New orders were trickling in when VaLinda Miller reopened her store, the Turning Page Bookshop in Goose Creek, after having to close for a few weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We were able to weather it," Miller said of the temporary shutdown. "We sold a few books."
Then, when May turned to June, that trickle of book orders became a deluge. It started with 25 orders in one day for copies of "White Fragility," a book by the sociologist Robin DiAngelo about "why it's so hard for White people to talk about racism."
Then, the orders just kept coming, for that title and others considered must-reads for people trying to educate themselves with anti-racist literature.
Books on anti-racism have rocketed up bestseller lists as protesters have filled the streets of U.S. cities, calling on Americans to dismantle racist systems and end police brutality.
On the latest New York Times bestseller list for combined print and e-book nonfiction, almost all of the top 15 titles addressed race and racism.
Buyers have been encouraged via online lists and social media posts to purchase their anti-racist titles from independent, Black-owned bookstores. Miller's store appeared on some of those lists, and she's been contacted by people around the nation and world, she said, for recommendations.
Miller described it as "a blessing," especially at this time when small businesses like hers are trying to make a comeback from COVID-19.
The surge in sales had another element of good timing, too: Miller's store just celebrated its first anniversary on June 1.
She'd previously owned another bookstore, called The Booksmith, in the Upstate. Now Miller, who is a Goose Creek resident, can walk to the store from her home.
In a Facebook post last week, Miller thanked customers for their support and their patience. Some titles are in such demand that they're on backlog, she explained. Publishers are scrambling to keep up.
Aside from the nonfiction titles topping lists, children's books by African American authors have also been flying off the shelves, she said.
Miller said she's recommending other titles to her customers, too, everything from mysteries — a personal favorite of hers — to romance novels and fiction for young adults.
Some relate directly to current events, like "The Hate U Give," a novel for teens by Angie Thomas that tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who witnesses a fatal shooting by police. Others, like "Linden Hills" by Gloria Naylor, are among novels by African American authors that Miller said are "well known but not well known enough."
Miller said she's pleased to see that, during this historic time, people are showing a willingness to crack the spine of a book that can challenge their current view of the world. She said she recommends people take their time with the books, "like a good meal," to really absorb what they're teaching.
"I'm happy that people are coming back to books," Miller said. "We needed to come back to books."
As people read their anti-racist literature, Miller said she wants to see them stock up their shelves with other titles, too — graphic novels, cookbooks, anything that keeps them turning the pages.
And once "things die down," Miller said she wants to see her new customers come back to her store, have a cup of coffee and browse.