IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Self-help author tops Oprah’s book club sales list

Nielsen BookScan, which tracks non-e-book sales, said that Oprah Winfrey's choice of self-help favorite "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle in 2008 led to around 3.4 million copies sold.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Congratulations, Eckhart Tolle. You topped the list of the Oprah Winfrey book club's biggest sellers of the past decade.

Nielsen BookScan, which tracks around 75 percent of non-e-book sales, announced Friday that Winfrey's choice of self-help favorite "A New Earth" in 2008 led to around 3.4 million copies sold. In second was James Frey's notorious "A Million Little Pieces," with just under 2.7 million copies. Elie Wiesel's classic Holocaust memoir "Night" was third, at about 2 million.

The list is not comprehensive, including just 27 of Winfrey's 65 picks, accounting for more than 22 million books sold. Nielsen only included works that publishers released in special Winfrey book club editions. And Nielsen, which started in 2001, does not have numbers for Winfrey's club from 1996 to 2000. She ends her long-running talk show May 25.

"We will certainly miss her from a business point of view, but also because of how she got people talking about books. I think a lot more reading groups started because of her," said Susan Petersen Kennedy, president of Penguin Group (USA), which published "A New Earth" and other leading Winfrey sellers, including Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth" and John Steinbeck's "East of Eden."

Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera" and Joyce Carol Oates also were in the top 10.

Winfrey was a guaranteed hit maker, but the Nielsen numbers show a surprisingly erratic pattern of sales, even from book to book. In 2002, Ann-Marie MacDonald's "Fall on Your Knees" sold more than 700,000 copies, while the next selection, Toni Morrison's "Sula," dropped to under 150,000. Winfrey's "classics" phase, from 2003 to 2005, peaked at the beginning with the million-selling "East of Eden" and dropped to under 200,000 with the final choice, a trio of William Faulkner novels.

After "A New Earth," numbers dropped steadily. The next book, David Wroblewski's debut novel "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" sold around 770,000 copies, followed by a story collection, Uwem Akpan's "Say You're One of Them," that sold 405,000. The rising e-book tide likely hurt sales for Winfrey's final choice, in December 2010, a special Penguin edition of the Charles Dickens novels "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Great Expectations." They registered just 95,000 copies through Nielsen, the fewest on the list. Both novels are out of copyright and widely available in free editions online.

"I would have preferred that people bought the books," said Kennedy, who cited the free e-books as a prime reason for the drop in sales. "On the other hand, at least people were reading and that's wonderful."