Oprah Goes Wild!

We know Oprah can be pretty polarizing. Lots of people love her and lots of people hate her — there doesn’t seem to be much in between. I’ve had customers who demanded every title in Oprah’s Book Club, and I’ve had customers who refused to buy any book that had her seal of approval printed on the cover, even if it was an author they loved, like Steinbeck or Franzen.

But on one point there’s no debate: Oprah boosts book sales. And now that she’s announced the return of her book club, publishers and authors are excited. Not as excited as they’d be if Oprah was still on network television, but still … they’re pretty pumped. And we at Church Street are excited, too. Not because we necessarily love (or hate) Oprah, but because we’re a fan of anyone who can get people reading and talking to each other about books.



The first book she’s chosen? Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. Now, I’ll be honest. Both Cal and I were underwhelmed by Wild when we read it. She’s a lovely writer, but the book just went on too long. At the end of the book, Strayed admits that she didn’t have the overwhelming insights she’d thought she’d have on the trail — and, as readers, we felt a little cheated by the lack of meditation, especially because it’s 300 pages long. Our main take-aways were 1) her feet hurt a lot, and 2) she really liked Snapple lemonade. And we thought she could’ve told the same story in a more compelling way in 150 pages.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for good writing, even if the narrative’s a little weak. And this book is a safe pick for Oprah’s first title — it’s kind of the Eat, Pray, Love of camping books. I love that Wild will bring the beauty of nature to readers who aren’t necessarily able to experience trail hiking, and I think the conversations it could spark might bring life to the story that’s less than powerful when the book is read alone.

All in all, we’re happy Oprah’s back, and we’re happy she’s chosen a new author to spotlight. Looking for a way to open your reading up with discussions and fun background interviews and perks? Oprah might be just what you’re looking for.


Carrie Rollwagen is co-owner and book buyer at Church Street Coffee & Books


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