To the average fan, Oprah Winfrey is known for being a genius businesswoman and innovator. But to the book community, she’s known as a woman whose reading recommendations will not let you down. In honor of the magnificent woman and her years spent curating her popular book club, we have rounded up every Oprah book club pick to date (yes, all 101 of them!).
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
A family in Kerala, India suffers from a particularly strange affliction—at least one person from every generation drowns to death. In 1900, a twelve-year old girl who is grieving her father leaves Kerala by boat to meet her forty-year old husband for the first time. The young girl will eventually become a future matriarch, and she will witness unthinkable changes, joy, loss, hardship, and triumph. Her faith and love are the only constants in her life. The Covenant of Water takes place from 1900 to 1977, and it is an ode to the sacrifices of past generations for those alive today.
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
From the author of Dear Edward comes another heart-wrenching family tale of love, devotion and tragedy. In Ann Napolitano’s latest novel, William comes from a family paralyzed by pain. They can hardly look at one another, especially William, so when he meets Julia and her family his world opens up. As he becomes more engrained with Julia and her sisters, the past creeps up and threatens to shatter his found family’s connection for generations to come. In this homage to Little Women, Napolitano expertly explores the bonds that break families and bring them back together again.
Bittersweet by Susan Cain
For those who can’t escape seeing the peaks and valleys, the highs and lows, the dark and the light, Susan Cain has the answers. For anyone who has every wondered “Why am I like this?” Bittersweet seeks to answer the question. In a tender look at bittersweet personalities, Cain seeks to illuminate and alleviate the pain of being someone who sometimes can’t help but see the sad side of life.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Inspired by Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield, Demon Copperhead addresses issues of institutional poverty and its impact on children in the American South. A boy is born in a trailer to a single teenage mother in the mountains of southern Appalachia. As he grows, he faces the tribulations of foster care, child labor, poor education, addiction, tragic romances, and devastating losses. Armed with a fiery wit and a talent for survival, Demon Copperhead is a symbol for lost children who remain resilient against all odds.
That Bird Has My Wings by Jarvis Jay Masters
In this astonishing memoir, death row inmate Jarvis Masters shares his most touching, insightful, frightening, painful, and inspiring life experiences. He describes what it was like to be raised by parents who were addicted to drugs, to grow up with an abusive foster family, to survive a life of crime and incarceration, and finally, to embrace Buddhism. A true demonstration of the resilience of the human spirit and one man’s journey of self-discovery.
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
In an East Oakland apartment, siblings Kiara and Marcus are barely getting by. After multiple family tragedies, both of them dropped out of high school. Kiara looks for work, hoping to pay rent and keep the abandoned nine-year-old boy next door fed, while Marcus pursues a career in the music industry. But one night, a drunken encounter with a stranger leaves Kiara with a job opportunity she never expected or wanted. A job nightcrawling. Not long after taking on her new role does Kiara find herself involved in a shocking scandal within the Oakland Police Department. When Kiara is exposed as the key witness, everything changes.
Finding Me by Viola Davis
Finding Me is a deep reflection, a promise, and a love letter of sorts to self. In her powerful and empowering memoir, the first Black actor to earn an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy details her rise from poverty and other trauma to emerge as an iconic American artist. She revisits her childhood and all its pain, finally answering the question that had long haunted her: How did I claw my way out?
The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self by Martha Beck
The best things in life, the things that make us feel truly whole, are the things we often put aside in the course of life’s day-to-day demands and activities. Author Martha Beck shares with readers that to be happy, we need to center our lives around one thing: integrity. When we live with integrity, we are in touch with the things we truly value, leading to more fulfilled lives. This involves recognizing that what our culture is selling us may not be what we actually need to be happy. In this potentially life-changing read, Beck shares a 4-stage process on how to find integrity, live with purpose, and free ourselves from mental suffering.
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
This novel chronicles the relationship of astrobiologist, Theo, and his 9 year-old-son, Robin. After the tragic loss of Theo’s wife and Robin’s mother, he searches for life and love elsewhere in the cosmos and passes on his passion for planets real and imagined to his son, who struggles to fit in or to make sense of what’s happening in his own life and in the larger world. More than that, this book is an elegy to Earth and its inhabitants beset by climate change.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Ailey Pearl Garfield has held the ideals of W.E.B Du Bois tightly to her heart since childhood. A sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive, or “Double Consciousness”. Ailey’s name is the descendant of two formidable Black Americans and despite their revering efforts in history, Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders. In order to come to terms with her own identity, one that is not solely based on the belonging of her hovering trauma and maternal line that reaches back two centuries, Ailey must journey through not only her past but her family’s. She will discover there is more to her own legacy, a story of heritage and oppression, and resistance.
