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The Best Oprah Book Club Book

Last updated on November 4, 2019

We looked at the top 10 Oprah Book Club Books and dug through the reviews from 121 of the most popular review sites including Best Products, Oprah, No Wasted Ink, The Oprah Magazine, Literary Ladies Guide, We Need to Talk About Books and more. The result is a ranking of the best Oprah Book Club Books.

Best Oprah Book Club Book

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Our Picks For The Top Oprah Book Club Books

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall

Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours

Overall Take

Compelling Historical FictionA poignant novel that brings a difficult point in history to life.

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Arlene’s Book Club, Huff Post, Saturday Nite Reader, Shreveport Times, Penguin Random House, Good Reads and 11 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon, Walmart and Target.
Pros
" This character driven book is definitely worth the read. It is compelling and a page-turner. The story line is based on the real historical facts which makes the story interesting."
Cons
"I would have trouble with the alternative chapters. I don’t really enjoy them."

Ernest J. Gaines

A Lesson Before Dying

Overall Take

Powerful Tale of InjusticeA historical fiction tale that explores racism and heroism in 1940s Louisiana.

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Best Products, Publishers Weekly, ByBlacks, Kirkus Reviews, Spirituality and Practice and 3 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" Another wonderful read by Gaines. Gaines is an author to be trusted, he knows exactly how to handle his reading audience. He sure can stir the emotions but he also stirs the mind."

K.L Randis

Spilled Milk

Overall Take

An Empowering ReadA riveting story about a young girl surviving child abuse, based on the author's life.

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Always Write, Nomadic SA Chick, Library Thing. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" A very insightful view of what she went through and how the system "works"...or doesn't work. Unbelievable resiliency displayed throughout this book."
Cons
"This was an incredibly difficult book to get through, for a couple of reasons. For me the biggest issue was the subject content. It gave me nightmares."
  The Best Value

Wally Lamb

She's Come Undone

Overall Take

Coming-of-Age TaleA funny and ambitious novel about a young woman's personal struggles.

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, miss.shelby.diane, CCHS Press, Library Thing, In-Between Life, Life, Army Wife Style and 3 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon and Walmart.
Pros
" This is one of my all time favorite books. I just recently reread the book and fell in love all over again."
Cons
"I did not like Dolores Price very much. I felt pity for her, but on the other hand I wanted to shake her to get some life into her again."
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Expert Reviews Included

In addition to our expert reviews, we also incorporate feedback and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: Best Products, Oprah, No Wasted Ink, The Oprah Magazine, Literary Ladies Guide.

186,098

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Target and 7 others.

Our experts reviewed the top 10 Oprah Book Club Books and also dug through the reviews from 121 of the most popular review sites including Best Products, Oprah, No Wasted Ink, The Oprah Magazine, Literary Ladies Guide, We Need to Talk About Books and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best Oprah Book Club Books.

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The Best Overall

Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours

Our Expert Score
9.2
17 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.4
11,251 user reviews
Our Take

This award-winning novel places its characters squarely in the crosshairs of the Tennessee Children's Home in 1939. It chronicles the practices of Georgia Tan, who used the home as a front for child trafficking. It won the Southern Book Prize in 2017.

