With the wave of a wand, J. K. Rowling tops the bestseller lists

JK Rowling was the top-selling author in Australia in 2016. Photo: Joel Ryan
JK Rowling was the top-selling author in Australia in 2016. Photo: Joel Ryan
Rock legend Jimmy Barnes signs copies of his autobiography <i>Working Class Boy</i>.  Photo: Karleen Minney

Rock legend Jimmy Barnes signs copies of his autobiography Working Class Boy. Photo: Karleen Minney


One thing more reliable than Harry Potter's Expelliarmus spell is that a new book by J.K. Rowling featuring the boy wizard will top the bestseller lists in Australia.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, her "rehearsal" script for the two-part play that is packing them in in London's West End, sold 426,000 print copies, the first time a play script has topped the general bestseller lists, according to Nielsen BookScan. And Rowling's stocks were further boosted by her film script for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which racked up another 124,000 in sales.

More than 53 million books were sold in Australia last year at a value of $968 million. This compares with 56.4 million items worth $979 million in 2015, the year when more than 3 million colouring books were sold at a value of just over $41 million. If colouring books are removed from the calculations, the number of books sold increased by 0.2 per cent and value by 3.7 per cent in 2016. The average price of a book last year was $18.07.

Sales last year were dominated by children's books, which took out four of the top five spots in the overall top 10, with the latest in Andy Griffiths' perennially popular Treehouse series, 78-Storey, selling 315,000 copies, and earlier instalments adding many thousands more sales to his tally. Griffiths had seven titles in the children's top 20, and with illustrator Terry Denton was the top-selling Australian author.

Jimmy Barnes' Working Class Boy was the top-selling adult title (119,000), although had the figures for the two, different editions of Paula Hawkins' The Girl on the Train (199,000) been combined Barnes would have slipped down a spot. Hawkins' thriller was top of the national fiction category, followed by Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, originally published nearly two years ago, which was a word-of-mouth bestseller that sold 109,000 copies.

Barnes' account of an early life of poverty, alcoholism, drugs and family violence – not his time with Cold Chisel – was, perhaps, a surprise bestseller, and another rock musician, Bruce Springsteen, revealed details of his own mental-health issues in his memoir, Born to Run (48,000).

Significantly absent from the overall top-20 list was any sort of colouring book – remember them? Four featured in the top 20 in 2015 – and the usual Jamie Oliver title, although his Super Food Family Classics sold 68,000 copies and finished as the third-bestselling non-fiction title. He had two other titles in the food category, Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbooks (33,000) and Everyday Super Food (30,000).

Liane Moriarty, already a big bestseller in the US, had two titles in the Australian list, The Husband's Secret (104,000), which sold 77,000 in 2015, and Truly Madly Guilty (97,000), while Matthew Reilly's The Four Legendary Kingdoms (103,000) followed close behind.

Nikki Savva's The Road to Ruin, her account of the disintegration of the Abbott government, sold 37,000 copies in the politics and government category, easily outstripping Troy Bramston's Paul Keating and Aaron Patrick's story of the Abbott government, Credlin & Co, which each sold 8000 copies. Former Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke's My Story scored 37,000 sales, pipping Collingwood footballer Dane Swan's memoir by 10,000.

This story With the wave of a wand, J. K. Rowling tops the bestseller lists first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.