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
“I think one of the things that’s so relevant about the story is that you can feel the essence of what it means to have come from there to here,” Oprah praises in her comments about Nathan Harris’ novel. It is a rare piece that shows the progress that has been made. This is definitely the book for you if you want to be taken back in time and explore the waning days of the Civil War, a time in Georgia of the Reconstruction of not only the United States, but of humanity as well.
The Gilead Novels by Marilynne Robinson
When regarding the four Gilead Novels and author Marilynne Robinson , Oprah says “Marilynne Robinson is one of our greatest living authors…and in the Gilead novels she’s written a quartet of masterpieces. The more closely I read them, the more I find to appreciate, and the more they show the way in seeing the beauty in the ordinary. I’m thrilled to share them all with you.”
Oprah said, “The only word for this book is sublime” describing the novel Gilead. Gilead is the first book of its series and documents the life of John Ames. The story explains the Ames family and John Ames experiences which he wishes to share with his son. The story takes places in Gilead, Iowa where Ames and some of his family members are Congregationalist ministers.
A story centered around a family who like most families have a lot of secrets and traditions which are passed down. Home is the second book in the Gilead series and can be a book that relates to anyone who has a complicated family.
Being the third novel of the Gilead series, this is the story of an abandoned and kidnapped girl who had a rough childhoods. The woman marries a man, and the story follows their love and how her past has shaped who she is today.
This fourth novel of the Gilead series, Jack, tells the love story of an interracial couple living in post-World War II. America at that time was full of segregation so when an African American woman falls in love with a Caucasian man their relationship undergoes many challenges, but love is the one thing that keeps them together.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
“This might be the most important book I’ve ever chosen for my book club,” says Oprah Winfrey about this book by Isabel Wilkerson. This nonfiction book explores how racism in the United States of America today has similarities to a caste system. People of color in America experience racism in many ways, this book connects those experiences with the caste systems which occurred during Nazi Germany. This powerful book touches on the real-world racism many people of color experience every day in The United States which sometimes goes unnoticed.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
“In a moment when our country roils with righteous anger and grief,” Oprah comments, “Deacon King Kong reminds us that when we come together as a community in compassion and empathy, our love triumphs.” Deacon King Kong is a novel perfect for someone who loves mystery and crime involving multiple characters. This story takes place in the 1960s in Brooklyn and it demonstrates the importance of a strong community.
Hidden Valley: Inside the Mind of an American Family Road by Robert Kolker
“This is a riveting true story of an American family that reads like a medical detective journey,” said Oprah Winfrey of her 84th pick, and her fourth in partnership with Apple. “It reveals the shame, denial, shock, confusion and misunderstanding of mental illness at a time when no one was really sure what schizophrenia was or how to treat it.”
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Oprah can’t help but applause the novel and the author as she says, “Jeanine Cummins accomplishes a remarkable feat, literally putting us in the shoes of migrants and making us feel their anguish and desperation to live in freedom”. A novel about a comfortable life in Mexico, despite the surrounding drug cartels. Yet, when Lydia’s journalist husband publishes a tell-all profile of the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city, she is forced to flee with her 8-year-old son to the U.S. border. This is a story of humanity and the grueling reality of sacrifice for a glimmer of hope.
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
“When I heard Elizabeth Strout had written a second book with Olive at its center, I worried that time might have smoothed her rough edges,” Oprah says. “Nope. Olive is older and wiser, but as cantankerous as ever, and she still makes me laugh out loud, and cry in recognition and empathy. I fell in love with Olive not despite her flaws, but because of them.”
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“I was enthralled, I was devastated. I felt hope, I felt gratitude, I felt joy – I mean, it’s the range of emotions. That’s why I think it has everything that a novel is supposed to [have]. I’m on my second read now, because the first read I was just reading to see if I was going to choose it. And then the second read, I actually am sort of spoon-feeding every word to myself.”
This novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates brings to life a powerful story about the evils of slavery through its balance of fantasy and drama.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
“She just opens up herself; it’s so vulnerable… It is Michelle Obama’s personal story, of course, but I believe it’s going to spark within you the desire to think about your own becoming.”
Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming brings to life her powerful and inspiring journey into becoming the first lady of the United States.
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice by Anthony Ray Hinton
“When you read it, you’ll be swept away into this unbelievable, dramatic true story. And I’m sure you’ll think a lot, like I did, about: How is it possible to find life and freedom on death row?”
This book captures the moments of justice, hope and inspiring determination in the life of a man who spent 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
“You’ll come away with greater empathy and understanding but even if you don’t, it’s just a really great read. It’s the perfect book to read along with a friend or family member. You’re going to want to have someone else reading it because it’s so juicy.”
Tayari Jones’s novel is a compelling love story that depicts the difficulties faced by people who have been forced apart and what happens when they are suddenly brought back together again.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
“It’s got everything that’s grabbing the headlines in America right now. It’s about race and class, the economy, culture, immigration and the danger of the us-versus-them mentality. And underneath it all pumps the heart and soul of family love, the pursuit of happiness and what home really means.”
In this debut novel, Imbolo Mbue writes a compassionate and heart-wrenching story about the struggles of an immigrant in Harlem during a time of financial tragedy.
Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle
“I read it as a testament to the power of vulnerability. Through it, Glennon shows us the clearest meaning of ‘To thine own self be true.’ It’s as if she reached into her heart, captured the raw emotions there and translated them into words that anyone who’s ever known pain or shame – in other words, every human on the planet – can relate to. She’s bravely put everything on the table for the whole world to see. That’s why I had to share her book with you.”
Love Warrior tells the story of author Glennon Doyle’s struggle to not only fix her marriage but ultimately her journey to find herself.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
“Every now and then a book comes along that reaches the marrow of your bones, settles in and stays forever. This is one. It’s a tour de force, and I don’t say that lightly.”
In this work of historical fiction, a young slave named Cora takes to the underground railroad where she faces difficult challenges at every stop so that she can find a new life of freedom elsewhere.
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
“Bond proves to be a powerful literary force, a writer whose unflinching yet lyrical prose is reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s.”
In this novel, Cynthia Bond writes the remarkable story of two passionate characters who must find love in a life filled with violence and devastation.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
“A remarkable novel that heightened my sense of what it meant to be a woman – slave or free… a conversation changer.”
In this novel, based on the life of the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, two women fight against the hardships that society has imposed upon them.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
“This book touched me so deeply. The spirit of sacred truths just leaps from the pages.”
This novel follows the stories of the children of Hattie, a young woman who raises them to be prepared for the cruel world they will face as they get older.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
“I was on the edge of my seat… It is just a wild ride of a read… stimulating, thought-provoking, soul-enhancing.”
Cheryl Strayed tells her story of adventure and determination in this memoir, as she hikes more than a thousand miles from the Mojave Desert to Washington State.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
“The novel’s sense of urgency and intimacy will draw you in and propel you through one of the most tumultuous times in history.”
This classic by Charles Dickens follows the lives of several characters in London and Paris as they transition into the time of the French Revolution.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
“Great Expectations can be read on many levels – as a morality play of a young boy’s coming-of-age and his unexpected rise from the lower to the leisure class, or as an ironic commentary and social critique on how money affects everyone around it. It can also be enjoyed as a suspense-filled mystery complete with secrets, shady characters, thieves and murderers of all shapes and sizes.”
In this, Dickens’ 13th novel, an interesting group of characters faces a myriad of hardships revolving around subjects from wealth and poverty to good and evil.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
“You don’t hear me say this word often, but this book is a masterpiece… It’s an epic family saga – it’s got everything – sex and love, even rock ‘n’ roll, and everything you want in a book.”
Franzen writes a story featuring dynamic characters that must learn how to live as every aspect of their lives begins to spiral along with the ever-confusing world.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan
“First-time author Uwem Akpan writes each story through the eyes of children and masterfully both captures the innocence and the horror of the unimaginable events these children witness.”
In this collection of stories, Uwem Akpan writes about the intelligence and determination of children who must overcome the difficulties that life has thrown at them.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
“It’s so engaging, so gripping, so epic, that I wanted absolutely everybody to share the joy of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle… I think that this is right up there with the greatest American novels ever written. Up there with Steinbeck and even Harper Lee.”
