For the second year in a row, nonfiction titles were the holiday favorites in both hardcover and paperback. And the leader in the pack was Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation, which outsold everything else in the two weeks leading up to Christmas by impressive margins. Adding up the tallies for the last seven shopping days just at Barnes &Noble, Waldenbooks and Borders, the Random House title sold well over 140,000 copies. The next fastest-selling book at the same three chains was The Century by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster from Doubleday, with combined sales of more than 64,000 copies. A year-end letter to Random House Inc. employees from Peter Olson, chairman and CEO, dated December 18, noted that "to meet nonstop bookseller and customer demand," back-to-press activity on these two titles alone totaled "well over one million." In the same letter, Olson noted that 12 of the 15 fiction and six of the 15 nonfiction audio titles on PW's list were from the "newly united Random House." He also noted that seven of the 11 NYT Best Books of the year were from Random House Inc., as were 129 of the 412 Notable Books, more than the second- and third-place publishing groups combined. No wonder he crowed that "Random House, Inc. is the place to be." The top five hardcover bestsellers in the week ending with Christmas were the above two titles, plus A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (FSG) and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (Doubleday), with Stephen King's Bag of Bones (Scribner) and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six (Putnam) running neck and neck for fifth place.
SOUP STAYS HOT
Four of our top 15 trade paperback titles are from the Health Communication company's Chicken Soup for the Soul series, with Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul II leading the pack; in fact, it was the #1 paperback bestseller during the last few frenzied weeks of holiday shopping. For the week ending December 27, Barnes &Noble listed 10 Chicken Soup titles among its top 30 trade paperbacks; at Waldenbooks, 12 of the top 30 were from the series (seven of these were among the top 10).
A big but unlikely bestseller in the last quarter of the year was a book that chronicled the story behind the making of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary -- The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester from HarperCollins. Apparently, many were interested in the tale of Dr. W.C. Minor, the man who supplied more than 10,000 definitions to Professor James Murray, D's editor for 40 of the 70 years it took to complete the dictionary. Minor was an inmate of a Victorian asylum for the criminally insane, a fact Murray uncovered later in his career. The book was launched with a 19,000-copy first printing in mid-October. By the end of the year, it had gone back to press 17 times, making more than 200,000 copies in print.
NOW IT CAN BE TOLD -- AND SOLD
Considering that about 12 publishing corporations usually account for more than 98% of all available slots on the hardcover charts (see "They're the Tops!," page 62), it's noteworthy when another publisher manages to land on the charts. Public Affairs, a division of Perseus Books Group, has done so in a big way. Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage by journalists Sherry Sontag and Lawrence Drew with Annette L. Drew has landed among our top five this week. The book was published at the end of September with a 25,500 first printing and is now up to 290,000 copies after nine trips to press. The authors did a 12-city tour, appeared on 60 Minutes and had Imus in the Morning hawking the book the week before Christmas.