TRR Transcript: Another Look At Celebrity Book Clubs

Intro:       [00:02] Welcome to The Readerly Report. Your hosts are Gayle Weiswasser and Nicole Bonia. We hope you enjoy our candid book conversations, recommendations and observations on the reading life. Thanks so much for joining us.

What We’ve Been Reading

Nicole:    [00:21] Welcome to another edition of The Readerly Report. Today, Gayle and I are going to be discussing celebrity book clubs, doing a little bit of a follow-up. I checked, and the last time we did a show on celebrity book clubs was two years ago. So it was in the fall of 2018 when we had Sarah on, and we discussed, I guess, at the time was a developing trend of celebrities hosting book clubs. So we’re here to see how they’ve changed or evolved in the last couple of years and whether or not we still feel the same way I guess, about them as we did. Which ones we really vibe with, what are the major differences, and any newcomers on the block. So of course, before we get to that, we will do a little bit of what we’ve been reading and any of the latest book news that we want to discuss. So Gayle, why don’t you let us know what you’ve been reading?

Gayle:     [01:24] Sure. So when we last talked, had I finished Saving Ruby King? I can’t remember.

Nicole:    [01:31] No 

Gayle:     [01:31] Okay.

Nicole:    [01:32] I don’t think so.

Gayle:     [01:33] I finished Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West, and I think for a debut novel, it was really good. This is the story of kind of institutional racism and generational violence and trauma in some families in the Southside of Chicago. Takes place in the present, but it goes back to like, the ‘60s and then sort of traces what’s happened to these families over the intervening years. I think from the way the book was constructed and the plot, it was really, really good. It sort of felt Shakespearean to me in the ways in which this kind of repetition of these generational issues and the way– I don’t know, it’s hard to describe how she does it, but she just structures it really well, and there’s a lot of teasing out of this story over time. My only gripe with it was there was a lot of repetition and a lot of “tell, don’t show”, which I think is maybe the mark of just an inexperienced writer. And I’m sure over time, she’ll get better without, but I think she spent a lot of time saying like, “This is how this person was feeling” as opposed to showing. So that kind of bothered me but I really liked the book in general, and I would recommend it. 

                 [02:59] And then the other book I finished was Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam, which I think we have talked about multiple times on the show so far this fall, and I ended up liking it. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give too much away. It is not a book for people who like tidy, neat endings because it has a rather ambiguous ending. And I will say that when I finished the book, I felt very unsettled. I was kind of stressed out for a couple of hours because it’s got an apocalyptic edge to it, and it talks about the potential for major catastrophe across the East Coast and presumably the country, which in the middle of a pandemic, it’s like adding stress on top of stress. So, if you’re not in the mood for that right now, I would not pick up Leave the World Behind, but I really liked it. I liked it better than That Kind of Mother. I thought there was a lot of detail about class and about race and about parenting in there and it was really good. So again, don’t pick it up if you don’t want to be stressed out. So that’s Leave the World Behind

                 [04:14] And then I’ve picked up two books in the week to follow. I started doing The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes on audio. That’s my book club book for this month, for November, I guess. And I’m also reading The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz, which is a book that came out over the summer about life in an intense white-shoe law firm in New York City, and about a woman who starts out there as an associate in the mergers and acquisitions group of this firm and what happens to her. I’m only maybe 60 pages in right now but so far so good.

Nicole:    [04:54] Is that a little bit of a thriller? You said, “What happens to her.”

Gayle:     [04:59] I don’t know yet if it’s going to be a thriller. I think it’s more like a workplace drama. It’s about her life in this group and what it’s like to work with the men in the group. I don’t know, I’ll tell you in a week.

Nicole:    [05:13] Okay. 

Gayle:     [05:14] Yeah. 

Nicole:    [05:15] I wasn’t sure if it was giving off the firm type vibe.

Gayle:     [05:18] I don’t think there’s a murder or there’s a big mystery to solve. I think that she’s going to be tested in terms of her own kind of ethics and what she’s comfortable with. And I think she’s going to be working really hard and has to decide, like, does this sort of jive with her view of work-life balance, but I don’t think that there’s anything beyond that’s going to be–

Nicole:    [05:37] Sinister

Gayle:     [05:38] Yeah, but I could be wrong. I may be surprised, so we’ll find out.

Nicole:    [05:40] Right. What was the name of that again?

Gayle:     [05:44] The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz.

Nicole:    [05:45] The Boys’ Club. Okay. So is this giving you any flashbacks?

Gayle:     [05:52] Yes, it is. I’m sort of trying to remember what it was like for me to be a first year associate in a big law firm. And I don’t think that my experience will be as intense as hers was, although, I mean, I certainly had intense nights. But yes, it’s definitely sucking me back into the world of being a lawyer for better or worse. So that’s what I’ve got going on. How about you?

Nicole:    [06:15] Okay, so I picked up The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Gayle:     [06:19] Ooh, exciting.

Nicole:    [06:20] It was calling to me, I think, the little bit of fantastical element. I’m just not doing well with books in reality right now. I tend to ebb and flow with those. So I picked it up, and I can answer some of our questions that we had last week. It is a book where not only do people forget her or she leaves no mark on people; it is instantaneous, or just within the course of 24 hours. Like she’ll spend the night with, someone and they wake up the next morning, and she kind of looks at them and they have to pretend that they know who she is or how she got there. So that kind of angst is present throughout. It’s kind of interesting because even though it has elements, I guess, of what would be fantastical, it’s not in the sense that this woman in 1714 is just so disappointed and distraught by her options that she makes this deal to get away from just being married and not having a life where she makes a mark on anything. And part of the curse is that she really doesn’t leave a mark on anyone, like no one remembers who she is. 

