Oprah Winfrey is one of the most polarizing names in publishing. Publishers crave her attention, since being “Oprah Approved!” means millions and millions of sales. Serious literary types can’t stand her. She encourages people to read fluff, crap, and books not worth the time of day, they say. She should be using her powers to give unheralded books a chance! Who is she, a mere average reader, to determine what a nation should read! She is a curator of mediocrity!
And yet, Oprah’s picks aren’t terrible. She’s picked award winners. She’s picked big-name authors and previously unknown authors. She’s picked critical darlings and summer blockbusters. There’s something authentic about her selections. She picks books she genuinely loves. They reflect her changing tastes as a reader, whether she reverts to a classic or gives a short story collection a shot. in the end, Oprah’s Book Club is the ultimate book club. She doesn’t care if the book sells. She doesn’t care what publishers, academics, literary types, and Oprah-haters think. She just wants to share the books she loves with as many people as she can.
Given that, and given her hold on the North American literary community for the past 14 years, I decided it’s time to see what all the fuss is about. I’m a voracious and eclectic reader. I’ve read Twilight (and Gossip Girl and Danielle Steele and Nicholas Sparks) and I’ve read Oprah’s picks before, but not because she picked them. I’ve tried my best to stay away from the cult of Oprah and not let her endorsement sway me in any way but that’s going to change this summer. And why not? I’ve definitely read worse. How bad could it be if I gave my entire summer reading list over to the greatest book club moderator to ever grace our TV sets?
This summer, from July 1st until Labour Day, I will read every single book on Oprah’s Summer Reading List. Every Monday and Thursday I will post my progress here on Books@Torontoist.
Stay tuned and see how it goes.