Local books did it big in '09
Published: Sunday | December 20, 2009
Louise Bennett-Coverley, Tanya Shirley and Robert Lalah among local writers with bestsellers this year
Naysayers have long held the view that Jamaicans think 'everything from 'farin' good'. Well, that's not completely true, certainly not where books are concerned.
A check with two leading Kingston retail stores showed books written by Jamaicans were popular with their countrymen in 2009.
Andrea Dempster, owner of Bookophilia at Hope Road, said 70 per cent of her store's top 10 sellers were by Caribbean authors. Six of these top-selling books were non-fiction.
Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs by Askhari Johnson Hodari and Yvonne McCalla Sobers, was a big seller for Bookophilia this year. It is a collection of phrases and witticisms from the African diaspora.
But it was Nyam Jamaica, Rosemary Parkinson's culinary epic, that has turned out to be a sleeper hit for Bookophilia.
"It's an excellent book for a gift, but I'm really surprised at how well it did given the cost ($12,000)," she said.
She Who Sleeps with Bones, a compilation of poems by Tanya Shirley, was another strong seller for Dempster's store. So too was Roving with Lalah, the 2008 collection of Gleaner writer Robert Lalah's travels to little-known districts in rural Jamaica.
Another eye-opener for Dempster is the popularity of biographies.
"I find people are into bios a lot, books by Rachel Manley, Anthony Winkler and Beverley Manley are still doing well one year after their release," Dempster said.
Dempster opened Bookophilia 18 months ago. She said her clientele is diverse, ranging from college students to senior citizens.
At the more traditional Sangster's bookstore, the top 10 is almost exclusively Jamaican. Jamaica Labrish, Anancy & Ms Lou and Roving with Lalah, share the top five places with Think Big by American motivational speaker, Dr Ben Carson and president Barack Obama's best-seller Dreams From My Father.
Michelle Naraysingh, corporate affairs manager for Sangster's, says books with Jamaican themes literally flew off the shelves.
"We are known to carry the largest line of Jamaica-themed books, so we get a lot of business from returning residents who use these items as gifts," Naraysingh explained.
Jamaican cookbooks and most titles with legendary folklorist Louise Bennett-Coverley, do well for Sangster's. Naraysingh said Roving with Lalah is among the strongest performers of its recent releases.
Sangster's Top 10
1 Jamaica Labrish - Louise Bennett-Coverley
2 Anancy and Ms Lou - Louise Bennett-Coverley
3 Think Big - Ben Carson
4 Roving with Lalah - Robert Lalah
5 Dreams From My Father - Barack Obama
6 A Beautiful Princess
7 Chat Jamaican - J J Thomas
8 Jamaican Cookery Recipes
9 Secret of the Old Clock - Carolyn Keene
10 The Jamaican Chef