Oprah Winfrey is renowned all around the globe for her many roles in the media — actress, talk show host, producer, and philanthropist, to just name a few. Winfrey’s career over the decades has grown to become larger than life, especially after the popularity of her famous long-running talk show.
However, a woman of this many talents certainly doesn’t achieve this level of success solely from interviewing celebrities and sharing inspirational stories. Winfrey claims books offered her the inspiration and capacity to continue embarking beyond her means. Along with helping her build skills and foundational strategies, her reading list remains an important tool at her belt.
In 1996, the Primetime Emmy winner decided to share her first selection of books in what has now become her ingenious book club. From then on, her book selections have continued to attract a wide audience of curious readers. With a wide range to choose from, Oprah’s book recommendations are certainly worth checking out.
As the self-made millionaire claims, books are one of the things that Oprah can’t live without. If you’re looking for new selections to add to your reading list, look into some of Oprah’s favorite books of all time.
Oprah is well-known for her time hosting the popular talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. During the show’s 29 seasons, Winfrey started a book club in which she would bring some of her favorite authors to speak on their written works. Together with her audience, Winfrey would strive to bring awareness to various life problems and find ways to help people succeed despite their shortcomings.
The author and producer, Oprah Winfrey, has stated that reading is more than just a hobby to her — it’s something that ‘gave her hope’ and showed her the possibilities that she could aspire to in life. Some of Oprah’s favorite books that motivated her are Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker.
As a media mogul, even Oprah is bound to be too busy to finish one of her books every now and again. The Headway app can become a powerful helper for people looking for an easy way to take in more books and learn new things without sacrificing time in their career or family life. With this app, you can listen to 15-minute book summaries of your favorite self-help or spirituality books.
Oprah’s top 8 favorite books
Fans of Oprah Winfrey should be delighted to hear of her busy reading habits. As she puts it, reading is a way for her to escape the pressures of life and climb new lengths toward self-improvement. If you’re interested, here are ten of Oprah’s all-time favorite books.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
In her 2013 book, Sheryl Sandberg touches on the ever-present issue of gender inequality in the workplace and beyond. As Sandberg puts it, women are still subjected to several gender differences that make it harder for a female employee to scale up in her career. For instance, when an employee announces they are expecting a child — men get congratulated, and women get asked what they are going to do about work.
Although numerous laws have been passed to include more females in the workforce, many women are still selling themselves short for the sake of stereotypes that paint ambitious and confident women as rude, arrogant, and selfish. This ideology that women should be caregivers, focusing solely on their families, often causes them to step down from successful careers and put their promotional goals on the back burner. In reality, there are several ways that women can find a balance between work and family life without sacrificing one or the other.
Lean In is full of insightful advice for women who are thinking about moving up in their careers but aren’t sure if it’s the right choice to make if they want a family in the future. In fact, the one thing that Sandberg stresses the most for women is making the most of their careers before they have children. By envisioning their careers as a jungle gym, Sandberg illustrates how women can lean into their careers and become leaders in their profession prior to starting a family.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Bluntly and shamelessly, Isabel Wilkerson reveals the cracks in America’s class system by exposing the racism that exists in its roots. Detailing eight foundational pillars of the country’s hidden caste system, Wilkerson examines the ways that America has been built upon a hierarchy of human division. Even more, she goes on to explain that this caste still exists prominently in the nation today — only quieter than before.
In Caste, Wilkerson tells stories of inspirational people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Satchel Paige to describe the ways that these unspoken human rankings have affected their lives as non-white individuals, classed in the ‘subordinate’ category of the unlawful caste system. Shedding light on some of the hatred and intolerance that has been hushed into the corner of the country, the book also describes the way this hierarchy is ingrained into the minds of American people to become an embedded infrastructure.
