Every Sunday this summer, we'll bring you a curated selection of recommended reads as part of our 100 Days of Summer series. This week, actress Emma Roberts shares what's on her summer reading list.
“Do you ever read a book and wish you could talk about it with everybody you know?” asks Emma Roberts. That was the inspiration behind Belletrist, a new digital book club that the actress started with her friend Karah Preiss. With close to 90,000 followers, Belletrist has taken the modern day book club to the next level, with smart essays paired with cool curated images.
In a social media landscape, Belletrist is thoughtfully positioned to be a book club for everyone, engaging its audience online while also encouraging a community of distraction-less, independent bookstore-purchased reading. The club will read titles by both powerhouse authors like Joan Didion—her new book South and West was their first pick—and new names like Julie Buntin, picking her first novel Marlena for their May read.
We chatted with Roberts and Preiss about the club, their must-reads for summer, and the current culture of books.
What inspired Belletrist?
Belletrist is for people who we have coined "lit-curious." We (Emma + Karah) came up with Belletrist because we didn't want to be each other's only friends who had read a book. We want to cast a wider net.
Where do you hope it will go? What do you hope to inspire?
We want to create a forum online (and off) that inspires people to read more. There seems to be this general misconception that millennials don't read and they especially don't buy physical books.
Eventually, it would be great if Belletrist was a destination for people who are lit-curious to find new books to read and then engage with others who are reading those same books. Essentially, to bring the charm of a local, independent bookstore to the online marketplace, while still celebrating independent bookstores.
Do you plan to grow this to include events?
Absolutely. Every month there will be different content surrounding our Book of the Month. We want to keep each month a surprise as to where we will be and with who! We ultimately want to bring people together and keep this conversation going and see what it evolves into.
Why was Joan Didion your first pick?
Joan Didion has been a source of endless inspiration and has been the motivation behind our voracious reading habits for the past eight years. When she said she would answer some questions we had about her latest book South And West, we knew immediately that it would be the perfect place to start this endeavor.
What will inform your choice of book moving forward? Is there a singular source of inspiration?
Our pick basically has to be something that rings true to us. Something we want to share with other people. I think the only way to share books successfully is if you’re talking about a book that means something to you.
Going forward, we will choose things that speak to us. Joan Didion is an icon, but we want to also feature new authors and shine a light on people nobody has heard of. There is no formula. Ariel Levy, who is a the legendary rockstar New Yorker writer, just published a book called The Rules Do Not Apply, and we would argue that it is the ideal Belletrist title.
How does a book club look different today than 10 or even 5 years ago?
Instagram. But actually Instagram live. Facebook live. There are so many more ways to discuss books which is fabulous but also overwhelming. We feel like the internet lacks curation so that is essentially what we are doing with Belletrist.
With constant content coming at us, how do you think the way we read is affected?
A physical book is the one tangible medium we have left that is notification-immune. Our phones, our computers, even our TVs have somewhat amusing diversions built in. With that said, it is more important than ever, in our current socio-political climate, to turn our attention to the respite that we can get from a book. Because they are the only source of good content that doesn't come with notifications. Physical books have no built-in, amusing diversions.
Any hints of what is up next?
More books :-) We also started a newsletter; Ariel Levy (pictured with Preiss and Roberts above) gave us an interview and it was so special for her to be our first! We love her book The Rules Do Not Apply so much. We read it in three days and were constantly bailing on plans to go home and read.
We will also be creating little worlds around these books we are featuring. Books evoke so many feelings and we want to capture those feelings. Where you read and what else you do while you’re reading says a lot about you and we want to explore that…more to come!
What is at the top of your summer read list?
- White Fur by Jardine Labaire
- Girl In Snow by Danya Kukafka
- Careers For Women by Joanna Scott
- What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
- Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
- Chemistry by Weike Wang
What is the classic book that you pick up every summer?
- Summer Crossing by Truman Capote
- The Notebook Nicholas Sparks
- A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
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