What other experts liked
This character driven book is definitely worth the read. It is compelling and a page-turner. The story line is based on the real historical facts which makes the story interesting.
- Arlene's Book Club
May 31, 2018 | Full review
It is impossible not to get swept up in this near perfect novel. It invades your heart from the very first pages and stays there long after the book is finished.
- Huff Post
June 6, 2017 | Full review
If you are not sure what you are reading next…make it this. You must. You simply must! I read this book in 2 days, I craved reading it during any free time I had and needed to reach its ending.
- Saturday Nite Reader
January 4, 2018 | Full review
Every now and then a novel comes along that sweeps me off my reading feet. “Before We Were Yours,” by Lisa Wingate, is such a book.
- Shreveport Times
April 19, 2017 | Full review
THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—A New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller.
- Penguin Random House
This was a tragic, and often depressing, story. However, I am so glad that I read it. It is an important story and one that needed to be told. It definitely isn't a rainbows and unicorns type of story, but...
- Good Reads
Wingate is a compelling storyteller, steeping her narrative with a forward momentum that keeps the reader as engaged and curious as Avery in her quest.
- Publishers Weekly
It is a gut punching, sad, true life read that you can’t help but end up smiling at the end. Despite the horrible events that happen surrounding children, it still makes you feel good with the present day ending....
- Book In The Bag
Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book. Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but...
- Kirkus Reviews
March 21, 2017 | Full review
Will grip your heart and inspire you to stand up against the social injustices that still define our country far too much.
- Peggy's Hope 4U
June 30, 2018 | Full review
Adept enough at winding past and present to keep the pages turning. “Before We Were Yours” gives us memorable characters who bring to life a fascinating fictional account of a historical episode that should not be forgotten.
- The Post and Courier
August 20, 2017 | Full review
Would I recommend this book? Yes. I really liked Rill’s part of the story. It highlights a part of American history that is less than savory. It is an emotional read.
- Occasionally Scientific
May 22, 2018 | Full review
Readers will be intrigued to see if they can put the pieces of this familial puzzle together before the principals do.
- Chanticleer Book Reviews
I enjoyed every bit of this book. Rill paints amazing pictures of life around her. I was able to picture, feel, and smell everything.
- The Everyday Mom Life
March 22, 2018 | Full review
Elegant prose drives the story deep into the reader's heart. An excellent choice for book clubs who enjoy historical fiction, women's fiction, and literary fiction.
- Library Thing
The dual storyline style of writing was necessary to the plot for a dose of lightness amid the darkness of Rill’s story. They were knitted beautifully together to tell us a story about the strength of family bonds, the power...
- Good Book Fairy
June 8, 2017 | Full review
Set in two different eras, Before We Were Yours takes a multigenerational look at the reach of family. Based on the infamous Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal, it's filled with infuriating passages, but is, ultimately, an uplifting tale of loyalty...
- Wiki EZ Vid
June 13, 2019 | Full review
What other experts didn't like
I would have trouble with the alternative chapters. I don’t really enjoy them.
- Saturday Nite Reader
January 4, 2018 | Full review
Read for a book club, which is the only reason I didn't roll my eyes and toss it aside two chapters in. In different hands, this story may have been compelling, and every now and then, Wingate flirts with a...
- Good Reads
The feel-good ending can be seen from miles away
- Publishers Weekly
Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.
- Kirkus Reviews
March 21, 2017 | Full review
We don’t quite get the depth of emotion that I think the author intended to evoke. The plot here, especially Avery’s budding romance, is predictable and less-than-juicy.
- The Post and Courier
August 20, 2017 | Full review
The other annoying part was the romance between Trent and Avery. It felt forced and was unnecessary to the larger story. Even though Avery is 30, she wasn’t portrayed as a 30 year old. I felt like she acted more...
- Occasionally Scientific
May 22, 2018 | Full review

The Best Bang For Your Buck

Wally Lamb She’s Come Undone

Expert Summarized Score
8.9
9 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.3
7,105 user reviews
Our Take

Wally Lamb's 1992 novel won major accolades. It follows protagonist Dolores Price from age 13 to adulthood. Her relatable struggles with weight, loneliness and sense of self will ring true for many readers.

