Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Oprah Goes Old School for Latest Book Club Picks

A Tale of Two CitiesGreat Expectations

"I'm going old school," said Oprah Winfrey Monday when announcing that Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations were chosen for her 65th book club selection. Oprah's Book Club was launched in 1996, and has included popular and classical literature, and even some autobiographies.

A Tale of Two Cities was published in 1859 and is set in London and Paris prior to and during the French Revolution. The story chronicles the struggle of French peasants under aristocratic rule and parallels their situation with the struggles taking place in London. Great Expectations was published in 1861 and follows an orphan boy named Pip as he pursues unrequited childhood love and friendship, and learns about the nature of fortune.

Oprah's Book Club has had its share of drama over the years. In 2001 Oprah selected Jonathan Franzen's third novel, The Corrections, for her book club. When Franzen expressed concern that his book would be associated with her other "schmaltzy" picks, and that men might be dissuaded from reading his book because of the Oprah logo on the cover, she disinvited him from her show and chose another book to discuss. (The hatchet was finally buried when Oprah chose Franzen's Freedom as an Oprah Book Club selection last September.) In 2005 Oprah picked James Frey's autobiography A Million Little Pieces, the story about his drug and alcohol addictions and the steps to rehabilitation. A year later it was discovered that parts of the book were fabricated, and Oprah invited Frey on a second time to give him a public chastising for duping her and her readers. Also, many readers have complained that the books Oprah chooses are too bleak and depressing.

Regardless of any controversies, Oprah's Book Club did get more people reading. There are over 2 million members in her reading club, and she brought recognition to authors and books that never could have reached such a wide audience. The Oprah Winfrey Show is ending its successful run on September 9, 2011.

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