Chances Are (A Quilt Question)
Run Like a Girl

on Oprah's Books

My friend Britt has a great post today about Oprah's book choices. I've blogged before about why I tend to not  read the Oprah books while they are the Oprah books, and it always makes me feel a little bit self-satisfied when she picks a book I have already read. I am this way about quite a few things. Anything, in fact, that someone famous says is good, cool, inspiring, or amazing, I immediately don't like or want to do. Even if I haven't yet tried it for myself and am totally being judgemental. This is my own special brand of persnickitiness and I am sticking to my quirks.

But! I do think Oprah is good at picking out great reads. It does make me extremely happy that a celebrity promotes reading. I think Oprah's books have contributed immensely to helping reading become a hip thing to do. I only wish she (and other famous people) would work harder at it. I think authors should have groupies and big tour buses, like rock stars. In fact I think authors are way cooler than rock stars. And they have cleaner hair.

Anyway. Is reading Oprah's books a sign of intelligence? Or is she simply a bellwether sheep? (WHY hasn't she ever done a Connie Willis novel, now that I think about it!) Probably it's a little bit of both. And my persnickitiness aside, anything that gets more people reading is fine by me! Here's the list of Oprah's books. I put the ones I've read in purple. And, of course, there is some commentary. Because I can't just change font colors.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (2010) (Tried after reading Great Expectations but it didn't capture my interest at all. Bad English major!)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (2010) (I read this sometime in early 1996, when Haley was a baby.)

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010) (I will read this if my name ever makes it to the top of the hold list.)

Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan (2009)

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (2008)

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle (2008) (Some Oprah books just don't grab my attention; this one I purposefully didn't read because I was feeling snarkily resistant)

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (2007) (I had this book as my to-read goal for October. Last October. I got so far as buying my copy. Another will-read.)

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2007) (Swoon, but not for everyone, especially not uptight book groups)

Middlesex By Jeffrey Eugenides (2007) (loved it...why didn't I write anything about it?)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2007)  (another LOVE, but, then, I have that thing for dystopias/post-apocalyptic novels)

The Measure of a Man by Sidney Piotier (2007)

Night by Elie Wiesel (2006) (Not sure when I read this, but it is powerful, sad, and haunting. I keep picking up Mr. Wiesel's other books but then putting them back on the shelf because I don't want my relationship with this book to be changed by his others, if that makes sense)

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey (2005)

Light in August by William Faulkner (2005)

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (2005) (Not my favorite university read, but I survived it. I WANT to love Faulkner; does that count for anything?)

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (2005)

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (2004)

Anna Karinina by Leo Tolstoy (2004)

The Heart is a Lonely Hunterby Carson McCullers (2004) (more people should read McCullers—she is so good!)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2004)

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton (2003)

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (2003) (Even though it's Becky's story, East of Eden makes me think of my dad, because she bought it and read some of it to him in the early days of his disease, and I love the thought that maybe some of Steinbeck's words stay with him)

Sula by Toni Morrison (2002) (This is my favorite Toni Morrison, which is sort of an odd choice because it's not quite as powerful as some of her other novels; I think my affection comes because it's the first novel I read by her and because my essay about it was one of the few that got an A from a very particular professor)

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (2002) (I read this one not because of Oprah's recommendation but because of Becky's. I can't remember, though, if I read her copy or the library's.)

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (2001)

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)

Cane River by Lalita Tademy (2001) (One of my favorite on the list because it focuses on one of the things I think about quite a bit: how much are we influenced by ancestors we never knew?)

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir (2001)

Icy Sparksby Gwyn Hyman Rubio (2001) (Hmmmmm...I read it but I don't have much to say about it. Did I love it? Hate it? Can't remember.)

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (2001) (My second-favorite Oates—following Foxfire: Confessions of an All-Girl Gang—but I read nearly everything she writes. Another author who isn't for everyone (her stories are often about violence and are unrepentant in shying away from looking at the topic carefully) but for me? For me, she's good.)

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III (2000)

Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz (2000) (Like Icy Sparks, I don't have an opinion on this one, even though I read it)

Open House by Elizabeth Berg (2000) (love, love Elizabeth Berg; she is a writer whose books make me itch to become a writer; my favorite by her is The Pull of the Moon)

The Poisonwood Bibleby Barbara Kingsolver (2000) (The only time in my life I didn't miss an episode of Oprah for months because I didn't want to miss the one with Barbara Kingsolver on it. This book is in my top-five all-time-favorite books. I love it so!)

