Former US President Barack Obama has another best-seller on his hands that charts his path to the White House up to 2011.
The first volume of Obama’s presidential memoirs, A Promised Land, which hit shelves Tuesday, sold more than 887,000 copies (including pre-orders) across all formats in the U.S. and Canada on its first day of release, publisher Penguin Random House announced Wednesday. It’s on track to be the best-selling presidential memoir in modern history.
In it, the 59-year-old reflects on his legacy, and the space between his presidential ambitions and the political reality of a Republican-controlled House and Senate that hampered them.
The book hit shelves just two weeks after his former vice president, Joe Biden, was voted to replace his successor, President Donald Trump.
Obama also authored the memoirs The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006) and Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” (1995), as well as the 2010 children’s book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.
Barack isn’t the only best-selling writer in the Obama family. Former first lady Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir Becoming sold 725,000 copies on its first day and more than 1.4 million copies in its first week of release, becoming one of the fastest-selling nonfiction books in history.
It has since sold 10 million copies worldwide and is still so in demand that Crown, which publishes both Obamas and reportedly paid around $60 million for their books, has yet to release a paperback.
By comparison, Bill Clinton’s My Life sold around 400,000 copies on its first day and George W. Bush’s Decision Points around 220,000, with sales for each memoir currently between 3.5 million and 4 million copies.
The fastest selling book in memory remains JK Rowling’s seventh and final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which came out in 2007 and sold more than 8 million copies within 24 hours.
Obama’s 768-page memoir was released just two weeks after election’s day and has already made headlines for its account of the former president’s time in the White House, key moments in his presidency – such as the fight over the Affordable Care Act and the killing of Osama bin Laden – and his reflections on the rise of Trump.
“To read Barack Obama’s autobiography in the last, snarling days of Donald Trump is to stare into an abyss between two opposite ends of humanity, and wonder once again at how the same country came to choose two such disparate men,” wrote the Guardian’s Julian Borger in his recent review.
Obama himself acknowledges that he didn’t intend for the book, the first of two planned volumes, to arrive so close to a presidential election or to take nearly four years after he left the White House.
In the introduction, dated August 2020, Obama writes that “the book kept growing in length and scope” as he found more words were needed. He was also working under conditions he “didn’t fully anticipate”, from the pandemic to the Black Lives Matters protests, to, “most troubling of all”, how the country’s “democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis”.
“We are thrilled with the first day sales,” said David Drake, publisher of the Penguin Random House imprint Crown. “They reflect the widespread excitement that readers have for President Obama’s highly anticipated and extraordinarily written book.”
(The Associated Press/USA Today)