Sunday, December 4, 2011

It Only Happens Between Thanksgiving and Christmas--A Bestseller List With Even More Stuff on It.

It's always fun to do bestseller lists in December, simply because the numbers are better.

Hardcover Nonfiction
1. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
2. Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman
3. A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor
4. Catherine the Great, by Robert Massie
5. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
6. The Destiny of the Republic, by Candice Millard
7. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
8. Rin Tin Tin, by Susan Orlean
9. Blue Nights, by Joan Didion
10. Food Rules, by Michael Pollan with illustrations by Maira Kalman

Lots of history and biography selling this time of year. I know this makes it look like we break out our advice/how-to, like The New York Times does, but we don't. Nor do we break out celebrity bios or history recounted by conservative media hosts. I only say that because there are two such books in the national top 10 right now.

Everybody is looking for Thinking Fast and Slow this week. What with being named one of the best of the year from The New York Times Book Review and being the first non-economist (or so our friend Tom said to me while chatting) to win the Nobel Prize (admittedly many years ago) in the field, this behavioral psychologist compares system one (intuition) and system two (logic) that interact in our brain and how that affects decision making. Oh, I love this stuff--why haven't I read it yet?

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
2. The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
3. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
4. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
5. American Boy, by Larry Watson
6. The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka
7. 11-22-63, by Stephen King
8. 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami
9. The Drop, by Michael Connelly
10. On Canaan's Side, by Sebastian Barry

Our fiction continues to be guy heavy, but as predicted, as long as they didn't rush it into paperback, we'd have a Paula McLain Christmas. It's also great to see The Buddha in the Attic's sales pop since gettin on our favorites-of-2011 Boswell Best list.

This week's mystery/thriller pop was for Michael Connelly's new Harry Bosch novel, The Drop.  Apparently he's juggling two cases on the new novel, and since he's being pushed to retire in a few years, one wonders whether Connelly is similarly thinking about retiring the character. But the big pop for us will come at the end of the month, when P.D. James releases Death Comes to Pemberley. It's out this Tuesday, December 6th, even though our website says December 20. Don't believe everything you read!

Nonfiction Paperback:
1. Gimbels Has It, by Michael J. Lisicky
2. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
4. The Death of the Liberal Class, by Chris Hedges
5. Wisconsin's Impressions, by Daryl Beers
6. Your True Home, by Thich Nhat Hanh
7. The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal
8. Life, by Keith Richards

Just days after Jason noted to me how well Thich Nhat Hanh's new collection, Your True Home, I was at the register chatting with an ex-bookseller who for many years, was at the now-closed St. Martin's Table in Minneapolis. She looked over and saw the new collection and added it to her purchases. Here's more information about the store's history.

And the Wisconsin's Impressions pop (the book is from 2006) reminds me (even though the sales were partly bulk) reminds me that we are really short of regional books for this holiday. There's a new Bay View book from Arcadia (we should have it later this week), but honestly, there are only so many identical Arcadia books you can look at before you are dulled by their similarity.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Postmortal, by Drew Magary
2. Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
3. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
4. The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht
5. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
6. An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin
7. Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell
8. Show Up, Look Good, by Mark Wisniewski
9. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
10. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, Walter Mosley

We've definitely gotten some spin off business from the recent appearance by Walter Mosley and the upcoming one from Rebecca Skloot (the event is December 7, tickets still available).  Part of the issue with Mosley is that the paperback of The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey was not quite out in time for his talk for Woodland Pattern's anniversary celebration. That, and her was a great speaker and also that folks are really liking the book and coming back to buy additional copies for gifts. Oh, well at least two did and told me about it.

And you can see that The New York Times Book Review best of 2011 feature is already popping sales. Now's the time as a bookseller that you regret that Swamplandia and The Tiger's Wife went into paperback so quickly. But on the other hand, if The Tiger's Wife hadn't come out, what would I be selling in paperback fiction? I'm hoping that with display room having just opened up for my book club picks, albeit on a somewhat hidden counter in fiction that nonetheless seems to be browsed, we should see a few more sales of these titles.

Books for Children (hardcover and paperback combined as we only had one very strong paperback title):
1. Cabin Fever, by Jeff Kinney
2. Wildwood, by Colin Meloy
3. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
5. Ten Little Caterpillars, by Bill Martin and Lois Ehlert
6. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
7. Mouse and Lion, by Rand Burkert with illustrations by Nancy Burkert
8. Bear Stays Up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson
9. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsberg and Friends
10. The Phantom Tollbooth, Anniversary Edition, by Norton Juster

There are lots of old friends with a twist on this list. In addition to The Phantom Tollbooth anniversary edition, there's also a wonderful hardcover anniversary edition of The Snowy Day. Brian Selznick's previous novel is back selling, with great reviews but soft initial box office, and of course, Lois Ehlert and Bill Martin have been bookseller friends for a long time. And Nancy Burkert? This ex-Milwaukeean was already a legend when I moved her many years ago, but the rumor is that she and Rand might eventually come back for an event here. Let's hope!

Oy, way too much NYT referencing in this piece, but that top 10 is a big deal. But let's at least close with a shout out to the Journal Sentinel. In today's paper, Jim Higgins review Charles J. Shields's new biography, And So it Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life. Do I have that correct with the double colon?

Here's a taste of what Jim says: "Shields'* throughly reserached, smoothly written life story does deepen my sense of amazement that Vonnegut wasn't crazier, meaner* and more self-destructive than he sometimes was." Read more here!

*I am a fan of the s after the apostrophe for singular nouns and the comma before the "and: in a list. I believe either is correct but I did think I should note here that I followed the Journal Sentinel's rules because it was in a quote. Here's a website arguing it out and here's another on the serial comma.

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