Milking It: The Books That Couldn't Stop Selling In 2016

With 2017 in sight, it's finally time to sew the seams shut on another interesting and eventful year with a review of the top-selling titles of 2016. We identified the top-selling titles based on sales volume over a 48-week period, from Jan. 4, 2016 to Dec. 4, 2016, in the Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Juvenile categories.

Did your favourite titles make the list? 

The 10 Top-Selling Fiction Books of 2016

  1. The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Movie Tie-in Edition)
  5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  6. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Movie Tie-in Edition)
  7. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
  8. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapeña 🇨🇦
  9. The Illegal by Lawrence Hill 🇨🇦
  10. The Widow by Fiona Barton

Canadians purchased a lot of suspenseful novels this past year, with 40% of the top-selling Fiction titles falling into the Thriller or Mystery genres. The Girl on the Traina runaway bestseller in 2015, continued experiencing high sales, likely resulting from the additional publicity for the release of the movie adaptation on Oct. 7, 2016. On the same train is Me Before You. The movie starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin graced the big screens on June 3, 2016. As a result, both books appear twice on our list with high sales for both the trade paperback and movie tie-in editions.

Interestingly, the trade paperbacks for both books rank higher than the movie tie-in editions – despite the fact that the movie tie-in edition of The Girl on the Train is priced at less than half the cost of the original trade paperback. Is this simply because the covers for movie tie-in editions are almost always ugly? It's hard to say.

The third-ranked title on the list, Anthony Doerr's WWII novel, All the Light We Cannot See, experienced high sales this past year, likely a continued outcome of its award nominations and wins. A winner of both the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in FictionAll the Light We Cannot See continues to experience admirable sales despite being published in 2014. The only title on the top 10 list that was published earlier than Doerr's novel is Me Before You (in trade paperback), but the release of the movie this year brought that novel back to the forefront. 

Canadian titles occupy 20% of the top-selling Fiction list, with Shari Lapeña's mystery debut, The Couple Next Door, touted as this year's breaking grip-lit title, in the highest position at number seven. Sales for Lawrence Hill's The Illegal also experienced an award-winning boost, as the title, championed by Olympic medalist Clara Hughes, went on to win Canada Reads in 2016. This was Hill's second win. His first was for The Book of Negroes in 2009.

The 10 Top-Selling Non-Fiction Books of 2016

  1. 99 by Wayne Gretzky with Kirstie McLellan Day 🇨🇦
  2. Oh She Glows Every Day by Angela Liddon 🇨🇦
  3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  4. Tropical World by Millie Marotta
  5. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur 🇨🇦
  6. Animal Kingdom by Millie Marotta
  7. Guinness World Records 2017 by Craig Glenday, Foreword by Buzz Aldrin, and Introduction by Chris Hadfield 🇨🇦
  8. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  9. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
  10. The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon 🇨🇦

Canadians purchased a plethora of Non-Fiction titles in 2016, ranging from adult colouring books to vegan cookbooks to celebrity memoirs.

The Great One still draws the crowds in hockey-crazed Canada: Wayne Gretzky's 99 topped the list, as both the top-selling Non-Fiction title and the overall top-selling Canadian title in 2016. Readers were also starstruck by celebrity memoirs from Bruce Springsteen and Amy Schumer, whose memoir The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo was heavily promoted by her famous friends.

Canadian blogger Angela Liddon continued growing her healthy eating empire, as 2016 saw high sales of her plant-based, vegan cookbook Oh She Glows Every Day. The publication of this second cookbook in 2016 may have also helped to bring a new wave of readers and prospective healthy eaters to her first cookbook, The Oh She Glows Cookbook, which was an Indigo Best Book of 2014.

Without a doubt, 2015 brought a wave of adult colouring books onto the shelves of bookstores all over the country. While it's too early to predict the staying power of this category, two colouring books, both illustrated by Millie Marotta, sold substantial volumes in 2016. Interestingly, Marotta's most recent colouring book Wild Savannah, published in April 2016, sold fewer units than two of her earlier titles, which were published in 2014 and 2015. Of course, this may be because her other two titles had more time to accumulate sales, due to their earlier publication dates.

Decluttering superstar Marie Kondo's debut novel continued to experience strong sales this year as the third-ranked title in this category, despite being published in October 2014. In fact, Kondo's book is so popular that NBC is currently in the process of developing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up into a half-hour comedy. We're intrigued to find out how the KonMari Method will translate onto the small screen.

The debut collection from Toronto-based writer and Instapoet phenomenon Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey was originally self-published before being picked up by Andrews McMeel Publishing and re-published in October 2015. 

The 10 Top-Selling Juvenile Books of 2016 (YA Included)

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany
  2. Double Down by Jeff Kinney
  3. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  4. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
  5. Pokémon: Deluxe Essential Handbook by Cris Silvestri
  6. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
  7. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Shelia McGraw 🇨🇦
  8. The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield, Eric Fan, and Terry Fan 🇨🇦
  9. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  10. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

2016 brought the revival (and re-domination) of the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter. Three of J.K. Rowling's titles made the top 10 list, with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone sandwiching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the published screenplay for the movie of the same name. The hype surrounding the play and the movie may have encouraged new generations of readers to begin their journey into Rowling's magical world, resulting in increased sales for the first book of the original series.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was not the only title with movie buzz – Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the first in his trilogy, was also released as a movie starring Asa Butterfield in September 2016. Touted as a franchise with the possibility to become the next Harry Potter, the trade paperback edition of Riggs' novel achieved high sales in 2016. Unlike The Girl on the Train or Me Before You in the Fiction category, the movie tie-in edition of the young adult novel did not rank amongst the top 10, or even top 20, top-selling Juvenile titles of 2016. 

Not only did the past year bring back Harry Potter, but it also rekindled our inner Pokémon Trainer aspirations. Think back to six months ago: the sun was shining, the weather was warm, and everyone was combing the streets trying to catch Pokémon. The explosive reaction to Niantic's Pokémon GO game immediately after its release may have helped bring Pokémon back to public consciousness (Pokémon GO was Google's most searched term in 2016) and that might have positively influenced sales of Pokémon: Deluxe Essential Handbook. While this craze seems to have died down, Niantic continues to launch the game in new countries and has recently announced a collaboration with Starbucks. Maybe Pokémon isn't going anywhere just yet.

We look forward to discovering the great titles that will top the lists in 2017. Until then, consider passing the time by snuggling up with one of the top-selling titles this year. Happy holidays!