The two dozen booksellers PW recently surveyed about holiday sales expectations were anticipating a strong season even before, late last month, Penguin Random House announced the November 15 release of The Light We Carry. Michelle Obama’s timely follow-up to Becoming, about staying positive despite life’s challenges, will have an initial print run of 2.75 million copies.

“This is great news,” says David Enyeart, manager of Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul, Minn. “I’m thrilled to have a big, buzzy book like this to remind holiday shoppers, who may not be in bookstores the rest of the year, that books are a valuable, desirable gift option. We’ll order big quantities, because I absolutely don’t want to run out of this book. The big problem here will be where to keep all those books until we can start selling them.”

Luisa Smith, buying director for Book Passage in Corte Madera and San Francisco, is also ordering big. “Our greatest hope,” Smith says, “is that the customers buying her book will come into our stores and linger, discovering a few other books to purchase and raising the season for other authors as well.”

Declaring that The Light We Carry is “definitely on the top of my list, adult-wise,” Ramunda Lark Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C., and National Harbor, Md., says she is also “really pumped up” about April Ryan’s Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem, which interweaves the journalist’s personal story with profiles of Black women leaders.

Noting that celebrity memoirs are perfect for gift givers who are “nervous about pulling the trigger on a novel,” Emily Berg, general manager of Books & Books in Key West, Fla., is jazzed about Paul Newman’s The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man and Steve Martin’s Number One Is Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions, with drawings by Harry Bliss.

The top picks for Colleen Kammer and Cary Loren, co-owners of suburban Detroit’s Book Beat, are Patti Smith’s memoir in photographs inspired by her Instagram, A Book of Days; Bob Dylan’s The Philosophy of Modern Song, his first book since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature; and Eye Dreaming: Photographs by Anthony Barboza, by Barboza, Aaron Bryant, and Mazie M. Harris. “Many of our customers are artists, writers, poets, and musicians,” Loren says. “We tend to look for books that are interesting, even a little bit edgy. And we haven’t seen one of Barboza’s books in years. He’s one of my favorite photographers.”

Alie Hess, senior buyer at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., is stocking up on cookbooks, which are big sellers at her store. She’s especially excited about Ina Garten’s Go-to Dinners and Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Keepers. Among the nonfiction books she dubs a “Brookline book” is the follow-up to Randall Munroe’s bestselling What If?, titled simply What If? 2.

Andrea Griffith, owner of Browsers Bookshop in Olympia, Wash., is loading up on Ross Gay’s new collection of essays, Inciting Joy. His previous collection, The Book of Delights, is a personal favorite of hers, and Griffith says that the cover of his new book is even better. As for Carrie Koepke, manager of Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo., her answer to Inciting Joy’s potential as a holiday handsell is, “Yes. Simply yes.”

Booksellers are also buzzing about fiction, especially two debut novels, Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses and Joanna Quinn’s The Whalebone Theatre, as well as Morgan Talty’s story collection, Night of the Living Rez.

“I heard Talty speak in April and was blown away,” says Ellen Richmond, owner of the Book Cellar in Waterville, Maine. “He was incredibly articulate about the Native experience. The book is set in New England—it’s nice to have that voice.”

Many booksellers can’t wait to sell Cormac McCarthy’s two related releases scheduled a month apart: The Passenger and Stella Maris. “Two books by the same author, and it’s Cormac McCarthy,” Brookline’s Hess says. “He hasn’t had a book in so long. It wouldn’t surprise me if people bought two or three of each to give to friends.”

Other fiction titles by well-known writers that booksellers are enthused about include Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, Ian McEwan’s Lessons, Celeste Ng’s Our Missing Hearts, and Maggie O’Farrell’s The Marriage Portrait.

Chris Weber, co-owner of the Bookshelf in Cincinnati, singles out Matthew Quick’s We Are the Light. “It took me places that I didn’t want to go,” he says. “But I am happy that Lucas [the book’s protagonist] showed me the way. This is one of the most powerful stories I have read in years.”

Hot picks for kids

On the children’s side, booksellers predict that picture books by beloved authors and illustrators will fly off shelves, including The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, Green Is for Christmas by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers, and Meanwhile Back on Earth by Oliver Jeffers. Next Chapter’s Enyeart is also looking forward to selling a bilingual edition of Book of Questions by Pablo Neruda and Paloma Valdivia, which he describes as “both gorgeous and poetic.”

Middle grade fiction with historical backdrops tops many booksellers’ lists. Amy Brabenec, Brookline Booksmith’s children’s buyer and assistant operations manager, is blown away by Kwame Alexander’s The Door of No Return. “Hearing that it is not a book about slavery but rather a coming-of-age story that also addresses that history makes me think this is going to be one of those books that adults pick up for kids but kids fall in love with,” she says.

Shirley Mullin, owner of Kids Ink Children’s Bookstore in Indianapolis, is intrigued by Michael Leali’s “fascinating” dive into LGBTQ history, The Civil War of Amos Abernathy.

Series also dominate this fall’s middle grade and YA picks. Jill Yeomans, co-owner of White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pa., is “obsessed” with The Greatest in the World!, the first book in Ben Clanton’s new graphic novel series, Tater Tales. She also says that she “fell in love” with the art and humor in S’more Magic by Sophie Escabasse, the third volume in the Witches of Brooklyn graphic novel series. Her top YA pick is Bloodmarked, the second book in Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn Cycle.

Bookseller Andrew King at the Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle says his top YA pick is Jas Hammonds’s standalone We Deserve Monuments. “It absolutely delivered and is so well thought out and interwoven perfectly,” he adds. “None of us could believe it was a debut.”

As for children’s nonfiction, bookseller recommendations speak to the importance of books far beyond the holiday season. MahoganyBooks’ Young is an evangelist for Olympic gold medalist Tommie Smith’s memoir, Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice, coauthored by Derrick Barnes and Dawud Anyabwile. She calls it “a beautiful bridge to history that is also current.”

Jessica Hahl, event coordinator at Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont., is equally passionate about the YA edition of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s bestseller Braiding Sweetgrass, adapted by Monique Gray Smith. “I am striving to get it into as many hands as possible,” Hahl says, “I think it can save the world.”

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