Christmas For The Indies

It has been a tough year for the book trade in Ireland with Nielsen figures indicating sales are down nearly €10 million. What about our independent bookstores, how are they doing and what’s selling for them this Christmas?

‘Business has been nicely steady, sales are up year-on-year, not dramatically huge figures but when “level is the new up” any growth is very positive.’ That’s how Louisa Cameron of Raven Books in Blackrock describes the year so far.

‘Our strong bestseller for the past few months has been Klaus Laitenberger’s Vegetables for the Irish Garden,’ said Cameron, ‘A fantastic book from a lovely man, and a great gardener. I’ve already sold several copies as Christmas presents – The Great Modern Poets, edited by Michael Schmidt, a gorgeous hardback with a CD of the poets reading their own work, nicely laid out with bios of each poet and a selection of their work, lovely price point too! Lots of poetry at the moment with Soundings, Human Chain and the Penguin anthology all selling.’

Cameron said that ‘Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals is the strongest cooking contender so far and there’s lots of interest in John Lonergan’s The Governor but I don’t know yet if it’ll prove to be Christmas Gift material.’

The Finkler Question has been slowly building momentum since winning the Booker, several of the bookclubs that come in are doing it currently

In terms of fiction, Cameron said, ‘The Finkler Question has been slowly building momentum since winning the Booker, several of the bookclubs that come in are doing it currently. Room is still selling steadily, also Freedom, and Cutting for Stone is gaining from word-of-mouth just as The Help did.’

For Kids, Cameron pointed to, ‘Mo Willems is the hands down bestseller in picture books’, and she said that, ‘Jan Brett, Astrid Lindgen and PJ Lynch always go well at Christmas with their beautifully illustrated classic tales. Older readers are all about series – Celine Kiernan, Suzanne Collins, and Derek Landy are all doing well at the moment.’

Bob Johnston of the Gutter Bookshop in Dublin city centre said that his shop was, ‘just entering our second year so it’s still difficult to know if trade in general is up or down on last year – this time last year very few people knew we existed! There’s definitely a sense of caution in the air but also a feeling that people are fed-up with watching every penny and that they have a right to spend their money on something that will make them happy! November is usually quiet as people plan and prepare for Christmas and this year doesn’t feel any different.’

people are fed-up with watching every penny and that they have a right to spend their money on something that will make them happy! November is usually quiet as people plan and prepare for Xmas and this year doesn’t feel any different.’

He also selected a huge list of titles that he sees as potential Christmas hits for indies including, Paul Auster’s Sunset Park, Anne Enright’s The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, Armistead Maupin Mary Ann in Autumn, Iain M Banks‘ Surface Detail, Eoin McNamee Orchid Blue, Benjamin Black Elegy for April, Carol Ann Duffy and Rob Ryan The Gift, John Boyne Noah Barleywater Runs Away, Edmund De Waal The Hare with Amber Eyes, Simon Garfield Just My Type, David Sedaris Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, Kris, Rob, Matt & Dave Cyanide and Happiness: Ice Cream and Sadness, Judith Schalansky The Atlas of Remote Islands, Kevin Dwyer Dwyer’s Ireland, Orla Kiely Pattern, Dan Shanahan If You Don’t Know Me, Don’t Judge Me, Catherine Fulvio Catherine’s Italian Kitchen and The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants 2011.

‘The idea of one bestseller for Christmas has long gone,’ said Des Kenny of Kenny’s in Galway. ‘In fact the range of what is available now is so vast that there are few bookshops that can carry everything.’

Still Kenny pointed to a few titles, ‘I suppose the only book that has really hopped off the shelves in the last few weeks has been Tubridy’s JFK in Ireland. Another mover has been the reprint of Soundings.’

I think Tom Garvin’s New Republic has a nice feel to it as has Eamonn Sweeney’s Down Down Deeper and Down.

‘There are a few dark horses outside of the mainstream titles on sport and the recession and I think that these will vary from Independent Bookseller to Independent Bookseller. With us Rita Anne Higgins’s Hurting God would certainly be a candidate as would Lorna Siggins’s Once Upon A Time in the West. Another one just in is John O’Donoghue’s The Four Elements and of course one that will always go is Heaney’s Human Chain. History and Biography are as always varied but I think Tom Garvin’s New Republic has a nice feel to it as has Eamonn Sweeney’s Down Down Deeper and Down.

There is the occasional bright spot but it is hard fought for.

Kenny finished his round up of the season with a note of caution, ‘Like all other retail businesses the bookshop’s backs are against the wall. There is the occasional bright spot but it is hard fought for.’

|Image Credit|
AttributionNo Derivative Works
Some rights reserved by AlicePopkorn