Celebrities are generally believed to be stupid. The men are himbos and the women are ditzes, and their job is to look like they’re real people even though they are obviously some higher form of human, either genetically or surgically. In recent years, however, we have seen a rebuke to this stereotype. Celebrities might be beautiful, but they can also read. They lead virtual book clubs or at least post photos of books on social media, and this endears them to us — ugly people who had to do well in school.
But the question lingers: How much of this is legit? Are these people actually reading the books they’re hawking on Instagram a/o adapting into bad streaming miniseries? We went through a list of notable readers and decided whether or not they are likely to have opinions on the new Jonathan Franzen, or if this is all just for clout.
Olivia’s Verdict: I sincerely believe that Reese is reading every book she talks about. This is mostly because the novels in her book club are never that intellectually rigorous, and I imagine she is reading them in a single afternoon.
Sarah’s Verdict: Reese Witherspoon reads half a book, at most. She skims, and then has her assistant read the rest and brief her ahead of her Reese’s Book Club discussions. No offense to Reese at all, I’m sure she really does care about women and literacy. But she’s an entrepreneur and this is an income stream. Good for her.
Sarah’s Verdict: I think Oprah started out reading books. In fact, the first big girl books I read (White Oleander, I Know This Much is True) were because of Oprah. I think as her empire grew, she stopped reading, and I think this is especially true because of what happened with A Million Little Pieces. Oprah is a skilled journalist and interviewer — she would have known immediately upon reading the book this guy was lying his ass off.
Olivia’s Verdict: I think Oprah still reads, but not as much. She has so many other things to do, and managing her book club is just brand upkeep at this point. I do think that she devoured Michelle Obama’s book.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Olivia’s Verdict: I know Sarah (Hagi) doesn’t think that Sarah (Jessica Parker) actually reads, which is a crock of horse shit. Hagi has clearly never seen Jessica Parker’s “73 Questions” video, where you can see the walls of her home lined with books. SJP is many things, but I don’t think a liar is one of them. Plus, she just has the vibe of a mom who is dying to talk to you about how much she loved the new Jesmyn Ward book.
Sarah’s Verdict: She does not read actual books. Maybe magazines. I see Olivia (Craighead) mentioning her “73 Questions” video and the books. Craighead is wrong. Books are decor at this point.
Sarah’s Verdict: Natalie Portman reads. She loves reading and books. I don’t know why, but I really believe in her book club. It’s probably because there’s so little glamor in her Q&A’s with authors. Look at this one — it’s like she’s in a prison cell. That’s the Zoom set up of a woman who cares about books.
Olivia’s Verdict: I think she was burned too hard by everything that allegedly happened with Jonathan Safran Foer (he is her West Elm Caleb), and was turned off to the form altogether. She is not actually reading.
Olivia’s Verdict: As a (Gawker social editor and acclaimed author) Darcie Wilder stan, I am choosing to believe that Jenner was really engaging with Darcie’s book literally show me a healthy person when she was photographed next to it back in 2019. I think it makes sense for her to read cool, hip novels suggested to her by her agent. Obviously she is not reading, like, The Turn of the Screw or Ethan Frome.
Sarah’s Verdict: I believe Kendall Jenner reads because nobody else in her family has ever read a book, and she wants to rebel. Her whole thing is being the refined member of the Kardashian/Jenner clan.
Sarah’s Verdict: Not only can this girl not read books, she likely cannot read at all. And why should she have to know how? She is Cindy Crawford and George Clooney’s best friend’s daughter.
Olivia’s Verdict: No.
Sarah’s Verdict: No. This girl’s not reading. The whole book thing is because she’s pretty boring as a celebrity and needs something to make her seem a bit human. Good for her though.
Olivia’s Verdict: I didn’t know that this girl was a notable “reader” until Sarah mentioned it, so I have no idea what to think. I do know that I sat behind her and Evan Peters at an Off-Broadway play one time, so I do think she is cultured and maybe even literate.
Olivia’s Verdict: This one is tricky. She has fashioned herself as a Hot Woman Who Reads (and Writes), and her prose is good enough to suggest to me that she has in fact read a book at some point in her life. How often that is happening will continue to be up for debate.
Sarah’s Verdict: I’ll say this – she thinks she’s reading books. Interpret that as you will.
Sarah’s Verdict: Camila Cabello is reading, or at the very least doing her best. I don’t believe she’s very smart, but I believe she is trying. I know this because any celebrity who is curating a persona as a “reader” wouldn’t pose with Where The Crawdad Sings, a book that has been so plagued with controversy, nobody with a team behind them attempting to court mass appeal would ever let them post this.
Olivia’s Verdict: My favorite place on Instagram is Cabello’s Instagram highlight “Books.” There are only two posts in it: Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends (nine weeks ago) and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (seven weeks ago). Has she abandoned this project or has she stopped reading? I think it is the former, as she was just this week spotted at a Los Angeles sex shop carrying a book of some kind.
Olivia’s Verdict: We are always forgetting that Chris Pine went to UC Berkeley — and graduated with an English degree no less. He is reading all of those books, looking great while doing it, understanding around 70% of the words, and probably talking too much about them at dinner parties.
Sarah’s Verdict: No. He is not reading. He goes to the same book store every damn week to buy books and get his photo taken.