Osman, Obama, Oliver and Others: Christmas Number Ones

Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone have joined the record books. Their latest Pinch of Nom cookbook, ‘Comfort Food’, has taken the 2021 Christmas Number One crown, beating stiff competition from ‘Pointless’ co-presenter Richard Osman’s ‘The Man Who Died Twice’ and the latest edition of fact compendium ‘Guinness World Records’.

‘Comfort Food’ becomes the eighth cookbook to take the Christmas Number One spot. Well, they do make great gifts as my colleague, Jackie, revealed in her December Trends blog.

Allinson and Featherstone denied TV star Osman scoring back-to-back Christmas Number Ones (his ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ topped the charts on Christmas Day last year). Since official sales records began in the late 1990s, David Walliams, Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith are the only writers to have scored back-to-back number ones. TV chef and school dinner saviour Oliver is the only writer to have gone back-to-back-to-back, doing so from 2010 to 2012 when ‘Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals’, ‘Jamie’s Great Britain’ and ‘Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals’ all topped the charts on Christmas Day in consecutive years.

‘Comfort Food’ sold 56,367 copies in the week ending 18 December, short of the 90,000 average of a Christmas Day chart-topper since official sales records began in the late 1990s. To date, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spin-off, ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’, is the book that has topped the Christmas Day chart with the highest weekly sales. It sold 159,337 copies in the week ending 20 December 2008, its sales engorgio’d (geddit?) by the fact it hit shelves late in 2008 and was still selling six-figure sums when Christmas Day rolled around. Its 159,337 number was down 208,000 on its opening week of 368,000 copies (week ending 6 December 2008) but was still more than enough to hold off her competition in 2008.


There have been 24 Official UK Christmas Number Ones in the UK book trade since records began and 17 of those Number Ones have been adult non-fiction books. David Walliams has topped the chart as many times as ‘Guinness World Records’. ‘Jamie’s Great Britain’ (£30) has been the most expensive Christmas Number One to date while ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ was a snip at £6.99. The paperback edition of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ has been the oldest number one to top the chart on Christmas Day. The mass-market paperback edition hit shelves in late February in 2004 but stuck around the sharp end of the official charts until Christmas. And beyond it, in fact – it was still sitting at number one overall as late as October in 2005.

2021’s battle for the Christmas Number One was very close compared to 2020 when ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ sold more than twice as many copies as its nearest competitor (Barack Obama’s ‘The Promised Land’). Between 2011 and 2020 the Christmas Number One on average outsold the Christmas Number Two by around 22,000 copies, but this year’s race was the second tightest since records began. ‘Comfort Food’ defeated ‘The Man Who Died Twice’ by just 1,107 copies, second only to the 2001 battle between Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith when the former’s ‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’ beat Delia Smith’s ‘How to Cook: Book Three’ by just 326 copies.

One record we did see in 2021 was the number of different books sold in a single week. A grand total of 400,167 different books (ISBNs) were sold at UK booksellers in the week ending 18th December 2021 –the first time the number has passed the 400,000 barrier. More than 100,000 books sold just a single copy at UK booksellers, including Clay Houston Shivers’ post-US Civil War Western, ‘The Marauders of Pitchfork Pass’; luxury book publisher Assouline’s eye-watering £750 edition of George Pepper’s ‘Golf: The Impossible Collection’; Lauren Perry’s ‘The Very Edible Foods from Shrek’, and Bernie Sanders’ light read for young adults on Christmas Day, ‘Bernie Sanders’ Guide to Political Revolution’.

Book Trade Number Ones: A History

1998: Delia’s How to Cook: Book One (Delia Smith)

1999: Delia’s How to Cook: Book Two (Delia Smith)

2000: Guinness World Records

2001: Happy Days with the Naked Chef (Jamie Oliver)

2002: Guinness World Records

2003: Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Lynne Truss)

2004: The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)

2005: Jamie’s Italy (Jamie Oliver)

2006: Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? (New Scientist)

2007: My Booky Wook (Russell Brand)

2008: The Tales of Beedle the Bard (J.K. Rowling)

2009: The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

2010: Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals (Jamie Oliver)

2011: Jamie’s Great Britain (Jamie Oliver)

2012: Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals (Jamie Oliver)

2013: My Autobiography (Alex Ferguson)

2014: Guinness World Records

2015: How it Works: The Husband (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

2016: The Midnight Gang (David Walliams)

2017: Bad Dad (David Walliams)

2018: Becoming (Michelle Obama)

2019: The Beast of Buckingham Palace (David Walliams)

2020: The Thursday Murder Club (Richard Osman)

2021: Pinch of Nom Comfort Food (Kate Allinson & Kay Featherstone)

How Christmas Number One datasets work:

Data extracted from the BookScan UK Total Consumer Market (TCM), to 18 December 2021. For more information, please contact