National newspapers might have their weekly best-seller lists, but at the end of the road, Homer’s oldest bookstore provides an annual look at what visitors and locals have been buying and reading. Based on sales records, the 2021 Homer Bookstore Best-seller List once again features Eivin and Eve Kilcher’s “Homestead Kitchen” in the number one spot. Bumped to number eight last year by pandemic-reading favorite “Cinnamon and Gunpowder” by Eli Brown, this makes the fifth year “Homestead Kitchen” tops the best-seller list.
Written by the Homer couple featured on the Discover Channel reality TV show “Alaska: the Last Frontier,” “Homestead Kitchen” continues a trend on the list.
“The list was heavily, heavily weighted for Alaska books, and more heavily weighted for local authors,” said Lee Post, co-owner of the Homer Bookstore with his sister, Sue Post, and friend Jenny Stroyeck. “The preponderance of all the books are local authors this year.”
Of the 23 slots on the list, 13 are by Homer or southern Kenai Peninsula writers. Perennial favorite Tom Kizzia pulled a hat trick this year: all three of his books, including a reprint of his first book, “The Wake of the Unseen Object,” made the list. Post said Kizzia’s newest book, “Cold Mountain Path,” came within a dozen sales of hitting number one.
The Kilchers can credit their sales to promotions they do on their social media, Post said. In an arrangement with the bookstore, periodically they offer to sign and personalize copies.
“We sell very few of those (“Homestead Kitchen”) in town, but hundreds of those go around the country, all at one time,” Post said.
In terms of sales to local buyers, Kizzia sold more copies, Post said. Another Homer writer, Rich Chiappone, was number five on the list with his first novel, mystery thriller “Hunger of Crows.” Kizzia and Chiappone did a live and Zoom reading at the Homer Public Library in December.
“That had more people talking about what an entertaining couple those are together,” Post said. “… Tom’s book and Rich’s book, they often went out as a pair of books.”
A talk by Alaska author Seth Kantner in Homer also helped sell his “Thousand Trails Home: Living with Caribou,” a memoir about Kantner’s Bush life.
“We ran out,” Post said. “… We couldn’t get the books for a while.”
The Kizzia, Chiappone and Kantner books all were strong holiday gifts, Post said.
“I think there were a lot of people looking for something local and Alaskan to give,” he said.
While not number one, other local writers continue to make the list year after year, including Janet Klein’s “Kachemak Bay Communities;” the Homer Foundation picture book, “Kachemak Bay, Alaska;” Molly Montgomery’s “Beachcomber’s ABC’s;” and Taz Tally’s “50 Hikes in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.”
“Those are books heavily weighted to tourists that get here and want to find out what to do and where to do it, or are hiking and getting off the beaten path a little bit.”
“Kachemak Bay Alaska” fills a niche in the tourist market: It’s the only coffee table picture book with photos of the area, Post said.
Homer writer Larry Baxter’s first book, “Abandoned: History & Horror of Port Chatham, Alaska,” also did well. About Nantinaq, a mysterious Bigfoot-like creature people claim to have seen at Port Chatham, Post said he thought Baxter’s book got a bump from a reality-TV show also set in Port Chatham about the creature, “Alaskan Killer Bigfoot.”
“Cinnamon and Gunpowder” by Eli Brown, number one last year, fell to number three this year, the top work by a non-Alaskan.
“That was the most popular COVID book,” Post said. “… It was the favorite escape book.”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the bookstore did well this year, Post said. Holiday sales started to pick up in October.
“We were seeing piles of books go by that could only be Christmas books,” he said. “The warning to the world was ‘Don’t count on what you wanted at the last minute because of shipping delays.’”
Sales never stopped, Post said.
“We were expecting this was going to fizzle out and we were going to have a relaxing Christmas. It ended up being our highest Christmas numbers of any year,” he said. “… We weren’t hearing as much about people ordering from Amazon this year it seems as in other years.”
Post said he’s glad to see independent bookstores surviving and even thriving.
“It’s still exciting to see that the predictions of the demise of bookselling, book reading and book buying were somewhat exaggerated by our number one competitor,” he said.
2021 Homer Bookstore Bestsellers
1. “Homestead Kitchen,” by Eivin and Eve Kilcher*
2. “Cold Mountain Path,” by Tom Kizzia*
3. “Cinnamon and Gunpowder,” by Eli Brown
4. “Thousand Trails Home: Living with Caribou,” by Seth Kantner**
5. “Hunger of Crows,” by Richard Chiappone*
6. “House in the Cerulean Sea,” by Tj Klune
7. “Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” by Charlie Mackesy
8. “Wake of the Unseen Object,” by Tom Kizzia*
9. “Kachemak Bay Communities”, by Janet Klein*
10. “Island of the Lost,” by Joan Druett
11. “Adventurer’s Son: A Memoir,” by Roman Dial**
12. “Braiding Sweetgrass,” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
13. “Alaska’s Wild Plants” by Janice Schofield (former Homer resident)
14. “Kachemak Bay Alaska,” by the Homer Foundation*
15. “Abandoned: History & Horror of Port Chatham, Alaska,” by Larry Baxter*
16. (tied) “One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder,” by Brian Doyle
“The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
“Entangled: People and Ecological Change in Alaska’s Kachemak Bay,” by Marilyn Sigman*
17. “Spoils of the Dead,” by Dana Stabenow*
18. “Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts,” by Kate Racculia
19. (tied) “Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens
“Octopus in the Outhouse,” by Stacy Studebaker**
20. (tied) “Beachcomber’s ABC’s”, by Molly Montgomery*
“Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures,” by Merlin Sheldrake
21. “We Are Water Protectors”, by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade**
22. (tied) “50 Hikes in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula,” by Taz Tally*
“Alaska from Scratch,” by Maya Wilson**
23. (tied) “Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier,” by Tom Kizzia*
“Lost Mountain,” by Anne Coray*
“Salmon Sisters: Feasting, Fishing, and Living in Alaska,” by Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton*
“Alaska’s Mushrooms: A Wide-Ranging Guide,” by Gary Laursen and Neil McArthur*
“Circe,” by Madeline Miller
* Homer or southern Kenai Peninsula author.
** Alaska author or artist.