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Prince Harry Reigns Supreme As Nonfiction Bestseller

By Emma Chance | Celebrity | July 14, 2023 |

By Emma Chance | Celebrity | July 14, 2023 |


GettyImages-1491466077.jpg

Sales of adult nonfiction had a weak start in 2023 according to a January BookScan report, with adult and YA fiction dominating.

Enter: Spare.

Prince Harry’s memoir was one of the “fastest selling nonfiction books for adults since 2004. And one of the top three bestsellers in week-one sales” (Forbes), outsold only by Barack Obama’s A Promised Land (2020) and Micelle Obama’s Becoming (2018).

The other nonfiction titles on the bestseller list so far this year were not, like Spare, released this year. They’re also all self-help books.

Number 2 is Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear, which was published in 2018. You know, that book everyone on Instagram —including your dad, who hasn’t read a book since 1995— is reading.

Number 3 is The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk, published in 2015. Also known as the other book everyone on Instagram is reading, but probably not your dad. But maybe he should?

Next is The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, published in 2000. I’d never heard of this one, and definitely never seen anyone post it on Instagram. The Amazon blurb describes it as “amoral, cunning, ruthless, and instructive.” Yikes.

And the fifth best-selling self-help book this year is the one that everyone’s cool aunt probably gave them for their college graduation, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz, published in 1997.

Celebrity tell-alls will always dominate, but it’s difficult to say why self-help books, especially ones that were published twenty-some years ago, hold so much selling power at this particular moment. A book like The Four Agreements will probably always be somewhere on the bestseller list—it has become one of those ubiquitous symbols of secular, harmless woo-woo—but when I see titles about breaking bad habits, dealing with trauma, and gaining power all right in a row, it hints at something simmering beneath the surface of the collective conscious.