Following yesterday's report on holiday sales trends in the Midwest, we look at some stores on the East Coast and in the South, as well as two chains, Half-Price Books and Kinokuniya.

At PW’s 2023 Bookstore of the Year, the Midtown Scholar in Harrisburg, Pa., program director and new book buyer Alex Brubaker called it “a banner year,” with an increase in sales over 2022.

“We added extra popup tables for browsing during the holidays to offer new releases across the genres,” Brubaker said, and “we curated several bookcases’ worth of festively gift-wrapped ‘blind date with a book’ offerings, as we often do.” The bookstore’s stage hosted a live holiday jazz night, and the newly expanded kids’ wing held a storytime with Santa.

Over the holidays, the Midtown Scholar’s top sellers were Rebecca Yarros’s Fourth Wing, scholar Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Iliad, historian David Grann’s shipwreck-and-mutiny saga The Wager, James McBride’s novel The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, and Gabrielle Zevin’s 2022 Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, now selling strong in a paperback edition.

At Fort Greene, N.Y.’s Greenlight Bookstore, Matt Stowe, buying manager, reported that holiday sales for November and December combined for 2023 were up almost 10% from 2022. “We saw a lot more movement on the critics' picks like the top 10 New York Times books and award winners than we had in previous years during Covid, as well as big upticks in older titles from earlier in the year—books like The Wager, Creative Act, The Guest, Big Swiss, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” she said.

Similarly, in the children’s department, Doug Salati’s Caldecott winner Hot Dog and Invisible Things, by Andy J. Pizza and illustrated by Sophie Miller, continued to sell in high numbers. “We also saw strong sales for some smartly packaged reissues or collections like A Philosophy of Walking, Susan Sontag's On Women, De Beauvoir's A Very Easy Death, and the Claire Keegan books. We could also barely keep the Hayao Miyazaki coffee table book [by Daniel Kothenschulte, Jessica Niebel, and Pete Docter] from a couple years ago on the shelf despite ordering cartons at a time, probably due to the new movie,” The Boy and the Heron. Bagnulo added: “Despite a strong showing for literary fiction toward the end of the year, I could see a return to more breezy, escapist books as we get deeper into an election year.”

Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., had a bustling holiday season, with sales as expected and on par with pre-pandemic numbers. “Our hottest titles were Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, The Wager, and The Bee Sting,” Anton Bogomazov, head buyer for the store, said. “There are some great novels coming out in the first few months, so I'm hoping people will come by and pick them up! I'm very excited about Kaveh Akbar's Martyr, Glorious Exploits by Ferdia Lennon, and Piglet by Lottie Hazel. There's a new novel from Tommy Orange which should be wildly popular, as well as new work from Julia Alvarez in April. Seems like it's going to be a great book year!”

Shari Stauch of Main Street Reads in Summerville, S.C., reported: “We just enjoyed a new record November and December—up 50% over last year! We were surprised by the variety of titles selected and/or ordered, although classics still led the field, especially special editions. The trend seemed to be ‘the more beautiful, the better.’ We're projecting a slow January/February on the heels of so much spending as folks recover and reload.”

At Dallas-based chain Half-Price Books, which has 120 locations across 19 states, public relations manager Emily Bruce reported that 2023 was the strongest holiday season in recent years for topline sales: “It is encouraging, as expenses [at stores] continue to rise. “ As at other stores, books by Sarah J. Maas and Rebecca Yarros were among the most popular titles. The chain put a renewed emphasis on online book sales this holiday season, having relaunched in late August. “People took advantage of our 'buy online pickup in store' feature to make a purchase or to check availability at their preferred store or stores nearby,” Bruce said. “We have also made drastic improvements to our rare and collectibles merchandising on and have seen sales spike for this unique category.”

Looking ahead, Bruce noted, Half-Price fully expects social media to continue to have an outsize influence on sales. “We can also count on social media ‘influencing’ people to buy popular authors and series, including special editions of popular titles.”

Finally, Japanese bookstore chain Kinokuniya Book Stores, which has 17 locations in the U.S. and last year opened a new location in Atlanta, reported that sales were up 7% in 2023 over the previous year. Sales of comics and manga fell, but “continue to dominate our sales,” Shigekazu Watanabe, regional manager for the East Coast, said. He pointed to the popularity of Haruki Murakami Manga Stories, adapted by Jean-Christophe Deveney from the work of Haruki Murakami, as the store’s bestselling book of the year. “It’s no surprise,” Watanabe said, noting that other popular manga titles, such as One Piece and Jujutsu Kaisen, were perennial bestsellers. The top kids' books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: No Brainer and Cat Kid Comic Club: Influencers, “are very visually influenced as well.”

Other bestselling titles included such fantasy books as Iron Flame and Fourth Wing, as well as Narrow Road Between Desires by Patrick Rothfuss, and contemporary titles that have fantastical elements, such as Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and Tatami Galaxy by Tomihiko Morimi.

“One surprise was How to Be More Shrek: An Ogre’s Guide to LIfe,” Watanabe said. “It sold a lot for a little humor book, and we had to reorder it a lot. Also, Don't Believe Everything You Think by Joseph Nguyen. This one doesn’t even have a major publisher and we have to get it from Ingram, but its online popularity is getting people to buy it.”