"I think our bestseller list speaks to our community's willingness to go along with booksellers' passion," said Leigh Atkins, associate buyer at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, Calif., reflecting on the store's bestseller list for the week ended on September 19. "It's not uncommon to have passionate booksellers at stores, but the community culture that supports us is really exceptional."
Two of the top three spots on the bestseller list belong to books from the middle grade fantasy series Magisterium by authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (Scholastic). The Iron Trial, the first book in the series, is at number one, while The Copper Gauntlet, the second book, is at number three. Clare and Black were at Kepler's for an event on September 18 promoting The Copper Gauntlet, which hit stores earlier this month. To enter the signing line, customers had to have a copy of either book.
"We have a pretty strong youth events program with a very strong following in the area," said Atkins. "We tend to draw some big crowds for those."
In fact, on any given week, many of Kepler's bestsellers are tied to upcoming or recent events. During the week of September 19, the store hosted an event every night; on an average week, Atkins noted, the store hosts around three or four events. She added: "Events drive a lot of sales for us, which is really nice."
The second bestselling book on the list, Marina Krakovsky's The Middleman Economy: How Brokers, Agents, Dealers and Everyday Matchmakers Create Value and Profit, was also an event book. On September 15, Krakovsky visited the store to discuss her book on the ever-growing importance of middlemen--literary and sports agents, brokers, wedding planners and other intermediaries--in today's world.
Due to Kepler's proximity to the tech industry--Menlo Park is in Silicon Valley--there are many events related to technology and how it affects our daily lives. In that sense, Krakovsky, a journalist based in Silicon Valley, is a local writer and her book is one of local interest. Books 4 and 5 on the list, Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan and Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots by John Markoff, were both event books and similarly have technology themes. Markoff and Kaplan shared the stage at Kepler's on September 17 to talk about their books and the broader topic of artificial intelligence.
"That was a great Kepler's event," said Atkins. "We do lots of events about tech. It comes up a lot."
The highest adult fiction book on the list is Andy Weir's The Martian, at number six. The sci-fi novel has seen an uptick in sales since the publication of the movie tie-in version, Atkins said, but the book has been on the bestseller list since its publication in hardcover in 2014. Weir lives in Mountain View, not far from Menlo Park, and he began publishing the story in serial format on his blog, before self-publishing an e-book version in 2011.
"It's been a staff pick of one of our booksellers since it came out," Atkins added. "There were people in store following it when it was just a web series."
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in Nazi-occupied France, is at number seven on the list. Like The Martian, it has been on the store's bestsellers list more or less constantly since its publication.
The store's eighth bestselling book is another nonfiction title and event book: How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims. Kepler's did an offsite event with Lythcott-Haims in June, shortly after the book's publication, and it's been a strong seller since. The book examines the dangers of "helicopter-parenting" for both children and adults.
The penultimate spot on the list belongs to a photography book called Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge. Mark Tuschman, a Menlo Park photographer, spent years traveling across developing countries and photographing women living, working and surviving in difficult situations. Tuschman was featured on In Deep Radio, a radio program with Angie Coiro that Kepler's hosts live each week.
And rounding out the list is Lauren Groff's third novel, Fates and Furies. Published on September 15, the book chronicles a complicated and multi-faceted marriage spanning more than two decades. Fates and Furies has been one of Atkins's own staff picks since its publication.
"A lot of books on this list are books that booksellers on the front line are pushing with passion," said Atkins. "There are people who come in once or twice a week to see what we're excited about. There really is a sort of community of people invested in what's new and what's coming out and what we're interested in." --Alex Mutter
1. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (Scholastic)
2. The Middleman Economy: How Brokers, Agents, Dealers and Everyday Matchmakers Create Value and Profit by Marina Krakovsky (Palgrave Macmillan)
3. The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (Scholastic)
4. Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan (Yale University Press)
5. Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots by John Markoff (Ecco)
6. The Martian by Andy Weir (Broadway Books)
7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
8. How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success by Julie Lythcott-Haims (Holt)
9. Faces of Courage: Intimate Portraits of Women on the Edge by Mark Tuschman (Val De Grace)
10. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books)