Exclusive Excerpt: Reese Witherspoon's Lifelong Love of Books

Posted by Cybil on September 14, 2018
Reese Witherspoon is an actress, producer, entrepreneur, and head of a successful book club. This month she adds the title of author to her rapidly expanding resume. Check out this exclusive excerpt from her new lifestyle book, Whiskey In a Teacup where she discusses our favorite topic: books.


The Perfect Book Club



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From the minute I could read, I always had my nose in a book. Every year when we got out of school in May for the summer, we would receive a summer reading list, and there’d be two required-reading books and five optional books. I wanted them all, and my grandmother would buy them for me. I spent lazy summers lying on the back porch of her house reading books that filled my summers with imagination and creative learning.

I love a great story—tales of adventure, historical fiction, mysteries. Reading is a relaxing escape to another world. Early on, Dorothea was the one who fostered a love of reading in John and me. Just as she’d done with my dad and uncle when they were young, she took us on outings to Nashville bookstores such as Davis-Kidd to browse the shelves and pick out a book. When I was really young, my grandmother read stories out loud to me in a very theatrical way.

She started with picture books, but by the time we were about four years old, she graduated us into chapter books. I would sit on her lap, and she would read in all the different voices and accents. She did A. A. Milne’s Now We Are Six and Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit with particular verve. I think watching her perform a book probably inspired me to become an actor. It also made me love reading, and fiction in particular.

Dorothea adored her book collection, and I’m fortunate enough to have some of her old first editions, including East of Eden. She read us some Jane Austen novels and a lot of southern literature, plenty of stories about little kids and their grandmas. She was a first-grade teacher, so she had all kinds of books around that were appropriate for kindergartners, but I just remember that she read and read and read to us. She always played music on her record player for us to dance to. And she had a lot of stories on the record player, so I could listen to Disney stories and follow along in the books.

Today, I consider books my friends. I love having them around, because they remind me of the times in my life when I was reading them. I organize my books by color. I take the dust jacket off, and then I know where it belongs. If it’s a white book, it goes in the white section. If it’s red, it goes in the red section. I find those rows of books so pretty to look at, and it’s also great because you do it once and then you’re done. No constant realphabetizing or anything like that.

My favorite book is Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair. I just love that book. He’s such a beautiful writer. He’ll break your heart. I also love Lorrie Moore. Birds of America was a really important book for me in my early twenties, because it was so insightful about how women make decisions and how we all have different attitudes toward relationships. Similarly, I find Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage endlessly inspiring. When I read it, I feel like she’s my smart, brilliant friend, and we’re just having a conversation about life, marriage, divorce—all the big topics.

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And then of course there’s Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, The Little Friend, and The Goldfinch. Authors who take the time and care to write about the details of life are so incredible to me. I have a deep appreciation for writers who are that observant and poignant.

The South has contributed a great deal to literature. I love Julia Reed’s books. They have hilarious titles, such as But Mama Always Put Vodka in Her Sangria! I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in person. She sure knows how to spin a yarn, both at dinner parties and in her books. She knows the exact right moment to whisper a secret or a dirty joke. Then she laughs this magnificent laugh.

I love small, independent bookstores, such as Ann Patchett’s Parnassus Books in Nashville. They create real community togetherness. There are also fantastic book festivals all over the South, such as the Southern Festival of Books in downtown Nashville, right in front of the Capitol Building. Small presses are represented there, as well as best-selling authors.

Books make the best gifts, too. For children and adults alike, I love the Penguin Classics books. I think they’re so beautiful, and they’re a nice keepsake.

Recently, I’ve taken my love of books online with an Instagram book club that lets me share some of my favorites. Here are a few of my selections:

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham



Offline, I get together with a group of friends for a regular Girls’ Book Club Night. I cherish these evenings. Not only do they give us an excuse to read the same book so we have something specific to discuss, but then when we (inevitably) digress to topics such as our families and work, it feels sort of like passing notes at school.

Excerpted selection of Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon. Copyright © 2018 by Reese Witherspoon. Excerpted with permission by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Reese Witherspoon's Whiskey In a Teacup is on sale September 18. Add it to your Want to Read shelf here.



Comments Showing 1-43 of 43 (43 new)

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message 1: by Amanda (new)

Amanda I love Reese Witherspoon, I always have, and I am very excited to read this book by her.


message 2: by Dana Al-Basha (new)

Dana Al-Basha دانة الباشا She is a favorite of mine! I fell in love with her since Sweet Home Alabama! :D I LOVE her book club!


message 3: by Cymru (new)

Cymru Roberts Like, totally OMJ!!! Finally the whippersnapper from Election wrote a how-to guide on how I can be just like her!! I promise to try so hard to do everything she sayz :D!


message 4: by Cal (new)

Cal (Constant Raving Reviews) I am so excited to read this. I'm tempted to wait until it's out on audiobook. Do you think Reese will read it herself?


message 5: by Allison (new)

Allison Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt it looks pretty like she says.


message 6: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia Lang Wow, Reese! I looove you ever since A Wrinkle In Time came out! You sound exactly like me!


message 7: by Reneesarah (new)

Reneesarah I cannot imagine why anyone should care what an actress reads or doesn't read, since the fact of having a career as an actress is not a literary qualification. But enjoy on, fans of Ms. Witherspoon, although I will not be traveling with you.


