Sunday, January 19, 2014

What's Selling at Boswell This Week? Some Mysteries Pop, a Few Paperbacks Take Off with Book Clubs, and One Series Outsells its Predecessor.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
2. The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, by Alan Bradley
3. Andrew’s Brain, by E.L. Doctorow
4. Inferno, by Dan Brown
5. The Execution, by Dick Wolf

The Flavia de Luce series seems to be gaining new fans, and of course it doesn’t hurt that our mystery specialist, Anne, is a reader. In the sixth outing, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Delacorte) a stranger approaches the 11-year-old chemist at a train station, and later is pushed onto the tracks in the path of an oncoming train.

It doesn’t hurt to have the “Law and Order” credentials when writing a mystery series. In his second Jeremy Fisk outing, The Execution (William Morrow) this NYPD detective teams up with a Mexican colleague to hunt down the serial killer La Chuparosa. I'd link you to the five-star review on The Examiner, but it's got too many pop-up ads for my taste.

Hardcover Nonfiction
1. Swastika Nation, by Arnie Bernstein
2. The Bully Pulpit, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
3. Good Stock, by Sanford D’Amato
4. My Promised Land, by Ari Shavit
5. Duty, by Robert M. Gates

John Dickerson in Slate reports more on Duty (Knopf), based on a press conference he attended about the book. He notes that Gates has a more positive attitude about President Obama than initially reported, with Gates observing that pundits have found supporting arguments for varying opinions in the book.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
2. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
3. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
4. Out to Lunch, by Stacey Ballis
5. The Dinner, by Herman Koch

You can tell a lot about a book's paperback potential by the way it sells in hardcover. A Tale for the Time Being (Penguin) sold a respectable amount in hardcover (28 copies), and had two peaks, with initial reviews and yearend best-of lists. But the key is looking at the months in between. We only had one month (June) without a sale and mostly had sales of three or more, indicating there was strong word-of-mouth on the title.

On the other hand, The Flamethrowers (Scribner), which sold a few more books (33) had the same initial review pop and and an even greater year-end burst, but was far more quiet in the months between, indicating that those sales were more review driven. I'm sure we'll do fine with the paperback, but we had a soft first week, which perhaps is partly because no book club had scheduled it, not knowing the book moved up in the publication cycle.We're reading The Flamethrowers on at our in-store lit group on Monday, March 4, 7 pm, following our February tackling of A Tale of the Time Being.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
2. My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
3. Monuments Men, by Robert. M. Edsel
4. The President’s Club, by Nancy Gibbs
5. Naked Statistics, by Charles Wheelan

Book clubs also affect the top nonfiction list this week, with My Beloved World having a nice pop on our list. Biographies can be touch and go, as they tend to have a hard/soft ratio that leans hardcover. That said, strong women figures can be alluring to many book clubs, with Katherine Graham’s Personal History coming to mind.

Books for Kids:
1. Angel de la Luna and the Fifth Glorious Mystery, by M. Evelina Galang
2. Allegiant, by Veronica Roth
3. Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs
4. Spirit Animals Volume 2: The Hunted, by Maggie Stiefvater
5. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

In its second outing, I’m already making a pronouncement that Spirit Animals (Scholastic), the newest multi-author series from Scholastic, seems to be doing a lot better than their last foray, The Infinity Ring. There is an interactive component to this series as well, which you can learn more about on their website.

In the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Orfeo (Norton), the newest novel from Richard Powers, about a scientist in encrypts music into cells, who finds himself a wanted man by Homeland Security. He praises this “notoriously difficult writer” whose works nonetheless “resoundingly affirm the ongoing relevance and power of art.” This is Powers first book at Norton, after a good-sized stint at FSG. I'm guessing he followed editor John Glusman, but I'd have to read the acknowledgements to make sure. Ah, here's confirmation.

From Jon Gilbertson, special to the the Journal Sentinel, a review of I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the March up Freedom's Highway. We're hosting Greg Kot on Monday, January 27, 7 pm, and I'm about halfway through the book. It's not the kind of review where you can give something away, so I can note that Gilberton learned that Kot only used about 10% of his material for the book. But did you know that Bob Dylan proposed to Mavis Staples in 1963? 

And don't forget about Jim Higgins' continuing blog posts on reading John Updike's short stories.

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