Share 12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

Alice Martin is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Rutgers University, where she obsesses over nineteenth-century women writers, the history of the publishing industry, and writing practices. She’s also a regular contributor to Shelf Awareness and a freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Appalachian Heritage, and Sixfold among other publications. You can find her talking about books, food, and basketball (in that order) on Twitter @AliceJeanMartin.

What do you think makes a perfect book club book? Oprah has some suggestions! Whether it’s topical themes or relatable narrators, unimaginable conditions or a world that reflects our own, these twelve books have it all. All chosen as part of Oprah’s Book Club, these books are chock-full of unforgettable, discussion-worthy characters, settings, and plots that define them as modern American classics. From their insightful multi-generational storylines to their tendency to illuminate deeply held beliefs about nation, identity, and culture, these books were written to be shared. Make sure to discuss your pick with a friend; we promise you’ll have lots to talk about.


Fall on Your Knees
by Ann-Marie MacDonald

In this astounding multigenerational saga, the four Piper sisters grapple with the one secret at the center of their family that threatens to destroy them allBeginning on the windswept coast of Nova Scotia at the start of the century, the story of these four sisters spans across decades and oceans. From the coal-mining communities of their home country to the war-torn battlefields of World War I, and finally to the glittering streets of 1920s New York City, follow along as the sisters struggle to hold on to one another. 

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Fall on Your Knees
Ann-Marie MacDonald

Set on stormy Cape Breton Island off Nova Scotia, Fall on Your Knees is an internationally acclaimed multigenerational saga that chronicles the lives of four unforgettable sisters. Theirs is a world filled with driving ambition, inescapable family bonds, and forbidden love.Compellingly written, by turns menacingly dark and hilariously funny, this is an epic tale of five generations of sin, guilt, and redemption. An Oprah Book Club Pick!

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The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck

A Pulitzer Prizewinning modern classic, THE GOOD EARTH is a portrait of a vanishing China in the 1920s during the reign of the last emperor. Hardworking farmer Wang Lung and his devoted wife O-Lan lead a simple, honest life. Little do they know that their day-to-day life exists along the edge of impending social upheaval and political change that will rock the country they know and love, as well as the distant world beyond.  

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The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck

The timeless Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece following a humble farmer’s journey through 1920s China returns with this beautifully repackaged edition that celebrates its nearly ninety years as an American classic.

Travel to 1920s China, a time when the last emperor still ruled and the sweeping changes of the twentieth century were distant rumblings, with this timeless, evocative classic tale of the honest farmer Wang Lung and his family as they struggle to survive in the midst of vast political and social upheavals.

Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winner Pearl S. Buck traces the whole cycle of life: its terrors, its passions, its ambitions, and rewards. “A comment upon the meaning and tragedy of life as it is lived in any age in any quarter of the globe” (The New York Times), this brilliant novel—beloved by millions—is a universal tale of an ordinary family caught in the tide of history.

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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She's Come Undone
by Wally Lamb

Dolores Price may only be thirteen, but she’s seen her fair share of tragedy. Despite the wounds that fester in her heart and body, Dolores has maintained her eccentric wit and humor. Her uncertain mother provides Dolores comfort in the form of junk food and endless television. By the time Dolores reaches young adulthood, now at 257 lb., the world around her still seems cruel, but this time she’s determined to face the outside world and win. 

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She's Come Undone
Wally Lamb

In this New York Times bestselling extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years.

"Mine is a story of craving: an unreliable account of lusts and troubles that began, somehow, in 1956 on the day our free television was delivered...."

Meet Dolores Price. She's thirteen, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Beached like a whale in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally rolls into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before really going belly up.

In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years. At once a fragile girl and a hard-edged cynic, so tough to love yet so inimitably lovable, Dolores is as poignantly real as our own imperfections. She's Come Undone includes a promise: you will never forget Dolores Price.

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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Jewel
by Bret Lott

In this heartfelt testament to motherhood, 40-year-old Jewel is surprised to find that she is pregnant with her sixth and final child. It’s 1943 and while the country prepares for war, Jewel and her husband in the backwoods of Mississippi prepare for the new bundle of joy. But when Brenda Kay is born with Down syndrome and Jewel refuses to institutionalize her, the family must cope with the unimaginable choices that challenge a mother and daughter’s unbreakable bond. 

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Jewel
Bret Lott

Jewel is the story of how quickly a life can change; how, like lightning, an unforeseen event can set us on a course without reason or compass.

In the backwoods of Mississippi, a land of honeysuckle and grapevine, Jewel and her husband, Leston, are truly blessed; they have five fine children. When Brenda Kay is born in 1943, Jewel gives thanks for a healthy baby, last-born and most welcome.

In this story of a woman's devotion to the child who is both her burden and God's singular way of smiling on her, Bret Lott has created a mother-daughter relationship of matchless intensity and beauty, and one of the finest, most indomitable heroines in contemporary American fiction.

