2023's Top 100

01/01/2024

In analyzing our annual round-up of the year’s best sellers, we find a couple of things that are striking. One phenomenon some of you have noticed the past couple of years, especially once we recently expanded with new shelf space for them: romance novels. These are not your mama’s Harlequin bodice rippers. Many take on more contemporary themes and attitudes, e.g. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (#9) and Daisy Jones and the Six (#35) by Taylor Jenkins Reid; The Court of Thorns & Roses (#16) and The Court of Mist and Fury (58) by Sarah Maas; Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us (19), It Starts with Us (40), Verity (53), and Ugly Love (86); Happy Place (20) by Emily Henry; Lucy’s Score’s Things We Never Got Over (49), Things We Hide from the Light (74); and Lucy Foley's The Paris Apartment (54).

Another noticeable fact: at least thirty of the authors of these 100 books either now live in Oxford or have in the past, and twenty-five more are writers who appeared at our store to present or read from their books. John Grisham had several books on the list, beginning with our number 1 – The Exchange, of course, which, due to the novel’s connection to The Firm, moved out of Square Books at a faster rate than any book in recent memory. The Boys from Biloxi (#2) was still going strong, however, when The Exchange was released. Sparring Partners (29) and Sooley (62) also showed up. Not to be outdone, William Faulkner’s paperback and Modern Library editions scatter the list, including The Sound and the Fury (47), the Selected Stories (22), The Bear (6), As I Lay Dying (48), and the fairly recently reissued corrected edition of Faulkner’s mystery stories, Knight’s Gambit (52). Two Oxford, Mississippi volumes from John Cofield made the list – Vol. 2 at #12 and this year’s Vol. 3 #11.

Treasured Mississippians are here: Richard Ford and his excellent and perhaps last Bascombe novel, Be Mine (42) (on the SB YouTube channel, his event in Oxford); Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding (92); Deer Creek Drive, by Beverly Lowry (33), and Jesmyn Ward’s knock-out Let Us Descend (4): (revisit her reading at the Powerhouse here). A parade of Oxford writers follows: Curtis Wilkie and his eternal The Fall of the House of Zeus (76), Vishwesh Bhatt and I Am From Here (8), Michael Farris Smith’s Salvage This World (27); A Place Like Mississippi (28), by Ralph Eubanks; John Currence’s Big Bad Breakfast (71) and John T. Edge’s Potlikker Papers (96); Wright Thompson, with Pappyland (hardcover edition #25 and paperback #39) and The Cost of These Dreams (78); Daffodil Hill (85) by Jake Keiser; Lee Durkee’s splendid Stalking Shakespeare (41); another year on the list for World of Wonders (43) by the indomitable Aimee Nezhukumatatil; a nice surprise from John Hunter, his Maps and Legends: The Story of R.E.M. (64); ditto Tyler Keith’s bit of noir, The Mark of Cain (88), and a distant reminder of Richard Grant due to The Deepest South of All (37). In our record book for numerous years on this list are Wyatt Waters’ An Oxford Sketchbook (31) and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s Square Table (44), now being stalked by Ed Croom’s lovely treatment of Faulkner’s grounds, The Land of Rowan Oak (31). Ann Abadie’s marvelous American Landscapes (93) arrived only in November and quickly scrambled onto this list, while Charles Wilson’s The Southern Way of Life (15) was available all year. 

Many of the writers put books on this list by virtue of a visit or event here. Ann Patchett could not do a reading but did zip by one day to sign enough copies to have her Tom Lake be our #7. Jesmyn Ward helped her cause in a sold-out event at the Powerhouse, as mentioned, and Cody managed to persuade Chuck Palahniuk to come here with Not Forever, but for Now (10), an event in which apparently no one got hurt. We will long remember a special visit from Laura Dern with her co-author mother, Diane Ladd, which launched their Honey, Baby, Mine to our #13 spot – thanks, y’all. Luke Russert made an impressive showing on Thacker Mountain with his Look for Me There (99), while Charles Frazier returned to SB with his The Trackers (34) and another long-time favorite here, Ron Rash, came to us with The Caretaker (79). 

 Daniel Mason’s appearance on behalf of a personal favorite novel, North Woods (45), was memorable. Harrison Scott Key killed it here with How to Stay Married (56) and Jeanette Walls impressed with Hang the Moon (63). Two excellent noir writers brought out crowds – S. A. Cosby and Eli Cranor, with All the Sinners Bleed and Ozark Dogs (#80 and 82, respectively). A lovely and inspirational little book, Quotations of Martin Luther King (30) returned, about whom this fall Jonathan Eig spoke eloquently about in King (89), only to be matched by Margaret Renkl with The Comfort of Crows (83) and Grace Elizabeth Hale, author of In the Pines (95). Trae Crowder ‘n them’s classic Liberal Redneck Manifesto (77) continues to resonate from their previous appearance; ditto for two favorites now in paperback: Kathryn Schulz’ Lost & Found (90) and Casey Cep’s Furious Hours (73). 

Books that have appeared on most of the nation’s bestseller lists often climb onto ours, too, of course, including Walter Isaacson’s Elon Musk (72), The Woman in Me (86) by Britney Spears, The Dictionary of Lost Words (#84, with help from Jude), Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (67), Midnight Library (81) by Matt Haig, Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club (75), A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara (91), Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient (24), Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (68) by Gabrielle Zevin, Trust by Hernan Diaz (69), The Covenant of Water (46) by Abraham Verghese, and, in spite of its title, I’m Glad My Mom Died (100), by Jennette McCurdy. Also listed are Make Your Bed (66) by retired Admiral William H. McCraven, and The Fourth Wing (38) and Iron Flame (51) by Rebecca Yarros, both of which would have fared far better had the publisher’s supply kept up with demand here. There was also Prince Harry’s Spare (59), and although he -- Prince Henry Charles Albert David, Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton, Baron Kilkeel – did not come here, his ghostwriter was once here; some of you will remember this author of a fine book, The Tender Bar: J. R. Moehringer. David Gran made a double play -- The Wager (36) and Killers of the Flower Moon (32) -- and there were very strong performances by Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry (17) and Barbara Kingsolver’s Pulitzer-winning Demon Copperhead (18).

The world of sports gave us our #3 bestseller, from the great sportswriter Rick Cleveland, with Neil White -- The Mississippi Football Book; Ole Miss 2022 Baseball National Champions continued to sell at #23, Michael Oher’s When Your Back’s Against the Wall (5) and Resilient Rebels by Chase Parham (#14), while from the kitchen beckoned Elizabeth Heiskell with Come on Over (21) and Robert St. John and his breakfast recipes in Mississippi Mornings (26). We are grateful to a number of publishers for supplying us with stock signed by the author, which no doubt helped some titles make the list: Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You by Lucinda Williams (94), The Creative Act by Rick Rubin (65), The Making of Another Major Motion Picture by Tom Hanks (70), James Lee Burke’s Flags on the Bayou (87), The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (97), The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff (98), and Only the Dead (55) by Jack Carr – greatly abetted by the author’s having shot a bullet hole through one of the book’s pages. In every copy. For real. 

2023 was a great year for books and we appreciate our partnerships and support from writers, publishers and their reps. Square Books had an exceptionally strong year in 2022 and managed in ’23 to squeak beyond that; so, most of all this report is to you and for you, Constant Reader and Square Books friend, and we thank you for making it all possible. 

Sincerely,

Richard, Lisa, Cody, and Lyn

P.S. Look for similar news from Paul at SB Jr – and Happy New Year!