Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Bestseller Post for Boswell, Week Ending August 9--A Sales Pop for Lev Grossman, Nice Event Sales for This Week's Visitors, Particularly Deborah Harkness, Plus the Journal Sentinel Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Book of Life V3, by Deborah Harkness
2. The Magician's Land V3, by Lev Grossman
3. The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica
4. The Hundred-Year House, by Rebecca Makkai
5. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina HenrĂ­quez
6. A Discovery of Witches V1, by Deborah Harkness
7. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
8. Shadow of Night V2, by Deborah Harkness
9. Goodnight Darth Vader, by Jeffery Brown
10. The Kills, by Richard House

It starts in post-Hussein Iraq. A civilian contractor is told to disappear. There's an explosion and millions in missing funds. You call something a military thriller and you have one set of expectations. You call it "John Le Carre meets Roberto Bolano" and you have a different set of expectations, especially when the book was long-listed for the Man Booker prize. There are comparisons to Pynchon and also to DeLillo. That's the case with Richard House's The Kills: Sutler, The Massive, the Kill, and The Hit, originally published as four separate ebooks.

Oh, and did you notice that the Viking imprint has five of our top ten books this week, due to two events (Deborah Harkness and Rebecca Makkai) and one very strong first week of sale in Lev Grossman's The Magician's Land. Sarah Lyall writes in The New York Times: "If you loved The Chronicles of Narnia as a child, and particularly if your love was later contaminated by the realization that C. S. Lewis had sneaked a stern religious allegory into his box of delights, you will be pleased by how Mr. Grossman has made the real Fillory diverge from the twee fictional one, revealing it to be nuanced, morally complex and nasty in a way that, to be frank, might have benefited Narnia."

One more fascinating thing with Deborah Harkness's event sales. We often have a nice pop in sales of the first book in a series leading up to an event, but it's rare to have a very strong sale of volume one at the event itself as they were for A Discovery of Witches. The reason, at least as I can speculate from several conversations, is that a decent percentage of her superfans had read the book as ebooks and until the event itself, they had no interest in a physical copy. I know some folks get their ereaders signed, but for the most part, the event is when a lot of folks want trade in their cloud for a physical object. 

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Invisible Bridge, by Rick Perlstein
2. The Keillor Reader, by Garrison Keillor
3. How Not to be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg (event 8/19)
4. Milwaukee Then and Now, by Sandra Ackerman
5. Beethoven, by Jan Swafford
6. Augustus, by Adrian Goldsworthy
7. David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
8. The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs, by Greil Marcus
9. The Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills (event 9/4)
10. A Spy Among Friends, by Ben Macintyre

Already on national bestsellers lists is A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, by Ben Mcintyre. Richard Davenport-Hynes reviewed the book this week in The Wall Street Journal. I wouldn't say he liked it that much, but he did not it's "a rollicking book...full of pep and (Macintyre) never falters in the headlong rush of his narrative." And David Ignatius in The Washington Post stresses that Macintyre "manages to retell it in a way that makes Philby’s destructive genius fresh and horridly fascinating — and to me, at least, ultimately inexplicable. In an age when every puzzle is thought to have its solution, Philby’s inner motivation remains unfathomable."

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Discovery of Witches V1, by Deborah Harkness
2. Saving Kandinsky, by Mary Basson
3. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy (event 9/30)
4. Shadow of Night V2, by Deborah Harkness
5. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
6. Little Mercies, by Heather Gudenkauf
7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
8. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
9. Sweet Thunder, by Ivan Doig
10. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Only two authors in our top ten are not current or future guests at Boswell for their books. Eliminate Neil Gaiman and you're left with Ivan Doig, whose novel Sweet Thunder is recently out in paperback. The story follows Morrie Morgan, who first appeared in the much-loved novel, The Whistling Season, who is called back to Butte, Montana, from his honeymoon when he learns that he's inherited a ramshackle mansion. Sandra Dallas reviews Doig in The Denver Post: "A love-hate relationship with place runs through Ivan Doig's books as if it were a character. Indeed, Butte, with its gamblers and plungers, its union strife and corporate greed, is very much a character in a book that is filled with an abundance of rich characters."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
2. One Summer, by Bill Bryson
3. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
4. Law and Disorder, by Charles M. Sevilla
5. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
6. Alone Together, by Sherry Turkle
7. What We See When We Read, by Peter Mendelsund
8. The Smartest Kids in the Room, by Amanda Ripley
9. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
10. Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

One book that appears on the list this week is What We See When We Read. The publisher calls this "a gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading—how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader." Mendelsund is in fact the associate art director of Knopf, a sister imprint of Vintage. James Sullivan in The Boston Globe sees the book as "a work of conceptual design, unfolds the author’s ideas about what makes reading a creative, visual act all its own on pages — some packed with text, others just a line or two — that incorporate sketches, clip art, images of classic book covers and more."

Books for Kids:
1. Return of the Star Padawan, by Jeffrey Brown
2. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (we should have screening passes this week)
3. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
4. Maps, by Aleksandra Mizielinska
5. Life Doesn't Frighten Me, by Maya Angelou
6. Marina, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
7. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell
8. Pout Pout Fish Goes to School, by Deborah Diesen and Daniel Hanna (event 9/18 at Oak Creek Library, 4 pm)
9. President Taft is Stuck in a Bath, by Mac Barnett and Chris Van Dusen
10. Copper Magic, by Julia Mary Gibson (event 9/5 at Boswell)

We've include Pout Pout Fish Goes to School in our back to school displays, promoting our event on September 18 at the Oak Creek Library (at 4 pm). It doesn't hurt that we have adorable Pout Pout Fish on display as well.

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews the above-mentioned What We See When We Read. He writes that the book "may be the liveliest, most entertaining and best illustrated work of phenomenology you'll pick up this year." Don't forget to check out the photo gallery.

Coming this Tuesday is the new Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Chris Foran. He writes (and I lump a few paragraphs together to make them more blog style, and less newspaperish) "When the bottom falls out of your life, you can't always figure out what the hell happened. You just have to get through it. But getting through it and getting past it can be the difference between surviving and living. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami's accessible and often moving new novel, underscores that difference, and the personal journey necessary to bridge that gap." We'll have more recommendations for the book on Tuesday, as we've had three great reads in house.

Also in the Journal Sentinel, Marion Winik reviews All I Love and Know. It's the story of what happens when a couple in Israel are killed by a suicide bombing, and their children's guardianship is given to the dead man's brother, only the brother is gay, and that means that Israeli law might not accede to the parents' wishes. Winik writes: "The considerable power of Judith Frank's second novel...comes from two sources not always found in combination: first, the seriousness of the social issues it takes on, and second, its psychological, nearly Jamesian style, following its characters tick by tick through their emotions and thoughts." The review originally appeared in Newsday.

The String Diaries, a Boswell favorite is reviewed, reprinted from the Dallas Morning News.  Stephen Lloyd Jones's novel causes a bit of a problem for critic Joy Tipping: "If there’s one thing I hate as a critic, it’s dancing around the possibility of giving too much away in a review. Spoilers are called that for a reason, and critics despise them every bit as much as readers do. Writers, though — crafty little devils — seem determined to concoct spoiler-bait books, titles that are just nigh on impossible to discuss. Which is precisely why this review is so short. Like recent favorites Gone Girl and The Quick, it’s hard to discuss Stephen Lloyd Jones’ The String Diaries without revealing too much." 

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