In Non-Fiction this week, there is some blurring between the niches and trends, and some books are managing to line up with multiple very different ones.
First up, to the surprise of approximately no one, memoirs and biographies are still hitting high in the charts. The Boy Between Worlds: A Biography, by Annejet van der Zijl, and A American Princess, by the same author, are continuing to sell well. There is a trend towards books about the sort of people who are generally footnotes in other people’s memoirs, for example, Hallie Rubenhold’s, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, James Herriot’s autobiography, The Lord God Made Them All, in which the stories of his time as a Yorkshire Vet in the mid-Twentieth Century are brought to life by his bright storytelling style, and Daniel J. Wakin’s, The Man with the Sawed-Off Leg and Other Tales of a New York City Block. This is an interesting trend, and a good one for readers and writers alike. By focusing on people outside the usual political biographical norms more people are likely to be interested, and more people are going to have access to stories to tell.
Of course, memoirs and biographies of famous people are still doing well, with books on Robin Williams, by Dave Itzkoff, and My Spiritual Journey, by the Dalai Lama, for example selling well, but these are not trending as well as some other niches of biography and memoir.
One trend that is doing well in this niche is that of books about scientists and engineers. Robert W. Winters’, Accidental Medical Discoveries: How Tenacity and Pure Dumb Luck Changed the World, and Lawrence Goldstone’s, Drive!: Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age, both look into this subject though from very different points of view. And it is not just medical history that is proving popular, but also the medical present. Mostly this seems fixed on recipe books for healthier diets, but there are also books on the subject of mental health, which are selling well this week. Dr Josh Axe’s, Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It, is one example of the former, while, Sarah Vallance’s, Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain, and Lori Gottlieb’s, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, are good examples of the latter.
Similarly, self help books are selling well. There are books on topics from improving your memory, to becoming a more efficient worker, to becoming more persuasive and better at leading, to making more money or saving what you do make. It is clear that there is a massive market for books that help people better themselves, or at the very least make themselves into a version that they think will be more likely to succeed.
So, what to take from all of this? Military histories and memoirs have practically disappeared off the charts entirely, while the focus seems to have changed to the lives of civilians. Also, rather than recipes with a focus on the delicious nature of food, the gaze of the readers seems to be on how healthy it is and how to make their dishes more so. Science is popular to read about, but a strong narrative needs to be in place for people to be truly interested. And, as nearly always, people are especially vulnerable to books which promise to make them healthier, wealthier, or more charming.
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