Oprah Winfrey Makes Book Club's 100th Pick

Club has endured through many changes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 14, 2023 5:17 PM CDT
Oprah Makes Her 100th Book Club Pick
This cover image released by The Dial Press shows "Hello Beautiful" by Ann Napolitano.   (The Dial Press via AP)

For her 100th book club pick, Oprah Winfrey relied on the same instincts she has drawn upon from the start: Does the story move her? Does she think about it for days after? In a work of fiction, do the characters seem real to her? "When I don’t move on, that’s always a sign to me there’s something powerful and moving," Winfrey told the AP in a recent telephone interview. On Tuesday, she announced that she had chosen Ann Napolitano’s Hello Beautiful, a modern-day homage to Little Women from the author of the bestselling Dear Edward. The novel was published Tuesday by Dial Press, a Penguin Random House imprint, and Winfrey believes its themes of family, resilience, and perspective give Hello Beautiful a "universal appeal" that makes it a proper milestone.

A Winfrey pick no longer ensures blockbuster sales, but it retains a special status within the industry; for authors, a call from Winfrey still feels like being told they've won an Oscar. Winfrey told AP that she is in "awe" of the club and its history, "the very notion" that someone might go and buy a copy of Anna Karenina simply because she suggested it. Kristen McLean, an analyst for NPD Books, which tracks industry sales, says that Winfrey is especially effective these days when promoting a known author such as Barbara Kingsolver and her novel Demon Copperhead, a bestseller since Winfrey picked it last fall.

Since 1996, Winfrey’s book choices have set her on a journey of extraordinary influence and success, frequent reinvention, and the occasional controversy. It has endured through changes for both Winfrey and the publishing industry, through the rise of the internet and the end of Winfrey’s syndicated talk show, through immersions in the classics and unexpected lessons in the reliability of memoirs and the lack of diversity of book publishing. Her most troubled choices—James Frey’s fabricated memoir A Million Little Pieces and Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt, a novel criticized for stereotypical depictions of Mexicans—made so much news in part because of the spotlight of a Winfrey endorsement.

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The club began as the extension of conversations between herself and her producer at the time, Alice McGee. They would talk about the books they liked until McGee finally suggested, in 1996, that Winfrey share the experience with her viewers. The club follows no real formula. For the first few years, Winfrey averaged a selection nearly every month, a pace she came to find exhausting. She paused the club for much of 2002-2003, focused on older works in 2004-2005, and in other years only selected one or two titles. She is currently aiming for a new book every eight weeks, with author interviews and interactive reader discussions showcased on OprahDaily.com. Winfrey has no plans to stop, and no specific goals for selections. (Read more Oprah Winfrey stories.)

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