Oprah Book Club Selections

       I did the Research so you don't have to!

Oprah energized the reading public with the introduction of her book club in 1996. Wow - was it really that long ago? Then, in 2012 she launched Book Club 2.0 to embrace the rise of digital books and created a more immersive, inclusive reading experience. In September 2019, she announced a partnership with Apple TV+ to host a bi-monthly book club complete with author interviews. The first episode will air November 1, 2019. Use the Apple Books app or just pick up the book and read the old fashioned way. Here's the complete Oprah Bookclub list. Books I've read are in bold and reviewed books are bold and blue.

Apr 2020 - Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker, 400 pages

Nonfiction set in the 1940s-1970s about an upwardly mobile family with 12 kids, 6 who were diagnosed schizophrenic.  The story serves as a slight history of the disease, disagreements on treatments, violence and abuse within the family, and unknown to the family, their DNA is still used for research today.

Feb 2020 - American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, 400 pages

The heartbreaking story of a Mexican woman and her son fleeing the cartel and attempting to find refuge in the US. A controversial book.

Dec 2019 - Olive, Again (#2) by Elizabeth Strout, 304 pages

Olive once again interacts with various people in her town as she struggles to understand herself and others.

Oct 2019 - The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 406 pages

As a slave, a young man is gifted with an unusual power. Years later, he almost drowns and the power saves him. He decides he must escape and his journey takes him from plantations in the south to dangerous 'movements' in the north. As he's recruited into the underground he continues to try to find his family.

Nov 2018 - Becoming, Michelle Obama, 426 pages

An autobiography of Michelle's life and insights into her feelings about empowerment, race, striving for perfection, finding her purpose, and, of course, Barack.

June 2018 -  The Sun Does Shine: How I found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton, 272 pages

A memoir that reads like a novel about a black man convicted of murders he didn't commit and the dedicated lawyer who helped exonerate him. It's a story of hope and the resilience of the human spirit.

Feb 2018 - An American Marriage  by Tayari Jones, 308 pages

A young newly married black couple has their lives derailed when the husband is wrongly convicted of rape and imprisoned. What follows is a heartbreaking story of a marriage struggling to survive.

June 2017 - Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, 400 pages

A story of the immigrant experience as a Cameroonian family struggles to make it in NYC. He finds a chauffeur job driving for an executive at Lehman Brothers - and when the company collapses, both families have to make hard decisions. Pen-Faulkner winner.

Sept 2016 - Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, 272 pages

A memoir of the journey of discovery that occurred after the implosion of her marriage. The story is about the healing and growth that is possible when we confront the pain and claim the love that is meant for us.

Aug 2016 - The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, 306 pages

Pulitzer and National Book winner: Story uses magical realism to explore the story of slavery and the underground railroad. A couple flee slavery in the south pursued by a vicious slave catcher who follows them through different worlds as Whitehead illustrates the unique terrors faced by fleeing slaves. 

Feb 2015 - Ruby by Cynthia Bond, 368 pages

Eloquently written story of Ruby and Ephram - a man desperately trying to save the woman he loves from the town trying to destroy her. Ruby fled her home town to NYC but returns 30 years later and finds herself reliving the violence of her youth. Can Ephram save them?

Jan 2014 - The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd, 384 pages

Inspired by a true story, this is the story of a white girl who is given a little black girl as a slave on her 11th birthday. As they grown to womanhood together, they will each face their own challenges and suffer as they strive for their own freedom. 

Dec 2012 - The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, 243 pages

A debut novel that focuses on the matriarch of a black family of nine children navigating love, loss, and the resilience of the human spirit through the Great Migration. (an Oprah fave)

June 2012 - Wild by Cheryl Strayed, 315 pages

Launching her BookClub 2.0 is the memoir of Cheryl Strayed and her trek of self discovery over 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Dec 2010 - A Tale of Two Citiies / Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, 489 and 505 pages

Two classics: Tale of Two Cities is set in London and Paris as two disparate men vie for a woman's affections against the backdrop of the Reign of Terror. Great Expectations is the tale of Pip, an orphan who longs to be a gentleman and when he comes into some money, forgets where he's from and eventually learns what it really means to be a gentleman.

Sept 2010 - Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, 562 pages

Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire.

Sept 2009 - Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, 358 pages

Short stories set in Africa detailing the harsh, cruel, abusive, impossible lives of children being raised there.

Sept 2008 - The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, 566 pages

The saga of a family who raised special dogs on their farm in WI. Edgar, who is mute, is happy with his family and dogs until an uncle comes to stay - his father suddenly dies and Edgar is forced to flee his home and live in the wild. Eventually he is drawn to return home and face his uncle.

