Jamie for the win

He's been the Christmas Number One three times in the past 10 years, and last year his 30-Minute Meals broke all sorts of sales records, so it is no surprise to find William Hill recently installed Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Great Britain as the favourite to be this year's Christmas Number One.

The bookie's odds of 1/2 are, frankly, rubbish and far poorer than last year when you got odds of 8/1 on Jamie's 30-minute Meals topping the Christmas chart. Which it eventually achieved with a weekly sale of 149,640 copies—three times the amount that William Hill's favourite, Nigella Lawson's Kitchen (4/1), managed.

Guinness World Records is second favourite at 11/2. Worth a punt, perhaps, given there are dump-bins full of the world record compendium currently littering supermarket isles (selling at half price, of course). And it has a track record—it was the Christmas Number One in both 2000 and 2002. But sales of the new edition are currently tracking around 15% behind the sales of last year's edition, and are down 45% on its 2009 sales and down 55% on its sales in 2008.

Every year there seems to a be a book that takes publishers and retailers by surprise, examples being: Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots & Leaves (the Christmas Number One in 2003), New Scientist's Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? (2006), and Wan2tlk (which came close to beating Guinness World Records in 2000).

This year, a few industry insiders have predicted that The Inbetweeners Yearbook could be 2011's "surprise hit of the year"—although how a book based on a TV series that pulled in an audience of around 3.5m per episode in its last series could be a "surprise" hit I'll never know.

The truth is, though, that the TV viewing figure/book sales ratio can often be incredibly poor. Take Raymond Blanc's "Kitchen Secrets". It was a series that attracted about two million viewers per episode earlier this year. How many copies did the Kitchen Secrets cookbook sell? 50% of that figure? 25%? Nope. 1.25% (25,000).

But if you want to put a bet on The Inbetweeners Yearbook, just hope that any parent shopping for it for one of their offspring doesn't open its pages. Can't imagine the numerous penis cartoons will be a persuasive factor in them taking it to the tills.


PHIL'S DIAMOND OF THE DAY: There are SO many celebrity memoirs out this year, I imagine they're all going to beat each other up at the bookshops and steal sales off each other. I can't see one celeb-mem breaking away from the pack. It therefore looks incredibly likely Jamie will be the Christmas Number One with only Lorraine Pascale and the Hairy Bikers giving him any kind of competition. But at 1/2 don't expect to get rich.

PHIL'S STINKER OF THE DAY: Paul Scholes' My Story at 10/1?! More chance of Man Utd getting relegated this year than of Scholesy being the Christmas Number One.

PHIL'S LONGSHOT OF THE DAY: If Jamie peaks too early, Guinness World Records could sneak in a win, but I like Alan Partridge's I, Partridge at 20/1. "I'm Alan Partridge" pulled in about three million viewers every week and it's the kind of book that blokes would buy for other blokes. And we all know blokes leave it late to do their Christmas shop because, let's face it guys, we're all completely useless. In which case, I, Partridge could enjoy a terrific sales surge as we get close to Christmas Day.

William Hill Odds:
1) Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Great Britain (1/2)
2) Guinness World Records (11/2)
3=) The Inbetweeners Yearbook (10/1)
3=) Paul Scholes' My Story (10/1)
5) Jeremy Clarkson's Round the Bend (12/1)
6=) James Corden's May I Have Your Attention Please? (16/1)
6=) Alan Sugar's The Way I See It (16/1)
8=) Alan Partridge's I, Partridge (20/1)
8=) Peter Kay's The Book That's More Than Just a Book Book (20/1)
8=) JLS Annual 2012 (20/1)

Previous Christmas Number Ones*:
2010: Jamie Oliver's Jamie's 30-minute Meals
2009: Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol
2008: J K Rowling's The Tale of Beedle the Bard
2007: Russell Brand's My Booky Wook
2006: New Scientist's Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?
2005: Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italy
2004: Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code
2003: Lynne Truss' Eats, Shoots and Leaves
2002: Guinness World Records
2001: Jamie Oliver's Happy Days with the Naked Chef
2000: Guinness World Records
1999: Delia Smith's How to Cook: Book Two
1998: Delia Smith's How to Cook: Book One
* Books at number on in the charts on Christmas Day