The 2015 print bestseller list was topped, not surprisingly, by Harper Lee’s first new book in 55 years, Go Set a Watchman, which was announced in February and went on sale in July. It would go on to move more than 1.5 million copies at outlets that report to Nielsen BookScan, besting two of the other big books of the year: E.L. James’s fourth novel in her wildly popular erotica series, Fifty Shades of Grey, and the 10th title in Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
(See the top 20 bestselling print books of the year in the adult fiction, adult nonfiction, and juvenile categories.)
Kinney is no stranger to this list; he had the second-highest-selling book of 2014 with the ninth Wimpy Kid installment, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Though Old School didn’t sell quite as well as The Long Haul—that book moved more than 1.5 million copies in 2014—the 10th Wimpy Kid sold more than 1.48 million copies in 2015. E.L. James also had a more-than-respectable showing on the 2015 charts, with Grey landing at #3 on the overall print list, moving more than 1.4 million copies.
Other familiar titles rounded out the top 10 list compiled by BookScan, which accounts for roughly 80% of print sales. The debut novel from U.K. journalist Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train, was one of the big bestsellers of the year; it landed at #4 on the BookScan list, with more than 1.3 million copies sold.
Hawkins wasn’t the only breakout author of the year. Anthony Doerr, Johanna Basford, and Marie Kondo were three new names that consistently topped the charts in 2014. Doerr’s fifth book (and second novel), All The Light We Cannot See, brought the author as much commercial success as critical acclaim. The historical epic set in France during World War II sold more than one million copies in 2015, after selling over 247,000 copies in 2014; it also picked up the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction last year.
For Kondo, an organizing expert, 2015 was also kind. Named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year, Kondo first found bestseller-dom in her native Japan. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, her guide to happier living through downsizing, was already a hit abroad when Ten Speed Press published the book in the States in the fall of 2014. As Kondo’s brand grew, her book took off, sliding into the #5 slot on this year’s overall print list.
Although she came in at the bottom of this year’s list, Basford can’t have too many complaints. She was one of the biggest names in the biggest craze of the year: adult coloring books. And Secret Garden, released in the U.S. in paperback in 2013 (through a distribution agreement between U.K. house Laurence King and Chronicle Books), has the sales to prove just how big adult coloring books were last year; it sold 760,000 copies in the U.S. alone.
Looking at the top-selling Kindle titles of the year, we again see familiar names: Lee, James, Doerr, and Hawkins dominated in digital, with other familiar names cracking the top 10. Consistent bestsellers such as David Baldacci, Liane Moriarty, and Kristin Hannah each sold enough e-books to make the list, with Andy Weir getting a big boost from the screen adaptation of his novel, The Martian. Published in 2011 by Crown, the book benefitted mightily from the October release of the same-titled Ridley Scott film starring Matt Damon.
Top 10 Print Bestsellers, 2015
|1||Go Set a Watchman||Harper Lee||Harper||1,599,189|
|2||Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid #10)||Jeff Kinney||Abrams||1,483,855|
|4||The Girl on the Train||Paula Hawkins||Riverhead||1,345,721|
|5||The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up||Marie Kondo||Ten Speed||1,143,422|
|6||All the Light We Cannot See||Anthony Doerr||Scibner||1,013,616|
|7||Paper Towns||John Green||Penguin/Speak||919,478|
|9||American Sniper||Chris Kyle||Morrow||851,457|
|10||Secret Garden||Johanna Basford||Laurence King||764,808|
Source: Nielsen Bookscan
Top 10 Amazon Kindle Bestsellers, 2015
|1||The Girl on the Train||Paula Hawkins||Riverhead|
|3||The Martian||Andy Weir||Crown|
|4||All the Light We Cannot See||Anthony Doerr||Scribner|
|5||The Nightingale||Kristin Hannah||St. Martin’s|
|6||Go Set a Watchman||Harper Lee||Harper|
|7||Memory Man||David Baldacci||Grand Central|
|8||Big Little Lies||Liane Moriarty||Berkley|
|9||American Sniper||Chris Kyle||Morrow|
|10||The Boys in the Boat||Daniel James Brown||Penguin|
Source: Amazon; Sales are through Dec. 30, 2015