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Oprah’s New Book Club: My Journey Continues

June 3, 2012
English: Oprah Winfrey at the White House for ...

I had never heard of the book Wild, but at least Oprah didn’t choose 50 Shades of Grey or The Hunger Games. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to be careful when I write about Oprah Winfrey. 

The worst joke I ever wrote for Dysfunctional Literacy was an Oprah joke.  It was tasteless and really, really not funny.  There’s a part of me that wants to get rid of it and delete it from Dysfunctional Literacy forever, but another part of me says: “Keep it.  This is what happens when you write something every day just for the sake of writing something every day.  This is what happens when you publish something before it is ready.  Be shamed by this rotten Oprah joke and never do anything like this again!” 

I think Oprah would call that a teachable moment. 

Now that Oprah is renewing her book club, I want to comment on it, but I hesitate because of my previous disastrous experience writing about Oprah.  Still, her Book Club 2.0 might become a big deal in the publishing industry, so I can’t ignore it.  The industry is waiting to see what happens to book sales of her first selection.  I almost have to write about it. 

Oprah is doing more with her new book club than she used to.   Oprah’s selections will be available on e-readers with notes and some kind of reader’s guide.  That way, when her fans are having an emotional reaction to her book-of-the-month on the tablet or smart phone, curious passersby will think they’re crying at a sad text message and may offer consolation rather than derision for crying at an Oprah book in public. 

There will also be a behind-the-scenes show on her cable network where viewers can watch Oprah reading her Book Club choice in real time and see Oprah emotionally reacting to the book (weeping, laughing, saying “Aha!” at key moments) while she reads.

It has to be tough for Oprah to read books when she has so many other things to do.  Running a cable network (and a magazine too) is a lot harder than managing a talk show.  A talk show is one hour a day.  A cable network is 24 hours of content, and it’s tough to find 24 hours of content (or even 6 hours of good content repeated three times).  Even the NFL Network, the BEST CABLE CHANNEL EVER, can’t find 24 hours of good content during the off season, and the NFL is way better than Oprah Winfrey. 

That’s not an insult.  The NFL is way better than any one person. 

I could never buy an Oprah Book Club book, but that’s not an insult either.  Whenever a book becomes popular, I’ve always had to have a copy that was printed before the book made it big.  When I was a kid, I scoured used book stores for Ian Fleming James Bond books that didn’t have Sean Connery or Roger Moore on the cover.  Later, when I reread The Lord of the Rings trilogy after movies came out, I dug through my storage room to find beat up paperbacks with the scratchy Middle Earth paintings so that I wouldn’t have to read a book with Elijah Wood or Orlando Bloom on the cover. 

So even if I were to read an Oprah Book Club book (which I probably wouldn’t), I’d have to find a copy that was printed before it became an Oprah book, so it wouldn’t have the Oprah symbol on it.  It’s a matter of pride. 

Even though I’m not an Oprah Winfrey fan, I hope she finds success with her cable network and her new book club.  Oprah could have coasted with her talk show, and instead she took a risk.  I respect that.  She has also admitted to some decision-making mistakes along the way, and I respect that too.  She has also fired some people, and even though firing people seems to be unpopular right now, I really respect leaders who can make the tough choices and fire people.  I think not enough people get fired.  This country (and the world) would be in a lot better shape if more people got fired.   

I know my opinion of Oprah doesn’t matter because I’m not Oprah’s target audience.  I’m probably the kind of guy that Oprah’s audience complains about.   But hey, I watched the Oprah episodes years ago when Dr. Phil first came on.  Those were good. 

*****

I have to apologize to everybody that read this.  I originally meant to write about Oprah Winfrey and how her new book club might affect the publishing industry, and instead I kept writing about myself.  I think Oprah has that effect on people.  I also was kidding about the television show where viewers can watch Oprah read her book in real time.  I kind of feel bad about that, but not enough to cry or anything.

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23 Comments
  1. Oprah only adds books to her club after its won every other award out there. I wouldn’t exclude the books from the reading list just because Oprah’s assistant rubber stamped them. Frankly, I’d like to see them add something less predictable.

    • You may be right. I didn’t see the Oprah behind-the-scenes show where her assistant rubber stamped the book (I’m kidding! I’m sure that part was taken out of the show.). The only thing I remember about the books she used to choose was that they usually weren’t books that I had already read (with a couple exceptions that I don’t remember).

