Since its beginnings in 1996, Oprah’s Book Club has become the go-to source for your next best read. More than a television mogul, Oprah is now one of our most influential literary tastemakers, launching author careers and skyrocketing books to the top of the bestseller lists. For more than two decades, the Oprah book club list has introduced 84 titles to our bookshelves, reigniting a passion for reading and sometimes inciting more than a little bit of controversy with her choices.
Of course we love Oprah for all the unforgettable TV moments (couch-jumping Tom Cruise, anyone?)—but it’s her advocacy for diverse, unheard stories that we love most. And with the recent choice to bring back her beloved book club to the small screen with Apple TV+, there's never been a better time to dive back into her past picks.
If you love Oprah and want to dig through all of her book recommendations, you may be wondering the best place to start. We’ve categorized all of Oprah’s Book Club picks to make it easy. There’s something for every reader on the list. Which means…You get a book, you get a book, everyone gets a book!
This list was updated on 6/16/20, with the addition of Deacon King Kong by James McBride. Set in 1960s New York, the novel follows the aftermath of a cranky old deacon shooting a drug dealer in a local housing project, and how the event affected everyone involved, including the black and Latinx witnesses, the police, white neighbors, and the deacon himself.
If you need some perspective on your own family drama.
From multigenerational sagas to African American life in the South, these books explore the enduring effects of our actions on the ones we love and, like these books about dysfunctional families, remind you that your quarrelsome holiday dinners aren’t that bad.
Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue
"Underneath it all pumps the heart and soul of family love, the pursuit of happiness, and what home really means." —Oprah Winfrey
While I Was Gone, by Sue Miller
“A spellbinding novel of love and betrayal that explores what it means to be a good wife.” —Oprah.com
River, Cross My Heart, by Breena Clarke
“Resonates with ideas, impassioned lyricism, and poignant historical detail as it captures an essential part of the African-American experience in our century.” —Oprah.com
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
“I promise it will grab you from the first sentence.” —Oprah Winfrey
A Map of the World, by Jane Hamilton
A bestselling “maze of guilt and doubt culminating in… [a] family’s shattering downfall.” —Oprah.com
Drowning Ruth, by Christina Schwarz
“Love, loss, guilt, lies…Hauntingly narrated and grippingly paced” —Oprah.com
We Were the Mulvaneys, by Joyce Carol Oates
“I read this book over a year ago, but this family still haunts me.” —Oprah Winfrey
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
“This book is a masterpiece. It’s an epic family saga—it’s got everything—sex and love, even rock n’ roll.” —Oprah Winfrey
Midwives, by Chris Bohjalian
“Consistently engages, moves, and challenges our ways of thinking.” —Oprah.com
Fall on Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald
“Many times during the reading of Fall on Your Knees, I would say, ‘How can that be happening now?’ And then I’d say, ‘It’s a book. It’s a book. It’s a book.’” —Oprah Winfrey
I Know This Much is True, by Wally Lamb
“It’s not just a book, it’s a life experience.” —Oprah Winfrey
If you’re fascinated by the power of unconditional love.
Nothing is stronger than the bond between a parent and their child, but the intensity of that relationship often manifests in a variety of ways. The below books portray parent-child love in all its complex and heartrending glory.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis
“This book was so astonishing, it left me speechless.” —Oprah Winfrey
Songs in Ordinary Time, by Mary McGarry Morris
“[A] masterful epic of the everyday, illuminating the kaleidoscope of lives that tell the compelling story of this unforgettable family.” —Oprah.com
Black and Blue, by Anna Quindlen
“[A] beautifully written, heart-stopping story.” —Oprah.com
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
“It’s unlike any book I have chosen.” —Oprah Winfrey
Jewel, by Bret Lott
“[D]efines the intensity of a mother-child relationship and the depth of family love.” —Oprah.com
The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard
“The Deep End of the Ocean will make you catch your breath. It will make you thankful. It will make you think. It will make you feel.” —Oprah Winfrey
If you’re looking for an unconventional love story.
