Emma Roberts on her new book club and Joan Didion: 'She's the reason I love to read so much'
Emma Roberts joined a growing list of well-read celebrities (including Emma Watson and Reese Witherspoon) earlier this week when she launched Belletrist, her new online book club. While Roberts isn’t necessarily pushing books with a feminist bent like Watson, or highlighting hits she’s snapped up the rights to like Witherspoon, she’s a passionate reader with excellent taste, and if Belletrist’s picks are anything like the books the actress posts on her personal Instagram, club members are in for a treat.
EW caught up with Roberts to talk about Belletrist’s launch, choosing Joan Didion’s South and West as the first book, and, of course, what she’s reading now.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m so excited to talk to you about books. We’ve been following your Instagram recommendations forever.
EMMA ROBERTS: I just got three new books. I just finished The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, which is an older book, but it’s a beautiful book about love and time travel, all set in New York City. It has some edge to it as well, and I absolutely loved that. And I just got The Rules Do Not Apply [by Ariel Levy].
Oh my god, that one is gutting.
I literally just flipped to an open page in it and I read a paragraph, and I just wanted to eat it. It was so good. I just finished Land of Enchantment by Leigh Stein. It’s a memoir. It’s such a fast read — I read that on a plane. I would highly recommend that.
So how did your book club come about?
Basically, five years ago, my best friend Karah Preiss and I wanted to start a book club, but we weren’t really sure what we wanted it to be. It just kind of got put on the back burner. And then I started organically posting what I’m reading on Instagram, because that’s such a big part of my life, and it’s what I share with people. I was realizing it was starting so many conversations, and so many people were tagging me, and people were telling me about the books that they were writing, and their favorite books. And so many scripts I read are based on books, so it’s really a huge part of my life.
It’s just this labor of love from my best friend and me, and we took it to some people and we were like, “This is what we want to do,” and they were behind it.
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How did you choose the first book?
They said, “What do you want your first book to be?” And we said, “It has to be South and West by Joan Didion.” And they were like, “Okay, but let’s maybe think of something where we can really get the author to participate.” And I said, “Well, why don’t we just reach out and see if she’ll do an interview?” And they were like, “Okay, but we don’t want you to get disappointed.”
So they reached out, and she agreed to give us an exclusive interview for our launch, which just completely made it all come together, because she’s really the reason that I love to read so much, and she has really had such an effect on my life creatively, and my personal life. To have her be the person we get to launch the book club with is so special, for so many reasons.
Today, I’m meeting up with Karah to pick out the book for next month. So it’s really just something that started out because of our passion for books that’s turned into a book club. When people join, they’ll get more information on what’s coming up, because there’s lots of exciting things to unroll. But yeah, we just wanted to create a place where people can talk about books, and share their thoughts, and be creative. And there’s going to be lots of ways for them to participate in the book club and interact.
Will the discussions take place on Instagram, or on the Belletrist website?
Both. The Instagram is linked to the site, so you can check in on both. We’ll be sending out a newsletter, doing a lot of cool collaborations coming up with people… I just really wanted another creative outlet other than just acting, and a way to interact with people in a different way, and way to support people who are up-and-coming. We really want to highlight lots of new writers and new artists on our Instagram, so you’ll see a lot of that.
What’s your criteria for the books you’ll choose?
There really is no criteria. We’re basically just basing them off things that excite us, and we just launched our Instagram, so we’re going to see what our fellow readers are interested in. We just want to feature people that excite us, basically. There is no criteria because there shouldn’t be any rules. It’s really whatever jumps out to us and whoever wants to participate with us and read with us.