In this story, a young man and dog raiser named Edgar Sawtelle’s life is upended when he must flee his peaceful home and learn how to survive in the wilderness while protecting the dogs he takes with him.
A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
“This is one of the most important subjects and presented by one of the most important books of our time, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose. I don’t think there’s anything more important than awakening and also knowing what your purpose is.”
In this spiritual guide, Eckhart Tolle details his inspiring ideas about the key to happiness and the key to ending the suffering of so many people all over the world.
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
“Nobody who reads it – nobody who reads it – looks at a church or a cathedral the same. It made me think about my own life differently, reading that book, the experience of reading that book. What a treasure.”
Set in 12th-century England, this novel depicts a fantastical tale of adventure, power and dramatic character development.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
“This is one of the greatest love stories I have ever read… It is so beautifully written that it really takes you to another place in time and will make you ask yourself – how long could you, or would you, wait for love?”
This beautifully written novel by Gabriel García Márquez tells a story of love like no other.
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
“I promise it will grab you from the first sentence.”
A work of vibrant characters and unique details, Middlesex provides an inside look into the life of a Greek family hiding a dark secret.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
“It’s unlike any book I have chosen.”
In this story about a journey of survival, a father and son must face ultimate hardship in post-apocalyptic America with only a pistol to defend themselves.
The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier
“It’s a beautifully crafted book, written like poetry. Because, just as [Poitier] speaks so eloquently, he also writes that way too.”
In this memoir, Sidney Poitier writes about his life and what he has done to become the successful and inspiring man he is today.
Night by Elie Wiesel
“Required reading for all of humanity.”
A memoir of survival and amazing human resolve, Night is a heart-wrenching telling of Wiesel’s horrifying imprisonment in the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
This memoir by James Frey depicts his struggle as a drug addict and tells the story of his journey to quit and rebuild the life he previously destroyed.
Light in August by William Faulkner
“Light in August – sometimes called his “ironic Gospel” because of its many references to the birth of Jesus – is universally recognized as one of Faulkner’s masterpieces.”
Light in August features extraordinary characters each facing their own challenges in the unforgiving and violent world.
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
“Told in shifting perspectives that span two decades, the four sections of the novel give the reader a taste of life in the Compson household. Just like any family who has shared meals around a dinner table, the characters are consumed by the same memories and losses – innocence, freedom, life and love.”
In this novel, Faulkner spins the tale of the Compson family whose lives are plagued by constant reminders of their dark history.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
“At the heart of the novel beats a family’s response to the loss of the most important person in their lives. They laugh, they curse, they fight, they bleed, they break, they love, they endure – just like we do.”
This 20th-century classic tells the vexing story of the Bundren family’s procession of their mother’s dead body across the country to her final resting place.
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
“Reading Pearl Buck’s writing feels like reading poetry to me. I just love the quiet rhythm of the words. They evoke the simple beauty of the characters and the harsh mystery of China’s ancient culture.”
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in China during the 1920s tells the story of the life of a family as they must face the changing tides of political and social unrest.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
“From Stiva’s debts and infidelity to Levin’s idealized dream of a wife and family – from Nikolai’s drunken Communist rants to Kitty’s naive and passionate heart – Tolstoy weaves an extravagant web.”
In this novel of destiny and true-to-life characters, Tolstoy writes a beautiful story of both the tragedies and the joys of life.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
“I love this book! I had heard about this book for years and then my dear friend Julia Roberts did an interview in O, The Oprah Magazine and she listed this as one of her favorite books of all time. The book I love so much – recommended to me by Julia – is The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. It’s a great, great read and not hard at all.”
In her debut novel, Carson McCullers writes an emotional story about social injustice in a lonely world.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
“Brace yourselves – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is as steamy, dense and sensual as the jungle that surrounds the surreal town of Macondo!”
This Nobel Prize-winning novel tells the mystical story of the colorful town of Macondo as seen through the eyes of the book’s quirky characters.
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
“The saga of Stephen Kumalo- his struggle as a father, as a reverend, as a brother and as a man – captures the very essence of South Africa in transition from a rural, tribal nation of spiritual heritage to a modern country of big cities, violence and upheaval. The pain of this transition is burned throughout part one of this novel.”
This book discusses the touching story of a South African Zulu pastor and his son’s endurance in the face of racial injustice.
