Saturday, December 31, 2016

Boswell's Bestselling Fiction Titles of 2016

By now, you have figured out that I love bestseller lists. So it was sort of a great thrill to mail an order this morning to the famous chart cruncher extraordinaire of Billboard Magazine, whose work was unparalleled in the days before the Internet made such things widespread. This hyper geeky list and analysis probably wouldn't be going on without his influence. So  thanks!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
2. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (last year's #1 and 2014's #3)
3. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (National Book Award)
4. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
5. Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
6. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (debut, on hardcover and paperback list)
7. First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin
8. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
9. Noah's Wife, by Lindsay Starck (debut)
10. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave (back to Little Bee hardcover numbers!)
11. Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
12. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah (on last year's hardcover)
13. The Girls, by Emma Cline (debut, on the John Leonard shortlist)
14. The News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
15. My Name Is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
16. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
17. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
18. Shaler's Fish, by Helen MacDonald (one of two poetry titles)
19. The Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown
20. The Great Reckoning V12, by Louise Penny
21. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney (debut, and coming to Boswell for the paperback on Sat Apr 15, 2 pm)
22. LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
23. The Trespasser V6, by Tana French
24. The Audacity of Goats, by J.F. Riordan
25. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
26. The Mistletoe Murder, by P.D. James
27. Spill Simmer Falter Wither, by Sara Baume (debut)
28. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff (one of three titles on hardcover and paperback list)
29. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
30. Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer
31. As Good As Gone, by Larry Watson
32. The Whistler, by John Grisham
33. The Swimmer, by John Koethe (poetry)
34. Murder on the Quai V16, by Cara Black
35. Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley
36. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi (debut, John Leonard shortlist)
37. Sisi, by Allison Pataki
38. Everybody's Fool, by Richard Russo
39. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
40. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett (debut, John Leonard shortlist, and coming to Boswell on Mon Feb 6, 7 pm)
41. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (debut)
42. The Forgetting Time, by Sharon Guskin
43. Two if by Sea, by Jacquelyn Mitchard
44. Barkskins, by Annie Proulx
45. The Yid, by Paul Goldberg (debut)
46. Black Widow V16, by Daniel Silva
47. The Dead Don't Bleed V1, by David Krugler (debut)
48. The Nix, by Nathan Hill (debut, John Leonard shortlist)
49. Leave Me, by Gayle Forman
50. Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple

Ack! After a strong year for short fiction in 2015 with four entries, not a single story collection made our hardcover top 50. And while there are a number of books in translation on our paperback list, the lone entry for hardcovers is Fredrik Backman's Britt-Marie Was Here.

That said, it was a decent year for debut fiction. And it's interesting to note that 4 of the debuts that made our top 50 are up for the John Leonard Prize, awarded by the National Book Critics Circle. The ones that didn't make our yearend bestsellers are Nicole Davis-Benn's Here Comes the Sun and Max Porter's Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, which already won the Dylan Thomas Prize.

In the mystery arena, sales held steady for Louise Penny (she's within a couple units of matching 2015's The Nature of the Beast and will surely beat the number by paperback release) and jumped substantially for Tana French over 2014's The Secret Place and 2012's Broken Harbor, due to particularly strong reviews for an already well-reviewed author. Another indication that more folks are discovering French is that sales doubled in 2016 over 2015 for In the Woods.

I wound up reading 16 of our top 50 and expect I'll finish one or two more in 2017.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (translation)
2. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (translation)
3. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (on both lists)
4. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George (translation)
5. My Brilliant Friend V1, by Elena Ferrante (translation)
6. Arrow: The Dark Archer, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
7. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman (translation)
8. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
9. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
10. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
11. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
12. French Rhapsody, by Antoine Laurain (translation)
13. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
14. The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy
15. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
16. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
17. The Exodus Code, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
18. Jade Dragon Mountain V1, by Elsa Hart
19. Death Comes Darkly V1, by David Pederson
20. The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg
21. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur (poetry)
22. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
23. The Fathers We Find, by Charles Ries
24. The Transity of Venus, by Susan Firer (poetry)
25. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert
26. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain (translation)
27. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
28. Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal
29. The Story of a New Name V2, by Elena Ferrante (translation)
30. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox
31. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang (translation)
32. The President's Hat, by Antoine Laurain (translation)
33. The Marriage of Opposites, by Alice Hoffman
34. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
35. The Alchemist 25th anniversary edition, by Paulo Coelho (translation)
36. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
37. Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh
38. The Story of a Lost Child V4, by Elena Ferrante (translation)
39. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay V3, by Elena Ferrante (translation)
40. Uprooted, by Namoi Novik
41. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
42. Shady Hollow, by Juneau Black (one of three collaborations, the others from the Barrowman siblings)
43. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
44. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
45. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
46. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
47. Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (translation)
48. Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
49. Moonlight Over Paris, by Jennifer Robson
50. Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

Aside from short fiction, which also doesn't show up on our paperback list, the thing we curators of the good fight root for are books in translation and that's a completely different story. Close to a third of this list was not originally written in English, helped by 4 titles from Elena Ferrante, 3 from Antoine Laurain, and 2 from Fredrik Backman.

Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey was the only poetry collection that wasn't an event. It is not unusual for Mary Oliver to reach the top 50, but this year's entry was essays. And the mystery/thriller genre outperformed science fiction/fantasy. The only titles that I think we'd consider speculative this year are the Barrowman works, old standbys Farenheit 451 and Ready Player One, and the hand-selling success Uprooted. Dark Matter would qualify for either genre.

I have so far read 21 of our top 50 paperback fiction sellers. Up next, the week's bestsellers and then 2016 nonfiction on Monday and books for kids on Tuesday (where the numbers of books read by Daniel will be much lower).

And one last weird thing. Moonglow is still trailing Michael Chabon's last two novels in sales, but being that it came out in November, it's sure to pass The Yiddish Policeman's Union and Telegraph Avenue, which sold the same exact number of copies in hardcover at Boswell.

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