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Monday musings on Australian literature: Top Aussie book sales in 2013

January 6, 2014

This is, I suppose, another end of year round-up post – but one about bookselling in Australia, which is something I don’t usually write much about. However, since many of us love lists, I thought I’d share with you Australia’s top selling books for 2103:

  1. Jeff Kinney: Hard luck: Diary of a wimpy kid (UK, children’s)
  2. Jamie Oliver: Jamie’s 15 minute meals (UK, cookbook)
  3. Dan Brown: Inferno (US, fiction)
  4. Jamie Oliver: Save with Jamie (UK, cookbook)
  5. Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton: The 39-storey treehouse (Aus, children’s)
  6. Matthew Reilly: The tournament (Aus, fiction)
  7. Guinness world records 2014 (UK, reference)
  8. Sarah Wilson: I quit sugar (Aus, nonfiction)
  9. Ricky Ponting: Ponting at close of play (Aus, memoir)
  10. Jodi Picoult: The storyteller (USA, fiction)

It’s good to see some Aussies there, including popular children’s author Andy Griffiths and illustrator Terry Denton. I haven’t read Matthew Reilly but he has a reputation as a good story-teller in, mostly, the action and thriller genres.

Jason Steger, the Literary Editor of The Age and a regular panelist on the First Tuesday Bookclub, says of this year’s top ten:

The pulse rates of Australian readers were probably a bit slower last year, as the boom in erotic and dystopic fiction vanished, and old favourites such as Jamie Oliver, Jeff Kinney, Dan Brown and Matthew Reilly returned to dominate the national bestseller lists.

He is of course referring to the 2012 phenomena of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. Apparently, without these juggernauts, overall sales were down in 2013 over 2012. According to Steger, the overall number of books sold dropped from 56.6 million to 54.1 million, resulting in a drop in value from $978 million to $917 million. Interesting isn’t it? What does this say about reading behaviour? That some people only read when a “huge” book appears on the scene. If everyone’s reading it, they will too, but otherwise reading is not for them? Is that the conclusion to draw from those figures, or am I missing something?

I can’t seem to find the fiction top ten for the year. I’m assuming that you have to pay Nielsen to get this information, but it seems telling that, while newspapers have reported (via journalists Blanche Clark and Jason Steger) on the overall top 10, no-one has listed, at least as far as I can find via Google, the fiction-specific list. The best that I could find was Steger, again, who reported that Tim Winton’s Eyrie (which I’ll be reading this year) was the best-performing literary novel. That says something about the Winton’s pull, as Eyrie wasn’t published until mid-October. Steger also reports that the Australian debut novels, Hannah Kent’s Burial rites (which I’ll also be reading this year) and Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie project (my review), both made the fiction top ten.  This is not surprising as they were probably the two biggest buzz books in the Australian literary firmament this year. However, I’m assuming that Steger’s singling out of these three books means that they are the only Aussies in the top to fiction list – and this means that the Miles Franklin award winning Questions of travel is not there.

None of this is earth shattering. We literary fiction readers know that the books we read rarely make general top 10s. It’s always interesting, however, to see what does. Were there any top 10 surprises in your neck of the woods?

26 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2014 4:38 am

    There is a couple of books not been out here on this list sue

    • January 7, 2014 8:02 am

      The world of publishing is interesting isn’t it Stu. I’d love to be a fly on the wall at meetings where publishers decide what to publish, when and where.

  2. January 7, 2014 6:05 am

    Lord I wish Dan Brown wasn’t there, but I shouldn’t be a snob…

    PS 2013, not 2103 🙂 Unless Jamie Oliver is actually immortal and you have a crystal ball xo

  3. Meg permalink
    January 7, 2014 8:10 am

    It is good to see children books in the top 10 list as it means children are reading. My grandsons love Andy Griffiths. It’s amazing how personalities such as Jamie Oliver, draw readers.

    • January 7, 2014 3:59 pm

      I thought that too Meg about the children’s books. Griffiths was after my kids but I’ve heard a lot about him from teachers and from grandparents like you.

  4. January 7, 2014 5:53 pm

    I wonder what does it mean to be on that list. Great writing or excellent marketing? And if some of these books are in that list due to clever marketing shouldn’t we acknowledge the publicist/marketing manager instead of the author? Or maybe we should acknowledge both.

    • January 7, 2014 9:39 pm

      Good questions Gabrielle … Marketing has to be part of it. Most of those authors have proven themselves in their fields I think but how did they get there over others?

