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Hits and misses in the publishing world

December 30, 2007|By HILLEL ITALIE

NEW YORK - It was the "confession" that nobody wanted to read in 2007 - at least until they had the chance to read it.

O.J. Simpson's "If I Did It," vilified when first announced a year ago, dropped by HarperCollins, then issued this fall by tiny Beaufort Books, sold more than 100,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of industry sales.

Simpson's book, supposedly so untouchable that Barnes & Noble Inc. initially declined to stock it in stores, had Nielsen numbers comparable to such high-profile releases as former CIA director George Tenet's "At the Center of the Storm" and Alice Sebold's "The Almost Moon," her first novel since the best seller "The Lovely Bones."

It outsold books by National Book Award for fiction winner Denis Johnson (34,000) Man Booker Prize winner Anne Enright (34,000) and perennial best seller Jimmy Carter (16,000).

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A look at some books that topped Simpson's in 2007, and some others:

Hits

· "A Thousand Splendid Suns," Khaled Hosseini. First-time sensations are supposed to flop, or at least come up short the second time. Not Hosseini, whose follow up to "The Kite Runner" was another million seller and received even better reviews.

· "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert's million-selling breakup/travel memoir was so popular that spotting readers seemed as easy in 2007 as finding a Starbucks.

· "Skinny B----," Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. Modestly successful when first published, in 2005, this trendy diet book soared after Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham was photographed holding a copy at a Hollywood boutique.

Misses

· The Hillary Clinton trio: Carl Bernstein's "A Woman in Charge," Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.'s "Her Way" and Sally Bedell Smith's "For Love of Politics." When people want to learn about Hillary, they read Hillary. According to Nielsen BookScan, sales for these three highly publicized books totaled 88,000 through early December, less than half the first-day take for Clinton's "Living History."

· "Fair Game," Valerie Plame. The long-awaited memoir by the former CIA official whose outing by columnist Robert Novak became a political scandal and led to a long federal investigation. Published in October with an announced first printing of 400,000, "Fair Game" had BookScan sales of 42,000.

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