                 [07:35] It’s kind of interesting how they describe how she moves through the world because if no one’s really going to remember that you were there, she can get away with something. Like sometimes she buys things if she likes the vendor. Sometimes she shoplifts – takes what she needs – because the person is not going to– Five minutes later, they’re not going to remember that she was ever there or– So it’s intriguing in those aspects. And I’m about 40 pages in, even though I’ve been reading it over the last week, kind of just in little dribs and drabs when I have a moment, but I think it’s a good one to suck me into this world and figure out what is going on with this woman.

Gayle:     [08:19] Okay.

Nicole:    [08:21] So I’m still in the middle of a bunch of things that I have picked up and have not finished. I won’t even go into that. But something exciting did happen is yesterday, I took a trip to Beacon New York, just this cute little town on the Hudson, and of course, went to the bookstore. Usually, I go to Binnacle Books, but because of the pandemic and COVID, they have– It’s a very small bookstore, so they have an appointment only kind of thing. I guess you take a slot and then they kind of close it down and you get to browse around the bookstore. So I wasn’t able to go there but I did go to Beacon Books, which is their used bookstore, and I got what looks like an entirely brand new copy of The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer. And I had it in my mind that I wanted to read this book, so I was so excited to find it looking pristine on the shelf for five bucks. But when I read the description, I realized that I must have been thinking of another book that maybe had a similar cover. This one seems like it’s going to be interesting too, even though I probably would have dismissed it for being related to World War II. 

                 [09:38] But it is about a journalist and editor who makes the decision to save artists who are living in, I guess, Germany and France and any place where they might be threatened by the events of the war. So he bands together with people and he goes to be the ground person in order to figure out the logistics of transporting artists and saving their art. And I guess one of the artists that he is trying to rescue is Marc Chagall. So on the first page of the book, he’s discovering some difficulty in trying to figure out how he will transport him out of the country. So it seems rather intriguing. 

                 [10:27] The other one is this book called Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity, and it just looks good. I was flipping through it; seems like it’s set partly on the Upper East Side of New York. It’s about a woman who talks about, I guess, how she became promiscuous. It’s her story of addiction, and, I guess, her problems with her family, and how it led her to look for love in all the wrong places. And in flipping through it, it just seemed really well-written and honest and so it was a find. And I’ve never heard of this book or this author. 

Gayle:     [11:06] Nice. I love that. 

Nicole:    [11:08] Yeah, right? So I got two books that I did not expect because I thought The Flight Portfolio was going to be something else entirely, but it looks really good.

Gayle:     [11:19] I’ve definitely seen that one around.

Nicole:    [11:23] I feel like it was a hot book a year ago. Or hotly anticipated because it is literary fiction. I don’t know that I’ve seen a lot of it besides [what] I saw when it was coming out and that this author is acclaimed. And I’ve never read any of her other books.

Gayle:     [11:41] I have a question for you. So I have three categories left of my Everyday I Write the Book reading challenge, and categories are time travel, epistolary novel, and then pick a book any book, which means you just go up to your bookshelf with your eyes closed and tap on a book and read it. So I started reading one for time travel, The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain. And I picked it up and started it the other night and for whatever reason, I was just not feeling it right then. That’s when I switched over to The Boys’ Club. Have you read The Dream Daughter?

Nicole:    [12:16] No.

Gayle:     [12:17] Because people rave about it. And people rave about her and I don’t know anything about it. Just curious if you were going to give me some encouragement to go back to it.

Nicole:    [12:27] No, I know Mari [Clover & Fig] really liked it.

Gayle:     [12:32] Yeah, and I think The Currently Reading Podcast really liked it.

Nicole:    [12:35] Okay, so what is it about it that is not–? What do you think it is?

Gayle:     [12:40] Oh, I don’t know. I mean, there was nothing specific. It just was kind of not really like doing it for me right then. I don’t know.

Nicole:    [12:49] I feel like every book that I read this year gets an asterisk because sometimes I feel like so much of the structure of books or getting into books is about mindset and how much you’re able to, I guess, allow yourself to be immersed in a certain world. I was talking to my mother about this. She just read a book that I think that under normal circumstances she suspects that she might like, but it was a lot of characters, it was a lot of things going on. And it’s just really hard to do that when you either have a lot going on in your life or just constant low-level pandemic stress. I’m just having a hard time reading books that I know I would connect with, like even the Tana French book. It’s just there’s so much detail which I think I normally would like, but it’s about this guy of course who has moved into this house and he is remodeling it, just doing a bunch of restoration work. And when I tell you she’s talking about standing down pieces and runners and the kind of tools that are used and in what shape, I just can’t. Just like, “Okay, so when is something going to happen?” I think all of that detail that I normally would have appreciated in terms of setting the scene or whatever, that now with just a million low-level stressful things going on and other things going on, I just can’t give myself to it. 

Gayle:     [14:30] Right.

Nicole:    [14:31] I’m just like, “Is the paint going to dry next on the wall?” But it’s starting to move a little bit along, but I did put it aside for the moment for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I am in no way abandoning Tana French, but just right now.

Gayle:     [14:40] Right. I think you’re right. And I think what’s also interesting too about the pandemic is like, for me anyway, it’s not like I’m consistent. It’s just I’m like a mood reader on steroids. Like a book may be bad one week, but it might be fine the next, as far as a genre fit for what I’m in the mood for. So it’s not even like I’m rejecting one whole category of books and have done that since March, it just means that if at the minute I pick it up, it doesn’t click with me, I have a hard time powering through.

