Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Bestseller Post--Novelists and Cookbook Writers Battle for the Top Spot, Our Top-selling Christmas Themed Book for the Season, and Answers to Other Questions You Didn't Know You Asked.

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Lessons from the Heartland, by Barbara Miner
2. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
3. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, by Ina Garten
4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
5. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham
6. Who I Am, by Pete Townshend
7. The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver
8. I Could Pee on This, by Francesco Marciuliano
9. Pariarch, by David Nasaw
10. Roots, by Diane Morgan

After the sales pop of our upcoming event with Barbara Miner, a talk co-sponsored by Rethinking Schools on January 25th, the new and old guard power cooks battle it out. As you have noticed, I don't like ties, never have. I have several ways to break the ties, but in this case, it was pretty rough. I first give the edge to the more expensive book (as you've sold more of it, dollar wise), but both The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof are both $35. Then I looked at sales to date, and they were both exactly the same. The next way I break ties is by momentum, how did the book do last week. For some reason, the Contessa had an off week last week so the win went to the Smitteneer. Of course our Garten sales are probably off a bit this season because Garten did a big event at the Riverside that included a book, and that probably took away from some of our in-store sales.

Hardcover fiction:
1. The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
2. Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
3. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
4. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
5. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
6. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis
7. Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon
8. The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers
9. The Racketeer, by John Grisham
10. Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel

Munro slipped back to #3, overcome by a late surge for Louise Erdrich and Barbara Kingolver. All three have been running a tight race all season. The person who really needs to be congratulated here is Terry Karten, who, to my knowledge (and somewhat confirmed by this Wally Lamb article from last year), edited by The Round House and Flight Behavior.

Popping onto our list this week is Ayana Mathis's The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, which has already found wide success as the 2nd pick for Oprah's Book Club 2.0 (or maybe 3.0 as there was a distinct break between the more commercial crossover choices of round one and the denser, more classics-heavy titles of the second assortment). I have no idea how the chains and internet stores are doing with the book, but it's been steady, but not the phenomenon a selection would once have been. Deirdre Donahue writes in USA Today: "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie might remind readers of an earlier novel: Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (sans the happy ending). Both share the same gritty realism of growing up poor on the mean streets of a Northern city." She sees it as a worthy selection to find a wider audience.

And Ron Charles in the Washington Post is also a fan. He notes: “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie falls into that growing tradition of books that hover somewhere between a novel and a collection of short stories — an unintended effect, perhaps, of the workshop setting that so many writers pass through nowadays. Like the chapters in Kevin Powers’s Iraq war novel The Yellow Birds, sections of Mathis’s book cry out for anthologizing, but their effect grows richer and more complex as they accrue."

Paperback nonfiction:
1. The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt
2. Dancers Among Us, by Jordan Matter
3. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
4. Unlikely Friendships, by Jennifer Holland
5. The Emotional Life of your Brain, by Richard. J. Davidson
6. Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
7. A Little History of Philosophy, by Nigel Warburton
8. Schuster's and Gimbels, by Paul Geenen
9. Arguably, by Christopher Hitchens
10. Mo: a Loeys Dietz syndrome memoir, by Kate Jurgens

Enthusiasm is building for our event with Kate Jurgens, a chronicle of her life with her daughter Mo, on January 22, 7 pm, at Boswell. But mostly these are still holiday sales, both for the two days before and the gift cards and late celebrations afterwards. I was noting to John that we did well with both A Little History of Philosophy in paperback, and the new hardcover entry A Little History of Science.

Another sales pop this week is the paperback release of The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live-And How You Can Change Them , written by Richard Davidson with Sharon Begley. The book has received praise from Daniel Goleman and Daniel Gilbert, so you know I'd be predisposed to like it, as us Daniel G.'s always stick together. You can read more in this Forbes essay from Jenna Gourdreau.

 Davidson is a professor of neuroscience at UW Madison.Wouldn't it be great for Professor Davidson to talk at Boswell? If you happen to know him, tell him we're a nice place to visit, and that we've sold 38 copies of the book so far, hard and soft combined.

Paperback fiction:
1. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
2. City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte
3. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
4. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
5. Best American Short Stories, edited by Tom Perrotta
6. The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
7. Sacré Bleu, by Christopher Moore
8. How it All Began, by Penelope Lively
9. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
10. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett

I've always been surprised by customers who come in the last week and ask us if we have a book, and when we're so suprised that we actually have it, they turn around and ask disappointedly if it comes in hardcover. With a hot title, however, that question seems to make more and more sense come Christmas, and we've been trying to adjust a bit this year. We had a very strong run with Sacré Bleu in hardcover, but having sold out of it several days before Christmas, that sale moved to paper. In addition, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk hit the lower reaches of our list this week in cloth, at the same time the paperback clocked in at #13.

But the book I most regret not restocking in hardcover is Wolf Hall. Our sales have exploded on the paperback his fall, what with its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, winning so many accolades. We've now sold more copies of Wolf Hall in paperback this year than in 2010, the year of the paperback release, and I'm pretty more that several of those customers would have been thrilled to trade up to cloth. By the time we looked, there was no room at the inn.

And look at City of Dark Magic go! We all (well Mel and Hannah and I, in particular) can't wait to meet "Magnus" (Christina and Meg) on January 15th, 7 pm.

Books for kids:
1. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage
2. The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, by Jeff Kinney
4. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
5. Hold me Closer Necromancer, by Lish McBride
6. Safari, by Dan Kainen
7. Who Could That Be at this Hour, by Lemony Snicket
8. Wildwood, by Colin Meloy
9. Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
10. Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure, by Matthew Reinhart

We've had a lot of in-house enthusiasm for Sheila Turnage and John Green (who hasn't for the later?) but it's nice to see the underdog come out on top for Christmas. One of the other interesting things about this season is that there haven't been a huge amount of Christmas themed bestsellers in kids (or adult for that matter) but we always have a good pop on The Snowy Day, starting in November and running through about January. This year Keats has been joined by Uri Shulevitz's Snow, new this year in board book. Interestingly enough, promoting the board book has let to a pop in sales for the paperback. Let's remember to stock up again next November (our stock up being rather modest compared to most retailers--it usually means more than one).

It still feels like a weak picture book year compared to middle grade through teen, without the huge breakouts of 2011. When you look at the bestseller lists and see last year's Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site at the top (and it's our #2 for the season after Santa is Coming to Wisconsin, which contradicts the thing I said in the last paragraph), one begins to suspect that we are not the only folks thinking that. And when I look at our numbers, it's no that dramatic, though four children's picture books sold more copies in November and December of 2011 than our #1 book of that period this year, and being that our sales are up over last year, this somehow seems significant.

Looking at the Journal Sentinel today, we can expect a further pop on Anne Lamott's Help Thanks Wow with Jim Higgins's write up. The rest of the reviews are from wire services, but there's a treat on page seven, our ad featuring three events--Chis Crowley and Jen Sacheck for Thinner This Year on January 9, Barbara Miner on January 25, and Ian Rankin on February 1.

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