30 DECEMBER 1972, Page 17


Bookbuyer A As usual there has been little agreement this Christmas between the general public and the book reviewers of the national newspapers who have obediently contributed to their literary editors" Best Books of the Year'. Naturally it wasn't to be expected that J. Z. Young's An Introduction to the Study of Man or John Berger's G at the other end of the scale, would figure on the bestseller lists. But what about Derek Hudson's Munby: Man of Two Worlds, the third most popular choice of all? No sign of it.

As it happens, a number of London booksellers have been praising the Observer's list of Books of the Year, and Hatchards say that it has had a direct effect on the late Christmas sales of two of their books: Lionel Trilling's Sincerity and Authenticity and, chosen by Hugh TrevorRoper, Frances Yates's The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. Admittedly, too, August 1914 and the second volume of Quentin Bell's Virginia Woolf (the first volume had sold out everywhere by Thursday) have been selling extremely well over the Christmas period. But at this crucial time of year, what are the real faVourites with the public? According to the Bookseller which compiles a fascinating annual report of Christmas sales in the bookshops the Christmas bestseller, far outstripping any competitor, is The Goon Show Scripts edited by Spike Milligan and published by the Woburn Press.

For the rest, there are a surprising number of perennials and titles first published a year or two ago. The best selling perennial of all, of course, is the Guinness Book of Records which can now surely afford to include itself among its superlatives. Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer and Mary Renault reappear, and so do Tolkien and Giles's Cartoons. Titles still firmly established in the Christmas bestseller lists after a year or more include Monty Python's Big Red Book, Gerald Durrell's Catch Me a Colobus and those two pillars of the book trade, Kenneth Clark's Civilisation and David Niven's The Moon's a Balloon.

Two things the Bookseller's list confirms, not for the first time. One is that the quantity of reviews rather than the the quality, coverage rather than praise, is what chiefly influences sales across the country. The other is that names which have become popular catchwords have an assured pulling power. If you can't be Lord Longford or the Duke of Wellington, Queen Victoria or Malcolm Muggeridge, write a book about them instead — and don't forget to put the name prominently on the dust-jacket.