Monday, December 26, 2016

Late but still great! Our Boswell bestsellers report for the week ending December 24, 2016

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
2. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
3. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
4. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
5. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
6. The Trespasser, by Tana French
7. The Mistletoe Murder, by P.D. James
8. North Water, by Ian McGuire
9. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
10. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
11. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
12. The Envelope Poems, by Emily Dickinson (New Directions)
13. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
14. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
15. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
16. The Whistler, by John Grisham
17. Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple
18. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett (event Monday, February 6, 7 pm!)
19. Britt Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
20. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

Books that are in common with The New York Times top 20: The Whistler (#1), The Underground Railroad (#4), All the Light We Cannot See (#10), Moonglow (#13), Commonwealth (#15), A Gentleman in Moscow (#18), Swing Time (#19), and The Nightingale (#20). Eight titles seems pretty good! Funny that both old titles that made a holiday comeback (Doerr and Hannah) are in the exact same positions. Where the national lists dwarf us is in branded mystery/thrillers.

Several nice milestones passed this week, including our 400th copy of Commonwealth, and our 200th copy of The Excellent Lombards. I was thrilled with our sales of Patchett's State of Wonder and never expected to double sales with the next book. Because our volume is dwarfed by other bookstores, our post-event sales have dropped us on the Treeline (independent bookstore) numbers, but we're still #5 nationally. For Hamilton, of course we're #1. I think that a more Patchetty cover would have helped this book at other indies and with critical reception. Can you imagine a similar package to Commonwealth (or Moonglow), only with apples instead of oranges?

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
3. Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
4. Atlas Obscura, by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Emily Morton
5. Speaking American, by Josh Katz
6. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
7. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
8. Book of Joy, by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
9. Women in Science, by Rachel Ignotofsky
10. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
11. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney
12. Upstream, by Mary Oliver
13. Gunslinger, by Jeff Pearlman
14. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
15. Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders
16. Thank You For Being Late, by Thomas Friedman
17. Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard
18. Appetites, by Anthony Bourdain
19. Absolutely on Music, by Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa
20. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
21. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
22. How to Bake Everything, by Mark Bittman
23. Much Ado, by Michael Lenehan
24. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
25. Bad Little Children's Books, by Arthur Gackley (and now we are out forever)

When it comes to the nonfiction bestseller lists, it's interesting to note that while memoirs often dominate, biographies are few and far between. And while current events can blow out, it's generally a little quieter for history (which is really current events, only in the past). Also note that this is reflected in price point difference. The categories that sell tend to stay below the $29.95 price point while history and biography often wind up higher. Does perceived demand drive down the price due to a more favorable P&L or does the price point prevent the breakout? Our big history book is clearly Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard. We close to doubled sales of Destiny of the Republic, but that's likely due to our October event, which also generated post-event sales momentum.

Speaking of price point, we had some gifty titles dominate our lists but they were either impulse titles at $20 or less, or oversized books that were still price capped at $35. We tend to have a couple of cookbooks in our holiday top 25 and this year it was Anthony Bourdain's Appetites and Mark Bittman's How to Bake Everything. Down below was Ina Garten's Cooking for Jefferey, whose newest has dropped conspicuously in sales totals from previous titles. I'm wondering if folks are buying tickets to her March 8 show at the Riverside Theater. A book is not included, but signed copies are available to order, provided by the chain cooking store Sur La Table. Yes, we just linked you to a show where a competitor is providing the books. Go figure!

National overlap with The New York Times: The Undoing Project (#2), Born to Run (#4), Hillbilly Elegy (#5), Thank You for Being Late (#11), The Book of Joy (#12), Born a Crime (#13), and Our Revolution (#14). It's the usual folk who have more trouble (sports, conservative politics, television), with the notable exception on the last of Trevor Noah's memoir. And of course we can sell sports books if the sports are local, like Gunslinger. And on advice, there's also Appetites (#3). Note that 9 of the 15 books on the combined hardcover/paperback list are cookbooks, but some would argue that books are popping up in nonfiction that seem more like advice. I won't go into it!