Nicole:    [15:23] Right. And that’s the same. It’s not like I haven’t read any literary fiction or things that have been more detailed, but it just has to be the right moment where I’ve had I some bursts of clarity or just whatever it is about that moment that’s supportive of me being able to do that kind of deep breathing and concentration. And sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t, so everything is just sort of hit or miss. And it’s definitely when I put things to the side or if I don’t like something, it is this kind of stress and not really reading this at the wrong moment, which I think there was a lot less of in 2019. 

Gayle:     [16:07] Yeah, for sure. Well, I’ll get back–

Nicole:    [16:09] But yeah, mood reading on steroids is exactly right. And those moods shift very, very quickly.

Gayle:     [16:17] Very quickly. Well, people love The Dream Daughter. Another thing was I went on Goodreads, and I found a three-star review that called it cheesy, and then all of a sudden, my antennae were up. I was like, “Is it cheesy? Is it cheesy? Is that cheesy? Was that cheesy?” 

Nicole:    [16:32] You’re looking for the cheese.

Gayle:     [16:33] Yeah, and I had been kind of motoring along until I read that review. It’s not fair. But I got to read a time travel book, and that’s been on my shelf for a very long time. So I’m going to come back to it at some point before the end of the year.

Book News

Nicole:    [16:50] Right. Well, maybe around Christmas, which brings me to book news and a little bit of cheese, not cheese, but romance. 

Gayle:     [16:57] Yeah?

Nicole:    [16:58] Shonda Rhimes, a year or two years ago, signs huge deal with Netflix to produce a bunch of films, or series, I guess. One series is going to be the book that you just read. Is it My Life with Anna? 

Gayle:     [17:17] Oh, My Friend Anna

Nicole:    [17:20] My Friend Anna

Nicole:    [17:22] So one of them is going to be that, and the other one is going to be an adaptation of the Bridgerton Series that Julia Quinn did, which I think I have one of those and I started trying to listen to on audio. It’s a Regency historical period, I think, early 1800s. That’s coming out on Christmas on Netflix.

Gayle:     [17:21] Yeah. 

Gayle:     [17:50] I will definitely watch My Friend Anna adaptation.

Nicole:    [17:53] Yeah, well, that’s not coming out on Christmas. The interesting thing about that is because of the flood of fan love she apparently, Anna Delvey herself, whose name is Anna Sorokin, had signed a deal with Netflix for several thousand dollars. I mean, I don’t think several thousand is the word, probably 100,000 or more dollars deal with them. And I guess the first $30,000 installment that she got went to her lawyer, so they allowed it, but she’s got this other series of payments due, one is $70,000. And probably I think she gets more for a consulting fee on the show that they’re trying to block because it is, I guess, the spoils from a commission of a crime. So either they want to block her from getting it or redirect those funds to her victims, replacing the money that they lost.

Gayle:     [18:50] Now, is that the same as the Shonda Rhimes series, or is that something different?

Nicole:    [18:54] Yes, this is the Netflix Shonda Rhimes series that I think they were in talks with her for. And it’ll be in dispute with how much she’ll get. And apparently, she’s going to be up for parole soon, so never mind that you can go to jail for marijuana for years and years, but rob people blind and spend time in jail for a year.

Gayle:     [19:20] I have some bad news too. 

Nicole:    [19:23] Okay.

Gayle:     [19:23] So Reese Witherspoon is adapting Where the Crawdads Sing into a movie. And it is going to be cast with Daisy Edgar-Jones, who’s the woman who starred in…

Nicole:    [19:37] In Normal People.

Gayle:     [19:38] Normal People, right, as Marianne. I don’t know if I’m saying her name right. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I don’t know–

Nicole:    [19:52] Do you mean the casting or Crawdads itself?

Gayle:     [19:55] Well, I’m not in the least bit surprised that Crawdads is being made into a movie. I’m not sure how I feel about her starring as Kya. Partly because to me, she’s always going to be Marianne. And it just seems like she embodied that character so perfectly so it’s hard for me to imagine her as someone else. And such a completely different character too. Just everything about her is so different. Everything about the two characters is so different. It’s hard to see. I don’t know. What do you think about that?

Nicole:    [20:34] I never finished watching Normal People

Gayle:     [20:36] Oh, you didn’t? Okay. 

Nicole:    [20:38] So I’m not as married to it as that. I’m not surprised. I mean, this is Reese Witherspoon. We’ll get to her a little bit more as we begin our book club discussion, but this is one of her picks, so I mean, it’s kind of like we knew this was coming. I guess the casting part is the big surprise. I was reading an article too on that that mentioned the author’s path, how – I think we talked about it on the show before – how she had been to Zambia with her husband, and there was an unfortunate shooting of an African man that they were sort of connected to. She denies being involved but there was a whole long New Yorker article about her views on conservation and I guess, her relationship with the people in Africa who were helping her in Zambia, helping them with their conservation efforts of animal wildlife. And so that’s kind of interesting to me, how that came up again. 

                 [21:54] I don’t know, like I said, we talked about this book. I don’t remember if it was a book club pick or if we had both read it and just kind of talked about it. I started out really liking it and kind of liked it less as it went on. For the one thing, it got a little bit too fantastical and neat for me. And there was just a lot of, as you would say, coincidence in terms of her education. But I also was a little, I don’t know– Her relationship with the black characters in that book kind of bothered me a little. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens. What are the changes that are made with the movie, if any, or the series because they definitely – Reese Witherspoon and team – changed the one that she did with Kerry Washington quite a bit. 

