Prince Harry may be topping the book-sales charts, but he can't beat Obama

When it comes to first-week book sales, Prince Harry may be ruling the roost. But former President Barack Obama still has him beat.

“Spare,” the newly released tell-all tome by Prince Harry, sold 629,300 print copies in the U.S. during its first week, according to NPD BookScan, the leading tracker of book sales. That made “Spare” the top-selling book in this country by a wide margin — the closest competitor, Colleen Hoover’s romantic novel “It Starts with Us” sold 51,000 copies.

Still, “Spare” doesn’t come close to the first-week tally of 831,300 copies that Obama recorded with “A Promised Land,” his 2020 release. NPD BookScan said “A Promised Land” is the holder of the first-week record for adult nonfiction.

For that matter, the debut week for “Spare” also didn’t beat Michelle Obama’s 2018 book “Becoming,” which posted first-week sales of 645,900, according to NPD BookScan.

Still, “Spare” is proving itself in other ways. The book is ranked the top seller on Amazon
and Barnes & Noble. And it is the fastest-selling nonfiction book in U.K. history, according to press reports, which indicate that 400,000 copies across numerous formats (print, e-book and audio) were snapped up on the day of release.

“We always knew this book would fly but it is exceeding even our most bullish expectations,” said Transworld Penguin Random House Managing Director Larry Finlay in a statement. Transworld is the British publisher of “Spare,” while Random House is the U.S. publisher.

The strong sales for “Spare” shouldn’t come as a surprise. Prince Harry — the duke of Sussex and second-born child of Charles, since late last year the monarch, and late first wife Diana — and his wife Meghan Markle are two of the most watched members of the royal family, especially since the couple announced their decision to step down from their royal duties in 2020, relocating to California.

And there’s been a headline-grabbing buildup to the release of “Spare,” including the Netflix documentary series “Harry & Meghan,” which itself became a ratings sensation. Harry has also sat for a number of high-profile interviews, including one on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired last Sunday.

In the book and in interviews, Harry has detailed a number of the challenges faced in his life as a royal, from coping with his mother’s death in a car accident when he was 12 to engaging in a physical confrontation with his brother, Prince William, heir to the throne.

While the book may be selling well, it isn’t completely winning over reviewers. New York Times critic Alexandra Jacobs said she enjoyed parts of “Spare” but also complained that it “is all over the map — emotionally as well as physically.” Similarly, the Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins declared that “ ‘Spare’ is by turns compassion-inducing, frustrating, oddly compelling and absurd.”

Harry is reportedly being paid between $35 million and $40 million by Penguin Random House to write four books, with “Spare” being his first.

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