Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 4:12 PM on Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bucking the trend

Alaska authors top 'sold' list at Homer Bookstore

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer


No. 2 on Homer Bookstore's List: The Homer Foundation's "Kachemak Bay Alaska"

In an example of how Homer tastes differ from other American habits, local and Alaska books once again top the Homer Bookstore best seller list.

Only one 2011 national bestseller made the top 5: Kathryn Stockett's "The Help," a novel about African American maids in the Deep South of the 1960s, the 2011 number one Homer Bookstore best seller.

At number two is "Kachemak Bay Alaska," a glossy coffee table book put out by the Homer Foundation. Tied at number three is a revised edition of "Salmon Patties and Rosehip Pie," an illustrated recipe book by Halibut Cove artist Marian Beck, and "Heart Stones," a photographic collection of heart-shaped rocks by Josie Iselin.

"There's very little correlation between this list and and national lists in general," said Lee Post, a partner with his sister Sue Post and Jenny Stroyeck in the Pioneer Avenue independent bookstore. "People are big on local stuff."

"Kachemak Bay Alaska" might do so well because it has a monopoly on its niche, Post noted.

"That's the only book in print that has color photos of this area," he said. "It's going to be there as long as it's in print or as long as there's nothing else to take its place."

Of the 14 books in the top 10 slots, with several ties for third and 10th place, eight books are either by local authors or other Alaskans. New Alaska titles to this year's list are "Discovering Wild Plants," by former Homer writer Janice Schofield, a reprinting of her classic book, and "Diapering the Devil," by the late Gov. Jay Hammond, a collection of his writings on Alaska oil and gas development. Larry Smith, a local historian and Hammond scholar, helped edit the book.

The 2011 Homer Bookstore bestseller list ranks the top 25 selling books, including some ties, based on actual sales. Tallies for all editions of a book are combined. Group orders, such as for a college class, are not included, Post said.

The New York Times and some other best seller lists are based on copies shipped to bookstores and not copies sold, Post said. Homer Bookstore best sellers correlate closer to the Indiebound best seller list, a list that the Homer Bookstore contributes to and that is compiled by actual sales of books reported by bookstores belonging to the national independent bookstore association. Homer Bookstore titles that also made the Indiebound list include "The Help" and "Cutting for Stone," by Abraham Verghese.

How a title makes the Homer Bookstore best seller list has a lot to do with recommendations from staff and customers — "handselling," as it's called in the trade. Many best sellers like "The Help" got strong support from the Homer Bookstore staff.

"I think we all read 'The Help' and liked it," Post said.

Post's own favorite, "The Big Burn," by Timothy Egan, also made the list. The store has a rack called Guaranteed Good with staff and customer favorites, including blurbs on cards explaining why titles were recommended. Some people go straight to that shelf and no further, Post said. Many Guaranteed Good titles made the Homer Bookstore list, such as as "Matterhorn," a small-press Vietnam war novel by Marine combat veteran Karl Marlantes.

Local appearances by authors also helped sell titles. A talk by David Montgomery on his history of salmon, "King of Fish," brought local attention to the national title. Gustavus author Hank Lentfer also did a talk at Bunnell Street Arts Center on his memoir, "Faith of Cranes" — but it might have helped that his parents, Mary and Jack Lentfer, live in Homer.

Some books endure as classics and make the list year after year, like "Tisha," by Robert Specht, "Winterdance," by Gary Paulsen, and "The Milepost," the mile-by-mile highway guide to Alaska.

"Some of these you can just about count on they're going to be there every year," Post said.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin, whose "Going Rogue" made the 2010 Homer Bookstore best seller list, again made this year's list — but as the subject of two parodies, "Sarah Palin Paper Dolls," by Thomas Soderberg, and "Going Rouge: the Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring and Activity Book," by Micheal Stinson and Julie Sigwart, just barely making the list.

Founded as a book rack at Quiet Sports in 1974 and then at its own location in 1975, Post and his mother, the late Joy Post, bought the Homer Bookstore — then known as the Bookstore — in the summer of 1978 from Kathy and Maynard Smith.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

Homer Bookstore 2011 Bestseller List

1) The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

2) Kachemak Bay Alaska*, by the Homer Foundation

Salmon Patties and Rosehip Pie*, by Marian Beck;

3) Heart Stones, by Josie Iselin

4) Discovering Wild Plants**, by Janice Schofield

5) Kachemak Bay Communities*, by Janet Klein

6) Alaska's Seashore Creatures*, by Conrad and Carmen Field

7) The Milepost**, by Morris Communications

8) Diapering the Devil**, by Jay Hammond

9) Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini

10) The Big Burn, by Timothy Egan

11) Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs**, by Heather Lende

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

Empire of the Summer Moon, by S. C. Gwynne

12) Room, by Emma Donoghue

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

13) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

14) A Long Trek Home*, by Erin McKittrick

15) Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier

Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes;

16) Heaven is For Real, by Todd Burpo

17) A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin

18) King of Fish, by David Montgomery;

Faith of Cranes**, by Hank Lentfer;

19) Just Kids, by Patti Smith

20) Tisha**, by Robert Specht

21) The Eagle Lady*, by Cary Anderson

22) Hunt for Justice**, by Lucinda Schroeder

23) Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

24) Winterdance**, by Gary Paulsen

50 Hikes in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula*, by Taz Tally;

Sarah Palin Paper Dolls**, by Thomas Soderberg

25) Early Warming*, by Nancy Lord; Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring and Activity Book**, by Micheal Stinson and Julie Sigwart

* Kachemak Bay writer or subject

** Alaska writer or Alaska subject