This week in History there is so much interest in the topic of American History that it has almost drowned out all the other available topics. In fact, there is so much of the chart given over to it that it has more than made it possible to write an entire post on just what niches and trends in the American History books on the chart are selling well and leave the rest alone. However, that would not be very fair. So we’ll start off with a brief rundown of what is selling well and isn’t a part of this overwhelming trend.

The most prominent niche outside of American History is clearly that of books relating to World War 2. A large portion of these are focused on the lives of Jewish people and other targets under the Nazi Regime. One of  these is Annejet van der Zijl’s, The Boy Between Worlds, which is a biography of a biracial young man growing up under Nazi occupation.

Also popular, is the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, which is one of the few books without a link to WW2 or the USA. 

Showing the continuation of a trend started with the recent TV show which had fantastic reviews and views, books about Chernobyl are selling extremely well. Adam Higginbotham’s, Midnight in Chernobyl, and Andrew Leatherbarrow’s, Chernobyl 01:23:40 are good examples.

And now, on to what’s left, American History. As has already been said, there is a lot to choose from;

  • First off, Revolutionary War History. This is quite popular and both biographies of individuals, like Ron Chernow’s, Alexander Hamilton, and books on the war itself are proving popular. Chernow’s book was the inspiration behind Lin Manuel Miranda’s iconic musical, and this likely helps keep the book solidly in the best selling charts.
  • Secondly, books on pre WW1 American History. There are surprisingly few of these, but what there is seems to be mostly focused on people who faced injustices and were victims of racism. 12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, is one such example. It is an autobiography of a man forced into slavery, despite being born free. Like the Hamilton book, it’s popularity has been boosted by the presence of adaptations of the book.
  • Cowboy and Western books have not suddenly disappeared off of the list, rather they seem to have grown in number. Both Non-Fiction and Fiction books are present and proving popular with readers.
  • Books on the World Wars and the Inter War Years are also proving popular. As well as dwelling on the lives of soldiers and spies, there is a lot written about the politicians of this period too.
  • Finally the most obvious and impressive trend in the American History niche this week has been that of histories focused on politics, particularly recent politics, and books that attempt to explain how the current issues in America have arisen. These are usually written either about people in the public eye or by them, and often both of these, this no doubt helps to boost a book’s luck in the charts, but it is not the only sure way to success and neither is success assured. Generally speaking, though, it does help a lot.

And so, what can possible History Writers draw from these conclusions? Mostly that it doesn’t hurt your chances to have a lot of press about your book, and that without it it can be harder to do well in History than in a lot of other subject areas. But, over all you need to have a good grasp of what you are talking and you need to be able to tell a good story at the same time.

Also, an unfortunate trend seems to be to put the weakest parts of the book in the chapters towards the end, perhaps in the hope that if someone makes it that far then they won’t leave you a bad review, or perhaps that they won’t make it that far into the book to see the weak points. The fact that enough reviewers have commented on it to draw attention to the trend shows that this is not the case. It is hard to say what should be done instead, except of course to write better or something similar, but at the very least it is probably not wise to clump everything into the spot right before the reader ends since this will be on their mind more when they write their review.

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