While these novels aren’t your classic romance books, they are profoundly beautiful, just like these dreamy love poems. Each one sheds light on the power of romantic love: how it can redeem and condemn us, hurt and heal us—and drive us to do things we never imagined.
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
“The novel redefines the traditional American love story—it’s really a love triangle—and places it inside a world that a lot of people don’t know about, but impacts all of us in really big ways.” —Oprah Winfrey
Ruby, by Cynthia Bond
“I have never read a book like this before. To say that it is deep or profound—it doesn’t even really begin to describe it.” —Oprah Winfrey
A Virtuous Woman, by Kaye Gibbons
“Weaving this strong, tightly knit love story in alternating chapters, the two richly cadenced Southern voices explore their vastly differing backgrounds, troubled histories, and their unlikely but loving marriage.” —Oprah.com
The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink
“A parable of German guilt and atonement and a love story of stunning power.” —Oprah.com
Gap Creek, by Robert Morgan
“At turns poetic and gritty…A must for fans of Cold Mountain.” —Oprah.com
Open House, by Elizabeth Berg
“A love story about what can blossom between a man and a woman, and within a woman herself.” —Oprah.com
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“This is one of the greatest love stories I have ever read.” —Oprah Winfrey
If you’re interested in how we’re shaped by our pasts.
What is it about going home that rips open old wounds? As the characters in these Oprah picks can attest, confronting our ghosts can be painful—but it can also lead to personal growth and new possibilities.
The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
“[A] comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes. Richly realistic, darkly hilarious and deeply humane.” —Oprah.com
Here on Earth, by Alice Hoffman
“The dramatic and lyrical accounting of the joys of love, as well as the destruction love can release.” —Oprah.com
Breath, Eyes, Memory, by Edwidge Danticat
“[B]ears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.” —Oprah.com
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, by Pearl Cleage
“[A]fter more than a decade of elegant pleasures and luxe living, Ava has come home, her fabulous career and power plans smashed to bits on one dark truth… Ava Johnson has tested positive for HIV.” —Oprah.com
A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines
“[S]ometimes simply choosing to resist the expected is an act of heroism.” —Oprah.com
The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve
“[Kathryn] faces shocking revelations about the secrets a man can keep and the actions a woman is willing to take.” —Oprah.com
If you like touching stories about friendships and community.
Friendships can be found in the most unlikely places, and the way they evolve can be surprising too. These books explore the families we choose, and how our friends—beyond offering their support—can give us a greater knowledge of ourselves.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
“I love this book! … It’s a great, great read.” —Oprah Winfrey
Mother of Pearl, by Melinda Haynes
In 1999 Oprah asked Haynes, “What is this book about?” to which Haynes replies, “It’s about finding self.” —Oprah.com
A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
“I’ve never encountered pages that took me so far, and removed me from my own way of life and way of thinking the way A Fine Balance did.” —Oprah Winfrey
Sula, by Toni Morrison
“Her stories are fiction, but nowhere will you find greater truths about life. She laid the foundation of my love for reading…” —Oprah Winfrey
Tara Road, by Maeve Binchy
“Having learned a great deal, about themselves and about each other…[two women] find that they have become, firmly and forever, good friends.” —Oprah.com
Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts
“It will make you believe in the strength of friendship, the goodness of down-to-earth people, and the healing power of love.” —Oprah.com
Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout
This Pulitzer Prize-winning follow up to Olive Kittredge was chosen because Oprah fell in love with the character "despite her flaws." —Oprahmag.com
If you’re a champion for the underdog (or know what it means to overcome).
These characters pursue their dreams of success and freedom amidst the oppression imposed by their sex, race, religion, or social class.
