Podcast: Bestselling & award-winning books of 2018

For our last episode of 2018, we share the bestselling Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Juvenile/YA books of the year, discuss some of the major award winners, give a rundown of the top 10 Loan Stars picks for the year, and look ahead to our projects for 2019.

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Further reading


Zalina Alvi: Hello, and welcome to the BookNet Canada Podcast. I'm Zalina Alvi.

Ainsley Sparkes: And I'm Ainsley Sparkes.

ZA: It's the end of the year and you know what that means ... year-end lists!

AS: It's also a time to look back on the books that sold the best in Canada; the award-winning books in 2018; the books library staff chose as the best of the brightest of 2018; and also a time to look ahead to what's coming from BookNet Canada in 2019.

ZA: Maybe you've guessed that's what we're about to do in this month's podcast episode. 

AS: First up, the top-selling books of 2018.

ZA: We identified the top-selling titles in the Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Juvenile/Young Adult categories based on print sales volume in Canada over a 48-week period from Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 2, 2018. And that's according to BNC SalesData, which tracks print sales in the English-language trade market.

AS: The top-selling Fiction book was A.J. Finn's The Woman in the Window, a break-out debut thriller that's already been given the movie treatment: production wrapped up in October 2018 and the movie will be out in October of 2019, so prepare to hear lots more about this novel.

ZAThe Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson retains the number one spot on the Non-Fiction list, same as in 2017. It will not be defeated. And Dav Pilkey's Dog Man and Cat Kidtakes the number one spot on the Juvenile/Young Adult list.

AS: For the entire top 10 lists for each category, you can check our blog post on the bestselling books of 2018. You can get all the links in the show notes.

ZA: With the end of the year on the horizon, award season is also coming to a close. Over the last few months, the Governor General's Awards were given out to The Red Word by Sarah Henstra for Fiction and Mamaskatch by Darrel J. McLeod for Non-Fiction. The Writers' Trust Fiction Prize went to Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page, and the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction went to All Things Consoled by Elizabeth Hay. And just last month, The Scotiabank Giller Prize was awarded to Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, making her the only winner to win for back to back novels. But we still have Canada Reads ramping up very soon with the longlist announcement on Jan. 10.

AS: Back in the fall, we looked at readers' awareness of literary awards and their impact on sales. Of the major Canadian awards, roughly one-third of those surveyed were familiar with each of the Governor General's Literary Awards, Canada Reads, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The literary award Canadians are most aware of is the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, with half of respondents being aware of it.

ZA: In January 2018 we asked more than 600 Canadians who had read at least one book in the past year, regardless of their buying habits, to rank a list of factors in terms of how influential they were in determining which books they selected to read or listen to. Books that are sold with awards or bestseller stickers or badges on the cover came in fourth. This was preceded by: familiarity with the author; reading a synopsis or sample; and familiarity with the series.

AS: Only 7% of respondents ranked awards/bestseller stickers or badges as the most influential factor when choosing a book, though 32% ranked it as one of their top three influences when selecting books.

ZA: Being an award winner or bestseller is certainly helpful when readers are choosing which books to read, and so are librarians. The books they choose to shelve and champion can also shape reading habits.

AS: So which books did librarians and library staff choose to champion this year? Look no further than the monthly top 10 lists chosen by Canadian library staff for our Loan Stars program. And the culmination of all those best of the best lists is the Loan Stars best of the brightest list for 2018. Here to talk more about that list and the books on it, is Elizabeth Barker, the project manager for the program.

Elizabeth Barker: Hello! We asked Canadian library staff to choose their favourite titles from this year's crop of Loan Stars picks and good news! They did, so we are now able to present to you the Best of the Brightest 2018. Since you can already find posters, and well, posts outlining the top picks all over social media, we thought we'd expand a bit and give you a quick rundown of what each of the top 10 books is actually about. And I only have five minutes to do this so wish me luck.

Starting with number 10: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty from Flatiron Books, which was a November 2018 pick.

Nine people gather at a remote health resort that may or may not be a secret cult. We're not telling, but Publishers Weekly in their starred review called it “A cannily plotted, continually surprising, and frequently funny page-turner and a deeply satisfying thriller. Moriarty delivers yet another surefire winner.” We'd book a weekend away with this book.

Number 9: Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq from Viking Books, a September 2018 pick.

Canadian throat singer Tanya Tagaq's foray into literary fiction earned her a place on the Giller Prize longlist. This novel centres around a girl growing up in 1970's Nunavut who must navigate between spiritual, moral, societal, and imaginary worlds. Basically, this book is a full meal, and should be added to all holiday menus.

Number 8: Still Me by Jojo Moyes from Pamela Dorman Books. This was a January 2018 pick.

