Few people in the industry have been willing to venture a prediction on how the book business will finish 2021, but in a July 21 presentation on industry print unit sales through the first half of the year, NPD BookScan analyst Kristen McLean laid out three possible scenarios. All outcomes assume that the rapid gains in print unit sales the industry has posted so far this year will slow in the last six months of 2021. Indeed, McLean noted that, since the end of what she called an historic first quarter, the year-to-date growth rate has lost about one point per week; in other words, growth was up 29% at the close of the first quarter and ahead 18% at the end of the second quarter. At present, she said, sales appear to be steadily gliding back to a more normal performance.
Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced its selections for Best Books of the Year So Far, naming Tara Westover’s memoir Educated: A Memoir the top pick overall. The annual list is hand selected by the Amazon Books Editors and features the Top 20 books released between January and June 2018—offering readers a mid-year look at the best books.
“Whether you enjoy reading in print or Kindle, or listening on Audible, the past six months have delivered some unforgettable books across a range of genres, from Kristin Hannah’s Alaska-based family drama, The Great Alone, to The Feather Thief, Kirk Wallace Johnson’s account of one of the weirdest crimes ever committed for the sake of a flute,” said Sarah Harrison Smith, editorial director of Amazon Books and Kindle. “But it was Educated, Tara Westover’s utterly surprising memoir, that was our hands-down favorite. By sheer force of will, she emerged from a rough, unschooled childhood among Idaho survivalists to earn a doctorate in history at Cambridge University. We were awed by her journey.”
The Amazon Books Editors’ picks for the first 10 of the Top 20 Best Books of the Year So Far are:
1. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover: Tara Westover didn’t see the inside of a classroom until she was seventeen, but it was an experience that dramatically changed the trajectory of her life. This stirring memoir chronicles how she survived her survivalist upbringing, eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge University. It’s a rousing reminder that knowledge is, indeed, power.
2. The Great Alone: A Novel by Kristin Hannah: In this pressure cooker of a page-turner, a damaged Vietnam vet moves his family to the wilds of Alaska. Initially it’s a welcome change, but as winter approaches, and his mental state deteriorates, his wife and daughter find themselves in an increasingly precarious position. Like her mega-bestselling The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone highlights the heroics of everyday people, especially women.
3. The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson: Clever, informative, and sometimes endearingly bumbling, this mix of natural history and crime opens up new worlds. Readers will never look at an old stuffed bird or an elaborately tied fishing fly the same way again.
4. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn: The Woman in the Window is a seductive and unpredictable novel about an agoraphobic woman with a tricky past who witnesses a murder. Or does she? With twists that will have you gasping out loud, this Hitchcockian noir thriller is the book to read if you’ve been waiting (too long) for the next Gone Girl.
5. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao: This emotionally ungentle novel of two very different young women in modern-day India will prompt both outrage and hope as the girls separately traverse perilous paths to find each other again.
6. The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú: The son of a park ranger, Francisco Cantú grew up in the southwest. When he joined the Border Patrol, he became witness to the stark realities of illegal immigration, and the obligations of his job weighed heavy against his sense of humanity. With its direct, stoic prose, The Line Becomes a River is a weighty and timely document on one of our most divisive arguments.
7. The Electric Woman: A Memoir by Tessa Fontaine: Many people say they’d like to join the circus, not many people actually do. Having difficulty coming to terms with her mother’s imminent passing, Tessa Fontaine joined The World of Wonders, the last touring sideshow in America. The Electric Woman is a fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at carnival life, and an ode to unconditional love.
8. Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi: Here is a fresh take on young adult fantasy. With West African-inspired characters, magic, and setting, Children of Blood and Bone is non-stop action, enriched with themes that resonate in today’s social and political landscape: injustice, discrimination, and a struggle for change. Author Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel is the start of what promises to be an epic, addictive new series.
9. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: In this ambitious and deeply moving novel, Chloe Benjamin imagines how the lives of four siblings might be warped by a fortuneteller’s prediction of the dates of their deaths. While recounting their stories, Benjamin poses intriguing questions about the value of longevity and whether we are victims, or perpetrators, of our own fates.
10. There There by Tommy Orange: What does it really mean to be an Indian/Native American/American Indian/Native? Orange’s vivid debut novel allows a unique cast of characters—ranging from teenagers to elders living in Oakland, California—to pull this question apart for themselves as they live within an urban ecosystem.
To see the complete list of the Best Books of the Year So Far, and to purchase in Kindle, Print or on Audible, visit: www.amazon.com/bestbookssofar. Customers can also purchase at their local Amazon Books. For hours and locations, visit: www.amazon.com/amazonbooks.
For in-depth reviews and coverage of the books featured on the Best Books of the Year So Far list, as well as insightful reviews on new books, author interviews, and roundups in popular categories from the Amazon Books Editorial team, visit the Amazon Book Review: www.amazonbookreview.com.