US President Barack Obama is new Oprah? Every book that gets tagged to with him sees a spurt in sales, as it has now happened with a novel on 9/11 and cricket that he is reading these days.
In an interview on economic policies, published in the New York Times magazine on Sunday but available on the net since Thursday, the president was asked about his reading. "At the end of our conversation, when I asked him if he was reading anything good, he said he had become sick enough of briefing books to begin reading a novel in the evenings - Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill," interviewer David Leonhardt wrote.
That casual hint was enough to send publisher Random House to the press.
"The May 2008 book, published by Random House's Pantheon imprint and one of the New York Times's Best Books of the Year, has already gained market traction. According to Random House's Paul Bogaards, the title has sold 90,000 copies. But with this new presidential seal of approval, RH has decided to go back to press for an additional 2,500 copies as 'a start', according to Bogaards," the trade publication Publishers Weekly has reported.
"The bigger message is that the president, at the end of the day, is making time to read a book," Bogaards said.
Netherland is about a European man in Manhattan after 9/11 who has two loves - that for his wife, and that for his adopted country. Among other themes, the novel explores the cricketing subculture of New York, as well as a tragic friendship with a Trinidadian immigrant.
The New York Times review last year had described it as "the wittiest, angriest, most exacting and most desolate work of fiction we've yet had about life in New York and London after the World Trade Center fell".
Last month, a lesser-know title Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano, published in English translation in 1971, reached Amazon's sales ranking No. 2 after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gifted a copy of it to Obama.
Given the effects of "Obama plug" on book sales, the Publishers Weekly wondered if the president was the new Oprah Winfrey whose recommendations have seen even classics like Anna Karenina getting a new lease of life in the US.