42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
After seeing Robyn Okrant featured on the CNBC special THE O EFFECT, I was eagerly awaiting her book of the experiment. So many times you hear people talking about slivers of what the Queen of Talk suggests for living your best life, but here was someone who was taking everything Oprah said and applying it as real guidlines..
What was the result?
It took me a day and a half to read LIVING OPRAH, and I closed the book with a smile thinking of the many lessons I took in through Robyn's journey along the way. Yes, the account is about what Oprah says, but isn't the real test of any minister, speaker or individual who is considered an authority on a subject whether or not what they say really works for YOU? That was the day-to-day struggle for Robyn. You can be given all the tools in the world, but it is about how you apply them that makes the difference.
As a fellow creative, I appreciated the way Robyn took to the experiment with great thought. What were the pros and cons physically, financially and quite frankly emotionally? How would it affect her relationship with those in her life, especiailly her husband (I'll come back to him later)? What if people misunderstood her goal?
Robyn approached the answers to these questions in a way that was deliberate and cautious of the possible side effects. There were many things she liked that were praised by Oprah. When it came to issues of conflict and conscience,however,such as the lessons of The Secret, we see Robyn weigh it against her own beliefs. There were moments when she also seem to realize that by taking this year-long journey, she was going to be noticed. There was a situation when she came literally face-to-face with herself on public transporation, and seemed to realize that not all would view what she was doing as something worthwhile.
Speaking of being noticed, I think all would agree that Oprah garnering success and fame is why a project like this is interesting at all. It stands to reason that anyone who would take up living the life that Oprah encourages would also get attention for doing so; but when the media comes calling to Robyn, she has to decide how much of this attention does she actually want for herself.
I mentioned Robyn's husband earlier, and I honestly believe that the experiment wouild not have worked if he was not only accepting and supportive but in many ways affected by it as well. I can relate to him personally, because as a man---a gender that seems not to be as much a part of Oprah's audience for tips on living---I can say that a woman who has overcame challenges, followed her dreams and is enjoying the reward, is just as much a catalyst for me to learn from as anyone else. That brings me to my biggest takeaway. I feel that what was impressed upon her husband the most was what this journey was doing to Robyn, how it was making her feel and look at life---not so much who was responsible for it (Oprah). He was her cheerleader, there on the frontline wanting her to succeed as much as she wanted to succeed.
With that I would say that LIVING OPRAH is proof to me that we are only living our best life when we are living the life right for us. Not all of us can do, say or afford the same things, but we have to be willing to do what we can with what we have and expect the most from that. Look at Robyn. She is a published author, making a difference doing what she enjoys. That is all that matters.
LIVING is the big lesson, and I think that Robyn Okrant has shown and taught that well.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2009
What makes this book special is that Robyn is NOT an Oprah super-fan, she's is your standard Oprah-admirer who took on this experiment in the spirit of a cultural and personal experiment. The result is a page-turner, remarkable for a non-fiction book. Robyn has an Nora Ephron-like writing style that works especially well with this material.
Also of note are the grids at the end of each chapter (one chapter = one month) summarizing that month's action items along with the time it took, the cost (if any) and her remarks. A wonderful reference to try a your own version of her experience.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2009
This book is a must-read not only for all the women who have ever watched an Oprah show and come away with an epiphany as to how to change their lives, but also for all the men who have had to decide whether or not to support said epiphany or run for cover!
I bought this book as a Christmas present for my wife who is a big Oprah fan, and Mrs. Okrant had us both in stitches. The anecdotes and observations were so funny, and neither of us could believe how far the author went to follow all of Oprah's advice. The situations and problems this caused are so hysterical- her husband should get some kind of medal!
At the same time, the book really made us look at Oprah in a completely different way, while at the same time, making us ponder are we really that messed up that we need someone on televion to give us advice?