While I Was Gone by Sue Miller (2000)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (2000) (This really should be my favorite Morrison. Such a moving, memorable, tough book)

Back Roadsby Tawni O’Dell (2000) (Oprah definitely MADE this book. It was OK.)

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende (2000) (Thank goodness for Isabel Allende; I found her when I was in ninth grade and she was one of my first exposures to non-lame writing.)

Gap Creek by Robert Morgan (2000)

A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton (1999) (Sigh. I love this book, even though I can rarely get anyone to check it out. Can't figure out why this is scary.)

Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay (1999)

River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke (1999)

Tara Roadby Maeve Binchy (1999) (Maeve Binchy is my guilty pleasure)

Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes (1999)

White Oleander by Janet Fitch (1999) (My bunco friend Michelle told me about this book. "When I was reading it," she said, "I kept thinking 'Amy would love this book.' It's totally an Amy book." She was right. I recommend this one all the time at work to patrons who aren't afraid of a little grit. Sad and disturbing but so well-written. The movie version was so-so.)

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve (1999)

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (1999)

Jewel by Bret Lott (1999) (fuzzy memory strikes again; my gut response is "sweet" but it could be totally off; correct me if I'm wrong!)

Where the Heart Isby Billie Letts (1998) (Love!)

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian (1998) (My introduction to Bohjalian, whose books I enjoy but I don't recommend very often, mostly because I'm not sure how to say his last name.)

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage (1998)

I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb (1998) (Read Becky's copy. Might still have Becky's copy.)

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat (1998)

Black and Blueby Anna Quindlen (1998) (although I think her essays are better than her novels.)

Here on Earthby Alice Hoffman (1998) (Squeeeee! Not only Alice Hoffman but my favorite Alice Hoffman book. River King is a close second.)

Paradise by Toni Morrison (1998)

The Best Way to Play by Bill Cosby (1997)

The Treasure Hunt by Bill Cosby (1997)

The Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby (1997)

A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons (1997)

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons (1997) (love)

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines (1997) (I was thinking so hard about what to write about Ellen Foster that I skipped this one without even noticing. AND I didn't write anything thrilling! This was one of my SDBBE picks. I blogged about it here. Thanks, Becky, for point it out to me!)

Songs in Ordinary Timeby Mary McGarry Morris (1997) (I also read Becky's copy)

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou (1997) (Maya Angelou is sort of poetry-light, but I still love her)

The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds (1997) (Excellent, excellent book)

Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi (1997) (A unique look at the Holocaust)

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb (1997)

The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton (1996) (I need to read more of Jane Hamilton's work)

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1996)

The Deep End of the Oceanby Jacquelyn Mitchard (1996) (I wonder why Oprah picked this book as the first? Did she have plans to spawn the above list? Or did it all unfold sort of organically? I mean...I enjoyed this book. But it's definitely not my favorite on the list.)

Now, just one question for Oprah: Ummmmm, have you heard of Margaret Atwood? I think you should try one of her books for your list!

And a question for you: which Oprah book is your favorite? (Mine is The Poisonwood Bible of course.) Oh, one more: have we read any of the same titles?



Wow! You are so well-read! You should be a librarian! Ha ha!

Last night I stopped by the thrift store, and I found copies of White Oleander and Song of Solomon. And I bought them. Because I knew them from Oprah's book club. Ha ha! Now... when you say "a little grit," what do you mean??

I think I already have a follow-up post formulating in my head. I just need to finish Edgar Sawtelle first.

Becky K

My favorite is Poisonwood Bible. But I love Tara Road and We were the Mulvaneys. And yes you do have my copy of the Wally Lamb book but I don't care because my bookshelf is full anyway. And I'm also wondering do you have my copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Hmm.

I think it's funny we have read so many of the same ones. And you did read A Lesson Before dying, silly. It was your pick for that one round of SDBBE. I think!

I should have done this too instead of comment-hogging Britt's blog.

