Top Ten Best Selling Books - Oprah Winfrey Book Club

Top Ten Best Selling Books - Oprah's Book Club

How Oprah Winfrey Influenced What People Chose To Read

There can be no denying the influence Oprah Winfrey's Book Club had on the sales figures of the following ten books.

They represent the top ten bestselling books from the 70 books selected for her book club.

Would they have sold so many copies without Oprah's influence? Who can say.

If, like me, you often buy books because of word of mouth recommendation then it would be easy to see that a recommendation by someone considered 'influential' might possibly be acted upon.

Now multiply that 'word of mouth' influence by the number of people Oprah Winfrey recommended it to (not to 2 or 3 friends over coffee but to over an estimated 6 million (and as many as 16 million at the show's height) and you can see that an author of one of her selections might be smiling from ear to ear for the rest of their lives.

The top ten bestsellers are an eclectic mix; probably showing Oprah's own diverse tastes. Some are non-fiction, some are contemporary novels, one is a classic from the last century. Oprah cast her nets wide for her selections and if the worst we can accuse her of is a sort of reader narcissism, then we can at least congratulate her for getting more people to read.

One of the authors of her Book Club Books, Jonathan Franzen was very derogatory about her choices for the club and about the selection of his own novel but I bet he didn't give Oprah Winfrey the money back or offer it up to charity? His criticism was of her credentials as a so called 'critic' but surely, we're all within our rights to become critics once we've read any book?


Oprah Winfrey - her book club launched many a bestseller.
Oprah Winfrey - her book club launched many a bestseller.

Oprah Winfrey Book Club 1996-2011

Oprah started the Book Club in 1996 as a regular feature on her talk show.

She started the club in September 1996, choosing one a month for the rest of the year. 1997 saw her choose ten books and in 1998 through 2000 she chose 8 or more books.

The club was reduced to 3 or 4 books a year after 2000, Oprah suggesting that it had actually stopped her reading contemporary novels for her own pleasure.

What is undeniable is the influence the Oprah Winfrey Book Club had over book sales.

It also led to Richard and Judy (in the UK) starting a similar bookclub. They were also very influential, especially when the club was supported by the UK's leading newsagent, W.H. Smiths.

#10. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

Sales: 770,000 copies sold

Overall star rating on Amazon.Com (based on reviews by readers of the novel) = 3 stars

David Wroblewski has yet to follow up the success of his novel though with worldwide sales on excess of a million copies, he need not be too down-hearted about it.

Like all of those authors on Oprah's list, he has benefited from one of the most successful 'word of mouth' recommendations ever.

#9. Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman-Rubio

Sales: 794,000

Overall star rating  (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com = 3½ stars.


#8. Love In The Time Of Cholera

Sales: 817,000 copies

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com = 4 stars

#7. The Pillars of The Earth - Ken Follett

Sales: 1.10 millions

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) = 4½ stars.

Since it was publishes, British television have produced two mini-series of both Pillars of the Earth and its follow up World Without End. This has undoubtedly kept Pillars of the Earth in the best sellers chart. Even those who didn't buy the book after Oprah's recommendation bought a copy after seeing the show (which starred Oscar-nominated Eddie Redmayne).

#6. East Of Eden by John Steinbeck

Sales: 1.31 millions

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com = 4½ stars.

#5. We Were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

Sales = 1.35 millions

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com = 3 stars.


Jonathan Franzen reflecting on Upsetting Oprah

I'm not sure he says very much in this interview. His original comments came after he discovered his book, 'The Corrections' has been chosen as Oprah Winfrey's Book Club choice.

He was quoted as saying he 'cringed' when he heard it had been chosen and that some of Oprah's other selections had been 'schmaltzy'and that 'that crowd won't get it'.

Oprah held her nerve and told viewers she had cancelled his appearance on the show to ' spare his embarrassment'.

