This New App Gives Readers a Place to Convene and Connect
How or when do we talk about the books that move us? Perhaps at a dinner party. With a bookstore clerk or librarian. Maybe on Twitter or Facebook. Raving to a friend.
For those of us hoping for yet another form of book talk—and, connected to that, discovery—additional solace can be found in the form of the new app Tertulia. Inspired by informal salons in Spanish cafés and bars where people gather to exchange ideas and discuss political and artistic nuances, Tertulia condenses recommendations across forms of media and social media in a single space, offering a comprehensive window into book conversations happening around the world.
When first signing up for the app, users are prompted to select three or more genres of books that interest them (I chose Literature & Fiction, Mystery, and New Non-Fiction). Next, they indicate what kind of chatter they hope to hear synthesized in the personalized “book café” (I picked authors, book critics, and journalists). This allows them to include authors, critics, journalists, and even those they follow on Twitter. Based on my selections and data, the app opened on Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, with recommendations from the likes of musical artist Dua Lipa and author Madeline Miller.
From there, users can browse the Tertulia virtual bookstore’s “shelves,” with selections curated by trusted voices across the literary and media worlds—synthesizing, for example, reviews from notable critics, Twitter chatter from authors and media figures, and even podcast mentions of books within the confines of the app. For Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts, that included a New York Times review, a tweet from writer Dolen Perkins-Valdez, and even an Instagram post from actress Reese Witherspoon.
Tertulia allows users to purchase books directly from the app, build out personal lists, and scroll through trending stories. It can be difficult to cut through the noise of the hundreds of thousands of books that are published every year, and while community-oriented platforms like Goodreads (which since 2013 has been owned by Amazon) and the Bookly app already exist, Tertulia serves as an alternative, even more helpful and personalized tool for readers attempting to sift through it all. It’s also a way to steer away from the book-buying grip of Amazon.
So if “we tell ourselves stories in order to live,” as Joan Didion once said, then perhaps Tertulia aids us in tackling the next part of that equation. Maybe we tell each other about stories so that they, too, might live as we have. In this new app comes a way for us to draw closer to the books that bind us, inspire us, or even destroy us. For all those emotions that books and words might elicit, here arrives an app that aims to help us in sharing more widely in them.