chapter  2
41 Pages

Television

In 1996, Oprah Winfrey introduced a segment on The Oprah Winfrey Show called Oprah’s Book Club. As Winfrey herself said, the club was designed “to get America reading again” (Teather 2002). Winfrey’s decision to create a book club for television and then to encourage her viewers to start their own book groups proved to be momentous. At a single stroke, Winfrey became a marketing force for books in her own right, as titles that she chose for discussion rocketed to the top of bestseller lists in the United States and around the world. Pundits weighed in on Winfrey’s selections, alternately praising her choices and criticizing the ways that she selected books and shared them with others. But one thing is inarguable: Oprah Winfrey not only changed the reading habits of many Americans, but she also helped to bring book groups and shared reading to a new medium: television. The success of Oprah’s Book Club has meant that it has received sustained scholarly attention from a number of quarters (Konchar Farr and Harker 2008; Peck 2010; Striphas 2009). But, although the role of television in the promotion of mass reading may have started with Oprah Winfrey, it did not end there. In this chapter, we examine a televised book club that has received less attention than Oprah’s Book Club: The Richard & Judy Book Club, one of the most successful televised MREs ever produced in the United Kingdom.