Kim D

I found Jewel disturbing - didn't like it at all. Drowning Ruth was strange - I didn't like or dislike it. She's Come Undone was well written, although I found the subject not something I would consider a favorite. I haven't read The Poisonwood Bible, though it's on my "to read" shelf. Of the ones I've read, my favorite is Where the Heart Is followed by Cane River. I also liked The Pilot's Wife. Anita Shreve's books are "heavy" if that makes sense. The Pilot's Wife was the first book of hers I read, and it's probably my favorite, although Fortune's Rocks is one I kept. What I liked about The Pilot's Wife is how the author allows you to go down a certain path, the logical path anyone would take based on what you see, and then she turns you on your head with something unexpected. I haven't read nearly as many of these as you have, but it surprised me I've read some you haven't. I don't consider myself half the reader you are. :-) Basically, I like funny books or happy stories with good endings (and the occasional teen series) - maybe that says something about my emotional state. Even with my need for happiness, I love Geraldine Brooks.


where the heart is --is my fave (I like the movie too)

new earth---loved this one too (I refer back to it from time to time---have ALOT highlighted in this book--I also participated in the web event she and tolle did)

DID NOT LIKE: Edgar Sawtelle or middlesex

the reader: was okay--the movie was better

the good earth-- I read in high school

reading now: a tale of two cities: it was on my to read list and when she recommened it I decided to go ahead and read it---finding it really hard to get through.


I listened to House of Sand and Fog on tape and LOVED it.


I agree with you about Connie Willis. I haven't read all of her books but I just finished Black Out and All Clear. And I loved the Doomsday Book.


I love love LOVE East of Eden, it's in my top 5. Also in my top 5 is Cry, the Beloved Country. Seriously, read it. I know you'll love it.



i have a lot to say on the subject of "not doing it cause others are" but that's for another day :)

here are the ones I've read: Great Expectations, The Pillars of the Earth, Love in the Time of Cholera , A Million Little Pieces, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, One Hundred Years of Solitude , East of Eden, House of Sand and Fog, Open House,A Map of the World, Tara Road, White Oleander, The Pilot’s Wife, The Reader, Midwives, I Know This Much Is True, Breath, Eyes, Memory, She’s Come Undone, The Book of Ruth, The Deep End of the Ocean

of the ones you haven't read that i have, i really loved The Reader and Breath Eyes Memory. Recommend both wholeheartedly. And I loved One Hundred Years… more than Love in the time of Cholera but I might be in the minority.

I cannot read The Poisonwood Bible for the life of me. I have tried 3 times and even read almost 200 pages one time.


oh and your friend's quote describes my feelings so well:

Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, another OBC selection responded to Franzen with, “It is so elitist it offends me deeply. The assumption that high art is not for the masses, that they won’t understand it and they don’t deserve it – I find that reprehensible. Is that a judgment on the audience? Or on the books in whose company he would be?”


Hard to say what is my favorite off of a list like this. I usually prefer the question, what is the best thing you've read lately.

I would totally recommend Song of Solomon.


I have Poisonwood Bible on my Kindle! I'll have to read it soon.


The books we've both read:
Great expectations.
Where the heart is

I liked night. It was very moving and riveting and sad. My sister (the english teacher) has an incredible project she does with this book when she teaches it. Remind me to tell you about it.

Oddly enough, although I liked Where the heart is, It is the one instance I can think of where I like the movie better than the book. It's one of my favorite movies but I never like the movie better....


Ah, Tale of Two Cities ... do give it a try again - even if it is slow, the ending is worth it. Of course, for many years I was a HUGE Dickens fan! So of course, I also read Great Expectations.

I did both Faulkner's Light in August and Sound and Fury in college. Read The Good Earth in h.s. and have been wanting to re-read it this year. Read Anna K. in college. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter just last year. East of Eden (don't remember when). Drowning Ruth, A Map of the World (loved this one and gave it away almost as soon as I finished it). Vinegar Hill.

It seems like I only got through half of Tara Road (although Binchy is a big favorite of mine - mostly to listen to, so this is possibly why I didn't finish it).

White Oleander. The Pilot's Wife (which spurred a whole Anita Shreve jag for me). Where the Heart Is, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day.

Only 1/2 way through Ellen Foster and Stones from the River (not sure why). All of Book of Ruth and Deep End of the Ocean.

I couldn't tell you which of this list was a favorite (although the Dickens books are still high on my list). I think perhaps Oprah's lists encouraged me to break from all the classics and begin reading ones considered currently popular, so I owe her some gratitude for that!

The comments to this entry are closed.