Reese Witherspoon, 'One of the Most Influential People' in the Book Business

As Reese's Book Club approaches its 100th pick, the New York Times delved into what has made the book club leader "one of the most influential people" in the book business.

Reese Witherspoon

In a story called "Inside Reese Witherspoon's Literary Empire," Witherspoon said her club's monthly choices need to be optimistic and shareable. "Do you close this book and say, 'I know exactly who I want to give it to?' " The picks also have to be books by women, with women at the center of the action who save themselves. "Because that's what women do," she said. "No one's coming to save us."

The club's effects have been striking: "Her book club picks reliably land on the bestseller list for weeks, months or, in the case of Where the Crawdads Sing [by Delia Owen], years," the Times wrote. "In 2023, print sales for the club's selections outpaced those of Oprah's Book Club and Read With Jenna, according to Circana Bookscan, adding up to 2.3 million copies sold."

Begun in 2017, the Reese Book Club made Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman its inaugural pick. The novel "spent 85 weeks on the paperback bestseller list. The club's second pick, The Alice Network [by Kate Quinn], spent nearly four months on the weekly best-seller lists and two months on the audio list. Its third, The Lying Game [by Ruth Ware], spent 18 weeks on the weekly lists."

Witherspoon has found what the Times calls "a sweet spot between literary and commercial fiction, with a few essay collections and memoirs sprinkled in. She turned out to be the literary equivalent of a fit model--a reliable bellwether for readers in search of intelligent, discussion-worthy fare, hold the Proust. She wanted to help narrow down the choices for busy readers, she said, 'to bring the book club out of your grandma's living room and online.' "

A small group of people consider titles for the club, and "Nothing makes her happier than getting something out in the world that you might not see otherwise," Jon Baker, one of the group, said about Witherspoon.

One way Witherspoon aims to help create something you might not see otherwise is through the club's Lit Up program, which helps "dynamic, unpublished, diverse women and nonbinary writers" develop their craft and hopefully get published. The program includes an all-expenses-paid retreat to develop a manuscript and learn about the business side of publishing, a three-month mentorship with a published author, meetings with literary agents, and a book launch marketing commitment from Reese's Book Club when the book is published.

This program itself is another great Reese pick.

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