What other experts liked
This is one of my all time favorite books. I just recently reread the book and fell in love all over again.
- Good Reads
This is one of the most, if not the most, inspiring and moving stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I honestly cannot put into words how beautiful this tale of loss, acceptance, courage, and fate truly is.
- miss.shelby.diane
October 14, 2015 | Full review
This story captivated me. It was sad, funny, and made me question my life choices all at the same time. Wally Lamb has the ability to really suck the reader into a story and make them feel like they belonged as part of the book, while also keeping true to...
- CCHS Press
December 9, 2015 | Full review
One of my ultimate favorites. This story has always stuck in my mind. The depth of this novel is awe inspiring. Wally Lamb truly knows how to capture a women's voice. Highly recommend.
- Library Thing
This book has so many themes, that I'm sure everyone will find something they can relate to. It's definitely a book I would recommend.
- In-Between Life
July 7, 2014 | Full review
As the book ended though, I had a smile on my face, not because I was finally finished reading it (although I was more than happy about that) but because Dolores found what she was looking for.
- Life, Army Wife Style
March 20, 2013 | Full review
"There are at least two surprises in store for readers of Lamb's memorable debut novel. One is the author's sex. This male writes so convincingly in the voice of a female, tracing her life from 4 to 40, that you have to keep looking back at the jacket picture just...
- Best Products
June 24, 2019 | Full review
Lamb's novel chronicles the life of Dolores Price, a 13-year-old that welcomes womanhood and is eventually dead-set on conquering her insecurities in this 1996 selection.
- The Oprah Magazine
September 26, 2018 | Full review
I could not put her down. I couldn’t bear to tear my eyes from her vulnerable and honest words.
- Teen Ink
August 15, 2013 | Full review
What other experts didn't like
It's like the author went to a women's shelter and picked up a pamphlet on everything bad that can happen to women. Then he went home and wrote a book in which all of those things happen to the main character or one of her family members or friends. This...
- Good Reads
I did not like Dolores Price very much. I felt pity for her, but on the other hand I wanted to shake her to get some life into her again.
- Library Thing
I have never read a more depressing book in my life. It’s as if Wally Lamb was trying way too hard to make us feel bad for Dolores, but I just ended up feeling more and more angry as the novel drug on; enraged even. Every bad thing that could...
- Life, Army Wife Style
March 20, 2013 | Full review

Overall Product Rankings

1. Lisa Wingate Before We Were Yours

Overall Score: 9.5
Reviews Included: 25

2. Ernest J. Gaines A Lesson Before Dying

Overall Score: 9.2
Reviews Included: 14

3. K.L Randis Spilled Milk

Overall Score: 9.2
Reviews Included: 8

4. Pearl S. Buck The Good Earth

Overall Score: 9.1
Reviews Included: 13

5. Wally Lamb She’s Come Undone

Overall Score: 9.1
Reviews Included: 16

6. Tayari Jones An American Marriage

Overall Score: 9.1
Reviews Included: 35

7. Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex

Overall Score: 8.8
Reviews Included: 12

8. Imbolo Mbue Behold the Dreamers

Overall Score: 8.6
Reviews Included: 26

9. Inglath Cooper That Month in Tuscany

Overall Score: 8.3
Reviews Included: 9

10. Lisa Grunwald Time After Time

Overall Score: 7.2
Reviews Included: 12

Our Oprah Book Club Book Buying Guide

Reading more books is a common personal goal, but it’s tough to accomplish without some good recommendations. In 1996, Oprah Winfrey decided that it was time to give her viewers some much-needed guidance on their next book choice.

Oprah’s Book Club started off as a new segment in Oprah’s hit daily talk show. She’d choose one book per month (usually a novel) for her viewers to devour and discuss. The segment was a massive hit, and Oprah’s power in the publishing world remains unsurpassed. One expert estimated that a recommendation by Oprah increased a book’s sales by 20 to 100 times the normal rate. 

During the club’s initial 15-year run, Oprah selected 70 books. They ranged from older classics, like Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” to indie titles like Breena Clarke’s “River, Cross My Heart” and Tawni O’Dell’s “Back Roads.”

Oprah shuttered her original book club in 2011, but revived it in 2012 as an online version called Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Even with her long record of excellent recommendations, it might still be tricky to find an amazing book that works for you.

If it’s been a while since you last sat down with a book and you want to get the most for your money, take a hint from Socrates: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” Your own interests and life experiences will dictate which books you’re drawn to and which ones you set down after the first chapter.