Mayke (acozyliving)☕️ I started following her around after watching Big Little Lies. She looks like such a fun person and I love how she shares her love for reading with others.


message 9: by Parveen (new)

Parveen I am very excited to read her book. :)

https://www.defencewardsmatrimony.com


message 10: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt it looks pretty ..."

I agree with you, Allison! With a large collection, a person would have to go through every title to find the book she wants. Too slow and frustrating for me. I prefer alphabetizing my books according to author, then title. With a series, first the author, then the first to last book in chronological order of the series. Less confusion that way. With 4 bookshelves, I also separate my books into categories: fiction, history, poetry, children's picture books, etc. I keep the dust jackets on, and only remove them to read the book so they don't become worn or ripped. I have a large collection, and need organization. But each to their own. :-)


message 11: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt it looks pretty ..."

I do the same thing, lol. It's gorgeous to look at all those spines organized by color! I have no problem finding any book either. :)


message 12: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Reneesarah wrote: "I cannot imagine why anyone should care what an actress reads or doesn't read, since the fact of having a career as an actress is not a literary qualification. But enjoy on, fans of Ms. Witherspoon..."

I suggest ignoring that she's an actress. After all, why should you care what ANYONE else reads? Your friends, coworkers, or the people you follow on GoodReads may not have the same taste as you, either. :)


message 13: by Natasha (new)

Natasha All the hullabaloo over Reese Witherspoon's reading habits gets on my nerves. I try not to let it, but it does. I can't even watch Younger without hearing about Reese Witherspoon.

I have adored books since I was one year old, I collect them, so do a lot of people and that includes other celebrities. I suppose I just don't get what the fuss is about one particular woman.


message 14: by Bella (new)

Bella Budzinski i was just looking threw a book and i was on the reviews and it said resse witherspoon, and I never knew you liked reading


message 15: by Betsy (new)

Betsy Love love her


message 16: by Nancy (last edited Sep 15, 2018 11:55AM) (new)

Nancy Foster Quite frankly, I'm heavily surprised that Reese is a bookworm. I've seen many of her films growing up (I particularly enjoyed the first Legally Blonde movie because she tries her best to ward off the ditzy rich girl stereotype).

The times I've been to Los Angeles on the scant vacations months during med school, I was appaulled at the sheer amount of stupid tabloid magazines at grocery stores. A grainy photo or two showing Reese wearing random clothes in the street was a regular feature. I always found those kinds of nonsense stories to be tacky.

To imagine that a lot of actors are bookworms in real life is a lot more interesting to me. I know that Tom Hanks loves typewriters, and if his book is ever in ebook format, I'd love to read it (my house is too small for physical books).

I'm not sure how many actors are bookaholics in real life, but a famous mexican actress named Sherlyn is very open about her reading hobby.

While it looks like Reese's book tastes vastly differ from my own, I'm glad to know that she's deep down closer in real life to the witty lawyer than the frat princess covered in pink. It looks like her book is also in Kindle, so I might consider reading it whenever I have the money.


message 17: by Isa (new)

Isa Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt it looks pretty ..."

Well, I organize my books chronologically and I know where they are. :)


message 18: by Christine (new)

Christine Shen I am so excited to read this book by her! I've been a fan ever since I saw Legally Blond. I can't wait. Although, I agree with everyone who thinks that organizing books by color is a little silly because you might not remember what color your books are when it comes time to find a specific book. But to each their own style.


message 19: by Janet (new)

Janet I pre-ordered this book !! I saw a girl at the supermarket today and she had a t-shirt that read "She's Whiskey in a teacup" so I told her all about the book!!


message 20: by Janet (new)

Janet Isa wrote: "Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt ..."

I think that if she doesn't re-read her books, the colour striping would be helpful ... I put series/same authors together and hope that it doesn't take me over an hour to find it (I have 3000+ between here, my husband's apartment .. we have a commuter marriage .. and my parents! I have a spreadsheet that lists what's where and there.


message 21: by Gloria (new)

Gloria  Moreno I want to read !!!!


message 22: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Reneesarah wrote: "I cannot imagine why anyone should care what an actress reads or doesn't read, since the fact of having a career as an actress is not a literary qualification."

I don't know the vast majority of my Goodreads "friends," but we all love books, and I tend to gravitate toward people who have the same taste in books. Someone wants to talk about books, I'm open to that.

By those standards, Reese Witherspoon's just as eligible to be a "book buddy" as anyone else, and it makes just as much sense to care about what she reads as it does all these other people who appear in my feed.

