Create & Cultivate 100: Entertainment: Emma Roberts & Karah Preiss

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"Nobody reads anymore" is an untruth for Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss, friends and co-founders behind Belletrist, the site that celebrates great books and the people who read them.

And yes, reading, in and of itself, is a form of entertainment-- one of the best and oldest forms of entertainment we might add. 

Every month, Belletrist features a different book and a favorite independent bookstore, both hand-picked by Emma and Karah.

Though they live on opposite coasts, the actress (Emma) and voracious reader (both) are forever connected via words. 

After co-founding Belletrist in 2017, Emma says that she read more books than she ever has before, but that doesn't stop people from questioning her on set. "When I'm reading a book on set, some people will come up to me and ask, 'You read?' And I say: 'What part of that is
surprising? Because I'm an actress? Because I have blonde hair? What is it that literally stopped you in your tracks to be shocked that I can read and do read,' that's really crazy. And they're like, 'Well it just didn't seem like you would read.' So, I ask 'why?' And no one can really give me an answer. I always find that interesting. I would actually assume somebody reads before I would assume that they don't read. Being an actress, I think that people are just surprised that you do anything else," she wrote on Belletrist while interviewing "Abandon Me" author Melissa Febos

But we are certainly happy both women are readers. The more the merrier. Plus, with their platform, they're not only getting noses in books, but they're sticking theirs places we'd love to go. Through Belletrist Emma had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview Joan Didion, as well as Carmen Maria Machado, author of the inimitable "Her Body and Other Parties."

More below. 

Favorite book you read in the last year: 

Emma: "The Rules Do Not Apply" by Ariel Levy. This book is an account of Levy's life, toggling between life as a young girl and a woman trying to navigate the overwhelming burden of a choice that we all feel as we reach adulthood. Contrary to what many people think, it's not just a story of a woman's miscarriage. It's an important book about what it means to "want it all" as a woman in the 21st century. 

Emma, on finding the woman who would become one of her favorites

Emma: When I was eighteen and living in New York City, I met a boy. Because this boy was a writer, he was trying to write—probably about me, I thought. It turns out, he wasn’t. Either way, he wanted me to shut up, and so he handed me a book from his bookshelf. The book was Play It As It Lays

The author was Joan Didion. I had never heard of her before, but because I wanted to come across as sophisticated I said nothing and started reading in the other room. 

From that moment, I fell in love with Joan and not in a casual way. You don’t just read Joan Didion. Joan Didion begins to inform your life. She makes you look at places, like California, New York and Hawaii, differently. She changes the way you view grief and loss. She humanizes celebrities like John Wayne and Joan Baez. She forces you to understand that a journalist is not just somebody who reports the news, but rather someone who makes history. She changes the way you keep a journal, even though you know you might be the only person to ever read it. She makes you feel like you might possibly be the reporter of your own life, not just living it. 

I’m not the only woman or person who has thought these things about Joan Didion, and I certainly won't be the last. However, there is a part of me, and I think there is a part of every person who reads Joan, that wishes she was all their own.  

Belletrist January Book Pick:

"The Immortalists" by Chloe Benjamin. We adore this novel and cannot wait to discuss many of the philosophical questions raised throughout!

On their friendship:

Emma: We literally love books. I think that’s been the strongest part of our friendship. We met through mutual friends, and it was one of those things where people thought maybe we wouldn’t really become that close, but we ended up becoming really close because of…

Karah: Books.

Emma: … a love for reading and just wanting to learn more, read more and … she [Karah] really imposed such a reading list on me.

On their hopes for Belletrist:

Karah: We said we want to do what Kylie Jenner has done to lip kits …

Emma: … for books.

Karah: For books.

This has been edited and condensed via Belletrist.