Author events and political turmoil drove sales this year.
In 2018, Boswell Book Company remained Milwaukee’s favorite bookstore, so we decided to take a look at which titles performed well this year. The nearly 10-year-old bookstore’s fiction bestsellers were written by authors from outside of Milwaukee for the most part, although Liam Callanan, longtime Boswell patron and UW-Milwaukee professor, took first place with Paris by the Book.
In the nonfiction categories, local books were more popular, with some focusing on politics, income disparity and corruption (Evicted and Janesville) and others on the Great Lakes (Milwaukee: A City Built on Water and The Death and Life of the Great Lakes).
Political memoirs and Trump White House exposés were also popular, which is unsurprising considering our current political climate.
According to Goldin, the bookstore’s bestsellers are representative of the tastes of the kind of reader that supports independent bookstores — and are thus likely to be more highbrow. In addition, he notes that many of the bestsellers’ authors had events with Boswell, boosting their sales and pushing them into the top slots. In 2018, Goldin also saw a slight change in the types of people attending these events and the bookstore in general.
“The people frequenting Boswell used to tend to be older, but recently we’ve had more young patrons,” Goldin says. “I think it’s because they want to support local businesses and feel like it’s vintage — like how young people are listening to vinyl again. We’ve also had more book tourists in 2018, hailing from Chicago and smaller towns outside of Milwaukee.”
In addition to changes in Boswell’s patrons, Goldin discovered a few trends in bookselling in 2018, noting that graphic novels, short fiction and social media collections are on the rise. Perhaps these changes will be reflected in the bookstore’s 2019 bestsellers list, but no matter if Goldin’s predictions come true, Boswell is sure to remain a mecca for booklovers well into 2019 and beyond.
- Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
- The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
- There There by Tommy Orange
- A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
- The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
- Noir by Christopher Moore
- The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
- The Overstory by Richard Powers
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
- Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- Milwaukee: A City Built on Water by John Gurda
- The Deepest Well by Nadine Burke Harris
- Educated by Tara Westover
- Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward
- Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
- The Fall of Wisconsin by Dan Kaufman
- Calypso by David Sedaris
- Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook by Dorie Greenspan
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
- Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
- Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
- Lincoln on the Bardo by George Saunders
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
- The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein
- The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan
- Evicted by Matthew Desmond
- Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
- The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America by Alan Mallach
- Janesville by Amy Goldstein
- Lost Milwaukee by Carl Swanson
- The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
- Somos Latinas: Voices of Wisconsin Latina Activists by Andrea-Teresa Arenas, Eloisa Gómez and Dolores Huerta
- Healthcare 911 by Bhupendra Khatri
Books for Kids
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Rebound by Kwame Alexander
- Endling #1: The Last by Katherine Applegate
- Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano
- Lulu & Rocky in Milwaukee by Barbara Joosse and Ren Graef
**Note: These lists are based on data through Dec. 20, 2018. Goldin notes that the list might change slightly as the holidays and the year come to the end. Michelle Obama’s Becoming in particular may overcome Biden’s memoir for the number one spot in hardcover nonfiction.