Philanthropist and talk-show host, Oprah Winfrey, has finally let the word out on her newest pick for Oprah’s Book Club! Her self-titled “must-read” club can certainly be called a staple of American culture since she crafted and executed the idea in 1996. Her first pick twenty-two years ago was The Deep End of the Oceanby Jacquelyn Mitchard, and her newest pick is An American Marriageby Tayari Jones. Since June, Oprah fans have been waiting with bated breath for this announcement, and she guarantees you will not be disappointed by this read!
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An American Marriage is Jones’ fourth novel, and it follows two newlyweds: Roy and Celestial. After Roy is charged with a crime that he did not commit, he is thrown into prison for twelve years and his young wife is left alone and afraid. Celestial begins forming a close relationship with Roy’s old friend and best man, Andre, in an effort to find comfort during her suddenly dark days. Jones suggests that the novel is very much a love triangle, but also reimagines and redefines what we might think of as a traditional American love story. Jones also hopes that the novel will showcase the horrifying repercussions of what prison can do to a family and the loved ones left behind.
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An American Marriage is published by Algonquin Books, and Tayari Jones remains a professor at Rutgers-Newark. In addition to fully endorsing Jones’ newest novel, Oprah intends to produce a film adaptation through her production company, Harpo Films. Oprah has nothing but praise and admiration for the novelist’s latest work, and completely insists that you will not be disappointed by the love triangle that ensues after a hiccup in the system sends an innocent man to prison.
Summer is a great time to finish some of those books on your “to read” list. Kill two birds with one stone: read a ton of books AND leave the house to discuss them. Get your friends involved and start a book club!
1. Use an online calendar
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Use a calendar that is accessible to everyone, editable, and maybe even comes with reminders. It helps to make the meetings scheduled on the same day, whether that’s the first Friday of the month, or every 15th and 30th. Choose one that works for everyone. Because schedules can be hectic and ever changing, so it is important to keep the dates flexible, and an online calendar can allow for easy access and rescheduling for conflicts.
2. Allow each member to have a say in the books you read
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It takes all types. While your book club can all probably agree on at least one or two books, there are probably a few books people have never heard of or have no interest in. Keep an open mind when it comes to reviewing suggestions or creating the schedule. If it becomes difficult to choose literature, you could all pick a theme, such as all the books Lisa Simpson has read.
3. Have enough members
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Maybe you and your best friend have the best rapport of anyone that has ever existed. Maybe you like to hear from all types. Keep member numbers at a comfortable level, so that discussions aren’t bland, but so there also isn’t crowded. It could be weird if it’s just you and your aunt’s dog’s groomer if multiple people miss the same meeting for a monster truck rally (classic excuse). Many people choose four and up, but do whatever comfortably works for your group.
4. Have reliable readers
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You probably have B.S.’ed your way through a book report or two, and we all are thankful for SparkNotes at those times of need. That isn’t, however, a tool to use for a book club. Don’t think of the reading as homework or a job, but rather as a discussion topic and a fun hobby. If you’re a slower reader, you can set chapters to read for each meeting rather than the whole novel.
5. Use different settings and different hosts
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Maybe you all live near the same coffee shop, or really like one of your friend’s mansions the most. It is important to change settings, however, to keep it lively. If you consistently go to one person’s house, you could be asking for too much from just them. By changing hosts, you can make sure that everyone is giving the same amount.
6. The host is not the discussion leader and vice versa. Evenly divide responsibility
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Everyone needs a turn to talk. Everyone needs a turn to lead. Different people can give different input and opinions, no matter the book. An I.T. specialist is going to think “Windows ‘98 for Dummies” is a different read than your great-great-great-great grandma. Keep discussion flowing by changing speakers, and make sure all voices are heard. If one person is hogging the floor, create a flow by asking if anyone else has anything different to say. Make sure to keep conversation lively but not aggressive. We all get passionate about books.
7. A Note on Music, Food, etc.
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Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to food and music. That being said, it would be wise to keep music lyrics to a minimum to promote lively conversation. There are several fantastic instrumental songs in every genre (my favorite is Explosions in the Sky and Miles Davis). They don’t have to be instrumental, as long as they can keep conversation concentrated on the book. While “Baby Got Back” is a piece of artwork, it may not be the most appropriate for the situation. When feeding people, keep food easy to eat. Think about how people are going to be able to interact. With a sandwich, they can keep one hand free for the book. But with some burritos, you need both hands, a pile of napkins, and a bib.
Over her long and distinguished multi-hyphenate career, Oprah Winfrey has quickly become a major force in the publishing world thanks to her massively popular Oprah’s Book Club. Having your book chosen by Oprah is a dream-come-true for many authors, and the club has boosted—for better and for worse—the profiles of up-and-coming writers like Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad), James Frey (A Million Little Pieces), and Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections). Now, Winfrey’s working her special brand of publicizing magic again with her latest book club selection: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue.
Behold the Dreamers, Mbue’s 2016 debut, follows the lives of a young immigrant couple from Cameroon as they try to get by in 2008 financial crisis-era New York City. The book, Winfrey explained in her video announcement, explores “race and class, the economy, culture, immigration and the danger of the us-versus-them mentality” but also “family love, the pursuit of happiness, and what home really means.”
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Mbue, unsurprisingly, was over the moon about Winfrey’s choice to include her in this legendary circle of authors. “Fifteen years ago, I walked into a public library and borrowed my first Oprah’s Book Club selection — Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon,” she said. Deeply inspired, she “began writing without thinking much of where my writing would lead me.” Welcome to the club, Ms. Mbue!
Friendships, like books, are bound together with love. Day-to-day life can make it hard to keep in touch, especially if you and your friend live far apart (or you’re bad at keeping up with texting like me). That’s where books come in! There are a few ways that you can keep up with your pals through reading, and anyone can do it.
1) Pick a book to buddy read
Reading the same book will give you and your friend something to talk about as you’re going through all the emotions that come with a really good book! If you or your friend are lost or missed something important, you can fill each other in. It’s kind of like a private book club, which reminds me…
2) Start a book club
Getting a bunch of friends together every month to talk about a book can be a very rewarding experience. It’s also a good way to keep in touch with a bunch of people by catching up on each other’s lives — after you talk about the novel of course.
3) Exchange books
This is great for holidays, or if you can only get together every couple of months. Comb through your shelves and pick out something you think your friend would really like. They can do the same for you and have a good ol’ fashioned book swap!
4) Annotate the same copy – like Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, but with a book
Let’s say there’s a book you and your friend would be interested in, but it’s kind of intimidating. Grab one, and take notes in the margins about lines you like, if something confuses you, funny comments, or whatever you’re feeling. Then send it to your friend so they can do the same! It’s like a journal of your shared reading experience, which is pretty neat.
Let us know if you’ve used books to stay connected to your friends and how it worked out!