Prior to 2008, writer Eckhart Tolle had a loyal, though limited, readership, due to his bestselling book THE POWER OF NOW, and was known as one of the foremost authors in the marginal literary realm of spiritual self-improvement. Then a transcendent event best described as the "power of Oprah" catapulted Tolle from the confines of the "new age" genre and into the consciousness of millions of mainstream readers around the world. In January of 2008, Oprah Winfrey selected Tolle's second book, A NEW EARTH, for her enormously popular book club, and launched an unprecedented promotion for the title, dedicating multiple episodes of her talk show to Tolle and hosting a weekly series of live Internet discussions centered on his teachings. While Tolle's message of spiritual awareness has now been spread around the world, less is known about the somewhat reclusive man himself. ||He was born in Germany in 1948, with the name Ulrich Tolle, and he later moved with his father to Spain, where he spent his formative teenage years. Tolle claims not to have attended school regularly during this time, instead allowing his inquisitive mind to acquire wisdom and education from other sources, though he did later earn a degree from the University of London and was accepted to the PhD program at Cambridge University. After leaving the program, he drifted aimlessly and battled depression, which culminated in a spiritual transformation wherein he came to believe that all of his problems and inner conflicts were the result of distractions generated by the ego. He spent several years honing his philosophy, which combines elements of Zen Buddhism, Christianity, Sufism, Hinduism, and other faiths. In 1997, Tolle published THE POWER OF NOW with a small run of 3,000 copies, and the book eventually became a bestseller through word of mouth. Tolle, who has lived in Vancouver, British Columbia since 1996, has not been unencumbered by controversy, as he is often criticized for hijacking the teachings of other religious and spiritual guides and for choosing to market his ideas through costly seminars and a line of somewhat redundant texts.