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Reading with Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America, 2nd Edition Paperback – April 1, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1557288738 ISBN-10: 1557288739 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press; 2 edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557288739
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557288738
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,227,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The impact of Oprah Winfrey's television book club is well known to everyone in the book business. Yet many among the literati assumed Oprah's picks were mediocre and resented the star's posturing as a tastemaker. In her lively, information-filled account of the club's history, Rooney, an award-winning poet and a writing instructor at Emerson College, defends Oprah as a genuine "intellectual force" who "promoted the bridging of the high–low chasm" in American literary life. Although Rooney confesses she found many picks unreadable for reasons she eloquently explains she points out the literary worth of selected novels by Toni Morrison, Jonathan Franzen, Rohinton Mistry and others. Rooney relates theoretical ideas on taste, literary value and cultural hierarchy to the social phenomenon of Oprah's club and focuses on every up and down in the face-off between Oprah and Franzen, saying each was disingenuous at times, and both missed an opportunity to look at larger questions of our literary culture. On the negative side, Rooney finds Oprah manipulative and inclined to interpret literary fiction in the reductive terms of autobiography and self-help. Ultimately, Rooney sees Oprah's Book Club (including its latest incarnation) as a positive effort. Although Rooney's sometimes awkward prose can get bogged down in anecdotal evidence and personal asides, she accurately captures the cultural unrest surrounding the Oprah Book Club and raises numerous thoughtful points about its significance.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Lively . . . accurately captures the cultural unrest surrounding the Oprah book club and raises numerous thoughtful points about its significance.”

—Publishers Weekly

“This is a highly readable book.”

—Library Journal

“Highly recommended.”

—Choice Magazine

“Rooney takes a steady, smart look at a situation that is both fascinating in its own right and deeply revealing about ‘how it is’ in our cultural life these days.”

—Sven Birkerts

More About the Author

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a nonprofit publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a three-person team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. A winner of the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine and the Gatewood Prize from Switchback Books, she is the author of six books of poetry and nonfiction. She lives in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tanya Abramovitch on January 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Without a doubt this book fills a hole, exploring the Oprah Book Club (OBC) in its near totality. Although Rooney makes insightful points about the Club, including critical and popular reactions to it, unfortunately, she incorporates things that weaken her credibility and detract from the overall quality of her study. For example, many of her statements, though perceptive, are repeated too often, such as how Oprah fails to acknowledge her status as an intellectual, or how the TV host does not engage in the essential discussion over the high-low brow cultural divide.

Another drawback in the text is when Rooney creates a personal stratification of high to low literary quality. The exercise would have been very useful, if not for the lowest rung. In trying to save herself through the use of "it's-my-own-personal-opinion-and-many-will-likely-disagree-with-me", the author's credibility is compromised when she places comics and pornography there. The added statements that there are some good quality comics and `pornography' (I think she meant erotica?), don't remedy the inappropriateness of the choices. Comics (or graphic novels as they are more commonly called), today are not so much the cheap and pulpy mass-produced rags of yore and they've become a well-respected medium, especially in the library world.

In the section of `awful' and `unreadable' Oprah books, Rooney serves up the list of her most hated OBC selections, together with her most loved. While certainly entitled to her opinion, the point of the exercise is lost. Why bother throwing personal and subjective assessments in if they don't add anything to the study? It is unclear whether Rooney set out to write her personal adventures with the OBC, or an objective semi-academic treatise on the OBC phenomenon.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Kozma on August 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
not that those things are contradictory, but I really had no idea what to expect when picking up this book. In fact, the cover and the title don't do justice to the content or the writing inside.

Instead of being simple description of the book club, how it works, or a description of Oprah, the book is an analysis of media culture in the late twentieth, early twenty-first century, told through the clear-eyed view of Rooney. And it's not that her account is unbiased but that, as with much of the best non-fiction and critical analysis, she is aware of her biases and let's the audience know and evaluate them as well.

In short, the book is very thoughtful, well-written, researchful, and interessante.
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Format: Paperback
Oprah's Book Club has inspired many people to read in the past several years. "Reading with Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America" is an examination of the book club and those who participate within it. Topics covered include the criticisms lobbied at Oprah's book club, the club's effects on the books it features, and Oprah's turn to contemporary fiction in recent years. The new second edition includes an expanded analysis of the James Frey scandal. "Reading with Oprah" is a must for anyone interested in how the club has affected the reading habits of America as a whole.
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