Wherever President Obama goes, a photo op is sure to follow. And when that photo op happens to involve a trip to the bookstore, well, almost nothing in the world gets the publishing industry to perk up as much as that.

And can you blame those bookish types? The president's ability to move units is perhaps topped only by you know who -- that's right, Oprah Winfrey. "Those are the two titans," Howard Yoon, a Washington-based literary agent, told Politico in 2009. "But it's more than just influence. It's also respect and trust. Here you have a sitting president who's not only trained as a legal scholar but also a New York Times best-selling author. His credibility and trust is extraordinarily high when it comes to book recommendations."

Indeed, Obama's 1995 memoir Dreams of My Father is regarded as one of the best books written by an eventual president, and his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, continues to sell in large quantities. Combined, both tomes netted more than $5 million in royalties for Obama in 2009, about double the previous year's amount.

Clearly, Americans care very much about what the president writes. And they also apparently are quite interested in what he reads. An Aug. 20 visit to the Bunch of Grapes independent bookstore on Martha's Vineyard (pictured) attracted plenty of attention, in part because Obama snatched up an advance copy of Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom, the most talked-about book of the fall season. The book wasn't due for release until Aug. 31. It's too soon to know how much effect Obama will have on Franzen's sales -- and there are certainly other factors to consider, such as the author's appearance on the cover of Time magazine. But if history is any indication, the president's endorsement sure won't hurt.

A Range of Books Have Hit Obama's Shelves

During a March 8 speech on health care in Glenside, Pa., the president mentioned that he was reading Edmund Morris's The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt because "we've been talking about health care for nearly a century," and "he was talking about it, Teddy Roosevelt." The book has always been a steady seller for Random House's Modern Library imprint, but according to Bookscan, which measures approximately 75% of total book sales, the book has sold 7,000 copies this year, a notable uptick from previous years.


Several months before that speech, in August 2009, Obama released a list of books he was taking with him on vacation. While the mix naturally included heavy nonfiction fare like Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat & Crowded and David McCullough's biography of John Adams, the president also listed a handful of gritty, socially conscious novels by Richard Price, George Pelecanos and Kent Haruf.

Price's much-praised crime novel, Lush Life, first published in 2008 and issued in paperback in 2009, definitely benefited from being on Obama's reading radar. "The rate of sale [per Bookscan] immediately doubled when it was announced that President Obama was reading Lush Life, and this doubling in sales continued for several weeks," says James Meader, director of publicity for Price's paperback publisher, Picador. That sales bump no doubt contributed to Lush Life's overall sales reaching 60,000 copies, according to Bookscan.

Haruf's Plainsong was first published in 2000, and while the book has never been out of print, it was a somewhat unlikely pick by Obama. This book, too, appears to have benefited from Obama's selection. Bookscan reports it has sold an additional 5,000 copies in 2010.

Will He Ever Match Oprah?

The Obama sales bump clearly worked in novelist Joseph O'Neill's favor, too, after the president mentioned in a New York Times Magazine profile in May 2009 that he was reading O'Neill's novel Netherland. Though the paperback edition of Netherland wasn't due to be released until June 2, Vintage/ Anchor, citing an "Obama-cized double digit increase in sales" by up to 40%, moved up the paperback publication to May 7 and upped the first printing to 70,000 copies, according to the Associated Press. In total Netherland has sold more than 100,000 copies in both hardcover and paperback editions, according to Bookscan.

What's clear is that President Obama has the ability to influence sales of all sorts of different books. Less certain is if he will ever reach Oprah-levels of influence. To do that he would need to push a difficult book like Cormac McCarthy's The Road above the million-copies-sold plateau. Oprah has demonstrated the knack for doing just that many times in her book club's 14-year existence -- and she has at least one more shot before she migrates from syndication to pay TV on her own network next year. If Oprah ever gave up her book club, then we could start talking about who the next Reader in Chief would be.

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dsmeryage

Any careful study of "The Audacity of Hope" will prove to you that it was actually authored by William Ayres with a lot of story detail stolen from "The Odyssey".

September 06 2010 at 11:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jdrumerrnr

You give Petraeus two thumbs down?

September 06 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
eeverettm

Is the Koran next?

September 06 2010 at 7:44 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bobtheponyman

This comment goes out to all the posters still bashing Bush for all the countries problems. The Bush years were the most profitable of my 56 years on earth I was able to purchase 5 new cars and 3 used on my credit alone. Currently I'm unemployed ineligible for unemployment just sold the last car I purchased in 05 and drive a 97 Ford. So you'll have a hard time convincing me Obama's good for the country.

September 06 2010 at 7:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bobtheponyman's comment
andrc657

Perhaps instead of buying 8 cars you could have saved your money. You can't blame President Obama for your profligate spending habits. Sounds like you fell into the Bush trap of spend,spend,spend-never mind about tomorrow.

September 06 2010 at 7:49 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
jbjg24m

comic book ??

September 06 2010 at 7:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
alasusu

Hugo Chavez gave him a nice book to read...did it make the best seller list? LOL

September 06 2010 at 7:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jdrumerrnr

Great now we got some kooks in Florida ready to burn the Quran and Petraeus had to say that it will put their own American soldiers in harms way.

September 06 2010 at 7:00 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
joejteacher951

obama is doing a great job. The press is trying to see him fail. Its the policies of the past president that set this country into the turmoil we are in Some folks will never understand and view this great african ameriocan as OUR PRESIDENT.ITS FUNNY THAT NOW THE OTHER RACES GET A CHANCE TO SEE THE PRESIDENT AS NOT WHITE. hOW DO YOU FEEL WHAT AFRICAN AMERICAN FELT WHEN YOU TURNED ON THE NEWS AND THE PRESIDENT WAS ALWAYS WHITE. bOOK SELLING IS GREAT. bUT pRESIDENT OBAMA IS NOT OUT TO SELL BOOKS. hE'S WRITING HISTORY THAT WILL BE READ BY MILLIONS IN THE YEARS TO COME. hE IS HISTORY AND ONE OF THE GREATEST BOOKS EVER WROTE.

September 06 2010 at 6:44 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to joejteacher951's comment
dc walker

..........he has done more harm than good to African Americans. There were other more qualified than this guy too bad it might be awhile before they can escape the Obama touch.

September 06 2010 at 7:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
saljfaj

Obama has not condemned those that have compared him to God,he even calls himself god in a joking way,he didn't even condemned those in his administration for covering up the Christian symbols at Georgetown.We have a cursed president and white house administration that don't fear God so I think America will be punished during Obama's time in office because people are worshipping him and he loves it instead of condemning it.God created him but his not a Child of God.

September 06 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to saljfaj's comment
Annette

It is not God we compare him to!!

September 06 2010 at 7:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
saljfaj

Obama has not condemned those that have compared him to God,he even calls himself god in a joking way,he didn't even condemned those in his administration for covering up the Christian symbols at Georgetown.We have a cursed president and white house administration that don't fear God so I think America will be punished during Obama's time in office because people are worshipping him and he loves it instead of condemning it.God created him but his not a Child of God.

September 06 2010 at 5:54 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply