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Part 3: Remembering 2016's Top 100 and Then Some

Among our 2016 bestsellers, we were glad to see on the list National Book Award winner Colson Whitehead’s #97 Underground Railroad and #100 The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, along with Calvin Trillin and #98 Jackson, 1964, a book that should continue to be regarded as one of the best books about race in America; Gyasi Yaa’s #87 Homegoing, a bookseller favorite here; Paul Kalanithi’s national bestseller, #77 When Breath Becomes Air; #74 Girls by Emma Cline; and Ta Nehisi Coates’ groundbreaking #72 Between the World and Me; and an old book made new by the film, #73 The Free State of Jones by Victoria Bynum.

Jennifer Ackerman, who has been here with several books, was unable to come with her excellent #57 The Genius of Birds, now in a tenth printing, as her husband, Karl Ackerman – who in past years has been here with his novels, The Patron Saint of Unmarried Women and Dear Will, as well as a couple of nonfiction books, and who in 1977–78 worked with Richard and Lisa Howorth in the Savile Bookshop in Washington, D. C., where Jennifer and Karl met –  passed away at their home in Charlottesville. It’s important to focus on and prepare for what is ahead in 2017, but it is perhaps more important to remember and honor what and whom we have lost. Karl Ackerman was a friend to many in Charlottesville, a beast of good humor and a warrior for truth, justice, and the written word.

In addition to Karl and the irrepressible Pat Conroy, who visited here at least a half dozen times, we also lost this year Jim Harrison, who came to Oxford and Square Books well over a dozen times with his larger-than-life presence and his consistently wise, entertaining, and moving books, including novels, poetry, non-fiction, and, this year, #87 The Ancient Minstrel. We also remember with great fondness the late Ron Borne, who in recent years attended readings at Square Books more reliably than anyone in town. Because of this, he was like a member of our staff, a kind of special ambassador, a renaissance man with a wide variety of both interests and friends who always made a visiting author feel welcome and appreciated. He wrote the biography of Bill Clegg, Troutmouth, and it is our understanding that he had completed or very nearly completed a book about Jim Carmody, called The Big Nasty, that Nautilus plans to publish this year. And Richard Adams, Elie Wiesel, Katherine Dunn, C. K. Williams, Umberto Eco, Dario Fo, James Salter, W. P. Kinsella, Gloria Naylor, William Trevor, and, among others – amidst all the noise and, finally, in peace – Harper Lee.   

R.H.

(This is the final part of a three part series. Read Part One and Part Two.)

Part 2: Remembering 2016's Top 100 and Then Some

While hardcover editions of new books comprise more than two-thirds of the 2016 Square Books bestseller list, 32 paperback titles appeared, including Larry Brown's #93 Facing the Music, William Faulkner's Selected Stories and Light in August, Lisa Howorth's #70 Flying Shoes; Eudora Welty's #83 Delta Wedding; How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others by Kiese Laymon; Tom Franklin’s #61 Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and Laura Lane McNeal's #88 Dollbaby; national bestsellers and our #30 A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman as well as Jojo Moyes’ #24 Me Before You; Adichie Chimamanda’s #99 We Should All Be Feminists; Curtis Wilkie's enduring #23 The Fall of the House of Zeus; # 27 In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White; and several by those who made an author appearance here, including Sally Mann with #84 Hold Still and Erik Larson with #44 Dead Wake ; many of the contributors to #29 Mississippi Noir; Julie Cantrell and #35 Feathered Bone; Michael Henry and #21 Murder in the Grove; T. J. Ray and #60 Side by Side; Pulitzer Prize winner #78 The Sympathizer by Nguyen Viet Thanh; and Preston Lauderbach for #82 Beale Street Dynasty.

More books by writers known to many folks around here included #13 The Innocents by Ace Atkins; #12 Confessions of an Undercover Agent by Charlie Spillers; #19 The Land of Rowan Oak by Ed Croom; #8 For a Little While by Rick Bass; #14 Free Men by Jackson's Katy Simpson Smith; Meridian native Brad Watson's National Book Award Finalist, #9 Miss Jane; #81 Riot, by Ed Meek; Julia Reed and #20 Julia Reed’s South; the pair by Al Povall, #s 22 & 32, A Time Remembered and Tapestry of Red and Blue, respectively; #33, Crisis Point by Trent Lott with his liberal pal Tom Daschle; another pair from Jack Pendarvis, #s 58 & 68, Movie Stars and The Cigarette Lighter; contributions from the pair, Chris Offutt and Melissa Ginsburg, #s 33 & 56, My Father the Pornographer and Sunset CityMary Hamilton’s #28 Trials of the Earth, with help from Kerry Hamilton and Shelilah Hamilton Pantin; and the nicely done brief biography of Faulkner, #32 Myself and the World, by Robert Hamblin, whose book on Evans Harrington in 2017 we eagerly anticipate.

Leading books by writers-from-afar visiting us this year was Nathan Hill and his remarkable first novel, #6 The Nix, accompanied by the likes of #17 Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney; #15 Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer, who made a memorable initial visit to Oxford; Jaqueline Woodson's #16 Another Brooklyn, also her first time in Oxford; #89 El Paso by Winston Groom; Richard Russo's #11 Everybody's Fool; #26 The African Svelte, which was specially signed and shipped from New York by both author Daniel Menaker and illustrator Roz Chast; and, due in part to his forthcoming engagement here, February 20, 2017, Amor Towles and #91 A Gentleman in Moscow.

Other guests at Square Books included C. E. Morgan and her brilliant #10 Sport of Kings; #96 Perfume River and Robert Olen Butler; Jonathan Rabb and #94 Among the Living; John Gregory Brown and A Thousand Miles from Nowhere; #18 The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith; #90 Ten Restaurants That Changed the World by Paul Freedman; #61 The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie; Taylor Brown's Fallen Land; #53 The Dream Life of Astronauts by Patrick Ryan, introduced here by Ann Patchett, who later slipped into town to sign copies of #7 Commonwealth

(This is part two of a three part series. Read Part One and Part Three.)

Part 1: Remembering 2016's Top 100 and Then Some

Every year our annual best seller list is dominated by books written by Mississippians, particularly writers from Oxford, and by books whose authors visit Square Books. In 2016 this seems to be especially the case. Of our top 100 books 45 are by writers who now live or once lived in Mississippi, and, of those, all but ten have a connection to Oxford. Book signings at Square Books still rule, as 69 of our top 100 authors have done an event at Square Books.

The top five spots are filled by John Grisham's #1 The Whistler, Oxford restaurateur John Currence’s #2 Big Bad Breakfast, Jackson resident Richard Grant's #3 Dispatches from Pluto; and two books from Neil White's Nautilus Publishing, #4 The Mississippi Book of Quotations by David Crews and #5 The Statue and the Fury by Jim Dees

Stuart Stevens came home with #36 The Last Season, as did James McCafferty and his #43 Bear Hunter, Bill Ferris with his lovely #52 The South in Color and Teresa Nicholas with her book on Willie Morris, #45 Willie, while David Sansing, Robert Khayat, and John Hailman simply drove to the Square with, respectively, #38 Governors of Mississippi, #42 The Education of a Lifetime, and #39 Return to Guntown.

Michael Black didn’t need to come here for #64 A Child’s First Book of Trump, nor did Kristen Hannah for #65 The Nightingale, or Bill O’Reilly with #59 Killing the Rising Sun, or Lars Anderson with #46 The Mannings, or J. D. Vance for #63 Hillbilly Elegy, or Elena Ferrante and #48 My Brilliant Friend, or Anthony Doerr and his imperishable #50 All the Light We Cannot See. S. C. Gwynne did not come with #67 Rebel Yell paperback edition, but he did for the hardcover last year, and Ron Chernow, of #47 Hamilton, visited Dan Jones and Ole Miss a couple of years ago.

Candace Millard’s appearance with #51 Hero of The Empire was brilliant, and David Sibley’s 2nd trip to Oxford helped boost The Sibley Guide to Birds to #49 on our list. Vivian Howard and #40 Deep Run Roots made a good impression here. Greg Iles’ forthcoming novel, Mississippi Blood, the last of his recent trilogy, made the list at #53 by virtue of pre-event sales, as he’ll be here this spring and people are ordering early.

We are grateful to Lee Annis for coming to town with his #69 Big Jim Eastland; ditto Anton DiSclafani with #66 After Party, as well as, especially, Cassandra King, for coming with #59 Lowcountry Heart and bringing us memories of her late husband, Pat Conroy. Thanks also to Sally Thomason with Jean Carter Fisher for presenting their most welcome book on Betty Pearson, #92 Delta Rainbow; likewise to Jimmy Thomas for his #76 Conversations with Barry Hannah; Bill Dunlap and #85 Short Mean Fiction; Augusten Burroughs and #79 Lust and Wonder; and #80 Redemption Road by John Hart.

(This is part one of a three part series. Read Part Two and Part Three.)

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