Thanks for Oprah: The Oprah Meme

Anonymous Patron directs "us to Free Range Librarian where Karen Schneider asks us to play Oprah Meme game.

So a few days ago I'm somewhere, not around librarians, and I mention that I really like what Oprah has done for reading, and a couple of people say, but her choices are terrible. So I decided to test that hypothesis, and concluded that I wouldn't mind being as bad a writer as half the folks on Oprah's book club list.

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Sheepish reply

Wow...I've read very few of these books. Five, in fact. And, really only 4 1/2 since I could not finish The Corrections. I hated that book like I have never hated a book in my life. The ones that I have read and enjoyed were Anna K, Vinegar Hill, Daughter of Fortune and One Hundred Years of Solitude.

I feel sorta crummy about this, but not sure I should. I read all the time. "Good" stuff, too, just not a lot of fiction. And not that any of this is crap, but I've only got so many hours per day to read, and want it to be stuff that I'm going to love. Maybe if we got paid to read Oprah books on work time....????

Re:Sheepish reply

I think I've read two and only because they were Oprah books. I have read the synopsis of quite a few them and it more than verified my opinion of her picks. I'm not going to count Anna Karenina because thats from the classics book club she started later on. Its all the ones she picked before that were crap, authors that made it big *only because* Oprah picked their book.

The definition of an Oprah book is any book where the protaganist spends 90% of the time being miserable and 10% of the time breaking even.

Re:Sheepish reply

The only book on that entire list that I've read is "The meanest thing to say" and that's because I have it my elementary school library.

And while the stuff she picked might be crap in some people's eyes that doesn't really matter. (Although I'm pretty sure folks like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison were well known before Oprah) It's like I say about goosebump books: They ain't quality literature but it GETS PEOPLE (KIDS) TO READ. That's more important than the "quality" of the literature. With kids (I'm not so sure about adults) they'll eventually find the good stuff if we can get them to love reading. And if getting them to love reading means they're reading stuff like Oprah picks or Goosebumps...so be it.

Obviously the types of books Oprah recommended aren't what I like to read...but I don't knock her cus if she gets more people hooked on reading that can only be good.

s/

Re:Sheepish reply

Maya and Toni were known, though I wouldn't say well known, but they were certainly much more well off after Oprah.

Oprah put the idea of book clubs and reading groups back on the map but it was primarily a boost to a section of the population that was already readers. It added form where there was already substance. We need to start promoting substance where there is none.

In a country where everybody reads (and everyone here does read, whether its books, websites, or im messages) we need to be less satisfied with the 'reading for the sake of reading' mantra and start promoting some form of balanced diet. I'm finding myself drowning in the amount of material that's available to me and while it all feels valuable I know that's not the case. I need to create a more structured approach to my reading habits and professionally I think I need to promote one as well.

Re:Sheepish reply

Oprah has gotten lower middle class housewives reading books they'd never have picked up otherwise, and many of them have enjoyed it, obviously, because being picked as an "Oprah book" continues to be a huge boost to a books sales. And she's done it in exactly the right way: by picking stuff SHE loves, not stuff that's conventionally suitable for or "good for" her audience, and not stuff the publishers currently want to spend big bucks promoting. That's the only way to promote reading: by telling people about stuff you genuinely love, rather than stuff they "ought to" read. That's the worst thing about high school English classes all over the country--not the chosen books themselves, but the fact that the teachers are so often teaching books that aren't their personal favorites, or that they've "taught" so often that it's sqeezed all the life out of their former love for those books.Oprah has also sparked a growth in book clubs among those who were already reading regularly, true, but that's separate from the direct effect on her audience, and those book groups make their own picks, based on their own tastes and interests--again, the only way to do it right.(And when that jerk, Franzen, decided that he was deeply offended by Oprah picking his book because he was afraid that his usual (male) audience would avoid it if it got girl cooties from being an Oprah pick, she quite accommodatingly dropped it, so it probably shouldn't even be on the list.)