He described himself on the radio show, Fresh Air as an author in ' the high-art literary tradition' but not unsurprisingly, his comments were seen as elitist.(source:Bitchmagazine.org)

He did eventually back pedal and finally appeared on Oprah's show when she chose another of his novels, 'Freedom'. No harm was done, 'The Corrections' won the James Tait Prize for Literature and Frantzen's novel sold well anyway.

#4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Sales = 1.38 millions.

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com = 4 stars.


#3. Night by Elie Wiesel

Sales = 2.02 millions.

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com = 4½ stars.


#2. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Sales = 2.69 millions.

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com =3½ stars


#1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Sales = 3.37 millions.

Overall star rating (based on reviews by readers of the novel) on Amazon.Com = 4 stars.

The Future of Book Reviews - Did Oprah Start A Trend?

In spite of Jonathan Frantzen's misgivings, we are living in an amazing age when it comes to the role of book reviews.

In the past, book reviews were seen as rather highbrow, usually the New York Times Book Review in the US and the Times Literary Supplement in the UK were considered the 'correct' publications for serious book reviews.

Well it's 2011 and the digital age is allowing us all to be book reviewers.

You can download an e-book to your Kindle almost instantaneously and you can review it online (where you bought it) after you've read it and people like me will come along and read six or seven reviews and yes, your review might make me buy the book.

Am I interested in how literary it is? 'No'.

Am I interested in whether it uses a lot of six and seven syllable words? 'No.'

Am I interested in whether it's got a good story, a good pace, that it's a page turner? 'Yes please.'

And who better to enlighten me on those things than someone who read it and enjoyed it.

You could be 'SusieQ' from Iowa or DebbieS from London; I really don't mind. I trust your opinion.

Book reviews online are part of our cultural experience and we can either be part of it (and do our own) or we can be part of it by reading other people's reviews. Oprah Winfrey made a contribution to this by using another type of mass media, TV. We should salute her efforts and hope that now that her show has finished, other shows carry the torch going forward.

For more on the role of book reviews, go to this article on thedailybeast.com


Want to do some book reviews, go to Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk and do a review of a book you read recently.

Read some other people's reviews as well.

Did they enjoy the book as much as you?

Did they hate it?

How many stars will you give it?

Go on, your opinion matters!

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Comments 34 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Velur, I think the main point that I wanted to make was that we are all reviewers once we have read a book, we all bring our views about it and tell our friends how much we loved or hated it. Oprah wanted to give voice to that in her book review show and also encourage more people to read - she deserves praise on both fronts and I admire her very much.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

A great list and a very interesting hub. Oprah can boost book sales and spread the word. Way to go!! Thanks for sharing this list.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

robbinsm - many thanks for your comment. I really so believe in 'popular' power; we can all be book reviewers, album reviewers, movie reviewers - our opinions are all valid :o)


robbinsm profile image

robbinsm 4 years ago from Chapel Hill

I've read Night and A Million Little Pieces, but in all honesty each of these books will make it on my ever-growing reading list. I loved the content of the article... It gave me a lot of insight into the way Oprah shapes popular trends; She does so positively too!

I'm giving you a big thumbs up!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Mohan, thanks for your comment. I do quite like books being recommended to me but it's amazing how much people's tastes differ. I quite fancy the Jonathan Frantzen, have read great reviews.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Linda - thanks for your comment. Yes, maybe Oprah will have Sunshine on her show! I will be a special guest (seen on screen via satellite TV) telling Oprah how we met and how I knew you were destined for stardom :o)


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Great list and summary, Julie, while individual tastes may differ, there's no doubting an Oprah selection will do wonders to an authors career/sales. There are some very worthy contenders here in the top ten. More books for me to download/buy I think... I am always interested in a good story and great reads like you.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Oprah could pick some awesome books! Maybe she'll select ours one day!:)


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

kartika, many thanks for your comment!


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 4 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

I love Oprah's favorite books - I've read quite a few of them and she is a great resource for finding new authors. One of my favorites is A New Earth.

Great article!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Christy, many thanks for dropping by to comment and much appreciation for the share!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I have read some of these books but not all, a great list! I am going to share as well.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Docmo, many thanks for the visit. I am also book mad!


