Why This Author Wanted Nothing to Do With Oprah’s Book Club

In addition to her work in movies and television, Oprah had an impact on the literary world. Many people become interested in certain books solely because they were included in Oprah’s Book Club. However, one famous author wanted nothing to do with Oprah’s Book Club. Here’s how Oprah responded to him.

Oprah holding a statue
Oprah | Kevork Djansezian/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Why an author had reservations about Oprah’s fan base

Oprah has always been a champion for women. Because of this, she understandably has a huge female fan base. One notable writer saw this as a problem.

Jonathan Franzen is known for books like The Twenty-Seventh City, The Corrections, and Strong Motion. According to the Chicago Tribune, Oprah wanted The Corrections to be part of her book club. Franzen had some reservations.

Jonathan Franzen wearing glasses
Jonathan Franzen | James Keivom/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

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“I had some hope of actually reaching a male audience,” Franzen said. “And I’ve heard more than one reader in [book] signing lines now in bookstores say: `You know, if I hadn’t heard you, I would’ve been put off by the fact that it is an Oprah pick. I figure those books are for women, and I never touch it.'” 

In addition, if The Corrections was going to be part of the book club, it needed to have the book club’s logo on its cover. Franzen didn’t like the idea of having a logo on his book’s cover. Franzen didn’t allow The Corrections to be part of the book club. Ultimately, he regretted how he carried himself — to a degree.

Jonathan Franzen sitting on stairs
Jonathan Franzen | Ted Thai/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

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How Jonathan Franzen and Oprah felt about Frazen’s decision afterward

“I said things that ended up hurting Oprah Winfrey’s feelings and far too late it was pointed out to me that this was happening,” Franzen told The New York Times. “I feel bad for a number of reasons, because I really don’t like to hurt people, and I feel bad because the person being hurt is actually a really good person for American writing and reading.” How did Oprah react to Franzen’s decision?

In a statement, Oprah said “Jonathan Franzen will not be on The Oprah Winfrey Show because he is seemingly uncomfortable and conflicted about being chosen as a book club selection. It is never my intention to make anyone uncomfortable or cause anyone conflict.”

Oprah near reporters
Oprah | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

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Where did Jonathan Franzen’s career go from there?

Turning down a major offer like that certainly could have hurt Franzen’s career. Did it? According to The New York Times, The Corrections sold over one million copies, as did his next book, Freedom. Subsequently, his book Purity only sold around a quarter of a million copies. It’s unclear if Franzen’s issues with Oprah’s Book Club had any impact on sales and whether he would have sold more books with the involvement of a certain talk show host. Regardless, Franzen seemed to do just fine without Oprah — and her book club seemed to do just fine without him.