Celebrity Book Clubs and the Digital Age by Sara Pisak
Celebrity endorsements of our favorite products are nothing new. However, with the rise of social media, the reading public has seen a new wave of celebrity endorsements: celebrity book clubs.
One of the most popular celebrity book clubs is a scavenger hunt style club created by actress and activist, Emma Watson. In an effort to encourage reading, Watson often hides classic and contemporary books in popular locations throughout the cities of New York, London, and Paris. Users of social media, such as Twitter, notice Watson leaves clues for her fans to decipher the location of the prize: several pieces of literature. Some of the works Watson has hidden thus far include Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Maya Angelou’s Mom and Me and Mom.
If you are not in one of the cities that have been home to Watson’s literary scavenger hunt have no fear! As part of her partnership with UN Women to promote women’s rights, Watson also runs a book club entitled, “Our Shared Shelf” through a special designated Goodreads group. According to Goodreads, the club boasts 203,301 members and counting. These members include public figures Gloria Steinem, Sophia Bush, and Abby Wambach to name a few. To join Watson’s scavenger, hunt simply follow her social media accounts. To join “Our Shared Shelf” follow the simple instruction on Goodreads’ homepage to set-up an account and subscribe to the group. Readers can then take a hands-on approach to the selected book by answering questions Watson poses as well as discussing the work with other members.
Watson is not the only celebrity to create a popular book club. RW Book Club, founded by actress and producer Reese Witherspoon, operates through a special designated Instagram page where Witherspoon posts photos and videos of the books the club is reading. Witherspoon collaborates with bestselling authors to select their favorite books for members to read and discuss. Taking promoting literacy a step further, Witherspoon often adapts the book club’s designated works into tv shows and films in order to reach a wider audience such as the Emmy nominated HBO hit Big Little Lies, a best-selling novel by Liane Moriarty.
Another example of social media influencing literacy is the crowdfunding of Reading Rainbow. In a quest to merge storytelling and the digital age, tv personality, LeVar Burton started a Kickstarter campaign to have Reading Rainbow available on apps, tablets, and streamed in classrooms. According to Kickstarter, the goal of 1 million dollars was surpassed with donors raising 5 million dollars. Updates on Kickstarter’s website, inform readers that Reading Rainbow has introduced “Skybrary: An Interactive Children’s Library of Books and Videos.”
Celebrity book clubs and Reading Rainbow have brought book access, literary recommendations and literary discussions into the 21st century. Modifying social media to be less trivial and more centered on educational discussion, coupled with crowdfunding programs like Kickstarter, celebrities have brought new and classic literature to a wider audience.