Harper Lee's new book hits 1.1 million sales despite controversy

Despite critics' dismissal, Harper Lee's new book has managed to sell over 1 million copies.

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Although critics dismissed it as a rough draft for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and readers despaired over an aging, racist Atticus Finch, Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" remains a bestseller.

HarperCollins announced Monday that “Go Set a Watchman” in its combined print, electronic and audio formats has sold 1.1 million copies in the U.S. and Canada, a figure which includes first-week sales and months of pre-orders. The publisher stunned the world in February when it revealed that a second novel was coming from Lee, who had long insisted that “To Kill a Mockingbird” would be her only book.

HarperCollins, where authors have included Michael Crichton and Veronica Roth, is calling “Watchman” its fastest seller in history. Other books have sold much faster: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” published in the U.S. by Scholastic in 2007, sold 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours.

“Watchman” was released July 14 and as of early Monday remains at No. 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, with “Mockingbird” also in the top 10. HarperCollins has increased an initial print run of 2 million copies for “Watchman” to 3.3 million.

“Watchman” was completed before Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Mockingbird,” but is set in the same Alabama community 20 years later. Critics and readers were startled to find the heroic Atticus of “Mockingbird” disparaging blacks and condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.

Questions about the book arose almost immediately after HarperCollins announced it, with Lee scholars noting that “Watchman” was the work of a young and inexperienced author and friends and admirers of the 89-year-old author worrying that the book had been approved without her participation. State officials in Lee’s native Alabama, where she resides in an assisted living facility, met with her and concluded she was alert and able to make decisions about “Watchman,” which Lee attorney Tonja Carter has said she discovered last year.

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