Gayle:     [22:48] Little Fires Everywhere

Nicole:    [22:50] Mm-hmm. Did you ever watch that? Probably not. 

Gayle:     [22:52] I didn’t. I mean, we’ve talked about the fact I didn’t love the book. I’m not opposed to watching it. I just haven’t gotten to it.

Nicole:    [23:00] Yeah, I started watching it and didn’t finish it. 

Gayle:     [23:03] Okay. 

Nicole:    [23:06] I felt the changes that they were taking were just so wild. And some of them were so unrealistic, I guess, in changing the order of the way the event unfolded, and the way they handled the adoption. It just got a little bit ridiculous for me, and I just never went back.

Gayle:     [23:26] I think if you adapt a book to a movie or to a show, if you change things, you have to accept the fact you’re going to alienate people who’ve read the book. And I’m sure usually the audience of people who’ve read the book is a lot smaller than the potential audience of people who will watch it, and so they don’t care. But I think the best adaptations are the ones that are extremely faithful to the underlying subject. 

Nicole:    [23:52] Right.

Gayle:     [23:53] That’s partly why I love Normal People so much is because there were so few deviations from the book throughout the series. There were a couple. They tapped down the mom a little bit. She wasn’t quite as evil in the series as she was in the book. But for the most part, the book was very faithful. And the pacing was right, and everything just felt exactly as it had unfurled on the pages. And if you take too many liberties, I think you get so distracted as a viewer. You’re like, “That’s not the way that’s supposed to be”, and then it’s hard to get back into it.

Nicole:    [24:28] Right, and with Little Fires Everywhere, I think that they tried to update it with race, which I don’t think was necessarily a problem. They have Kerry Washington’s character as black in the adaptation, and she was not in the novel, even though she was very poor so there was a class thing that was going on. That is kind of more pronounced when you have it played by a black actor and have it concerning a black family. I don’t even think that bothered me as much, but they just had this twist that I cannot say without spoiling the book, or the movie that was just so dramatic and so unrealistic that someone would do this, that it just undermined my faith in the rest of what I was going to be seeing. And maybe there were other things that it would have resolved itself and that would have been okay, but I just couldn’t get past this. It’s just like, ‘This is so dumb that this woman just did this”, and I couldn’t go any further.

                 [25:32] All right, so now that we’ve gotten off on that movie tangent, but can I just mention I saw Rebecca, the new one with Lily James and Armie Hammer. And I think also script Kristin Scott Thomas was in it as Mrs. Danvers. And it got terrible reviews, just really horrible reviews. I thought it was pretty faithful. I mean, it was harmless. I wouldn’t say, “Oh, my gosh, it was riveting, or it was the best.” I think that there’s just so much champ and drama attached to the really old version of Rebecca, that sometimes these newer adaptations come out, and they’re kind of toothless like, “Oh, I watched this. It was fine.” But, you know, I enjoyed it.

Gayle:     [26:26] I never read the book so I–

Nicole:    [26:29] Really? 

Gayle:     [26:29] No. Should I? 

Nicole:    [26:33] If you ever have something, maybe we should do that. Maybe we should read that together.

Gayle:     [26:39] I’d love to. 

Nicole:    [26:40] Yeah, I think you should read it.

Gayle:     [26:43] I mean, other than being a classic, what genre of story is it?

Nicole:    [26:47] It’s Gothic. 

Gayle:     [26:48] Okay. 

Nicole:    [26:49] It’s like clueless young woman marries older married man whose wife has just died, and they go and live in this huge house with a creepy housekeeper.

Gayle:     [27:04] Ooh, okay. 

Nicole:    [27:07] So, I’ll tell you what I have this in mind specifically for, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise our listeners. 

Gayle:     [27:15] Okay. We’ll talk about it after the show. 

Celebrity Book Clubs

Nicole:    [27:18] All right. So are we finally ready to move on to celebrity book clubs? 

Gayle:     [27:22] I think so. All right, so we looked at four book clubs. I know there are other ones out there. These are just the four that we looked for this time around. And we looked at what they read in 2020. So for the most part, just the last nine months, although some of these lists may go back a little further than that. So we looked at Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club. We looked at Oprah’s Book Club. I don’t know if she calls it a book club. But Oprah’s picks, the last four of Oprah’s picks. We looked at–

Nicole:    [27:57] No, she has a book club again.

Gayle:     [27:59] Is it called a book club? Okay.

Nicole:    [28:01] Yeah, they were doing it on Apple TV, but I think probably– I don’t know how many people were subscribing to Apple Plus in order to see her book club. And now they’ve expanded it. I think it’s a podcast now.

Gayle:     [28:15] Okay. Then we looked at the Read with Jenna books from Today Show, I think it is. And then we looked at Ashley Spivey’s these picks for her online book club, which she mostly does through Facebook, through the Spivey Book Club group. And we just made a list of what the books were, which we can read a few if that’s helpful. And I think we just wanted to talk a little bit about the flavor of each book club and if there’s one that we gravitate towards more.

Nicole:    [28:48] And I found a couple more that I want to add to the discussion.

Gayle:     [28:51] Oh, go ahead. 

Nicole:    [28:54] Well, we can get to those in a minute. Let’s start with Reese Witherspoon. 

Gayle:     [28:57] Okay.

