Obama Biography Showdown: Ed Klein Outsells David Maraniss by a 7-1 Margin

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 30 2012 10:02 AM

Obama Biography Showdown: Ed Klein Outsells David Maraniss by a 7-1 Margin

In May, Regnery released Ed Klein's second book about Barack Obama. His first attempt, The Obama Identity, was a snarky novel about the president. The Amateur was filed in the non-fiction section, because it took Klein to "six cities, either in person or over the phone," and claimed at least two big scoops. The first, an anecdote about Bill Clinton passionately declaring Obama a naif, was anonymously sourced. The second, Jeremiah Wright's accusation that he was offered (and didn't take) a bribe to shut up, was sourced to Wright himself. But neither story made waves outside of conservative media.

One month later, Simon & Schuster released David Maraniss's years-in-the-making biography Barack Obama: The Story. Maraniss had been writing deep biographical studies of the president since before he won the election. He cracked sources who'd never before talked about the president -- ex-girlfriends, pot-smoking buddies, roommates. His reporting was so thorough that he could name the other shops on the street where Obama's maternal great-grandfather worked.

Advertisement

The Amateur has consistently appeared on the NYT's hardcover non-fiction best-seller list. Barack Obama: The Story has fallen off. That's because Klein's selling and Maraniss isn't. According to information from Nielsen BookScan, The Amateur has sold 137,000 copies, while Barack Obama: The Story has sold only 19,000.

Over the weekend, Maraniss's Washington Post gave him space for a punchy op-ed about the "frauds and fabricators" who refuse to believe his reporting about Obama.

What drives them? Some of it can be attributed to the give-and-take of today’s harsh ideological divide. Some of it can be explained by the way misinformation spreads virally to millions of like-minded people, reinforcing preconceptions. And some of it, I believe, arises out of fears of demographic changes in this country, and out of racism.

And the number of people who want their bitter views of Obama reinforced vastly outpaces the number who like Obama and want to understand him better.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 3:59 PM The Trailer for Taken 3 Is Here, and Guess Who’s on His Phone Again
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 2:38 PM Scientists Use Electrical Impulses to Help Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.