Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Bestsellers for Week Ending February 22--Pops from Alice Hoffman and Jennifer Senior in Hardcover,

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
2. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
3. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman
4. Ripper, by Isabel Allende
5. On Such a Full Sea, by Chang-rae Lee

Last weekend a customer came in, looking for a book for her daughter. She wanted a novel that highlighted the Lower East Side, and I had just the book, but it wasn't coming out until Tuesday. Alice Hoffman's new novel, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Scribner), is set in a pivotal moment in New York history,wrapped in a mystery, but with Alice Hoffman's storytelling gifts on full display. Wendy Smith in Newsday calls the new book "a return to top form." while Patty Rhule in USA Today calls it "mesmerizing."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
2. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
3. Schottenfreude, by Ben Schott
4. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
5. All Joy and No Fun, by Jennifer Senior

I have mentioned that there are a surprising number of high-profile parenting books out and some have been selling quite well. Jennifer Senior's All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Ecco) has hit a particular nerve and has had the resultant sales. Andrew Solomon reviewed the book in The New York Times Book Review and here's Senior answering advice questions in The Washington Post. If you missed Solomon on the TED Radio Hour talking about his own book, Far from the Tree, vertical and horizontal identities, and how it shaped his own parenting experience.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
2. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
3. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud
4. The Home for Wayward Clocks, by Kathie Giorgio
5. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jason and I were pondering paperback reprint jackets at the front desk, and I realized in the middle of writing this that this was more of a separate blog post, so I'm going to withold judgment on the paperback jacket of The Woman Upstairs (Vintage) for now. Instead I'll throw some more reviews and features at you. Ron Charles's review in The Washington Post is filled with praise, while as a counterpoint, here's a long essay in The London Review of Books from Emily Witt.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Civil Rights Activism in Milwaukee, by Paul Geenen (event 2/27, 7 pm)
2. The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel
3. After Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey
4. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
5. The Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku (event 2/26, 7 pm, come early)

Two upcoming events have a pop on this week's bestseller list, as well as one of this week's events, which had decent turnout in spite of the weather. Alas, the two Wisconsinites mentioned in After Visiting Friends (Scribner) were kept away by the rain/snow mix and flood warnings. We should have very nice evenings with Michio Kaku on Wednesday and Paul Geenen on Thursday. Both events should be bustling, but in particular, please come early for Michio Kaku, as we might hit capacity. The truth is that Geenen, being local, will likely do more events in the future for Civil Rights Activism in Milwaukee (History), most notably one at the Milwaukee Public Library on Sunday, March 9.

Books for Kids:
1. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, by Sheila Turnage
2. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage
3. Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick
4. White Space, by Ilsa J. Bick
5. What Presidents are Made of, by Hanoch Piven

It's an events sweep in kids, with Ilsa Bick on Tuesday and Sheila Turnage on Wednesday, plus an appearance by Hanoch Piven in conjunction with The Milwaukee Jewish Federation where we provided books. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (Kathy Dawson/Dial), continues to win over fans, with lots saying that it's even better than the first outing. You'd hope that the follow up to a Newbery Honor title that has strong crossover to adults would get at least some regular trade reviews, but boy, those review holes are small. Here's Meghan Cox Gurdon's in-brief but still enthusiastic write up in The Wall Street Journal.

In the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Lorrie Moore's new story collection, Bark (Knopf), which goes on sale this Tuesday, February 25, and is the focus of our upcoming event with Moore on Monday, March 3, 7 pm. It's her first full-length story collection since Birds of America in 1998. 1998! Fischer notes that "true to the state in which she lived and taught (Wisconsin) for almost three decades, spring never seems to come for these transplants, each of them enduring dark, bleak winters that can make even Birds—-not exactly a walk in the park--seem light." So she moves to Tennessee and the jet stream moves south with her!

Here's a book that is saying Jim Higgins, come read me! It's Jo Walton's What Makes This Book so Great: Rereading the Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Tor).  Walton doesn't let the reader down. Higgins writes "What makes her book so great is that she's a pretty terrific writer herself. The author of multiple fantasy and alternate-history novels, Walton has won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Among Others(2012), one of the most bookish great science fiction and fantasy, or SFF, novels ever."

Several books called a siren song to Carole E. Barrowman as well, and she recounts them in her Journal Sentinel "Paging through Mysteries" column. Alas, one of them is not Isabel Allende's Ripper. Allende disparaged the genre on an NPR Weekend Edition interview with Arun Rath (here's the apology). I think part of the problem is like any genre, there are good and bad practicioners of said genre, and she may not have chosen carefully, either the books she read or the words she chose. Here's the way this could have been said: "I didn't know much about the mystery genre, but having explored historical and contemporary fiction, as well as memoir, I was up for the challenge. I read a number of books, some of which I liked and some I didn't, and realized that I could put my on spin on the mystery/thriller, much like Louise Erdrich did in The Round House" or something like that. Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times Book Review liked it more.

I particularly like the fact that Carole E. Barrowman invited Isabel Allende to Milwaukee to hear either Cara Black or Denise Mina. Cara Black's newest is Murder in Pigalle (Soho), on sale March 4, and Barrowman notes that it has a "darker tone" than her earlier books, while preservering her "distinctive flair." I'll have my own take on Black's work later this week in a dedicated blog post. She'll be at Boswell (7 pm) and Mystery One (5 pm) on Wednesday, March 12.

I've yet to read Denise Mina, but I'm very excited to host her for The Red Road (Little, Brown), a Glasgow-set novel that is "heavy with guilt and bristles with tension." Detective Alex Morrow's newest outing opens on the day Princess Diana is killed, "setting up a series of events whose consequences reach deep inside Morrow's current investigation."

And finally there is Keith Thomson's Seven Grams of Lead (Anchor), "one of the more sophisticated and slick spy thrillers I've read in ages", quoting Barrowman. The protagonist is a Washington-based journalist whose source (and old flame) is murdered in cold blood in front of him, leading to a high stakes game of cat and mouse. Jon Jordan of Crimespree is also a fan, writing “Thomson is now on my shortlist of authors I will drop whatever I'm doing to read."

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