Do you have children who are growing into young adults (or are you reminiscing about your own adolescence)? A coming-of-age tale among Oprah’s picks might be a good fit for your bedside table. Interested in exploring your family’s roots? Look for a novel featuring people with your background set hundreds of years ago. Itching for a story from a powerful writer? Check out the Classics section on Amazon and immerse yourself in a legendary book. 

Of course, writing and reading are meant to build bridges. You’ll miss out if you only select stories that directly relate to your current or past experiences. Look for Oprah’s Book Club selections by authors from a different race, ethnicity or socioeconomic class to expand your horizons. Stories that you couldn’t even imagine experiencing will open your mind and create empathy for a broader, more inclusive look at the world.

Now that you have an overview of what Oprah’s Book Club was all about (plus some general book-choosing guidelines), trek on over to our Tips & Advice for more detailed information.

DWYM Fun Fact

Oprah’s Book Club reignited a love of reading for millions of people. However, things got tense for OBC fans in 2006. Oprah selected James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces” for her club in September 2005, and readers couldn’t get enough of Frey’s memoir. It was a true account of his life as a drug addict, criminal and jailbird — or so Oprah thought. 

A few months after her stamp of approval (and after his book sold several million copies), critics began questioning Frey’s stories about his time in rehab and jail. As more accusations surfaced, Winfrey brought Frey back on her show in January 2006 and confronted him. After an intense exchange, Frey admitted that he’d lied about his time in jail and was unsure about other large sections of the book. Oprah also confronted Frey’s publisher Nan Talese on air, forcing her to admit that she hadn’t fact-checked Frey’s account. 

Oprah’s audience booed Frey, and she said that she felt “duped” and apologized to her viewers. However, Winfrey made a personal phone call to Frey in 2008 and apologized for the on-air brawl. The bad book blood was put to bed, but viewers never forgot “Frey Day.”

The Oprah Book Club Book Tips and Advice

  • Making room in your life for more reading is admirable, but life doesn’t always want to cooperate. Take a realistic look at how much free time you have before you invest in a 500-page novel. It’s better on your psyche (and your wallet) if you choose a shorter book that you actually have time to complete.
  • That being said, a book’s physical length isn’t always the best indicator of how much time you’ll have to devote to reading it. Short books with complex language, difficult vocabulary and challenging themes can take much longer to read than lengthy books with shorter sentences and quicker action. You can get a sense of a book’s difficulty from the free, short samples that Amazon provides for most of its books.
  • A great book combines a riveting plot with deep, well-developed characters, but many stories lean more heavily on one of those components than the other. Books that are more driven by plot usually (but not always) move a little faster as you read them. Books that lean on character development and move forward by drawing you into the fold of a character’s mind might seem a bit slower. Many readers prefer one over the other, but both types of literature become riveting in the hands of a deft author.
  • Oprah’s recommendations are meant for adults, so the language and themes might not be appropriate for younger readers. If you’ve got kids in the house, give them age-appropriate books so you can bond over reading without exposing them to a book they’re not ready for. 
  • To ebook or not to ebook? That’s the eternal question of the digital age. Choosing an Oprah’s Book Club title in ebook form has a lot of benefits. You can tote it around with your entire library of books in one slim e-reader, so it’s much easier to take with you while traveling. It won’t take up tons of space in your home either — that’s a relief for anyone who’s tried to pack and move shelves full of books. You’ll also save some paper by forgoing a traditional book. However, you might want to go for a physical copy if you have a job that requires staring at a screen all day. Your eyes get tired without a break from screens, and you’ll do your vision a favor by reading a paper book. Traditional books also look lovely in your home.

About The Author

Abby Stassen
Abby Stassen 

Abby Stassen is a professional content writer, copywriter and journalist. You can find her work on Salon, Entrepreneur, the Huffington Post, Verywell, the Chicago Tribune, the Orlando Weekly and more. She's also an award-winning comedy writer and Second City graduate with nine years of experience under her belt. She's a proud University of Michigan graduate, a cat owner, a crossword puzzle enthusiast and a huge ABBA fan.