  5. January 7, 2014 8:10 pm

    I always find these end of year lists quite interesting- so much so that I did a rather similar post! I looked for the individual year lists too but couldn’t find anything either. Funny that we both read The Rosie Project, but not Burial Rites- although I got a copy for Christmas, so am looking forward to it this year too.

    • January 7, 2014 9:46 pm

      Thanks Lisa … I know partly why I read one and not the other … The one I read was sent to me for review while the other wasn’t! However, that’s only part of it. I’ve wanted to read Kent for a while but thought my reading group may want to do it thus year and I’d save it till then … And we are going to do it. Can’t wait. Oh, and I do buy quite a few books too … My comment sounded like I wait for books to come, but that’s not it at all.

  6. January 8, 2014 9:28 am

    Right now in Tassie there is Richard Flannagans novel. I saw Tim Winton here at the Univ in late 2013 and even he was flagging it as a genius of a novel. Interesting list.

    • January 8, 2014 9:55 am

      Thanks Pam … I got the Flanagan for Christmas. Looking forward to reading it. Have you read it?

  7. Meg permalink
    January 8, 2014 4:02 pm

    I just received an email from ‘Readings’ ( one of Melbourne’s best book sellers), the list of their top 100 best selling books from the past year. It is a bit different from the above list.

    http://www.readings.com.au/news/the-100-bestselling-books-at-readings-in-2013

    • January 8, 2014 4:49 pm

      Thanks Meg… I guess it’s not surprising that Readings’ list is a little different is it?

  8. January 8, 2014 8:16 pm

    I don’t recommend Matthew Reilly. I read one of his books some years ago and thought it ridiculous. He writes as if he’s describing an action sequence on film.

    I look at the bestsellers in the Saturday Age every week, and they’re generally all the popular titles I wouldn’t let grace my bookshelf. The Independent Booksellers, of which Readings is one, generally have a few of the more literary titles.

    • January 8, 2014 8:31 pm

      That makes sense to me Anne. Being unashamedly gender-oriented here, I suspect Reilly is more popular with males readers but the stats will probably prove me wrong.

  9. January 10, 2014 1:05 pm

    I’m surprised to see so many UK and USA books there. I suppose they are ‘international’ bestsellers. But of course, good to see a few Aussie representations. But I don’t think I’ve seen them here in my city, here in Alberta.

    • January 10, 2014 7:23 pm

      Interesting comment Arti. Is it different in Canada? Do more Canadian books make your annual Top Tens? It would be common here for American and British books to feature well in top sales here.

      • January 11, 2014 3:02 pm

        No, we seldom see Canadians on top ten lists except of course, Atwood, Ondaatje, and even with Munro winning the Nobel, and there are box sets of her works, I’m not sure she has made it to the top of the bestsellers. I thought it’s only us in Canada that’s like that. So, I guess in the English-speaking world the UK and USA dominate.

        • January 11, 2014 4:21 pm

          Sure sounds like it. You’ve confirmed what I suspected. Oh dear. While I don’t believe in nationalism I do like to think we support our own creators.

  10. January 11, 2014 8:57 am

    Hi Sue, very interesting post, though regrettably no surprises in what the lists reveal. And no mention of ‘Barracuda’ by Christos Tsiolkas except in the Readings list? I’ll be keen to see what you think of Winton’s ‘Eyrie’!

    • January 11, 2014 9:12 am

      Interesting eh, Nigel? I’m keen to read Barracuda too. I guess Tsiolkas is a Melbourne boy, and is perhaps more confronting than Winton? Anyhow, seems like our Aussie male writers have come out in force in the last few months. It might be a different looking Miles Franklin short list this year?

  11. Brona permalink
    January 15, 2014 9:41 pm

    I work in an Indie bookshop in Sydney…and this was our in-house top 10 for 2013 (as posted on our fb page) –
    1. Eyrie by Tim Winton
    2. The Fast Diet by Michael Mosley
    3. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
    4. Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser
    5. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
    6. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
    7. The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
    8. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
    9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    10. Barracuda by ChristosTsioklas

    We calculated the kids books separately (although the first 3 titles below were also in our overall top 10).
    1. 39 Storey Treehouse
    2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #9 Hard Luck
    3. 13 Storey Treehouse
    4. Once Upon A Slime
    5. Alphabetical Sydney
    6. 26 Storey Treehouse
    7. Guinness Book World Records 2014
    8. Captain Underpants #10
    9. Tom Gates #5
    10. Fault In Our Stars

    We were delighted with how many Aussie authors featured in both lists 🙂

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