Anyone with a television set (by no means a given anymore) and network reception (ditto), has probably not escaped the fact that this is Oprah’s last season. Her most recent Book Club selection – announced during her show featuring Jonathan Franzen, post-controversy – were not one, but two novels by Charles Dickens.
The Oprah Book Club paperback version combining A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations, clocks in at a whopping 848 pages (oh, the serial novelist!). Oprah has picked classics in the past, East of Eden, As I Lay Dying, and Anna Karenina have made the list. At least Dickens won’t have an opinion on the matter, though I suspect if he were still alive, he’d be all for a wider audience. And I’m all for people having any occasion to read and discuss fiction.
This has gotten me thinking about how book clubs select books, since presumably everyone’s reading time has limits. I’ve been in several, and often the group sets arbitrary rules: nothing that isn’t out in paperback; has to be a book no one’s read; for every contemporary book, we read a classic. If you’re in a book group, or have been in the past, what element made it successful? I always appreciate reading a book and knowing I’ll have a room full of people to discuss it with when I finish, since reading is often a solitary game. You’re over the moon about the Grace Paley stories you just picked up, but can’t find someone to geek out with over them. Ah, well.