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Obama as bookseller in chief

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"Watch the best-seller lists," predicted the New Yorker last week. And they were right. President Obama, it seems, has only to be seen near a book for it to soar to the top of bestseller lists.

This week the book is "Netherland," a novel by Joseph O'Neill (Monitor review, July 11, 2008). Obama told the New York Times Magazine that he had turned to novels as a respite from briefings in the evenings and apparently "Netherland" is one of the books he's been recreating with.

Sales of the book have shot up 40% since Obama's mention, says bookseller industry newsletter ShelfAwareness, which also reports that, "Now Vintage Books has moved up the publication date of the trade paperback edition to this coming Thursday, May 7, from June 2, and has gone back to press for a second printing, resulting in 70,000 copies in print."

Of course it's not the first time a book has benefited from presidential proximity. Doris Kern's Goodwin's "A Team of Rivals" (Monitor review, Nov. 1, 2005) felt the magic of the Obama effect before he had even reached office and more recently “The Open Veins of Latin America” by by Eduardo Galeano had its unlikely moment in the sun after Obama was seen holding the copy presented to him by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.

"Netherland," which tells the story of a cricket fan living in post-9/11 New York City, was, of course, not an obscure title before the brush with Obama. Pantheon has sold some 95,000 hardcovers of the book, which was also a PEN/Faulkner Award winner.


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