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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Mother of Pearl
by Melinda Haynes

An extraordinary literary debut, MOTHER OF PEARL depicts an unlikely connection between two outcasts in 1950s small-town Mississippi. Even Grade is a twenty-eight-year-old Black man who grew up as an ostracized orphan. Valuable Korner is the fifteen-year-old white bastard daughter of a local sex worker. In their determination to discover their own identities and a sense of belonging, the two must orbit each other in order to find a way forward together.  

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Mother of Pearl
Melinda Haynes

Capturing all the rueful irony and racial ambivalence of small-town Mississippi in the late 1950s, Melinda Haynes' celebrated novel is a wholly unforgettable exploration of family, identity, and redemption. Mother of Pearl revolves around twenty-eight-year-old Even Grade, a black man who grew up an orphan, and Valuable Korner, the fifteen-year-old white daughter of the town whore and an unknown father. Both are passionately determined to discover the precious things neither experienced as children: human connection, enduring commitment, and, above all, unconditional love. A startlingly accomplished mixture of beauty, mystery, and tragedy, Mother of Pearl marks the debut of an extraordinary literary talent.

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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Here on Earth
by Alice Hoffman

March Murray stayed away from her small hometown in Massachusettsand the troubled life she led therefor nineteen years, building a distant life in California. But now she’s back and it isn’t long before she encounters Hollis, the boy she once would have sacrificed everything for. Soon, their passionate romance resumes, but March is all-to-aware of the reasons she left in the first place, reasons inextricable from Hollis.  

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Here on Earth
Alice Hoffman

After nearly two decades of being away, March Murray returns to her Massachusetts hometown with her daughter to attend the funeral of a family friend. Her stay is meant to be brief, but being back home also brings her back into the orbit of her former lover. Their reunion causes her to reevaluate her past and leads to decisions that may have dramatic consequences for her future.

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

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Black and Blue
by Anna Quindlen

From beloved storyteller Anna Quindlen comes a heartbreaking tale of second chances and recovery. Fran stayed with her abusive husband Bobby for years, partially because she still loved him and partially because she wanted her son to have a father. But after one explosive night, she sees a new look in her ten-year-old son’s eyes and makes a harrowing escape. While she builds a new, anonymous life in the city with her son, Fran knows it’s only a matter of time before Bobby finds her. 

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Black and Blue
Anna Quindlen

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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We Were the Mulvaneys
by Joyce Carol Oates

The Mulvaneys seem to have it all, but after one unthinkable incident in 1976, the family splinters. Years later, the family’s youngest son attempts to piece the family back together in order to trace and reveal the secret that pulled them all apart. A moving and hopeful portrait of a family in ruins, WE WERE THE MULVANEYS is an American classic from the prolific and unmatched writer Joyce Carol Oates. 

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We Were the Mulvaneys
Joyce Carol Oates

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MENTIONED IN:

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By Off the Shelf Staff | August 31, 2020

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis

In 1923, teenaged Hattie Shepherd leaves her hometown in Georgia to start a new life in Philadelphia as part of the Great Migration. After marrying the wrong man, Hattie gives birth to a pair of twins who die in infancy, followed by nine more children. In this dazzling multigenerational saga, twelve stories illuminate the lives of Hattie and her children in a tapestry of unexpected strength and unbounded love. 

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Ayana Mathis

This debut of extraordinary distinction tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. Beautiful, devastating, and blazing with life, this novel is a searing portrait of surviving in the face of insurmountable adversity.

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Cane River
by Lalita Tademy

In this piercing portrait of an American family, four generations of Black women in Louisiana lead their families through decades of social and political upheaval. Starting with Elisabeth, a slave owned by a Creole family, CANE RIVER traces one family’s legacy as they survive the Civil War, the false promises of emancipation, and the Jim Crow to pre-Civil Rights South. Filled with strong, undeniable female characters, Lalita Tademy’s beautifully wrought novel is as intimate as it is all-encompassing. 

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Cane River
Lalita Tademy

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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Daughter of Fortune
by Isabel Allende

Bestselling author Isabel Allende’s DAUGHTER OF FORTUNE follows orphan Eliza Sommers as she pursues personal freedom in the face of immense change. While growing up in the British colony of Valparaíso, Chile, Eliza falls in love with and becomes pregnant by a lowly clerk. When gold is discovered in northern California, her beloved is one of the many who rush to make their fortune. Eliza follows him, but soon discovers that she must make her own way amidst the cutthroat society forming in San Francisco.  

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Daughter of Fortune
Isabel Allende

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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Say You're One of Them
by Uwem Akpan

In this startling collection of short stories, Uwem Akpan crafts heartrending and lyrical tales that humanize those faced with daily poverty and violence. A boy, determined to scrounge enough money for schoolbooks, looks for help from his loving but desperate family. A pair of siblings witness tragedy in the relationship between their parents. From Kenya to Rwanda, Ethiopia to Nigeria, these stories traverse the continent of Africa to tell intimate tales of families faced with impossible choices and harrowing conditions.  

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Say You're One of Them
Uwem Akpan

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Classic Oprah Book Club Picks Guaranteed to Get Your Club Talking

By Alice Martin | August 5, 2020

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