Earlier this summer, Jimmy Fallon announced he was starting a book club because he hadn’t seen one “since Oprah.” It’s unclear what tome he’s been living under, because the celebrity book club is en vogue: We used to talk about what Reese Witherspoon was wearing; now it’s what she’s reading. Fallon’s good company ranges from actress-producer Witherspoon to indie rocker Florence Welch and football player Andrew Luck. All are welcome, on the simple basis that they’re encouraging reading. But whose shelf is really worth getting star-struck over? We played literazzi to examine:
Branded as: Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine
Good choice if: You’re a modern woman who bends and snaps in order to pick up a book.
Book cred: Turned “Big Little Lies” into an HBO series; wrote the upcoming "Whiskey in a Teacup,” a celebrity lifestyle book — that rare species of a genre.
Recent reads: "Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton and “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Cliffs notes: If any book club has been a household name since Oprah’s, it’s this one. Witherspoon has good taste, favoring contemporary fiction by women — often historical romance and mysteries — and her production company has claimed the rights to many of her monthly selections. But don’t expect nuanced discussion of the books; this is more of a “What’s Reese reading” situation.
Branded as: Andrew Luck Book Club
Good choice if: You’ve ever said “Do you even read, bro?” with a straight face.
Book cred: Commonly regarded as the NFL’s unofficial librarian.
Cliffs notes: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Luck is coming off an extended time on the injured list, which apparently freed him up to read. He offers two picks a month: one for “veterans” — what he’s reading now — and one for “rookies,” with books he enjoyed as a child. It’s a nice way to show that sports and reading can coexist, particularly for kids, and these aren’t light stadium reads. Luck favors philosophical works and good nonfiction, usually with a historical bent.
Branded as: Oprah’s Book Club
Good choice if: You’ve outgrown Reese’s group.
Book cred: Winfrey is the OG. Would we have celebrity book clubs if not for her? (Would we have reading? Would we have books?)
Cliffs notes: From the time she launched her club in 1996, Winfrey’s recommendations have instantly turned into bestsellers, and she’s still making writers’ careers. Expect serious fiction that explores topics like race, class and injustice. The picks are reliably good — of course they are; this is Oprah we’re talking about — and the reading guides are nuanced and thought-provoking (though you’ll need to take them to your own discussion group).
Branded as: Between Two Books
Good choice if: You’re an artsy lit type.
Book cred: Author of new poetry and lyric book "Useless Magic.”
Cliffs notes: This is the club all those edgy-cool girls in high school would have belonged to. Welch, the vocalist behind English indie rock band Florence + the Machine, likes poetry, literature and art, and tends to select cult classics, memoirs about feminism and literary essay collections. The group has read 34 books in the past six years, and there are usually prose-like, handwritten descriptions of why each choice resonated with Welch.
Good choice if: You care about women’s rights.
Book cred: Portrayed the book-obsessed Hermione Granger in “Harry Potter.”
Cliffs notes: Watson’s two-year-old band of nasty women was born out of a desire to devour anything written about equality. More than 200,000 people have joined the Goodreads group, and it feels more like a movement than a book club. Watson’s bimonthly choices are well-written and important, and the club sets the bar for high-quality discussions.
Branded as: Tonight Show Summer Reads
Good choice if: You’re still cursing your IRL book club for meeting at 7 p.m., which is way too early to talk about books.
Book cred: Author of six books, including last year’s "Everything Is Mama” for children.
Recent read: "Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi.
Cliffs notes: In June, when Fallon found himself without a summer read, he asked viewers to vote on five different candidates. The runaway winner was “Children of Blood and Bone,” a YA fantasy written by 24-year-old Adeyemi. Fallon has been sharing chapter-by-chapter audio recaps, and he did an author Q&A on YouTube and Instagram in July. TBD if he’ll continue adding to your TBR list, but he’s doing pretty well at the book club thing so far, so we’ll stay tuned.
Branded as: Belletrist
Good choice if: You want thought-provoking, non-beach reads.
Book cred: Self-professed passionate reader.
Cliffs notes: Why call yourself something as mundane as a bookworm when you could be a Belletrist babe? That’s how Roberts and her co-founder Karah Preiss refer to its members. The two launched the group as a way to hold themselves accountable for actually reading all the books they buy — a noble cause, but they’re not making those TBR stacks any shorter by showcasing a must-visit-now independent bookstore each month. Roberts is fond of literary fiction, memoirs and authors like Joan Didion and Ariel Levy. There’s good discussion on Instagram and in the group’s newsletter.
Angela Haupt is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C.