Coates won the National Book Award in 2015 for his moving, autobiographical reflection on race in America, Between the World and Me. The Water Dancer is Coates’ first novel, but it has already generated a lot of buzz from critics. Oprah even called it one of the best books she’s ever read!
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Oprah’s Book Club first launched as a segment on Winfrey’s talk show in 1996, and it’s had a proven effect on book culture. The Winfrey stamp of approval has a history of massively boosting book sales. The segment came to an end in 2011 but was relaunched on Winfrey’s OWN TV network. Now, Winfrey is re-launching her book club through the Apple Books app in partnership with Apple TV. An interview between Winfrey and Coates discussing the author’s first novel is set to release on Apple TV on Nov. 1.
In a video announcement, Winfrey said, “Together with Apple we’re building a new book club for today’s world, for a more connected world, for the entire world.”
The only thing more thrilling than being captivated by a book is being able to share it with others. Which is why I’m excited to bring @oprahsbookclub to @apple starting TODAY! My first pick, The Water Dancer by the brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates. It will enthrall you. #ReadwithUspic.twitter.com/DG99kTKrWu
Everybody has that one friend who powers through seventy books in a year. Maybe you’ve got more than one friend who does this, and you’re the friend who doesn’t. Or maybe you are the friend who reads seventy books a year, driven by the knowledge that you—even you, of all people—will never be able to read them all. Reading goals depend on the person setting them, and no goal is better than any other. Most people want to read more, regardless of how much more actually is. Here’s the thing—you can read more and have a better time doing it. So here’s a list of New Years’ resolutions that don’t involve going to the gym.
1. Snag a book from your favorite author’s Goodreads page
Let’s assume your favorite author likes to read—that’s probably part of how they became your favorite author. (If your favorite author doesn’t like to read, maybe pick a new one.) Many authors have presences on Goodreads, but some actually use the site themselves. If you love an author’s actual writing just as much as you love their stories, search their profile for their own reviews and ratings. Chances are, you’ll find a new favorite book.
2. Read a book with friends
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This doesn’t mean ‘read a book at the same time as your friend.’ It means read it with them. Choose the right book (or the right friend) and discuss your opinions, feelings, and reactions with each other. (Note: it still counts as a discussion if the reaction is !!!!!) Set specific places to check in and discuss—after part II, around 100 pages, etc. If one of you pulls ahead, the other will have to catch up before the faster-reading friend gets lowkey pissed. Peer pressure: now offering you more than cheap liquor and ill-conceived high school relationships.
3. Borrow from a friend
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Here’s the logic: if you borrow it, you’ll have to give it back. When you give it back, your friend will ask if you liked it. And if you admit you didn’t actually read it, you’ll probably feel like an idiot.
4. Try a new genre
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“I hate all fantasy. It’s all about swords and elves and fighting. Sometimes,” you say, like someone who has read two fantasy novels, tops, “they change it up and kiss each other.” The elves kiss the swords? If you insist. The point is that, chances are, you dislike a particular genre because of a few unpleasant encounters. Maybe you dislike the ‘classics’ because you’ve never gotten over your whitewashed high school curriculum (not that you need to get over it). Maybe your brain will liquefy if you see another poster for a YA dystopian blockbuster. Just try again.
5. Join your local library
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The cartoon aardvark Arthur said it best: “having fun isn’t hard—when you’ve got a library card.” Many people are surprisingly hesitant to take life advice from an early 2000s cartoon. If the advice is that a teenager can and should catch a murderer via trap-door and pulley system (Scooby Doo), that’s fair enough. This one’s solid, though. Even better, it’s completely free.
6. Find a BookTuber whose opinions you trust
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Here’s some news: YouTube isn’t just a place for pre-teens to make asinine comments. (It’s also for Vine compilations.) You may not be aware that the site has a thriving literary community, with many avid readers recording reviews, reactions, unboxings, and more. The obvious downside is that YouTube can be a bit of a popularity contest, and the top BookTubers to come up when you search might just have the highest-quality cameras or the most colorful bookshelves. Try searching for a review of a book you adore to find people reading the same things as you (regardless of the hits on the video). If you agree with that review, maybe you’ll agree with the others.