East of Eden By John Steinbeck
“It’s the perfect summer read… a novel so rich and full of drama you won’t be able to turn the pages fast enough!”
East of Eden, set in the farmlands of California’s Salinas Valley tells the story of the shared destiny of two rival families, the Trasks and the Hamiltons.
Sula by Toni Morrison
“Her stories are fiction, but nowhere will you find greater truths about life. She laid the foundation of my love for reading, and for all those who asked the question, ‘Toni Morrison again?’ with my fourth selection of her work, I say with certainty there would have been no Oprah’s Book Club if this woman had chosen not to share her love of words with the world.”
Sula tells the lively story of two inseparable friends who grow apart and what they will do to come back together.
Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
“… Many times during the reading of Fall on Your Knees, I would say, ‘How can that be happening now?’ And then I’d say, ‘It’s a book. It’s a book. It’s a book.'”
In this captivatingly written novel, four sisters must live their lives among the hidden secrets and lies that surround them.
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
“I’ve never encountered pages that took me so far and removed me from my own way of life and way of thinking the way A Fine Balance did. Rohinton [Mistry] has been compared to Dickens in his finest years when he was able so profoundly to look at the human spirit juxtaposed against the inhumane conditions.”
A Fine Balance captures the exploitation and simultaneous heroism of India during the 1970s.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
“The Corrections is a grandly entertaining novel for the new century – a comic, tragic masterpiece about a family breaking down in an age of easy fixes. Richly realistic, darkly hilarious and deeply humane, it confirms that Jonathan Franzen is one of our most brilliant interpreters of American society and American soul.”
In this spectacularly written novel, a family of five gather together for what seems to be their last Christmas dinner while also dealing with the difficulties of their own lives.
Cane River by Lalita Tademy
“I think what [Lalita was] able to do with this story is open the door for a lot of people who want to trace their own roots or look at what their heritage, what that legacy has meant for them.”
This memoir depicts Lalita Tademy’s experience after she left her job as vice president of a corporation to learn more about her family history.
Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkir and Michèle Fitoussi
“… People read the book and they are changed by it – enlightened by it – opened up by it.”
In this shocking account, Malika Oufkir depicts the tragedy of her life when she was imprisoned in a desert penal colony after her father attempted to assassinate the King of Morocco.
Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio
“Gwyn Hyman Rubio’s Icy Sparks is a fresh, original and completely redeeming novel about learning to overcome others’ ignorance and celebrate the differences that make each of us unique.”
Icy Sparks tells the story of Icy who spends the novel explaining the trouble of her childhood as she grew up coping with her undiagnosed Tourette’s Syndrome.
We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
“I read this book over a year ago, but this family still haunts me.”
We Were the Mulvaneys tells the story of the youngest son of the Mulvaney family as he does his best to gain back the glory that his family once had before a tragic accident broke them in 1976.
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
“Combining unadorned realism with profound empathy, House of Sand and Fog is a devastating exploration of the American Dream gone awry.”
This novel tells the story of three unrelenting people who become dangerously trapped in an escalating battle in a small house in the California Hills.
Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz
“Hauntingly narrated and grippingly paced, Drowning Ruth is a remarkably accomplished and mesmerizing debut.”
In this heartwrenching story set in 1919, Amanda must cope with the haunting memory of her sister after she drowned, leaving Amanda with her sister’s young daughter Ruth.
Open House by Elizabeth Berg
“Open House is a love story about what can blossom between a man and a woman, and within a woman herself.”
Open House is a novel about a woman who must learn how to make herself happy after her life is tragically flipped upside down when her husband leaves her.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
“Synthesizing her widespread knowledge of history, science and anthropology, and tempering it with characteristic insight and wit, Barbara Kingsolver has written her most accomplished novel to date.”
After traveling to the Belgian Congo in 1959, the family of an evangelical Baptist must relearn how to live in their new home.
While I Was Gone by Sue Miller
“In expert strokes, Sue Miller captures the precariousness of even the strongest ties, the ease with which we abandon each other, and our need to be forgiven. An extraordinary book, her best, from a beloved American writer.”
While I Was Gone tells the story of a woman at a crossroads who must decide between her current marriage and pursuing emotions that are creeping up from her past.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
“The Bluest Eye remains one of Toni Morrison’s most powerful, unforgettable novels – and a significant work of American fiction.”
