Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Boswell + Best + Possessive = Boswell's Best for Tuesday, February 26. Food for Thought from Al Gore, Amity Shlaes, Cristoph Irmscher, and the Writing Teams of Po Bronson/Ashley Merryman and Kevin Cullen/Shelley Murphy.

It's Tuesday, and that means new releases. Last week I asked Greg to pick out a few books to feature with some guidelines (it had to be on Boswell's Best, for one) and he came up with Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing (Twelve), by Po Broson and Ashley Merryman. The authors previously collaborated on NurtureShock, and separately, Bronson wrote the #1 bestseller, What Should I Do with My Life? It's in the vein of Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink, both of whom just spoke at Winter Institute. Pink actually wrote a great rec for Bronson/Merryman's last collaboration, Nurtureshock. Of Top Dog, Publishers Weekly's take: "Accessible for fans of pop science, yet substantial enough to have practical applications, Bronson and Merryman's investigation will have folks rethinking the impulse to win at work and play"

Our trip to Kansas City over the weekend left us with a lot of time in the car. There was some quiet time, some doing that thing where you scan every radio station for ten seconds time, and best of all, the we found a public radio station and we're going to listen to it until it gets all fuzzy time. Yesterday we heard Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy talking with Terry Gross about Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice (Norton) on Fresh Air. The interview was very fascinating and I stopped reading during the segment, which is highly unusual when I like the book I'm immersed in (and quite common when I don't). Michael Connelly called this "the definitive story" and noted, "I couldn't put it down." I confirmed that the publisher did not trick Connelly by putting glue on the cover.  Everybody else likes it too, as Jason noted it's on The NYT bestseller list next week.

I thought when we got in copies of The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change (Random House) a few week's ago that Al Gore would not need my help selling at Boswell, but despite a strong showing on some lists, we still have signed first editions. Chrystia Freeland in the Washington Post reports "Sprawling, earnest and ambitious--its modest title is The Future--Al Gore’s new book embodies both the virtues and the flaws of its author. But those hardy souls who slog past the weaknesses will be rewarded by a book that is brave, original and often fun"

Speaking of national bestsellers with presidential confidence, Amity Shlaes's Coolidge (Harper) is also a huge hit, but while we generally do swimmingly well with serious presidential biography, we're a little slow out of the gate with this one. Like Gore's book, we're discounting this new biography 20%. This essay in the Wall Street Journal explains Coolidge's timely appeal--he was known as a budget balancer and Shlaes directs the Four Percent Growth Project at the George W. Bush Presidential Center.  Aha! The secret is that this is probably getting a lot of enthusiasm from conservative news sources (I still don't know the answer for Gore), and while we do sell conservative titles, particularly ones with intellectual heft, there are other venues that sell them better. A rather famous liberal author confided to me that he wished his followers had the purchasing loyalty of the counterpoints on the left, who will buy a book out of duty, much like family will do at a launch event.

We leave politics behind for another biography, Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), by Christoph Irmscher. A pioneer of field resarch, Agassiz was a Swiss immigrant who settled in Boston after coming over to leacture. He was known for his obsessive collecting, and convinced the American public to send him specimens. (If you like this, stay tuned for The Edge of the Earth, by Christina Schwarz, a novel that covers this time period and specimen collecting from a different angle). Rebecca Stott informs us in The New York Times Book Review that "The range of Agassiz’s interests and expertise seems remarkable to a modern reader, given the narrow specialties of contemporary scientific practice, but in many ways, it was this restless curiosity that made him a transitional figure. He may have forged the path for research as a profession ensconced in universities endowed with posts and chairs, but he also belonged to the older age of the ­polymathic natural philosopher."

If I was caught up on everything else I have to do today, I would tell you about Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Random House), by Michael Moss. But there are things to be done, so I'll just link you to this UK Guardian review.

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