Barbara's Random Thoughts

Friday, April 29, 2005

Tell us what to read, Oprah!

Perhaps you've heard of the recent letter to Oprah from the "Word of Mouth" writers, begging her to start recommending contemporary fiction again. I read about it on Publisher's Lunch last week, and rolled my eyes. Then I came across this excellent post on Jennifer Weiner's blog.

Let me just say that I've always been annoyed by Oprah's Book Club. Sure, it's great that she's getting people to read who might not otherwise do so. And she's recommended some really great books. But I get so frustrated at people who look solely to their media idols to dictate what they wear, eat, buy, read, and think. And that's what this letter smacks of for me.

Weiner says it well: "She wasn't able to turn her viewers into readers as much as she turned them into consumers, happy to pull out their wallets and buy whatever she endorsed, whether it was diet tips, dating advice, or a novel."

She goes on to say: "Worse, the W.O.M. authors imagine readers as a group of gullible, tractable, desperate pinheads, wandering like little children in the big, bad aisles of their local bookshop without Oprah to guide them."

Indeed: "Readers have trouble finding contemporary books they'll like. They, the readers, need you."

We don't know what to read without you, Oprah!! Sheesh, people, she cranked out 48 book recommendations before she left off recommending contemporary fiction. 48 books by 40 different authors. I'd think that would give her book club devotees a head start on finding contemporary fiction they like. I find that just one good book recommendation turns me on to a bunch of others. Read other books by that author who wrote that Oprah's book you liked so much. There are author blurbs on book jackets...check out the authors who liked the book you liked. Amazon has its little feature: "If you liked this, you might like this!" All of these will lead you to other books, which will lead you to other books...and so on and so forth. Yes, there are a ton of new titles out there to navigate. But to lament that you don't know what to read because Oprah won't tell you? Ugh. Readers surely cannot be completely lost in the morass of contemporary fiction without Oprah to lead the way.

And I sincerely wonder how much self-interest is wrapped up in this letter. "Oprah, recommend more contemporary fiction" has a little bit of a subtext = "Oprah, recommend our books!"

Ok. End rant.
| posted by Barbara | 8:14 PM