While our friends might refresh their Instagram feeds to find out what their favorite celebrities are wearing, here at Off the Shelf, we just want to know one thing: what are they reading? And luckily, we don’t always need to zoom in on the bookshelves in the background to find out. Some of our favorite stars have launched book clubs to share their favorite reads, spotlight important literary voices, and engage with their fans. But with so many great options, it’s tough to choose just one to follow. Here’s a cheat sheet to five of the most popular celebrity book clubs.
In 1996, Oprah Winfrey emerged from her vegetable garden with Jacquelyn Mitchard’s THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN in hand and invented the book club. Okay, fine, that’s not exactly what happened. But Oprah is definitely to thank for the celebrity book club phenomenon, and, after a 22-year run, remains one of the most dominant literary tastemakers out there. Oprah’s Book Club usually picks fiction, and always finds books that both entertain and inform. You’ll love every page of Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD or Toni Morrison’s THE BLUEST EYE, but you’ll also come away from them thinking about far more than just the characters or plot.
THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN imagines every mother’s worst nightmare—the disappearance of a child. Both highly suspenseful and deeply moving, this novel explores a family's struggle to endure, even against extraordinary odds.
Reese Witherspoon has been a champion for female storytelling for years. After founding the production company behind adaptations like Wild, Big Little Lies, and more, she’s bringing us even more stories by and about women with her very own book club. Witherspoon loves twisty psychological thrillers, inspiring memoirs, and fiction with a lot of heart. Themes of family and connection are often front and center in these books—if you’re looking for something to read with your mom, check out the #RWBookClub Instagram account for your next great pick. (My mom and I are currently reading LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng, Witherspoon’s September selection!)
If Reese Witherspoon’s book club is the one to join with your mom, Belletrist is the one to join with your hip younger cousin. In the year since announcing their first selection, Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss have taught us as much about curating the perfect Instagram feed as they have about which buzzworthy book to read next, so I think it’s fair to name Belletrist the coolest new celebrity book club. (I mean, they launched their site with an exclusive Joan Didion interview. How much cooler does it get?) They tend to stick to female authors, but the titles range from debut novels to short story collections to personal memoirs. Plus, Roberts and Preiss offer more than just book recommendations on the Belletrist site: you’ll find author Q&As, featured indie bookstores, and even Spotify playlists tailored specifically to their current reads.
As Sarah Jessica Parker turned the final page of another fantastic book, she couldn’t help but wonder: What if I could share this experience with readers everywhere? So she teamed up with the American Library Association’s Book Club Central to curate her #SJPpicks. There’ve only been four titles in the series so far—literary novels that tackle themes of race, belonging, clashing cultures, and the American dream. Keep an eye out for more timely stories, beautifully told.
Emma Watson’s “Our Shared Shelf” is exactly the sharp, inquisitive book club you’d expect from a grown-up Hermione. Watson started this group after becoming an ambassador for the United Nations. “As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on,” she writes. Don’t expect light, feel-good fiction, but if you’re looking to read up on social justice, intersectional feminism, and the pressing issues affecting women everywhere, this is the perfect place to start.