Thursday, November 4, 2010

Celebrities Hocking Books

So we all know I love books. I'm a librarian and an avid reader. I grew up going to the library and my house has always been filled with books. During most of my conversations there will be some talking about books and reading. I love discussing what it is I love about a book or what makes me really dislike it. I love sharing my thoughts and hearing what others have to say. I want to know why someone loves a book, what it is about that book that makes it their favorite book they've read, and why it meant so much to them.

And when I see support for books and reading from celebrities, I get excited, really I do. I mean, I was the first person to purchase the Nathan Fillion READ poster! And I proudly display the new Harry Potter posters in my office. But there's also something about celebrities hocking books that really bugs me. It's not enough for me to see some popular person holding a book on an ALA READ poster-I want to know why they picked it. I even thought that when I was a student surrounded by READ posters in my library, so that's not just my librarian opinion. It's not enough for me to see the title of the book you picked, I want to know why. What it is about that book that made you want to hold it in a poster for everyone to see?

The same thing goes for Scholastic's new social networking site for Bookprints, You Are What You Read. The idea behind the site is very cool. The site lets users pick five books that have made an impact on their lives and they call it a "bookprint." You can share your bookprint with others, and see what other books have influenced people. There's even a place for you to write why you are choosing that specific book-what did that book mean to you? I really love this idea and I think it's a great way to promote how books can touch our lives.

And yes, there's even a very large section of celebrities who have supposedly filled out their own bookprints. We can see the five books each celebrity picks, but we have no idea why they picked it or what it means to them. Sure, we can figure some of them out. I mean, Daniel Radcliffe's choice of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Kevin Durant's choice of basketball books make sense to me. But why is it so hard for celebrities to write one short sentence about "I liked this book because..." OK, I know they're busy, but I don't think of that as an excuse. Guess what? I'm busy too! I may not be a celebrity and have millions of dollars to pay people to fill things out for me, but I can take the time to write a short sentence about how a book influenced me. And if they have time to go to work, socialize, shop, appear in the tabloids, and post stupid tweets on Twitter, they can find a few minutes to promote reading. If they showed up for a READ poster photo shoot, they can mention why they chose the book they're holding. And can't that at least get put on the ALA website if not the poster itself?

Take a look at the celebrity bookprints listed on the You Are What You Read site and you'll start to see a recurring theme-The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Old Man and the Sea-pretty soon it all starts to look like a required reading list for high school students. Has no one ever read a book past high school? And honestly, I'm a bit rebellious by nature. If I looked at the site as a student and only saw high school required reading, I wouldn't be inspired to read those books, I would roll my eyes and think "yeah, right, another adult telling me I should read this stupid thing." All it makes me think is how these people can't think for themselves and they have to pick books that make them look smart in the eyes of the public. (It gets worse if one of the books they choose is one they wrote! And don't even get me started on tie-in publicity READ posters!)

In all reality, it's most likely not even the celebrity picking the books-it's a publicist or agent or assistant. But if you really want to show your support for reading and literacy, than at least take five minutes to think about what books meant to you and let us know. If that classic really did inspire you than tell me why. That's much more inspiring than just seeing your face associated with some classic I was forced to read and hate in school.

And honestly, if you can't even think of one book that was influencial and inspired you and can't explain why, than really I don't you promoting my profession. Why would I want some celebrity who hasn't read a book since high school telling kids to read when they can't even think of the last book they read themselves?

So what kind of celebrity book promotion do I like to see? Remember when Kristen Bell professed her love on Twitter for Mockingjay and posted a photo of the book? And then she talked about the books in a magazine interview and explained why she liked them. Then there was the big string of celebs tweeting about The Hunger Games. Why am I more inclined to believe those tweets than something else? Because the tweets conveyed excitement about the books and actually discussed plot points and characters-meaning I knew they had read the book.

All I really want is to know why someone enjoyed a book. Why are they suggesting it to others? Why do they think I should read it? It's just not enough to hold a book or put it up on a profile page-explain why I should pick it up and maybe I will.

Am I being too critical? Anyone else feel this way?


  1. I agree with you, it's not enough to know what the books are, but WHY they were chosen. I will admit that I chose To Kill a Mockingbird as one of my five, but I wrote that it made my 5 because the impact of HOW it was taught to me in freshman English has stayed with me all these years later.

