Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Bestsellers--Find Out What's Popping (Munro, Solomon, McEwan, Sacks) at Boswell, with Lots of Review and Interview Links.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Blasphemy, new and selected stories by Sherman Alexie
2. The Giving Quilt, by Jennifer Chiaverini
3. The Selector of Souls, by Shauna Singh Baldwin
4. Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver
5. The Round House, by Louise Erdrich
6. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
7. Darth Vader and Son, by Jeffrey Brown
8. Sweet Tooth, by Ian McEwan
9. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
10. A Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling

With Louise Erdrich winning the National Book Award for The Round House, we can assume that we'll have our best hardcover sales of her since we've been keeping records, and maybe since the days of Love Medicine and The Beet Queen, which I remember being a particularly huge sales success at Schwartz.

A customer asked me yesterday what I knew about Sweet Tooth, the new Ian McEwan novel, as she'd heard mixed reviews. The UK-based Observer's recommendation offers: "Sweet Tooth is playful, comic, preposterous even. But it's impossible to ignore that its protagonist is a young and fairly gauche English person – female this time – failing miserably (though perhaps not so dangerously) in her job as a spy."

And David Daley in USA Today observes "It's a tightly crafted, exquisitely executed page-turner — a post-modern hall of mirrors asking savvy questions about identity (with an unreliable narrator and a Martin Amis cameo), all concealed in the immersive trappings of a Victorian novel complete with a marriage plot. There's such rich pleasure and vulnerability in McEwan's storytelling, such style and heart in his well-honed sentences."

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. My Bookstore, edited by Ron Rice
2. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, by Ina Garten
3. Thomas Jeffereson: the Art of Power, by Jon Meacham
4. Far from the Tree, by Andrew Solomon
5. Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks
6. Elsewhere, by Richard Russo
7. Roots, by Diane Morgan
8. The Smitten Kitchen, by Deb Perelman
9. The Price of Politics, by Bob Woodward
10. Jerusalem, by Yottam Ottolenghi

The cookbooks are beginning their fourth quarter pop. This felt like it might be the year when the web started stealing our sales by offering out the individual receipes on line but noting that this week's top ten includes four cookbooks begs to differ. Our rep Jason noted I got Ms. Perelman's title wrong on a previous post; I made it sound like a different kind of book altogether.

As the holidays approach, another topic on everyone's must-have list is brain science apparently. While we've yet to have a bestseller-sized pop on Susannah Cahalan's Brain on Fire, Oliver Sacks's Hallucinations is seeing good sales. Suzanne Koven in the Boston Globe notes that the new book is less anecdote heavy, but it's still an interesting anthology of hallucinations that were not linked to mental illness.

Andrew Solomon's new book is about parents raising children with extraordinary needs. The range of circumstances are large, from when the children need parents with a particularly large heart (schizophrenia) to when the burden is more on the parents (children of rape). Like his book, The Noonday Demon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity is an all-encompassing opus. Kathryn Schulz in New York magazine discusses Solomon's call for parents with kids of differing special needs to band together instead of balkanizing. I hope I got that right.

Paperback fiction:
1. Rescue the Good Stuff, by Louisa Loveridge Gallas
2. Wizard's Dream, by Louisa Loveridge Gallas
3. Tiger Claw, by Shauna Singh Baldwin
4. War Dances, by Sherman Alexie
5. Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
followed by four more Sherman Alexie books and one by Shauna Baldwin.

One thing I am noticing about our list this year in paperback is that for the second fall in a row, we do not have a few really strong paperback fiction (excluding erotica) books selling. In the past, we'd have at least a couple selling double digits each week, but our front tables are not driving quantity sales. I wonder if it's the slow takeover of the trade paperback fiction list by commercial fiction, the effect of e-book reading, or the lack of our book club table for a few months. I have no control over the first two, but the book club table is back. One thing that is pretty clear is that moving up the pub date on paperbacks does not seem to increase our sales of them.  It's either for a different market, or it's more about earning back the advance faster.

The Paris Wife finally comes out in paperback on November 27. Let's see how that goes.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Memoir of the Sunday Brunch, by Julia Pandl
2. Historic Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses, by Robert Tanzilo
3. Schuster's and Gimbels, by Paul Geenen
4. Read This, edited by Hans Weyandt
5. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larsen

If you missed our event with Hans Weyandt on Thursday and would like to learn a little more about how Read This came together, here is his interview in The Rumpus with Jennifer Bowen Hicks. Just a tease:

"There was a time last fall where I’d be getting these e-mails [from booksellers] and it would be my favorite part of the day. It was like you said earlier, peeking into the minds of other booksellers and getting to know them well. Even those I knew pretty well I’d feel I’d know better from their lists. There’d be books on there I knew, but there were many that I didn’t. Even for people who read a lot or work in the book world, very few people will know every book on someone’s list. It’s as much fun to see stuff you didn’t know about as it is to see the stuff you’re really connected to."

Books for kids:
1. The Third Wheel: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, volume 7, by Jeff Kinney
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, paperback edition by Sherman Alexie
3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, cloth edition,  by Sherman Alexie
4. Hollow Earth, by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

I still haven't gotten through my head that the price difference on the hardcover and paperback versions of Absolutely True Diary favor hardcover sales at events because they are so close. The hardcover was priced as a kids' book but the paperback was priced as an adult book (as a kids book, it would be closer to $10, maybe $11). Makes a difference.

Our kids' pop this week was below the top five, the graphic novel edition of A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Hope Larson. Descriptions are trimmed, becoming images, but the dialogue is still there. Reviewers are calling it faithful, and Jannis, our bookseller who just finished it, agreed wholeheartedly.  From Kirkus: "Adaptations can be difficult to execute with style and grace; Larson manages to do both and still add her own flair. Larson's admiration and respect for the original text shines through; this is an adaptation done right." This links to the review and an interview with Larson.

For next week's bestsellers, we look to the Journal Sentinel, where we hope to find a second pop for My Bookstore and Read This, as well as Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores, which features entries from Lanora Haradon of the late Next Chapter.

Mike Fischer reviews Alice Munro's latest collection, Dear Life. His take: "Like the 81-year-old Munro, many of the characters here are older, and they're often very aware of time. The most perceptive learn the lesson each of these stories teaches: Life is indeed dear and therefore not to be wasted - reason enough to spend one's days reading and rereading Munro's magnificent stories."

And in Carole E. Barrowman's "Paging through Mysteries" column, she focuses on three titles.

Hand for Hand, by Frank Muir, set at St. Andrews, where  the nearby Valley of Sin is a dumping ground for body parts. Barrowman compares his work to Ian Rankin and Denise Mina. 

Attica Locke's The Cutting Season is set in contemporary Louisiana, at a restored plantation that his been the locale for the death of a migrant worker. Barrowman calls this "an elegant gothic mystery."

And Barrowman calls Andrew Hunt's City of Saints a terrific debut, set in 1930s Salt Lake City. The mystery is based on the real-life murder of a wealthy socialite and an aspiring Hollywood actress and is packed with historical detai.

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