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Oprah Winfrey Restarts Book Recommendation Program

Posted September. 28, 2005 07:35,   


Oprah Winfrey, the host of America’s favorite talk show, has restarted her program of recommending new books, according to a recent New York Times story.

Her influence over the publishing market was so strong that all the books introduced by her book club on TV became bestsellers.

With her program, “Oprah’s Book Club,” broadcast on TV between 1996 and 2002, she created a reading boom throughout the United States.

In the book market, a novel is considered a bestseller if it sells about 20,000 volumes, but the ones Winfrey selected easily sold at least a million copies.

When objections were raised, however, the program was discontinued in 2002. The publishing industry was enraged over her remarks that she was struggling to find enough books she felt compelled to share with others. A year later, Winfrey adopted a new approach, recommending older works such as those of John Steinbeck and William Faulkner rather than recent releases.

This led to a heightened interest in classics, but readers were just not as enthused as they were before.

As a result, about 150 authors, led by women writers such as Amy Tan, wrote a letter to Winfrey last April asking her to introduce new novels, citing statistics of declining novel sales after the end of the program in 2002.

Winfrey says she was moved by the letter, and that she plans to broaden the field of her recommended books, to include not only novels but also history books and autobiographies.

Why does she place such an emphasis on reading? Oprah Winfrey was an African-American born in slums, an illegitimate child, fat, and an unmarried mother. Despite these conditions, which could easily have led to giving up on her life, Winfrey overcame her misfortunes to become recognized as one of the most successful women in America thanks in part to reading.

Mi-Seok Koh mskoh119@donga.com