Before we get accustomed to saying twenty-twenty, we’d like to memorialize those books comprising our 100 bestsellers of 2019.
So here ‘tis:
Two writers accounted for eight titles – Faulkner with three, led by his Selected Stories (24), the title we most often recommend to Yoknapaneophytes, and Grisham with five, The Guardians being No. 1. Following those, many more local or Mississippian scribblers, e.g. Voices from Mississippi (70), by the great Bill Ferris; Wyatt Waters, whose Oxford Sketchbook (29) has been on our list every year since 2012. Bill Boyle’s A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself (50) is a friend to us; Greg Iles’ Cemetery Road is up there (3), as are Wright Thompson with The Cost of These Dreams (7); our dear Larry Brown - Tiny Love (26), David Crews’ Mississippi Book of Quotations (93); Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (36); the biography of Dick Waterman (87); Mary Miller’s Biloxi (32); Robert Khayat’s autobiography (49); Curtis Wilkie’s perennial seller, The Fall of the House of Zeus (38); the late David Sansing’s The Other Mississippi (35); the enigmatic Bill Eggleston’s The Beautiful Mysterious (58); Ace Atkins’ Shameless (22); that great memoir, Heavy, by Kiese Laymon (15); John Cofield’s Oxford, Mississippi(13), for which we hope for a sequel before long. Neil White’s – unusual as sports books go – Stories from 125 Years of Ole Miss Football (2), and his In the Sanctuary of Outcasts(62) continue to find new readers.
Books on food, cooking and mixing are appetizing all year, including the new Last Call (48) and Ken Wells’ Gumbo Life (88); or, if you’re an old favorite, such as, Square Table (25), A Mississippi Palate (79), Potlikker Papers (47), or Big Bad Breakfast (15); and especially if your name is Elizabeth Heiskell (4 and 6).
Other standards among the hundred are Eudora Welty’s The Collected Stories (72), which her publisher smartly reissued this year in a pretty pink cover; Lisa Ho’s Flying Shoes (82), and whose Summerlings (18) also popped up. Dispatches from Pluto remains in orbit (9); Lisa Patton’s Rush (11), the novel set at Ole Miss, continues to get bids; Dune (98), originally published in 1965, is still at it; and the irresistibly titled How Not to Be Wrong (90) repeats this year on our list, as does Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter Crooked Letter (80); and Murder in the Grove (68) by Michael Henry, who also scored with Five Star (30).
On the national scene there are books that we expect you’d find on many other independent bookstore lists, such as Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (53); The Nickel Boys (40) by Colson Whitehead; Before We Were Yours (42) by Lisa Wingate and, right next to her, A Gentleman in Moscow (43) by Amor Towles, who kindly came to Square Books when the book was first published, as did Sarah Broom this year, with her The Yellow House (54), which garnered the National Book Award. Little Fires Everywhere (46); Where the Crawdads Sing (8); Educated, by Tara Westover (23); The Tattooist of Auschwitz (12); Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers (96); Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis (85); the tireless bestseller by Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See (64); Norse Mythology (74), according to Neil Gaiman; The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (66); Becoming (53), by Michelle Obama; and Woman in the Window by A J Finn (63), all made our list, too; and let’s not forget The Dutch House (19) by Ann Patchett, who has visited us with, we think, every book she’s written – thank you, Ann.
More authors to whom we are grateful for visiting us in 2019 include the following: Helen Ellis, Southern Lady Code (10); Casey Cep, whose first book, Furious Hours (17) we could not stop recommending; Adam Makos, along with the hero of his book Spearhead (16), Clarence Smoyer; Dani Shapiro and her unforgettable Inheritance (92); Diane McPhail and The Abolitionist’s Daughter (86); Preston Lauterbach and Bluff City (99); Chris Cander with Weight of a Piano (91); Alex Kershaw and The First Wave (41) as well as Carlyle Harris with Tap Code ( 49); Peter Heller, cruising along his The River (61); and Donald Miller with Vicksburg and S. C. Gwynne’s Hymns of the Republic, who not only came to Square Books do to a fascinating event, moderated by Andy Mullins – they tied at 71! No. 100 goes to We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, who we’ll be happy to see when he comes to teach at UM in the fall.
New Directions published #28 -- Cat Poems; R J Lee’s Grand Slam Murders hit 20; The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington came out in paperback and made #89; Jim Weatherly’s Midnight Train is #83, and Natasha Trethewey’s Monument is 84. The Liberal Redneck Manifesto by Trae Crowder and them other boys is #39; and, speaking of… Rick Bragg just kills it, every time, this year with The Best Cook in the World (56). Staying with this part of the world, Jack Davis’ The Gulf (59) won’t stay put; same as Snowden Wright and American Pop (60); God love Julia Reed for South Toward Home (33) and that other one, her New Orleans (65). Michael Ford got some vintage photos around here in the early ‘70s and put them in North Mississippi Homeplace (67), a nice book, as did Will Jacks with Po’ Monkey’s (77); no one knows Dust in the Road (78) better ‘n Hank Burdine. Enough were interested in The Mueller Report (99) to squeeze it on the list; and Lovejoy Butler’s Crooked Snake was #74.
There’re another 100 books that came that close to making this list, but we’re out of room here, so come in or give us a call and we’ll tell you about them.
Happy New Year Y’all -- RH