Whether you are an Oprah fan, an Oprah critic, or just someone who marvels at the influence Oprah has on the world around us, Mrs. Okrant's honest, engaging and entertaining look at Oprah Winfrey provides a tremendous amount to think about as Oprah prepares to end her show, and Ms. Okrant does it in a way I guarantee will make you laugh out loud!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2010
Ms. Okrant's account of her year spent implementing Oprah's lifestyle recommendations was a disappointment. After the first chapter I realized the book was not for me, but I confess to reading it all out of morbid curiosity as to the lengths this woman would go to make a statement of some kind. I found the author's tone to alternate between whiney and sarcastic. I respect Oprah a great deal but watch only her shows that are meaningful to me - which means maybe 5-8 shows a month. Ms. Okrant's obsessive viewing of every episode and literally following what she saw on the screen seemed a bit over the top and unrealistic for most of us. I can afford to buy some of the items that Oprah endorses on her show, but I in most cases I would not buy them because to me they are luxuries that I cannot afford when trying to recover my retirement fund from the recent downturns, or saving to make that nestegg grow! Instead of grasping the underlying message (treat yourself well - within one's means, if we listen to Suze Orman, a frequent show guest), this woman spent extravagantly - beyond what seemed to be her means based on her commentary throughout the book. I think greatest benefit from Oprah's "live your best life" philosophy is to work on improving our relationships with the important people in our lives, with spirit, and empowering ourselves - however we can achieve that within our means. The material side will follow, or our material desires will lessen, if we've embraced what is truly important. If you feel you might enjoy the book, check it out of the library instead of purchasing a copy.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2011
I was excited to read this book. BUT, to enjoy this book you have to get over the ridiculous premise: the fact that she acts as though Oprah really wants everyone to do and buy every single thing she says. I realize Oprah has a lot of power but it's not like it's a cult. Anyone with a half a brain could realize that any woman's magazine or show has the same message of, "Buy this! Do this to make your marriage better!" Oprah is the giant of them all, but they all do it. Everyone SHOULD know at the end of the day to use common sense to pick and choose what is right for them. The magazines will try to sell you things you don't need because it is their JOB, just like it is a car salesman's job. You realize from Okrant's decent writing that she is not an idiot, therfore cannot possibly believe this how other Oprah viewers act, and then you feel irritated. Because you realize she can't be that geniune and it is huge gimmick in the whole "I did this for a year trend" and she is making money off the phenomenon of Oprah, instead of her own great idea. Which is smart, but still irritating. I tried hard to accept the idea but I still wanted to throw the book across the room seeing how many hundreds of dollars she spent each month as if this was a real issue that is affecting other women. She could've examined Oprah's influence without buying, because it's so much more than that. There are many, many others in the whole "year of" trend but at least some of those feel real (The Happiness Project).
But! Alas! She has won and still intrigued me, because at the end of the day, the sheer power of Oprah over American women is fascinating. That being said, I think she could've gone more on the Oprah side of it, as others have said. I certainly don't mind hearing details about her life, obviously she is the center of the experiment and we need that view. But I think she could've done a little research and presented some side stories...make it more of a research/memoir. There is so much information about Oprah and her audience she could incorporate. I don't mind memoirs one bit but I will agree that for this subject matter it was way too memoir-y.
I also think she acted too robot-y about the whole process, with the note-taking and the freaking out. She didn't seem to feel into a lot of the "assignments" which was the point of them, and Oprah's whole thing is about your soul and she could've gone deeper into that.
Also, how the heck did she have so much extra money being a yoga teacher?? Seemed like she barely worked. I was in shock at how much she was able to spend.
The book's action was very cliche in terms of other "year of..." trends. Anyone who is focusing on one thing for a year, be it cookbooks or Oprah, is going to have changes in their relationships, finances, etc. Not as if she planned this breaking point she reached, but the audience has come to expect the plot from books like these. More creativity please!
Whoa, that got long. All tht being said, the book was somehow still very entertaining to me, which I think speaks more to my interest in the Oprah-fication of America than Okrant's writing. Just like Oprah, Okrant is laughing all the way to the bank!! A fun quick read but very flawed
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2013
A few weeks ago a friend mailed a copy of Living Oprah to me. One day I must ask her why she thought I needed to read it.
It took a while for me to get around to reading it. The whole premise of the book actually put me off.
Why oh why would anyone want to live by every piece of advice issued on the Oprah show for a year?
I have to admit to skipping over the monthly accounting most of the time. I just got bored with those pages.
Socially it is possibly a good experiment – not one I would EVER like to have a go at. My wallet couldn’t take it for a start.
Before I go any further I would like to say this.
Her husband is a saint !!!!!!!!
Have I watched Oprah?
Damn right I have.
Did I realise the woman had a lot of influence?
But I never realised just how insidious her influence is. It extends into so many areas of peoples’ lives.
