While parts of Canada are hopefully emerging from a deep freeze (we feel for you, Newfoundland), we decided to will summer into existence by turning to warmer thoughts: summer reading lists. As part of this exploration, we crunched the numbers to find the perennially bestselling summer books that sell well every year around this time.
Finding popular summer reads proved to be slightly more challenging than looking at a specific event, such as Valentine's Day, since purchases for summer take place in the weeks leading up to and throughout the whole season. So we searched for titles in the Fiction, Young Adult (YA) Fiction, and Juvenile Fiction categories that have consistently sold well over the past three years (2015-2017), starting from the first Sunday of June to the last Sunday in August, using BNC SalesData, the national sales tracking service for the English-language print trade market. We then sorted our list of titles by units sold in 2017 to ensure that the rankings reflect each title's current relevance.
For the Juvenile and YA lists, we removed any titles with a list price below $7.99 CAD to eliminate anything that might have sold in high quantities solely due to a low list price. And since we're talking about summer perennials, we also removed any books that use the "Classics" subject code or that are considered classics year-round, because, well, they always sell well.
For the adult Fiction list, excluded classics were The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. We also excluded titles that are consistent top-sellers year round, such as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
We consolidated all books in a single series into one listing, ranked on the list where the first book was positioned. Books 1-5 in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (as well as the box set) were all within the top 10, as were books 1-3 in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and the first two books in Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle series.
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Hodder & Stoughton, 9781444775815)
- A Game of Thrones* by George R. R. Martin (Random House Publishing Group, 9780553573404)
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Crown/Archetype, 9780307887443)
- Outlander* by Diana Gabaldon (Doubleday Canada, 9780770428792)
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (Doubleday Canada, 9780385679077)
- The Name of the Wind* by Patrick Rothfuss (DAW, 9780756404741)
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Penguin Publishing Group, 9780425274866)
- The Shining by Stephen King (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 9780307743657)
- Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (Little Brown & Company, 9780316029193)
- Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese (McClelland & Stewart, 9780771089213)
*This book includes others in the same series gathered within one listing.
Fantasy was the most heavily represented category for adult Fiction summer perennial titles.
We excluded titles with the subject "Classics" when determining our top 10 list, which included The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton and The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry and Richard Howard.
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Penguin Young Readers Group, 9781595141880)
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 9780544336261)
- Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (Quirk Books, 9781594747359)
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 9781619630345)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Random House Children's Books, 9780375842207)
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney (Little Brown & Company, 9780316013697)
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (Random House Children's Books, 9780385751537)
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Penguin Publishing Group, 9780142424179)
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Press, 9781250012579)
- The Elite by Kiera Cass (HarperCollins Publishers, 9780062059970)
Four series made the top 10 list, including the first books of The Giver quartet series by Lois Lowry (The Giver) and the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass). Interestingly, in two different instances, book two of the series had better sales in 2017 than book one: The Elite is the second title in The Selection series by Kiera Cass and Hollow City is the second title in Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs.
Again, Fantasy was the largest category for YA Fiction summer perennial titles.
As we did for the previous two categories, we also excluded classics from the Juvenile Fiction summer perennials top 10 list. Exclusions were Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss and Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle. That being said, many of the titles in the top 10, such as On the Night You were Born and The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the Juvenile list, do tend to be titles that continue to sell well throughout the year.
- Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss (Random House Children's Books, 9780679805274)
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Penguin Young Readers Group, 9780399226908)
- On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman (Feiwel & Friends, 9780312601553)
- The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 9780316201568)
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Random House Children's Books, 9780375869020)
- Moose! by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko (Scholastic Canada, Limited, 9781443142922)
- I Am a Big Sister! by Caroline Jayne Church (Scholastic Canada, Limited, 9780545688987)
- Hugs by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko (Scholastic Canada, Limited, 9781443133135)
- Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renée Russell (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 9781416980063)
- The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers (Penguin Young Readers Group, 9780399255373)
The category with the most titles on the Juvenile Fiction list is Family.
So while these books may no longer be featured in the "New and Hot" section of any bookstore, these tried-and-true backlist titles have withstood the test of time.
It seems that the summer is everyone's favourite time to get started on a new book series, with books from not one, not two, but 11 (!) different series making it onto our summer perennials lists (12 if you count The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home as a series). Besides, now that the days are getting longer, you have more time to read so you may as well spring for the heftiest books you can find.