Friday, December 19, 2014

A Visit to Papercuts J.P. plus Notes on Four Books.

On my recent trip to Worcester to see family, I was able to detour over to the new bookstore in Jamaica Plain, Papercuts J.P., which turned out to be down the block from my friend Bob. It's owned by Kate Layte, and is a mix of fiction, nonfiction, art, and kids books. It's a small space at 500 square feet, but as Bob says, she uses the space very effectively. Here are a few books I saw on my visit that are a jumping off point for some other things I had been thinking about writing.

1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
No matter what kind of store you have, you almost have to stock the must-read literary book of the season. I had so many chances to read this, starting with a multi-author dinner I attended last winter. That said I can't read every book in advance and I had wound up going with Delancey, since we were eating at that restaurant, and I'm happy to say we just sold a copy of Molly Wizenberg's food memoir yesterday. We wound up having multiple reads of the book, and in a fit of craziness, I sent my galley to my sister Claudia in Worcester. I saw the copy and said, "You have to move this to the top of your reading pile" and she did. Meanwhile, I bought a copy at Papercuts as I thought when a book is a phenomenon like this, it's time to stop quoting everyone else when you put it in customer's hands and time to figure out what is going on yourself.

2. Before After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthia Aríequi
I brought my mom some books to read, as it's still one of her great pleasures. I was thrilled to find a nicely priced large print edition of The Boys in the Boat at Boswell, and I added on copies of Renée Rosen's All the Lady Wants and Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Mom needs a good plot and I thought these books would appeal to her, plus then she can then lend them out to her friends, or yes, even my sister. But one book we looked at together is Before After. We've been selling the book like crazy at Boswell--it's been our mission for fall to convert folks to its joys, but I really think it's a great book for folks of any age. It's such a great book to spur creativity. My mom and I had a great time trying to guess what would be after. For this to work, it helps to have a sheet of paper to cover the left side of the page. I'm excited to say that at least as of yesterday, we're the #1 store in sales for Before After on Above the Treeline. I have gone through this book so many times that I have decided to say that I've read it, which is something I never do for wordless picture books.

3. Animalium, curated by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott
While we're only at #10 on Above the Treeline for this book, we're still proud of our great sales. As I've mentioned on WUWM, the book is like an museum in the box (in particular, the Milwaukee Public Museum, which is a compliment, by the way). I was impressed that Papercuts had more than one copy of this (as they did for Before After) as I probably would have been tempted to use my limited inventory to spread stock around, but I think it's bold to make a statement, and if you're doing a lot of handselling, you need at least small piles of the books you love this time of year. I've had a lot of fun hand-selling Animalium; it's not just the beautiful illustrations, but the design of them. It's like the creatures are dancing on the page.

4. How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, by Jordan Ellenberg
I have a confession. I made this book one of my five picks in our holiday newsletter, but I hadn't finished the book, so I made it my mission to read the last 100 or so pages on this trip, and I am thrilled to say "mission accomplished." Whether Ellenberg was arguing out the dynamics of elections or explaining why so many critics do not understand regression to the mean, the book was a rare thing--an accessible academic book that is also entertaining. It reminded me a lot of my classes when I was a math major--I'd sometimes get lost in the classes but I could still do ok on the tests.  It's turned out to have a nice second life at Christmas,, and the we are currently #3 on Treeline for sales. It's included because this was what I was reading the day I visited the bookstore.

A note about Above the Treeline. It's a service that lets publishers see your sales and inventory and stores in turn can compare their sales to other stores. We don't know exactly what the other stores are, but that honestly doesn't matter and keeps individual store sales confidential. I highly recommend it for small stores, especially now that it feeds info to the Edelweiss electronic catalog system and thus makes buying more efficient.

There are a lot of great bookstores in the Boston area, and while I am always nervous about bookstores cannibalizing each other, there is also an awful lot of online shopping in the Boston area. It would be great if at least some of that business migrated back to indie bricks and mortar. As I always say about Boswell and other bookstores, we'll be around as long as enough of you want us. More about Papercuts J.P. in Boston Magazine.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Side-Splitting Salute to Christopher Miller's "American Cornball."

I may have complained a bit about how I haven't read as much in 2014 as I have in years previous. And while there are lots of excuses, one of them is that I had trouble finding the right books to capture my attention, and I wound up getting bogged down in a number. But it just goes to show that when you find the right book, it doesn't matter how busy you are, you find time to read it.