  2. Agree! I like that Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars forever!) tweeted her love for the Hunger Games trilogy. However I think the other celebs were jumping on the bandwagon. (If not them, then their publicist.) Who knows, maybe the choices they got were just a fill-in the blank ballot and there was no space to explain why. Or, the hater in me thinks, their publicist filled it out for them.

  3. Christi-EXACTLY! I want to know why the books are there. I don't care if you pick a classic, but you better have a better explantation than "I read it HS and everyone else likes it" which is what I feel many people do.

    Chris-Yeah, I was wondering about the other celebs, but at least they tweeted actual commments about a book instead of holding up a book for no reason. I tend to think it's the publicist that fills it out too which is incredibly frustrating. I really would love to find a celebrity to speak out for reading who truely does love books!

  4. I DEFINITELY agree. I'm always doubtful when I see celebrities professing their love for classics. It's the passion that sells books, not just a name

  5. The whole hock a classic thing does seem like just a ploy to make people think you're more intelligent than you are. I like it when people talk about books they really care about.

    On the other hand, if it gets someone reading a book, what's the harm?

    I've had a few occasions where celebrities have recommended a music group that they love and I picked up a CD on that recommendation. With authors it's even more pronounced - I've picked up numerous books and CDs they've recommended.

    I think celebrities hocking books is annoying in the same way that people like Hilary Duff and Nicole Richie authoring books are. It may be kind of fake, but if it gets people reading, I think it's just fine.

  6. Agreed, and I don't think you're being too critical. I would hope that most people doing the READ posters and other literacy themed endeavours really do love books, but that Scholastic site seems like a poor example from what you've read.

    I remember reading this: with Dan Radcliffe talking about books and his choice for the READ poster, and I would love to read more interviews/articles like that.

  7. totally agree. Sometimes I just feel like the celebrity representative sat down with a list of bestsellers, inspirational, and controversial books and just picked some to put on a list. Is it really that celebrities choice? If so, then say why!

  8. Yes, precisely.

    I think of those READ posters as a declaration of desert-island books: you only get one, for the rest of your life.

    Mine would show Alice's Adventures in Wonderland because it's already intrigued and entertained me for the better part of my 48 years on earth, so it will probably do fine for the remainder of my time on the deserted island.

  9. I hate it when people don't say why they feel the way they feel about a book. I don't really share feelings-except when it comes to books. me and my sis will spend HOURS talking and discussing books and most of my friends will reply to the questions about books with "I liked it." "I loved it." "It was stupid." "My baby sis could have written that." And even when they say that last one it's not because they said it, it's because they won't say why they said it that bothers me. I could write an editorial on almost every book I've read. I think everyone probably can, if you read you can express opinions on what you read. period. so why don't you?

  10. I totally agree with you, Sarah. I don't know why those people gush over the classics- its probably because they were forced to read them in school, and they were the only books they've read. They don't have time to read, so they pick one out of the pile they remember and use that. Yes, very annoying.

    This post made me think- what would I use as my READ book? I'll have to think about that, and then maybe I'll do a post on it ;p

  11. I love to hear the why. The fact that you love a book is not enough, tell me more. i have no problem telling people why I love a particular book and honestly I can't remember those books from highschool, so I don't recommend those.

  12. Ok, I just went to the website and I kind of love it... It's like GoodReads or LibraryThing but more kid-friendly. Also, the fact that Taylor Swift picked Stargirl just ensured that I am her fan for life (and yes, I am 27, not 14). .... Ok I'm still scrolling around the site and right now I'm just irritated that "The Jonas Brothers" have 1 book print. There's 4 of them! They all only like the exact same books? ... I love that Jeff Foxworthy chose a Rob Bell book ... Mo Williams also had some pretty original picks!

    There was definitely an overabundance of TKaM and The Bible on the profiles I looked at, but it just made me an even bigger fan of the people who were a little more original.

  13. I don't think you're being too critical, I think it's safe to presume that some of those celebs didn't fill out their bookprints themselves. What amazes me about that is the fact that if a publicist did do it you would think they would be all about filling out the extras. I like that Scholastic has made it appealing though, perhaps over time the celeb book prints will become a bit more thorough.


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