James Franco at a recent book signing in Palo Alto. Image courtesy of Laura Soriano
Sometimes famous people are not satisfied just being famous for one reason. When this happens they often call in some reinforcements and decide to dip their toes in the lapping author-y waters. Since being an actor, reality star or celebutaunt comes so easily to them, becoming an author is the next logical career choice. Many choose to write what they know, which means they, usually along with a ghostwriter or two, pen their own autobiography. Some of these, life Keith Richard’s story Life or Betty White’s If You Ask Me (And I’m Sure You Won’t) make for compelling reading. While many others, including Vanilla’s Ice’s 1991 memoir Ice by Ice, are not as well received by the public. Lucky for us the is no shortage or ego amongst celebrities and this simple fact let’s us know that the insane celeb autobiography will never go out of style. If celebrities want to write but don’t have it in them to go for a full chapter-book, they tend toward children’s stories. John Lithgow, Jamie Lee Curtis, Julianne Moore and Billy Crystal have all enjoyed success as children’s authors. However, a few brave celebs have taken the plunge into full-blown fiction writing often times with hilarious consequences. With Goodreads.com as our guide, we take a look at some of the worst (best?) in celebrity-penned fiction.
9. Hilary Duff: Elixir
Rating: 3.59/5 stars
Released in June 2011, Duff’s debut novel is a real page-turner. This 334 page thriller follows photojournalist/daughter of rich people Clea Raymond as she and a mysterious, handsome stranger, bond and attempt to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance. The New York Post proclaimed ”It has everything: romance and the supernatural; a globe-trotting Hillary Clinton-esque mom; characters with names like Sage and Clea…and a shout-out to Page-Six!” Sounds like this former child star took the good news in stride releasing Devoted, the second book in the Elixir series, in Novemeber 2012.
8. Lauren Conrad: L.A. Candy
Rating: 3.37/5 stars
Reality star/fashion designer/blonde girl Lauren Conrad decided to test her storytelling chops in this June 2009 release L.A. Candy. The first of a trilogy (oh boy!), L.A. Candy chronicles the tale of Jane Roberts, a young, beautiful woman who moves to LA and is cast in a reality TV show. I’m sure she had to dig deep to find the inspiration for this one. ”I didn’t take anything specifically that happened to me,” Conrad told MTV News in 2009. ”The only thing that I did was … it was a way to show not necessarily me but just the other side of being on a show like ours.” For her efforts, Conrad briefly earned a spot on the New York Times Best Seller list.
7. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi: A Shore Thing
Rating: 3.21/5 stars
Everyone’s favorite pouf-head, Snooki, took her deep love for the Jersey Shore to the pages of her first novel, A Shore Thing, in 2011. Not surprisingly, the story details a wild summer at the Jersey Shore shared by two cousins with super Italian-sounding names. Most plot-summarizing quote from the book: “[The girls] soak up all that Seaside Heights, New Jersey, has to offer: hot guidos, cool clubs, fried Oreos, and lots of tequila.”
6. Macaulay Culkin: Junior
Rating: 3.21/5 stars
The party monster himself takes a crack at the novel. Here, Culkin surprises his readers when instead of a linear, coherent story, they receive a dizzying tumble through a wild mind. Clearly, Culkin doesn’t stray too far from his own life’s experience with childhood mega-stardom and family dysfunction when creating his character, Junior. Kirkus Reviews says, “With this audaciously empty mishmash of poems, letters, comics, etc., former child star Culkin (of Home Alone fame) has managed to lower the already low bar set for celebrity fiction.” Better luck next time, Mack.
5. Fabio: Wild
Rating: 3.00/5 stars
Though he’s normally accustomed to adorning the cover, male model/goose target Fabio took at stab at authoring with this 1997 novel, Wild. Set in sizzling hot Miami, Wild chronicles the sexy exploits of A.J. Sutton, a maid who falls in love with the ruggedly handsome (and undoubtedly bronze-skinned) businessman Marcos Esteves. However, a shocking murder causes A.J. to flee in order to survive and forces her to choose between love and her fears. I’d go with love, if I were her. Unfortunately, most people agree that Fabio is better half-smiling on the covers of romance novels or selling faux butter than he is at writing. His amazon reviews are hilarious.
4. Nicole Richie: The Truth About Diamonds: A Novel
Rating: 2.97/5 stars
On the heels of former bestie Paris Hilton’s self-indulgent 2004 book Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Chic Peek Behind the Pose, wild child Nicole Richie penned her first novel The Truth About Diamonds: A Novel, in 2006. I like that the title feels it’s necessary to mention that this is in fact a novel. Perhaps it was included to remind people since the entire book reads like a memoir of the rocker-celebutaunt’s real life. She includes a character named Nicole Richie. She seems really down to Earth.
3. Pamela Anderson: Star Struck: A Novel
Rating: 2.93/5 stars
Centerfold/Canadian Pamela Anderson released her first novel Star Struck: A Novel in May of 2005. Pam also felt the need to mention that her book was a novel in the title because, surprise, surprise, this “fictional” story reads a lot (identically) like Pam’s life with rocker Tommy Lee. If you’re in the market for a trashy page-turning modern romance, this could be the book for you. Put this in the “beach book” pile for summer reading, why dontcha.
2. James Franco: Palo Alto
Rating: 2.82/5 stars
I was really pulling for Yale PhD candidate and overall babe James Franco. I wanted his collection of short stories to be the best. Sigh. Alas, his 2010 collection of stories about misfit teens in Palo Alto reads a bit more like a sanctimonious memoir; a mesh of Jim Carroll and Bret Easton Ellis mixed with a dash of gore. The New York Times’ Joshua Mohr wrote, “As a writer, Franco needs to harness the skills he’s cultivated as an actor, mainly the ability to inhabit a consciousness independent of his own.” Sounds like this Jimmy F should heed that advice before he writes another book, or a tweet. At least he’s easy on the eyes.
1. Naomi Campbell: Swan
Rating: 2.67/5 stars
In an astonishing turn of events a short-tempered supermodel writes a fictitious novel about a mega-successful supermodel. I guess we can’t blame Naomi Campbell for writing (or convincing someone to write for her) what she knows. If we did, she’d probably throw a phone at us or something. Swan has a plot, I think. Critics are torn. Many loathe it for being a rambling stream of incoherent events while others see it as an inspiring look at the world of modeling. It’s basically a foggy, fictional version of America’s Next Top Model written in 1994.
Naomi is going to be tough to beat but I’m certain countless more celebrities will inadvertently throw their hat in the ring for the Most Entertainingly Terrible Celebrity Author. Who is your favorite or least favorite celebrity author? Bonus points if you say Danica McKeller.
Written by Natalie Grace Sweet, originally published on KQED's Pop Blog
Book cover photos via Barnes and Noble and Amazon.