That was my experience with the 500-plus page behemoth that is American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny, by Christopher Miller (photo credit Marlene Sauer). From absent-minded professors to zealots, Miller reviewed old films (including silents), television shows, radio, comic books, magazine cartoons from the New Yorker to racy men's magazines, novelty postcards and catalogs, and of course comic strips, with Al Capp's Lil' Abner seemingly being particularly influential on what Americans thought was funny for much of the 20th century.

Some things are funny because we don't much see them anymore, like boarding houses, which went out of fashion in the 1950s. One of the things you learn about humor, is that it would sometimes take years for a trend to truly be a subject for humor (the heyday of the hippie-themed strips in Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy is the seventies, not the sixties) and even longer for a punchline to go out of fashion, sometimes as much as twenty years. But in their day, boarding houses were hilarious--a stern landlady (yes, always a woman), crappy food (you paid a flat rate, so lots of hash, another topic in the book), one bathroom, and lots of people living together who had nothing in common. It was the Real World of its day.

Many topics went out of fashion because let's face it, the folks creating the humor for popular culture were mostly White men. At one time, what could be more funny than an old maid? And yes, Miller chronicled the images on numerous decks of playing cards. Yes, at one time we got our humor through playing cards. Miller doesn't really chronicle all the different ethnic and racial stereotypes; it's my feeling that he realized that this would push the book into uncomfortable territory, though he certainly does note some. But what might be more surprising to many younger folks nowadays is how many scorn was held for the Irish, and that humor was vitriolic.

One of the revelations of American Cornball is that every age has their own taboos. I mentioned the craze of dead baby jokes in the seventies and the person I was chatting with who hadn't remembered this craze was rather disturbed. Children are such sacrosanct images in our day, but at one time, we had the Gastlycrumb Tinies and Struwwelpeter, two books that killed off numerous younguns, who were admittedly poorly behaved. Nowadays we'd blame their parents, or even more likely, their school teachers, right? But who'd take responsibility for those disturbing Little Audrey jokes, and how did she morph into that cute little moppet of comic book and cartoon?

Sex is always a subject for humor, taboo but in different ways. There was a time when ankles were fetishized and thus the subject of humor, but nowadays, the same sort of humor would be reserved for other parts of the body that were simply not discussable. Even pants, because they hold our genitals, held much humor. And of course what couldn't be said resorted to innuendo, which Miller thinks is why there is so much water squirting in humor. And oh, the lines that were crossed in Marx Brothers movies!

Humor is really a cultural boundary of acceptability that we draw in our lives. Just inside the line and it's funny, but venture too far and you're in bad taste territory. One thing that both Shakespeare and most modern-day folks find funny that was relatively taboo during most of Miller's research was farting. It just didn't come up much. Now spanking, that was funny. Ask The Katzenjammer Kids.

Miller notes that much humor (and the source of laughter in general) does really at its core reflect a schadenfreude. Much as we like to "laugh with", we're often really "laughing at." But there are many subjects for humor that are there just because the creator and his (in this case, I am specifically using the male pronoun) audience simply liked to spend time thinking about them--things like fishing and hunting and  golf.

Just about every entry has some fascinating tidbit. Why was amnesia so funny on 1950s and early 1960s  sitcoms, such that just about every show had an episode devoted to the topic? It was a very special kind of amnesia, in that the character (almost always a principal player in the show) didn't forget everything, but instead changed personalities. It usually started with a blow to the head and anyone out there about the age of forty probably knows how to cure such television-induced memory loss.

But you get these sorts of tidbits in almost every entry. Yes, it's a great book in the vein of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader, but if you don't read it straight through, you'll miss out on a lot. It's one of those books that is not just great to read, but is much fun to talk about afterwards. You'll never think about a bindlestick the same way again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

More Best-Of-2014 Lists! An Annotated Look at the Shelf Awareness Top 20.

Our friends at Shelf Awareness also have a top 10 (or rather, top 20) of 2014 and I was particularly excited as it was my best showing to date in reads, five out of twenty books! I've been very self-conscious that this is probably my worst book-completed list since college. And actually they have a children's list so it's actually a top 30. But how the heck to I count wordless picture books in my total, which is really tough, as I have been recommending both Before After and The Farmer and the Clown this fall, and Frazee's picture book made their top 10.

Fiction:
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Fives and Twenty-Fives, by Michael Pitre
A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
Redeployment, by Phil Klay
Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
Ruby, by Cynthia Bond
The Secret Place, by Tana French
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

I read Dear Committee Members, Everything I Never Told You, and Station Eleven. The Celeste Ng novel is actually bubbling under the top 15 on The New York Times bestseller List. It was our online competitor's best novel of the year, which means they are pushing it hard. I think it's a wonderful novel too, and was on my rec shelf for months, but while my customers would see this as a natural for my rec shelf, I wonder if their customers will go with its quiet power.

