It’s easy to forget that many celebrities do the same things we do: shop for groceries, watch movies, read books. I have a heightened sense of appreciation for celebrities when I find out they are readers or even authors. Pursuing the path of a novelist may be easier for those who’ve had a head start to fame, but it’s still commendable.
Considering that reading invokes similar feelings to watching a film, it makes sense that so many actors and actresses are passionate about books. Celebrities particularly enthralled by reading have used their platform to create book clubs open to all.
Though currently on hiatus, Emma Watson’s book club, Our Shared Shelf, garnered nearly half a million followers on Instagram. The club highlighted bi-monthly picks focusing on intersectionality and feminism.
Similarly, Oprah Winfrey founded Oprah’s Book Club, which began as a segment on her talk show in 1996. Winfrey recently partnered with Apple Books and Apple TV, bringing the book club back to the screen, complete with author interviews of course. The club was the subject of attention when Winfrey chose “American Dirt,” interviewing author Jeanine Cummins, who has been critiqued for her portrayal of immigration from a position of White privilege. On a more positive note, Winfrey’s selection of “The Water Dancer” by Ta-Nehisi Coates did wonders for the promotion of his debut novel.
Other notable book clubs are Read with Jenna, started by Today Show’s Jenna Bush Hager, Belletrist, founded by Emma Roberts and a personal favorite of mine, Reese’s Book Club, from Reese Witherspoon.
Moving beyond a simple admiration of literature, several celebrities have ventured into the art of penning a book themselves. From what I’ve noticed, these big names tend to head toward three genres: memoirs, poetry and fiction.
Most popular are celebrity memoirs —very few are interested in reading about someone obscure. Memoirs often pick up traction amongst people who wouldn’t identify as a reader; people love learning about the childhood tales and journey to fame of their favorite idols, straight from the source. From the former White House occupants, Barack and Michelle Obama, come “A Promised Land” and “Becoming.”
However, even those who aren’t conventionally famous can produce a hit memoir. Lisa Brennan-Jobs was able to capitalize on her father, Steve Jobs, in “Small Fry.” Mary L. Trump took her experiences with her uncle to write “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” Although not exactly a memoir, Meena Harris has published the picture book “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea,” using her aunt’s status as vice president to build a brand, Phenomenal Girl. In fact, she’s been asked by a legal team at the White House to stop using her connection to bolster her image.
Other celebrities have channeled their thoughts into poetry. Actor Avan Jogia, published “Mixed Feelings: Poems and Stories” discussing racial identity, while “Riverdale” star Lili Reinhart talks mental health and body positivity in “Swimming Lessons.” In “Violet Bent Backwards over the Grass,” singer Lana Del Rey brings in elements reminiscent of her eclectic and evocative lyrics.
Less common are celebrities that turn to fiction. Novels by celebrities-turned-authors are typically loosely based on their experiences in a particular industry. Lauren Conrad and Lauren Graham tell the tale of aspiring actresses in “L.A. Candy” and “Someday, Someday, Maybe.” Meanwhile, Maddie Ziegler draws upon her competitive dancing experience in “The Audition” and Zoe Sugg touches upon the pressures of an online presence in “Girl Online.”
Completely abandoning their personal lives, celebrities have also created completely original tales. Joey Graceffa wrote the science fiction series “Children of Eden” and Chris Colfer created the fantastical world of “The Land of Stories,” citing his writing as a greater accomplishment than his acting. Following in his brother’s footsteps, VidCon creator, “Crash Course” host and newly established TikTok sensation, Hank Green has authored “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” trailing the appearance of a monolith in New York City.
To reference Sally Rooney’s novel, celebrities can be considered “Normal People,” partaking in the same seemingly mundane activities the rest of us do. There are readers, and even writers amongst the renowned, making us more similar than we might think.