Bookworm Is The New Celebrity Sexy
By Martin Aguilera
As a lifelong bookworm, I've always found it incredibly sexy when a celebrity I like turns out to be a reader. It's nice to think someone's not just a pretty face, that there's more to the public persona they project — which is not to say attractive people in the public eye don't read, but let's be real: pushing books and literacy is not typically the paradigm for press junkets or entertainment news show soundbites. Whenever someone name drops a book, I perk up and pay attention. In my wayward youth, I remember reading up on celebrity crushes and practically swooning whenever they would recommend books. Ryan Phillipe loved Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle. Josh Hartnett was into the Beats, with a fondness for The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.
When Oprah’s Book Club launched on her nationally syndicated TV show back in 1996, her power and influence turned every title she selected into immediate best-sellers. At times, the books became cultural phenomenons – whether they were works that had previously been published and were ripe for rediscovery, such as Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon; sometimes the selections came with a little controversy, as was the case with Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections or A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Not long after, a few other celebs with widespread platforms launched their own book clubs. Kelly Ripa kicked hers off with If Looks Could Kill, a fun murder mystery by Kate White, and David Letterman facetiously crowned the memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody as his one and only “Dave’s Book Club” pick.
More recently, as the power of social media has exploded and crowned new tastemakers, many of them have taken to their platforms to push their passion for books and reading. Actress Emma Watson – “Hermione Granger” to a generation of Harry Potter devotees – began a project to leave books at subway metro stations to promote stories and ideas by female authors; she’d post pictures of herself doing this on Instagram. Scream queen Emma Roberts, along with business partner Karah Preiss, launched Belletrist in 2017, a site which states its intention as being one that “celebrates great books and the people who read them.”
They certainly made an impression when their first selection was South and West, the latest work of nonfiction by the legendary Joan Didion. Roberts even scored an exclusive interview with Didion to discuss the book. Sarah Jessica Parker has also been a proud advocate of books and reading; her tastes skew international, and she’s helped shine a light on beautiful and important works, such as the lyrical Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Parker even has her own imprint via Hogarth Publishing. Another dynamic celebrity reader, Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, has used Instagram to become a firebrand hitmaker. An offshoot of her company is “Reese’s Book Club,” devoted to engaging with her fans on all things literary across all social media platforms. A handful of the books she’s eagerly touted are books she herself will either star in, produce, or both – among those Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, and Truly Madly Guilty, another tale of darkness in the suburbs from Liane Moriarty, the writer of the phenomenon Big Little Lies.
But it’s not just ladies who are devoted to the power of the written word. How to Get Away With Murder’s Matt McGorry, an out, loud, and proud intersectional feminist, often posts the books he’s currently reading, or sharing with his HTGAWM castmates, on his accounts. Many of these titles are about contemporary history and social justice, earning McGorry a sweet #WokeBae spot. And I personally can’t think of “bae” without going starry-eyed over super nerd Donald Glover, who has said he’s enjoyed Future Shock by Alvin Toffler and Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Another bookworm is actor Andrew Garfield, who apparently digs heady reads like Synchronicity by Allan Combs and books on spirituality. Take me home now!
I can’t think of something more rewarding than a good book. Reading can transport us, make us empathize, enrich our hearts and minds. To see those who are in the public eye proudly waving their bookworm flag is consoling to me. We live in a cultural see-saw, with many opinions flying back and forth on this or that issue, and it seems we’re at a point in time when there are few things we can agree on. Encouraging others to dive into reading, to engage with ideas, to get a different perspective on this spinning world – I’ll take that from a celebrity any day. It’s a way of using their platform for good.
Also, it’s hella sexy.
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About the Author
Martin Aguilera is an LA-based writer and filmmaker whose tastes range between the sacred and profane. When not pondering the longstanding problems of virtue and happiness, he’s typically drinking coffee and browsing at libraries or bookstores.
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