Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Christmas predictions: Gavin Williams from Matilda and Lindy Jones from Abbey’s

In a series running in the lead-up to Christmas, Books+Publishing is asking booksellers across the country to predict their biggest sellers and ‘surprise sellers’.

In this instalment, Gavin Williams, owner of Matilda Bookshop in Adelaide Hills, and Lindy Jones, senior book buyer at Abbey’s Bookshop in Sydney, offer their Christmas predictions.

Gavin Williams, Matilda Bookshop owner:


  • The Choke (Sofie Laguna, A&U)
  • Saga Land (Richard Fidler & Kari Gislason, HarperCollins)
  • The Inner Life of Animals: Surprising Observations of a Hidden World (Peter Wohlleben, Bodley Head)
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Jessica Townsend, Hachette)
  • The Bum Book (Kate Maye, illus by Andrew Joyner, ABC Books).

Surprise sellers:

A few titles that will fly under the radar in the bigger stores that we think we’ll sell lots of …

  • The Secret Life of Cows (Rosamund Young, Faber)

This delightful looking little book has already been selling well and we have no doubt this will continue into December. Sharing her experiences of working with cows on her own farm, Young makes the case that cows are far more intelligent than we give them creditfor. People really love cows, as we’ve discovered since we moved the book onto our counter.

  • Practical Self Sufficiency (Dick and James Strawbridge, Dorling Kindersley)

As we hunker down for the impending nuclear apocalypse, our customers are increasingly looking towards books like this to give them the tools to survive in the forthcoming wasteland. The perfect book to give your eccentric uncle who lives in the country without a phone line.

  • Diary of a Bookseller (Shaun Bythell, Profile)

It’s very self-referential but this is a fantastic title that will appeal to well-read misanthropists everywhere. We know a lot of them work in bookshops, thus narrowing the potential market, but this is a hugely readable book we expect to sell lots of.

  • Can’t Stand up for Falling Down: Rock’n’Roll War Stories (Allan Jones, Bloomsbury)

It’s been a great year for music books (Tim Rogers etc.) and this hits the sweet spot for middle-aged men desperate to cloak themselves with a veneer of hipster music knowledge. Full of hugely entertaining war stories from the seventies, this is a ripper.


Lindy Jones, Abbey’s Bookshop senior book buyer:

Abbey’s is known for its wide range of nonfiction, and our customers tend to gravitate towards less obvious titles. Crime fiction traditionally also sells well for us.

There are plenty of books that will sell nicely this year, so choosing bestsellers isn’t so obvious. Some that will probably rise above the others include:

  • Mirror Sydney (Vanessa Berry, Giramondo)
  • Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (Catherine Nixey, Macmillan)
  • Bletchley Park Brain Teasers (Sinclair McKay, Hachette)
  • River of Consciousness (Oliver Sacks, Picador)
  • Legacy of Spies(John Le Carre, Viking)
  • Joseph Banks’ Florilegium (David Mabberley, Thames & Hudson)

Surprise sellers

As for surprise sellers, in a way we are never surprised at what our customers buy! They might seem quirky to other bookshops but relatively normal for Abbey’s.

  • Bradshaws Descriptive Railway Handbook of Great Britain and Ireland (Bloomsbury)

This is not a ‘new’ book in any sense of the word, but it taps into history, nostalgia and quirkiness.

  • Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World (Tim Marshall, Scribner)

Go on, resist that title! A fascinating and clearly written book about geopolitics that appeals to the thoughtful reader.

  • Paris All Your Own: Bestselling Women Writers on the City of Light (ed by Eleanor Brown, Penguin)

Certain cities always sell here: Rome, Pompeii, Istanbul, Jerusalem—and Paris.

  • Joy of Mathematics: Marvels Novelties and Neglected Gems that are Rarely Taught in Math Class (Alfred Posamentier, Prometheus)

Another subject that sells well here, particularly if presented with enthusiasm and wonder (rather than as the chore maths was for many of us!)

  • Chaucer’s People: Everyday Lives in Medieval England (Liza Picard, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Medieval history has lost some of its currency lately, but there are still readers who devour anything on the subject. Templars by Dan Jones (Head of Zeus) is another history book that will be snapped up.

  • The Square and the Tower: Networks Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power (Niall Ferguson, Allen Lane)

Thoughtful analysis, deeply researched history and a favourite author for many of our customers.

But just in case you think all our sellers will be heavy and serious, there are some nice lighthearted or more entertaining titles that our customers will buy. The new Alexander McCall Smith novel The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse (Polygon), Sulari Gentill’s latest ‘Rowland Sinclair’ mystery A Dangerous Language (Pantera), Richard Fidler & Kari Gislason’s Sagaland (HarperCollins) and the delightful ‘Baby University’ board books by Chris Ferrie (Sourcebooks), which are being purchased for child and adult alike!



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