The Square Books Top 100 sellers of 2010 are like many other years in that a preponderance of titles or their author are connected to Oxford, or elsewhere in Mississippi. A nice reprint of William Faulkner’s New Orleans Sketches (75) made the list, as did the pictorial book with captions from Faulkner’s work along with photographs that suggest same, Yoknapatawpha Images (77). Several local history titles, including Oxford In the Civil War (23), Jack Mayfield’s pictorial history of Oxford and Ole Miss (15), Bill Morris’s photo book, Ole Miss at Oxford (17), Gerald Walton’s history of Ole Miss (in its third year, 99), and Anne Percy’s Early History of Oxford (94).
Other writers or books we tend to claim as “ourn” include Ace Atkins with Infamous (41), Willie Morris and My Two Oxfords (54), Wyatt Waters’ Oxford Sketchbook (34), and Quinten Whitwell’s If By Whiskey (69). This past year’s Grisham writer-in-residence, John Brandon, got a front page New York Times book review for his splendid second novel, which we could not quit recommending, Citrus County (13), and our number five bestseller of the year is by a writer who came here years ago as a visiting writer - and never left – Tom Franklin’s great read, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (5).
Cookbooks fared well throughout the year, with perennial favorite Square Table (9), Wild Abundance (40), Martha Foose’s Screen Doors and Sweet Tea (50), and Somebody Stole the Cornbread from My Dressing (42). But John T. Edge and the Southern Foodways Alliance Cookbook topped them all, at # 6.
Some writers managed more than one title on the list, most notably Girl With the Dragon Tattoo-dude Steig Larsson, with five different editions of his three titles falling anywhere between # 25 and # 60. The late, great Barry Hannah had four titles on our list, led by Airships (35), Geronimo Rex (88), Ray (85), and the splendid November release that has been drawing praise from all quarters, Long, Last, Happy (56). Neil White did the hat trick with In the Sanctuary of Outcasts in hardcover (14), paperback (21), and the coffee table book favorite for which he selected great Mississippians (8). If husband and wife teams count as multiples, then you have to give it to the literary wonder, George Bush, and Decision Points (36) and his better half, Laura Bush, with Spoken From the Heart (60). John Grisham had three titles on this list: his excellent suspense novel, The Confession (2); his first children’s book, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (3), and his 2009 book of stories, Ford County, of continuing interest (33).
You’re wondering what, if not Grisham, is on top. It’s Curtis Wilkie and his Square behemoth, The Fall of the House of Zeus (1), with new Oxonian Sam Haskell and Promises I Made My Mother (4) closely following the two big Grisham titles. The other book on the Dickie Scruggs story, Kings of Tort, by Alan Lange and Tom Dawson, which was published a year ago, was #12.
Some strong favorites whose authors visited here this year – where to begin? -- include Brady Udall and his Lonely Polygamist (28, loved it!), Lee Child and 61 Hours (47), Amy Greene and Bloodroot (65), Joseph Ellis and his brand new First Family (75), George Bishop’s Letter to My Daughter (79), Pat Conroy and My Reading Life (10, love that guy), the Tuohys, Sean and Leigh Anne, In a Heartbeat (7)was big, The Typist by Michael Knight (51 – I’ll say it again, it will make a great movie), first novelist Adam Ross, with Mr. Peanut (22), Susan White and A Soft Place to Land (52), Karl Marlantes and his great Vietnam novel, Matterhorn (16), Mona Simpson and My Hollywood (30), and Malcolm Jones with Little Boy Blues (29).
It was great to see Brad Watson again, with a terrific book of stories, Aliens In the Prime of Their Lives (26), and to see a thing in the Australian talent of Steve Amsterdam, Things We Didn’t See Coming (30). We saw writers we have long admired but didn’t meet ‘til ‘10, including Ian Frazier and Travels In Siberia (27), Elizabeth Kostova and her enchanting tale, The Swan Thieves (19), Howard Norman and What Is Left the Daughter (24), Nathaniel Philbrick and his Little Bighorn book, The Last Stand (63), Aimee Bender and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (49), and finally, finally, Mary Karr brought her act to Oxford with the paperback of Lit (58), also one of our hardcover bestsellers last year. We’d like to see them all again.
IndieNext bestsellers reside on our list, too, especially paperbacks such as Let the Great World Spin (55), Eat, Pray, Love (48), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (81), Sarah's Key (76), Cutting for Stone (64), and Greg Iles is forever on our list--The Devil's Punchbowl (87).
Civil Rights and race-related books are always of interest, and some made our list this year, including Al Povall’s The Time of Eddie Noel (20), Charles Eagles’ great work on Mississippi desegregation and James Meredith, The Price of Defiance (78), One Night of Madness (67) by Stokes MacMillan, Hampton Sides’ book on James Earl Ray, Hellhound on His Trail (92), and Alex Ward’s accomplished work, The Eyes of Willie McGee (84).
More Mississippi related titles of interest were Ken Murphy and Scott Baretta’s Mississippi: State of Blues (45), Kathryn Stockett’s tireless seller, The Help (11), T. R Pearson and Langdon Clay’s special book, The Year of Our Lord (70), Mary Carol Miller’s Lost Mansions of Mississippi II (95), Christmas Memories from Mississippi, edited by Charline McCord and Judy Tucker (38), and Mary Miller’s little paperback we couldn’t keep in stock, Big World (68)
Sometimes the books you love most you find toward the end of this list (and beyond), including Larry Brown’s touchstone, Facing the Music (97) and Sandra Beasley’s winning book of poems, I was The Jukebox (100, no lie). Other ninety-something notables included The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Stephen Hunter’s I Sniper, The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke, Steven Gubser’s The Little Book of String Theory, published by Princeton University Press, and Scott Turow’s Innocent.
Jonathan Franzen’s great book, Freedom, wound up at 72, in the good company of Bruce Mahart’s In the Wake of Forgiveness, Pulitzer winner Tinkers, by Paul Harding, Keith Richards’ Life, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, God Never Blinks by Regina Brett, Nevada Barr’s Burn, and The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.
Michael Lewis had two on the list, with The Big Short (44) and the Blind Side paperback (86), while funny stuff always works, with Sh*t My Dad Says (32), Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (61), Chelsea Handler (both Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea and Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang), and, as always, David Sedaris, with Squirrel Meets Chipmunk (88).
We thank them all – the writers of these books, their publishers, and those of you who read them, or bought them for gifts this season. Many of you who saw our busy store this fall said things to me like, “Those people who keep saying books are dead ought to come here.” We couldn’t agree more.