Saturday, March 15, 2014

This Week's Bestsellers: March 17, 2014


Oscar Bumps Twelve Years a Slave Movie Tie-In

What a difference winning an Oscar for Best Picture has made for Twelve Years a Slave, the story of Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped from his upstate New York home in 1841 and sold into slavery for more than a decade before being rescued and returned to his family. Not only has the film grossed more than $140 million worldwide, but the Penguin Classics official movie tie-in edition is also enjoying a post-Oscar bump. The book, which landed on our Trade Paperback bestseller list in September, has been steadily climbing the list for the past 18 weeks. This week, with, to date, almost 80,000 copies sold, it spiked at #1, up from last week’s #13,

This is not the first time this book has achieved bestseller status. Derby & Miller of Auburn, N.Y., initially published Northup’s ghostwritten memoirs in 1853, a year after the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin ignited a national debate on slavery. Northup’s account, which was dedicated to Stowe, sold 30,000 copies in its first two years. Twelve Years a Slave was unique among the slave narratives popular in some circles at the time because, unlike the others writing in this genre, including, most notably, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, Northup was a free man sold into slavery, rather than someone who had been born into it and had then escaped to freedom. After going out of print after the Civil War, Twelve Years a Slave was eventually re-discovered by two historians, and an annotated edition was published by Louisiana State University Press in 1968. More than a dozen publishers have since published their own editions. Not bad for a 161-year-old memoir that had been all but forgotten for about a century. —Claire Kirch

Epic Length, Big Sales for Second Book in Series

Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, the second book in the Stormlight Archive epic fantasy series (after The Way of Kings), tops our Hardcover Fiction list this week, with sales of just over 30,000 copies in it first week on sale, according to Nielsen BookScan. The cover price of $28.99 may be steep for epic fantasy, but the book is more than 1,000 pages long and features more interweaving plot lines than any three stand-alone novels, so readers get plenty of bang for their bucks.

It’s been four years since The Way of Kings blazed onto the scene, building on the popularity of Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, but Sanderson hasn’t been idle. First, he concluded his Alcatraz middle-grade series with Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens. Then he wrapped up the late Robert Jordan’s legendary Wheel of Time fantasy epic, turning a planned final book into three well-received doorstoppers. Finally, he launched two different young adult fantasy series in 2013: the Reckoners series, beginning with the #1 bestseller Steelheart, and the Rithmatist series, beginning with The Rithmatist. And of course he’s been traveling to promote all these titles, hiding postcards and other goodies in signed books when he visits bookstores. The surprise isn’t that it’s taken him this long to produce Words of Radiance, but that he’s found time to write it at all. —Rose Fox

When It Was Showtime in the NBA: The L.A. Lakers Scored on the Court and Off

It’s a great month for basketball. With the NCAA’s March Madness quickly approaching, fans are warming up with Jeff Pearlman’s Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, which debuts on our Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller at #22.

Pearlman has found a niche with a huge following. The former Sports Illustrated senior writer is known for chronicling the exploits of pro sports’ bad boys. First, he documented the mischief of the Mets in their 1986 winning season in The Year the Bad Guys Won! Moving on to the 1990s, Pearlman next took on the escapades of the Super Bowl–winning machine, the Dallas Cowboys. This time around it’s sex, drugs, and fast-breaks as Pearlman takes readers behind the scenes of the L.A. Lakers in the 1980s. Back in the days when Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned purple and gold, the Lakers had not only talent and charisma but all the spectacle of the 1980s and Hollywood, on and off the court, making them a team even New Yorkers (a young Pearlman among them) loved to watch.

Publicity for the book began with a first serial in Sports Illustrated with lots of radio interviews to follow. Just how many? According to the publicist, 77 and counting. —Annie Coreno

Queen of All Media: Chelsea Handler Continues her Winning Streak with Uganda Be Kidding Me

Consider the force of nature that is Chelsea Handler: bestselling author (Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me; My Horizontal Life), host of E!’s late night talk show Chelsea Lately, stand-up comedian, and actress. Did you see her epic takedown of Piers Morgan on CNN? Did you know that she has her own imprint, Borderline Amazing, at Grand Central? Handler’s latest feather-ruffling collection of essays, Uganda Be Kidding Me (dedicated to “all my friends whose friendships I’ve ended by writing this”), debuts at #2 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list. Here, Handler shares stories about international travel and domestic jet setting, like the time she wandered Rome in search of a toga party, the time she exchanged dirty emails with a resort manager in the Bahamas, and many other episodes too colorful to mention here. Handler’s editor Beth DeGuzman, v-p, Grand Central Publishing Digital and Paperback Publisher, notes: “We always aim for #1 with Chelsea, and we’ve now hit the bull’s-eye three times in a row. We’re the luckiest publisher to have such a committed and hardworking author.” Hardworking is right. Handler will perform her stand-up routine and appear at post-show signings from now until June 13, as well as making stops (usually at 2 p.m. on show days) at bookstores including BookPeople in Austin, Tex.; Left Bank Books in St. Louis; Schuler’s Books in Detroit; and Book Revue, in Westbury, N.Y. She has already appeared on “In Conversation with Ronan Farrow” at NYC’s 92nd Street Y, as well as on Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight, Extra, and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and will appear on Ellen on April 17. Print media appearances have included interviews in Paper Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, and Entertainment Weekly. However you feel about Handler’s brash sense of humor, her business savvy and work ethic can’t be denied. —Jessamine Chan

The Walking Dead’s Governor Dies…Again

Given the popularity of the Walking Dead franchise in every medium, it’s almost impossible not to make this joke: its success is as unstoppable as the zombie apocalypse itself. Since debuting on AMC on Halloween 2010, the TV series has been the #1-rated show in the 18–49 demographic, even beating the Olympics, twice. The graphic novel compendiums have sold more 400,000 copies, by BookScan’s count, and the regular monthly comic—still written by series creator Robert Kirkman with art by Charlie Adlard—is one of Image Comics top-sellers month after month.

And now, the novelization of the rise and fall of the Governor, one of the series’ most iconic villains, has reached our Hardcover Fiction list at #13. Originally planned as a trilogy, this series of novels—plotted by Kirkman and written by Bram Stoker Award nominee Jay Bonansinga—had its final installment expand to two full-length novels. The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part Two concludes the story of the Governor, aka Brian Blake, as he’s known in the comics, an ineffectual would-be record-store owner who, after the outbreak, harnesses his inner despot to become the leader of the Woodbury community that initially seems to have withstood the zombie apocalypse intact. Alas, the toughness to survive often turns to ruthless evil, a continuing theme of both the Walking Dead comics and TV show, and the Governor turns out to be an unbalanced psycho.

In the novels, the story of the Governor’s evolution is greatly expanded from the comics version—which differs a bit from the TV show’s arc, although a tank is involved in the final scene of both. All of the regular characters show up for the big finale, however, including Rick Grimes and swordswoman Michonne. Although no further Walking Dead novels have been announced, given their sales success, you might expect this series to… rise from the dead. —Heidi MacDonald

Top 10 Overall

Rank Title Author Imprint This Week Units
1 Divergent Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 61,753
2 Insurgent Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 41,063
3 Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss Random House 36,814
4 Allegiant Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 33,793
5 The Fault in Our Stars John Green Dutton 33,366
6 One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish Dr. Seuss Random House 30,695
7 Words of Radiance Brandon Sanderson Tor 29,991
8 Alex Cross, Run James Patterson Vision 27,713
9 The Cat in the Hat Dr. Seuss Random House 25,179
10 Tell Me Lisa Jackson Zebra 23,954