Sunday, October 26, 2014

Boswell's Annotated Bestseller Lists for the Week Ending October 25, 2014, Plus Journal Sentinel Review Links

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Reunion, by Hannah Pittard
2. Gray Mountain, by John Grisham
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
5. The Secret Place, by Tana French
6. Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult
7. In Liberty's Name, by Eva Rumpf
8. How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran
9. The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis (event 11/17 at Boswell)
10. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson

Those of you who haven't been paying attention to the John Grisham's legal thrillers might want to come back and take a second look at Gray Mountain. Patrick Anderson's review in The Washington Post says it best: "Grisham makes his characters all too real, but the heart of his story is his relentless case against Big Coal. We all know something about the plight of miners, but we are unlikely to have encountered the realities of their lives in the depth provided here. This is muckraking of a high order. If it’s possible for a major novelist to shame our increasingly shameless society, Gray Mountain might do it. This novel, following Sycamore Row, a searing look at racism in his native Mississippi, shows Grisham’s work — always superior entertainment — evolving into something more serious, more powerful, more worthy of his exceptional talent."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Your Hidden Riches, by Chris Attwood
2. The Cook's Illustrated Meat Book, by America's Test Kitchen
3. New Classic Interiors, by Alessandra Branca
4. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
5. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
6. Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
7. Epilogue, by Will Boast
8. A Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker
9. The Meaning of Human Existence, by Edward O. Wilson
10. Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi

The Meaning of Human Existence was recently shortlisted for the National Book Award. E.O. Wilson spoke to Robin Young at NPR's Here and Now. On our place in the universe, considering that Wilson thinks there are many alien species out there, he ponders that they'd be more interested in our arts than our sciences. Dwight Garner in The New York Times says that Wilson "out-Hitchens Hitchens" but does quibble that his writing does sometimes come off like a commencement speech of a lesser Bill Moyers special. Is that really an issue?

Paperback Fiction:
1. Let Him Go, by Larry Watson
2. The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman
3. Someone, by Alice McDermott
4. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
5. We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
6. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
7. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
8. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North
9. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
10. This Dark Road to Mercy, by Wiley Cash

It's still sometimes tough for booksellers to get through the now-standard eight-month cycle that a novel now goes through from hardcover to paperback. Case in point is Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things. There are lots of reasons for this change, including ebooks which compete more on price, and the theory that the quicker release keeps momentum going, though I posit that it's an attempt to have books earn out their advances more quickly, and there's something to be said for trying to take the time to reposition a book for greater sales, rather than have your paperback concept ready almost simultaneously with the hardcover.

Yes, our buyer Jason has actually found himself buying the hardcover and paperback for a novel at the same time. Can you imagine the rep pitch? "Well, as you know, our release for this book that you bought ten minutes ago didn't quite work the way we hoped, so for the paperback, we're really going to play off the thriller angle and play down the bad review quotes which we haven't even seen yet."

Fortunately Alice Hoffman's newest novel got some of the best reviews of her career. Rebecca Abrams called The Museum of Extraordinary Things "entrancing" in the Financial Times. Her take: "Hoffman has amply succeeded in conjuring the teeming press of of life in early 20th-century New York, laying before us, in all its splendour (they are British) and horror, the museum of extraordinary things that is humanity itself."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Thank You for Your Service, by David Finkel
2. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
3. The Heart of Everything that Is, by Bob Drury
4. The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel
5. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett
6. Fresh Off the Boat, by Eddie Huang
7. How Can it Be Gluten Free?, by America's Test Kitchen
8. Milwaukee Rock and Roll, by Larry Widen
9. Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014, edited by Deborah Blum
10. Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook, by America's Test Kitchen

Bob Drury's The Heart of Everything that Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend continues to sell off of Conrad's staff rec shelf, a book that hopes to raise Red Cloud's profile to that of Crazy Horse of Sitting Bull. He proclaims: "Anyone with an interest in American Indians and the Old West needs to read this remarkable book." For another take, here's The Wall Street Journal review from Christopher Corbett.

Have I been mentioning the muddy sepia-toned book trend much? Have you caught that the last five titles pictured, after the two blue-hued covers at the top, are all brownish (with Watson being more gray I guess) and old fashioned looking. Is that what's being put out, or more importantly, is that what is selling for us?

Books for Kids:
1. Skippyjon Jones Snow What, by Judy Schachner
2. Skippyjon Jones 123, by Judy Schachner
3. Skippyjon Jones In the Doghouse (paperback), by Judy Schachner
4. Skippyjon Jones The Great Bean Caper, by Judy Schachner
5. The Blood of Olympus, by Rick Riordan
6. Skink: No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen
7. Sophie's Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller
8. Skippyjon Jones In Mummy Trouble (cloth), by Judy Schachner
9. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
10. Big Rig, by Jamie A. Swenson, illustrated by Ned Young
11. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
12. Skippyjon Jones Color Crazy, by Judy Schachner
13. Get Busy with Skippyjon Jones, by Judy Schachner
14. Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, by Wendelin Van Draanen
15. Skippyjon Jones (paper), by Judy Schachner

Yes, I know there's a lot of Skippyjon Jones here, but there are a few titles mixed in that do not feature a Siamese cat who thinks he'a a chihuahua. For example, there is Carl Hiaasen's Skink: No Surrender, his first novel for teens - his previous novels for kids were targeted to the 8-12 crowd. For those who don't read Hiaasen loyally, Skink is the "wild, one-eyed ex-governor" who was first introduced in the novel 25 years ago, and it was his 14-year-old son who suggested he'd make a great lead character for a novel. This time, Skink attempts to track down a young girl who skips out on boarding school "with some guy she met online." Carl Hiaasen talks about the new book on NPR's Here and Now.

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins endorses the new memoir frmo Neil Patrick Harris, Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, with packaging and yes, structure reminiscent of that old kids' series. I was a bit skeptical, but Higgins notes that at the center is "a sweet story  of a young boy who discovered magic and acting and pursued both,a nd the tale of a young man whose embrace off his gay identity took some time." Who knew he had a dust-up with Dustin Diamond?

Also exclusive to the Journal Sentinel is Chris Foran's take on William Gibson's The Peripheral, the story of a young woman who is testing an online game, witnesses a murder, and "decides maybe it's not a game after all," a hunch which proves to be correct. His assessment: "More than in any of his past novels, the future in The Peripheral is a moving target - and, as he makes a good case, regular people can move it to a better destination." Note that the book goes on sale on Tuesday--the final list price is $28.95.

From the Kansas City Star comes a review from Leanna Bales of Afar Nafisi's newest, The Republic of the Imagination: America in Three Books. This case for reading fiction in school, arguing against folks who say "reading fiction has become a luxury that we can no longer afford." Nafisi's books she uses to make her case are are Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by the way.

And finally from earlier in the week, John Hildebrand is profiled for his new book, The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac. On why he used that format: "I like almanacs because they’re concerned with practical matters — weather, animals, growing things — all of which are represented here. But the main reason for organizing the book around a calendar year is to free the reader from having to start at the beginning and go to the end. You can begin with the July chapter if you want to remember what summer feels like or jump ahead to a December snowfall."

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