Sunday, December 30, 2018

Boswell bestsellers, week ending December 29, 2018

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending December 29, 2018

Hardcover Fiction:
1. There There, by Tommy Orange
2. Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny
3. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
4. Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
5. The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
6. The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
7. The Winter Soldier, by Daniel Mason
8. My Sister the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite
9. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
10. Transcription, by Kate Atkinson

I am pretty sure that I've never been in a situation where I've read 8 of our 10 hardcover fiction bestsellers (as well as #11, Tayari Jones's An American Marriage), but I'd like to do one better and say I read 9, so I just started The Overstory. Don't think that we're selling them because I read them, but more than I'm reading books that we're more likely to sell - in the case of Transcription and My Sister the Serial Killer, I read the books because customers (and in the latter case booksellers) were talking about the titles. How could I pass up a book that showed up on the top ten of both Jim Higgins and Carole E. Barrowman? If you look at the ABA's Midwest Bestseller List (compiled from stores in the MIBA and GLIBA sales regions - we're on the border - you'll see a lot of overlap and recognize most other titles from previous weeks. The weakest title for us in their top ten was The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawka (and sales there were still respectable) - I bought a copy, hoping to get into it, but it didn't click with me at the time. Maybe later!

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
2. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
3. The Making of Milwaukee fourth edition, by John Gurda
4. Educated, by Tara Westover
5. Gmorning Gnight, by Lin-Manuel Miranda
6. Frederick Douglass, by David W. Blight
7. Lets Go (So We Can Get Back), by Jeff Tweedy
8. These Truths, by Jill Lepore
9. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
10. Ottolenghi Simple, by Yotam Ottolenghi

As we see books coming back into stock (we got a shipment of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that quickly were allocated to special orders - we don't really have copies for general sale, and no, we don't have Ottolenghi Simple either), there could be some changes in the lists but it feels like new releases start up later than they used to. There was a time where we'd see a fresh shipment of books in early January, but it appears that the first major pub date in the new year is January 15. Not worth looking at the Midwest list when the top ten is filled with The Great Minnesota Cookie Book*, but even on the national indie bestsellers, there are books that didn't pop as well for us as they did in other stores. I was particular surprised to see The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck at #3 on the national lists - the book sells steadily for us but it's been quite a while since we sold it in quantity.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney
2. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
3. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
4. Hotel Silence, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
5. The Milkman, by Anna Burns
6. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie (both paperback editions)
7. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
8. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
9. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante (both paperback editions)
10. Light It Up, by Nick Petrie (both paperback editions)

If we combine the regular and movie-tie-in editions of books for bestseller numbers, it sort of makes sense that we would also look at trade and mass market editions of a book together as one paperback listing. Our mass market sales are minimal, confined mostly to classics, cozies, and school adoption. We did, however, decide to stock both editions of Nick Petrie's thrillers, partly because Chris has a fondness for the format as well as the author's books, and that gave us two Petrie books in the top ten, with The Drifter for the second week running, and Light It Up, his newest, making an appearance as well. It's hard to cite, but Apple Books named Light It Up the thriller of the year. And yes, Nick's at Boswell for his next book, Tear It Down, on Monday, January 14, 7 pm, in conversation with Bonnie North.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
2. Call Them By Their True Names, by Rebecca Solnit
3. The Cooking Gene, by Michael Twitty (event at MPL Mitchell Street Branch, Mon Feb 18, 6:30 pm)
4. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
5. We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
7. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
8. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
9. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
10. The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve, by Stephen Greenblatt

Post-Christmas, the list gets substantially issue-ier and less regional-ish. One thing I noticed during the holiday season is that happy was in, probably signified best the nostalgic hunger for Becoming. One book that doesn't necessarily take a stand (though I'm sure some gift receivers would like it more than others) is Stephen Greenblatt's The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve, an unusual December paperback release. The book did not sell the way we hoped in hardcover but maybe will find its audience now. Reviews were mostly strong, but there was one pan from Marilynne Robinson in The New York Times Book Review, a review organ that generally balances bad reviews elsewhere with relatively positive ones from peers. But Robinson is not a peer - she's a fiction writer, albeit with strong views on the subject, who probably doesn't worry about retribution on a later book.

Books for Kids:
1. Brawl of the Wild V6 Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
2. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Renée Graef
3. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
4. P Is for Pterodactyl, by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter, with illustrations by Maria Beddia
5. Metldown V13 Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney
6. Crimes of Grindelwald V2 Fantastic Beasts, by JK Rowling
7. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
8. Winter Is Here, by Kevin Henkes, with illustrations by Laura Dronzek
9. National Parks of the USA, by Kate Siber, with illustrations by Chris Turnham
10. Dinosaur, a photicular book from Dan Kainen

Sales are up for Dog Man's latest, Brawl of the Wild. It turns out that releasing a book on December 24 helps a retailer a lot more than releasing a book on December 25 (which is when the last Dog Man December release was). On the other hand, we're feeling a slowdown of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, with Meltdown with a 20% drop in first-season sales for Meltdown over the last two. It could well be an anomaly or a particularly strong marketing push from another retailer or website, or perhaps it's a trend. On the other hand, sales for Dan Kainen's Dinosaur, though not at levels we were seeing five years ago for these photicular titles, are more than double what we sold for the last year's Wild. You know kids and dinosaurs!

Over at the Journal Sentinel
--Jim Higgins finds useful tips in Martha Stewart's The Martha Manual: How to Do (Almost) Everything. You can read this story here
--Oline H. Codgill reviews Val McDermid's Broken Ground, originally from the Associated Press
--Patty Rhule from USA Today finds a purl or two in Ann Hood's Knitting Yarns.

Have a bestselling 2019!

*Our regional equivalent of this Minnesota cookie book is given out free by We Energies at Miller Park and other locations throughout the state. Maybe they will look at this success and do an omnibus trade edition for fall 2019.

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