The Blagger's Guide To...The Richard and Judy Book Club
If you want to get ahead, get in the club
Sunday 28 August 2011
*Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan celebrate the first anniversary of their WHSmith Book Club on Tuesday, complete with a children's book club, a new autumn reading list, and a podcast that has notched up over 100,000 hits. This is the latest incarnation of their book club, which first became a regular feature of the couple's Channel 4 show in 2004.
*Appearing on the Book Club was instrumental in helping Victoria Hislop's The Island and Kate Mosse's Labyrinth to sell over a million copies each. Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor rose to the top of the Amazon bestseller charts within four hours of being discussed on the show. Sales of David Nicholls' Starter For Ten rose by 1,000 per cent after it was mentioned. In 2008 alone, £8m was spent on Richard and Judy books. Fears that the club would be a dumbed-down reading list for TV-holic viewers were put to rest when David Mitchell's Booker-shortlisted Cloud Atlas was chosen, and proved popular. Philip Stone, charts editor at The Bookseller, said: "Quite simply, authors received a bigger benefit from appearing on Richard and Judy's sofa than by winning any of the major literary prizes in the UK."
*The power behind the lectern was Amanda Ross, the joint managing director of Cactus TV, who came up with the idea to launch a televised book club in the UK following a similar format to Oprah Winfrey's Book Club in America. Ross was instrumental in choosing the books, and reportedly could not be nobbled. At its height, the club received over 650 submissions each year, which were whittled down to 10. Ross became known as "the most powerful woman in British publishing". She now runs Channel 4's The TV Book Club, which, unlike the WHSmith and Richard and Judy book clubs, uses sponsorship to provide its promotion budget and doesn't rely on any money from publishers.
*Richard's first book, Fathers and Sons, about the men in his family, was largely (if grudgingly) well-received by the critics. Earlier this month, he appealed to his Twitter followers for help writing the sex scenes in his second book, a novel. Judy is currently working on her first novel, a supernatural thriller set in Cornwall.
*The longest that Richard and Judy have ever been apart was for 15 days, while Richard was filming BBC1's Who Do You Think You Are? earlier this summer. It will be broadcast on 28 September. On the way home from filming, two passengers on Madeley's flight approached him to tell him how much they enjoyed some of the latest Book Club selections: The Postmistress, The Blasphemer, and Room.
*Julian Barnes said that being selected as a R&J Book Club author (in 2006) was the highlight of his career.
*The polymath critic, novelist and Booker judge, Philip Hensher, is another fan of Richard and Judy. According to the R&J regular, former literary editor of the IoS and now literary blogger, Suzi Feay (http://suzifeay.blogspot.com/), he is one of the few people who have unashamedly told her with utter glee: "I saw you on Richard and Judy!"
*This summer's list is: When God Was a Rabbit, by Sarah Winman; The Summer of the Bear, by Bella Pollen; The Return of Captain John Emmett, by Elizabeth Speller; The Death Instinct, by Jed Rubenfeld; The Confessions of Katherine Howard, by Suzannah Dunn; The Novel in the Viola, by Natasha Solomons; Every Last One, by Anna Quindlen; and The Poison Tree, by Erin Kelly.
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