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Drifter, by Nicholas Butler
3. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty (Man Booker)
4. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Pulitzer)
5. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang (Man Booker International)
6. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
7. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
8. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
9. The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (a book club)
10. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
11. In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware
12. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
13. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
14. The Portable Veblen, by Elizabeth McKenzie (Boswell event Mon 1/23, 7 pm)
15. Best American Short Stories 2016, edited by Junot Diaz
16. The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer
17. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
18. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
19. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
20. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout (keep an eye out for exciting news about Strout!)

Here's our top 5: crowd pleaser, local pick, prize, prize, prize. When you combine that with sales of the NBA winner The Underground Railroad, now you know how Boswell customers shop at the last minute.

What's on The New York Times top 15?: Ove (#1), Girl on the Train (#2), Milk and Honey (#3), My Grandmother (#6), The Sympathizer (#9), The Sellout (#13), In a Dark, Dark Wood (#14), Little Paris Bookshop (#15)

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
2. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
3. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
4. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
5. SPQR, by Mary Beard
6. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson
7. Milwaukee Frozen Custard, by Kathleen McCann and Bobby Tanzilo
8. H Is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
9. Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
10. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
11. Place Names of Wisconsin, by Edward Callary
12. Milwaukee in the 1930s, by John D. Buenker
13. The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf
14. Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel (or Danny, if you read The Undoing Project) Kahneman
15. Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit

New York Times crossovers: Alexander Hamilton (#1), Hidden Figures (#3), We Should All Be Feminists (#5), Thinking Fast and Slow (#6), The Road to Little Dribbling (#8), The New Jim Crow (#10), SPQR (#15), plus

Board Books:
1. Cityblock, by Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
2. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
3. Penguin and Pinecone, by Salina Yoon
4. Sleepyheads, by Sandra Howatt
5. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats

This top five consists of two of our buyer Amie's holiday picks (Cityblock and Sleepyheads), one built on author visit momentum (Yoon), one title with a post-election resurgence (Nagara) and a classic.

Picture Books:
1. We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen
2. Penguin Problems, by Jory John and Lane Smith
3. Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Betay and David Roberts
4. The Story Orchestra, by Jessica Courtney-Tickley
5. The Christmas Crocodile, by Bonnie Becker and David Small

The Christmas Crocodile was featured on Kathleen Dunn's conversation with Nancy Pearl and myself. It's a Nancy Pearl book crush rediscovery, originally from 1998, and republished by the Two Lions imprint of Amazon.

We Found a Hat, Amie's pick for blowout, indeed did sell for us on the week before Christmas substantially higher than any other traditional picture book. Our top 3 were all featured in our holiday newsletter.

Nonfiction Books:
1. Under Water/Under Earth, by Daniel and Aleksandra Mizielinski
2. Rad Women Worldwide, by Kate Schatz
3. Atlas of Animal Adventures, by Lucy Letherland
4. Rad American Women A-Z, by Kate Schatz
5. Some Writer, by Melissa Sweet

Please note that this subcategory of kids books had our #1 and #2 sellers for the week! Under Water/Under Earth was my pick for the season, and while we admittely only sold about half the copies we did of Before/After, a similar book I liked from 2014 (though the new book is definitely for an older kid, with lots more text), it was also almost twice the price. Plus I didn't pay attention to it until November.

Chapter Books:
1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K. Rowling
2. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down #11, by Jeff Kinney (#1 on Milwaukee Bookscan, for all books, not just kids)
4. The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown
5. The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
6. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone illustrated, by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets illustrated, by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay
9. The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill
10. Mighty Jack, by Ben Hatke

It's Happy Potter Days, with four Rowling books in the top 10. We've got monster Wimpy Kid and then five staff picks, including two from recent visitors Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon and Ben Hatke's Mighty Jack. And yes, there's even one book for teens, The Sun Is Also a Star.

Next week we'll be back to top tens.

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