Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is quickly becoming the biggest book of the year.
The former first lady’s memoir is set to be released Tuesday, but details about the book started appearing in the media last week, and huge numbers of readers have already expressed an interest.
Barnes & Noble announced today that Obama’s memoir has sold more preorders than any other adult book since Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” was published in 2015.
“We’ve already seen tremendous demand for ‘Becoming’ before it has even hit the shelves,” said Liz Harwell, senior director of merchandising at Barnes & Noble. “Our stores across the country are ready for huge demand tomorrow for what will likely be the biggest book of the season during what has been a blockbuster publishing calendar.”
That interest is only likely to grow.
Oprah Winfrey announced today she has chosen “Becoming” for her book club. She will broadcast an interview with Obama and run an excerpt of the memoir in O magazine.
“This book is everything you wanted to know and so much you didn’t even know you wanted to know,” Winfrey told the AP. “It’s so well-written I can hear her voice; I can hear her expressions; I can feel her emotion. What she allows us to see is how she was able to discover, define and then refine her voice.”
The popular TV talk show host will also help Obama launch her memoir at an appearance in Chicago on Tuesday night at the United Center. Tickets to the event, which run as high as $2,750, sold out quickly. It is the first stop on a 10-city book tour across the country.
And Ellen DeGeneres plans to have Obama on her show on Thursday.
Among the memoir’s most newsworthy content, Obama writes that she blames Donald Trump for the way he continued to question whether her husband was born in the United States long after the “birther” conspiracy had been discredited. “It was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she writes. “What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”
As he usually does in response to critics’ books, President Trump has used his bully pulpit to draw even more attention to “Becoming” by firing back. On Friday, he told reporters outside the White House that publishers always insist authors come up with a few controversial claims. “Well, I’ll give you a little controversy back,” the president said. “I’ll never forgive [President Obama] for what he did to our United States military by not funding it properly. It was depleted. Everything was old and tired, and I came in and I had to fix it.”
Here in Washington, booksellers are bracing for major interest in the book. Bradley Graham, co-owner of Politics and Prose, said, “Given the heavy demand that we saw for other big political books this year — most notably by Wolff, Comey and Woodward — we’ve stocked up and have over 1,000 copies of ‘Becoming’ on hand, with hundreds more coming soon.”
Obama has two book appearances planned for the capital this month: Nov. 17 and Nov. 25 at Capital One Arena.
Such heavy promotion here and around the country is essential for the publisher. Penguin Random House reportedly paid Michelle and Barack Obama $65 million for a two-book deal.
Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post and hosts TotallyHipVideoBookReview.com.