Eventually, readers are encouraged to recognize this caste system and move beyond it in order to achieve a more unified nation. A must-read for anyone looking to delve deeper into the truth behind America’s history, this book will help you reexamine what it means to live in the supposed land of the free, both in the past and today.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer
Back in 2012, Oprah interviewed Michael A. Singer in the hopes of getting him to touch further on the book that had a huge impact on her. Unlike many other spiritual authors, Singer is not a guru who will try to sell you out on their so-called wisdom. In essence, this is what makes The Untethered Soul unmatchable — it’s a guide on how to achieve well-being and peace, explained in simple terms that everyone can understand.
As Singer puts it, the only thing stopping you from achieving your wildest dreams is yourself. In this regard, the ego is often one of humanity’s biggest roadblocks in terms of gaining a more peaceful outlook on life. However, with the right guidance, the ego can be overcome, and better things can be achieved. By harnessing your inner energy and getting to know the voice inside your head, you can begin to understand the way your thoughts affect you and your daily problems.
In his book, Singer proposes methods of detaching from your thoughts to experience a deeper state of freedom and happiness. This includes deeper reflection on your innermost being and adopting a more positive outlook on the issues that commonly plague you. Untethering yourself from the mind and changing how you react to certain situations can allow you to solve problems more effectively and care less about what others think.
Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson
Will Smith is already well-known for his appearances in popular films and TV shows, but in 2021, the Fresh Prince alumni decided to try his luck at becoming an author. In his fresh, new memoir, Smith takes readers on a journey through his life and the struggles he endured as a poor, overworked and sensitive child. Then, as a teenager and young adult, climbing the ladder in hip-hop and TV with his newfound success.
Will is an insightful work that touches on the many factors that made Will Smith the way he is today. Beginning with how he was raised, Smith speaks about his parents and the impact they had on his childhood. The fascinating memoir then sheds more light on his very-public relationships and how he rose to become one of the biggest movie stars in the world.
A triumphant testimony to the many secrets that can lie behind some of Hollywood’s most in-demand stars, Smith’s life story is one that urges readers to reflect on their own narratives and emotions. Whether you are a fan of the Grammy winner and would like to hear more about his background, or you simply find inspiration in his words, this book is certainly a modern masterpiece to behold.
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
Using ancient wisdom from the lost Toltec civilization, The Four Agreements is a powerful spiritual book designed to change your perspective on life itself. After a near-fatal car accident, Mexican surgeon Don Miguel Ruiz turned to spirituality to help him through a troubling time. In the decades following the tragedy, Ruiz created four guiding principles that he believes are essential to leading a meaningful life.
An important lesson that Ruiz preaches in his book is the art of taking nothing personally. Once you begin to live in a way that supports yourself and validates who you are as a person, it can become easier to understand that things other people say do not affect you unless you allow them to. In itself, Ruiz believes that this mindset is key to breaking old agreements that have been conditioned unto us from childhood.
One of Oprah’s favorite books on spirituality, this book was published in 1997 and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for eight consecutive years — and for a good reason. According to Ruiz, the Toltec culture carries valuable insights that can be incorporated into a strategy to free yourself from negative thought patterns and lifestyles. Looking into the past, therefore, may be the perfect way to learn how to live in the present.
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
A powerful take on the ‘living in the present moment’ ideology, Eckhart Tolle demonstrates how to shift your focus to what truly matters. Starting out as a man plagued by depression and unbearable conditions, Tolle decided to change his life with a simple yet astonishing mindset. As he sees it, regret and anxiety are the two most mentally-destructive things in life; by overcoming them, you can experience a newfound sense of freedom.
The Power of Now is all about taking control of your current situation and using it to your advantage in the most positive way possible. With strategies put in place, Tolle suggests observing your mind without judgment and accepting negative thoughts. Using these tools will serve as a foundation for a more reflective life.
