Best-Selling Books of the Year: 4 Key Takeaways

'Go Set a Watchman,' 'The Martian' and 'The Girl on the Train' were fiction hits. Celebrity nonfiction fizzled.
Courtesy of HarperCollins

Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple have released their lists of the best-selling books of the year.

The year 2015 lacked a runaway celebrity best-seller like Tina Fey’s Bossypants, but there are still several important Hollywood-related stories in publishing. Here are four key takeaways from the year in publishing. (Note: Barnes & Noble's best-selling list ranks just books published in 2015, and Amazon does all books, which explains some of the difference in numbers. Kindle and iBooks rankings reflect just e-book sales.)

1. Go Set a Watchman, The Girl on the Train and Grey won big.
The big fiction winners were Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, Barnes & Noble No. 1 overall and Amazon No. 4; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, with a movie adaptation coming in October, landed at No. 3 on B&N, No. 9 on Amazon and No. 1 on Apple’s iBooks; and Grey, EL James’ retelling of Fifty Shades from Christian’s perspective, No. 2 on B&N and No. 21 on Amazon.

2. The movie tie-in is still gold.
The Martian by Andy Weir, whose film adaptation has grossed $593 million at the box office worldwide and is a contender for a best picture Oscar nomination, was No. 7 on Apple iBooks, No. 3 on Amazon Kindle (and No. 16 in print at Amazon). E-book sales were particularly high for this title, since it began life as a self-published e-book and always has sold better digitally than in print. The book American Sniper (the film was released in theaters at the end of 2014 on its way to a $547 million worldwide gross) continued to sell well over the year, landing at No. 1 on iBooks, No. 9 on Kindle and No. 28 on Amazon’s print list. John Green’s Paper Towns — the film grossed a relatively modest $85 million worldwide  also got a boost. First published in 2008, the YA novel hit No. 16 on the Kindle list, No. 29 on Barnes & Noble and No. 59 on Amazon.

3. Nonfiction lacked a runaway hit.
None of the high-profile Hollywood nonfiction books — Leah Remini’s Scientology memoir Troublemaker, Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? or Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance — made it into the list of the top 100 overall-selling books. In contrast, last year, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please made the list, finishing at around No. 50, despite being released in October. All of the four aforementioned books made the best-seller list and were successes for their publishers, but none were the runaway water-cooler hits of the year.

4. In kids' books, the perennials rule.
Old favorites scored big in kids' books. The newly discovered Dr. Seuss book What Pet Should I Get? was the eighth-best-selling book on Barnes & Noble and the 44th-best-selling book on Amazon in 2015. Old School, the 10th book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, finished right behind at No. 9 on Barnes & Noble and at No. 11 on Amazon.