Toni Morrison writes the story of Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl whose life begins to fall apart as she is forced to face racial injustice.
Back Roads by Tawni O’Dell
“Tawni O’Dell’s heartbreaking and at times humorous portrayal of the Altmyers, and her dead-on description of rural Pennsylvania is sure to mesmerize readers.”
In this novel, Harley Altmyer must learn how to deal with the tragic aftermath of his and his sisters’ life after his mother kills his father.
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
“Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune – her first work of fiction in six years – is a rich and spirited historical novel.”
Daughter of Fortune tells the story of Eliza Sommers who travels from Chile to America chasing after the father of her child who left Chile to pursue his dreams of finding gold.
Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
“Widely regarded as the poet laureate of Appalachia, Morgan captures the spirit of this wilderness territory he knows so well.”
In this Appalachian story, Julie and Hank face more problems than they ever thought they would have to after they begin their new life in the chaos of the valley.
A Map of The World by Jane Hamilton
“A loner by nature, Alice is torn between a yearning for solitude coupled with a deep need to be at the center of a perfect family.”
In this novel by Jane Hamilton, the quiet life of the Goodwins becomes tormented by a string of horrifying events that they must decipher in order to pull their family back together.
Vinegar Hill by A. Manette Ansay
“Ellen searches for a way to satisfy the demands of this rural community and its traditions until, at last, she discovers the family’s darkest secret, one that frees her and changes her life forever.”
Vinegar Hill tells the story of Ellen Grier who must persevere as she brings her family back to Wisconsin to live with her in-laws who are hiding dark secrets and sins under a façade of rigid piety.
River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke
“This highly accomplished first novel resonates with ideas, impassioned lyricism, and poignant historical detail as it captures an essential part of the African American experience in our century.”
This novel tells the powerful story of the important memory that Clara Bynum left behind in her African American community after she drowned in the Potomac River.
Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
“By a chance phone call, Ria meets Marilyn, a woman from New England unable to come to terms with her only son’s death and now separated from her husband. The two women exchange houses for the summer with extraordinary consequences, each learning that the other has a deep secret that can never be revealed.”
In this novel, a friendship is formed and tested as two women exchange the tragic and joyful experiences that they face in life.
Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes
“When Oprah asked Melinda, “What is this book about?” Melinda simply replied, “It’s about finding self.”
Set in the South in the 1950s, this novel discusses the confusing relationship between two completely different people, a black man named Even Grade and a young white girl named Valuable Komer.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
“Page after page, I fell in love with a story that deeply moved me, and vivid passages that described the sky as the color of peaches and compared sorrow to the taste of a copper penny.”
White Oleander depicts Astrid as she travels from foster home to foster home in order to learn how to live life without her mother, who she once worshipped.
The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
“Torn between her impulse to protect her husband’s memory and her desire to know the truth, Kathryn sets off to find out if she ever really knew the man who was her husband.”
After her husband dies in a plane crash, Kathryn must learn to accept the new and exciting mystery that comes to light.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
“A parable of German guilt and atonement and a love story of stunning power, The Reader is also a work of literature that is unforgettable in its psychological complexity, its moral nuances and its stylistic restraint.”
A unique love story full of shame, secrets and powerful compassion.
Jewel by Bret Lott
“A vividly drawn indomitable heroine, Jewel defines the intensity of a mother-child relationship and the depth of family love.”
Set in Mississippi, Jewel is the story of a mother and daughter’s dynamic relationship and how Jewel ultimately learns to love her daughter even with her differences.
Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts
“What I love about this book is the message that home and family are not always what you are born into, but in the people and the places where you find love.”
This novel tells the story of a 17-year-old homeless Novalee Nation who finds herself adopted by two unique people in Sequoyah, Oklahoma.
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
“This compulsively readable novel explores what happens when a woman who has devoted herself to ushering life into the world finds herself charged with responsibility in a patient’s death.”
This provocative novel explores the story of a mother and daughter when the mother is placed on trial after a woman dies in her care during childbirth.
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
“Now, after more than a decade of elegant pleasures and luxe living, Ava has come home, her fabulous career and power plans smashed to bits on one dark truth… ”
After Ava Johnson tests positive for HIV she must learn how to cope with her illness and find new meaning in life in San Francisco.
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
“It’s not just a book, it’s a life experience.”
