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What the Literati Reviews Didn’t Tell Me

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Tracy Shapley Towley

Staff Writer

Tracy is a freelance copywriter, all-around ne’er do well, very-adult graduate of the University of Iowa, and occasional waterer of plants. Her hobbies include writing fiction, reading fiction, mixing together various flavors of soup, and typing letters to her friends on an old red typewriter that doesn't have a working period so all sentences must end in questions marks or exclamation points? She has read every Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and has a lot of thoughts on them. Her old Iowa farmhouse is shared by her husband Sean, a pair of cats, a pair of dogs, and the ghost of Kurt Vonnegut.

I signed up for Literati because for some reason my book club wasn’t meeting for most of 2020 (no idea why, any ideas??) and I wanted to chat virtually with people who are smarter than I am about books. I read plenty of Literati reviews before I signed up but none of them gave me all the information I needed.

Plus, a lot has changed since I first signed up. Roxane Gay is there! Cheryl Strayed! Other brilliant people! With all the changes I think it’s a great time to add to the many Literati reviews for adults.

What is Literati?

I’ve subscribed to many book subscription boxes and have taken part in many online book clubs. Literati is unique among them.

Each month each of the Literati “Luminaries” chooses a book that’s inspired them in some way. Subscribers can choose to have the book sent to them or can BYOB from the library or their local indie (or the local flea market or the side of the road, etc. etc. ad nauseam).

There are then forum-style discussions set up throughout the month broken up by page or chapter numbers.

Roxane Gay Literati

At the end of the month, there is an online discussion facilitated by the luminary who chose the book.

Who Chooses Books for Literati?

As of the writing of this article, there are 12 luminaries. I expect this to increase as Literati just added some powerhouses in June and seems to be investing heavily in new luminaries.

But for now, Literati reviews include the following dozen luminaries.

Joseph Campbell

“American author and professor whose explorations of mythology and religion reframed the way the world views stories. Curated by the Joseph Campbell Foundation.”

Past picks include Mythic Imagination by Joseph Campbell, The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg, and Circe by Madeline Miller.

Stephen Curry

“Once overlooked as an undersized high school basketball player, Curry ascended to the top of the NBA to become a two-time MVP and three-time champion.”

Past picks include The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, Greyboy by Cole Brown, and Haben by Haben Girma.

Jesmyn Ward

cover image of Heavy by Kiese Laymon

“Two-time National Book Award winner and bestselling author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Sing, Unburied, Sing.”

Past picks include Last One Out Shut Off the Lights by Stephanie Soileau and Heavy by Kiese Laymon.

Austin Kleon

“A writer who draws and is the bestselling author of Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work!, and Keep Going.”

Past picks include The Summer Book by Tove Jansson and How to Do Nothing
by Jenny Odell.

Roxane Gay

“Bestselling author, critic, editor, and professor. Her work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, McSweeney’s, A Public Space, and many others.”

Past picks include The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade and Of Women and Salt
by Gabriela Garcia.

Kelly McGonigal

“Health psychologist and bestselling author of The Willpower Instinct, The Upside of Stress, and The Joy of Movement.”

Past picks include The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper and Klara and the Sun
by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Richard Branson

“Tie-loathing adventurer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor, and the founder of The Virgin Group.”

Past picks include Start With Why by Simon Sinek, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and Originals by Adam Grant.

Malala Yousafzai

“Nobel Prize Laureate, prominent education rights activist, and an international symbol of strength.”

Past picks include Come Fly the World by Julia Cooke, Stolen Girls by Wolfgang Bauer, and Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu.

Elin Hilderbrand

“Dubbed the “Queen of Beach Reads” thanks to her wildly successful collection of sun-soaked page-turners.”

Past picks include It Had to Be You by Georgia Clark and The Divines by Ellie Eaton.

Susan Orlean

Salvage the Bones Jesmyn Ward cover

“Writer of true stories and bestselling books whose bylines have graced the pages of The New Yorker, Vogue, Rolling Stone, and more.”

Past picks include Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, News of the World by Paulette Jiles, and In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado.

Cheryl Strayed

“Bestselling author of Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, Torch, and Brave Enough, as well as the popular ‘Dear Sugar’ column.”

Past picks include Less by Andrew Sean Greer and Memorial Drive book by Natasha Trethewey.

Atlas Obscura

“An award-winning media and travel company dedicated to experiencing the world’s wonders.”

Past picks include Ghostland by Colin Dickey and Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui.

What Makes Literati Different?

One of the main differences is that you do not have to buy your book through them to take part in Literati book clubs.

You also get access to all book club content from all luminaries when you sign up. Though I do have the book sent to me and chose Roxane Gay’s Literati book club this month, I can still access book clubs from any of the other luminaries. If a person played their cards right, they could access a dozen book clubs for less than $9 a month.

This is particularly useful for me because there is a luminary or two that I would not normally be particularly interested in, but because I can access their content without an additional payment I have discovered that they are much more intriguing than I would have thought.

Another difference with Literati is that the books are not necessarily new books. Some are years old. This has been great fun for me when luminaries choose books I’ve already read and loved, and I can pop into discussions to see others experience them for the first time.

In the middle of each month, books for the next month are announced. You can change your primary book club every month if you want to. This works out great for me because I am interested in Jesmyn Ward’s book club, but the first month she chose a book I already own and love (Heavy by Kiese Laymon).

What Literati Reviews Don’t Tell You: Is Literati Worth?

I know, what you really want from Literati reviews is an answer to one single question: Is Literati worth it? Let’s take a look at the price.

Is Literati Worth It

If you want a book delivered to you monthly, you’ll pay $25 for a subscription unless you want to prepay for 12 months, in which case you’ll get it for $20 per month.

If you only want access to the book clubs you’ll pay $8.25 after a $0.99 30-day trial. Note that this option is only available if you prepay for 12 months for a total of $99.

So, is Literati worth it? For me, it is. I have loved the discussions I’ve had with other readers, have appreciated the insight the luminaries have brought, and have enjoyed access to books that might not have otherwise crossed my radar.