The best thing about Oprah going off the air is that she will stop recommending bad novels to people too lazy to decide what they want to read.
Since 1996, Oprah has chosen 65 selections for her book club that have engaged, enlightened, entertained, bored and baffled readers. Other than an overabundance of "I'm-a-victim-poor-poor-me" type of stories, there is the out-and-out fraudulent travesty of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.
Unfortunately, Oprah has bought completely the elite literary sham that for a book to be "taken seriously" it must be overwrought, self-indulgent and mainly ... boring. However, she did occasionally choose a great book, probably by accident.
H I T S
A LESSON BEFORE DYING by Ernest K. Gaines. A legitimate classic. Should be read as a companion with To Kill A Mockingbird.
TARA ROAD by Maeve Binchy. Finally, a fun, uplifting book. Oprah should have chosen more than one Binchy novel, instead of the 4 by Toni Morrison, 2 by Wally Lamb, Jane Hamilton, and Kaye Gibbons.
THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers. One of the first "adult" novels I read as a teenager that blew me away.
AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner. Classic Faulkner weirdness.
NIGHT by Elie Weisel. A genuinely great book.
THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett. Possible the best book Oprah chose. Follett's masterpiece.
EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck. One of Steinbeck's books (not my first choice) that could have been chosen.
A TALE OF TWO CITIES BY Charles Dickens. The best Dickens book that Oprah could have chosen.
M I S S E S
THE BOOK OF RUTH by Jane Hamilton. A depressing mess.
SONG OF SOLOMON by Toni Morrison. Like everything Morrison writes, it's messy, often unintelligible and perfectly worthy of a Nobel Prize.
THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN by Jacquelyn Mitchard. A TV Movie-of-the-Week idea that somehow caught Oprah's attention.
ELLEN FOSTER by Kaye Gibbons. A short novel (144 pages) that seems longer than Gone With The Wind.
SHE'S COME UNDONE by Wally Lamb. Here's a two word review: IT SUCKS!
THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver. An absolutely incoherent mess.
THE ROAD by Cormac MacCarthy. An awful mess. An example of a literary snob thinking he's being clever when he's really just re-cycling ideas that have been done before. The Road is filled with cliques stolen from (much better) end-of-the-world novels by science fiction writers (gasp!)
A L T E R N A T E S U G G E S T I O N S
CANNERY ROW and SWEET THURSDAY by John Steinbeck over EAST OF EDEN.
ZOMBIE by Joyce Carol Oates over WE WERE THE MULVANEYS.
CAT'S CRADLE by Kurt Vonnegut.
CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller.
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card.