Hail to the Chef: Bon Appétit!

By Dick Donahue

Marking its third week on our nonfiction list is Marcus Samuelsson's inspiring memoir, Yes, Chef, in which he chronicles his life as an orphan born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, then his new life in America as a celebrated chef. “Mr. Samuelsson, as it happens, possesses one of the great culinary stories of our time,” wrote Dwight Garner in the New York Times, a view confirmed by national media outlets including NPR's Fresh Air, Elle magazine, and a June 26 Today interview with Ann Curry. On MSNBC's Morning Joe, Samuelsson discussed the business revitalization taking place in Harlem, where his Red Rooster restaurant is located, and further explored the role of the neighborhood in his memoir with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, showing her a taste of Harlem in the kitchen and on the streets. A James Beard Foundation Award winner and the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star restaurant review from the New York Times, Samuelsson is perhaps best known as the winner of Top Chef Masters in 2010. Currently in the midst of a 15-city tour, Samuelsson has made stops at Microsoft, Starbucks, and Google headquarters, and has conducted demonstrations at Macy's and Whole Foods stores around the country. He's also held in-conversation events with culinary writer Ruth Reichl, E! News correspondent David Burtka, and designer Isaac Mizrahi. Further enhancing his reputation, Samuelsson has hosted intimate restaurant events in partnership with bookstores around the country.

Dedicated to a Worthy Cause

Susan Elizabeth Phillips's newest bestseller, The Great Escape, debuts in seventh place on today's fiction list, but the book is clearly much more than a summer sizzler. With 7,151 units sold to date, Escape gives voice to the plight of families in crisis and children in need—a cause near and dear to the author's heart. Prior to an event in New Mexico, Phillips spoke with the Albuquerque Journal about her real-life inspiration for the book—which ties to her previous titles First Lady and Call Me Irresistible—and her partnership with the nonprofit Teens Alone, a community-based organization founded in 1990 that provides free crisis counseling and referral services to youth and families in the Minneapolis area. Said the newspaper, “Though Susan Elizabeth Phillips doesn't think her books deal with social issues any more than other romance writers do, she said a theme in her books—of kids in search of families—is probably more evident in her new novel, The Great Escape, than in her previous books. As a former high school teacher and mother, Phillips says she's always been invested in the welfare of children. ‘When my sister took over as the Executive Director of Teens Alone, she began educating me about the variety of challenges kids and families face today,' said the author. ‘Some I was aware of, but I was incredibly naive about others. I believe passionately that we as a society need to protect our children and do everything we can to help them grow into healthy, productive adults.' ” The author's dedication to Teens Alone extends far beyond the book, reports Phillips's publisher—every sale that she generates online, whether from her own books or by recommending books written by fellow authors via her Facebook page and Web site, benefits the work of Teens Alone.—D.D.

First Time's The Charm

As the Wall Street Journal headlined on June 28, “After 360,000 Copies, Publishers Take Notice.” That was then, this is now. Tracey Garvis Graves's first book, On the Island, a survival tale reminiscent of The Blue Lagoon and TV's Lost, debuts today as the sole new novel on our paperback roster. After writing two hours every morning before heading to her Wells Fargo job, the aspiring author and mom of two self-published the novel last September as an e-book and also made it available for print on demand. She has since sold more than 360,000 copies through Amazon, Apple, B&N, Sony, and other self-publishing platforms, and the book has now garnered more than 10,000 rave notices on Amazon, BN.com, and Goodreads combined. It has sold an astonishing 400,000 e-books to date, with rights sold to 11 countries in the past month and movie rights optioned by MGM. Plume's paperback original was released on July 10, and the author's second novel, Covet, will be published by Dutton in 2013. Is this trend expanding, we wonder? In our July 2 issue, we wrote a similar story about Sylvia Day's self-published Bared to You; that book is #4 on today's trade paper list, with 120,882 units sold to date.—D.D.

Farewell to a Teenage Criminal Mastermind

The long run is finally over. With the publication earlier this month of The Last Guardian, Eoin Colfer's hit Artemis Fowl series comes to an end. Colfer, an Irish author, has just concluded a U.S. tour: Colfer is performing 8 in 8 at all eight of his tour stops: his eight Artemis Fowl books acted out in eight minutes. Fans at each event had the opportunity to be cast as Artemis Fowl and Holly Short in the performance. However, at his panel at Comic-Con (attended by more than 500 fans), Jake Short from Disney Channel's ANT Farm was on hand to play Artemis. For Colfer's event at the Provo City Library in Utah, he was greeted on his arrival by 10 fairies; the librarian staff/aka LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police), pictured above with Colfer, swept the venue with laser guns before the 8 in 8 performance began. Artemis Fowl sales through BookScan exceed four million copies for the series. —D.R.

Witch Bestseller

How big a hit was Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches, the first book in her All Souls trilogy, which was published in February 2011? According to Nielsen BookScan, it's so far sold 247,102 copies in hardcover and paperback, and volume two, Shadow of Night, tops this week's bestseller list with 48,983 units sold since its July 10 pub date. Warner Bros. last year acquired film rights to all three books, with David Auburn on board as screenwriter. (Auburn also authored the play Proof, which won the 2001 Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for drama.) The author's in the second week of a 19-city tour to bookstores and libraries across the country; at San Diego's Comic-Con she spoke on a panel, “A Wrinkle in Time,” with authors including Orson Scott Card and David Brin. Among the new book's glowing reviews is this EW notice: “The joy that Harkness, herself a historian, takes in visiting the past is evident on every page.” The author has also started racking up celebrity fans, including Chelsea Clinton, who posted about DOW on her Facebook page: “I definitely bought the sequel its first day out—yesterday! Shadow of Night combines a few of my favorite things: Shakespeare, Oxford, science, and history.” And singer Michelle Branch tweeted her enthusiasm: “Just finished reading Shadow of Night, such a great read. I'm sorta sad I finished it.”—D.D.