Getting Caught Up on What’s Selling

Josie Leavitt - December 17, 2019

While I’m getting my bookseller feet back under me with the register and new systems, I’m realizing that I’m not as current on books as I’d like to be. I find that my post-bookstore reading has tended toward devouring mystery series in their entirety (thank you Louise Penny and Donna Leon), revisiting beloved favorites, and going on a Southern writers kick. These are great topics, but when someone comes in asking for something new, I’m a little out of my depth. But I’ve been noticing some trends that are making my job easier.
First, there doesn’t seem to one runaway book, which makes things easier. There are a lot of books selling quite well, but no one book that we just cannot get that everyone wants. People are calling about a wide variety of books and it’s been interesting to see what folks want.

Richard Powers’s The Overstory is coming the closest to being the runaway book. It was restocked with a Saturday morning delivery and was gone by afternoon. This seems to be happening most days that I work. I’ve read this one and can happily tell folks how wonderful it is. People feel good about this book. As one customer said, “It’s meaty, thought provoking, and a damn good read.” I’d add that it appeals equally to men and women, old and young.
A book that I took home two weeks ago and now cannot put down is The Starless Sea. I happily handsold six on Saturday all with the caveat, “I haven’t finished this yet, but I can’t stop thinking about it..” Everyone took a chance. Honestly, who’s not going to love a book that features a world of books and stories, a book lover who wants to know his destiny, strange witches and a world that keeps changing in time? Oh, throw in some beautiful writing and a good dose of humor to complete the winning combination of this book. It is also helped by being beautifully designed. This is another one that is constantly reordered.
Randall Munroe’s newest How To is proving to be this week’s big need. I love his books and though I’ve not read this one and only scanned quickly, it feels like another thoughtfully amusing winner. Judging by the number I rang up yesterday, I’d say many folks are getting this one for the holidays. Several people indicated this would be a first night of Chanukah book. I will be giving this to all my nephews.
One thing I’ve noticed on the children’s side of the store is that graphic novels are HUGE. They were pretty big three years ago when I left the store, but now I’ve seen some differences. The first is I no longer have to explain what a graphic novel is. Adults come in not only knowing what the genre is, but accepting (finally) that graphic novels are actual reading books. The other thing I’ve noticed is adults are far more comfortable picking them out than they were. Leading the sales right now is Dog Man Fetch-22. This is the “fun book for Christmas morning.”
On the picture book side I have to say holiday books are doing amazingly well. Dasher seems to be the new holiday classic that is not only the most requested, but the most accepted in place of another holiday book that might be out of stock. This is a big deal. It’s not easy to sway folks from the seasonal book they’ve come in for. But there’s a lovely timeless quality to Dasher that is resonated with readers and making it an easy book to sell. Plus, turns out Dasher is a girl and that adds to its salability. Oh, and the art is just stunning.
One thing I’ve noticed this year is folks don’t seem frantic, yet, about the holidays. Many customers have indicated that books are their main gifts for family. It feels like there’s a return to comfort of books this year. For many, the year’s news has been unrelentingly grim and folks seem to be turning away from gadgets and wanting instead the comfort and solidity of a good story. I love that the power of story has the power to soothe. As one customer put it, “Books help shake off the bitterness” that seems to dominate the news.
Happy reading!

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