It’s No Blunder: Sit with Stewart, Sell Books

Jon Stewart’s still got it. Not only did he give a big bump to Naoki Higashida’s The Reason I Jump (see Online & On-Air, p. 4), he revived the prospects for a book published last spring. Recently returned to his familiar spot behind the desk at the Daily Show after making a film abroad during the summer, Stewart, perhaps late night’s most author-friendly host, made a big difference for an astrophysicist not named Neil deGrasse Tyson (a frequent guest). This time it was Mario Livio, a Romanian-born astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, who made an appearance on Sept. 4 to promote his most recent work, Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein, Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe. Though the book was released back in May, Maureen Cole, Livio’s publicist at Simon & Schuster, said that the Daily Show boosted sales of the book and continues to do so. This week Livio’s book lands at the #23 spot on our Hardcover Nonfiction list, having moved 3,478 units and 11,085 since its release. In our Web exclusive review, we note that the book “analyzes ruinous errors of five great scientific minds in the wake of their most prominent discoveries and [examines] how those errors have not only propelled scientific breakthroughs, but provide ‘insights... into the operation of the human mind.’ ” —Alex Crowley

Iris Johansen (and Eve Duncan) Carry On

With myriad bestsellers on her lengthy résumé, this venerable author began her career only after the kids left for college. She first achieved success with category romances in the ’80s, with such titles as The Golden Valkyrie and Blue Skies and Shining Promises. In 1991 she began writing historical romances with an edge of suspense, starting with the Wind Dancer trilogy. She switched genres again in the mid-’90s, turning out such popular crime fiction titles as The Ugly Duckling and Long After Midnight. In 1998’s Face of Deception Johansen created perhaps her signature character—forensic sculptor Eve Duncan, whose mission was to bring closure to families whose loved ones had vanished. (Eve’s own daughter, Bonnie, was taken from her when the girl was just seven.) Within a six-month period in 2011—April through October—St. Martin’s successfully published three novels centered on Johansen’s megaselling trio: Eve (Apr.); Quinn, the detective (July); and Bonnie (Oct.). (It was in this trilogy that Johansen finally revealed Bonnie’s fate, which had perplexed readers for several years.) The threesome resurfaced this year. Taking Eve, published in April, Hunting Eve in July, and Silencing Eve in October; the latter lands at #10 on our Hardcover Fiction list. In a recent newsletter to readers, Johansen indicated that the current Eve Duncan trilogy may be fatal for one or more of her long-running characters. As she says, “The stakes are sky high. I’m warning you, not all of my heroes may survive this trilogy.”—Dick Donahue

Pastor Pair Snares Top Spots: Jeremiah and Osteen Share the Word

Brand-new books from a pair of much-published and high-profile pastors duke it out on our Hardcover Nonfiction list, with Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life by Joel Osteen (FaithWords) debuting at #4 and What Are You Afraid Of? Facing Down Your Fears with Faith by David Jeremiah (Tyndale) right behind at #5. Osteen is a familiar fixture on bestseller lists, with four previous titles; his smiling face on the book cover is an equally familiar fixture, and 43,000 people see it each week attending services at the church he pastors, Lakewood Church in Houston, Tex. The formidable marketing campaign for Osteen’s latest includes TV advertising in top-10 markets and on national cable; Osteen also got the gift of a guest booking on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where he joked with Fallon and guest Rebel Wilson. Like Osteen, Jeremiah, who pastors Shadow Mountain Community Church in Southern California, has significant media presence. His television program, Turning Point, reaches 2.5 million U.S. viewers on Lifetime, USA Network, and TBN, and is also seen abroad; his radio program airs on more than 2,000 stations around the world. Much of Tyndale’s marketing and advertising is aimed at the evangelical Christian market, but social media promotion includes the nonsectarian (and the highly trafficked): Facebook and Google. 
—Marcia Z. Nelson

A Fresh Dozen

Our Hardcover Nonfiction list this week—the 41st of the year—sports something that is a record for 2013: a whopping 12 new titles. Reasons for this are anyone’s guess, but it might be fair to suggest that as we swing into what is usually publishing strongest season—the fall—a variety of heavy hitters are finding their strides and attracting their usual readers, from Malcolm Gladwell with his fifth book (about underdogs) to Chris Matthews (talking about a time when politicians got along), to Bill Bryson (writing about America in 1927, when Babe Ruth hit 60 homers enhanced by only hot dogs and beer).

Gladwell as Goliath: The Popular Author Deflects a Few Stones From His Critics

The #2 spot on our Hardcover Nonfiction list this week goes to David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell, his fifth book of popular sociology and psychology. Undermining some of the claims of his successful Outliers, Gladwell considers the benefits of being an underdog, citing ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking as traits that separate the little guy from a powerful, presumptive opponent. Like Gladwell’s previous books, David and Goliath couches nuanced, highly academic ideas within easily digestible anecdotes. This strategy of bringing counterintuitive thinking to the masses has ruffled feathers before, and recently Gladwell responded to one of his more vocal critics in a piece for Slate. “I write in the genre of what might be called ‘intellectual adventure stories,’ ” he wrote. “Books like David and Goliath combine narratives and ideas from academic research in an attempt to get people to look at the world a little differently. I have always tried to be honest about the shortcomings of this approach. Stories necessarily involve ambiguity and contradiction.” For all his erudition, Gladwell isn’t presenting his evidence as irrefutable, but merely thought-provoking. “All writing about social science need not be presented with the formality and precision of the academic world. There is a place for storytelling, in all of its messiness.” To pull this off, though, charisma and confidence are vital—and Gladwell has both in spades. In the next month there are plenty of chances to catch him on the little screen, on the radio, and in person. He will be making appearances on NPR’s Here & Now (Oct. 14), PBS’s Charlie Rose (Oct. 17), Comedy Central’s the Daily Show with Jon Stewart (Oct. 22), ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live (Oct. 24), on top of stops at the Chicago Ideas Week (Oct. 14) and at Barnes & Noble Union Square store in Manhattan (Oct. 17).—Seth Satterlee