Nicole:    [28:57] Basically, I think that she just started. She was sharing picks on her Instagram of what she had been reading, what she really loved, and as it turned out, those started to be things that she was producing. So I don’t think she necessarily started with it as a book club, but people follow her, of course, for her movies and definitely were interested in the books that she was reading, and it kind of expanded from there. So I think that her picks have really changed because when you look at them, she did Big Little Lies, we had the adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere but she did Wild, she produced Gone Girl. She has Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. I think it’s in the works. Daisy Jones & The Six is in the works. She’s behind Where the Crawdads Sing, and I think she is going to be doing Liane Moriarty’s Truly Madly Guilty. That’s the book that I just absolutely just loathed. I thought the people were so terrible in that book. Oh my gosh. So her picks, in the beginning, I think maybe because she was looking for books that she wanted to produce and star in, she didn’t have a lot of diversity in her earlier picks.

Gayle:     [30:20] No. 

Nicole:    [30:21] And I think that’s changed.

Gayle:     [30:22] Yeah, I think that Reese got caught up with the times this summer, and she definitely has more diversity and more social justice type themes coming up. So the last few at least have diverse heroines. So His Only Wife, which takes place in Ghana, The Last Story of Mina Lee. I did not read that, but I think that it takes place– The lead character is Asian. So I can’t remember where exactly it takes place, but at least she’s not white. Then she did Edwidge Danticat’s Everything Inside and Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here. And I think that it shows probably what was a deliberate turn on her part to include more diverse voices because before that–

Nicole:    [31:21] She also had that scandal.

Gayle:     [31:24] What scandal?

Nicole:    [31:25] There was a scandal when she tried to do a giveaway of Draper James dresses, which is her clothing company. And it was hard for me to figure out, I guess, because having done giveaways for a while over the years as a book blogger, you kind of know that only a certain amount of people are going to get them. I guess there was some misunderstanding about how many people were actually going to get dresses. I think she had 100 dresses. Maybe they were worth $100 each. So I think just the magnitude of the campaign because she has so much reach, and so many people signed up, and their chances of getting dresses were minuscule. And I think she was promoting it as helping teachers have a wardrobe or something, so she was almost taking advantage of do-gooding, I guess, and she got into a bit of trouble over that.

Gayle:     [32:32] Interesting. I never heard about that. 

Nicole:    [32:36]  early winter of 2020. Who knows? Could have been a year ago. Time is so strange now. So, yes, I think that she on a bunch of different levels is trying to be more inclusive and trying to be more maybe deliberate and pay more attention to what she’s doing.

Gayle:     [33:08] Yeah. I think that’s right. And it plays into her casting, changing Kerry Washington’s character to being black. I mean, obviously, she’s making an effort. The books that she had leading up to I’m Still Here are The Guest List, The Henna Artist, Untamed, The Jetsetters, The Scent Keeper, and Such a Fun Age. Other than Such a Fun Age, that’s a pretty white list, I think. I haven’t read most of those, but I think that that’s a pretty white list. 

Nicole:    [33:38] And even Such a Fun Age, it was written by a black writer, and there is a black main character, but it also does have a central white mommy blogger, I guess, or lifestyle blogger.

Gayle:     [33:55] Yeah, the Instagrammer.

Nicole:    [33:57] She plays a central… 

Gayle:     [34:00] [inaudible] 

Nicole:    [34:01] Right. [inaudible 34:03] 

Gayle:     [34:04] Yeah. I mean, I think Reese picks books that she relates to. And I think that probably a lot of the people who read and follow her book club are people that are kind of like her, and are aspiring to be like her. So in that sense, I’m glad that she’s getting more diverse because maybe she’s getting books into the hands of people who wouldn’t otherwise read them.

Nicole:    [34:27] But I think that’s an opportunity to say– I mean, when you talk about people like you or people like her, we’re talking about things that are phenotypical as opposed to we both have the same job, we tried to raise families. These are things that are very central to the experience of being a woman. I mean, because her picks are basically, they’re all women. So to say that they need to be white or to have grown up white, I mean, she could easily– Well, she could not easily play. If she’s picked a diverse book, there’s no way she could play a diverse character because it would be called whitewashing, but you can promote books and recommend books that are still central to your experience and experiences that you’ve had, even if the person does not share your racial identity. All right, so what’s up next?

Gayle:     [35:27] The next on my list was Oprah, and I only had four books from her in 2020. I don’t know if I looked in the wrong place, but I only saw four. So maybe she’s doing them like every other month.

Nicole:    [35:39] Yes, her deal with Apple is that she would do them every other month. 

Gayle:     [35:42] Okay. 

Nicole:    [35:43] And so, there’s a reading guide. I guess you have a good amount of time to read it and then she usually will talk with the author about the pick. 

Gayle:     [35:57] Okay. 

Nicole:    [35:58] And her picks this year are interesting.

Gayle:     [36:01] They are interesting. She has Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, Deacon King Kong, Hidden Valley Road, and American Dirt. And her pick of American Dirt, was that what kind of jumpstarted the controversy around that book?

Nicole:    [36:18] Yeah. I mean, it amplified it. I think that there was controversy just because she got such a huge advance because of the topic that she was writing about, the treatment of it. And then in addition to that, I think she had already been picked as Oprah’s Book Club. And then Oprah had to kind of deal with that fallout, which is why I think that her books mostly are – the rest of them seemed like they had been very diverse racial justice type. 

Gayle:     [36:51] Right. 

Nicole:    [36:52] Let’s understand each other more type picks. Because Oprah is usually pretty wide-ranging, and she has books brought to her attention. I think that she definitely has help in picking her books. And it seemed like American Dirt means she was able to further some conversations around it, but I don’t think she wants to see herself in the middle of controversy like that again. 

