At White Birch Books in North Conway, N.H., Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is more than just the season's bestseller. "It's probably the biggest book of our history," noted owner Laura Lucy. "We've sold lots of other books--the Harry Potter series, The Da Vinci Code, Not Without Peril, a book of local interest--but never as many as Atticus as quickly." The memoir is the story of how the author and his dog set out to climb New Hampshire's 48 4,000-ft.-high peaks twice in one winter in honor of a friend who died of cancer.
Since Following Atticus went on sale September 20, White Birch Books has sold more than 1,300 copies. As Ryan notes on his and Atticus M. Finch's blog, the store is the only place other than at author appearances where readers can get personalized, autographed and "pawtographed" copies.
Following Atticus led the way to a 30% increase over last December's sales, the store's best holiday showing in a decade. "I think the shop local message continues to sink in and convert more and more people," said Lucy. "We had many customers who were as happy to spend money with us as we were to have them spend it. That made for quite a wonderful time--a kind of mutual love fest."
Contributing to the upswing at White Birch Books was "a big late season push" with Saul Wisnia's Fenway Park: The Centennial: 100 Years of Red Sox Baseball. Also boosting the bottom line were the enormously popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney and Inheritance by Christopher Paolini.
The concluding fourth volume in Paolini's Inheritance Cycle was one of the top three holiday bestsellers at Bookin' It in Little Falls, Minn., along with Mary DesJarlais's Dorie LaValle, a novel that takes place in Prohibition-era Minnesota, and Ruth Bollig's Triumph over Fears and Tears: The Franciscan Way, about her sister's life as a secular Franciscan.
But the sales of these titles weren't enough to make for a merry Christmas. November and December sales at Bookin' It decreased about 25%, due largely to a decline in special orders. "If we didn't have the book on a customer's list, they moved on," said owner Laura Hansen. "This is a real decision time for us, contemplating winding down or downsizing and sharing space with another downtown business."
Some of Hansen's favorite handsells this season were two stories set in the South: Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward's National Book Award-winning novel about 12 days in the life of a poor Mississippi family, and Ann Napolitano's A Good Hard Look, a fictional account of Flannery O'Connor's life on her family's Georgia farm.
Salvage the Bones was selling well at Square Books in Oxford, Miss., even before its big win and ended up being one of the store's four bestselling titles this season. The others were The Litigators by John Grisham, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides and One Writer's Garden: Eudora Welty's Home Place by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown.
Square Books' holiday sales were on par with last year. "We had our most successful fourth quarter ever last year with some very strong local or regional books and feel fortunate to have matched it this year," said Richard Howorth, owner and merchandising manager. The solid season was primarily attributable to exceptionally strong children's book sales and a good showing at Off Square Books, an annex store that sells lifestyle titles, remainders and used books.
After the post-Christmas cleanup, Square Books staffers are gearing up for a slew of events this month and next, including one on January 26 with Adam Johnson, author of the much-buzzed-about novel The Orphan Master's Son. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt