Oprah's Influence on American Literature

Augusten Burroughs: Oprah doesn’t determine our taste in literature. What Oprah does is inspire many hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to read. Oprah does not tell every member of American society “You must read this book.” What Oprah does is say, “I love this book and you all should read it.” So people who like Oprah read the book and I think that’s amazing.

I love reading. There is nothing better than to hear from somebody you trust or like a recommendation, someone who takes the book and presses it into your hand and says, “Oh, this is the most beautiful book. You’ve got to read this book.” That’s a book I want to read then. And that’s what Oprah is doing. Oprah’s audience is huge and they’re very loyal and they trust her and they love her and when Oprah reads a book and feels passionate about it she goes on the air and she talks about it and says, “Read it,” and people do. I don’t think she is the arbiter of taste of America. I think that’s kind of a snarky, cynical way to look at what Oprah’s done. I think that anybody who gets people to read should be celebrated.

I think that every parent in America should send J.K. Rowling a check for a dollar every month as a thank-you for getting their kids to read. That is amazing. The Harry Potter-- Harry Potter was the first book my nephew read and it’s this thick. When I was a kid no kid was reading a book that thick and then waiting for the next that-thick version of it to come out. It’s amazing. It was a real profound impact on our culture that Harry Potter had with kids.

A whole generation of kids, thanks to J.K. Rowling, grew up loving to read and that’s kind of how I feel about Oprah’s Book Club. The more people who read the better because reading-- It’s not like watching TV, it’s not like being online watching videos, and it’s not like listening to music. It’s not better or worse; it’s just different. And it’s important that it not be forgotten. It’s a thrilling experience because you create the movie in your mind.

 

Recorded on: April 30, 2008.

 

Every parent should send a dollar to J.K. Rowling.

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