Jan 2008 - A New Earth: Awakening to your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle, 316 pages

A book offering anecdotes and philosophies to help transcend our egos and follow a path to a fulfilling life by suggesting tools to overcome our ego-based state of consciousness.

Nov 2007 - Pillars of the Earth #1 by Ken Follett, 976 pages

Set in the middle ages in feudal England, a small town monk decides his town needs a grand cathedral. The building of this cathedral is central to the love, betrayals, politics, creativity, and more, of the people involved.

Oct 2007 - Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 348 pages

A couple fall in love in their youth but the woman decides to marry a wealthy man. Heartbroken, her lover waits 50 years and 600 affairs later, to tell her once again that he loves her.

June 2007 - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, 529 pages

Pulitzer Prize winner: Epic story of Greek girl and three generations of her family from Greece to Detroit. She discovers a family secret and surprising genetic history that turns Callie into Cal.

Mar 2007 - The Road by Cormac McCarthy, 241 pages

Pulitzer Prize winner: Post apocalyptic story of a father and son as they walk through a burned America; the story of a journey which imagines a future of no hope but also of two people sustained by love.

Jan 2007 - The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier, 243 pages

An introspective look at the upbringing and values that informed his life choices including movie roles, as he tries to live with passion, truth, and balance.

Jan 2006 - Night (#1) by Elie Wiesel, 115 pages

Wiesel's memories of being sent to Auschwitz, then to Buchenwald, and watching the death of his family, of his innocence and, as a devout Jew, the up-close view of the evil of man.

Sept 2005 - A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, 515 pages

Represented as a true story of drug and alcohol abuse as never told before - a controversy after the book was published brought to light that Frey had embellished and misrepresented some of the "facts".

July 2005 - As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, 288 pages

A harrowing account of a family's odyssey across Mississippi to bury their wife and mother. Told by each family member, the story ranges in mood.

June 2005 - The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, 326 pages

It's a somber tale of the tragically dysfunctional Compson family, told with insight, as each of the three brothers gets a section of the book, wrapping up with the fourth section in which the servant who tried to hold the family together ties it together.

Mar 2005 - A Light in August by William Faulkner, 507 pages

A novel that contrasts stark tragedy with hopeful perseverance featuring memorable flawed characters.

Sept 2004 - The Good Earth (#1) by Pearl S Buck, 357 pages

Pulitzer Prize Winner 1932 - The tale of a poor Chinese farmer and his struggles. His family must eventually move to the city to sruvive and his fortunes rise as the local noble family's wanes.

May 2004 - Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, 803 pages

Anna defies Russian convention and leaves her husband and son to live with her lover. Against this backdrop, a man is searching for fulfillment through his marriage and work. Dozens of characters fill in the story of 19th century Russia.

April 2004 - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, 359 pages

In a small town in the south, a lonely deaf mute becomes the sounding board for a variety of people drawn to his kindness. As each pours their heart out to him, their lives are changed in profound ways.

Jan 2004 - One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 417 pages

Nobel prize in literature: In beautiful prose, chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the need for solitude and the desire for love.

Sept 2003 - Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton, 316 pages

Two fathers and their sons, one black, one white, in South Africa before apartheid. Racial injustice, hope, courage, and endurance.

June 2003 - East of Eden by John Steinbeck, 602 pages

Set in California, this sprawling, sometimes brutal, story of two intertwined families whose generations seem to reenact the story of Cain and Abel. 

April 2002 - Sula by Toni Morrison, 174 pages

Follows the lives of two black heroines beginning with their childhood friendship and their very different life paths as adults. When they meet again they must face the consequences of their choices. They represent what it costs and means to be a black woman in America.

Jan 2002 - Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald, 672 pages

Chronicling five generations of an eccentric clan, the story follows four remarkable sisters filled with ambition, forbidden love, their trials and triumphs in a world of sin, guilt, and redemption.

Nov 2001 - A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, 602 pages

A novel that captures the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. Four strangers find themselves pushed together, forced to share a single room as they try to survive the bleak conditions of their lives, moving from distrust to friendship to love.

Sept 2001 - The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, 653 pages   (DNF)

National Book Award winner - Family drama spanning decades and locales, three grown siblings try to make sense of their lives and mom deals with ailing husband but plans for one last Christmas.

June 2001 - Cane River by Lalita Tademy, 522 pages

Four generations of women beginning with a slave in rural Louisiana battle injustice to unite their families and create success on their own terms.

May 2001 - Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir, 522 pages

Memoir of woman raised in luxury in a harem in Morocco but imprisoned with her family when her father was arrested and executed for treason. After 15 years in prison she and her siblings escape to live in exile.

