Sales of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life catapulted after the book was credited with helping lead to the surrender of the suspect in an Atlanta shooting rampage.

On Sunday evening, the day former hostage Ashley Smith told a press conference that reading an excerpt from the book to suspect Brian Nichols was a turning point in ending her captivity, the book ranked 54 on the bestseller list. By Tuesday it was No. 2, behind a pre-order of the new Harry Potter book due out in July.

“Ashley Smith never dreamed that living out the principles of chapter 33 in The Purpose Driven Life would save her life,” began a press release repeating her story on the Web site

Before the spurt, the book had already sold 21 million copies since its release in October 2002. The impact on total sales won’t be known until new numbers come out next week.

Nichols, who is accused of four murders, held Smith hostage in her apartment several hours Saturday night, she said Sunday on CNN, before she was able to gain his confidence after reading to him from The Purpose Driven Life.

“It mentioned something about what you thought your purpose in life was,” she said in a transcript. “What were you–what talents were you given? What gifts were you given to use?”

“I asked him why he chose me and why he chose Bridgewater Apartments. And he said he didn’t know, just randomly,” she said.

“But after we began to talk, he said he thought that I was an angel sent from God. And that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ. And that he was lost and God led him right to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people. And the families–the people–to let him know how they felt, because I had gone through it myself.”

Later, after cooking him breakfast, Smith said she talked some more to Nichols about God and why he made it out of the courtroom where he is accused of fatally shooting a judge, court reporter and deputy. Police say he later killed a fourth victim, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, before stealing his truck and driving it to Smith’s apartment complex in Gwinnett County.

“I said, ‘Do you believe in miracles?'” she said. “Because if you don’t believe in miracles–you are here for a reason. You’re here in my apartment for some reason. You got out of that courthouse with police everywhere, and you don’t think that’s a miracle? You don’t think you’re supposed to be sitting here right in front of me listening to me tell you, you know, your reason here?”

“I said, ‘You know, your miracle could be that you need to be caught for this. You need to go to prison and you need to share the word of God with them, with all the prisoners there.'”

Nichols eventually let her go, asking if she wanted him to do something like hang curtains before she returned. Upon leaving, she said she called 911 and told police where to find him.

Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., said in a statement he followed the story while traveling in Africa with his wife, Kay.

“We have been grateful to see God use The Purpose Driven Life to provide comfort and direction to people from all walks of life, and were humbled to learn that hostage Ashley Smith found strength and encouragement in its pages during her seven-hour ordeal,” Warren said.

“Jesus sometimes calls us in some of the most difficult situations to be an advocate for Him and the message He represented while on this earth,” Warren said. “We are thankful that Ms. Smith was able to draw from the Scriptures and her reading from the Purpose Driven Life to bring some hope to her captor’s life that was unraveling so tragically and dramatically.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of

Share This