Today in History: Oprah Launches Book Club

| September 17, 2018

180917_News_1080x1920How did obscure titles become popular bestsellers? Does it take a big media personality to encourage readers to pick up books? Apart from intellectual, are book clubs meant to be therapeutic and self-improving? What makes for good reading and what should we get out of it?

On September 17th 1996 American talk show host Oprah Winfrey launched a television book club, with Jacquelyn Michard’s Deep End of the Ocean as her first selection. Not only did this book become a best seller, but it hit the silver screen with a film starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Treat Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg. While Winfrey earned no money from book sales, she became a hugely influential force in the publishing industry. She brought new novelists to fame and increased readership of classic works, including The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck; East of Eden, by John Steinbeck; The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers; and Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, all of which drew substantial sales. Oprah’s Book Club ran from 1996 until its final segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show, May 25, 2011 —  a full fifteen seasons during which time a total 70 books were recommended.

The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.



  • Try a TC Supersearch or CU Quicksearch using the keywords Oprah and “book club”; you’ll discover thousands of articles, as well as select books available through Teachers College and Columbia University Libraries.
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