The Richard and Judy book club is back — albeit in an online manifestation (in conjunction with W.H.Smith) rather than via broadcasting. Seeing as their old ‘This Morning’ book club seemed to have transformed into generic ‘TV Book Club’, which continues on Channel 4, it will be interesting to see how the two fare against each other — although there’s surely room for both to co-exist. (I have a soft spot for W.H.Smith as I worked there as a sixth-former and every Christmas as a student, although, curiously I worked on every department and did almost every conceivable jobÂ in the Oldham storeÂ — including security guard when the takings were taken in a briefcase to the bank — Â except work on books.)
I know there’s more involvement from Richard and Judy themselves than just being figureheads as I follow Richard Madeley’s very entertaining tweets, which have proved a source of inspiration for characterisation on occasions. He has updated his Twitter followers with behind-the-scenes Â information about the selection of the books — they retreated to the south of France to read their way through the longlist but this wasn’t as idyllic as it sounds as Richard kept being stung by wasps. Some of his many Twitter followers ensured he countered the wasps with an electrified tennis-racket device which, ironically for me, I’d been introduced to earlier in the summer by my dad.
The wasps are mentioned again in the blog on their website which also has the happy news that Richard Madeley will be guest presenting some more shows on Radio Two in the near future. Previous stints have introduced the world to the recipe for his infamous tuna bake (topped with crushed packets of crisps).
I’m fascinated to see what sort of books (they’re not all fiction nor English language originals) are chosen for this sort of promotion. One thing about following Richard Madeley’s tweets is that his candid, gaffe-prone persona gives the impression that these books are all chosen objectively on merit and not due to publisher lobbying.
It’s interesting that the previous post was on Jonathan Franzen as ‘The Corrections’ came to prominence partly because he was reportedly dismissive about Oprah Winfrey selecting the book for her club — and then she apparently deselected it when informed.
I can see from the writers’ and publishers’ perspective that these sort of book clubs wield a huge amount of promotional power and that it might seem like something of a lottery to have their titles promoted. On the other hand, these clubs must certainly expand the quantitative size of the book market and, because they have had a track record of picking some innovative and challenging books, they probably improve the market in qualitative terms too.