Oprah can either tell us herself, or find an authority to bring on to her show for any situation in our lives.
We can learn how to live healthier, richer (both pocket-wise and spiritually), happier lives as long as we tune in on the right day.
When Oprah endorses something, sales go through the roof, or they get elected President of the USA.
The book certainly reinforces what I already knew, or thought I knew.
I wish I could say I closed the last page understanding what the experiment and book was all about. But all I was left with was thinking ‘what a strange way to live for a year – letting someone else make all your decisions.
Then I remembered being married for a while. Oops.
Still – if her book sells well, at least she won’t be so out of pocket.
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2010
This high-concept book of doing everything Oprah says for a year is a great idea--but suffers due to the chirpy personality of the author. Instead of this being an objective, critical view of the hundreds of things the talk show host asks her viewers to do, it ends up being a god-like worship experience where the author continually praises Winfrey without reason.
From the start Okrant goes overboard to tell how great Oprah Winfrey is. The author adores the successful TV star. The writer claims to try to retain neutrality yet says that "because of her philanthropic work and generosity to her audience, she is above reproach." At one point Okrant says of the talk host, "She sustains us with her presence"--are we talking about God's Holy Spirit or simply a woman whose goal was to be famous and has done it without the burden of marriage, children or even extended family?
The author makes the assumption that Oprah's every command should be followed, ignoring the fact that many of Oprah's suggestions are from her sponsors or staff. Winfrey herself doesn't select most of the items for her show or magazine--yes, she gets final approval but these are suggestions created by other people to fit within the Oprah branding image. They are often well-placed promotions by companies, where both Oprah and the guest know that they are there to market. Why does the author just buy into this scheme instead of uncovering it for what it is?
She not only makes Winfrey out to be god by listening to her every command, but she overestimates the amount of work Oprah does. She claims that the talk host is incredibly overworked and it "doesn't appear...she is able to take her own advice when it comes to achieving balance." Ummmm, Oprah has hundreds of workers at her beck and call who do most of her work for her. She can hop into a limo or private jet at any moment, have food prepared by those on her personal staff, and doesn't have to worry about the day-to-day concerns that we normal humans have. A lowly viewer can't do any of that. If Oprah's life is unbalanced, it's that she has too much money, too many homes, and too many staff members that results in a woman ruling a kingdom. Namely, she's not exactly struggling to get dinner on the table while holding down a full time job and handling three kids. Why the seven million viewers like Okrant deify Winfrey is the most disturbing part of this story.
The author makes the book mostly about herself and she's not a very interesting person. She constantly complains about not having enough money, trying to finish a graduate degree and attempting to stay healthy even though she has a terrible self-image. The whining gets old after about the first 25 pages and it continues throughout the book.
Some of the charts are interesting, where at the end of each month the author shows what specific thing Oprah asked the audience to do on a day and how Okrant fulfilled it. However, in almost every case she happily fulfills what are often minor suggestions that Winfrey certainly didn't mean to be grouped together and taken literally. A better method would have been to point out which suggestions were rather impractical, which were just throw-away lines and which were really meant to be taken seriously. The lack of perspective results in the author sounding either crazy or unintelligent.
For example, the charts clearly show that most of Oprah's programs deal with pushing a product (movie, book, clothing, etc.), yet about once a month the hypocritical host gives a sermonette on the dangers of consumerism or accumulating too much. (Oh, I get it--we need to declutter so we can acquire more things endorsed by Oprah!). She also has her monthly message on being "kind" or have "compassion," yet this is the woman whose former employees say she is a tyrant and behind the scenes footage of the show proves that there is little kindness when it comes to Oprah dealing with her underlings. (Oh, I get it--she is really preaching these messages to herself, trying to convince herself to be a better person.) All of this seems lost on the author, who just hands her brain over to Winfrey, admitting that she is even voting for Obama because Oprah told her to.
She also writes as if she personally was asked by Oprah to do something. "I've been urged by Oprah to make a pumpkin chiffon pie." To take Winfrey's pitchwoman pleas personally shows a lack of understanding of what the talk host is trying to do with her show. Oprah isn't always asking viewers to do these things because Winfrey likes them--she is promoting something to help the guest on the show. We now know that there are things Oprah markets on her program that she admittedly has never used before (and probably never will again).
