Books just had their best year in a decade, led by Obama memoir

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Despite being released after the election, Barack Obama’s memoir “A Promised Land” was the top selling book of 2020 as book sales soared due to the pandemic.

Last year marked the best year for print book sales since 2010 as the COVID-19 shutdowns turned Americans, especially young people, into readers again, according the NPD Bookscan.

Overall unit-sales volume for print books rose 8.2 percent in 2020 to reach 751 million units, according to NPD Bookscan, which tracks sales through about 80 percent of the market.

Every category posted gains, led by juvenile fiction print books, which saw sales rise 11 percent — an add of 18 million more units to the second largest category on a volume basis over 2019.

Adult non-fiction print books, the largest category of books in the US by both volume and sales revenue, increased 4.8 percent, or 14 million units over the previous year. Juvenile non-fiction grew 23 percent, also a gain of 14 million units.

Obama’s tome sold 2.68 million print copies through Jan. 23, NPD Bookscan said.

The sales surge marks a major comeback for the industry, which has suffered from major shifts in consumption in recent years. And the pandemic continues to pummel book sellers like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, which were forced to close retail outlets to comply with local lockdown orders.

Online sales through Amazon and other online vendors are surging, however.

“The US consumer book market looks very different today, than it did back in April,” noted Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “Sales growth came in waves, from the sudden need to educate kids at home, to the super-heated political cycle. All of the additional time people spent at home created a big appetite for reading, including huge spikes in sales of cookbooks and do-it-yourself books, which helped people stay entertained and engaged.”

Of the top ten books, more than half were aimed at either kids or the young adult market. The number two seller was “Midnight Sun” by Stephenie Meyer, a young adult-aimed novel that is a companion to the earlier bestseller “Twilight.”

The creator of the “Captain Underpants” series, Dav Pilkey, landed in third place with his latest, “Dog Man: Grime and Punishment.”

Mary Trump’s “Too Much and Never Enough,” which attempted to detail the psychology behind her uncle Donald Trump, was the top seller through the summer and fall following its July release. It finished in fourth place for the year.

In fifth place was young adult thriller, “The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes,” by Suzanne Collins–a prequel to bestselling “Hunger Games” trilogy.

“Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens debuted way back in 2018 but was still selling strong in 2020, notching it sixth place overall, NDP Bookscan found. The publisher said it has sold over 7 million copies worldwide since its debut.

Christian mommy blogger Glennon Doyle landed in seventh for her memoir “Untamed,” which got a big boost when it was picked by the Reese Witherspoon Book Club.

“The Deep End,” the 15th book in the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney, pulled up in eighth place.

A serious tome that played off the Black Lives Matter controversy of the summer months landed in ninth place with “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for While People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo.

But it was back to the kids for #10, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”, an illustrated book by Charley Mackey.

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