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
“It is impossible to read this book and not come away thinking differently about our status as women and about all the unsung heroines who play a role in getting us to where we are.” —Oprah Winfrey
Paradise, by Toni Morrison
“Richly imagined and elegantly composed.” —Oprah.com
Cane River, by Lalita Tademy
“I think what [Lalita was] able to do with this story is open the door for a lot of people who want to trace their own roots or look at what their heritage, what that legacy has meant for them.” —Oprah Winfrey
Vinegar Hill, by A. Manette Ansay
In a strictly religious Midwestern town, a woman “begins to consider her own desires and dreams as well.” —Oprah.com
The Rapture of Canaan, by Sheri Reynolds
One young woman must “face with sudden clarity the things she must do for the sake of her own life, and her child’s,” in her “isolated southern religious community.” —Oprah.com
House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus III
“[A] devastating exploration of the American Dream gone awry.” —Oprah.com
American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
Though this book's success immediately drew controversy from critics, Oprah "was in from the very first sentence of the book." As she explains it, "I thought this humanized that migration process in a way that nothing else I'd ever felt or seen had."
If you’re a fan of young heroes and heroines, like Scout Finch and Holden Caulfield.
Mixing honesty with humor, these coming-of-age tales follow young men and women as they come to terms with the unpredictable world they live in—and find their place within it.
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
“I say with certainty there would have been no Oprah’s Book Club if this woman had chosen not to share her love of words with the world.” —Oprah Winfrey
The Book of Ruth, by Jame Hamilton
“Told from the perspective of a simple, naive woman—in describing the events of her life, [Ruth] reveals perhaps more about herself than she is aware.” —Oprah.com
Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons
“Against all odds, Ellen never gives up her belief that there is a place for her in the world, a home which will satisfy all her longing for love, acceptance, and order.” —Oprah.com
Back Roads, by Tawni O’Dell
“Heartbreaking and at times humorous…sure to mesmerize readers.” —Oprah.com
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
“It’s so engaging, so gripping, so epic…I think that this is right up there with the greatest American novels ever written.” —Oprah Winfrey
White Oleander, by Janet Fitch
“Page after page, I fell in love with a story that deeply moved me.” —Oprah Winfrey
The Meanest Thing to Say, by Bill Cosby
“This book shows your child that there are ways to resolve conflicts with other children without losing face or resorting to violence.” —Oprah.com
The Treasure Hunt, by Bill Cosby
“It is gratifying to watch a child’s sense of pride grow by leaps and bounds as he gains a sense of mastery using new skills…Keep on, Little Bill!” —Oprah.com
The Best Way to Play, by Bill Cosby
“[T]he rewards of children’s active, creative play last a lifetime. The Best Way to Playoffers your child an example of great way to have fun—using TV instead of being used by it.” —Oprah.com
If you aren’t afraid to shout out what makes you unique, OPRAAAAAAH!-style.
With their insight on mental health, physical illness, and racial prejudice, these stories question our common perceptions of normalcy and beauty.
She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
“Makes us laugh and wince with recognition and reminds us that despite the pain we endure and cause, we must find the courage to love again.” —Oprah.com
Stones from the River, by Ursula Hegi
“A story of secrets, parceled out masterfully by Trudi — and by Ursula Hegi — as they reveal the truth about living through unspeakable times.” —Oprah.com
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
“With its vivid evocation of the feat and loneliness at the heart of a child’s yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment, The Bluest Eye remains one of Toni Morrison’s most powerful, unforgettable novels.” —Oprah.com
Icy Sparks, by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
“A fresh, original, and completely redeeming novel about learning to overcome others’ ignorance and celebrate the differences that make each of us unique.” —Oprah.com
If you’re looking for a dose of real-life inspiration.
Oprah may be a role model to millions of people, but have you ever wondered who’s inspired her own Aha! moments? Here are her non-fiction favorites (including one that caused quite a stir 2006), which have impacted her perspective of the world and life.
