“These numbers are extraordinary for any children’s book, and in particular one that is in the board book format aimed at readers 0-3,” Elyse Marshall, executive director of publicity at Penguin Young Readers, said in an email. “It’s rare to see a board book hit and stay on a best-seller list weeks before it goes on sale, and the sustained presence reflects the moment that we are in.”
The demand for some titles has been so high that stores are having trouble keeping them in stock. Miriam Chotiner-Gardner, a buyer for Three Lives & Company bookshop in Manhattan, said she’s seen increased demand every which way. Some people are ordering just these books, while others are buying them along with unrelated novels or essay collections. There are customers purchasing just one title, and others stocking up on whole reading lists of five to seven books. Publishers, she added, are working to help the store restock quickly.
“Books that are out today will come back next week,” she said. “Usually it takes weeks to get a reprint.”
Ms. Estep of Carmichael’s said Thursday that she didn’t have any copies left of her biggest sellers on the subject, including “White Fragility,” “How to Be an Antiracist” and “Between the World and Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
“We did get a couple copies of ‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ today,” she said, shortly before 5 p.m. “But I haven’t been at the store since about 3 p.m., and I would be surprised if they were still there.”
These titles are dominating audiobook sales as well. Libro.fm is a company that partners with 1,200 bookstores in the United States and Canada to sell audiobooks, and on Friday, every one of its Top 10 best sellers was about race. The company said its Top 10 list on the first day of June, again consisting entirely of books about race, had sold 500 percent more than the Top 10 list did on the first day of May.
But buying books and reading books, Mr. Reynolds said, is not enough.
“If you read this book and you feel like you’re ready to do some good work, and you happen to be a white person, it is imperative to know you do not deserve cookies for being a good human being,” he said. “This is an opportunity to be good for good’s sake. Imagine that.”