Sunday, December 24, 2017

Boswell bestsellers for week ending December 23, 2017: publisher and imprint winners, every-other-year picture book hits, regional roundup, Journal Sentinel book review.

As I say to folks shopping in the store who comment on how busy we are in the week before Christmas, "If we're not busy now, we're in big trouble." We're open today until 5 pm, and closed on Christmas day.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Enchantress of Numbers, by Jennifer Chiaverini
2. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
3. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
4. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
5. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
6. Devotions, by Mary Oliver
7. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
8. Origin, by Dan Brown
9. Hum If You Don't Know the Worlds, by Bianca Marais
10. Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke
11. The Power, by Naomi Laderman
12. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
13. Future Home of the Living God, by Louise Erdrich
14. Artemis, by Andy Weir
15. Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks

It strikes me that, excluding our handselling, that certain publishers (and imprints at larger publishers) are having a particularly good year. One division that snagged two winners is Scribner, which is riding high with Sing, Unburied, Sing, and Manhattan Beach. The former needed to be so good that it would win awards and hit multiple best-of lists to really reach its potential (and it did) and the latter would have to hit ride some amazing reviews but overcome others that were mixed, and hold an author's audience when said author tries to mix it up with every novel. Congrats!

Another publishing division (imprint? whatever it is) that seems to be having a particularly strong holiday is Penguin Press, what with the runaway success of Grant (#1 on hardcover) and Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere (#18 for us but solidly in the top ten on the Times and likely #1 for many independents around the country). In addition, Mary Oliver continues to do very strongly in the indie market with Devotions. She's been in our top ten most weeks during the holiday season and this week is at #6.

On the more commercial side, you can see on The New York Times that Doubleday holds down #1 and 2 on the combined print and ebook list with Origin and John Grisham's The Rooster Bar (#17 for us). Combine that with holiday surge for Killers of the Flower Moon on the nonfiction list

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Grant, by Ron Chernow
2. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
3. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
4. The Capital Times, by John Nichols and Dave Zweifel
5. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
6. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
7. We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
8. Obama, by Pete Souza (Hey, we lasted longer than some!)
9. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
10. Prairie Fires, by Caroline Fraser (We were finally in stock and now we're out again!)
11. Promise Me, Dad, by Joe Biden
12. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
13. The Secret Lives of Color, by Kassia St. Clair
14. Border Country, by Martha Greene Phillips
15. Bobby Kennedy, by Chris Matthews
16. Going into Town, by Roz Chast
17. Everybody Lies, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
18. Janesville, by Amy Goldstein
19. The Driftless Reader, by Curt Meine and Keeley Keefe
20. Devotion, by Patti Smith

Speaking of publishers having a good holiday, it strikes me that things are going particularly well for W.W. Norton. While we might call The Death and Life of the Great Lakes regional, the fact that the book was out of stock with both publisher and distributors indicates that the region is pretty large. Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry has been a bestseller all year and sales increased substantially in December. Norse Mythology, Norton's first #1 bestseller on The New York Times, had a nice resurgence at the holidays, partly with the help of a bookseller's top five pick. And imprint Liveright has a hit of its own with Richard Rothstein's The Color of War. Rothstein will be back in the spring for a fundraiser for Community Advocates.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
2. History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund
3. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. Cold Clay, by Juneau Black
5. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
6. The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
7. Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay
8. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
9. The Hamilton Affair, by Elizabeth Cobbs
10. The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn
11. Autumn, by Ali Smith
12. The Mistletoe Murder, by P.D. James
13. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
14. The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katharine Arden
15. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie (and there's a mass market further down the list)

So to put this in perspective, Pachinko has our best week of sales for a paperback fiction title that was not connected to an event since at least 2009. I'm almost positive that in fact that it's since we were open, but we don't have data for weekly sales for December 2009 because I had a computer crash that was not backed up, and we replaced our inventory hard drive since then so while we have total numbers, I can't reconstruct weekly sales. But the only book that comes close is Téa Obrecht's The Tiger's Wife and if you look closely, The Tiger's Wife and Pachinko have something in common. Both had an early paperback release and were also named one of The New York Times best books of the year.

