“One of the things we are really happy about is when we find a book where the sentiment of the community is, ‘I would never have found this on my own,'” says Sarah Harden. She’s the CEO of Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine, and she says Witherspoon’s hugely influential book club grew out of the actress’s genuine love of books.
“She’s a passionate reader, and she started posting photos of books she was reading to her Instagram. Sometimes she posts a few books a month, and then a couple of months would go by. But that’s how it happened, very organically.”
The book club launched officially in June 2017, and it now has 1.1 million followers on Instagram. Witherspoon has picked 26 books, and according to BookScan, those titles sold almost 700% better than the average. 21 of her picks were fiction, and they accounted for 2% of all fiction sales during that time period.
Witherspoon’s recommendation helped turn one debut novelist’s book into a genuine phenomenon: Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing has sold more than 1.3 million copies and has been sitting at — or near the top of — all the bestseller lists for almost two years.
Like many of the books chosen, it is a debut novel written by a woman — which Sarah Harden says reflects the club’s larger mission. “Our decision and our focus with Reese’s book club is to the find and champion narratives where women are not the side characters. They’re driving the action, they have agency, they’re complex, they’re flawed. And that’s just the focus of our company.”