This list reminded me that there was a lot of buzz for Cynthia Bond's Ruby before publication, but it wound up being quiet for us, despite a nice rec from Carly. She called it "At once a brutally horrific and endearing tale of romance and intolerance." It's nice for it to get another shout out.

And of course there are always books that completely escape your radar. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, is about a Swedish curmudgeon whose life is upended when a young family moves next door. They are comparing it to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and it's reminding me a bit of Florence Gordon as well. I'll have to show this to Jane and Anne.

And I can think of a few people who might like Red Rising, by Pierce Brown. It's a science fiction novel about a caste of workers on Mars that think they are helping to make it a livable planet for all, only they find out they are simply slaves to the ruling elite. You can only imagine what happens next? They get back to work, right?

Nonfiction:
All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, by Matt Bai
Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, by Geoff Dyer
Bad Feminist: Essays, by Roxane Gay
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
Fire Shut Up in My Bones, by Charles M. Blow
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides
Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, by Ben Macintyre
Tibetan Peach Pie, by Tom Robbins

I read All The Truth is Out and Bad Feminist. Jason is a bit fan of In the Kingdom of Ice. And I have a funny story about The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs. A group of younger women came into the store yesterday to take a picture of the book, which was in our book club bookcase, with a shelf talker for their new group. They were hoping to get the book on a higher shelf, but alas, the groups are in alphabetical order. I said, "The only exception is the shelf at eye-level, which is the in-store groups." And one of them replied "Oh, you should become an in-store group." And I said "Oh, these are run by a bookseller." And she replied "Then you should become a bookseller." Oh, if hiring were that simple. But they were very happy to just be in the case. Hope the discussion goes well!

I don't know about you, but when you read a book randomly, as I did for All the Truth is Out, and it turns out to hit someone's best-of list, you feel like you've struck reading gold. I'm still not sure I'd recommend it to everybody, but if you're interested in politics or journalism, it really is a fascinating look at a turning point in our recent history.

Children's and Young Adult:
Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee
How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson, illus. by Hadley Hooper
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, by Peter Sís
Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin
We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

Jannis and Amie have both been working hard to turn people on to Peter Sis's The Pilot and the Little Prince and report back to me seemingly every success. It can be like that this time of year. I know I was letting Jason know at one point on Sunday every time a customer conversation turned to Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What We Talked About on the Kathleen Dunn Show Yesterday, December 15, 2014

Here are the books we talked about on Kathleen Dunn's Wisconsin Public Radio show on Monday, December 15.

Organize a clutter issue in a new way with:
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

A fellow who has has stuff together:
You are Here and An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield
Hey, we still have signed copies of both.

The book that is "the book" for just about every independent bookstore:
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Scribner has been publishing Anthony Doerr for 13 years!

War fiction has a lot of resonance.
Redeployment, by Phil Klay
What seemed like very good reviews turned out to be amazing reviews as the book shows up on so-many best-of lists.

About a part of war we Americans know less about:
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
Autralian POWs in Japan during World War II

Despite a hgh-profile bad review from Michiko Kakutani
Bark, by Lorrie Moore
It turns out to be on a lot of best-of lists for 2014.

From the "curious" section of our holiday newsletter:
1,339 Quite Interesting Facts to Make Your Jaw Drop, by John Lloyd
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe
American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny, by Christopher Miller

Nancy, a caller, recommends: 
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Thwarted desires, identity, and family dynamics.

As I was talking about this book, I realized that the family dynamic is similar to that of Mark Slouka's Brewster. The favored child has died and a remaining sibling can't live up to the ghost.

 For music fans, from a caller:
On the Road with Janis Joplin, by John Byrne Cooke

And if you like your music history in fictional form:
A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James

Two celebrities battle it out:
Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
Seriously, pick up both of them in the store, one in each hand.

Kathleen recommends:
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns
She says it should go on best-of lists.

The history books people are buying:
The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

Film uncovers a new set of readers, due to their massive reach, compared to books. We just don't have the resources, and I'm not talking about Boswell, but all of publishing and book selling.

The two books you should buy if your person likes these:
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free, by Héctor Tobar
Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans, by Gary Krist

What's the death and aging trend all about?
Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast
Let me Be Frank with You?, by Richard Ford

From Sue in Madison:
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
She went back and reread Gilead and Home. Now go back and read Housekeeping.

