Surprising approximately no one in the publishing industry, Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing topped the overall adult chart for the first half of 2020—a resounding success for a debut novel by any definition, especially given that adult fiction typically sells far less than nonfiction. It was, after all, the overall top title last year, when it sold more than 1.8 million copies in all formats, according to NPD BookScan. In the first six months of 2020, it’s sold just under 715,000 copies—fewer than the 907,000 it sold in the same period in 2019. No shock there either: the pandemic has done its work on book sales, after all.
Three of the remaining titles in the overall top 10 are fiction: Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, buoyed by a surprise Barnes & Noble Book of the Year nod last December; Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, whose Hulu adaptation helped to keep selling an already popular book; and Jeanine Cummins’s controversial novel American Dirt, thanks to a star turn on the Oprah Book Club and wide-ranging discourse surrounding its publication. Only one political title, John Bolton’s much-fought-over The Room Where It Happened, placed in the top 10—but did so after only a couple of weeks on sale—while two backlist titles about social justice and racism (Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility and Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist) made the list as people across the country continue to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
Dr. Seuss, as always, had a great year in the children’s category, placing three books in the top 10. Dav Pilkey’s Fetch-22 took the #1 slot, selling more than 402,000 copies. The #2 seller in kids’, Crystal Radke’s My First Learn-to-Write Workbook, saw a big sales bump as the pandemic drove children home from school.
And in YA, Suzanne Collins’s return to the Hunger Games universe, A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, sold more than 887,000 copies in just over a month following its May 19 publication.
Correction: This article initially said that only three of the top 10 adult titles were fictional, omitting a fourth, Little Fires Everywhere.