Independent booksellers generally gave the holiday sales season a passing grade, especially compared to last year, when stormy weather across most of the nation hampered business. The largest gain was reported by Jane Moser, new owner of Brazos Bookstore in Houston, who said sales were up by more than 30%, which she acknowledged was due in large part to the store being in transition last year. Most booksellers reported sales to be slightly up to slightly down. Given the difficult retail climate, many booksellers could appreciate the sentiment of Tracy Wynne, owner of Cover to Cover in San Francisco: “We were up from last year by enough to make us happy.”

Gift card sales continued their steady growth this year. Susan Capaldi, manager of McLean & Eakin, Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich., said her store sold about a dozen more gift cards than last year, especially as the month progressed. But not all gift card purchases were the same. Harvey Finkel, owner of Clinton Book Shop in Clinton, N.J., said many customers bought cards to cover only the exact amount of a hardcover or paperback title, lowering the average sales of the cards. He said that higher gas prices seemed to affect people’s spending habits, keeping them focused on more inexpensive items. A number of booksellers continued to see nice gains in the week after Christmas. “There was more of an increase between Christmas and New Year’s than before Christmas itself,” said Tom Bielenberg, co-owner of Micawber’s in St. Paul.

Top-selling titles reflected the list reported by wholesaler Bookazine, which had Eat, Pray, Love has its bestseller over the holiday period, plus strong regional books. Micawber’s Bielenberg, for example, touted Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland from Milkweed and the children’s book Kiki’s Hats from Tristan Books among its bestsellers, while Brilliant Waters: Portraits of Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the High Sierra, a self-published book by local photographer Elizabeth Carmel, sold well at Bookshelf Stores in Truckee, Calif. And then there were several hot titles that booksellers had trouble keeping in stock (see p. 4).

A couple of booksellers said David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter was a disappointment, while others noted that political books in general did not meet expectations. Dana Brigham, co-owner of Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., said big gift books “sat there” in favor of bestsellers. Tracy Taylor of Seattle’s Elliot Bay Book Company said she was disappointed publishers seemed to be reducing the number of strong fiction titles right before the Christmas rush.

With the holidays now past, several booksellers seemed philosophical. John Valentine, co-owner of the Regulator Bookstore in Durham, N.C., said he adopted the attitude of ACC basketball coaches at tournament time: survive and advance to the next round. “That’s how I felt about this year. We did well in that regard—buy the books, sell the books and move on to next spring.”

Bookazine’s Top Adult Holiday Titles
Eat, Pray, Love

Double Cross

Stone Cold

The Dangerous Book for Boys

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I Am America (and So Can You!)

The Daring Book for Girls

The Kite Runner

An Inconvenient Book

Our Dumb World

Top Children’s Titles


Puff the Magic Dragon

Star Wars Pop-up

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

The Invention of Hugo Cabret