Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where are the Major Awards on our Trade Paperback Fiction Bestsellers list?

Here's what we've been selling in trade paperback fiction for the last month (mid-November to mid-December):

1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery
2. Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay
3. The Shack, by William Paul Young
(There are lots of interesting stories on the phenomenon of this Christian fiction bestseller that doesn't always sit well with Christians, but I am probably not the person to write that story!)
4. Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan
5. Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
(Our owner Carol just finished this and was over the moon...she's not the first).
6. Best American Short Stories 2008, edited by Salman Rushdie
(I'm reading a collection coming out after Christmas by Daniyal Mueenuddin that is fabulous; his story "Nawabdin Electrician" is featured this year).
7. A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
9. Run, by Ann Patchett
10. Fault Lines, by Nancy Huston

What's missing?

a. The National Book Award winner. Rushed into paperback, Peter Matthiesen's Shadow Country should be at the top of our lists, but it's #21. Sometimes you find that some sales lag on award winners as book groups wait a few months to fit the book in their reading schedule. Book clubs, however, may be put off by the book's length and I think readers are confused by the award. This is three old books, rewritten? This is better than anything else published this year? We're confused. I'd love to see the definitive explanation, longer than a sentence, on why this book was chosen. Please link in the comments if you know of one.

b. The Man Booker winner. White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga, is ranked at #22 on our bestseller list. Sales seem a bit below the last two winners. I really liked this book, and early feedback from customers has also generally been very positive. Perhaps it's the book club lag (see above) but it also might be the satire effect. Americans go with satire the way apple pie goes with mayonaisse. We're a serious bunch, and when we laugh, we like the laughs obvious.

Do me proud and try it. This is a worthwhile book, clever and thought provoking, with a good story too. Best, of all, I love the revised paperback jacket. The new purple color really ties in with men's fashion trends. Matching scarf and book--what could be a better gift? (If you read this post in the spring, also goes good with purple tie or casual shirt).

c. The Nobel prize winner. Where is Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio?

Regarding the ups and downs of the post-Nobel sales pop, there seems to be more momentum when readers gravitate towards an individual title. Doris Lessing? Read The Golden Notebook. Gunter Grass? It's The Tin Drum all the way. Sometimes everything comes together. Jose Saramago's Nobel announcement came with the publication of Blindness, perhaps his most lauded novel and certainly his best known in the United States.

But Jean-Marie Gusave Le Clezio? With books being mostly from small presses and lots out of print, it's been hard to get momentum going. I'm just going to mention one author and all booksellers will shake their heads in confusion--Dario Fo.

In this case, the critics have not definitively rallied around one particular book, and that hurts sales. I think many critics haven't read enough Le Clezio to know what his best book is. One article I read suggested we're all supposed to read his first novel, The Interrogation, which is now available!

Many of our shops have award winners on display. Check out the certified blue-ribbon picks.

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