January 24th, 2015 By: Nora Rawlinson
Fulfilling rumors from yesterday, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, (Penguin/Riverhead; Thorndike; BOT Audio Clip; OverDrive Sample), is an instant #1 NYT best seller, debuting during its first week on sale. In a slight adjustment to the rumor, it arrives at #1 on the Combined Fiction list, but not on the Hardcover Fiction list. On that list, the number one spot is still held by Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, (S&S/Scribner; Thorndike; S&S Audio), on the list after 37 weeks, representing another unusual trajectory, the slow and steady rise.
Is The Girl on the Train actually a debut, as is widely claimed? Not according to Gregory Cowles in the NYT‘s “Inside the List” column, it can only be counted as a debut thriller, since, as Hawkins herself says in an NPR interview, she previously published romantic fiction under a pseudonym (The Wall Street Journal identifies her alias as Amy Silver; WorldCat lists all three of Silver’s titles as only published in the U.K. and only held in U.K. libraries).
Still, a book by an author with no identifiable track record arriving at #1 during it’s first week on sale is a major feat (it wasn’t until “debut” author Robert Galbraith was revealed as actually being the famous writer of a certain series of childrens book that The Cuckoo’s Calling hit best seller lists, several months after publication).
As we noted earlier, to our knowledge, there’s been only one debut in recent history to arrive at #1 in its first week on sale, Elizabeth Kostova’s first book, The Historian, (Hachette/Little, Brown). It debuted on the hardcover list in 2005, back before there was an ebook list, so technically, that record still holds.
If you look at other lists, the story is different. On the PW/BookScan list, The Girl on the Train is #2, after Saint Odd by Dean Koontz (RH/Bantam) and All the Light We Cannot See is at #3.
The other debut novel on the new hardcover fiction list is The First Bad Man by Miranda July, (S&S/Scribner; S&S Audio), arriving at #6, after a barrage of media attention, not all of it positive. A few libraries are showing heavy holds.
On the Combined Nonfiction list, Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body by Martin Pistorius (Simon & Schuster, 2011; OverDrive Sample) debuts at #5, long after its original publication, due to attention from the new NPR show, Invisibilia, (see our earlier story). Several libraries have ordered additional copies (it is now available in trade paperback) because of heavy holds.
Debuting on the Combined Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous list at #8, is a title that some libraries have not yet ordered, Picture Your Prosperity, by Ellen Rogin and Lisa Kueng, (Penguin/Portfolio; Penguin Audio, 1/13/15). It’s been covered in the business press (the NYT Business section, and in Forbes).