Quite a lot of the customers we see in the days running up to Christmas are ones we don’t see at any other time of year. Nothing wrong with that – not everyone has the time, inclination or money to read – but it does mean we have to make sure that we stock as wide a range of fiction in December as we can. We can’t just rely on selling people the books that we have loved through the year (although that bit is great fun) we have to make sure we have the books that they will love too. Some authors make this much easier by bringing out a new book towards the end of each year (Bernard Cornwell, Martina Cole, Giovanna Fletcher, Wilbur Smith, Danielle Steel and Clive Cussler, to name a few) and are, in fact, so regular that we all get very confused if they miss a year. Of course this is nothing new: Catherine Cookson was a very prolific writer and seemed to bring out two books every year, perfectly timed for both Christmas and Mother’s Day. Now that’s dedication…
This Christmas we also have some treats coming from authors who are slightly more restrained in their output (although just as popular). I’ve already mentioned Philip Pullman in my children’s book round-up but he is, if anything, even more popular with adults – after all, the young teens who read the His Dark Materials novels as they were published are now in their 30s. Dan Brown has produced his first new novel since 2013, Ken Follett has published his first since 2014 (and it marks a ten year gap since the previous book in this series) and Marian Keyes has returned to fiction after a three year break. On the more literary side The Sparsholt Affair ends a six year dry spell for fans of Alan Hollinghurst and, despite producing plenty of non-fiction, there are twenty years between Arundhati Roy’s first novel and this year’s offering.
This year, however, as in so many others I am looking forward to helping people choose some of 2017’s debut novels. Some of them have authors everybody has heard of – Tom Hanks’ collection of short stories reads like a series of vignettes from Tom Hanks films – and others are books which have been beloved by every bookseller I know who’ve read them. Some have sprung from Facebook pages and others from goodness know what strange dark depths of the authors heart. Every work of fiction has a customer out there waiting to discover it; every reader is just a step away from finding a new favourite book.*
*That, and lots of chocolate, is what keeps me going through the next few weeks.