It's won the battle of the Iowa novels with Robinson's Lila edging out Jane Smiley's Some Luck, but Smiley has an ace up her sleeve as the next part of the series comes out in 2015.

On extinction, Kathleen Dunn recommends:
Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and the Future of Life on Earth, by Anthony  Barnosky
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert

From a listener:
Mariposa Road: The First Butterfly Big Year, by Robert Michael Pyle
Continues the theme of species and possible extinction.  Note: like a number of these titles recommended by listeners, this book would not come in time for Chirstmas if ordered from us.

From the newsletter:
This is the World, by M. Sasek

Very Complicated Plots:
The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Not Enough Plot:
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris
All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
It sure doesn't matter. It just makes it a little more difficult to hand-sell.

Mary in Eau Claire:
Black Dog, by Stephen Booth
This is the first in a series

Daniel's thriller to buy this fall, based on Carole Barrowman's recommendation:
I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes

The historical to read--lots of research, very juicy, for fans of Mr. Selfridge:
What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen

A caller plugs his funny book from 2000:
The Non Production Consolidation Operation, by John Rosa

Kathleen Dunn recommends:
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, by Michael Lewis

One more children book that author Lisa Moser and I recommend:
The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee

One caveat for this time of year. Just because the Boswell inventory page says we have it doesn't mean we do. Books that are on hold for other customers are included in that total, and sometimes, books just can't be found in the system or there was some sort of inventory glitch. So to make sure, either call us at (414) 332-1181 or email us at info@boswellbooks.com and we can put the book on hold for you. Obviously this is not an issue when the inventory says 20, but if there are less than five, it could be good advice.




Monday, December 15, 2014

Gift Books on WUWM's Lake Effect, Fiction and Nonfiction on Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn (Today at 2 pm CST)

Last Wednesday (and repeated last Saturday), Mitch Teich interviewed me about gift books. Here is the list of books. To read more about each book, visit the WUWM website. You can also listen to the entire interview.

Before After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Mathias Arégui

American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny, by Christopher Miller

The Best American Infographics 2014, edited by Gareth Cook, Introduction by Nate Silver

World War I in 100 Objects, by Peter Doyle

Animalium (Welcome to the Museum), illustrated by Jenny Broom, written by Katie Scott

Great Maps: The World’s Masterpieces Explored and Explained, by Jerry Brotton

This is the World: A Global Treasury, by Miroslav Sasek

The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft, by H.P. Lovecraft, Edited with a foreward and notes by Leslie S. Klinger, Introduction by Alan Moore

At Home with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson, Foreword by Mary Guyatt

Pabst Farms: The History of a Model Farm, by John Eastberg

Today I will be on Kathleen Dunn's show on Wisconsin Public Radio at 2 pm central time, talking about fiction and nonfiction. You can listen live in Milwaukee on WHAD, or you can listen to it streamed on their website.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Boswell's Bestsellers for the Week ending December 13, and What a Week it Is! Also, Journal Sentinel Critics Weigh in with Best-Of 2014 Picks.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
3. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
4. Redeployment, by Phil Klay
5. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
6. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
7. Blue Horses, by Mary Oliver
8. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
9. Moriarty, by Anthony Horowitz
10. Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami

If you think All The Light We Cannot See was outselling everything else last week, you should see this week. That said, it's great to see a pop on Anthony Horowitz's Moriarty, the first sanctioned novel from the Doyle family since House of Silk. Here's a recent story from the Deseret News on the family's tangled web of copyright issues. And this review in the London Telegraph calls Moriarty "Exciting, quirky and true to the spirit of Conan Doyle."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Best Cat Book Ever, by Kate Funk
2. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. You are Here, by Marie Kondo
5. Lulu's Christmas Story, by Ludmilla Bollow
6. Deep Down Dark, by Hector Tobar
7. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
8. What If, by Randall Munroe
9. Pabst Farms, by John C. Eastberg (event 12/30)
10. The Cook's Illustrated Meat Book, by America's Test Kitchen

I'd like to take credit for our pop in sales (our best week to date) for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I happen to know it is also on Mel's rec shelf, already a national bestseller, and was featured in our holiday gift guide, which has been giving traction to a number of titles. But I should also note the really great interview that Robin Young did with Marie Kondo's editor, Lisa Westmoreland, on Here on Earth. Similarly, we've been pushing Deep Down Dark as the next Unbroken or The Boys in the Boat, but I bet that Ann Patchett selecting the book as the NPR Morning Edition Book Club pick drove a lot of this pop.

