Harkness Breathes ‘Life’ Into History

The Book of Life, which completes Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, nabs two spots on our Hardcover Fiction list this week. It debuts at #1, with 51,647 copies sold according to Nielsen BookScan, and appears again at #19, with 4,901 signed copies sold. Harkness, a history professor at the University of Southern California, is an expert on the history of science and magic in early modern England. As a teacher, she said, she is used to taking “difficult concepts and lots of information” and making them accessible to audiences, whether USC students or fans of her trilogy, which brings readers from modern-day England to 16th-century Europe in the first two volumes before returning to the present in the last installment. Inspiration for the series, an account of the adventures of historian-witch Diana Bishop and scientist-vampire Matthew Clairmont, struck several years ago in an airport shop, where Harkness encountered “a wall of books about paranormal creatures”: a Twilight Saga display. “My 16th-century subjects would have been completely at home with this wall of books,” she said. “But the covers made it look as if these [characters were] having a great time. In the 16th century, such characters wouldn’t have had such a great time. I wondered, how could the modern world support such creatures?” With early sales figures for her newest book topping initial-week sales of the first two volumes—2011’s A Discovery of Witches sold 14,862 print copies its first week, and 2012’s Shadow of Night sold 48,983—support seems to be growing for Harkness’s centuries-spanning trilogy.—Claire Kirch

O’Malley’s Back for More

Since closing out his Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series in 2010 with Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, Bryan Lee O’Malley has kept busy with various commissions, convention appearances, and full-color re-releases of the originally black-and-white comics; the series has sold in excess of 750,000 copies in hardcover and trade paper, according to Nielsen BookScan. His first new book since Scott Pilgrim, Seconds, debuts at #17 on our Hardcover Fiction list this week. It follows Katie, a crimson-haired 29-year-old running a popular restaurant whose prospects suddenly turn south. Thanks to some magical mushrooms that appear in her dresser one night, Katie is given the chance to undo her mistakes and turn it all around. But can she really change the past, and should she? In a recent interview with PW, O’Malley discussed his brief stint as a food runner at a Toronto restaurant as the inspiration for Seconds, and how his transient lifestyle—traveling around the world to promote the comic as well as the 2010 movie adaptation—led to an interest in the intimate connection between people and places, one of the new book’s major themes. “I threw in buildings from everywhere I’ve lived,” he said of his illustrations for the new work. “And I’ve asked friends for their favorite buildings. It’s about places—or spaces—like buildings and old, aging structures.” He also described Seconds as an intentional departure from Scott Pilgrim in terms of its standalone format, characters, and subject matter, although the book retains the manga-style artwork of his earlier creation.—Matt White

Sales Hot for Controversial Harper Lee Book

Marja Mills’s memoir, The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, hits our Hardcover Nonfiction list at #4 this week with 10,464 print copies sold according to Nielsen BookScan, bearing witness to enduring reader interest in the reclusive Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. The book appears amid controversy around whether Mills, who honed her reporting chops at the Chicago Tribune and shared a 2001 staff Pulitzer Prize there, received Lee’s consent to write it. Mills moved next door to Lee and her sister, Alice, who share a home in Monroeville, Ala., in 2004, and over the next 18 months, the book says, “a great friendship” developed, and “the sisters decided to let Mills tell their story.” Shortly after the book was announced, in April 2011, (Nelle) Harper Lee issued a statement saying, “Contrary to recent news reports, I have not willingly participated in any book written or to be written by Marja Mills. Neither have I authorized such a book. Any claims otherwise are false.” She reiterated her stance in a July 2014 letter that says in part, “Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” Both Penguin Press and Mills stand by the integrity of the book, and in a written response to the allegations, Mills shared a May 2011 letter from Alice Lee that says that her sister did not write the April 2011 statement, and was not aware of what she was signing: “Poor Nelle Harper can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence. Now she has no memory of the incident.” Mills also quotes Harper’s friend Tom Butts, who said that both sisters “shared stories of their lives and this area for her book,” and that “they were pleased that Miss Mills was going to preserve these stories in a book.” Whatever the facts of the book’s genesis, PW’s review summed up the experience of reading it this way: “Nelle’s sweet friendship with Mills elicits a forthcoming portrait of the author, her family, her time, and her South that is thoughtful, witty, and rich in feeling.”—Louisa Ermelino

‘Stay’-ing Power

The Fault in Our Stars may not be the only YA adaptation to have people crying in theaters this summer. If I Stay, based on Gayle Forman’s 2009 novel, releases on August 22. As the current paradigm shifts away from dystopian YA adaptations to more realistic, relationship-focused stories, the upcoming movie has drummed up fervent interest among fans. The MGM/Warner Bros./New Line film, directed by R.J. Cutler, stars Chloë Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, and Jamie Blackley. In the story, 17-year-old Mia (Moretz) is a budding cellist with ambitions of attending Juilliard, and is in love with her boyfriend Adam (Blackley), but her life is irrevocably altered when she is the only one in her family to survive a car accident. While she is in a coma, Mia wanders in ghostlike limbo and must choose whether to live for Adam and music while facing a life without her family, or to let go. A fan art contest on the movie’s website will send one grand-prize winner to the film’s Hollywood premiere on August 20. There are 1.4 million copies of If I Stay in print, including a movie tie-in edition, currently #5 on our Children’s Frontlist Fiction list.—Matia Burnett

Crime on the Range

For his 14 Joe Pickett novels and four standalone books, C.J. Box has earned the Edgar, Anthony, Macavity, Gumshoe, and Barry awards, as well as France’s Prix Calibre .38. In his first story collection, Shots Fired: Stories from Joe Pickett Country, Box offers 10 tales of crime and suspense about the Wyoming he knows and loves, and it comes in at #20 on our Hardcover Fiction list. Shots Fired is Box’s second release this year; March’s Stone Cold, a Joe Pickett novel, has sold more than 30,000 copies in hardcover to date, according to Nielsen BookScan. This month, Box gave two national radio interviews on The Hugh Hewitt Show and The Laura Ingraham Show, and wrote a Wall Street Journal piece on crime novels and an author’s sense of place. His current 10-city tour includes more than 20 events and signings over the course of three weeks, and concludes with the Decatur Book Festival in late August.—Remy Bernstein

Top 10 Overall

Rank Title Author Imprint This Week Units
1 Four Veronica Roth HarperCollins/Tegen 64,575
2 The Fault in Our Stars John Green Penguin/Speak 54,436
3 The Book of Life Deborah Harkness Viking 51,647
4 The Heist Daniel Silva Harper 44,255
5 Rose Harbor in Bloom Debbie Macomber Ballantine 32,532
6 The Fault in Our Stars (movie tie-in) John Green Penguin/Speak 30,272
7 Gone Girl Gillian Flynn Broadway 27,238
8 America Dinesh D’Souza Regnery 25,714
9 Looking for Alaska John Green Penguin/Speak 25,260
10 If I Stay Gayle Forman Penguin/Speak 19,976