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Oprah Picks a Winner

We ran a little contest here the other day, asking you to guess the next selection of Oprah Winfrey’s book club. The selection, announced yesterday, was a big surprise: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. How surprising was this pick? Here’s how Tirdad Derakhshani summed it up in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

Remarkable by any standards sacred or profane, haute culture or trash TV, Emersonian transcendentalism or Deepak-Chopra-Cracker-Jack-box spiritualism, Oprah Winfrey is taking her book club in a yet-more-remarkable, high-art direction. The goddess of daytime TV, doyenne of New Age spiritualism, and Queen of Chicago yesterday announced that her next book-club selection is the apocalyptic novel — and a top pick for the next Pulitzer Prize — “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, the 73-year-old literary scrivener whom Yale’s genius-meter Harold Bloom has anointed one of our greatest writers.

And I thought my guess, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, was a little bit out there!

Complicating our contest was the fact that the book was said to be a Vintage paperback of 304 pages — but The Road hadn’t yet been published in paperback. It came out in hardcover only this past September, and most books don’t move to paper for 11 or 12 months.

So the Oprah selection necessitated a special Oprah paperback edition, which I’m sure Vintage was happy to produce. The book promptly shot up to No. 2 on Amazon. Good luck getting to No. 1: that spot is held by advance-order Harry Potter. I am guessing that The Road will compete with the Faulkner boxed set as one of the most challenging, and likely modest-selling, Oprah picks in history. But man oh man, I sure do like how Oprah continues to confound everyone’s expectations in this book-picking business.

Somehow, one of our blog readers guessed the right book, with neither fanfare nor explanation: “J-Good,” guesser No. 28, nearly six hours after the contest was posted. He/she will get his/her choice of autographed Freakonomics or a Freakonomics t-shirt. Another guesser, Dave_N, also named the McCarthy book, but only after it was posted on Oprah’s website yesterday. In these parts, that’s what we call cheating.