Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bestselling historical novels of 2008

Last year around this time, I noted the top-selling historical novels from 2007, as recorded in Publishers Weekly's Facts and Figures issue. This 2008 data appeared in PW's issue from 3/23/09, and I've already gotten two overdue notices on it, so I figured I'd better write this blog post and return the magazine already. As with last year, PW asked publishers to submit sales figures on new books (issued in 2007 or 2008) that sold more than 100,000 copies domestically during 2008.

There's only one historical novel among the top 15:

#13 - A Good Woman, Danielle Steel (636,375 copies)

The remainder of the top spots were taken by thrillers and mysteries, Edgar Sawtelle, Stephenie Meyer's The Host, and an inspirational holiday novel called The Christmas Sweater that I've never heard of. Clearly I am out of the loop.

Other bestselling historical novels in hardcover, all with sales from 300,000 to 100,000 copies, are listed in descending order:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A Mercy, Toni Morrison
The Given Day, Dennis Lehane
The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory
People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks
The Fire, Katherine Neville
World Without End, Ken Follett
Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, Anne Rice
The Steel Wave, Jeff Shaara
The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie
Days of Infamy, Newt Gingrich and William R. Fortschen

I've read three of these (the Shaffer/Barrows, Gregory, and Brooks). How many have you read?

It's worth noting that of the titles above, many (Neville, Follett, Rice, Shaara, and the Gingrich/Fortschen) were highly anticipated sequels to bestselling novels from previous years. The Shaffer/Barrows is the only one that can be considered a debut of sorts, though Barrows has previously written children's books.

Follett's World Without End was #19 on last year's list, and it also sold 116,000+ copies in 2008 (plus 521,000+ copies in trade paperback in '08). No other titles duplicate between the '08 and '07 hardcover lists, though on the trade paperback list for '08 you'll find many familiar favorites like Water for Elephants, Atonement, Loving Frank, Pillars of the Earth, and The Other Boleyn Girl (movie tie-in edition), listed in descending order of sales.


  1. I've read only one of these—Rushdie's Enchantress of Florence. I'll have to take a look at the others to see whether I want to read them. Thanks for posting the list.

  2. The only book that I read on the list is World Without End by Ken Follet. I am also tempted to read The Enchantress of Florence. As for the rest of the items on the list, I have to put them through my worthy read test before I consider them. :-)

  3. I've read the same three that you have plus The Host which I loved.

  4. I read PG's novel. Well, I read some of it. The others I havent looked at.

  5. I was surprised to see I'd read three on the list because the novels I read aren't usually huge bestsellers. The Shaffer/Barrows and Brooks were among my best reads of 2008. The PG, not so much.

  6. May I introduce you to my historical blog (a weekly) Through Jade's Eyes at
    I post information regarding life in 1920's Africa, stuff I've learned in my research for my own historical mystery series ( Let me know what you think, please.

  7. I have read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society but none of the others. There are a couple on that list I wouldn't go near if you paid me, but I could perhaps be persuaded into the Geraldine Brooks.

  8. EC, I liked People of the Book more than Year of Wonders if you've read that one (the characters were more interesting, plus the transitions from the modern to historic and back again worked well). The protagonist can be abrasive, and though that didn't bother me, it seems to have put some readers off!

    Thanks for pointing out your blog, Suzanne - what fascinating material. I've enjoyed the latest few posts on modes of transportation. I've linked it up to my sidebar.