Kentucky authors Barbara Kingsolver (left) and Gwyn Hyman Rubio (right) are two of the writers whose books benefited from the Oprah effect.

The Oprah Effect

For years, one sure-fire way to land (or keep) a book on the bestseller list was to receive an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. From 1996 to 2011, the TV show host recommended books for her viewers to read and discuss. Over the years, her selections included novels, nonfiction, children’s books, and other genres.

Many authors dreamed of an appearance on her show and the subsequent and inevitable boost in sales. The “Oprah effect” was powerful. According to a 2005 article in Business Week, publishers estimated that her power to sell a book was anywhere from 20 to 100 times that of any other media personality.

Titles throughout the years have included Winfrey’s inaugural selection, The Deep End of the Ocean (Jacquelyn Mitchard), Night (Elie Wiesel), A New Earth (Eckhart Tolle), The Road (Cormac McCarthy), A Lesson before Dying (Ernest J. Gaines), and several selections by Toni Morrison. Oprah’s choices spanned newly released titles as well as books by famous authors of the past, including John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, and Charles Dickens. In 2012, Winfrey revived the book club with the selection of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Selected books by Kentucky authors include The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) and Icy Sparks (Gwyn Hyman Rubio).

Check out the complete list of Oprah’s Book Club selections online. How many have you read?

To receive the monthly Savvy Writer in your email in-box each month, send an email to

savvy writer