A White House Tilt to the Bestseller List

In the horse race of the Washington Post Bestseller list, there was a new winner last week and some changes in the field. The White House loomed large at the front of the heat with Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson's "The Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election" capturing the No. 1 slot. The book chronicles the drama of the election that gave America its first black president and the White House to the Democrats.

The losing side, of course, isn't happy but continues to ride the bestseller list with its complaints about the new administration. Michelle Malkin, who promises in her introduction to tell the story that "President Obama's gyrating media harem" won't tell, held on to her No. 2 spot with "Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies."

The previous week's No. 1 Washington Post Bestseller, "Game Plan for Life: Your Personal Playbook for Success" by Joe Gibbs with Jerry B. Jenkins, slipped to No. 5.

Another title with strong appeal in the Washington area, "In the President's Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect" by Ronald Kessler, debuted last week at No. 3. Kessler had remarkable access to agents who have no qualms about dumping on presidents for their nastiness, love of booze and lying - not to mention the sex sex sex.

At No. 8 was a title that gets a lot of DC chatter, "In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic" by David Wessel. More sober than Kessler's book but still full of fear and folly.

Among the titles that dropped off the top 10 list last week was Douglas Brinkley's "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America," which debuted the previous week at No. 4. Another erudite and highly readable Brinkley effort, the book opens a new window on Roosevelt as naturalist and preservationist. Last week, it came in at No. 13.

Most curious was the disappearance of Jim DeMint's "Saving Freedom: We Can Stop America's Slide Into Socialism." The title, which was published on July 4, suddenly hit No. 9 on the list for the week ending August 2. But last week, it seemed to vanish entirely - not even registering in the top 50.

What's striking about all the big sellers is how few sales it takes to hit the list. It may be that book buyers are on summer vacation - and remember, the sales are totals only for the Washington metro area and surrounding counties. But to vault to No. 1 last week, Balz and Johnson had to sell just 786 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. Sales of the No. 10 title on the list, "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite" by David A. Kessler totaled 323 copies.

By Steven E. Levingston |  August 17, 2009; 5:30 AM ET
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I have always been curious about how many books are sold to put a title on the bestseller list in a given week. I wondered if the late summer timing had anything to do with the success of the conservative furies. Kind of like Hollywood, the book industry seems to save its heaviest non-escapist contenders for fall release.

Posted by: cebeling | August 17, 2009 8:42 AM

Speaking of selling books, I read recently: "More than 20 (Nora) Roberts books are sold each minute. Her publisher shipped 17 million of her books in 2008--would fill Giants Stadium 4,000 times. She employees no assistants and never makes an outline."

Thanks to this blog, it was fun seeing a cute, recent interview with her. I also saw a quote of hers somewhere: "I want to die at age 120 at my keyboard after having great sex." She's 58 now--that's a lot more football stadiums...and a lot more romance.

Posted by: lheffelkcrrcom | August 17, 2009 9:27 AM

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