7. Try a memoir that speaks to you
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Maybe you assume most memoirs are too dramatic to resemble your life. They’re only for famous people, you think, or geniuses, orphans, criminals—people who are important, or tragic, or so often both at once. That’s a big assumption to make when life is the most dramatic possible thing, and you’re important already because you’re alive. Whether you relate to a writers’ cultural background, sexuality, profession, or even sense of humor, it’s powerful to feel a connection to another person—a person who, this time, is far from fictional. Many audiobook versions of memoirs are actually read by the author, which makes the experience all the more personal.
8. Learn something new
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The difference between a work of non-fiction and your high school textbook is that the former is meant to be as fascinating as possible—while the latter is usually thick enough to inflict blunt-force trauma. Maybe you encountered a new topic on YouTube and want more information than a twenty-minute video can provide. True crime? Scientology? The Roman Empire? The real difference between a work of non-fiction and your high school textbook is that, with non-fiction, you can learn exactly what you want.
9. Pick a destination
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Chances are, you’ve always wanted to go somewhere. (No, ‘to the refrigerator’ doesn’t count.) The destination doesn’t need to be far to be a destination—it only has to excite you. Or maybe you have an upcoming trip to somewhere a little less thrilling. (Off for the holidays to see your estranged aunt in rural Kansas, anyone?) It’s always possible that the sun over the fields will feel more beautiful once you’ve seen it through someone else’s eyes.
10. Develop a routine
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In the ideal world, reading is a little more like this: you’re curled up by a fire with a mug of your preferred warm beverage (cocoa with marshmallows, Hot Toddy heavy on the whiskey), possibly in a sprawling library filled with plants you haven’t managed to kill yet. But you’re not in the ideal world—you’re in this one. Since it’s unlikely that you’ll ever have a day of uninterrupted, peaceful reading, it’s better to carve out thirty minutes to read and drink a cup of tea before you head off to bed.
Several years removed from high school and college, my friends and I came up with the innocent idea of forming a book club. We were well read, literary types, we told ourselves. Well, most of us were. From the very beginning, the club was intended to be an exclusive group. Not everyone in our immediate group of friends was thought of in the same intellectual light. Elitism and literature have long gone hand in hand, and we were glad to continue the tradition of excluding others from our hobby.
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In any case, secret separate group chats were formed, ideas for the first book were proposed, and bickering broke out almost immediately. It turns out that even in a group of close friends, tastes can vary widely. Eventually the group began to lean toward Roberto Balaño’s last novel 2666. Upon learning it was a translation from Spanish, I was generally opposed to the pick. Although I studied Spanish for more than five years in school, I doubt I would be able to actually comprehend a novel written in the language. I also feel that so much is lost in translation, even with the best translators hard at work, that you’re not really reading an authentic representation of the work. That’s just my opinion.
Anyhow, we ended up settling on 2666, which I begrudgingly read. The problem with reading and discussing books of your own volition is that there is so little incentive to stay on topic. Any talk about the book would quickly derail into off-topic nonsense. While my friends and I enjoyed playing up our East Coast intellectualencia credentials, we really lacked a lot of the needed sophistication. Less wine and cheese, more beer and pizza. Also, talking about books outside of a classroom setting requires an iron will and tremendous amounts of focus, and there are just so many distractions.
We did manage to move past our first book and start a second one, but the cracks were already beginning to show. I basically muscled in some contemporary American literary fiction in order to stonewall some of the more outlandish books that others in the club had proposed, I thought foolishly. While we may all have pretended that book club operated on democratic values, it really boiled down to a competition of who had the strongest personality. Our second book ended up being Libra by Don DeLillo, mostly on my say so.
