So far we've spent 2012 culling and reducing old stock (have you been by to see our sale tables and shelves?), taking inventory, cleaning out the embarrassingly cluttered stockroom and we even found a few days to rest along the way. Thus explains our delinquency in presenting the Turnrow staff's traditional year-end favorites post, a list given considerable attention and soul-searching.
When queried about their favorite books of the year, the title most mentioned by the staff was John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead, a superb collection of non-fiction pieces that surprised us with its depth and freshness. Even customers are coming back to thank us for pointing out this paperback original, which they would never have found, they say, without the discriminating tastes of independent booksellers. The book's exposure was heightened by Sullivan's excellent reading here back in November, and it remains our best-selling Turnrow 20 title of 2011.
By the way, thanks for all the comments regarding our first Turnrow 20 list, which featured our most recommended titles of the fall (look for a winter 2012 list coming soon). Second most-mentioned among the staff remarked was another Turnrow 20 title, the #2 best-selling T20 title Destiny of the Republic, the gripping true story of James Garfield's ascendancy to the White House and his subsequent assassination, masterfully told by Candice Millard.
This year every staff member also mentioned one old favorite they read or re-read in 2011. Great books, they understand, perhaps better than the blog editor, shouldn't be relegated to one year.
Becky's reading tastes run the gamut, which will explain her two favorites of the year, On China by Henry Kissinger and Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elisse Schappell. She also enjoyed an unconventional romantic literary novel, The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. Her favorite pre-2011 book was Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.
Kelly was an ardent proponent of two big memoirs, The House of Prayer No. 2 by Mark Richard and Every Day by the Sun by Dean Faulkner Wells, who sadly passed away this year. The debut novel Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown also made Kelly's list of favorites, and she made special mention of Steve Yarbrough's 1999 novel The Oxygen Man, which she declared "the best novel about the Mississippi Delta that I've read."
Jamie seized on a late-year paperback original, Crazy River, Richard Grant's account of traveling through modern East Africa, a uniquely modern travel tale that stands up with some of the genre's best. He also was an early proponent of The Sisters Brothers, a Western novel and Booker Prize finalist by Patrick DeWitt, who, we're proud to say, will be signing and reading from the paperback edition here on February 28.
Ben, a die-hard fiction lover, made Turnrow 20 title Ready Player One a hit here, and he surprised us with a couple of other top choices — Katherine Battersby's illustrated children's book Squish Rabbit and Neil MacGregor's The History of the World in 100 Objects, a fascinating patchwork history of the world told through man-made artifacts. He and Jamie both discovered John Williams' 1965 novel Stoner for the first time this year and proclaimed it their favorite reading experience of the year.
Tad named Chad Harbach's debut novel The Art of Fielding, another Turnrow 20 title, his top read of the year, and made special mention of Jack Hitt's 2005 book Off the Road, describing the author's hike from France to Spain along the famous Christian pilgrimage.
Hank made a pitch for Andre Dubus III excellent memoir Townie, from which the author read here last winter (photo at left), and this summer, he was knocked out by his first reading of Cormac McCarthy's Suttree.
There were plenty of other favorites throughout 2011 ... just peruse the blog and you'll find more books that we've championed. Already we've found plenty more due ahead in 2012. We'll mention our favorites here as the year progresses.
Among our best-selling books of the year were The Delta Magazine Cookbook, Mississippi chef Whitney Miller's Modern Hospitality, local chef Martha Foose's A Southerly Course, John Grisham's The Litigators, local writer Robin O'Bryant's Ketchup is a Vegetable, and the scrappy stalwart by Kathryn Stockett, The Help, a Turnrow bestseller in hard back, deluxe edition, paperback and DVD.