The bestsellers at Watermark Books in Wichita, Kan., for the week ended March 23, include local and regional histories, national bestsellers, a short story collection and even an exhibition catalogue. In the words of Watermark's owner, Sarah Bagby: "We are very connected to our community, and our community has broad tastes. We cast a wide net."
The store's top seller is Radiating Like a Stone: Wichita Women and the 1970s Feminist Movement, a collection of more than 60 essays, compiled and edited by writer and former teacher Myrne Roe, that tells the stories of nearly 80 women in Wichita during the tumultuous '70s. The book was published by Watermark Press, the store's small press, nearly a year and a half ago. It has since been adapted into a play, which has added to the title's popularity. "The stage play just premiered," explained Bagby, "so a lot of women are buying it now for younger women who came to the play."
Radiating Like a Stone is the first book published by Watermark Press in 20 years. The press launched in 1989 with five titles, and by 1992 had published 17 books altogether, including Leaving Las Vegas by John O'Brien, which later became an Academy Award-nominated film, and Cows Are Freaky When They Look at You by David Ohle, Roger Martin and Susan Rosseau, an oral history of hemp growers, marijuana harvesters and hippies around Lawrence, Kan., in the '60s and '70s. Watermark suspended publication of new titles in 1992 in order to focus more time and resources on growing the store.
"I kind of went into it kicking and screaming," said Bagby, laughing, about the decision to publish another title, and such an intricate one at that, after two decades. "But the reason I published Radiating Like a Stone is because I thought it was such an important part of local history."
Another book pertaining to local history, In the Middle of America: Printmaking and Print Exhibitions by C.A. Sewards & Friends, is also doing well, and Bagby expects it to remain on the list for the next few months. It is a catalogue of four exhibitions that will be held in four different Wichita museums this spring, all relating to the history of printmaking in Kansas and Middle America. Bagby reports that print makers and collectors from around the country are ordering the book.
Also on the list are two novels by Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being and All Over Creation. The former, a story about a writer who makes a connection to a Japanese 16 year old through her diary, pulled from the Pacific Ocean, made its debut earlier this month. The latter was published in 2004 and features a young woman returning home to a potato farming town in Idaho and becoming embroiled in the ensuing drama. Ozeki has done two events at Watermark. At both events, Bagby reported, Ozeki connected wonderfully with the audience, and she described Ozeki's novels as "perennial sellers."
Juliette Gordon Low, Stacy Cordery's biography of the founder of the Girl Scouts, has sold well ever since the author visited Watermark in honor of the Girl Scouts' 100th anniversary. "She did an amazing presentation for young women on this woman who was very unconventional," related Bagby. "She spoke to everyone in the audience--historians, Girl Scouts, biography readers, writers."
The Golden Egg Book, Margaret Wise Brown's classic Easter children's book, shows up on the bestsellers list every spring. "It's a classic," Bagby said. "Every child's library needs it. It sells itself every year."
Amber Dermont's first novel, The Starboard Sea, a coming of age story about a young, wealthy man who begins a relationship in the wake of devastating loss, was Watermark's book club selection for March, and number four on the list. Karen Russell's new short story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, was Watermark's March selection for its signed first edition club, and is at number seven. "Anybody who read Swamplandia doesn't hesitate to buy this one," Bagby noted.
Rounding out the bestseller list are two nonfiction titles: Sheryl Sandberg's national bestseller Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and Julia Pandl's Memoirs of the Sunday Brunch. The latter is a regional title from Algonquin about a big, eccentric family that ran a restaurant in Milwaukee, Wis. Pandl, the youngest of nine children, recounts her memories of growing up and working in the restaurant. The book was a Watermark book club selection, and is one of Bagby's favorite books to handsell for the spring.
When asked if there were any surprises on the list, Bagby took a moment to think about it. "If I said yes, I would probably not be telling the truth," she then said. "We drive a lot of what we sell." --Alex Mutter
The Watermark bestsellers:
- Radiating Like a Stone edited by Myrne Roe (Watermark Press)
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Viking)
- Juliette Gordon Low by Stacy Cordery (Penguin Books)
- The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont (St. Martin's Press)
- In the Middle of America: Printmaking and Print Exhibitions by C.A. Seward & Friends (Barbara Thompson Publishing)
- The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown (Golden Books)
- Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (Knopf)
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (Knopf)
- Memoir of the Sunday Brunch by Julia Pandl (Algonquin Books)
- All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki (Penguin Books)