Celebrity book clubs are an amazing feature of our modern life. Celebrities going beyond their typical careers and talking about books by people from all over the world? There are lots of celebrity book clubs out there now, but it all started with Madame Oprah Winfrey, who is an extraordinaire. She seems to do it all, and the books her book club picks are usually great, sell super well thanks to her support, and they provoke great literary conversation.
The Oprah Book Club started in 1996 and yes, Oprah chooses the books herself. They range from classics to self-help books to memoirs to literary fiction so if you like books, you’re going to like something she has recommended. There’s also a thriving online community around the Oprah Book Club, Twitter and Instagram and Goodreads and Facebook, and some people even meet up locally to talk about the selections since it’s seen as a universal thing–everyone knows Oprah.
Recently, with the announcement of her October 2019 book, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coats, Oprah also announced a partnership with Apple TV. She’ll host a TV series called “Oprah’s Book Club” on Apple+ and release a new episode every two months featuring a discussion and author interviews. Plus, every book club selection sold by Apple Books will benefit the American Library Association.
Of the announcement, Oprah said, ““I am who I am today because of the experience of learning to read at an early age. Reading opened up a whole world for me beyond the red dirt road and my grandmother’s porch in Mississippi…I want to do that for everybody. And the opportunity to do this with Apple, to speak to people all over the world about the pleasures, the excitement, the tension, the drama that a good book can bring you … I don’t know what’s better than that.”
The first episode will drop November 1st.
Her most recent pick, The Water Dancer, is one of the most buzzed about books of the year. It’s by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a well-known and respected black writer who writes about his own experiences and is now taking on history with a book about a slave who uses magical powers to escape. Coates previously won the National Book Award for his non-fiction memoir, so I’m sure this book is going to be an excellent read.
Since 1996, Oprah has chosen approximately 80 books as her book club selections, interviewed the authors, promoted the stories, and engaged with readers about the books. Here’s a look at some of the best of her selection over the past two decades.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- Sula by Toni Morrison
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- White Oleander by Janet Fitch
- Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
- A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
- The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
I haven’t read all of Oprah’s book club selections (shocking, I know) but I can vouch for some of them! Obviously, Night by Elie Wiesel is a book that every single person on this earth should read to understand the Holocaust and its impact on humanity. Similarly, anything by Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou is a must-read, especially in America. I read An American Marriage just before it was announced as an Oprah selection and knew instantly it was going to be–it’s a heart wrenching and eye-opening story of a marriage and how a wrongful conviction shapes it. And, there’s a reason that Michelle Obama’s memoir was the best selling book of 2018, even though it came out in November. It’s amazingly well-done, candid, heartfelt, and even conservatives raved about it.
So, what Oprah book club selection will you pick up? I’m excited to read The Water Dancer, and will likely go back and try to read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, which won a Pulitzer, as soon as time permits.