It would have been better if someone like Vicki Abt would have tried the experiment. She is the woman who wrote an article (and later a book) in the 1990s that exposed Winfrey's program as a bit of a fraud. Oprah brought Abt on to try to refute the professor but couldn't. Instead Oprah ended up sharing with the audience that, "it's just a show." Oprah clearly made the point over and over that she isn't trying to befriend audience members and is just trying to make money while positively influencing people. Objective Abt should have written this.
When grouping all the suggestions together in a book like this one can see how absurd the talk show host is. The problem here is that the book's author doesn't really see what is so clear to the rest of us. The conclusion should have been that viewers are crazy to take Oprah seriously about just about anything. But while the author does some soul searching near the end and fears she has done Oprah a "disservice," Okrant ends by condemning the average people who contact her through her Web site. Most are Oprah lovers that want to get close to the queen, but others want to push their products or accuse the author of just writing a book to get on Winfrey's show. To see the author's venom toward average people, while always giving the talk show queen the benefit of the doubt in terms of pure motives, reveals Okrant's greatest flaw. Maybe she should have focused on the negative aspects of Oprah and her followers instead.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2010
This book feels padded even at 250 pages. The structure is twelve short chapters, with a chart at the end of each detailing Oprah's dictates, what the author did to fulfill them, and the time and money she spent to do so. The charts are reasonably entertaining--the author has some decent funny little comments for many of the tasks. The rest of the book (boring, unfunny vaguely comic stuff about the author's personal life interspersed with not very insightful insights about Oprah) is very weak. The book could have been hilarious if the author had really gone at the projects Oprah talks about with gusto and written about them in more detail. Like c'mon, Okrant, I could really give a damn about your marriage or your cat or your MFA program (these topics are discussed ad nauseam), but I'm dying to know how you managed to work a "fabulous chair" into your bathroom (never explained, alas). Media consumption is a big part of the regimen too and I would have loved some insightful commentary on the books or movies and what interests/anxieties/philosophies they reflect and how they fit into the Oprah lifestyle but...no. The books and movies mentioned typically get a one-word or one sentence reaction, sometimes the author describes buying the book but not reading it.
Of course the second half of this book could be great, I wouldn't know--started reading the whole thing, got bored, started reading just the charts and skimming the chapters, that took me to about June and then I gave up. To a really diehard Oprah fan this might be worth a read but I couldn't recommend it to anyone else.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2013
I didn't realize that this was an experiment to show that you'd go crazy if you followed every (and I mean every) piece of advice from a single source, regardless of the authority of that source. I must question the value of setting out to prove something so obvious. I believe that this would be the result regardless of whose advice you're following if you follow that advice slavishly without any filters like 'Does this make sense for me?' Or 'Will this make me happy?'
Also, I found that there was a lot about what didn't work, but not enough about what worked and why.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Living Oprah is a memoir that uses the structure of immersing oneself in a yearlong, life-changing project, a theme found also in "The Year of Living Biblically," "The Know It All," and "The Happiness Project." In the instance of Living Oprah, Robyn Okrant has decided to follow all of Oprah Winfrey's "best life" advice for a year.
Oprah's reach, holistic advice, her influence on women, and visibility makes Oprah a natural choice for Ms. Okrant's project. In January, the project begins with watching Oprah's TV program (even the repeats), subscribing to O magazine, reading the books Oprah recommends, taking on-line quizzes, cooking certain recipes, and doing the best life challenge exercise. This goes on month after month, with some activities becoming integrated into Ms. Orkant's routine, and others are a task that is done just one time.
As the project continues, Ms. Orkant's experiences positive and negative life changes. She is more physically fit, finds satisfaction in de-cluttering her life, discovered new meals she and her husband love, and has become more generous. Her blog detailing the project grows in popularity, leading to Ms. Orkant being featured in the newspaper, on the radio, and eventually traveling to New York City to appear on television. The downsides are that the project overtakes Ms. Orkant's life, takes time away from her family, and calls for her husband to sacrifice much more than they had thought.
Living Oprah is a very well written, thoughtful take on self-improvement, the impact of cultural icons, and how America views success. Ms. Okrant does a splendid job in approaching Oprah with open and honest curiosity, even when she struggles with advice that seems contradictory. Regardless of your opinion of Oprah Winfrey (I had not really given the topic much thought before reading this book) Living Oprah is an enjoyable memoir, a commentary on part of our pop culture, and offers insight about what is now the Oprah Winfrey industry.