A Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs

BY CHELSEA ENNEN • May 31, 2024

A Guide to Celebrity Book Clubs

The celebrity book club is nothing new. While there’s an extensive history of famous people influencing the rest of us to buy all sorts of things, including books, Oprah Winfrey is probably the founder of what we now think of as the celebrity book club. 

Founded in 1996, Winfrey’s seal of approval on a book was one of the most coveted stickers in publishing. Oprah’s Book Club picks became instant bestsellers, going on to get Hollywood adaptations and endless print runs. 

These days the celebrity book club is still going strong. Reese Witherspoon holds the biggest sway right now, optioning books like Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and producing TV adaptations herself. Even without the small screen treatment, a nod from Witherspoon is enough to launch an obscure author’s career. 

But Winfrey and Witherspoon aren’t the only stars with literary interests. These lesser-known celebrity book clubs might not be enough to immediately get an author on any bestseller lists, but even a smaller audience can create an opportunity for a closer reading community and allow for people choosing books to make bolder choices.

Belletrist by Emma Roberts 

Actress Emma Roberts created Belletrist in 2017 with her friend Karah Preiss. While not quite yet at Reese Witherspoon’s level, Roberts’s Belletrist has produced the TV shows First Kill and Tell Me Lies, both of which are based on books. 

Belletrist chooses a new book every month, with past choices like Happiness Falls by Angie Kim, The Guest by Emma Cline, and In the Shadow of the Mountain by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado. Belletrist books are often literary fiction but also include memoirs, historical fiction, and fantasy. 

In addition to the monthly book club picks, Belletrist also includes a weekly newsletter and is active on social media, which allows Roberts and Preiss to further promote their favorite books and recommendations. 

Our Shared Shelf by Emma Watson

True to the book-loving spirit of the iconic Hermione Granger, Emma Watson launched Our Shared Shelf in 2016. Watson’s literary taste skews political, with lots of nonfiction and memoir recommendations. Our Shared Shelf picks ranged from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues to Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge to The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. 

As of 2020, Watson is no longer making regular personal recommendations to Our Shared Shelf. However, it’s not exactly shuttered. She continues to make book recommendations on Instagram, using the hashtag #oursharedshelf to mark them for her reading friends, and she’s kept the Our Shared Shelf forums open on Goodreads. 

Despite the fact that Watson’s club is no longer as active as it used to be, its impact can still be felt throughout the publishing world due to the stir it made. Watson’s recommendations were highly visible due to her political activism, and Our Shared Shelf remains an example of how there’s more to celebrity book clubs than TV and movie adaptations. 

TeaTime by Dakota Johnson 

Dakota Johnson’s TeaTime is one of the newer celebrity book clubs. Founded in 2024, it’s connected to her production company of the same name. While the classic Oprah's Book Club picks were disseminated on her TV show and in her magazine, Johnson’s TeaTime is exclusive to Instagram. If you join the TeaTime broadcast channel, you can tune in to what Johnson describes as “deep dives” into her reading choices. The first recommendation? Beautyland by Marie-Helene Bertino, which tells the story of a woman who thinks she’s an alien. 

In addition to building her platform fully on Instagram, Johnson has embraced the function of a modern book club by being more explicit than Witherspoon originally was about adapting her picks into movies and TV shows. 

Service95 by Dua Lipa

Pop star Dua Lipa’s Service95 isn’t specifically a book club, though it does include book recommendations. Described as a “cultural concierge,” Service95 is a global editorial platform that spans many subject areas, and readers looking for book recommendations might bristle at having to sift through shopping guides and travel inspiration. 

But what Service95 lacks in book specificity, it makes up for in breadth. Clicking on the Book Club tag from the Service95 Instagram page will bring you to reading lists from authors like Tomasz Jedrowski (Swimming in the Dark), Michelle Zauner (Crying in H Mart), and Hernan Diaz (Trust). In addition to sharing book lists with author profiles, Service95 also includes author playlists and interviews for readers looking for a deeper insight into their favorite writers. 

What Are You Reading?

It’s easy to feel cynical about celebrity book clubs, and some devoted readers struggle not to turn their noses up at people who won’t pick up a book unless it’s been made into a TV show. 

But in a world where fantastic authors struggle to pay rent, and there are an infinite number of wonderful books out there that you’ve never heard of, why would anybody be a snob about sharing book recommendations? Whether movie stars are actually reading the books or they’re hiring an assistant to make the picks for them, it’s still an avenue devoted to loving books. And if the current choices aren’t for you, then there are likely many more movie stars looking to share their reading habits in the future. 

Chelsea Ennen is a writer living in Brooklyn with her husband and her dog. When not writing or reading, she is a fiber and textile artist who sews, knits, crochets, weaves, and spins.

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