Gayle:     [37:21] I’m sure not. Yeah, so Hidden Valley Road is the book about the family where there’s a bunch of sons and a huge amount of them have schizophrenia. Is that right? I’m not confusing that with another book. Okay. Deacon King Kong and Caste, I have yet to read either one of them. Deacon King Kong I keep hearing mixed reviews of. I feel like you at least started it. Did you ever read it?

Nicole:    [37:49] I like Deacon King Kong. I can see why there would be mixed reviews. It’s a rangy novel, I would say, to read. I really liked it because it’s set in a housing project, but I think that you really don’t see it like that. I mean, it’s just kind of the location for it, but it’s the background of this community who have been through different things over the years and come together to help in a situation where a senior has shot a drug dealer, who doesn’t die, so he’s under pressure of retaliation. I think that James McBride, he’s very verbose in his writing. There are lots of things that go on. I think it can be a little bit rambling definitely. It’s rangy, it’s wide-ranging. He touches on a lot of different things, so I can see why that might not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea. I read it with a friend, and we discussed it and I mostly enjoyed it. I thought it was a little too long. I think they could rein him in a little bit. But I also think that he’s one of these authors that has written multiple books and is probably just doing whatever he wants right now. I mean, The Good Lord Bird is an adaptation, and I can’t remember what channel it’s on. I want to check it out. But I think it’s Ethan Hawke who is in that one?

Gayle:     [39:23] Yeah, he plays John Brown.

Nicole:    [39:25] Right. I want to check that out. That has an interesting backstory to it because John Brown is in it, and I think he takes someone under his wing who he believes to be a boy, or maybe it’s a female. It’s one of those, and they have to keep pretending that they are that in order to– I think they’re hiding out from something and of course, get involved in John Brown’s plot. 

Gayle:     [39:56] Yeah. So what do you think about these four picks?

Nicole:    [40:02] I think that for right now they’re very weighty, and a lot of people have been gravitating towards that more, and, I think, wanting to have more empathy and understanding. Caste is something that I have on my list to read, and I also have The Warmth of Other Suns. I don’t know that this will be the year that I read them, but if that’s what you want to do, I think it’s definitely commendable that she has taken the time to put together the resources that she did with Caste. And I think that that one is a podcast that’s going to be in sections that she discusses different parts of the book for. I can’t say that this is the list that I vibe with right now. I think she’s trying to course correct a little, but I hope that going forward, she’ll mix it up a little bit, that even if they are diverse picks, maybe be less weighty.

Gayle:     [40:58] Yeah, she seems to be in the mode of like, “I’ve got to do things that are significant, given the sort of social forces at work and given the world.” She’s kind of gravitating towards the weightier stuff.

Nicole:    [41:17] So next up? 

Gayle:     [41:18] All right, so the next one is Reading with Jenna. And this one is the one that I think I come the closest to in terms of my own natural reading because I look over her list and there’s a lot of books on here I’ve either read or I have in the house and want to read. So her last few – Leave the World Behind, Transcendent Kingdom, The Comeback, Here for It, Friends and Strangers, A Burning, All Adults Here, Valentine, Writers and Lovers. So first of all, she’s got to have some deal going with Book of the Month because I think almost all of these books were Book of the Month picks too. And there seems to be an interplay between when she announces and when they announce and they’re obviously coordinating a little bit. 

                [42:05] I think Jenna seems to gravitate towards storytelling because her authors and her characters are a bit all over the map in terms of who they are, where these books are set. She seems to just like really well-told books. And I think mostly literary fiction, I would say. Some of it is more kind of like general adult fiction and then trending to– Writers and Lovers, I would definitely put that as literary fiction. Same with Valentine and same with Transcendent Kingdom

Nicole:    [42:44] Did you read Valentine?

Gayle:     [42:46] I started it, and I liked it, and for some reason, I put it down and never picked it back up. So I would like to finish it. That was a Book of the Month pick for me, I think, and I don’t know why I put it down. It’s a heavy book. It’s not light in any way. A lot of her books here are pretty heavy. I haven’t read Friends and Strangers yet.

Nicole:    [43:05] Yeah because I think last year, she did Patsy which was heavy. 

Gayle:     [43:14] Yeah. And I like that her books have some heft to them. You know, she’s not adapting them, she’s not starring in them, so she doesn’t have that eye that Reese might, but I think just overall, I trust her as a recommendation source.

Nicole:    [43:33] Yes, I would agree with that. I mean, right out the gate she’s always had diverse offerings and I think has that literary sensibility going on. Everything, like you said, is something I’ve read, something that I saw that was on a list or was someplace that I trust in terms of book sources, and probably comes more closely than any of these other lists to things that I would read. 

Gayle:     [44:07] Yeah, for sure. 

Nicole:    [44:09] Definitely right about that.

Gayle:     [44:12] Yeah.

Nicole:    [44:13] So what was next on our list?

Gayle:     [44:15] Next one up is Ashley Spivey’s Book Blub. And the books I have for the last year are a little lighter, some, than the other ones. Such a Fun Age, American Dirt, not light I know, The Devil’s Highway, In Five Years, Beach Read, A Good Neighborhood and Clap When You Land.

Nicole:    [44:36] Are any of those really light? The Devil’s Highway?

Gayle:      [44:39] Beach Read is light.

Nicole:   [44:42] Okay, that’s one

Gayle:     [44:43] In Five Years, I mean, it’s not light, but it’s not heavy. I mean, it’s a sort of got a romance. It’s very bittersweet, but I wouldn’t call it a heavy read. I don’t think Such a Fun Age was terribly heavy. American Dirt— What is The Devil’s Highway? I don’t even know what that is.

