Publishers Weekly’s final tally of 2009 books sales has a few surprises.
We all know that political efforts from Sarah Palin, Edward Kennedy and Glenn Beck have replaced the slimmer South Beach Diet and self-help books that used to rule the nonfiction list, but who would have guessed that Los Angeles novelist Lisa See would sell as many books as E.L. Doctorow and Margaret Atwood put together?
It takes until March for Publishers Weekly to compile its tally because booksellers can ship unsold books back to publishers. Those returns have now been subtracted.
Not surprisingly, Dan Brown topped the fiction bestseller list with “The Lost Symbol,” his “Da Vinci Code” follow-up. “The Lost Symbol” sold 5.5 million hardcover copies -- short of its predecessor but about five times more than each of the other books in the top 10.
Janet Evanovich, Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer -- all usual subjects -- are on the list as well. Michael Crichton makes a posthumous appearance with “Pirate Latitudes” while Patricia Cornwell, very much alive, has two books in the top 10.
So does John Grisham, but in a twist, he’s got one legal thriller, “The Associate,” and his debut collection of short stories, “Ford County.”
Common wisdom says that short stories don’t sell, so Grisham’s powerful showing -- “Ford County” was the No. 5 bestselling hardcover fiction book of 2009 -- indicates either that common wisdom is due for revision or that Grisham can do whatever he likes.
In nonfiction, Palin’s “Going Rogue” outsold Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass,” 3 to 1. Faith (in books by Mitch Albom and Joel Osteen) and sports (memoirs from Joe Torre and Andre Agassi) also performed well.
This is the last year the Publishers Weekly list will not include ebooks.
How might those sales have affected the rankings? Would Palin be even more popular? Would some classic -- say, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” -- have made a surprise appearance?
All in all, the number of hardcover books selling more than 100,000 in both fiction and nonfiction was down for 2009. Will ebooks make up the difference? Only the future will tell.