I do have the Harry W. Schwartz numbers for 2008 and the runaway bestseller was The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. The two books selling below that, still in large numbers, were Sarah's Key (Tatiana DeRosnay) and The Shack (William P. Young).

OK there are a few books, like All the Light We Cannot See, Pachinko, and to a lesser extent History of Wolves (which like, Pachinko, had an author visit drive sales), is dominated by books that did not have strong hardcover sales. Many of the books are either paperback originals or books that were sleepers in hardcover. I think this is partly because by Christmas, many of these books are old hat by the holidays, having gotten their paperback release last spring. In addition, I think many hardcover fiction books have sales patterns more similar to nonfiction, where we capture most of the available sale in hardcover, being the price points are closer than they used to be, and the traditional paperback price-oriented reader might divert to ebook or audio download.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
3. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, and David Luhrssen
4. Lewd Looks, by Elena Gorfinkel
5. Women and Power, by Mary Beard
6. How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh
7. Magnificent Machines of Milwaukee, by Thomas H. Fehring
8. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
9. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
10. Life is a Joke, by Gordon and John Javna
11. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn M. Perry
12. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
13. Gunslinger, by Jeff Pearlman
14. Teeny Tiny Turntable, from Running Press
15. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda

I periodically say that paperback nonfiction is driven by regional titles and this season is no exception, and some might say that Eviction falls into this category, because I'm not sure how many other markets there are where Eviction is, week after week, their #1 bestseller. Add to that Brick Through the Window, Magnificent Machines of Milwaukee, Live and Let Live, Gunslinger (a Brett Favre bio), and Cream City Chronicles, and you've got a list that is 40% Wisconsiny, compared to 20% of the hardcover top 15, two Wisconsin writers in the paperback fiction list, and only one Wisconsin writer in the hardcover fiction.

Expect even more of these Tom-Paine-y-like books next year as we Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny takes the slot that Chimananda Ngozie-Adichi's We Should All Be Feminists held in 2016.

Books for Kids:
1. Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers
2. Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
3. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls V1, by Elena Favilli/Francesca Cavallo
4. The Explorer, by Katherine Rundell
5. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
6. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls V2, by Elena Favilli/Francesca Cavallo
7. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
8. The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman
9. Wonder (both jackets), by R.J. Palacio
10. Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Towers, by Hiro Kamigaki
11. The Wolf, The Duck, and the Mouse, by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen
12. Far From the Tree, by Robin Benway
13. After the Fall, by Dan Santat
14. 50 Cities of the USA, by Gabrielle Balkan with illustrations with Sol Linero
15. Undefeated, by Steve Sheinkin
16. The Vanderbeekers of 141st St, by Karina Yan Glaser
17. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Getaway, by Jeff Kinney
18. Strega Nona board book, by Tomie dePaola
19. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
20. She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton with illustrations by Alexandra Boiger

While the number of picture books on our bestseller list is a little thin (five of the top 20 would be included, and that's including two board books), our #1 book, Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers, is outselling the equivalent books last year. This is a weird thing to notice, but that unlike our adult categories, we seem to have a runaway picture book hit every other year: 2011's Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, 2013's The Day the Crayons Quit, and 2015's The Day the Crayons Came Home outsold their competitors by a large margin, but in the even years, there were a whole bunch of picture books in the back. The exception was 2014's Before After, but that was different because we were driving the sales of that book, rather than riding a popular wave. And with that analysis, I think we can say that Oliver Jeffers is very popular at Boswell.

If you add the three formats up together, sales are up in 2017 for The Snowy Day at Boswell. Could it be the influence of the postage stamp?

Just one review in today's Journal Sentinel, for Neil Patrick Harris's The Magical Misfits. Nicole Brodeur. Big news! Neil cooked with Ina Garten. The book was inspired by Harris's (I like the s after the apostrophe for proper names) "lifelong love of magic, circuses, sideshows, and carnivals." Originally published in the Seattle Times.

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