Nicole:    [45:02] I want to say that it’s true crime. 

Gayle:     [45:04] I think you’re right. Okay, so that’s not heavy.

Nicole:    [45:09] That’s not heavy?

Gayle:     [45:11] No, no, I said so that’s, I’m sorry, not light. Right. So true crime is not light. Clap When You Land, I believe– Isn’t that the book that was told in rhyme?

Nicole:    [45:21] Oh, I don’t know.

Gayle:     [45:21] Or I told in verse. 

Nicole:    [45:23] Isn’t that YA? 

Gayle:     [45:25] It might be. Yeah. I think that might be YA. So I mean, hers are probably the most diverse in terms of genre and tone than the other ones. But I mean, I just like her so much. I love the community she’s cultivated on Facebook. I like that she started from being on The Bachelor. She just seems like a very likable person.

Nicole:    [45:48] She reads a ton. 

Gayle:     [45:50] She reads a ton.

Nicole:    [45:52] Yeah, I really like her. She really set herself up when she discovered I think that she could be a champion for books. She really wanted to have diversity in her picks and find books and help the authors and help match readers with books that they might like. I actually met her at the Book of the Month party last year so we had a long discussion about the books she likes, and what she feels is, I guess, her responsibility in exposing people to different kinds of books. And on her Facebook page, you’ll see that she has zero tolerance for intolerance. She’s very clear about that. And she’s the same way on her Instagram page, which I respect. 

Gayle:     [46:42] Yep. I think that she’s pregnant. So I wonder if her reading will slow down a little bit after she has her baby.

Nicole:    [46:50] And I wonder if that’s when she got a little bit lighter because I think the ones that you mentioned earlier they just– The Devil’s Highway, and what else did to mention?

Gayle:     [47:02] A Good Neighborhood, American Dirt.

Nicole:    [47:04] Yeah, A Good Neighborhood, American Dirt, those are not light books at all. 

Gayle:     [47:08] Yeah. 

Nicole:    [47:10] So maybe she was reaching for something a little bit lighter as her pregnancy progresses because she is pregnant. 

Gayle:     [47:14] Yeah. Well, she’s a great person to follow if you don’t already. There’s a lot of offshoots too from just her book club. There’s a whole swap community on Facebook, where people swap books all the time. There’s also a Secret Santa thing where you can sign up and then you buy a book for somebody that’s on their wish list, and someone will send you a book that’s on your wish list, so that’s kind of fun.

Nicole:    [47:40] So before we close, I just want to mention a few other book clubs in passing. I think that we mentioned last time we did Sarah Jessica Parker. If you follow her on Instagram, I think she is a great source of literary fiction with a lot of her picks. Of course, she had her own imprint, which I don’t know is as active as it had been. Maybe it’s been on hold for the pandemic. I can’t really find too much information. So I’m not sure she’s if she dissolved that partnership with Hogarth. I know that Gayle and I read a couple of her books, and we both liked her choices.

Gayle:     [48:23] I hope they didn’t dissolve that partnership. That was so cool.

Nicole:    [48:27] Yeah. Well, she had also been doing something with the ALA originally, which I think is where they kind of made her ambassador and she did mention some books that she had recommended. One was Stephanie Powell’s book No One Is Coming to Save Us. And yeah, I really hope she did it. I think the last thing that she put out may have been last year and it was a book of poetry, which I can’t recall the name of. Poetry just really is not my thing. But we read Golden Child and A Place for Us, which were both excellent. 

Gayle:     [49:05] Yes.

Nicole:    [49:06] But she’s still recommending books on her Instagram, so you can follow her there or go there to see her picks. Nicole Richie also. Well, every few months or so she will just post the shot of all the books that she’s been reading. And I liked a lot of the books that she had in her pictures and then, of course, she asked for recommendations. 

Gayle:     [49:33] What kinds of books does she read? 

Nicole:    [49:36] I think that she’s mostly a literary. I think she leans towards literary fiction. She has wide-ranging tastes, like some of them she has Margaret Atwood, the sequel to Handmaid’s Tale is there, Gilead, Remains of the Day, so she reads a lot of books that are kind of classics. Zora Neale Hurston’s new one is on there. The Nickel Boys, Zadie Smith’s Grand Union, Where the Crawdads Sing is on her list. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. I would read all these books. I have most of them. She has the farm. Girl on the Train, Gun Love, An American Marriage. And so, she posts her picks, “This is what I’ve read this half of the year” or whatever. “Tell me more to read.” She posted a bunch of books, I think, at the beginning of the pandemic that she said she was going to be reading and asked for recommendations and then she listed her favorites at the end of 2019. And I think that was when I was reading Crawdads, Nickel Boys, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. She has a Tom Robbins book on here, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. So it sounds like she reads literary fiction and classics. 

Gayle:     [05:01] Yeah. Interesting. Okay. Whatever happened to Jimmy Fallon’s book club, was that just a summer thing?

Nicole:    [51:09] He did it two summers. There was the summer that he picked the YA novel that is a trilogy. So what he does is he gives these five books and then he has his audience vote. And I think he did it in 2018 and 2019. Let’s see, which year is this? Okay so in 2018, the picks were Providence by Carolyn Kepnes, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, IQ by Joe Ide, The Good Son by use You-Jeong Jeong, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and that was the winner, Children of Blood and Bone. And then in 2019, he did The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz, Fleishman Is in Trouble, The Chain by Adrian McKinty, The Silent Patient and Ask Again, Yes

Gayle:     [52:18] Then which one?

