On Wednesday, April 29, CNN reported that Barack Obama was reading Joseph O’Neill’s 2008 New York novel Netherland. The tidbit came from an advance copy of this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine, in which the president told reporter David Leonhardt that boring White House briefing books had led him to crack the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning post-9/11 novel during his leisure time.
The news about Netherland was only the latest entry in what has become a tradition of reporting on and analyzing the president’s reading habits. During the campaign, he was famously photographed looking fly and holding a copy of Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World. More recently, he was seen leaving his home in Chicago holding Fred Kaplan’s Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, and during a post-election interview on 60 Minutes said obliquely that he’d been reading a book about F.D.R.’s first 100 days in office. That reference set off a flurry of hopeful speculation among several publishing houses that had recently issued books that fit Obama’s description, and each of them hoped upon hearing about the comment that the president-elect had been talking about theirs. The roller coaster of emotions endured by all those involved was described in a New York Times piece headlined, For Books, Is Obama New Oprah?
To find out the answer, we checked Netherland’s Amazon rank on Friday just before leaving the office for the weekend and took a couple screenshots. At that time, the hardcover edition of the book stood at #1,002, while the forthcoming Vintage paperback was at #4,277.
Today both have jumped substantially: as of 3:24 p.m., the hardcover to #850, the paperback to #950.
What’s more, we noticed that the paperback’s scheduled release date—listed as June 2 on Friday afternoon—has been changed to May 7. Vintage director of publicity Russell Perreault confirmed that the paperback’s release had been moved up by a month following the CNN item about Obama’s remark.
Writers hoping to improve their sales should send review copies to the following address: President of the United States, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20500.