With chapters such as “Unfunded Mandate Reform,” Newt Gingrich’s lofty new manifesto, “To Renew America,” is hardly light summer beach reading.
But in just its second week in the stores, it’s the best-selling non-fiction book in the country.
It hit the top spot on the Wall Street Journal’s list Wednesday. It will soar to No. 1 on the New York Times list on July 23, according to HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
One Michigan store sold 50 copies in the first week compared with 60 copies of a new thriller by publishing phenomenon Stephen King.
And Republican Gingrich, who is coy about running for president, will skyrocket to even grander pop stardom when he appears on MTV tonight (although no one knows whether he will talk about his underwear, as President Clinton did on that network).
So, how is it that the speaker of the House of Representatives could hit the jackpot with a treatise on remaking the structure of American government?
“In terms of non-fiction books, we’re seeing a strong market for conservative books - Rush Limbaugh, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Bennett,” said Steven Sorrentino, a HarperCollins spokesman. “When you have someone like Newt Gingrich who is so dynamic and controversial a political figure, it is not a surprise. The book illustrates that the American public is hungry for ideas, and his book is about ideas.”
With such success, Gingrich stands to make a killing on his 249-page book even though he bowed to allegations of conflict of interest and last year turned down a $4.5 million advance from HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.
The speaker will get even more publicity this summer when he appears before the House Ethics Committee on complaints about his book deals. The witness list includes Gingrich and media tycoon Murdoch, who is publishing another Gingrich book, the spicy spy saga, “1945.”
Last week, crowds at autograph signings at bookstores in Atlanta, New York and Washington were exhilarated. But not everyone was thrilled with Gingrich; in New York, a crowd shouted from across the street to protest his conservative policies.
But they loved him at a bookstore in his Georgia congressional district, where he signed 850 books in one hour on the first day.
“He’s very fast,” said Kim Phillips, manager of the Barnes and Noble store in Marietta, Ga. “We didn’t allow people to bring in cameras so he could go faster. He didn’t want to disappoint any customer.”