This week the History charts are showing some very clear preferences for certain niches and trends. The readers had some very clear interests and a focus for what they wanted to learn about. It is also clear that non-fiction is not the only thing they wish to read about, as there is a significant number of historical novels and fiction books as well.
An interesting niche that is appearing in the charts this week, is the history of food and how it has shaped the world and been shaped by the world. Michael M. Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, is being devoured by readers this week, while Struan Stevenson and Tony Singh’s The Course of History: Ten Meals That Changed the World, is likewise serving up a treat. (Sorry, not sorry, we love puns!)
It is the prevalence of Cowboy, Western, and Pioneering Histories and Novels that are the most immediately obvious. As well as the Louis L’Amour books on offer, there are several novels in the same vein which are written by other authors, like Mike Makessy’s, Broken Dog Ranch. There are also some histories which cover the same or similar ground, like David McCullough’s The Pioneers.
Flowing from the vast collection of Cowboy and Western novels and histories on display, the histories of other eras of American History are also available. From the well known Ron Chernow Biography of Alexander Hamilton, to the recently released Mueller Report, there are numerous works on the political machinations and intrigues that have helped build the country as it is today.
There are several books on the Second World War, including books focusing on the president at the time, but this is where a lot of the focus now comes onto women. There are books on women who were spies during war, like Sonia Purnell’s, A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, and of those who had to fight just to survive, like Wendy Holden’s, Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope.
War is proving a popular base for many other books, both fiction and non-fiction. There are several biographies and memoirs, as well as books analysing periods of history.
Stories of people surviving natural and man made disasters are also proving very popular this week. There are several books about people crossing oceans and surviving disasters at sea, while the history of plagues and diseases is charted in the book, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them, by Jennifer Wright. Likely being helped to new heights by the television show about the same topic, Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster, by Adam Higginbotham is selling a lot of copies.
These deeply moving stories of survival are perhaps a surprising neighbour to one of the other most popular groupings on the charts. That of the newly published History of Magic books from Pottermore Publishing, where they explain the basis for many of the lessons in the Harry Potter books and films. These books are a mix of fiction and non-fiction. While they may be very entertaining, they are also likely to prove very educational, especially about such niche topics.
One niche that is doing well in history is that of books on the early period of the English Monarchy. Alison Weir’s book, Elizabeth of York, as well as Dan Jones, The Plantagenets.
Last, but certainly not least, one of the most popular niches in the History genre is that of True Crime, and it is not proving unpopular this week with numerous different books about different murders and murderers filling the chart. Slightly tangential to this is the biography of journalist Nellie Bly, by Kate Braithwaite, The Girl Puzzle: A Story of Nellie Bly, which is doing well. As is the new book on the current state of America, by modern journalist, Joy-Ann Reid, The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story.
In short, history is not a dead subject and the best selling books are showing what the people are interested in, many are looking to recent history to make sense out of what is happening, while others are looking further back, perhaps to distract themselves from the current era. Either way, there are a lot interesting niches that are up for grabs for historians, tell us in the comments if you are thinking about writing for one of them and which one!