Richard and Judy to launch their own book award

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The Independent Online

Oprah Winfrey's book club earned her millions of dollars and an entry in Fortune magazine's list of America's most powerful businesswomen. Now Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan are to take a leaf out of the talk-show hostess's book - by launching their own literary prize.

In a move that is likely to inspire wry chortles and outright disdain among "serious" book-lovers, the UK's king and queen of daytime television are to launch a search for the first Richard and Judy Best Read of the Year.

The new accolade, to be presented for the first time next spring, is being developed in collaboration with the British Book Awards.

It remains to be seen whether Richard and Judy's endorsement will enhance the status of the annual prize ceremony, nicknamed the "Nibbies". Its past decisions to honour the literary efforts of the likes of Pamela Stephenson and Sir Alex Ferguson have led to it being dismissed by many as a celebrity-obsessed, poor relation of more literary awards such as the Booker.

All the signs are that the husband-and-wife presenters intend to take an unusually hands-on approach to the award. They will pick their own shortlists of 10 books to be debated in a series of "Reading Club" slots on their show, and viewers will be asked to vote for a winner.

The prize itself will be presented at the Nibbies ceremony in April, before being announced to viewers, along with the winners of all the other awards, on the Channel 4 afternoon chat show two days later, on Good Friday.