Her being a famous actress is interesting, but I am not aware anyone is saying that gives her book cred. What gives her book cred is she makes her love of reading known, and from there anyone can see if they have the same general taste in books. After that, why not keep an eye on what she's reading?

Also, she gets the books she likes made into movies, and projects, and since they tend to be the books I also like...


message 23: by Margitte (new)

Margitte I would love to see more of her book choices. I've read some of them already.

I grew up with books as well an loved to read to my children. It's so great to see someone share the same memories. It inspires me to do the same for my grand kids. It's great to meet(read) Reese through her own words and as a soulmate.

The dust cover is part of the thrill to me. Most of them are works of art. I try to protect them as much as the books they contain. So no, I can't imagine the books without them. :-)


message 24: by Margot (new)

Margot Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt it looks pretty ..."

My thoughts exactly. I have 14 Billy (IKA) full bookcases in my appartment. I can find any book in a minute. Needless to say, my books are NOT orgazed by color!


message 25: by Floreader42 (new)

Floreader42 Siempre admire a reese y quiero leer este libro!!! la sigo hace años, y hace algun tiempo me percate de ese amor verdadero por los libros que tiene, lo que hizo que la admire mas !


message 26: by Kendra (new)

Kendra Lawrence Pretty cool to learn that this actress is a bookworm


message 27: by Diana (new)

Diana Kanecki Hi,
I checked at Barnes and Noble, it is available the 18th.


message 28: by Elke (new)

Elke Margot wrote: "Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt ..."

Haha, sounds just like me (though not 14 anymore, but close).

The thought of taking of the dust jacket would never occur to me - please don't tell me people throw them away?! But where to store them? Anything but keeping them in an orderly stack somewhere would feel totally wrong.

I only take the dust jacket off for reading so it won't get creased. Of course, I put the naked book in a special cloth jacket for that duration.

I often purchase a special edition of a book just to get it with a special cover design. And what about paperbacks? Can't strip them off their cover, right? So why keep them whole but collect the hardcovers naked? The more I think about it goosebumps start to rise...


message 29: by John (new)

John Trefry What is this rubbish?


message 30: by KimCh (new)

KimCh I am very excited to read her book.

https://www.ddamoa.com


message 31: by Brian (new)

Brian Mitchell Her reading has given us the movie Gone Girl and the show Big Little Lies, I'll probably not read this as i prefer story but i will be adding the books she has recommended.


message 32: by Nafeesa (new)

Nafeesa I love what Reese Witherspoon is doing! It shows thats she too is a regular person just like everyone else, who takes the time out to connect with fans, friends, and the like, but I also watched a few of her movies, too. Therefore I can appreciate a a celebrity whose not a narc, who expresses herself off stage as well.


message 33: by KimCh (new)

KimCh I look forward to being a book of my favorite actress.

https://www.bacaraday.com


message 34: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Her reading also brought Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine into my life, one of my fave books ever.


message 35: by Allison (new)

Allison Patricia wrote: "Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt ..."

My collection isn't very large, but I do group authors and series as well - it makes sense to me!


message 36: by Elke (new)

Elke Janet wrote: "Isa wrote: "Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I ..."

I very much like the idea of the spreadsheet! I need to store books in double rows, and I always forget where to find a book in a back row.


message 37: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Cal wrote: "I am so excited to read this. I'm tempted to wait until it's out on audiobook. Do you think Reese will read it herself?"
It is out on audio book and she is reading it.


message 38: by David (new)

David Davis If you are enamored of books I suggest you get Overdrive or Libby - these are apps that let you download books and audio books for free from your library.


message 39: by Noel (new)

Noel Cathey this is sooooo fun to read- luvv this lil lady of th esouth- tho i had to gasp out loud-- i spent 4 months catalogggging my dads library of oer 4000 books on history, novels etc--maaaany 1st editions --- he was sooo delighted anad so was i -- i aallllways wanted to be a librarian---- went away for the summer-- only to return anad find my darling elder sister -- who did not read-- had rearrranged them -- took offf the covers and reshelved them BY COLOR !!!! who doeeeees that???? omg------ there are OTHERS!!!! not lolooooing this ----- lol ok i am tooo


message 40: by Graham (new)

Graham Downs I have mad respect for celebrities who read. So few do, these days. It's really nice to see!


message 41: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Sharp I look forward to being a grandmother like hers someday!


message 42: by Carina (new)

Carina Allison wrote: "Organizing books by color? How do she locate them? Does she memorize which books are which colors? That seems silly, especially if you have a large collection, though I don't doubt it looks pretty ..."

Not silly at all, I have been organizing my books by colour since 10 years back. My husband complained a bit and got his cookbooks on a separate shelf. Gives a calm feeling to the living room and is fun.


message 43: by Olushola (new)

Olushola John Wao so great to read through your love for books... those collections are really great also. No doubt in that.


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