Book three! This is the final book of the Me Before You series. If you're unfamiliar, the first book, Me Before You was made into a movie that is somehow connected to both Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games. In the third book, Louisa Clark is starting a whole new adventure in New York City working for — you know what, spoilers. All we'll say is that People Magazine calls it "charming" and it has the Canadian library staff seal of approval.

Number 7: Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce from Scribner, which was a July 2018 pick.

Were we surprised to find this book on the list? No, no, we were not. The internet was strong with this one, plus Library Journal reviewed it, saying “Fans of Jojo Moyes will enjoy Pearce’s debut, with its plucky female characters and fresh portrait of women’s lives in wartime Britain.” Emmeline Lake dreams of being a war correspondent but somehow winds up a secret advice columnist. We've definitely subscribed to this one.

Number 6: The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton, an October 2018 pick.

This book begins in 1862 where a pleasant weekend getaway at a Manor-house turns into a theft/murder mystery, the intricacies of which only begin to reveal themselves 150 years later. This one is worth your time.

Number 5: The Witch Elm by Tana French, from October 2018.

It's actually a little spooky how good a month October was this year. In this suspenseful thriller, a man is left for dead after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His recovery returns him to his ancestral home in Ireland, where something long-hidden changes life as he's known it. The New York Times calls it French's "best and most intricately nuanced novel" so please walk and don't run to your local library.

Number 4: Warlight by Michael Ondaatje from McClelland & Stewart, a May 2018 pick.

We're not even going to get into this one. We'll just give you some keywords to help you find it in your local library system: Man Booker, Ondaatje, Canadian, World War II.

Number 3: Transcription by Kate Atkinson from Doubleday Canada, which was a September 2018 pick.

If you're new to master of suspense Kate Atkinson, let this quote from Maclean's sum up her work: "In Atkinson's deliberate and manipulative hands, spy stories are simply regular fiction on steroids." By the way, Transcription is a spy story about a woman who served her country in World War II and is now haunted by her own past and her past governmental work in 1950s London. Good luck putting this one down.

Number 2: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin from Putnam, a January 2018 pick.

A travelling psychic boasts that she can tell anyone the day they will die. When the four Gold children sneak out to hear their "fortunes" — and I say this with quotation marks — their individual prophecies cast a shadow over the next five decades. If you're looking for something to remove that Haunting of Hill House hangover, take at least two chapters of this a day.

Heeeeeeere's the number one, the top top pick of 2018: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah from St. Martin's Press, which came out in February 2018.

Historical Fiction for the win — literally. After returning home from Vietnam, Ernt Allbright is no longer the same man. The Allbrights decide to move north, really north, to a remote corner of Alaska, unprepared but hopeful for a better future. Only Cora and her 13-year-old daughter Leni realize too late that the dangers of the wild are nothing compared to the danger within.

And that's our Loan Stars 2018 list, the good, the great, and the soon-to-be serially read.

ZA: We're all looking forward to another year of great books, award-winning Canadian literature, and library recommendations. For the moment, though, everyone at BookNet is pretty happy to close the chapter on this year and take a bit of a holiday break. Our Loan Stars team launched the voting on a new Loan Stars Jr. list for Juvenile and Young Adult titles, and the CataList team rolled out a huge overhaul of the PDF export features in that digital catalogue tool.

AS: The SalesData team has been hard at work getting a new tool for the collection and aggregation of library data ready to debut in 2019, and the team behind our BiblioShare data aggregation service is gearing up to rebuild that service to better serve the people who supply and use all that bibliographic data.

ZA: We also released a slew of new research reports this year, including ones on how readers are finding, buying, and listening to audiobooks, and a series on the book buyers who use different social media platforms.

AS: For 2019, we're looking forward to releasing new research on how Canadians buy books, the state of bookselling in the digital age, our annual report on The Canadian Book Market, and a new survey on reading diverse books in Canada.

ZA: And, of course, we're excited for our 12th annual Tech Forum conference and the fifth year of our ebookcraft conference for digital publishing professionals from March 18 to 20 in Toronto. We've already announced some of the speakers who will be talking about artificial intelligence, audiobooks, data-driven sales tactics, and inclusion efforts in the publishing industry, among lots more. 

AS: Please stay in touch with the goings-on at BookNet by subscribing to the podcast wherever you listen, or sign up for our weekly newsletter. If you listen to the podcast, please give us your feedback through our annual customer satisfaction survey. We'll include the link in the show notes, and if you answer by Jan. 31, you'll have a chance to win tickets to Tech Forum & ebookcraft, bookstore gift cards, free research, swag bags, and more.

ZA: Thanks to everyone who's been on the podcast this year, and to everyone who's been listening. And, of course, thanks to the Government of Canada for their ongoing support for this project through the Canada Book Fund. We hope you enjoy your holidays, and we look forward to chatting more in 2019. Happy new year!