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Our lack of collective discipline meant that while others raced through our second book, others read at a glacial pace. Some never even started Libra at all and instead read something else entirely. Internal divisions were threatening the stability of the club. Even worse, the excluded members of the friend group were hurt , and were demanding admission to the book club. When those of us who had actually read the book met up for discussion, we agreed that we needed to pick something that we would all actually get around to reading, and would appease the barbarians at the gates.
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A science fiction selection with an upcoming cinematic tie-in managed to prolong the club’s lifespan for a little while. Most of the earnest readers in the club actually managed to get through Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. However, the planned face-to-face discussion of the novel never materialized. There were now far too many people in the book club, from too many different friend groups. All the voices drowned out any sort of possible consensus and the club petered out attempting to read another science fiction yarn, Hyperion, but without any sort of tangible success. For my own part, I went back to whittling off titles on my own personal reading list.
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So what did we learn? Turning what is essentially a solitary activity into a social one is a chore. Also, manipulating and controlling your friends is hard work, especially when they have such bad taste in literature.
You’ve probably already heard of John Green, YouTube sensation; YA superstar; and the author of the novels The Fault in Our Starsand Paper Towns, whose movie adaptations crushed both the box office and our fragile little hearts. But maybe you haven’t heard about his latest project. Teaming up with Rosianna Halse Roja, literary critic, YouTube personality, feminist, and Green’s own personal assistant, Green has just announced his new book club, Life’s Library. Maybe you recognize the name from theLooking for Alaskapassage that features the same phrase: “I’ve read maybe a third of [the books in her collection]. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.”
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In his YouTube announcement, Green describes his intentions in founding the book club: “reading is usually a solitary and private experience, but when you’re done with a book, it can be so fulfilling to talk about it with people.” As a group Discord is a crucial part of Green and Roja’s plans for the book club, it’s clear that a feeling of community and camaraderie is crucial to the project’s vision.
As a YouTube personality, Green is tech-savvy and used to creating content that reaches thousands and thousands of people. The video announcement itself already has over 89,000 views. But Green is interested in something more interactive, wanting to “create the experience of a slightly less open, more community oriented internet where we do and make stuff together.” Since it costs no money to access the Discord, it really is accessible to everyone.
So how does the book club work? Every six weeks, the club will pick a new book to read and discuss. There are no restrictions based on length, genre, or subject- the only rule is that the book has to be over a year old. The DFTBA webpage’s new page details the different paid book club packages (and don’t panic; there’s a way to do this for free!). For a recurring payment of $25, you get the “physical subscription,” meaning you get the digital content AND all of the stuff- think postcards, bookplates, pins, and a letter from John Green about his thoughts on the book. Stuff you probably want. The $10 subscription is also a pretty sweet deal, giving you access to the paid digital content- a reading guide with discussion questions and a podcast talking about the book. In the future, this subscription could also include digital artwork. All the proceeds go to Partners In Health, a charitable organization helping the needy access healthcare. But if you’re broke (like just about everyone) you can still have access to the Discord and the community. As for the books themselves? Well, that’s what your local library is for.
But now let’s get to the most important part. What’s the book!?
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Jacqueline Woodson’s If You Come Softly, the 1998 story of an interracial relationship at a predominantly white (and rich!) prep school, is a timeless depiction of social issues prevalent in today’s world. A perfect choice for fans of breakout hit The Hate U Give, the novel follows a Jeremiah, a black student from Brooklyn, as he makes a difficult adjustment into a Manhattan private school. There he meets Ellie, a Jewish girl with demons at home that keep her from fitting in with the other privileged students. As their relationship grows stronger, so does the world’s reaction to it. The novel deftly tackles teen romance and social issues in the same breath, making it a strong first addition to Life’s Library.
John Green has one major piece of advice: if you don’t join, it won’t happen! Life’s Library will only thrive if it has members- so sign up for a paid subscription, follow the club’s new Instagram, or grab the book from your library for no cost at all.