'The Lost Symbol' and 'Going Rogue' top 2009 best-seller list

Though it didn’t sell as strongly as The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol moved more than 5.5 million copies to dominate Publishers Weekly‘s just-unveiled list of the best-selling hardcover books of 2009. A few other expected author names populate the Top 15, including John Grisham (No. 2 and No. 6), James Patterson (No. 5), and Patricia Cornwell (No. 12 and No. 14). Stephenie Meyer landed in the ninth spot with her 2008 sci-fi novel The Host, but the lack of a Twilight book was evident, particularly in the ascendancy of two entries from P.C. Cast’s Twi-lite House of Night series, which rose up to fill a vampire-shaped hole. The real surprise, though, is Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, which itself was helped by tremendous word of mouth to become the fourth best-selling fiction book of the year with 1.1 million copies sold. On the nonfiction side, it was politics, mainly conservative, that got the cash register ringing. Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue capped the list, but books by Glenn Beck, conservative radio host Mark Levin, and the late Edward Kennedy all made it into the top five.

Whereas sales of albums and movie tickets are tallied virtually in real-time, the figures for the publishing industry are often as closely guarded as the Colonel’s secret recipe, so PW’s yearly ranking offers one of the best snapshots of the literary marketplace. And while the top contenders on both the fiction and nonfiction lists sold millions of copies, the overall list reveals a far less rosy picture of book sales. The number of titles that sold at least 100,000 copies is down by significant double-digit percentages from 2008 in both fiction and nonfiction.

E-book sales figures weren’t included this year (they will be for 2010), but since digital editions rarely exceed 5 percent of a book’s total sales it’s unlikely that the 2009 sales list would have received a big boost from their inclusion. Here are the top selling books of 2009 (since some publishers did not provide PW exact sales figures, several titles’ rankings are based on estimates or sales figures provided in confidence for the purposes of ranking):

Hardcover Fiction

1. The Lost Symbol: A Novel, Dan Brown (5,543,643 copies)
2. The Associate: A Novel, John Grisham
3. Tempted, P.C. Cast (1,141,818)
4. The Help, Kathryn Stockett (1,104,617)
5. I, Alex Cross, James Patterson (1,040,976)
6. Ford County, John Grisham
7. Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, Janet Evanovich (977,178)
8. Hunted, P.C. Cast (931,219)
9. The Host: A Novel, Stephenie Meyer (912,165)
10. Under the Dome, Stephen King
11. Pirate Latitudes, Michael Crichton (855,638)
12. Scarpetta, Patricia Cornwell (800,00)
13. U Is for Undertow, Sue Grafton (706,154)
14. The Scarpetta Factor, Patricia Cornwell (705,000)
15. Shadowland, Alyson Noel (609,355)

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Going Rogue: An American Life, Sarah Palin (2,674,684 copies)
2. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment, Steve Harvey (1,735,219)
3. Arguing With Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government, Glenn Beck
4. Liberty & Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, Mark R. Levin
5. True Compass: A Memoir, Edward M. Kennedy (870,402)
6. Have a Little Faith: A True Story, Mitch Albom (855,843)
7. It’s Your Time: Activate Your Faith, Achieve Your Dreams, and Increase in God’s Favor, Joel Osteen
8. The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow (610,033)
9. Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, Greg Mortenson (515,566)
10. Superfreakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (487,977).
11. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child (487,228)
12. Master Your Metabolism: The 3 Diet Secrets to Naturally Balancing Your Hormones for a Hot and Healthy Body! Jillian Michaels (486,154)
13. The Yankee Years, Joe Torre and Tom Verducci (397,954)
14. Open, Andre Agassi (383,722)
15. Time of My Life, Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niem

Comments (24 total) Add your comment
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  • Josh

    The Lost Symbol was one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I didn’t bother with Palin’s. I’m not familiar with a lot of the others. Grad school doesn’t leave much time for pleasure reading.

    • Steve King

      Agreed. Lost Symbol was a steaming pile of crap (and I really liked the first two Langdon books).

      • Denis B

        I didn’t even finished the last few pages of The Lost Symbol. What a best seller!

  • alex

    The sarah palin and glenn beck sales don’t surprise me, but they do frighten the $%#& out of me.. two of the dumbest people on earth and so many people want to read what they spew.. horrifying.

    • UncleWalty

      How long until someone starts ranting about “liberals” and “Obamacare” and all that other nonsense? I’m giving it another half-hour…maybe…

    • Heidi

      I thought the rumor was that Palin’s followers bought up a large amount of her books so it would be an automatic bestseller.

    • Amy

      What frightens me is that Sarah Palin and Glen Beck certainly did not “write” non-fiction. Try fantasy.

    • joblo

      Wow. Stay classy, alex.

    • Frank Rocca

      Listen COMRAD what scares me is Chairman Obama living in the Kremlin. Real Americans can’t wait till the Comunists get out.

      • Matt

        Republican books sell well because Republicans are like, “Yes Master Beck, tell me how to think…I dont have any brain to use on my own”

  • Celia

    I’m ashamed at the idiots who put Palin’s book at number one.

    • Frank

      I’m ashamed of the idiots who voted for Obama

  • Robin

    I agree with Josh….The Lost Symbol was a terrible book. I wanted my money and time back, of which I will get neither.

  • Yeesh

    What a surprise… the two top-selling books are both horrible.

  • Generation Gossip

    I am so glad to see people still buying John Grishams books, I read both and loved them

    Check Out GenerationGossip.com

    • Rotee

      robolxVEVO1337 on October 25, 2011 dear kid who got his hat) GIVE ME IT NOW PLEASE! IL LET YOU MEET MY DAD WHO MADE THE GUNPARTS FOR TRANSFORMERS 3!

  • Heidi

    The Help was fantastic – at least that was one good book on the list.

  • fred poisson

    Under The Dome was great, if you haven’t read it you should

  • Sia

    I loved the Host by Stephenie Meyer. Yes it’s slow at the beginning but when you past that IT’S AMAZING AND VERY HEARTWARMING !

  • Maureen

    I would like to send kudos to Lisa and our beloved Patrick Swayze. To be able to turn our such a wonderful book (read it twice – cried a million times) is a true test of what real story telling is all about. Patrick passed away in September of 2009. I pray for Lisa often and hope that she is doing OK.

  • joanna Golden

    These books are best sellers because of how many copies they sold not the actual writing of it because I heard that The Lost Symbol was just really predictable and not one of Dan Brown’s best. I am not even going comment about the Sarah Palin book because it’s just a book full of stupidity.

    • Ben

      So, you’re not going to comment on Going Rogue by commenting on it? It sure sounds like you’re the one who’s full of stupidity.

  • Ben

    I think it’s probably hard for liberals to see conservative books do so well. They would prefer a book from their saint Dr. George Tiller.

  • Pam

    Do books bought by PACs or politically motivated groups as a freebie giveaway count? If so that explains Palin’s numbers.

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