Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Bestseller Post--What Sold Last Week at Boswell?

It looks like at least some of my distribution list for the Boswell and Books blog. If you're wondering what happened because B&B is not popping up in your in box, please resign up here.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, by Emma Straub
2. Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon
3. The Malice of Fortune, by Michael Ennis
4. Winter of the World, by Ken Follett
5. This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz

It’s only a couple times a year that a short story makes bestseller impact, but Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her debuted in the top ten. Perhaps it’s because of the impact of Diaz’s previous novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, or perhaps the accolades shed on his first short story collection, Drown. Or perhaps it’s because similar raves are being written for the new collection. Ron Hansen offers this praise in the Washington Post: “Written in a singular idiom of Spanglish, hip-hop poetry and professorial erudition, it is comic in its mopiness, charming in its madness and irresistible in its heartfelt yearning.”

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. My Mother was Nuts, by Penny Marshall
2. Wheat Belly, by William Davis
3. Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie
4. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
5. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough

Paul Tough, an editor at The New York Times Magazine, gets a pop on How Children Succeed, a book that is said to reverse thinking on what makes successful children—it’s character, he says, not test scores. Here’s more on NPR.

And our friend John came in, saying he is riveted by Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie’s new memoir of his years in hiding. “I need to read every book he mentions on the first hundred pages.” He’s starting with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Anton Checkhov’s short stories.

Paperback fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar
3. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
4. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
5. The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

At a sports bar last night for a party where I was asked to sell books (long story), I wound up having a conversation with two guys who were trying to figure out what my game plan was if the store couldn’t compete in price with the lowballers and didn’t seem to sell the celebrity books that sometimes seem to dominate the nonfiction bestseller lists. When I mentioned Ann Patchett and Jeffrey Eugenides, who’ve both had numerous appearances on our bestseller list this past year and both had very successful visits to the store, their faces went blank. But then I had to admit that I didn't recognize most of the athletes who graced the names of the menu's sandwiches. Just one niche befriending another niche on a Saturday evening.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Just Ride, by Grant Petersen
2. How to Live Almost Forever, by Leonard Zubrensky, Gary N. Guten, and L. Samuel Wann
3. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
4. Write a Thon, by Rochelle Melander
5. The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt

I thought with everything going on this past Saturday, including Doors Open Milwaukee and two Obama talks, we might have a problem getting folks out to see Grant Petersen for his Just Ride talk. But fans are fans, and our attendance was pretty closely in line with Petersen’s other appearances, perhaps slightly lower due to the competition and the Saturday placement. But in January through March, that Saturday afternoon slot can actually boost sales.

With Len Zubrensky and Gary Guten’s talk, event sales dominate this week’s paperback nonfiction list. Another is an upcoming event. On Tuesday, October 9, 7 pm, we’re hosting Rochelle Melander’s NaNoWriMo prep talk. Several folks are preparing by buying her guide book, Write a Thon. And then we had a particularly large pop on In the Garden of Beasts, with the book almost doubling its weekly rate of the last month. Something happened, but I don’t know what.

Books for kids:
1. Bad Kitty for President (paperback), by Nick Bruel
2. Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, by Nick Bruel
3. Bad Kitty Christmas, by Nick Bruel
4. The Diviners, by Libba Bray
5. Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, by Nick Bruel

Young adult titles don’t get traditional newspaper reviews, but boy do they get massive blog attention. I was fascinated to see that the Guardian did a mash-up, using a blogger, labeled a blogger, in traditional format. But is her effusiveness more of a blogger style or newspaper critic’s style? I’m not sure—think about when Maslin or Kakutani or Charles or Fischer really, really love something.

So here’s The Book Addited Girl: on The Diviners: “Now, with so many various storylines, the plot could have been so confusing so easily. But it just wasn't - it was rich, complex and addictive - an elaborate web of stories, winding together to create one masterpiece tapestry of a book.”

What might hit the list next week?

Jim Higgins offers a thumbs up for My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher, a novel about a young girl whose sister was killed in a terrorist bombing.

From the review: "If a novel about a family wounded by terrorism can be called charming, Annabel Pitcher's My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is that novel. It delights and uplifts while still taking its characters' traumas seriously, and in this horrible day of political blather never devolves into talking points.”

Read the rest here.

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