      • I’m sure Oprah has a whole team deciding if books are mainstream enough to be included in her club. I just can’t see the woman reading much. One of my fav books is Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck and it happens to be an Oprah book. It was originally published 15 years before she was even born. I think she should add Fifty Shades of Grey… Her viewers could probably spend months talking about it.

  2. I have not had good luck with Oprah’s book of the month choices. That’s probably more of a reflection on me than anything else. To be fair, I don’t know all of the books on her list. When the book of the month club first started, I gave it a shot. I read “She’s Come Undone” and “Black and Blue.” I didn’t like them. Maybe I’m the wrong audience, too. For me, if a book is being marketed as an Oprah book, there is a good chance that I will probably pick up something else instead.

    • At least you actually read the books. I know a few people who would buy the books and read a small portion of them, and then stop. But I can’t criticize them for doing that because I advocate NOT reading books you don’t enjoy. Well, I guess I can criticize them for continuing to buy books that they probably weren’t going to finish.

  3. I do not like Oprah. I think she’s a megalomaniac. I liked her when she first came on the scene, however many years ago that was now. But over the years she really bought into her own hype and now I find her just insufferable. But you’re right, I should give her credit for taking risks and for admitting that she’s made some mistakes. Even

    • It probably takes a megalomaniac to name a cable network and a magazine after herself (and put herself on the cover every issue), but very few people get a chance to even think about doing what she’s doing, so I don’t know. At the very least, it’s an interesting experiment.

      • M. L. Doyle permalink

        I think she names those things after herself because she is her brand. What else would she call it? She became powerful and popular over a show named Oprah. She’s kid of stuck with it.

  4. Now I won’t be able to sleep, thinking what this tasteless Oprah joke could be…

    • Oh, it’s still around somewhere, but it’s not worth anybody’s time. It was a stupid, unfunny, worthless joke, and it’s still buried in the Dysfunctional Literacy archives somewhere as a reminder to me of what NOT to write.

  5. It would be great if Oprah would do a ‘newcomer’ award. But actually take a chance and read a new book by a new writer.
    I know what you mean about writing to have something written every day. Sometimes it’s just pure dreck. Other days, gold.

    • Thank you. Sometimes I like to force my writing just to see what happens (usually something embarrassing or something not very good). But now I usually take my time (with a flexible deadline). But even that’s no guarantee of anything good.

  6. I can’t even explain how much better the nfl is than oprah, haha. Great post.

  7. The angriest I’ve ever been in a book store (and I’m angry in book stores A LOT) was when I saw an Oprah Book Club sticker on a copy of Faulkner’s Light In August. Does one of America’s greatest writers really need Oprah’s help to sell books?! I’m fairly certain people know he’s a pretty good writer, Oprah…

    • I’m sorry. I understand your point about Faulkner and Oprah, but I can’t get past the idea of you getting angry at bookstores A LOT. For some reason, that makes me laugh. If you haven’t written about times you’ve gotten angry at bookstores, you might want to.

  8. This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. I never used to like Oprah, but then she did some pretty cool things with her brand and I was like, “Okay, girl, you do you.” But, really, I’m just waiting for the mail-blasts of Oprah Book Club books to every home in America. You know, like, “YOU GET A BOOK! YOU GET A BOOK! EVERYONE GETS A BOOOOOKKKK!”

    … Too far?

  9. Judy permalink

    ” A cable network is 24 hours of content, and it’s tough to find 24 hours of content (or even 6 hours of good content repeated three times). ” Math not your strong suit?

    Seriously, though, I really enjoyed the post. Years ago I used to enjoy Oprah, but after some years, not so much. She is to be admired for all that she has accomplished, though.

    • I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t write this correctly. If there’s six hours of content, and it’s repeated three times, wouldn’t that content be broadcast four times, and 4 times 6 is 24? If I repeat something three times, haven’t I done that 4 times? Or is my definition of “repeat” incorrect? Either way, thank you for your comment.

  10. Oprah sucks. With or without her book club. And that’s all I have to say on that subject.

    • I’ve been hearing a lot of that recently. I’ve actually felt more sympathy (empathy?) since she willingly cancelled her show when she could have milked it for years and years more. But I understand. Oh, I understand.

  11. It’s a bit sad when books need a celebrity to push them along but unfortunately they do. Books aren’t the first thing people think of when they think entertainment.

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