The Last Battle
A Memory of Light, the final book in the Wheel of Time epic fantasy series, is out front on our Hardcover Fiction list this week by a mile, with 155,178 hardcover copies sold this week, according to Nielsen BookScan. "Eagerly awaited" doesn't begin to describe the excitement around this title, the third series installment written by Brandon Sanderson and based on notes left by the series' creator, the late Robert Jordan (1948–2007). "This launch was 23 years in the making," says Sally Feller, senior publicist at Tor Books. "People have been waiting for the end of this series since they were in middle school and now they have kids of their own. National press picked it up, which has helped, but the fans' passion for the series has been the dominant factor in the book's sales."
Sanderson has an extensive fan base in his own right, and Feller believes there's been crossover in both directions. "Doing the Wheel of Time books has definitely helped grow Brandon's audience," she says. "Once Jordan's fans have read A Memory of Light and finished the Wheel of Time series, I think they'll pick up Brandon's solo books next." In 2013 Sanderson is due to publish two adult and two YA titles in various series. "I'm convinced he doesn't ever sleep," Feller says.
Sanderson's collaborator in completing the series is Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's widow, a professional editor who edited all of the Wheel of Time books for Tor and personally selected Sanderson as the writer to finish the series. They've embarked on a 23-city tour for A Memory of Light, and Feller reports they've sold upwards of 400 books at each stop, including a whopping 1,500 copies at the launch event in Provo, Utah. "Harriet and Brandon pieced all three books together from Jordan's notes," Feller says, "but the final scene in A Memory of Light is just as Jordan wrote it, shortly before his death. I think that's very fitting that he gets the last word."—Rose Fox
Recovery's Long Road
Golden boy Christopher Kennedy Lawford, the son of rat packer Peter Lawford and Kennedy sister Patricia, shared his life story and his dirty laundry (very un-Kennedy-like) in a 2005 memoir Symptoms of Withdrawal that was a bestseller, with over 75,000 copies sold in hardcover and paper. He followed that tale with Moments of Clarity: Voices From the Front lines of Addiction and Recovery in 2009, which chronicled "turning points" in the lives of the recovered, a book that did not strike exactly the same chord as those stories of learning the twist from Marilyn Monroe and watching Frank Sinatra shoot craps in Las Vegas, although sales did hit 20,000 by Nielsen's count. Now Lawford's back with a self-help book from Benbella. Recover to Live: Kick any Habit, Manage any Addiction: Your Self-Treatment Guide to Alcohol, Drugs, Eating Disorders, Gambling, Hoarding, Smoking, Sex, and Porn takes the #25 slot its first week out with numbers just shy of 5,000. Could it be the all-inclusive title that spares not one of us? Or the holistic approach that advocates everything from 12-steps to journaling in dialogues with experts in the field? In 2005, Sara Nelson, then PW's editor-in-chief, reviewing Symptoms of Withdrawal, called Lawford "a writer of talent and grace." Contacted today, Nelson added that, with Lawford's new book, "he proves he can also be a wise and helpful teacher."—Louisa Ermelino
A Pair of Collections Hit the List
Short story collections have long been staples in the fiction category, but let's face it: they aren't often found on the national bestseller charts— and certainly not twice in the same week. Check out, however, this week's Hardcover Fiction's fifth- and sixth-place titles: debut collections that, respectively, have garnered YTD sales of 11,857 and 9,805, according to Nielsen BookScan. Kinsey and Me, published by Marian Wood Books, is by Sue Grafton, the megaselling alphabet mysteries author (A Is for Alibi, etc., whose latest is now up to V Is for Vengeance) and creator of intrepid sleuth Kinsey Milhone, who Grafton introduced in 1982. To mark this anniversary year, the author created stories that reveal Kinsey's origins and the author's own past. Grafton's new bestseller has two parts: the nine Kinsey stories of detection (1986–1993) and the "And Me" stories, written in the decade after Grafton's mother died. In response to Kinsey and Me, publisher Marian Wood said, "Seeing this book make the list gives me such pleasure. I don't know what it is about my fellow Americans, but over the last decades they seem to have become allergic to short fiction. When I was a kid, I listened avidly to short stories on the radio—science fiction, mysteries, horror tales, every possible category of short fiction."
Published by Random House on Jan. 8, George Saunders's Tenth of December is the much-lauded author's fourth book of stories; his first, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, was published in 1996. Pastoralia and The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil (New York Times Notable Books of the Year) are later collections. Saunders also published a children's book, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, among other works. Numerous December media gigs have included Charlie Rose, The Colbert Report, PBS/NewsHour, NBC Weekend Today; 20+ national print outlets; and events in 13 cities coast-to-coast. PW's starred review said "[Saunders] might be the most compassionate writer working today," while a Jan. 6 New York Times Magazine profile headlined "George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You'll Read This Year." "Every reviewer from every major outlet agreed with that statement!" says RH deputy publicity director Barbara Fillon. "In the art and science of publishing, that answer is the science part. The art part of me says that George's time has simply come, long overdue, and so well deserved!"—Dick Donahue
Not Quite All In
General Stanley McChrystal's new memoir is graced by a telling cover photo—strapped in to his helicopter seat and with hands clasped before him, the former commanding officer of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan stares flinty-eyed and furrow-browed toward some light beyond the edge of the book. It's easy to imagine he's watching his professional successor's reputation go down in flames much hotter than the ones that lit his own fall from grace. After all, McChrystal was outed in 2010 by a Rolling Stone article for simply taunting his bosses (to put it lightly); Petraeus, on the other hand—well, we all know how that went. But at least McChrystal had the good fortune to be publicly shamed before the heretofore definitive account of his life went to print. He has the last say on the matter, but he doesn't dwell on it. He's had an illustrious military career, and so he understandably consigns its end nearly to footnote status.
In the foreword, McChrystal writes that his memoir is meant to be as accurate and complete an account of his life—from day one to now—as possible. But the distinction between acceptable and advisable is a hazy one in the military; as such, the conscientious general submitted the final draft to the Department of Defense for a "lengthy security review." Not surprisingly, that process led to "many suggested changes and redactions," some concerning intelligence now known to the public but still deemed confidential. McChrystal accepted the amendments in order to "keep faith" with and protect the safety of his fellow soldiers; in a society that deems an extramarital affair a potential national security risk, it's prudent to play it safe. But McChrystal's memoir is still chock-full of drama—from his early days as a young West Point grad in a shaken post-Vietnam military to walking the dangerous streets of Afghanistan with President Karzai, he's a consistently measured (if somewhat stiff) and capable narrator of his eventful life.
While the postpub revelation of the Petraeus-Broadwell affair surely didn't hurt sales of All In, McChrystal's book is doing just fine on its own—just two weeks out the gate and with no new scandals to speak of, My Share of the Task debuts at #5 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list.—Samuel R. Slaton