Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrity Book Clubs

Okay, I love me a celebrity book club... as long as their taste is similar to mine. When I was young and stubborn and first working in a bookstore, I eschewed Oprah's Book Club as a herd mentality way of choosing books. Of course, what Oprah's Book Club really did was spotlight literature and get generations of viewers interested in books, which I now recognize is totally awesome.

Lately, Oprah is joined by more and more celebrities using their power to spotlight their favorite reads. Of course, librarians know about Sarah Jessica Parker's ALA Book Club: SLJ Picks. Reese Witherspoon also shares her picks on Instagram in her Hello Sunshine book club.  Emma Watson has a feminist book club on Good Reads. And I'm sure there are more and more to come.

I'm particularly excited that a lot of the recent choices have been diverse titles by #ownvoices authors! I know they don't need any more publicity, but here are a few I have been digging recently:

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (2017). William Morrow. 304 pages. Audiobook narrated by Meera Syal. Review copy provided by my local library.

Reese Witherspoon's latest book club choice is a story about a British-Punjabi new adult who, floundering about her career choices, starts teaching a writing class at a local Sikh temple. From the publisher copy: "Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind."

I just started the audiobook of this title because I needed an audiobook that would REALLY COMPEL me to keep listening (otherwise I do no cleaning and get no exercise, so...). I think this one is going to fit the bill. I'm one chapter in and loving it so far. 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018). Algonquin Books. 320 pages. Review copy purchased with my Book of the Month subscription - want to try it? Use my referral link here to get a free book!

I am in the middle of this one right now and pretty much all I want to do is stay home and read it. Oprah's latest Book Club choice is about an African American couple and what happens to their relationship when, after a year and a half of marriage, husband Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's totally character-based, which is my jam, and I'm just fascinated with where the story's going. It may have extra appeal for me as a wife coming up on our second wedding anniversary: what would I do if this happened? How would we handle it? 

Funny story: this book was available to preorder as "Oprah's Book Club Choice" before the title of Oprah's choice was announced. Of course I ordered multiple copies, knowing that a new Oprah pick would be super popular. I came in to the office one day to find four copies of this book on the processing cart and I said, "Oh, no, what did I do now? Why did I order four copies of this book?" only to find out that - of course - it was Oprah's pick. I was so happy because it had already been looking forward to this book. And I am enjoying it so, so much. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017). Penguin. Review copy purchased from Book of the Month

This one was a Reese Witherspoon pick from back in the fall and it's recently been announced that it'll be made into a series on Hulu. My family book club read this one last fall and had some great discussions around it; you can bet one of the book club ladies sent me the news of the new TV series as soon as she heard. 

Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of two families, intertwined by happenstance, who change each other's lives in dramatic ways. It also tells the story of a young Chinese mother who abandoned her baby, only to change her mind and fight against a white adoptive couple for custody of the child and how the fight divides their community. 

What do you think about celebrity book clubs? Any favorites you've discovered through celeb recommendations?