Today Oprah Winfrey announced her new pick for Oprah's Book Club: "The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography," by actor Sidney Poitier, 79. As usual, there is coordination between the Great Anointer and publisher HarperSanFrancisco, a sort of touchy-feely division of HarperCollins. The book was first published in 2000, but a new hardcover edition, adorned with the "Oprah's Book Club" sticker, is released today. As of right now (12:10 p.m.), the book is ranked No. 493,067 on Amazon.com. By tomorrow, if not before, I predict it will be No. 1. Publishers have learned, when they get the early word, to gear up the presses for huge demand, as high as a million books.
This is Winfrey's first pick of a living writer since she was badly burned by James Frey's notorious "A Million Little Pieces," which choice made her look gullible until she yanked the guy back on the show and put him through the death of a thousand verbal cuts for pretending that his book of fantasies was all true. One of the advantages of picking a seven-year-old book is that if there had been any serious doubts about it, they would have come out by now. Still, we expect that someone will go through the Poitier book with a magnifying glass and publicize whatever questions may be found. Nobody's perfect, but in memoir these days, you may have to be.