Paperback Fiction:
1. What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen
2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
3. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
4. Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline
5. Brewster, by Mark Slouka
6. At Night We Walk in Circles, by Daniel Alarcón
7. The Circle, by Dave Eggers
8. Someone, by Alice McDermott
9. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
10. I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes

So as you can imagine, I've become a bit obsessed with What the Lady Wants. We had a very nice event, and I convinced everyone that we should keep it through Christmas, particularly because so many Milwaukeeans had that ritual of taking the Hiawatha to Chicago and having lunch at the Walnut Room. So I know that the book is fairly regional, but in addition to Chicago, it's important to note that Marshall Field and Company had stores in Texas since the 1970s, and had a good run in Columbus as well, actually two, as they bought the Union and made it a Marshall Fields-owned Halle's store, but only for one year and that probably did not win the hearts of too many in Columbus. So never mind that!

But if you loved your old department store, whatever the city, if you watched Mr. Selfridge, or if you like traditional historical fiction, what we would have called of the carriage trade variety, this book is for you.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. Eat Bacon, Don't Jog, by Grant Petersen
3. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
4. The Heart of Everything that Is, by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
5. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
6. Best American Infographics 2014, edited by Nate Silver
7. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
8. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
9. Dear Mrs. Griggs, by Genevieve McBride and Stephen Byers
10. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

You wouldn't think a Native American history would be the perfect Christmas present, but with the help of Conrad's rec, The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud,** an American Legend had its best week of sales at Boswell since its paperback publication in September. Per Chuck Haga's review in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, "The story of Red Cloud is presented here with all the tension and excitement of a good Western novel, with sketches of greater and lesser Indian fighters, mountain man Jim Bridger, the Pony Express and the Oregon trail, diminishing buffalo herds and spreading cholera."

Books for Younger Kids:
1. Before After, by Matthias Arégui and Anne-Margot Ramstein
2. Countablock, by Christopher Franceschelli with illustrations by Peskimo
3. Little Blue Truck's Christmas, by Alice Schertle, with illustrations by Jill McElmurry
4. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett, with illustrations by Jon Klassen
5. Flashlight, by Lizi Boyd
6. Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, with illustrations by LeUyen Phan
7. Waiting is Not Easy, by Mo Willems
8. This is the World, by M. Sasek*
9. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
10. Hush Little Polar Bear, a board book written and illustrated by Jeff Mack

It's hard to think that a short visit to my old publishing (and college) friend Elise at Candlewick could have helped jump-start two of our biggest kids' successes this fall, but while we probably still would have done just fine with Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, I got the sales pitch that has led me to help it along, and as for Before After, it probably would have been off my radar for much longer. It's tougher for a buyer, who is inundated with great books, but one of her favorites, Lizi Boyd's Flashlight, is having a nice week of sales. She writes: "A young child sets out from a tent with just a flashlight for a little nighttime exploring, while the flashlight illuminates something new on each page, the fun also lies in the many things happening in the dark as well. A gentle nighttime book with a fun twist there is something new to be seen with each viewing."

Oh, and we have a few copies of Sam and Dave Dig a Hole left signed by both Mac and Jon.

One thing both Before After and Flashlight have in common is that they are wordless, and that sometimes frightens adult buyers. But wordless books almost force interaction between whoever is reading the book with whoever else, and what could be better than that to foster imagination, storytelling, and a little bonding?

Books for Older Kids:
1. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
2. Animalium, curated by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott
3. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell
4. Unbroken, the young adult adaptation by Laura Hillenbrand
5. Nuts to You, by Lynne Ray Perkins
6. The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, by Jeff Kinney
8. Sisters, by Raina Talgemeier
9. Minecraft Combat Handbook, Scholastic staff, with help from Stephanie Milton
10. Rooftoppers, by Katherine Rundell

Guess who Amie's favorite middle grade writer is at the moment? If you guessed Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms' Katherine Rundell, you could well be correct, though her book of the year might be The Glass Sentence. Like President Obama's family, she's also a fan of Lynne Ray Perkins' Nuts to You. The Kirkus reviewer wrote: "With debut novel Rooftoppers, Rundell showed her capacity to write an entertaining story featuring a courageous female protagonist; this second novel surpasses by virtue of its striking, soaring prose." And what do you know, Rooftoppers also shows up, at #10.