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Julie, there are many wonderful 'keepers' on this list. As a confirmed bibliophile, I love finding new authors and new books - this is a great summation of Oprah's picks. voted up and shared!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Thundermama, many thanks for your comment.


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 4 years ago from Canada

This was a really useful hub and I like your frank writing style.


laadhy profile image

laadhy 4 years ago from Maldives- The Paradise on Earth

nice collection and it gave me some idea to write a collection. Great hub


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Cclitgirl, working in a bookstore or a library would be like a dream job for me, I am book mad! I love listening to people talking about what they are reading or have read. Reading a book is so wonderful isn't it? It's like freeing your mind of everything except the story for an hour or two; good for well-being, good for your brain too!

Many thanks for your comment Cyndi.


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

I used to work at a bookstore. When I first heard of Oprah's book club, I sort of rolled my eyes because I thought she was going to promote substandard literature. But, she didn't! She did amazingly well and I actually read some of the ones she suggested. Then I thought about how she was getting people to read, she was getting people in bookstores and...we sorely need another Oprah. :D I LOVED working in a bookstore. I loved seeing the people get excited about the books, too.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Nadim, thanks!


nadim44 4 years ago

Great post!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Eric, many thanks for your comment!


eric-carter profile image

eric-carter 4 years ago from Fulham, UK

Hm, I think I'll hit "The Road". Seems interesting. Thank you for the great list!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Deb, John and iefox - many thanks to all of you for reading and leaving a comment.

Deb, I have read Pillars of the Earth from this list - a truly epic book in terms of size and yet, strangely formulaic to read, drove me nuts but it is a good story in spite of that.

John, I wouldn't mind being a few pennies behind Oprah but I do really like her - she is very much herself on TV and I like her sincerity.

iefox, I use a Kindle now but do occasionally still read paper copies of books and as long as the story is good, the means of reading it is irrelevant.


iefox5 profile image

iefox5 4 years ago

Haven't read books for a long time, life is surrounded with electronic products like tablets, mobile phones.


John Sarkis profile image

John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

Hi Jools99, what a great hub. Yes, anything Oprah touches turns into gold. She's the female Midas, no doubt. Very informative hub.

Voted up

John


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 4 years ago from Iowa

Interesting hub. Strangely, although I've read many of Oprah's selections, I've only read one from this list. Also, I'm wondering if the numbers for East of Eden are limited to sales AFTER it was an Oprah selection, since that book has been around a long time. Do you know?


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

KDuBarry03, My hubby is a Terry Brooks fan as well. I read all sorts of books and I love talking about books as well so I really liked that part of her show when I saw it over here in the UK.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Sunshine625, I love the way Oprah made reading really great books an everyday expectation for people. I think her show was groundbreaking because, unlike a lot of other book shows, she didn't make it highbrow - reading is accessible to all of us. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it.


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

Night is definitely a story I keep close at hand. Thank you for sharing! I must get on the boat and read these books as well, I've been drenched in Terry Brooks the past few weeks!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I read A Million Little Pieces. Even though it was later revealed that James Frey fabricated some of the story I still enjoyed it and even read his second book which was great!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Miloskc, sorry for taking so long to respond - I have not been about very much these last two or three days.

Oprah should be applauded for her enthusiasm for reading and for passing on that enthusiasm to so many people. She has made some authors best sellers and she has also made a lot of people read books they may never have considered under normal circumstances.


miloskc profile image

miloskc 4 years ago

Great hub... Although many don't like Oprah's book club, I think it's very good what she does. She selects good writers (you never see Patterson or Clancy on her lists) and help them reach the sales they probably only dreamed about. There's no question that Jonathan Franzen deserves to sell 1,000,000+ books, but I don't think that he would have made it if Oprah didn't promote his titles.


yenajeon profile image

yenajeon 5 years ago from California

I'm always on the lookout for great books! I've only read a few on this list, so thanks! Voted up and more!

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