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Oprah's Picks

It's the Good Housekeeping seal of the publishing industry and an author's ticket straight to the top of the bestseller list. The Oprah's Book Club logo on a cover is so powerful it can boost a print run from 10,000 to close to 1 million copies.

The phenomenon snuck up on the publishing world in September of 1996, when Oprah announced her first selection, Jacquelyn Mitchard's "The Deep End of the Ocean," during an on-air book club segment. The segments continued, and approximately once a month Oprah invites the author and selected viewers to dinner. Following Oprah's recommendation, "The Deep End of the Ocean" shot to the top of bestseller lists.

Publishers were wary at first. Television and books had rarely mixed before, beyond the occasional promotional spot on a morning talk show. But Oprah's household name and 22 million weekly viewers made the club an immediate success. The authors she has helped reach semi-stardom can't thank her enough.

But not everyone is a fan. Some say the club steers readers like herds of sheep, dictating America's literary tastes in the process. The online magazine Salon covers both sides of the issue, from Mary Elizabeth Williams' piece on how Oprah has inspired new legions of readers to Gavin McNett's criticism of the types of books she chooses.




Librarians have a hard time keeping up with Oprah. Her monthly announcements create incredible demand for books that libraries often have few copies of. At Oprah's request, each publisher of an Oprah's Book Club selection donates 10,000 books to libraries, which the American Library Association helps distribute.

If you're trying to decide whether you should pick up Oprah's latest pick, Epinions offers an extensive list of Oprah's selections along with members' reviews. The books chosen are a combination of works by new authors, like Melinda Haynes ("Mother of Pearl"), and more established authors like Toni Morrison ("The Bluest Eye" and "Song of Solomon"). It is this combination that makes it impossible to predict what the next month's selection will be.

Oprah's staff is flooded with books from hopeful publishers. Selected authors receive a personal call from Oprah, and must keep it a secret until she announces it on the show. Once she does, the rest is chart-topping history.

Additional Resources

  • Amazon.com
    Find out about Oprah's recent or previous selections.

  • Oprah.com
    View a list of book club selections since 2003. Recent picks include "Night" by Elie Wiesel, "The Know-It-All" by A.J. Jacobs and "America (The Book)" by Jon Stewart and the writers of "The Daily Show."




   --- A. Harris

 
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