Nicole:    [52:19] Ask Again, Yes won. 

Gayle:     [52:21] Okay. 

Nicole:    [52:22] And then 2020 happened and I think he didn’t do it.

Gayle:     [52:26] Yeah, like most plans in 2020 fell by the wayside.

Nicole:    [52:29] So we will see if Jimmy revives his book club in 2021. Andrew Luck who is a football player, I think we briefly discussed and his was still going as of August 2020. And he does a YA pick an adult pick each month. And he has discussions on the author, and I think he has a SoundCloud page that has all of his author conversations. And he has a lot of literary fiction, I think, for his adult picks.

Gayle:     [53:00] Do you know what his recent picks have been?

Nicole:    [53:01] No, he stopped in August, and there was a young adult one, but I didn’t really pay too much attention because it seemed like he wasn’t doing it. And also, we have so many to get to. 

Gayle:     [53:15] Right. Well, I will link to all of the places where you can find these book clubs. Sometimes they’re a little hard to find.

Nicole:    [53:24] Right, yeah, it was hard to track down some of this information.

Gayle:     [53:26] Yeah, which is weird. I wish they would make it really easy. But I’ll link to them, and I’ll link to some of the books that we talked about in more detail. We mentioned so many books it would take forever just to list them all. But the ones that we’ve kind of given a little bit of attention to I will also include in the show notes so that people can click through and see them.

Nicole:    [53:45] And there were two more that I didn’t mention, but I will ask Gayle to include in the list because I think you might want to check them out. They looked interesting to me. 

Gayle:     [53:54] Okay

Nicole:    [53:55] Alas, the show has gone on. 

Gayle:     [53:57] Right. 

Nicole:    [53:58] This is a long one.

Gayle:     [53:59] Yeah. Well, I’m excited that there are people out there that are kind of curating these lists and promoting these books. I don’t do anything with them other than just kind of keep an eye on them and notice what they’re reading and I follow them on social media, but I don’t make an effort to time my reading to match theirs or anything. 

Nicole:    [54:18] And then we’ll link to, you should link to Barack Obama’s picks. 

Gayle:     [54:22] Oh, yes. He came out with his summer picks.

Nicole:    [54:27] Did he? 

Gayle:     [54:27] I think he did this year. Yeah, I think he did.

Nicole:    [54:30] [Who knows?]

Gayle:     [54:32] It was just such a contrast to the current inhabitant of the Oval Office in terms of reading and celebration of diverse voices and seeking understanding, of course.

Nicole:    [54:46] Well, we usually have a show where we talk about his picks. So if we didn’t get to them this year, then look forward to that at some point. Maybe we could hack it on to the show.

Gayle:     [54:55] Does he do Christmas picks too? I can’t remember. Christmas recommendations?

Nicole:    [54:59] No, I think it comes out– Maybe he did his summer reading list. I think the next thing that he comes out [with] will be the books he enjoyed most in 2020. 

Gayle:     [55:08] Yeah. Okay. 

Nicole:    [55:09] So maybe that’ll be a good time to see what he read in the summer and see what music he was listening to. 

Gayle:     [55:14] Yep.

Nicole:    [55:16] What would be interesting to me is like I would be curious to see how his picks have changed since he’s left the White House since when he was in the White House you would think that they would be so heavily scrutinized, and he was trying to give a certain type of appearance. I wonder if they have skewed any differently now that he’s no longer in the Oval Office?

Gayle:     [55:35] Yeah. I will say this, I have a very good friend here who plays golf and was playing golf on Friday. And he sent me some video of the party playing golf behind him, and it was, of course, Barack Obama with some friends. And he is so skinny. Because he had shorts on, it was really warm here. And at first, I was like, “I think that’s Barack Obama.” He had a hat on so it was a little hard to tell, but I was like, “He’s so lanky”, and I didn’t think of him as being that tall and lanky. And it was him and apparently, he’s really thin, so he must be working out a lot.

Nicole:    [56:18] Or do you think a camera puts weight on people, makes you more presidential?

Gayle:     [56:22] Possibly. But I mean, he was always in suits. We just never really saw him like, super casual.

Nicole:    [56:28] Right. 

Gayle:     [56:29] So it was fun to see. I guess people were like applauding him when he would make a good shot. 

Nicole:    [56:36] When he would do anything. 

Gayle:     [56:37] Yeah. And he was, of course, being very cordial and nice.

Nicole:    [56:41] He leaned to pick up the ball…

Gayle:     [56:44] Yes, and everyone clapped.

Nicole:    [56:45] …Applause. 

Gayle:     [56:46] Right. All right. Well, this has been a fun show. Check out these book clubs. Let us know which ones you like, what you think of these picks. If there are other book clubs out there that we don’t know about– I know that there are some libraries that do book clubs, and–

Nicole:    [56:58] I know. Definitely tell us if you have other celebrities, or Instagram or Twitter or whoever, who, more than usual, share book picks.

Gayle:     [57:08] Yeah.

Nicole:    [57:08] I’m always curious to see what people are reading. 

Gayle:     [57:12] Yeah. All right. Well, until next time, happy reading.

                [57:17] We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of The Readerly Report. You can find all of our shows on iTunes or at thereaderlyreport.com. Please join our Facebook group, Readerly Report Readers, where you can talk to other listeners about their reading life. You can also find Nicole at nicolebonia.com, and me, Gayle at everydayiwritethebookblog.com Finally, we’d love it if you left us a review on iTunes and told your book-loving friends about us. Thanks.