Thanks in part to unseasonably warm weather throughout the Midwest during the last weeks of December, booksellers reported a strong finish to a good 2023.
Sarah Bagby, the owner of Watermark Books & Café in Wichita, Kan., reported that sales were up “a whopping 31% from Black Friday on.” After a snowstorm derailed Small Business Saturday in late November, Wichita retailers hosted “a SBS redo” on a mild December weekend that proved very successful. As for the store’s hot December books, Liz Cheney’s Oath and Honor and James McBride’s Heaven and Earth Grocery Store topped the list. In the children’s department, such picture books as How Does Santa Go Down the Chimney? by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen, and Have You Seen My Sock? by Colombe Linette, illus. by Claudia Bielinsky, were popular with shoppers.
In Duluth, Minn., Zenith Bookstore once again got customers into the holiday spirit with its Jólabókaflód promotion, inspired by an Icelandic tradition: booksellers wrapped each book in brown paper and attached a sleeve of locally-produced artisan hot cocoa mix to the package. “Zenith has been marking Jólabókaflód every year since opening in 2017,” said co-owner Bob Dobrow, who noted that holiday sales were up 13% in December, “and 2022 was a very strong year.” National bestsellers such as The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese, Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, and Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer were hot picks. A new cookbook from a local delicatessen, Smoke on the Waterfront: The Northern Waters Smokehaus Cookbook, a mid-November release by Ned Netzel, Nic Peloquin, and Mary K. Tennis, was the store’s bestselling title for the entire year. Picture books by one local and two regional authors also did very well: Sasquatch and Squirrel by Chris Monroe; The Christmas Book Flood by Emily Kilgore and illustrated by Kitty Moss; and Skating Wild on an Inland Sea by Jean Pendziwol and illustrated by Todd Stewart.
December sales at the Seminary Co-op Bookstores in Chicago, which include Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books, were up 13.8% over December 2022, deputy director Stephanie d'Hubert said. Earlier in the month, d'Hubert announced at the store's annual community meeting that its publishing imprint, Ode Books, would publish Reading the Room: A Bookseller’s Tale, City Lights book buyer Paul Yamazaki’s memoir of his more than 50 years as book buyer at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. The book will be published in April, d'Hubert, said, news that "galvanized the community." She added that, ”overall, it has been a really good holiday season,” with Zadie Smith's The Fraud and Jeff Kinney's latest Wimpy Kid book, No Brainer, among the store's bestselling titles.
Kate Snyder, the owner of Plaid Elephant Books, a children’s bookstore in Danville, Ky., reported “a great December,’ with sales up 20% over December 2022. Besides weather, “a few factors were the completion of a long streetscape project downtown (construction had kept folks away), community holiday events that drew people downtown, and in November. the addition of a small adult section, which did very well.” Middle grade titles were particularly popular with the store's holiday shoppers this year, followed by picture books: YA doesn’t do as well because, Snyder said, “teenagers are squirrelly.”
December’s bestseller at Plaid Elephant was the latest title in Dav Pilkey’s Cat Kid Comics Club series, followed by an evergreen favorite, I Eat Poop by Mark Pett. The popularity of The Wheel of the Year, by Fiona Cook and Jessica Roux, took Snyder by surprise. “I hadn't even noticed it in my frontlist ordering, but grabbed a copy when another bookstore posted about it," she admitted. "I shared on social media and folks clamored for copies.”
Kathy Magruder, owner of Pageturners Bookstore in Indianola, Iowa, reported that December sales at the store were up 14% over December 2022, and that sales for the entire year were up 17%. “We did a huge ‘Home for the Holidays’ event in conjunction with other stores on our town square, which brought in a lot of customers,” she said. The top seller for holiday shoppers at Pageturners was Oath and Honor, closely followed by Heaven and Earth Grocery Store; other top titles included Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, The Last Ride of the Pony Express by Will Grant, and Ghosts of Honolulu by Mark Harmon and Leon Carroll. Children's bestsellers included Pilkey’s Influencers, which Magruder said flew off the shelves, as did the Little Golden Book Biographies, particularly the volumes on Taylor Swift and the Beatles. “Local authors also were hot,” Magruder added, “and stickers. Oh my god, the stickers!”