Behind the Bestsellers
Daisy Maryles -- 2/19/01

Painting the List | Back in the Saddle | The Baby Whisperer Roars
The Competition Heats Up | Religion High Rollers

Painting the List John Grisham dominated the bestseller charts in the last decade of the 20th century and is beginning the 21st with the same goal in mind. Book #12, A Painted House, a departure from his previous legal thrillers (it has no lawyer in its cast of characters), naturally lands in the #1 spot after about a week in the stores. While its first-week sales are very impressive, it did fall short of the numbers achieved same time last year for The Brethren. If you add up totals at three national chains and throw in sales numbers from, plus the tallies at about a dozen independents, the total is about 106,000. The same retailing group had a tally of about 155,000 for The Brethren's first week last year. Still, these are mega numbers. It's almost eight times more than the #2 fiction bestseller, A Day Late and a Dollar Short. It's also about three and half times more than sales for Who Moved My Cheese?, the #1 nonfiction bestseller. First printing for Grisham's latest is his usual 2.8 million copies.

Back in the SaddleThe Free Press published Reagan, in His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan that Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America on February 6, the same day as the former president's 90th birthday. That was also the day that the book's editors--historian Kiron K. Skinner, and Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson, former domestic Reagan advisers--were on several national talk shows. After four trips to press, the book has 85,500 copies in print. A Valentine's Day favorite was also an earlier bestseller by Nancy and Ronald Reagan, I Love You, Ronnie. The collection of love letters by the former president to his wife was on the charts this past fall. It's back on the charts, and Random House reports 350,000 copies in print after two trips to press.

The Baby Whisperer RoarsOn the charts, that is. Tracy Hogg, the British-trained nurse, lactation educator and newborn consultant, is racking up sales nationwide with her book Secrets of a Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with Your Baby written with Melinda Blau. With first serials in Parenting and Baby Talk launching the buzz, Hogg began her 27-city national tour February 5 and will end March 17. On February 6, the day after her appearances on NBC's Today and Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, the book landed on in the #1 spot and as of February 15 is in the #3 slot. Hogg's first bookstore event , at the Borders in Sterling, Va., drew more than 150 moms--most with babies in tow. Total copies in print after three trips to press is 130,000.

The Competition Heats UpBox-office reports to the contrary, not everybody's watching Hannibal Lecter chew the scenery (and other things) in his eponymous movie. A lot of folks are curling up with good books, as evidenced by our fiction bestseller list--10 of the top 15 titles have debuted in the past four weeks. Here's a roundup of four newcomers. Not surprisingly, this quartet is made up of familiar names, all having already enjoyed time on the national charts. Putnam duo Lilian Jackson Braun and Nevada Barr currently hold the #5 and #14 spots, respectively--The Cat Who Smelled a Rat (what hasn't that fantastic feline yet accomplished?) was published on February 5 and currently has just over 185,000 copies in print; Barr's Blood Lure (copies in print: 75,300) was launched on the same date with a 22-city national tour. Susan Elizabeth Phillips makes her long-awaited hardcover debut with Morrow's This Heart of Mine, which is up to 106,000 in print after three trips. And the latest entry in an amazingly successful series--Star Wars: Darth Maul, Shadow Hunter--is by Michael Reeves; it was published by Del Rey/LucasBooks and boasts 200,000 copies in print.

Religion High RollersNew on PW's monthly hardcover religion lists are two books also doing very well on the weekly general lists--Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews, A History by James Carroll from Houghton Mifflin and Huston Smith's Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief from Harper San Francisco. The former has 75,000 copies in print, and the latter is up to 36,000. Another religion title high on the monthly chart and climbing the weekly lists is Multnomah's The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. The 96-page book now has 1.9 million copies in print. For more details about these three bestsellers and others, check out the forthcoming February 20 issue of "PW Religion BookLine." For details on how to subscribe--it's free--to this new, twice-monthly newsletter, please click here.