An Instant Classic: Oprah’s Private Library

When does one of the world’s busiest people find the time to read? Her answer is surprising: “I don’t watch television,” she says. “I don’t have to, because my friend Gayle watches more television than anyone—she couldn’t believe I wanted to have a house without a TV room!” Oprah continues, laughing. “Honest to God, true story: Stedman and I had been in the house four or five months when he said he was going out to a friend’s to watch a football game. Suddenly I thought maybe I’d seen a television set somewhere upstairs. When we found it, Stedman said, ‘You mean there’s been a TV in this house all this time?'” Given how Oprah looks forward to her reading time—”It’s a ritual,” she says—it’s easy to see how a lone television might have escaped her notice. “This is the thing,” she explains. “I come here, and I’m so fulfilled. I will rarely go out. I can just entertain myself.”

The other evening, Oprah says, she made a nice fire. Then she gathered up her dogs, a hot cup of tea, and, of course, a pile of reading—and thought to herself, “Now this is happiness.”

Because she is given so many books, Oprah occasionally needs to do some weeding. But then she has to face what to do with her castoffs. “I can’t throw books out. I can give them away. I box them up and send them to hospitals and women’s prisons, but I can’t put them in the trash,” she says. “I’ve tried, and even gone back to get them out of the trash. It’s disrespectful.” It doesn’t matter whether the book is good or bad: For Oprah, what’s significant is the effort someone put into writing it.

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