Everyone Worth Knowing
By Lauren Weisberger
For the five years following college, Bette Robinson has been employed at a tony New York investment bank. It's a job everyone detests -- her hippie parents, who'd hoped she'd pursue activist interests; her society columnist uncle, Will, who at the very least abhors the bank's conservative dress code; and Bette herself, whose life seems to revolve around endless work hours answering to a mind-numbingly idiosyncratic boss, and tending to her dog Millington. Perhaps her best friend's engagement is the trigger, but Bette soon finds one of her boss's daily adages one too many, and quits like the impulsive girl she's never been. Though her parents push for her to do something "meaningful" with her life, Uncle Will introduces her to his former protégé, Kelly, and soon Bette finds herself with a coveted -- if antithetical -- job as an events planner at one of NYC's hottest outfits.
Bette's "work" takes her into the VIP lounges of the hottest celebrity- and socialite-filled New York City nightclubs every night of the week. It's a glamorous job, but Bette learns not to blink at the famous faces, the black Amex cards, velvet ropes, and paparazzi snapping pics of her coworkers and cohorts. When the "It" boy du jour, Philip Weston, takes a shine to her, Bette soon finds that the line between her personal and professional lives is...invisible. When her name begins appearing in the city's most salacious (and popular) gossip column, "New York Scoop," Bette is horrified; her coworkers, envious; Penelope, hurt; Uncle Will, concerned; and Kelly, elated. The column is penned under the pseudonym, Ellie Insider. Bette can't help but wonder who's feeding the column such intimate -- and often untruthful -- details; and who on earth "Ellie Insider" might be?
1. From Bette's perspective, what is it like to live in New York City? What is gratifying about living there, and what is frustrating? Does Bette's "own private palace" (page 6) in Manhattan sound like somewhere you would want to live? Why or why not?
2. Bette's book club meetings "more closely resembled group therapy than any sort of literary exploration" (page 47). Is this a book club you can relate to? Do you think it's more important for a book group to discuss literature, or to enjoy each other's company? Or are both activities important?
3. On the surface, "Philip fit the ideal of the romantic hero more closely than any guy I'd met before" (page 141). How do Bette's early impressions of Philip compare to her attraction to Sammy, whom she initially disliked? What does this imply about the reliability of first impressions? Do you generally trust your first impressions of somebody?
4. In chapter 19, we learn that Bette spent her high school years writing letters about important world issues. How does her old letter-writing hobby embody the idealism of her youth? What one activity could symbolize Bette's current lifestyle? Would you say that Bette is still an idealist? Why or why not?
5. Bette describes the "message" of the Blackberry party, and event-planning in general, as "you - whoever you are and wherever you're reading about this fabulous event - must own one [Blackberry] so that you, too, may be young, hip, urban, and cool" (page 217). Before you read this book, were you aware of the time, effort, and money involved in event-planning? Do you think this form of marketing works? Why or why not?
6. Bette and Sammy are both carrying Lonely Planet guidebooks when they meet in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. What does this suggest about their compatibility? How does it set them apart from the rest of the traveling group?
7. Bette briefly curses romance novels, "because they just made it too easy to maintain totally unreasonable expectations" (page 359). Do you agree that fiction fosters unrealistic hopes? Are these high expectations helpful in life and love, or a recipe for disappointment?
8. How would this story be different if Bette's character were a man? If a male event planner were linked to a socialite, would the press react differently? Would a male character's boss, friends, and parents have different reactions than the people in Bette's life?
9. If you've read The Devil Wears Prada, how does Bette's experience in the working world compare to that of Andrea, the heroine of Weisberger's previous novel? How do you think these portrayals of women at work - one right after college, one five years after college - compare?
10. Despite her outlandish adventures - from nightclubbing with millionaires in Istanbul, to gaining notoriety in the gossip columns - did you find yourself relating to Bette? What aspects of her character do you find universal?
11. What lesson is implied in the title of the book? Who is "everyone worth knowing?" How do they differ from the people on The List at Bette's former employer, Kelly & Company? Do you agree with Bette's choices of people worth knowing? Who is on your own personal Everyone Worth Knowing list?
Enhance Your Book Club:
1. Give your book club meeting a theme of glam! If you're the host, mix a pitcher of "mocktails" - as fabulous as cocktails but without the alcohol - and serve them in style. Find fun drink recipes here: http://cocktails.about.com/library/recipes/blmocktails.htm. Plastic martini glasses are $5.95 for a set of 20 at www.orientaltrading.com, and should also be available at your local party store.
2. Write a fictional gossip column item about another member of the book group. Pretend you have the "scoop" on her wild behavior at a place she frequents, even if it's just the local grocery store! For inspiration, revisit some of Ellie Insider's pieces, found on pages 170, 266, and 306.
3. Take your book club to a Turkish restaurant, for a taste of what Bette enjoyed in Istanbul. If there isn't a restaurant in your area, cook an authentic Turkish dish for your book club. You can find recipes, and a partial list of Turkish restaurants across America, here: http://www.anatolia.com/anatolia/cooking/default.asp.