March 2001 - Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio, 320 pages

A young girl growing up in the mountains of Kentucky manifests Tourettes at 10 years old but wasn't diagnosed until she was an adult. A story of overcoming challenges and self acceptance.

Jan 2001 - We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, 454 pages

The Mulvaneys are a large and fortunate clan, everything goes right for them, until gradually, it doesn't. As an adult, the youngest son attempts to discover why the change in circumstances and finds a secret that broke the family - he attempts reconciliation.

Nov 2000 - House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III, 454 pages

A recovering addict and a recent immigrant family from Iran are in conflict over who owns a bungalow - ordinary people, neither wanting to cede their position and the story effectively conveys both sides of the issue.

Sept 2000 - Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz, 368 pages

In 1919, a young mother drowns in the icy lake water. Her death dramatically changes the lives of her husband, daughter and sister. Told in flashbacks and from several perspectives, family secrets gradually come to light about what actually happened that night.

Aug 2000 - Open House by Elizabeth Berg, 272 pages

A woman's husband leaves her and in desperation she decides to take in boarders to support herself and her son. Along the way she learns to love herself again.

June 2000 - The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, 546 pages

PEN/Faulkner award - An epic tale of an evangelical family's tragic undoing and reconstruction that takes place over 30 years in post colonial Africa.

May 2000 - While I Was Gone by Sue Miller, 304 pages

A woman with three lovely daughters, a happy marriage, successful job meets an old roommate and memories of her time living in a communal house and the secrets from that time threaten to destroy everything she has.

April 2000 - The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, 216 pages

Her first novel, an 11 year old black girl wishes she had blue eyes like all the beloved blond hair, blue-eyed children in America. That fall her life does change in painful, devastating ways.

Mar 2000 - Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell, 352 pages

A mother in jail for killing her husband leaves her 19 year old son to raise his three younger sisters alone. Family secrets and lies threaten to ruin what's left of his family but his love for his sisters, his humor, and lame heroics might save them all.

Feb 2000 - Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende, 432 pages

Orphaned at birth, a Chilean girl is raised by a woman and her brother. When she falls in love and gets pregnant and her lover leaves for the CA gold rush, she decides to follow him. As she searches San Francisco she replaces the search for love with finding personal freedom.

Jan 2000 - Gap Creek by Robert Morgan, 336 pages

At 17 years old, Julie marries Hank and moves to Gap Creek, N. Carolina. They have more than their share of troubles with fire, flood, grifters, and busybodies. Their struggles with nature, work, and their own relationship make this novel a timeless story of marriage.

Dec 1999 - A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton, 400 pages

A harsh story of a family raising 2 girls on a midwestern farm. As the mom is babysitting a couple of other children, there's an accident and one of them dies. The results in the neighborhood and within the family are heartbreaking and shattering.

Nov 1999 - Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay, 272 pages

A woman follows her husband back to his home town where they move in with his parents. She must then find a way to raise her children and keep her spirit in a home run with a false sense of piety  in the service of an exacting and vengeful God.

Oct 1999 - River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke, 245 pages

Set in 1920s Georgetown VA, the story opens with a young girl drowning. The debut novel then reveals how the death affects the people around her, family, community, but most especially her older sister.

Sept 1999 - Tara Road by Maeve Binchy, 648 pages

In Ireland, a wife's husband leaves her for his pregnant girlfriend while in the US, a woman's marriage is failing after the death of her son. Chance has the two women agreeing to switch homes for the summer and in doing so they learn much about others and themselves.

June 1999 - Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes, 465 pages

An orphan 28 year old black man and a 15 year old white daughter of the town whore in small town 1950s Mississippi are looking for what they've never had: a human connection, commitment, and mostly unconditional love. What could go wrong?

May 1999 - White Oleander by Janet Fitch, 446 pages

A mother imprisoned for murder and a young daughter bouncing around terrible foster homes becomes a surprising journey of self discovery.

Mar 1999 - The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve, 304 pages

When a pilot's plane crashes, his wife is faced with publicity about a "secret" life and she is compelled, at all costs, to discover if she really knew her husband at all.

Feb 1999 - The Reader by Bernard Schlink, 224 pages

Set in postwar Germany, a young boy falls ill on his way home from school and is taken in by an older woman who initiates an affair, then disappears. When he next sees her years later she is on trial for a murder but refuses to defend herself. What is she so ashamed of that she'd rather go to jail for murder?

