Oh - yes! Bow down to Julia Child, say I. Even in death she leads the best seller lists.
Cookbooks a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster seasonBy Lynn Andriani -- Publishers Weekly, 1/19/2010 10:18:00 AM
Holiday sales may have been short of expectations at Barnes & Noble and Borders, while independents reported “okay” sales. But conversations with booksellers across the country last week revealed that cookbooks may have been a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster season. As Amazon Books senior editor Brad Parsons said, “Cookbooks are still an affordable luxury,” and that “throughout the year there are peaks and valleys [for cookbook sales], but this is their time in the spotlight.”
By far the big book of the 2009 holidays was Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home, which Artisan published on November 6. Following a barrage of media coverage in print and online, as well as Keller’s 15-city tour—which included 24 events in about five weeks—the book sold out on Amazon "around" Thanksgiving, a spokesperson said. A few other retailers still had it in stock into December, but by the week before Christmas, copies of the $50 hardcover were largely gone from store shelves. Artisan publisher Ann Bramson told PW, “Ad Hoc at Home just exploded when it arrived in the stores. Thomas Keller married to the notion of accessible recipes—how could it do anything but succeed? We went through some 76,000 copies in a nanosecond and are up to 143,000 copies in print and on order.” The book is still out of stock in most outlets, and Artisan said it should be back in stores later this month or in early February, due to the lag time involved in printing the book in China. Many booksellers noted that Ad Hoc was Keller’s fastest-selling book ever.
A close second to Ad Hoc was anything Julia Child-related. Amazon, Jessica’s Biscuit, and Borders all reported big numbers for various Child titles, including Knopf’s new two-volume box set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which carries an $89.95 price tag); as well as The Way to Cook and Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, Borders cookbook buyer Ellen Clark said, “Although we had planned for those sales, if you’d asked me in early 2009 what was going to be my top title of the season, I never would’ve picked Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Steve Gans, COO of Jessica’s Biscuit, said Child’s books were “extraordinarily popular” at the online cookbook retailer over the holidays.
Another hit was The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond (Morrow). Clark called it a surprise that “did really, really well,” and Parsons noted Drummond is “a great promoter and got a lot of blog buzz [which] drove sales of the book.” According to Morrow, Pioneer is up to more than 216,000 copies in print. Perhaps the complete opposite of Drummond’s down-home, country vibe is Momofuku by David Chang (Clarkson Potter), also a strong seller. Clark said she expected the book to be popular in New York, where Chang has five restaurants, but that “it sold everywhere,” especially at Borders stores in other urban areas. Momofuku was Parson’s personal favorite book of the year, and he said it benefited from all the buzz, landing in Amazon’s list of top 10 bestsellers overall.
Other cookbooks or food-related books that sold well over the holidays were My Bread by Jim Lahey (Norton), Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day (Ten Speed), and Good Eats: The Early Years by Alton Brown (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).