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Inside Reese Witherspoon’s Literary Empire

“You’d be shocked by how many books have women chained in basements,” Reese Witherspoon said. “I know it happens in the world. I don’t want to read a book about it.”

Nor does she want to read an academic treatise, or a 700-page novel about a tree.

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Sitting in her office in Nashville, occasionally dipping into a box of takeout nachos, Witherspoon talked about what she does like to read — and what she looks for in a selection for Reese’s Book Club, which she referred to in a crisp third person.

“It needs to be optimistic,” Witherspoon said. “It needs to be shareable. Do you close this book and say, ‘I know exactly who I want to give it to?’”

But, first and foremost, she wants books by women, with women at the center of the action who save themselves. “Because that’s what women do,” she said. “No one’s coming to save us.”

Witherspoon, 48, has now been a presence in the book world for a decade. Her productions of novels like “Big Little Lies,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and “The Last Thing He Told Me” are foundations of the binge-watching canon. Her book club picks reliably land on the best-seller list for weeks, months or, in the case of “Where the Crawdads Sing,” years. In 2023, print sales for the club’s selections outpaced those of Oprah’s Book Club and Read With Jenna, according to Circana Bookscan, adding up to 2.3 million copies sold.

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