Re:Sheepish reply

Mmm, I'm not so sure about promoting certain books over others in order to improve people's 'taste' in reading. People like what they like. Some people will thirst for literature and others will hunger for what they call a good read. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him read (so to speak).

Re:Sheepish reply

not a question of taste, feel free to push all the sugar products you want but can we all agree that a book that has stayed in print for 20, 30, 100 years is going to have more value then a book thats only been around for 6 months?

Also, as a conservative, I'll gladly state that while I have read volumes of material through National Review articles and The Corner it would be in my best interest to devote a portion of that time to reading some of the many books they review or refer to.

Re:Sheepish reply

Value - ? hmm. That's certainly a point to ponder.

Actually, some people like to escape with mindless fiction. Some books are like candy for the brain. Not every book has to be high value culture, sometimes you just want to kick back and do something mindless. This is probably why shows like Gilligan's Island are still popular in reruns.

I read a bit of both actually and each genre is enhanced, in my eyes, by the comparison to the others. The variety in reading materials out there suits the wide variety of people who read.

Re:Sheepish reply

"Actually, some people like to escape with mindless fiction."

Absolutely. I'd be willing to go so far as to apply the 80/20 rule and say 80% mindless anything but at least 20% reading something mindful, or with value.

Re:Sheepish reply

My ratio is about that too!

Re:Sheepish reply

I finished The Corrections. Believe me, you were missing nothing by not finishing it. I hate that book most of all for the hours of my life I wasted slogging through it when I could have been reading Anna Karenina.

Re:Sheepish reply

Maybe it's a testament to what a good job Franzen did, but that family made my skin crawl. I remember being so angry at one point that I actually considered burning the book. It wasn't personal either---my family is as messed up as the next guy's, but nothing like what Franzen portrayed. Usually my strong reactions to books are closer to ecstasy, such as when I finished Rick Bragg's Ava's Man. I loved that book so much that I started reading it again immediately.

Re:Sheepish reply

WOW! I loved Corrections! Is something wrong with me!? ;-)

Re: Oprah's okay in my books

Am I a fan of Oprah's Book Club? Well, I'm unabashedly a reader of genre fiction, non-fiction and graphic novels (yes, the typical male reader). I don't go out of way to read more mainstream literary stuff, and that's basically what Oprah promotes. That said, the mainstream books I've been forced to read for the Book Club at work have been mostly good.

The only Oprah book we tackled was "The Reader," which was okay but overhyped. Obviously, its success is based more on its subject matter (The Holocaust) than the quality of the writing--though to be fair, it's a translation, so I won't be too harsh. It sparked an interesting discussion, which for Book Club purposes is better than reading a brilliant novel where there's not much to talk about.

Overall, I think the good about OBC far outweighs the bad. Oprah gets people /reading/, first and foremost, and she gets them reading literary fiction in a time when most people, if they read books at all, read mass market genre fiction and poorly-argued, agenda-laden policy books. Even now, Oprah is promoting classics of American literature. American classics are too often neglected by readers and scholars, which is too bad, because the US has a literary tradition it can be proud of. Oprah should be commended for renewing interest in her nation's cultural heritage.

Re:creepish reply

no. it's me. it's all me. it was just too creepy to finish.

Oprah Books

I am a librarian--and as such provide reader's advisory services. I think many people have missed reading some great books simply because they were labeled "Oprah books". She has picked some good ones--and some duds, just like anyone. One thing she has done is selected some great authors. She may not have picked my first choice in a book by a specific author, but I can recommend another book by the same author that I have liked better. Also, I don't think she necessarily picks books that everyone will like--where is the discussion in that? Differences of opinion make for a great book discussion. Perhaps the people commenting don't lead, or participate in, book discussion groups. Also, I don't think we should make value judgments--there are many intelligent women who do not work outside of the home who like to read literary fiction. If you want to be a good librarian you will find the time to read. The same goes for writing--good writers also read.

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