One thing that didn’t change during the ongoing novel coronavirus in 2020 was the fact that people love to read. One thing that did change was what they were reading.
That’s according to the 2020 best seller list from the Homer Bookstore. Generated annually, the list shows which novels, how-to’s and other offerings flew off the shelves at the local store the fastest throughout the year. As usual, a number of local and Alaska authors made the list.
Rather unusual, however, is the fact that a fiction novel sits at the top of the list this year. It’s “Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel” by Eli Brown, a tale set in the 1800s in which a renowned chef is kidnapped by pirates.
Lee Post, co-owner of the bookstore, said it’s “almost unheard of” for a work of fiction to be at the top of the best seller list. It’s usually a nonfiction offering, and for the last three years in a row has been the cookbook by Eve and Eivin Kilcher, “Homestead Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Our Hearth to Yours: A Cookbook.”
“The No. 1 best seller this year is a total escapist fiction book,” Post said.
It indicates that more people were looking for something lighter or perhaps more refreshing, a mental break from a long and difficult year.
Further illustrating that point is “Circe” by Madeline Miller, which tied for 11th on the list. It’s another example of a fantastical fiction book.
“That’s another one that’s just kind of a forget about everything that’s happening and escape into a fun book,” Post said.
“Circe,” the second novel from Miller after “The Song of Achilles,” tells the life story of the notorious Greek mythology enchantress, who most notably detains Odysseus for a number of years on his journey home in the Odyssey. However, her life is re-told from Circe’s perspective, which in Miller’s voice is fresh, feminist and colorful.
Coming in at No. 2 on the best seller list this year and ousting “Homestead Kitchen” is the cookbook from the Salmon Sisters, a popular apparel and fishing gear company owned by two local commercial fishermen sisters. “The Salmon Sisters: Feasting, Fishing, and Living in Alaska: A Cookbook with 50 Recipes” was only published in 2020, but catapulted to the No. 2 spot. “Homestead Kitchen” is still on the list, tied for No. 8.
Alaska and local authors again made a strong showing on the best seller list, with Janet Klein’s “Kachemak Bay Communities: Their Histories Their Mysteries,” “Alaska’s Wild Plants” by Janice Schofield, “Alaska’s Mushrooms: A Wide-Ranging Guide” by Gary Laursen and Neil McArthur, “Entangled: People and Ecological Change in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay” by Marilyn Sigman, “Of Bears and Ballots” by Heather Lende, and two children’s books, “The Mason Jar Fairy: An Alaskan Tale” by Sally Wills and “Octopus in the Outhouse” by Stacy Studebaker, all making an appearance.
A few political books that may have been signs of the time also landed on the list — Barack Obama’s “Promised Land” at No. 4 and “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo at No. 19.
Post said it was surprising to see “Promised Land” perform so well considering it only came out in November.
“In six weeks it pulled enough copies to make it to No. 4,” he said.
Post also noted the appearance of an up-and-coming genre on the list this year in the form of two young-adult graphic novels. He’s not sure the bookstore has seen graphic novels as best sellers before, he said.
Here’s the full 2020 best seller list from the Homer Bookstore:
1. “Cinnamon and Gunpowder” by Eli Brown
2. “The Salmon Sisters: Feasting, Fishing, and Living in Alaska” by Emma Laukitis and Claire Neaton
3. “Alaska’s Wild Plants” by Janice Schofield
4. “Promised Land” by Barack Obama
5. “Drawdown” by Paul Hawken
6. “Island of Sea Women” by Lisa See
7. “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
8. “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy, and “Homestead Kitchen” by Eve and Eivin Kilcher
9. “Overstory” by Richard Powers
10. “Adventurer’s Son: A Memoir” by Roman Dial
11. “New Kid” by Jerry Craft, and “Circe” by Madeline Miller
12. “The Mason Jar Fairy: An Alaskan Tale” by Sally Wills, “Kachemak Bay Communities” by Janet Klein and “Alaska’s Mushrooms” by Gary Laursen and Neil McArthur
13. “Octopus in the Outhouse” by Stacy Studebaker
14. “Entangled” by Marilyn Sigman
15. “Of Bears and Ballots” by Heather Lende
16. “Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles and “Wild Robot” by Peter Brown
17. “Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins
18. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens and “No Fixed Line” by Dana Stabenow
19. “White Fragility: Why it’s so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin Diangelo
20. “Guts” by Raina Telgemeier
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Homer News Editor Michael Armstrong is the husband of Homer Bookstore co-owner Jenny Stroyeck.