The book: Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Harper San Francisco, Nov. 2005) The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, July) Letter to a Christian Nation (Knopf, Sept.)
The author: Bart D. Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. This year, he published Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene (OUP, Apr.) and The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot (OUP, Oct.) Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Sam Harris, whose earlier controversial bestseller, The End of Faith (Norton, 2004), won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. After a degree in philosophy, he is pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience.
The numbers: 200,000 copies in print; eight months on PW religion list, four weeks on PW hardcover nonfiction list, nine weeks on NYT hardcover nonfiction list. 110,000 copies in print; three months on PW religion chart, three weeks on PW hardcover nonfiction list. 150,000 in print; $200,000 ad budget, some chipped in by Harris himself; one month on PW religion chart, three weeks on PW hardcover nonfiction list.
Behind the book: Ehrman is skillfully riding the wave of interest in early Christianity. His editors at HSF (Roger Freet) and OUP (Robert Miller) say their author has a gift for writing quickly and clearly. "People don't have to wait 10 years for his next book," says Miller. Freet cites publicity as a key factor in putting a book of textual criticism on bestseller lists. This is the first book for a general audience from physician-geneticist Collins. "It was a happy day when the first chapters arrived," says Bruce Nichols, Free Press v-p and senior editor. "They were even better than we could have hoped." Atheism is the new zeitgeist, says Paul Bogaards, Knopf executive director of publicity. Thanks to ads in publications such as the NYT and Atlantic Monthly, visibility has been high. The book was published on an accelerated schedule: "We were approaching the midterm election, and the debate about religion and democracy is ongoing," Bogaards says.
Unusual endorsement: "It's a hell of a book." —Jon Stewart, who interviewed Ehrman March 14 on The Daily Show "I was profoundly enlightened and believe this important book should be required reading." —Naomi Judd "I disagree with a lot of things you say, but I think you're a very brave man and very smart." —Tucker Carlson, interviewing Harris on MSNBC