W Is for Wow: Grafton’s Running Out of Letters, Not Readers

Sue Grafton’s W Is for Wasted, the 23rd installment in her alphabet mystery series, debuts at #1 on our Hardcover Fiction list, selling 56,710 copies in its first week.

As hard-boiled private investigator Kinsey Millhone digs into the mystery surrounding the death of a John Doe, a deeply layered tale emerges, full of betrayals, misunderstandings, and outright murderous fraud. Buzz began for the book back in May with a USA Today cover reveal contest and q&a, a packed kickoff Penguin Booth signing at BookExpo America, and a feature on NPR’s Crime in the City. Early teaser advertising included cross-promotion across all social channels, including Facebook, where Grafton has a robust presence.

At publication, Grafton was a guest on NPR’s On Point, and major print coverage includes the New York Times Book Review and an upcoming “Behind the Book” feature in that publication; a Wall Street Journal review (“Involving, amusing and fast-paced”); inclusion in USA Today’s Fall Preview, as well as a slew of regional media coverage. Her tour will take her all across the country, with events in Phoenix, Ariz.; Houston; Louisville, Ky.; Chicago; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Los Angeles; Denver; Minneapolis; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Albany, N.Y.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; New Haven, Conn.; and Toronto. —Peter Cannon

Popular First Novelist Lands #2

Over a million readers have fallen in love with Jamie Ford’s bestselling debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet—dubbed by the Seattle Times “a wartime-era Chinese-Japanese variation on Romeo and Juliet”—since its 2009 hardcover publication. On Sept. 10, Ballantine published Ford’s eagerly anticipated second novel, Songs of Willow Frost (#12 on this week’s Hardcover Fiction list), which became an instant New York Times, and USA Today bestseller. USA Today included the novel in its fall books preview, noting that “novelist Jamie Ford likes to ‘excavate the past’ … his tools are his words, his imagination and his family history.” An Indie Next pick and an inaugural LibraryReads pick for the month of September, this “story of love, loss and second chances, a continuation of Ford’s cultural narrative of Asian America” (Sacramento Bee) launched in Seattle with an event hosted by Town Hall and the Wing Luke Museum (which is slated to begin giving Willow Frost walking tours in November). Ford will be touring to 20 markets across the country, with visits to bookstores and such larger-scale events as the Sacramento Bee Book Club, the Metro Detroit Book and Author Society Luncheon, Litquake Literary Festival, the Gala reading and signing at the Montana Festival of the Book, and Landmark on Main Street in Port Washington, N.Y. —Dick Donahue

Motherless Queens

Jonathan Lethem, the author of nine novels and perhaps best known for his memorable Brooklyn settings (he is, after all, a native Brooklynite), hits our Hardcover Fiction list this week at #22 with a novel, this time, set largely in Queens. Dissident Gardens is his account of three generations of radicals, covering everything from McCarthyism to ’70s communes to the Occupy movement. The PW review praised Lethem’s large cast of “fascinating, lonely people,” as well as his ability to illuminate both 20th-century American history and “the human burden of overcoming alienation.”

In an interview with PW, Lethem said he harnessed Dissident Gardens’ large scope by researching into New York’s police history, baseball history, and obviously certain radical and dissident episodes, including some that go completely unmentioned in the book, like Waco.”

Lethem will be on tour for the novel through October, including stops at Powell’s in Portland, Ore.; Book Passage in San Francisco; Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.; and Book People in Austin, Tex. He’ll cap the tour with an appearance at the Texas Book Festival at the end of October.

In 2010, he was named the Roy Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College, a post held by David Foster Wallace from 2002 to 2008.—Gabe Habash

Living to Tell the Tale: Journalist Amanda Lindhout Recounts Her 15 Months of Captivity in Somalia

If you’ve opened a September magazine, you’ve likely already heard of Amanda Lindhout’s memoir, A House in the Sky, cowritten with journalist Sara Corbett, and now debuting at #16 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list. The bare outlines of Lindhout’s story, which PW’s starred review called a “well-honed, harrowing account,” are chilling enough: in 2008, the 27-year old fledgling Canadian TV reporter traveled to Mogadishu with her Australian photojournalist companion, Nigel Brennan, to report on the country’s civil war and famine. On their fourth day there, Lindhout and Brennan were abducted by a group of armed, masked men who demanded $1.5 million in ransom. The radical Islamist captors, all teenagers, ultimately separated Lindhout from Brennan, and raped and tortured her. During her captivity, Lindhout imagined herself in a “house in the sky,” and vowed that she would do something to help Somali citizens if she survived. After being released in late 2009, Lindhout founded the Global Enrichment Foundation, a nonprofit that supports development, aid, and education initiatives in Somalia and Kenya. The media launch for the remarkable book began with a cover story in the Sept. 1 issue of the New York Times Magazine, followed by a one-hour interview on NBC’s Dateline, and additional interviews on the Today Show and Weekend Today. The authors are currently on a seven-city tour to bookstores in Connecticut; Boston; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; the San Francisco Bay area; and Los Angeles. With upcoming interviews on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and CNN’s Anderson 360 and over 20 regional and national public radio interviews currently being conducted, readers can count on hearing more from Lindhout in the weeks and months to come.—Jessamine Chan

Netflix Heats Up with A Technicolor Memoir

Back in 2007, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison, a memoir by preppy Piper Kerman, was one of the first books acquired by Julie Grau at Spiegel & Grau, not long after the author finished serving her 15-month sentence for drug trafficking. The book’s 2010 hardcover edition was a major success—extensive media coverage, first serial sale to the New York Times Magazine, NPR interviews, etc.—followed in 2011 by a paperback bestseller. The book was optioned for TV and the rest is history. Kerman’s tome had the good fortune to be brilliantly realized by producer/director Jenji Kohan, who created the hit TV series Weeds, and turned the Netflix OITNB series into a wildly popular cultural phenomenon. As the Netflix campaign took hold big-time, book sales spiked dramatically in July and August; Orange landed at #7 on PW’s Sept. 1 Trade Paperback list; it’s #26 this week (just off our list), with total Nielsen BookScan sales to date of 103,438.

Along with cast members, Kerman has been spearheading publicity—Netflix made the “true story” prominent in its messaging, and the author serves as a consultant to the show. Shortly after its July 11 premier came the news that a second season had been green-lighted. Spiegel & Grau then issued a tie-in edition with series art, which is now widely distributed in the mass merchandise channel. The publisher is in its 17th printing of the “orange sneaker edition” and the seventh printing of the series tie-in, with more than 300,000 copies in circulation. Season two of Orange is set to air in 2014.—Dick Donahue