Hidden Valley Road, by Robert Kolker
"A riveting true story of an American family that reads like a medical detective journey. It reveals the shame, denial, shock, confusion and misunderstanding of mental illness at a time when no one was really sure what schizophrenia was or how to treat it.” —Oprah Winfrey
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
“It is Michelle Obama's personal story, of course, but I believe it's going to spark within you the desire to think about your own becoming.” —Oprah Winfrey
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, by Anthony Ray Hinton
“He is a remarkable storyteller...You will be swept away into this unbelievable, dramatic true story.” —Oprah Winfrey
The Heart of a Woman, by Maya Angelou
“She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace.” —Oprah Winfrey
Night, by Elie Wiesel
“Required reading for all of humanity.” —Oprah Winfrey
A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey
Possibly one of the greatest controversies in Oprah history, Frey’s memoir was discovered to be more fantasy than fact.
The Measure of a Man, by Sidney Poitier
“It’s a beautifully crafted book, written like poetry.” —Oprah Winfrey
A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle
“One of the most important subjects…of our time…I don’t think there’s anything more important than awakening and also knowing what your purpose is.” —Oprah Winfrey
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
“Here’s what I got from reading and meeting Cheryl Strayed: No matter where you are in your climb in life, no matter what you’re doing, you have to keep getting yourself up every day.” —Oprah Winfrey
Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
“I read it as a testament to the power of vulnerability. Through it, Glennon shows us the clearest meaning of ‘To thine own self be true.’” —Oprah Winfrey
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail, by Malika Oufkir
“People read the book and they are changed by it—enlightened by it—opened up by it.” —Oprah Winfrey
If you want to learn about a time, place, or people different from your own.
Oprah likes books that open her eyes to new cultures, experiences, and ideas. The following titles expose the hardships of foreign worlds (real or imagined) while giving voice to the people who often go unheard.
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
“Every now and then a book comes along that reaches the marrow of your bones, settles in, and stays forever. This is one.” —Oprah Winfrey
Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende
“[A] rich and spirited historical novel.” —Oprah.com
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
“[T]he clash of cultures, the attainment of self awareness, the struggle to overcome stifling conventions, the preservation of heritage…resound in this ambitious and towering indictment of imperialism and unchecked cultural arrogance.” —Oprah.com
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
“It made me think about my own life differently, reading that book, the experience of reading that book. What a treasure.” —Oprah Winfrey
Say You’re One of Them, by Uwem Akpan
“[M]asterfully both captures the innocence and the horror of the unimaginable events these children witness.” —Oprah Winfrey
Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton
“[C]aptures the very essence of South Africa in transition from a rural, tribal nation of spiritual heritage to a modern country of big cities, violence and upheaval.” —Oprah Winfrey
The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"I have not felt a way about this book since Beloved. I knew early on the book was going to cut me up. I ended up with my soul pierced." —Oprah Winfrey
Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
"In a moment when our country roils with righteous anger and grief, Deacon King Kong reminds us that when we come together as a community in compassion and empathy, our love triumphs." —Oprah Winfrey
If you’re ready to “finally see what all the fuss is about.”
Whether they’re collecting dust on your bookshelf or you’ve read their plot summaries on Wikipedia, Oprah is here to tell you that these timeless classics are far from snooze-fests.
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
“The novel’s sense of urgency and intimacy will draw you in and propel you through one of the most tumultuous times in history.” —Oprah.com
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
It’s the perfect summer read…a novel so rich and full of drama you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough!” —Oprah Winfrey
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“As steamy, dense and sensual as the jungle that surrounds the surreal town of Macondo!” —Oprah Winfrey
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
“Tolstoy weaves an extravagant web.” —Oprah.com
The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck
“[Buck’s words] evoke the simple beauty of the characters and the harsh mystery of China’s ancient culture.” —Oprah.com
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
A “dark and heartrending tale.” —Oprah.com
The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
“Considered [William Faulkner’s] first work of genius.” —Oprah.com
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
“An unforgettable tale of fate and a chance encounter between two strangers that radically and arbitrarily alters the lives of everyone around them.” —Oprah.com
Light in August, by William Faulkner
“One of Faulkner’s masterpieces.” —Oprah.com