Sunday, December 18, 2022

Boswell bestsellers, week ending December 17, 2022

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending December 17, 2022

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
2. A World of Curiosities, by Louise Penny
3. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus
4. All This Could Be Different, by Sarah Thankam Mathews
5. The Passenger, by Cormac McCarthy
6. The Ingenue, by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
7. Stella Maris, by Cormac McCarthy
8. The Boy and the Dog, by Seishu Hase 
9. Trust, by Hernan Diaz
10. Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt
11. Lark Ascending, by Silas House
12. The Rabbit Hutch, by Tess Gunty
13. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
14. Our Missing Hearts, by Celeste Ng
15. Death in Door County, by Annelise Ryan

Demon Copperhead could well double the hardcover sales of 2018's Unsheltered at Boswell by the end of its run. Unlike her last novel, the book is top 10 on both The New York Times and Washington Post for the year, with Ron Charles saying it is his book of the year. But Unsheltered had something Demon Copperfield did not - Boswell reads, including a top 5. Perhaps we move the needle more for lesser known authors.

Similarly, A World of Curiosities hasn't passed up sales for The Madness of Crowds yet, but I expect it will within the next two weeks. Jason has noted in the past that our Louise Penny sales are stronger with November releases than the August ones - I think the idea is that the early books don't get on so many gift lists and perhaps are accessed in less expensive formats - through downloads or library circulation. But if you're #217 on the library waiting list in early December, you might be inclined to say, "Just buy me a copy"

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Light We Carry, by Michelle Obama
2. What If? 2, by Randall Munroe
3. An Immense World, by Ed Yong
4. Smitten Kitchen Keepers, by Deb Perelman
5. The Philosophy of Modern Song, by Bob Dylan
6. What's for Dessert?, by Claire Saffitz (signed copies still available)
7. The Book of Days, by Patti Smith
8. Stuff They Don't Want You to Know, by Ben Bowlin, Matt Frederick, Noel Brown
9. Surrender, by Bono
10. Dinners with Ruth, by Nina Totenberg
11. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
12. And There Was Light, by Jon Meacham
13. The Revolutionary, by Stacy Schiff
14. We Don't Know Ourselves, by Fintan O'Toole
15. Go-To Dinners, by Ina Garten

No question, this season is not like the years before COVID. Lots of out-of-stocks and just-in-times did not pay off. And because the printers and warehouses are struggling, even promised two-day shipping will only work if they can process the order. At the same time, many customers' expectations have reverted to "normal" - late shopping with the expectation that stores are overstocked in everything, which is partly due to early media and pundit stories. And yes, mass merchants have too much beachwear and shorts, if that's what you were planning to buy!

Another category that tends to be fourth quarter-driven is offbeat reference books. Our top 15 reflects two - What If? 2 and Stuff They Don't Want You to Know, which is sort of an almanac of conspiracy theories. I should also note it's a podcast, which helps break out so many bestsellers nowadays. Further down our list is Atlas of Forgotten Places - 2022 is not as map-heavy as some previous years for bestsellers. We have good stock on all three titles. 

Paperback Fiction:
1. Ukrainian American Poets Respond, edited by Olena Jennings
2. The Sleeping Car Porter, by Suzette Mayr (Register for January 10 event here)
3. The Sentence, by Louise Erdrich
4. Still Life, by Sarah Winman
5. Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson
6. Legends and Lattes, by Travis Baldree
7. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
8. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
9. Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
10. The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune

Just a year ago I wasn't aware of the subgenre cozy fantasy, even though we were already selling The House in the Cerulean Sea so well (2022 sales are close to 2021, but probably will not eclipse them). Now with the breakout of Legends and Lattes, I'm curious as to whether our buyer is thinking about a cozy fantasy subcategory. My thought is that maybe it would make more sense to breakout mysteries cozies first, which also have a dedicated fan base and also have a formerly self-published book doing well in the market (#17's Shady Hollow). We'll find out his thoughts in 2023.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Brewtown Tales, by John Gurda
2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
3. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
4. Heart Speak, by Sherill Knezel
5. Entangled Life, by Merlin Sheldrake
6. Nudge: The Final Edition, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
7. Fuzz, by Mary Roach
8. 111 Places in Milwaukee You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden
9. All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner
10. Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe

I think 2022 might be the first year since the 2015 publication that Braiding Sweetgrass will sell less at Boswell than it did the year before. But to be clear - it's very close. One book that did more than double sales in its second year of paperback publication is Merlin Sheldrake's Entangled Life. Firmly entrenched on our mushroom table (it's not up now - too many holiday and year-end displays) and our well-shopped award case, plus a strong staff rec from Oli, helped drive momentum.

Books for Kids:
1. Will We Always Hold Hands?, by Christopher Cheng, illustrations by Stephen Michael King
2. Farmhouse, by Sophie Blackall
3. Meanwhile Back on Earth, by Oliver Jeffers
4. The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, illustrations by Paloma Valdivia, translated by Sara Lissa Paulson
5. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
6. Britannica's Baby Encyclopedia, by Sally Symes, illustrations by Hanako Clulow
7. Unstoppable Us V1: How Humans Took Over the World, by Yuval Noah Harari, illustrations by Richard Zaplana Ruiz
8. The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
9. Collaborations V4: Cat Kid Comic Club, by Dav Pilkey
10. Peekaboo Moon, by Camilla Reid, illustrations by Angela Arrhenius

In the past I would separate this list out in the weeks of Christmas to multiple lists, notably separating pictures books and board books from middle grade and YA, but well, I clearly skipped that step this year. And in a way, not doing this makes one holiday trend clearer - in the week's leading up to Christmas, our picture book sales surge, particularly our staff suggestions. Our #1 title, Will We Always Hold Hands?, is also Jen's buyers pick for the fall, and features a rat and a panda contemplating their friendship. Cheng is a Sydney based writer who is Co-Chair of the International Advisory Board for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

There's no question that many of our customers feel more comfortable buying books for younger kids than for older ones, which might be a reason why the middle grade titles don't kick in until further down the bestseller list, and there's no YA book (12 and up) in our top 25 this week. I have theories! But board books? That's another story. Jen's pick, the Britannica's Baby Encyclopedia, is selling very well out of our newsletter and is a fun book to talk about too. It's an oversized board book that mimics an encyclopedia in its breadth of topics. I have no idea how practical it is, but I can't imagine a better shower gift. It screams smart baby!

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