A story within a story, I Know This Much is True is poignant, heartbreaking and profoundly human.
Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
“At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become a writer who evokes the wonder, terror and heartache of her native Haiti – and the enduring strength of Haiti’s women – with vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffering and courage.”
Breath, Eyes, Memory tells the tale of Sophie who is sent to New York from Haiti where she faces a struggle she can only overcome when she goes back home.
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
“Black and Blue is a beautifully written, heart-stopping story in which Anna Quindlen writes with power, wisdom and humor about the real lives of men and women, the varieties of people and love, the bonds between mother and child, the solace of family and friendship, the inexplicable feelings between people who are passionately connected in ways they don’t understand.”
This story of heart-wrenching abuse provides an inside look into the struggle of a woman who must run from her husband in order to protect her son.
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
“Here on Earth is the dramatic and lyrical accounting of the joys of love, as well as the destruction love can release.”
This dark romance by Alice Hoffman tells the story of what happens when the past comes back to preoccupy the present.
Paradise by Toni Morrison
“In Paradise – her first novel since she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature – Toni Morrison gives us a bravura performance.”
This novel paints the picture of an intriguing mystery full of salacious rumors and the chaos of small-town drama.
A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons
“Two unforgettable characters, Jack Ernest Stokes, known as Blinking Jack, and his wife, Ruby Pitt Woodrow Stokes, tell the story of their years together.”
This novel is the story of a southern marriage and how two very different people made it work even when everything seemed like it was falling apart.
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
“Against all odds, Ellen never gives up her belief that there is a place for her in the world, a home which will satisfy all her longing for love, acceptance and order.”
Ellen Foster is the heartbreaking story of a young girl who faces horrible abuse at the hands of her parents and the hope that remains with her throughout her life.
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
“Ernest Gaines brings to the novel the same rich sense of place, the same deep understanding of the human psyche, and the same compassion for a people and their struggle that have informed his previous, widely praised novels.”
This novel depicts the sad story of a young black man who is on death row for a crime he did not commit through the eyes of a compassionate teacher who visits him.
Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris
“Songs in Ordinary Time is a masterful epic of the everyday, illuminating the kaleidoscope of lives that tell the compelling story of this unforgettable family.”
This bestselling novel tells the story of an American family torn apart by secrets and what truths will need to be told to bring them back together.
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou
“Because this book chronicles, finally, the joys and burdens of a black mother in America and how the son she had cherished so intensely and worked for so devotedly finally grows to be a man.”
Maya Angelou writes the unforgettable story of her life as a black mother raising her son in America.
The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
“Ninah must face with sudden clarity the things she must do for the sake of her own life, and her child’s. She will come to understand at last that to embrace the life of the normal world can be a holy act.” – Oprah.com
This novel depicts the beautiful story of a woman who learns the mysterious ways that God touches her life.
Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi
“Stones From the River is a story of secrets, parceled out masterfully by Trudi – and by Ursula Hegi – as they reveal the truth about living through unspeakable times.”
This timeless story set during the madness of Nazi Germany highlights the importance of acceptance, humanity and being an individual.
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
“As endearingly familiar as Chiquita Banana jingles, Hula-Hoops and I Love Lucy, as mysterious and haunting as the cries of whales, She’s Come Undone makes us laugh and wince with recognition and reminds us that despite the pain we endure and cause, we must find the courage to love again.”
This coming-of-age story depicts Dolores Price as she is thrust into the confusing world.
The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton
“In these first two novels by Jane Hamilton, one finds the birth and development of a strong and unique voice in fiction. The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World are linked by many characters, themes, and ideas, but each book has its own distinct personality.”
The Book of Ruth tells the story of small-town characters learning to find happiness in a world that seems like it is constantly against them.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
“This is a novel in which mystery unfolds on mystery, revelation on revelation – in which our vision of what we have seen turns, changes, and takes shape again, transformed.”
This dazzling novel by Toni Morrison tells the rich and colorful story of its diverse characters.
The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard
“It’s an intense tale that really is a mother’s worst nightmare. A lot of you who are mothers think you can’t read the book at first, but you really can – trust me.”
This masterful novel explores the story of the disappearance of a child and how the family learns to remain hopeful even in the face of an emotional tragedy.
(Feature image courtesy of Harpo Inc./Ruven Afanador; Designed by She Reads)
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Great compilation! I always look forward to her picks.