Don't miss Terry Gross's interview with Jacqueline Woodson on Fresh Air for Brown Girl Dreaming. I listened to it twice, and not totally accidentally. 

The Journal Sentinel book section features their critic's ten favorites of 2014. Here are the lists. You can read more about them on the Journal Sentinel website (each name is linked to their feature), or in your Tap section of today's paper, of course. We hope to have a display up by tomorrow with the featured titles.

Jim Higgins:
Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes
Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast
Charity and Sylvia, by Rachel Hope Cleves
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris Bohjalian
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
The Scraps Book, by Lois Ehlert
The Shelf: Adventures in Extreme Reading, by Phyllis Rose
The String Diaries, by Stephen Lloyd Jones (both Lauren Beukes and Stephen Lloyd Jones are published by the Mulholland imprint)
When Mystical Creatures Attack, by Kathleen Founds

Mike Fischer:
Song of the Shank, by Jeffrey Renard Allen
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, by Naomi Klein
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
Family Furnishings, by Alice Munro
In the Light of What We Know, by Zia Haider
Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
Revolution, by Deborah Wiles

Carole E. Barrowman:
I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes
The Red Road, by Denise Mina
The Voices, by F. R. Tallis
North of Boston, by Elizabeth Elo
Forty Acres, by Dwayne Alexander Smith
The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove
The Intern's Handbook, by Shane Kuhn
Revival, by Stephen King
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Book of You, by Claire Kendall

*I was a little surprised to see This is the World targeted to ages 10 and up. Seemed surprising to me, so I went to look at the individual books in the series, which are indeed targeted to ages 4 through 8. Go figure.

**The Heart of Everything That Is is actually #18 on the nonfiction paperback bestseller list, so needless to say, momentum is on our side for this one.

Friday, December 12, 2014

To Wander into Cliché Territory, Top Tens of 2014 are Reproducing Like Rabbits. Our Displays for NYT and WashPost and More.

The top tens of the year have taken on a life of their own, haven't they? It's interesting to me how .
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 best-of list became much more powerful when they staged the top 100 first (also known as the "Notable Books of the Year", and pulled the top 10 out of it, and went to a clear top 10 (not something between 8 and 12 books, depending on the year) and have pretty much now standardized it as five fiction or poetry, and five nonfiction.

So that display went up. And this year, Jason decided to also feature The Washington Post top 10 on the same table. For one thing, the selection hardly overlapped, with the only title being in common is Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction.

It was nice to see All the Light We Cannot See, which we expected to see on lots of year-end lists, but as one critic said to me, in compiling the lists, you don't always want to be too obvious, and I guess Doerr's novel has become this year's Goldfinch*, the breakout book that is expected to be favored for best-of lists and awards for its popularity, but in fact may not make said lists partly due to its popularity. It's not like the three people at Boswell who read it early were jumping on the bandwagon; they had no idea what was going to happen. When I read it, I will be jumping on the bandwagon, but that's the way this sort of thing goes when you don't have as uch time to read as you want. For the last few months, all I've had to say is that it's the literary book everyone is reading, give a short plot and structure explanation, and be done with it. It always seemed to me that the Pulitzer is the prize for Doerr. Of course it depends on the judges, but I think accessibility is more of a criterion for that prize than some of the other big ones.

And of course it was nice to see at least one book I'd read, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? Jane was thrilled with the Penelope Fitzgerald selection and Carly was pretty stoked about Dept. of Speculation making the list. Dave, our Norton rep said that I would love Akhil Sharma's Family Life if I read it. Who knows? Perhaps it will be a book club selection or he'll come to Boswell or I'll be stranded on a desert island (or the equivalent) with it. Those, alas, are the three scenarios I can come up with at the moment.

Like The New York Times post, The Washington Post had one book I read and loved (Station Eleven), one book that won a major award (The Narrow Road to the Deep North, versus Redeployment), one book about death that we're selling like crazy (Being Mortal, in lieu of Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant), one crowd pleaser (The Paying Guests, which has at least four Boswell reads), and one biography that someone we know is in love with (Tennessee Williams, which also made the top ten of local critic Mike Fischer). Unlike The New York Times list, there's a book that Jason really likes, Empire of Sin. I don't think anything on The Times floats his boat; I could be wrong, as he reads so much that it's hard to keep track of it all.

We've got a nice display of both books back in the fiction section, which in most years moves up to the front of the store after Christmas, when the table of boxed Christmas cards is cleared.

*We still have a few signed copies of The Goldfinch. They are neither bookplates nor tip-ins but the real thing.