The year 2011 has been a great year for Christian books. A number of titles have been listed in the New York Times Bestseller lists, while several books have gone on to sell more than a million units.
Looking at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s monthly bestseller lists across the year, a few books have consistently stood out, securing their way into the top spots.
Most notable of the titles is Todd Burpo’s breakout book Heaven is for Real, about the real-life story of Burpo’s then 4-year-old son Colton, who during an emergency appendix operation, slipped from consciousness and entered heaven where he met his great-grandfather, miscarried sister, John the Baptist, Jesus, and more.
Relaying his stories to his parents over the years after the surgery, Colton’s father, an evangelical pastor in Imperial, Neb., turned the boy’s experience into a 163-page book, which he wrote with Lynn Vincent. The book, which broke company sales records, was published by Thomas Nelson and has currently sold more than 4 million copies since its release in November 2010.
It has mainly held the number one position on ECPA’s Top 50 list for all but three months.
Another new book added to the lists this year includes Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, which seeks to help Christians discover ways to find joy in the everyday, regardless of circumstances.
Her book has been listed in the top 20 since April, wavering between top Christian authors like Burpo and Gary Chapman, and has done “extremely well,” according to Mark Kuyper, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.
“We’ve welcomed some new authors and some new books to the list,” he told The Christian Post in an interview.
Several Christian books were being received “better than ever before,” he described, like the Kendrick brothers’ novel Courageous, which was based on the film by the same name that released earlier this year.
“When you look at the list, we have some books that just consistently continue to perform extremely well like Heaven is for Real or Jesus Calling or Crazy Love; and Power of a Praying Wife, which has been out for years. We have a number of really strong titles that continue to be strong,” Kuyper explained to CP.
Other titles that continue to resonate with audiences include Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, which has sold units in the multi-millions since its release in 1992, and Sarah Young’s 365-day devotional Jesus Calling, which falls just behind Burpo’s Heaven is for Real in terms of popularity.
“We’ve got a really strong backlist with many of those [bestseller] books,” the ECPA president said. “Six out of 10 are over a million copy sellers ... [recording] more than a million units and I would say that several of those books [have sold in the] multi millions.”
“It just demonstrates the longevity and strength of really good quality Christian literature,” Kuyper noted.
Currently, he revealed that the publishing industry was in the midst of the throes of the digital revolution that was challenging publishers in how they resourced their organizations and how they processed work flows.
“We’ve obviously also been in the throes of challenging economic times but out of the publishers who report to us, nearly a third of them are showing increase over last year. That’s overall but typically in any given month, we might have as many as half or more that are showing increases over a specific month compared to the same month last year.”
“I would say our publishers are definitely still hanging in there and as you see more and more sales in ebooks, which sell generally speaking for less money, to be able to continually see that transition happen and still see increases in overall sales I think is very positive,” Kuyper concluded.
The ECPA conducts a “Top 50 Christian Multi-Channel Bestsellers” list every year, though they have yet to compile one for 2011 due to the few days left on the calendar year.
After the data team calculates and adds up the remaining numbers for December, they will release a new list on their website.
Based on the overall bestseller lists for each month in 2011, The Christian Post found that the top 10 consistent titles through the year were as follows (in the order of their repeated appearance on the lists): Todd Burpo’s Heaven is for Real; Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling; Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages; Francis Chan’s Crazy Love; David Platt’s Radical; Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts; Lysa TerKeurst’s Made to Crave; Francis Chan’s Forgotten God, Stephen and Alex Kendrick’s The Love Dare; and Karen Kingsbury’s Leaving.
To look at ECPA’s 2010 Bestseller list, click here.