Jan 1999 - Jewel by Bret Lott, 368 pages

In 1943 Mississippi, a family with five children has one more daughter - born with Down Syndrome. A story of a mother-daughter relationship and the day to day life of a family.

Dec 1998 - Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts, 376 pages

A 17 year old pregnant girl is abandoned in a Walmart in OK by her boyfriend. With no job, no money and a baby on the way, the girl hides/lives in the Walmart until quirky characters in town notice her, help her, and welcome her.

Oct 1998 - Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, 384 pages

During a home birth, the mother appears to die during childbirth and the midwife makes the decision to try to save the baby and performs an emergency C-section. The baby lives but question arise about the mother's care and the midwife is taken to court.

Sept 1998 - What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage, 244 pages

Young woman moves to Atlanta to make her fortune and returns home to MI a decade later HIV positive. She finds herself drawn into the lives and activities of her community and finds love again.

June 1998 - I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, ​897 pages

A story of twinship, one of which is schizophrenic. A complex, compelling story of love, trying to sane, death and grieving, and so much more as it follows the twins and their lives through decades.

May 1998 - Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat, ​234 pages

A 12 year old girl is sent from Haiti to her mother in NYC where she sees and learns things that she doesn't want to know. Years later she returns to Haiti; this is her journey through a legacy of shame scarred by political violence and suffering.

April 1998 - Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen, ​288 pages

After 18 years in an abusive relationship, a woman decides she's had enough and she needs to protect herself and her son. She runs and takes her son to FL where they try to build a new life with new names, always worried that her cop husband would find them.

March 1998 - Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman, ​336 pages

A woman returns to her childhood home to attend the funeral of a loved housekeeper. She encounters her former soulmate/lover and jeopardizes her marriage and her relationship with her teenage daughter when she attempts to reclaim the past.

Jan 1998 - Paradise by Toni Morrison, ​318 pages

Two separate communities of freed slaves: one patriarchal founded on rigid moral law and fear, the other matriarchal gentler group. Nine men will lay pain, terror, and murderous rage on the women of the small town in a meditation of race, religion, gender, and more.

Dec 1997 - The Treasure Hunt & Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby, ​ two children's books

In The Treasure Hunt, little Bill learns to value his talents. Meanest Thing to Say teaches how to respond to insults when Little Bill's dad teaches him how to be a nice kid when others are being mean.

Oct 1997 - Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons, 146 pages AND A Virtuous Woman, Kaye Gibbons, 165 pages

A novella about an 11 year old girl in abusive situations but her spirit stays strong and she perseveres in spite of extraordinary odds.

Newly widowed 20 year old woman meets 40 year old tenant farmer and the most unlikeliest of marriages is forged.

Sept 1997 - A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, 256 pages

Set in the 1940s, a black man is sentenced to die; another man, a teacher trying to decide whether to stay in the south, is convinced to visit him in jail and they forge a strong bond as they discover the simple heroism of resisting and defying the expected.

June 1997 - Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris, 740 pages

Set in 1960, the epic story of a mother's love for her three children that causes her to fall for a con man. With a large dysfunctional cast of characters, this chaotic family story is contrasted by the orderly life of the 'perfect' family next door.

May 1997 - The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou, 288 pages

Fourth in her autobiographical series, this book covers her life as she lives in NYC, becomes a northern organizer for Martin Luther King, promises herself to a man, but falls in love with another, and discusses her rocky relationship with her teenage son.

April 1997 - The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds, 320 pages

A 15 year old girl is raised in a strict, fire-and-brimstone church. As she gives in to the sexual desires she's been fighting, the consequences are both tragic and transforming for the church community.

Feb 1997 - Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi, 525 pages

PEN award winner, this novel is about Trudy, a dwarf living in a small town in Germany at the rise of Hitler. This is the story of how a small town of ordinary people react in extraordinary times, and how Trudy gives a voice to all people who are perceived as different.

Dec 1996 - She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb, 465 pages

The journey of a girl who is raped at 13 years old and spends the next years over eating and becoming obese. This book addresses many terrible situations and how a young woman manages to deal with them in her life.

Nov 1996 -  The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton, 328 pages

Pen award winner, this is a story of a small town 'white trash' girl growing up with a mom who has lost all compassion and a brother she can't relate to, eventually marriage to a drug riddled, abusive man. The story shines a light on alienation and violence, mercy and compassion.

Oct 1996 -  Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, 337 pages

National Book award winner, this book follows four generations of black life in America, set in a mid-western town.

Sept 1996 -  Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard, 464 pages

This emotional debut novel explores a mother's worst nightmare: the disappearance of a child. 

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© Bookshelf Journeys, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terrie Purkey and Bookshelf Journeys with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.   2019

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