By Nikhita Mahtani

Published on April 6, 2018

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Photography by LAUREN COLEMAN

If there’s one true thing in this world, it’s this: You can never have enough books. Which is why we’re always looking for the coolest new reads in both the design space and beyond, from colorful titles for our coffee tables to debut novels by young women writers. And as much as we try to cover a lot of literary ground, we often default to our favorite genres when browsing our favorite local shop. So inevitably, we’re missing out. 

That’s exactly the issue [reads] delivery service aims to fix. Started in February 2018 by best friends Emma Stevenson and Rachael Yaeger, [reads] is a different kind of book club—one that relies on expert curation and a well-versed eye. Believing that “learning should be a lifelong process,” [reads] wants to help individuals learn more about the world around them through expert picks that get delivered to customers once a month. The founders tell Domino, “At the heart of [reads] you will find discovery; it’s behind every decision we make and it’s what we’re doing differently—we’re providing you with books you wouldn’t have picked out for yourself.”

[Reads] is available both as a subscription service and a one-time purchase. For $48 (for kids) or $55 (for adults) per month, you get two books: One is an easy, fairly digestible novella, fiction or nonfiction, while the second is always a visual or art book. The club is particularly suited to the aesthete, as emphasis is placed on how a book looks in addition to its content.

All selections are made by actual humans, not an algorithm. The company chooses a different “expert curator” each month who specializes in a specific topic. The books are “not catered to your existing tastes and interests, but rather designed to get you out of your reading comfort zone and learn new things.”

April’s books were picked by visual artist Jean Jullien, while May’s will be selected by illustrator Daniel Salmieri. The same curators choose the kids’ books as well, which come in two age ranges (0-4 or 5-9). Some past deliveries included heartbreaking memoir Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick (Yaeger’s personal favorite) and a photography book by American artist Robert Adams.

“We select curators based on their diversity of interests—scientists, explorers, illustrators, botanists, artists, parents, designers, and people who are doing unique things,” explain the duo. “We’re not focused on people who are well known—part of our process is to highlight individuals who are less familiar to people and who we can learn from.”

The founders ask the curators to pick favorites from their personal libraries that they think customers would enjoy the most. “We want the book to be easily finished in a month so that the [reads] experience isn’t overwhelming,” explain the founders. “We don’t want books piling up and people feeling like they can’t keep up!”

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Photography by LAUREN COLEMAN

Both book titles will often be hard to find, as again, the purpose of [reads] is to provide consumers with things they wouldn’t be able to pick themselves. “We are both visual people with strong aesthetics; we appreciate good design and being in a room surrounded by interesting books,” say Stevenson and Yaeger. “We really believe that we’re giving books with a strong message that resonates and is applicable to everyone’s life in some way.”

The ultimate goal is to connect readers with enough options to decorate a bookshelf or coffee table, but also be loved enough to be read again and again. 

“Books are a good way to remind yourself of where you’d like to go, who you’d like to be, or even surround yourself with different mindsets,” say the founders. “We think the combination is reflective of us—we have books that we’re reading and learning from, and we have books that we reference and keep around us.”

So, why pick [reads] as opposed to making your own decisions?

“When you go to the bookstore alone, or if you shop for books on Amazon, you’re likely to end up with a book that you normally would (of course) pick for yourself,” explain Yaeger and Stevenson. “But by allowing others to do the curating, you’re discovering and growing beyond yourself. At [reads], we want to expand the way we read, think, interact, and expand our minds—act on new experiences, inspire new pursuits, make more meaningful connections. We think reading out of your comfort zone is interesting: At a time where it seems like everyone is struggling from decision fatigue, [reads] should feel like a friend packaged up two books that he or she thought you may like.”

See books we love:

The Best New Books Hitting Shelves This Spring
The Books That Changed Our Editors’ Lives
Art and Design Books No Coffee Table Should Be Without

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