NEW YORK (Reuters) - The global financial crisis has some people looking in books for answers and the biggest economic calamity in decades is boosting sales of everything from books about the world's richest man to page-turning thrillers.
Borders Group Inc, the second largest U.S. bookseller, and Amazon, the world's largest Web retailer, both said they had seen a recent trend toward finance books, from biographies of key players to books about past financial crises.
"People are really thirsting for knowledge and trying to understand what's happening out there and how we could have gotten to this point in the economy," said Kathryn Popoff, Borders vice president for adult trade books.
"We don't see the book sales really concentrated in one or two titles, we're seeing it spread out across multiple titles, which leads me to believe that people are trying to figure out the different components of what's going on," she said.
"The Snowball," the first authorized biography of billionaire Warren Buffett -- an investment guru whose company, Berkshire Hathaway, invested a total $8 billion in Goldman Sachs and General Electric Co -- has been a bestseller since its release earlier this month.
It is No. 1 on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list and No. 5 on Amazon's bestseller list.
Outside a Manhattan Barnes and Noble bookstore, Anne White, 64, an artist from Newbury, Massachusetts, said she bought "The End of America" and "Give Me Liberty" by Naomi Wolf.
"I'm hoping I will see some answers about what I can do, because you feel a little hopeless about the whole thing," said White. "The financial crisis represents the greed that is taking place in the United States right now."
Among the purchases by her husband Alec, 64, a volunteer mediator, were audio books of Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer." "What better way to escape than down the Mississippi river?" he said, laughing.
Popoff said sales of fiction have been strong in the past month, with a trend toward thrillers. "We're really looking at that as the place that people are escaping to," she said.
With the financial crisis in his thoughts, Scott Christy, 42, a hotel concierge from Manhattan's West Village, bought two mystery books from Barnes and Noble because one was half price. "I'm a fan, and it's definitely an escape," he said.
Borders and Amazon have both seen an increase in personal finance books as "people are trying to understand how it impacts their own life," Popoff said.
On Amazon's "Movers and Shakers" ranking of the biggest gainers in books sales over the past 24 hours, "The Ten Roads to Riches: The Ways the Wealthy Got There (And How You Can Too!)" by Kenneth L. Fisher was at No. 7 on the list after its sales rank jumped to No. 178 from No. 2,407.
While at No. 9 was "Stop the 401(k) Rip-off!: Eliminate Costly Hidden Fees to Improve Your Life" by David B. Loeper, which jumped to 209 in the sales rankings from 2,159.
"There's also been some talk in the industry about how more people will be eating at home now to save money," said Amazon spokeswoman Tammy Hovey. "There has been some increased interest in upcoming big fall new releases from (Food Network's) Ina Garten and Martha Stewart, whose new books are about getting back to basics."
Topping the Amazon "Movers and Shakers" list on Monday was "The 99 Cent Only Stores Cookbook: Gourmet Recipes at Discount Prices," by Christiane Jory, which jumped to 162 from 187,383 in the sales rankings.
"This is an excellent book for the current economic times," wrote Prabash B. Coswatte, from Pasadena, California, in a review of the book on Amazon. "It shows all of us how we can stretch the dollar or our 99 cents."
Editing by Chris Wilson