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Twelve must-haves for booksellers

Market research firm Nielsen just released a list of the top 12 books that booksellers “cannot afford not to stock.” The U.K.’s Telegraph notes that the works of Jane Austen, The Lord of the Rings series, and even the Bible aren’t included. Instead, the list is full of “long tails” and “evergreens” “ books that continue to sell long after their peak.

Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong claimed the top spot, which was surprising to both booksellers and editors, as it has sold just under one million copies since its publication in 1993. As the Telegraph explains, it’s not about books that sell millions of copies (à la The Da Vinci Code, which sold 4.5 million), it’s about the “bunsen burners.”

Andre Breedt, research and development analyst at Nielsen BookScan, said the evergreen list gave a guide to booksellers in a vast market in which 200,000 unique titles are sold every week. He said: “People usually only look at the bestseller lists. The evergreen list is a way of showing that some unusual books do incredibly well over time.”

Publishing phenomena “ like the Harry Potter books and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner “ often bumped along as consistent but unremarkable sellers for years before sales erupted, he added. “With all the marketing material in the world you can only really make a book sell over the short term,” he said. What really drives book sales over longer periods is “word of mouth.”

Here’s the list:

1. Birdsong “ Sebastian Faulks
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar “ Eric Carle
3. The Hobbit “ J.R.R. Tolkien
4. Complete Cookery Course “ Delia Smith
5. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt “ Michael Rosen
6. The Celestine Prophecy “ James Redfield
7. The Colour of MagicTerry Pratchett
8. Long Walk to FreedomNelson Mandela
9. A Brief History of Time “ Stephen Hawking
10. The Road Less Traveled “ M. Scott Peck
11. The Light FantasticTerry Pratchett
12. Mort Terry Pratchett