VJ Books Blog

(Publisher’s Weekly, Mar. 23, by Dermot McEvoy and Michael Coffey )

Familiar voices crowd the top in fiction; in nonfiction, the fundamental rules apply—plus all things Obama

John Grisham‘s aptly titled Appeal had the most of it, as far as the novel-buying reading public went, earning the #1 slot on our hardcover fiction list last year—just enough to beat out the beloved Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, which sold 1.3 million. Our top 15 fiction titles this year look much like last year’s, with the notable absence of Khaled Hosseini, who was top dog in ’07. The prolific James Patterson racked up three in the top echelon, and Nicholas Sparks, Patricia Cornwell, Dean Koontz and David Baldacci made returns. The new kids on the block, in addition to Wroblewski, were Stephenie Meyer, seamlessly crossing over from the YA genre with The Host, and Glenn Beck, whose Christmas Sweater apparently warmed the hearts of his faithful.

In nonfiction, per usual, the top spots went to heart-string tuggers (Randy Pausch, Rick Warren), humor (Sedaris) and self-empowerment (Roizen & Oz)—but Pausch’s The Last Lecture outsold the next bestselling book 4 to 1. Of course, the power of television and celebrity was obvious: of the top 15 authors, seven have prominent regular media exposure: Warren, Bill O’Reilly, Barbara Walters, Ina Garten, Jon and Kate Gosselin, Chelsea Handler and Maria Shriver. Together the media seven sold a remarkable 4,800,000 books.

Going deeper into the nonfiction list, one must conclude that Americans are fixated on Barack Obama, cooking and money. Obama, the leader of the free world, might also be the world’s most charismatic figure. (Paris Hilton, to whom Obama was derisively compared by the McCain camp, should be so lucky.) Books by, for and against the 44th president—it hardly mattered—did very well in 2008. First were Obama’s own memoirs, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, which together sold just over 239,000 copies. The anti-Obama forces did well with Obama Nation by Jerome R. Corsi and The Case Against Barack Obama by David Freddoso, which together sold just over 470,000 copies. There were also a couple of Obama photography books: The American Journey of Barack Obama by the Editors of Life Magazine and The Rise of Barack Obama by Pete Souza (now the official White House photographer). Together they sold more than 325,000 copies.

Food had a place at the table, too. The Food Network is well represented with Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Deen and Ina Garten. Also prominent were Martha Stewart, Jessica Seinfeld, Phyllis Pellman Good and Trisha Yearwood.

And with the United States facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, it’s not too surprising that people turned to two of the most trusted financial advisers in America—Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman. Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover sold 252,000 copies and Orman’s Women & Money weighed in at 179,396.


As in previous years, all the calculations on the following pages are based on shipped-and-billed figures supplied by publishers for new books issued in 2007 and 2008 and reflect only 2008 domestic trade sales. Figures for all books listed below with a number symbol (#) were submitted to PW in confidence, for use only in placing titles on the lists. Numbers are rounded down to indicate their sales relationship to other titles.

1 The Appeal. John Grisham. Doubleday (11/08) ##
2 The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. David Wroblewski. Ecco (9/08) 1,320,000
3 The Host. Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown (5/08) 1,240,005
4 Cross Country. James Patterson. Little, Brown (11/08) 1,181,458
5 The Lucky One. Nicholas Sparks. Grand Central (9/08) 1,150,023
6 Fearless Fourteen. Janet Evanovich. St. Martin’s (6/08)1,058,427
7 Christmas Sweater. Glenn Beck. Threshold (11/08) 900,800
8 Scarpetta. Patricia Cornwell. Putnam (12/08) 800,000
9 Your Heart Belongs to Me. Dean Koontz. Bantam 784,645 (11/08)
10 Plum Lucky. Janet Evanovich. St. Martin’s (1/08)748,414
11 7th Heaven. James Patterson. Little, Brown (2008) 700,313
12 Sail. James Patterson. Little, Brown (1/2008) 665,358
13 A Good Woman. Danielle Steel. Delacorte (10/2008) (636,375)
14 Divine Justice. David Baldacci. Grand Central (11/2008) (633,607)
15 The Gate House. Nelson DeMille. Grand Central (10/2008) 606,845
1 The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch. Hyperion (4/08) 4,388,137
2 The Purpose of Christmas. Rick Warren. Howard (11/08) #1,290,000
3 You: Being Beautiful. Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz. Free Press (11/08) #910,000
4 Outliers. Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown (11/08) 821,721
5 A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity. Bill O’Reilly. Broadway (9/08) 776,608
6 Dewey. Vicki Myron with Brett Witter. Grand Central (9/08) 758,931
7 Audition. Barbara Waters. Knopf (1/08) 702,000
8 Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. Ina Garten. Clarkson Potter (10/08) 641,741
9 The Snowball. Alice Schroeder. Bantam (9/08) 634,546
10 Hot, Flat and Crowded. Thomas L. Friedman. Farrar, Straus & Giroux (9/08) 625,363
11 When You Are Engulfed in Flames. David Sedaris. Little, Brown (6/08) 621,873
12 Multiple Blessings. Jon and Kate Gosselin and Beth Carson. Zondervan (10/08) 523,000
13 American Lion. Jon Meacham. Random (11/08) 463,678
14 Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. Chelsea Handler. Simon Spotlight (4/08) #460,000
15 Just Who Will You Be? Maria Shriver. Hyperion (4/08) 418,721
*All sales figures reflect books sold in calendar year 2008.
# Sales figures were submitted to PW in confidence, for use in placing titles on th lists. Numbers shown are rounded down to indicate relationship to sales figures for other tles.
Note: Rankings are determined by sales figures provided by publishers; the numbers generally reflect reports of copies “shipped and billed” in calendar year 2008. Publishers were instructed to adjust sales figures to include returns through January 31, 2009. Publishers did not at that time know what total returns would be—indeed, the majority of returns occur after that cutoff date—so none of these figures should be regarded as final net sales. (Dates in parentheses indicate month and yar of publication.)