Instead of complaining about unfortunate circumstances and wishing for better things, the wisdom in this book can teach you how to practice acceptance and appreciation for things you cannot change. In 2000, three years after his book was published, Oprah found this to be one of her favorite books on happiness; readers can therefore gain solace in their own reflections on Tolle’s thoughtful methods and observations.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
Hidden Valley Road tells the story of a 19th-century American family with 12 children, six of which were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Growing up in Colorado, the Galvin family seemed like the perfect definition of the American dream — hard-working and aspirational qualities in supposed harmonious family relationships. Behind the scenes were much different than the image they portrayed.The Galvins experienced mental breakdowns, ensued violent acts, and suffered hidden abuse.
A masterpiece in itself, this book transports readers back to a time when lobotomies and institutions were widely accepted as treatments for people with mental health issues. Scientists of the era were baffled at the Galvin case and marveled at the conundrum that it presented — what schizophrenia was, how it seemed to affect parts of the brain, and if it was a genetic disease. When several samples of their DNA were taken, this marked a new age for the study and treatment of schizophrenia for generations to come.
At the time of their diagnoses, the Galvin children were a marvel in science. Today, they are a testament to what can be achieved with persistence and compassion. Kolker uses an empathetic tone to reveal untold stories of the Galvin family and how scientists were able to figure out the genetic markers of the disease. Without a doubt, this book offers readers a profound look into the nature of schizophrenia and the fascinating history behind it.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Written at the height of the civil rights movement in 1963, James Baldwin shares his voice on crucial matters involving racism, slavery, and white supremacy. As such, Baldwin offers insightful observations on 1960s America and the political and social division that exists in a society driven by power and greed.
The Fire Next Time is composed of a letter written by Baldwin to his nephew and a revolutionary essay detailing the extremist views of a time of social hierarchy and indifference between racial groups. Delving into his childhood and his own experiences of America, Baldwin compares that to the experiences of white people growing up in stable neighborhoods and upper society. As Baldwin explores the society in which he was raised, he invokes important thoughts on the fight for the equitable treatment of African-Americans.
Packed with insightful information that anyone can use to develop a deeper understanding of history, society, and differing perspectives, many of Baldwin’s theories and insights can arguably still be applicable to the 21st century. This book is a must-read for anyone looking to increase their awareness of socio-political issues and the people who helped make America a more inclusive society for all.
Read More of Oprah’s Favorite Books With Headway
As a parent or busy entrepreneur, reading a book can often be the last thing on your to-do list. However, even Oprah boasts about the long-term benefits of reading – improving brain function, learning new concepts, and introducing yourself to fascinating perspectives and ideologies. Finding the time to read for personal benefit is essential to leading a more meaningful life.
In a society that prioritizes work over relaxation, it can be nearly impossible to incorporate full-length books into your schedule. Luckily, using the Headway app can help you maintain your reading list without sacrificing any of the precious time that could be spent on your career or family. Alongside this app, you can listen to a wide variety of short audiobook summaries on the best books on self-help, career growth, and much more.
Looking for inspirational books to add to your reading list? Download Headway to receive access to an unlimited array of 15-minute audio book summaries that will help you build all the necessary skills in half the time.
Are these books really recommended by Oprah Winfrey?
Although Oprah did not personally create this list herself, most of these books have either been featured in Oprah Winfrey’s book club picks or recommended by her in interviews. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that she has read all the books on this list and enjoyed them enough to recommend to her fans.
What are Oprah’s favorite books on self-help?
Oprah Winfrey certainly isn’t one you would skip out on asking for help. Since hosting her daytime talk show, Winfrey has helped thousands of people sort out their lives and bring awareness to several different worldly issues. So when it comes to the types of books she reads to help herself, it might be worth checking out for yourself. Some of Oprah’s favorite self-help books are A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.
What are Oprah’s favorite books on spirituality?
As is evident in many of Oprah’s favorite book club picks, a large number of her recommendations fall under the spirituality category. Some of Oprah’s favorite spirituality books include The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. These books are known for their fascinating insights into the mind and soul and are known to introduce ideas that can help change your mindset for the better.