Oprah’s Book Club is a book discussion club segment of the American talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, highlighting books chosen by host Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey began the book club in 1996, selecting a new novel for viewers to read and discuss each month. Because of the book club’s wide popularity, many obscure titles have become acclaimed bestsellers, increasing sales in some cases by as many as several million copies. This occurrence is widely known as the Oprah Effect.
The book club’s first selection in September 1996 was the recently published novel The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Winfrey discontinued the book club for one year in 2002, stating she could no longer keep up with the required reading while still searching for contemporary novels that she enjoyed. In 2003, she revived the club but made selections on a more limited basis (three or four a year).
The Oprah book club has also been connected to several well known literary controversies. Author Jonathan Franzen’s was extremely upset by Winfrey’s selection of his novel The Corrections. The infamous incident of James Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces, a 2005 selection was ousted as to some extent fictional. The latter controversy resulted in Frey and publisher Nan Talese being confronted and publicly shamed by Winfrey in a highly praised live televised episode of Winfrey’s show.
Winfrey returned to fiction with her 2007 selections of The Road by Cormac McCarthy in March and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides in June. Shortly after its being chosen, The Road was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Winfrey conducted the first ever television interview with McCarthy, a famously reclusive author, on June 5, 2007.
On October 5, 2007 the latest selection was announced as Love in the Time of Cholera, a 1985 novel by Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel García Márquez, greatly furthering not only the influence of the author in North America, but that of his translator Edith Grossman. Another work by Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, was a previous selection for the book club in 2004.
In Reading with Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America, Kathleen Rooney describes Winfrey as “a serious American intellectual who pioneered the use of electronic media, specifically television and the Internet, to take reading—a decidedly non-technological and highly individual act—and highlight its social elements and uses in such a way to motivate millions of non-readers to pick up books.”