Richard and Judy name top ten books - stand by for sales bonanza

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The Independent Culture

Blockbusters and brains nestle alongside each other in the list of writers whose sales are set to soar thanks to the patronage of television's Richard and Judy, who have become publishing's biggest star-makers.

The 2006 Richard and Judy Book Club, which takes place weekly on the couple's Channel 4 show, will feature 10 writers. Among them will be the literary heavyweight Julian Barnes, with his Booker Prize-shortlisted novel Arthur & George, and Kate Mosse, the founder of the Orange Prize, whose blockbuster Labyrinth is already a big seller.

Non-fiction titles on the list include The Farm, Richard Benson's acclaimed story of his family's Yorkshire farm, and Moondust, for which writer Andrew Smith traced all the living astronauts to have landed on the moon.

Each will be discussed with a celebrity reviewer starting on 18 January and then viewers will be asked to vote for their favourite. The winner of the Richard and Judy Best Read of the Year Award will be announced at the British Book Awards in March.

As the list was announced on the show last night, Amanda Ross, the executive producer, said: "Each year we worry that the list won't be as exciting or successful as the last, as we have a lot to live up to.

"I am delighted with the final 10 books which we selected from over 500 submissions [from publishers]. I am confident that once again there really is something for everyone."

Joel Rickett, deputy editor of the publishing industry magazine, The Bookseller, welcomed the list as "nice and varied". His favourite among the 10 was Nicole Krauss's The History of Love which, with its device of a missing literary text, was similar to the Spanish hit title The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The film rights have been already snapped up by the producer, David Heyman, who spotted Harry Potter's big-screen potential.

"The History of Love was an obvious Richard and Judy choice because it's accessible yet stretching, it's sad, poignant, and a really good book," Mr Rickett said.

He was not sure what viewers would make of the Julian Barnes' novel, because the author's cerebral, introverted style was "quite different from most of the other Richard and Judy books".

Although there was some initial scepticism, the phenomenal success of Richard and Judy in promoting book-buying has given them such clout that Mr Rickett said publishers were now clearly looking for titles with the mix of history and romance that they favoured.

"The Richard and Judy Book Club has become part of the literary calendar alongside the few key things like the Booker, the Whitbread and the Orange Prize. In sales terms, it's now ahead of all three," he said. "The question is whether the show can keep the momentum or whether they inevitably lose energy."

The shortlist

THE HISTORY OF LOVE, by Nicole Krauss

At the age of 10, Leo Gursky fell in love with a young girl in his Polish village and wrote a book in honour of her. Now elderly and living in America, he believes that book long lost. Krauss tells what happens when Gursky's world collides with that of a young girl investigating her own mother's loneliness.

THE FARM, by Richard Benson

The first book from a former editor of The Face is the true story of the farm in Yorkshire where his family has farmed for 200 years. It is told through a combination of childhood memories and notes taken in the weeks before the farm is sold as no longer financially viable and the property developers move in.

THE CONJUROR'S BIRD, by Martin Davies

A debut novel from a BBC producer, this story of the search for a stuffed bird is a mix of detection, romance and history. Fitz, a scientist, becomes obsessed with tracking down the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta, one of the specimens discovered by the real-life 18th-century explorer Joseph Banks.

ARTHUR AND GEORGE, by Julian Barnes

Shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize, this is based on the true story of a miscarriage of justice investigated by Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. George Edalji was jailed for attacks on horses but Doyle, believing Edalji to be a victim of racism and sloppy detective work, worked to clear his name.

THE LOST ART OF KEEPING SECRETS, by Eva Rice

Set in post-war England, this is the story of Penelope Wallace who longs to be grown-up and fall in love, but finds that various things - such as her eccentric family - keep on getting in the way. This is the fourth novel from the daughter of the songwriter Tim Rice.

LABYRINTH, by Kate Mosse

Best-selling novel by the co-founder of the Orange Prize, it blends the lives of two women, separated by 800 years. It is an adventure story steeped in the legends and history of the Cathars, the religious movement branded heretical by Roman Catholics, set in the medieval French town of Carcassonne.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly

This is a crime thriller by a former Los Angeles Times police reporter. It is the story of Mickey Haller - a low-ranking criminal defence lawyer who gets his first wealthy client in years when a Beverley Hills rich boy is accused of beating a woman. However, the case starts to fall apart.

EMPRESS ORCHID, by Anchee Min

Min, a former actress who was born in Shanghai but has lived in America since 1984, bases her novel on the true story of China's last empress. She creates the world of the Forbidden City in Imperial China through the eyes of Orchid, a poor girl who beats rival concubines to the emperor's bed.

MARCH, by Geraldine Brooks

The recreation of the life of John March, the father who is away from the family in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. In Brooks's story, March emerges as an abolitionist and idealistic chaplain on the front lines of the American Civil War. Brooks, an Australian, lives in America and is a fellow at Harvard.

MOONDUST, by Andrew Smith

Smith, an Englishman who was raised in America and watched the Moon landings on TV from San Francisco, set out to interview all the astronauts still living who walked on the Moon to find out how their lives were changed by their experience. Smith, a journalist, now lives in Norfolk with his family.

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