Club in 1996, and over the years, the club “has selected books that engender conversation, spark enlightenment, help launch emerging authors, and reacquaint us with the already prominent,” per Oprah Daily.
Winfrey has hand-picked more than 100 books for members of the club to read, according to Oprah Daily. She shares her own review of the book, provides a reading schedule with multiple discussions about the book, interviews the author and asks members of her book club to share their own thoughts.
Winfrey also provides book lists such as “5 Books Every Mother Will Enjoy” and “The Best Books to Get You Through a Messy Divorce” on her website.
“I love books and the community that’s created when people share them,” Winfrey said, per Oprah Daily. “If you open yourself when you open a good book, it will continue to illuminate your life even after The End.”
Recent book recommendations: “The Covenant of Water” by Abraham Verghese, “Hello Beautiful” by Ann Napolitano and “Bittersweet” by Susan Cain.
Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club
Reese Witherspoon, who rose to stardom for her roles in romantic comedies such as “Legally Blonde” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” has become somewhat of a book-recommendation expert.
Each month, Witherspoon “chooses a book with a woman at the center of the story,” according to Reese’s Book Club. Her selections are typically written by female authors.
“There’s not a formula to the books we spotlight, and we like it that way,” reads a statement on the club’s website. “We make our choices thoughtfully and look for ways to deepen our connection to books, authors and ourselves.”
Witherspoon launched her book club in 2017 with a recommendation for “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,” by Gail Honeyman. Her book club selections have a tendency to rise from midlist to bestseller, Vox reported.
“When Reese’s Book Club picked ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ a debut novel by the unknown 70-year-old author Delia Owens, it pulled the book out of mid-list obscurity and put it on the path toward megastardom,” per Vox.
Through each book selection, Witherspoon gets one step closer to reaching her personal goal: “I want to make a lot of women a lot of money,” the Oscar-winning actress told Time.
Through her production company, Hello Sunshine, Witherspoon has taken several of her book picks to the screen. Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine have played a role in adapting “Where the Crawdads Sing,” “Daisy Jones & The Six,” “The Last Thing He Told Me” and “Little Fires Everywhere” into television series and movies. They were all Reese’s Book Club picks first.
Now, “Daisy Jones & The Six” has been nominated for nine Emmys, including: Outstanding Limited Anthology Series, Outstanding Lead Actress for Riley Keough and Outstanding Supporting Actress for Camila Morrone.
“We believe in the power of story to broaden perspectives and change the world for women,” reads a mission statement on the Hello Sunshine website.
Recent book recommendations: “Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?” by Crystal Smith Paul, “Romantic Comedy” by Curtis Sittenfeld and “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah.
Read with Jenna book club
“Today” show host Jenna Bush Hager introduced her book club, Read with Jenna, in 2019. Each month, Bush Hager selects books that will “delight, entertain and challenge” members of her book club, per Today.
Every book is “independently chosen by Jenna Bush Hager because she loves them. Jenna was not paid to mention these items and is unaffiliated with the authors and publishers. These books are simply some of her favorite reads,” according to Today.
Bush Hager gives her own review of each book, provides a monthly reading schedule and hosts online discussions through Instagram, Facebook and Goodreads. In addition, each monthly book selection is featured on the “Today” show, and Bush Hager hosts live interviews with authors and book signings at the Rockefeller Center.
Read with Jenna book selections are almost guaranteed a ride to the top of the bestseller list.
If Bush Hager recommends a book, “It will, at a minimum, charge into the culture — on shelves, in stockings, rocketing up the Amazon rankings — for the bare fact that Ms. Hager has said its name before a viewing public that has come to trust her like an insistently persuasive aunt,” wrote The New York Times.
Recent book recommendations: “The Celebrants” by Steven Rowley, “Chain Gang All-Stars” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah and “Camp Zero” by Michelle Min Sterling.
Belletrist book club
Actress Emma Roberts and her best friend Karah Preiss, who are both “avid readers,” started the Belletrist Book Club six years ago to channel their “hobby into an online community of likeminded subscribers,” according to the book club’s website.
For years, Roberts and Preiss would mail their favorite reads across the country to each other — complete with little notes within the pages.
Now, through social media, Roberts and Preiss select a new book each month and discuss highlights from the book — “its characters, the intricacies of the writing process, and how each book came to life” — and feature live author interviews, according to Belletrist.com.
“You don’t have to be the best reader or read the most — you just need that sense of curiosity and to want to be introduced to new stories that you might not have read otherwise,” Roberts said, per Belletrist.
Each week the club shares its STACKED — what it calls “the MTV cribs of bookshelves.” A weekly STACKED post includes celebrity guest stars or authors, book recommendations and bookshelf tours.
“Our friendship is rooted in a mutual love of books. There’s nothing like finding a fellow reader who’s just as passionate about prose as you are,” Roberts told The Hollywood Reporter.
Recent book recommendations: “The Three of Us” by Ore Agbaje-Williams, “A Likely Story” by Leigh McMullan Abramson and “What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez” by Claire Jimenez.
Kaia Gerber book club
Kaia Gerber, the daughter of model Cindy Crawford, started her own virtual book club during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know we are all feeling isolated right now, so I was trying to think of easy ways we can stay connected (beyond just scrolling) and decided I’m gonna start a book club,” Gerber wrote on Instagram in March 2020. “So every week I’m gonna post a book to my stories and the following week I’ll jump on live (sometimes with a friend, writer, guest etc.) So we can all talk about the book that week!”
Gerber’s first book selection was “Normal People” by Sally Rooney. During her Instagram live discussion, Gerber featured Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones, the stars from the “Normal People” Hulu series. She has also spoken with Jane Fonda, Lena Dunham, Emily Ratajkowski and several other authors.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a book club,” Gerber told Vogue. “I’d be reading books and talking about them with my friends, but we never set up anything formal, so when the pandemic happened — mostly out of boredom at first, to be honest — I wanted to create a space where people felt like they could talk about topics that were a little bit harder to broach on Instagram.”
During the pandemic, Gerber gave a new book recommendation every week. She has cut back to one recommendation each month, and keeps her book club reading a wide variety of books, ranging from memoirs to plays.
Recent book recommendations: “In Memoriam” by Alice Winn and “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.