Oprah Comes to Naperville -- East of Eden Is Book Club Pick

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On June 18, Oprah Winfrey announced the first selection for her revived Oprah's Book Club. The book, which had previously been identified by only an ordering ISBN, is East of Eden by John Steinbeck. In the Oprah audience were 10 staff members of Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois. They were able to hear Winfrey declare Anderson's "the best independent bookstore in the country" and to see her air a video clip taped in the store.

Winfrey and crew had paid a surprise visit to Anderson's on Monday, June 16. According to an ebullient e-mail from store buyer Mary Yockey, "The front doors swung open about 1:15 on Monday, June 16, and in strode Ms. Winfrey herself carrying two large cartons of her newest Oprah Book Club selection. 'What a wonderful bookstore,' Oprah proclaimed." She indicated that the show had received more e-mail messages to restart her book club from people in Naperville, than from any other single area.

"Of course, booksellers and patrons alike welcomed her with open arms and dropped jaws. She proceeded to 'work the room' in a very sincere manner, talking to customers, including an 11-year-old reader and our co-owner Becky Anderson, who praised the quality of many young adult novels worthy of discussion among adults and children together," Yockey continued.

Winfrey gave out sealed copies of the book, with strict instructions not to open them until the airing of her live show on June 18. She provided staff with tickets to the broadcast and t-shirts. She then left with her crew in a little white truck, rumored to be on her way to surprise some book club members in Naperville.

Doris Blechman, Anderson's assistant manager, who was minding the store on Wednesday morning, told BTW that the response to the book club selection was immediate and passionate. "We sold out after about an hour and a half. We had 70 copies in the store. People were calling frantically to reserve copies. I asked them if they knew what book it was, and they said no. I asked them if they cared, and they said no."

Anderson's, which has another store in Downer's Grove, Illinois, has been run by members of the Anderson family for the past 127 years. The family also founded and runs an independent pharmacy. Last year, Anderson's was named by the Women's National Book Association as the 2002 winner of the Lucile Micheels Pannell Award for a general bookstore. -- Nomi Schwartz