Higher and Higher: Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Memoir Debuts Strong

Swearing in Vice-President Joe Biden was just one highlight from an especially busy season for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is traveling across the country in support of her memoir, My Beloved World, which debuts at #3 on the Nonfiction Hardcover list with first-week sales of nearly 14,000 copies in print in outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan. Given the great reviews of this week, that number will surely rise next week. Sotomayor’s obstacles were tough by anyone’s standards: growing up in a housing project in the Bronx; unstable times in a second-generation Puerto Rican family, including the early death of her alcoholic father; and juvenile diabetes. This in addition to the isolation and prejudice she dealt with as a Latina at Princeton and Yale Law in the 1970s. Sotomayor was appointed by President Obama to the Supreme Court in 2009, becoming the high court’s first Hispanic and third female justice. Her book is the 354th title written by a member of the court. In recent years, Clarence Thomas’s 2007 title, My Grandfather’s Son, sold 30,185 copies in its first week, and 202,145 to date, while Sandra Day O’Connor’s 2002 book, Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest, has sold 84,699 copies all told. My Beloved World is simultaneously publishing in English and Spanish, and was featured in a first serial dual excerpt deal in People and People en Espanol. Her media appearances include interviews on 60 Minutes, Today, The Daily Show, and a multipart series on National Public Radio and NPR.org. —Jessamine Chan

Dead Presidents

The Fifth Assassin, the second book in Brad Meltzer’s Culper Ring trilogy, debuts at the #2 spot on the Hardcover Fiction list. Archivist Beecher White realizes that an assassin in Washington, D.C., is re-enacting the four successful attempts on the lives of U.S. presidents (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy). Could the current American president, Orson Wallace, be the fifth? The Inner Circle, the first in the series, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in January 2011, and sold more than 180,000 copies in hardcover. There are more than 270,000 copies of the trade paperback in print. “All of Brad’s books are a fascinating read,” says former president George H.W. Bush.

Debuting at #6 on the Hardcover Fiction list is Stephen Hunter’s The Third Bullet, his eighth Bob Lee Swagger thriller, in which the master sniper follows up evidence that there was a second gunman in a building next door to the Texas Book Depository in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. In a Q&A with Lenny Picker in the Nov. 12, 2012, issue of PW, Hunter, a student of ballistics for 50 years, raises questions about the behavior of the bullet that missed J.F.K.—Peter Cannon

Lights, Camera, Read!

Read the book, see the movie, indeed. Movie/book tie-ins during the holidays proliferated like… well, like movies. Our Trade Paperback list this week features three tie-ins, with a combined year-to-date (YTD) total of 33,177, according to Nielsen BookScan. Coming in at #19 is Silver Linings Playbook, about which NPR critic (and PW columnist) Nancy Pearl called Matthew Quick’s Playbook “a heartwarming, humorous and soul-satisfying first novel… this book makes me smile.” Smiles are breaking out in theaters as well: as of Jan. 22, Box Office Mojo reported a domestic gross of $57,701, 584—a mere 10 weeks after its Nov. 16 opening. Critics have overwhelmingly given thumbs up, while Playbook has garnered four Oscar nominations for acting, plus nods for director David O. Russell and his screenplay adaptation. Jennifer Lawrence recently picked up a Golden Globe Award for supporting actress, and is favored to repeat her win at the Jan. 27 Screen Actors Guild Awards. The movie has a lot to do with the Philadelphia Eagles; the novel focused on their 2006 season. Quick wrote Playbook as the season unfolded, he said, calling it “sort of an experiment in Gonzo journalism… in a Hunter S. Thompson sort of way.” Following its initial print run of 37,000, FSG reports 135,000 copies in print.

Last in bestseller order—but far from least, as it tops the YTD totals of the two other tie-ins—is Penguin’s tie-in to one of the season’s blockbusters, Les Misérables. Due primarily to its popular Broadway roots, the eagerly awaited film version received decidedly mixed reviews, in spite of strong box-office response. Box Office Mojo reported that the film topped all Christmas Day openings, with $18.1 million—the top opening day ever for a musical. Published on Dec. 4 with a 53,000-copy first print, the tie-in’s up to 187,000 copies after seven trips to press. As publishing coordinator Jake Bauman notes, “The startling part of the tie-in’s success is that, as a public domain title, there are tons of more affordable editions out there—including one from Signet Classics, which has also sold well for us over the past few months.” Director Tom Hooper, who won an Oscar for The King’s Speech, may not be as lucky this time, say most critics, though following her Golden Globe win, Anne Hathaway is considered an Oscar shoe-in as Best Supporting Actress.

The author of tie-in #21 needs no introduction: Meyer’s Twilight series of vampire romances has some 116 million copies in print worldwide in all formats, all of which have been issued in tie-in editions. The Host’s movie tie-ins were published on Jan. 8—a trade paper edition with 200,000 copies in print and a mass market edition of 300,000. Meyer has already begun promotion for the movie, which hits the multiplexes on Mar. 29. One major casting consideration has already been solved, Meyer said in a Hollywood Reporter conversation with director/screenwriter Andrew Niccol: the character of Melanie Stryder will be played by Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Atonement, The Lovely Bones), who was the only choice for the role, said Niccol: “There was no plan B to play her.” Asked whether she was worried about how the book would translate on film, Meyer said, “No. It’s obvious, totally obvious. You just need to have the most brilliant actress in the world, and you don’t have a problem. And we got her, so we were really lucky.” She added, “When you have an actress of that caliber, especially when not everybody knows who she is yet, I think she’s going to blow people away. And then you give her this concept role, it’s like a gift.”

So break out those Oscar ballots, film fans: the big night’s a mere four weeks away.—Dick Donahue

The Wright Stuff

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright (Knopf) has clearly made waves as it debuts at #13. Wright’s meticulously reported and footnoted 432-page examination of the belief system that has animated Tom Cruise and other celebrities has unsurprisingly drawn return fire from the Church of Scientology, which has publicly called Wright’s fact-checking “esoteric and obtuse.” The New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winner has gotten decidedly non-esoteric media attention, making the rounds on Today and Rock Center, both on NBC; CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and Starting Point; and NPR’s Fresh Air. To come: PBS’s Charlie Rose show; NPR’s Morning Edition; and a coveted seat on that arbiter of current affairs, The Colbert Report. A review of the book also landed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review.—Marcia Z. Nelson.