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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Books and “The Oprah Effect”

Oprah airs her last show today. Among her legacies is the readership she brought to more than 70 books during her long-running book club. According to USA Today ("How the 'Oprah Effect' Changed Publishing," May 24, 2011), one marketing professor estimates sales of “Oprah editions” totaled 55 million copies.

Here at the library, the holds list for Oprah’s books became so overwhelming in the mid-1990s that we and other libraries throughout the country arranged with Oprah’s staff and our vendors to order the monthly selection in advance, not even knowing the title.

While some didn’t embrace the emotional appeal of early selections, no one disputes the power of her recommendations. As an example, when she decided to move to the classics, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina topped the USA Today’s bestseller list in 2004.

It is also a testament to her influence that you can still find 161 listings under the subject heading “Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club Selections” in our catalog.

Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean was Oprah’s first book club selection on Sept. 17, 1994. Here are a few of the others:

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Map of the World by Jane Hamilton

Paradise by Toni Morrison

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Better Book Titles

Many thanks to National Public Radio for introducing me to the website that attempts to redesign book covers to better reflect their content. It’s a great place for irreverent book lovers. The Great Gatsby becomes Drink Responsibly. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is renamed My Dad Is Cooler Than Your Dad. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre becomes The Good Ones Are Always Taken.

According to the May 12 NPR piece by Linton Weeks, the website is the brainchild of Dan Wilbur, a 24-year-old stand-up comic and former classics major at Bard College. “You should write what you know,” he told Weeks tongue-in-cheek.
In explaining the reason for the site, Wilbur writes: “This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will . . . give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Now you can read the greatest literary works of all time in mere seconds!”

Wilbur also solicits alternative titles from readers. How about Albee’s “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf” as “The Worst Faculty Party of the Year”? Or, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” as “Never Listen to Your Wife.”

The possibilities are endless. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pain at the Pump

According to, prices at the pump in Virginia this week range from $3.59 for regular at a station in Westlake near Smith Mountain Lake to $4.49 in Oakton. The second steep rise in gas prices in the past several years has again fueled debate over U.S. energy policy. If you are interested in the topic, here is some good reading:

Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward Sustainability by Daniel Sperling

Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future by Steve Hallett

Light’s Out: Ten Myths About (And Real Solutions) to America’s Energy Crisisby Spencer Abraham

Renewable Energy: Opposing Viewpoints by Jacqueline Langwith

Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy by Robert Bryce

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

New Books on Osama Bin Laden

According to an Associated Press wire release reported in Salon, new books on the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden are already in the works.

In the meantime check out these books on the decade-long search for America’s Public Enemy No. 1 and the Navy SEALs that finally succeeded.

The Search for al-Qaeda: Its Leadership, Ideology and Future by Bruce Riedel

Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander’s Account of the Search for the World’s Most Wanted Man by Dalton Fury

Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? by Morgan Spurlock

SEALs: The U.S. Navy’s Elite Fighting Force by Mir Bahmanyar

One Perfect Op: An Insider’s Account of the Navy SEAL Special Warfare Teams by Dennis C. Chalker