This is an addendum to the post below; I’ve done a bit of looking into the current Oprah’s Book Club selection, and I was wrong to glibly categorize it as self-help. It appears to be Buddhist philosophy revamped for today’s undiscerning reader. I hope Oprah isn’t going that direction with her book club in general, but it does underscore the point that we must always be discerning readers–read what the national public reads (I frequently like to in part to have conversation topics with my neighbors), but be aware of who and what you’re reading!!
I’m a member of a women’s book club with other women from my church; we read the classics. For the months of April and May, we’re tackling Anna Karenina. I overheard one of the women sheepishly confessing (or, rather, lamenting) to another that she could only find the recommended translation in an “Oprah’s Book Club” copy.
I, for one, am very thankful for Oprah’s Book Club and have no problem with publishers rushing new editions to major book stores with her book club emblem on the front cover. Why am I in favor of her club? While not every book on her list is one I might recommend (Midwives comes to mind), she has picked some outstanding books, both classics and modern fiction, over the last ten years. Cry, the Beloved Country, The Poisonwood Bible, Anna Karenina, and The Good Earth are each good examples of books which have been superbly written, are extremely thought-provoking, and were a pleasure to read. Others, like Night, aren’t so “pleasurable” to read, but well worth reading for what they have to say. Oprah is bringing back to the public’s attention some great books and people are reading again. Who can complain about that? Why feel guilty that we’re helping support such a lofty endeavor? Anyone who will encourage the mass public to at least consider reading Anna Karenina should be applauded. She even has a link on her book club web page with ideas for starting your own book club.
When you see the Oprah’s Book Club emblem or other nation-wide popular “book club” choices, don’t immediately write them off. As I mentioned before, I do not recommend all of Oprah’s choices (her current one is in the self-help category and I likely won’t even pick it up; I’m also not a fan of Toni Morrison who appears on her list several times), but I do encourage you to consider some of her choices, perhaps even picking a few up to read. It’s a good insight into what the nation is reading and might introduce you to a classic you thought would be boring (The Good Earth is a book I read simply because her emblem was on it–it was a great book!).