The booksellers best sellers – an alternative best sellers list

Every Sunday the Sunday Times releases the Bestsellers list and publishers and authors eagerly scramble to see if one of their books has made it into the vaulted top ten. That list is based on the number of sales of data collated by Nielsen Bookscan and covers sales throughout the country. I wondered whether those lists had any similarities to sales that independent booksellers saw regionally and so I thought I’d see if anyone else would be interested in an alternative, independent bookseller led, best seller list. I was inundated with responses with people indicating they would love to see it and many bookshops kindly volunteered to take part.

So without further ado here is the independent booksellers best sellers list for January 2020.

  1. The Boy, the Fox, the Mole and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, published by Ebury.
  2. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg, published by Penguin.
  3. The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather, published by Penguin.
  4. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, published by Penguin.
  5. Wilding by Isabella Tree, published by Picador.
  6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
  7. Middle England by Jonathan Coe, published by Penguin.
  8. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, published by Simon and Schuster.
  9. The Binding by Bridget Collins, published by Borough Press.
  10. No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton, published by Nosy Crow.

The Times bestseller This is Going to Hurt appeared the same number of times on Booksellers lists as No Ballet Shoes for Syria but had slightly lower rankings so just missed out on a top 10 spot.

The top ten children and Young Adult books were

  1. The Boy, the Fox, the Mole and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, published by Ebury.
  2. No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton, published by Nosy Crow.
  3. The Bear Who Did by Louise Greig, illustrated by Laura Hughes, published by Egmont.
  4. The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr, published by Harper Collins.
  5. The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Kathrin Honesta, published by Usborne.
  6. The 1000 Year Old Boy by Ross Welford, published by Harper Collins.
  7. One of Us is Next by Karen McManus, published by Penguin.
  8. Grumpycorn by Sarah McIntyre, published by Scholastic.
  9. Zog by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Sheffler, published by Scholastic. This tied with the Little Book of Jokes.
  10. Isadora Moon Makes Winter Magic by Harriet Muncaster published by OUP.

I thought it also very interesting to note the regional variations. Here are the top ten local books sold. (These have been based on where they ranked in the sales of the bookshops in question).

  1. Woodstock Its Buildings and People
  2. Walks Around Holmfirth
  3. Corpse Road of Cumbria
  4. William the Conqueror
  5. Anne Lister of Shibden Mill
  6. Lake District in 101 Maps & Infographics
  7. OS Explorer – Dark Peak
  8. Long Live Great Bardfield
  9. South Yorkshire Moors
  10. A Boot Up the Dark Peak

I was pleased to see that local authors and publishers featured in the top ten of many of the bookshops. Titles included The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers, Ann Lister of Shibden Mill and Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession (all listed on Yorkshire bookshops bestsellers. Ben Myers is based in West Yorkshire as are Bluemoose, the publishers of Leonard and Hungry Paul. There were old favourites such as Meg & Mog, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Tiger Who Came to Tea and classics such as The Odyssey that featured, showing the good books really don’t go out of style

You might also be interested to know that the top selling Welsh Language book at Cant a Mil in Cardiff was Gwirionedd by Elinor Wyn Reynolds, published by Gwasg y Bwthyn and the top selling book over in Spain at Desperate Literature was In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, published by Serpent’s Tail.

The list was not based on figures of actual books sold, rather where they ranked in the top ten for each bookshop. If I were to do this again (and hopefully I will), I’d try and base it on the number of each title sold.

I would like to thank the following independent bookshops for providing me with the invaluable data to create the lists. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to visit them and perhaps buy a future best seller yourself.

West End Lane, London

Between the Lines, Great Bardfield

The Book Corner, Halifax

Imagined Things, Harrogate

The Children’s Bookshop, Lindley

Sam Read Booksellers, Grasmere

Max Minerva’s Marvellous Books, Bristol

La Biblioteka, Sheffield

Cant a Mil, Cardiff

Pigeon Books, Southsea

BrOOK’s Pinner, London

Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, Norwich

Gullivers Bookshop, Wimborne

Woodstock Bookshop, Woodstock

Desperate Literature, Madrid

Urmston Bookshop, Manchester

Bay Tree Books & Gifts, Glossop

Maldon Books, Maldon

Read_Holmfirth, Holmfirth

Readers that Care

Jarrolds Books, Norwich

The Barrister in Wonderland, Retford

Bert’s Books

Books and Ink Bookshop, Winchcombe

Malvern Book Coop, Great Malvern

The Edinburgh Bookshop, Edinburgh

Rother Books, Battle

All Good Bookshop, London

Westbourne Bookshop, Bournemouth

About the number one title

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.


18 Comments Add yours

  1. Such a wonderful idea for a post. Thank you for compiling.


    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Linda. I thought the results were fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating post, Janet. Plays to my anoraky tendencies! My memories of bookselling at Christmas are of selling local titles by the shedload. One in particular stands out – a history of an ironworks near Frome, half an hour away from Bath. We struggled to keep up with demand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I think it’s great that local books are bestsellers. There just needs to be a way of telling people around the country of that 🙂


  3. This is fascinating, and thank you for all the work you must have done. I am pleased to note that I bought two of the top ten books (The Salt Path and Wilding) in my own local independent bookshop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you. I too bought The Salt Path from my local independent bookshop. I just need to get around to reading it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw you floating this idea on Twitter, Janet, and thought how brilliant it was! And how interesting! I like the idea of supporting indie bookshops (and we will have one locally soon!) and the top ten list doesn’t seem to be the usual suspects, which is nice. I imagine our new bookshop will be sporting some local titles too! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I liked the fact that the top ten was different to the ‘proper’ top ten. Happy shopping days at your local independent bookshop 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. yvonnembee says:

    Brilliant post xx


    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. JacquiWine says:

    This is really interesting to see, Janet. Thanks for putting it together and sharing this on your blog. I think it’s very similar to our own list of best sellers in South Bucks – maybe with the addition of Gentlemen in Moscow, Normal People, American Marriage, and Educated, all of which continue to do very well for us. The Boy, the Mole… has been a runaway success!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      All of those appeared on the top tens of many bookshops too. I hope to do it again with actual figures of books sold. That would be interesting to see if it alters anything.


  7. Kath says:

    This is such an interesting list and maybe shows how indie booksellers sell by making recommendations to their customers? Thank you for all the work you put in to this post and for having the genius idea for it in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks. It was fun to compile 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is so interesting Janet, thank you for putting it together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      I am pleased you found it interesting. It was fun to do 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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