Around the bookstore

Wrapping up a summer season filled with bestsellers.


One day, just a moment ago, it was Memorial Day weekend. It seemed God turned on the spigot and people flowed into the streets all over the Vineyard.

Then I blinked, it was the Fourth of July, with fireworks and a grand party.

I blinked again; it was Islanders Write, our first involvement with what turned out to be a very successful gathering of literary professionals and those wanting to know more about the art, craft, and business of writing.

I blinked again, it was Labor Day weekend and “the season” was over.

About two in the afternoon of Labor Day itself, God turned off the spigot, people seemed to evaporate, and quiet descended on the bookstore.

It went so fast …

But doesn’t it every year?

Now we can reflect on what happened, what we enjoyed, what we’ll do differently next year, take a breath, get a good night’s sleep, enjoy the relative quiet that will keep on growing through the deep of winter, until, suddenly, we’re all scurrying again to be ready for “the season.”

It was a very good year for books. And for books from last year. Both “Lessons in Chemistry” by Bonnie Garmus and “Horse” by the Island’s own Geraldine Brooks continued to be hot sellers, even while still in their hardcover editions.

“Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver rocketed off the shelves, finding a strong summer audience for a more serious read.

Elin Hilderbrand’s “The Five-Star Weekend” was, not unexpectedly, one of the hottest books of the summer. She announced this was her next-to-last book; there will be one more next summer, then she’s off to do other things. This announcement is, I’m sure, depressing booksellers everywhere, though especially on her home island of Nantucket, where she is more than a cottage industry, with an annual gathering of fans that grows each year.

Emily Henry, with “Happy Place,” gave Hilderbrand a run for her money, pacing the queen of beach reads book for book, it seemed, especially in June and July. Though come August, both seemed to run out of a bit of steam.

August belonged to Ann Patchett and her newest, “Tom Lake,” which has been her best-selling book at least since 2016, when I first crossed the threshold of the bookstore.

Far and away the best-selling nonfiction book of the summer was “The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder,” by David Grann, who visited the bookstore one afternoon, graciously signing copies of his tale of 18th century mayhem on the high seas, and back on land too.

“Poverty, by America,” Matthew Desmond’s follow-up to his Pulitzer prizewinning “Evicted,” found a strong summer audience of folks wanting to understand an issue that vexes this wealthy country.

A happy accident happened while ordering “Last Call at the Hotel Imperial” by Deborah Cohen, out in paperback, about four larger-than-life reporters in the run-up to World War II, three men, one woman, chasing stories, knocking back booze at night. It sounded interesting to me; I bought a couple, then discovered I wasn’t the only one interested. It’s been a bestseller.

It’s unbelievable to me summer has come and gone. And I am so glad for the summer now in our rearview mirror, glad for the people who helped us make it work, glad for all the authors we hosted on our porch, glad for all the library signings we worked, glad for all the great chaos entailed with “the season.”

Mathew Tombers is the manager of Edgartown Books.