John le Carré, Daisy May Cooper and Paul McCartney expected to boost book sales at Christmas

The annual event known as ‘Super Thursday’, when most of the hardbacks aimed at the Christmas market are published, promises big names and a boon for the industry

Bookshops will be pinning their hopes for healthy sales this Christmas on titles that include the final novels of the late John le Carré and Andrea Camilleri, and memoirs from comedians Billy Connolly and Daisy May Cooper.

The annual glut of new books aimed at the festive market, known in the industry as “Super Thursday”, comes on 14 October this year, when 292 hardbacks will be published, according to the Bookseller. This number is well down on last year, when almost 800 new hardbacks were published, after Covid-19 had delayed releases over the summer. But Waterstones buyer Bea Carvalho said this year’s list featured “an incredible spread, across all genres”.

“The news that we are going to be treated to one final novel from Le Carré, Silverview, was a welcome surprise, and it’s set to be one of the most talked about and bestselling novels of the year,” said Carvalho. “The same day also sees publication of Riccardino, Camilleri’s final Inspector Montalbano novel. Both of those are quite historic moments, the final books from such beloved authors, two of our all-time great novelists.”

Carvalho also pointed to Bernard Cornwell’s long-awaited return to Sharpe, in Sharpe’s Assassin, for which “pre-orders have been huge”, as well as the forthcoming new novel from Jonathan Franzen, Crossroads, and astronaut Chris Hadfield’s move into fiction with crime novel The Apollo Murders.

Daisy May Cooper laughing
Daisy May Cooper’s Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her is out on 28 October Photograph: Brian J Ritchie/Hotsauce/REX/Shutterstock

Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s Renegades: Born in the USA, in which the former president and the singer discuss life, music and America, was also tipped for the top by Waterstones this Christmas, along with JK Rowling’s new children’s book The Christmas Pig and a new picture book from Julia Donaldson, The Christmas Pine.

“While a lot of big books are already out, like Richard Osman’s The Man Who Died Twice and Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You, there are a huge number of really exciting titles coming,” said Carvalho. “After the last 18 months of everything being pretty turbulent, it’s lovely to have people back in bookshops again, and happily reading away.”

At Read bookshop in Holmfirth, James Ashmore was predicting big things for Paul McCartney’s “self-portrait in 154 songs”, The Lyrics, and for cookbooks from Yotam Ottolenghi, Mary Berry, Nadiya Hussain and Nigel Slater. “So far for us, the readers of Holmfirth are snapping up Bob Mortimer’s wonderful autobiography, And Away… – it’s as hilarious as you might expect,” said Ashmore.

Mortimer is one of many comedians with memoirs out this year, with Michael McIntyre’s A Funny Life published on 14 October, and Cooper’s Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her on 28 October. But for Patrick Neale at Jaffe and Neale bookshop, Richard Powers’ Booker-shortlisted novel Bewilderment is set to be a key title. “[It] means that no one else needs to write a novel. The novel has been perfected in my mind,” said Neale.

At Burley Fisher Books in London, Sam Fisher predicted the store’s biggest title this autumn would be Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk’s Books of Jacob, while at Mainstreet in St Boswells, Rosamund de la Hay was pinning her hopes on titles including Connolly’s forthcoming autobiography Windswept & Interesting.

Concern is rising among booksellers about supply chain delays affecting stock, with Brexit and a shortage of lorry drivers affecting deliveries, and printing delays also affecting numbers, particularly as sales take off and publishers put through reprints. The Booksellers Association is urging customers to “shop early, shop local” this Christmas, and bookshops across the UK and Ireland will mark Bookshop Day on 9 October with author events ranging from Ann Cleeves’s signing at her local bookshop the Bound in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, to Jeanette Winterson’s discussion with Notes from an Apocalypse author Mark O’Connell at Manchester Central Library. BookTokers will also take part in Bookshop Day for the first time this year, with TikTok stars such as caitlinreadsbooks and whatbritreads set to create exclusive content in their local bookshops.

“Supply chain issues are already causing problems (especially when it comes to getting books in time for events),” said Fisher. “This is inevitably going to cause problems for titles that are unexpectedly popular and have to be reprinted (especially as Amazon are always at the front of the queue for reprints).”

At Imagined Things bookshop in Harrogate, Georgia Eckert tipped Robin Ince’s forthcoming The Importance of Being Interested as a key title, but said the store was already having issues with the supply chain. “Supply is a huge concern for us heading into our busiest season, particularly as last year was so challenging. We’re trying to stock up to mitigate it as much as possible but we have limited space, as many independents do,” she said. “And that we’re down to one main wholesaler since Bertrams went under, it’s a lot of pressure on one and a lot of bookshops that need books. We really do need the publisher side of the supply chain to be functioning well too, and there’s already delays. We hope it’ll improve.”

At Chepstow Books & Gifts, Matt Taylor said the “big challenge” this year would be stocking the “unexpected hits” in the run up to Christmas. “No idea what they will be yet but getting them reprinted and in the shops will be key,” he said, predicting that the challenges of delivery drivers, packers at suppliers and paper for printing could mean “a bumpy few months ahead at what is the crucial time for the industry”.

“Obviously, there are issues this year, but it’s always a fine balance, making sure that we’ve got enough for Christmas and responding to titles that are taking off,” said Carvalho at Waterstones. “We’ve been trying to work closely with publishers to order more of unexpected bestsellers. And we’ve increased stockholding in our bookshops to account for the demand.”

Shipping congestion is leading to increased lead times on titles which print overseas, “but we’ve taken that into account and feel confident that we’re ready and have enough stock to cover demand,” Carvalho said. “And if books do take off unexpectedly, and we’re slower to react than we’re usually able to, then there are plenty of great books coming out, so there’s lots to recommend. We feel like we’re in a good position.”


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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