Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Oprah Winfrey chose Sidney Poitier's ``The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography'' (HarperSanFrancisco, $14.95 paperback) as the next pick for her television book club. The choice is all but certain to turn the memoir into a bestseller.
``Measure'' is the first title Oprah has given her seal of approval to since James Frey's memoir, ``A Million Little Pieces,'' was exposed as partially fabricated and caused Winfrey considerable embarrassment. Oprah's Book Club has been a major boon to the publishing industry; her imprimatur on a title means gold at the checkout counter.
Originally published in September 2000, ``The Measure of a Man'' is Poitier's second memoir and recounts his rise from an impoverished childhood on Cat Island in the Bahamas to his Oscar-winning film career. The book includes meditations on integrity, commitment, faith and forgiveness and finding meaningful pleasures in life. The book sold 125,000 hardcovers and paperbacks in its first run, according to the publisher.
Winfrey was chastened when the Smoking Gun Web site revealed that Frey had faked significant portions of ``A Million Little Pieces,'' a book she heavily promoted through her club and initially defended. That book had gone on to sell some 1.7 million copies following her imprimatur and in excess of three million copies in all.
Despite the scandal, Winfrey still managed to turn a revised edition of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's Holocaust memoir ``Night'' into a million-copy bestseller.
Mark Tauber, vice president and deputy publisher of HarperSanFrancisco, called Poitier's memoir ``a great inspirational story about an authentic life.
``Oprah loves these kinds of stories,'' he added in a telephone interview today, ``and she's never been shy about saying how much he's been important to her career. It makes a lot of sense.''
Until the debacle, Oprah's Book Club had become the nation's premier venue for promoting books. Begun on Sept. 19, 1996, with the selection of Jacquelyn Mitchard's novel ``The Deep End of the Ocean,'' a Winfrey endorsement has nearly always prompted a dramatic boost in a title's sales.
Tauber anticipates the same will hold for Poitier's book. ``The Measure of a Man'' sold 75,000 copies in hardcover, landing briefly on the New York Times bestseller list in 2000, and an additional 50,000 copies in paperback.
Though Tauber wouldn't reveal specific numbers, he said, ``it's safe to say that we're printing several hundred thousand new paperbacks.'' He reports that pre-sales of the book, which has already been delivered to bookstores and will be on sale today, have been strong.
In 2001, author Jonathan Franzen voiced his discomfort with the ``Oprah's Book Club'' sticker affixed to his novel ``The Corrections.'' Franzen was dropped from Winfrey's show for his perceived snobbery; he later acknowledged her in his acceptance speech at the National Book Awards. She'd probably made him a bestselling author, too.
After a 14-month hiatus from selecting books between April 2002 and June 2003, Oprah shifted the focus of her club from choosing works by contemporary authors to promoting classic novels. The first, John Steinbeck's ``East of Eden,'' sold in excess of 1.6 million copies. Subsequent choices fell off a bit. Yet even missteps can account for significant sales.
The final selection of the classics club, a three-volume, $29.95 box set of William Faulkner's ``As I Lay Dying,'' ``The Sound and the Fury'' and ``Light in August'' was perceived as too daunting for many but still sold in excess of a half million units.
Including today's selection, Winfrey has picked 58 titles in all for her club, making instant millionaires of some the authors.