Sunday, October 5, 2014

Deconstructing the Boswell Bestseller List, Week Ending October 4, 2014 (Well, more like listing with tidbits and links).

Hardcover Fiction:
1. North of the Tension Line, by J.F. Riordan
2. A Sudden Light, by Garth Stein
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
5. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
6. The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis
7. The Stone Wife, by Peter Lovesey
8. The Children Act, by Ian McEwan
9. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
10. Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle

Our top two books are of course our two hardcover fiction events this week. Further down, The Stone Wife is the 14th Peter Diamond mystery and this one has a Chaucer theme. A large stone goes up for sale with the image recognized as Chaucer's Wife of Bath, but the highest bidder is killed, leaving the stone in Diamond's custody. Not only does he have to solve the crime, but he's got the additional worry of whether the stone is cursed. Here's more about the book on J. Kingston Pierce's profile in Kirkus Reviews.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Crazy is a Compliment, by Linda Rottenber
2. Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
3. A Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker (event Friday 10/10 at Boswell)
4. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
5. Quilts, by Elizabeth Warren
6. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein
7. Another Side of Bob Dylan, by Victor Maymudes
8. How to Speak Brit, by Christopher J. Moore
9. Everything I need to Know I learned..., by Diane Muldrow
10. Killing Patton, by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Random House's very aggressive campaign for Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl looks like it was quite successful, judging from our first pop of sales. They were talking the book up as far back as Book Expo last spring, and her tour is the kind of multi-city high-profile undertaking that you see fewer and few celebrities doing. It's my feeling that adding a market like Iowa City to a tour takes a celeb memoir and gives it literary cachet. And don't forget, every actor and comedian has a book of essays out there, either published or in the pipeline, and it becomes harder and harder to stand out, but Random House's positioning really worked.

Here's Annalisa Quinn on the NPR website:"Another of the book's wonderful aspects is the way Dunham establishes herself within a tradition. She's sometimes accused of egotism (as far as I can tell, because she plays an egotist on TV), but here she acknowledges her literary heritage again and again, saying explicitly and implicitly that without a Nora, a Judy, a Gloria, and a Helen, there could be no Lena. She reminds us that we — the maladjusted girl children of the 80s and 90s — have a canon, too."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
2. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
3. Saving Kandinsky, by Mary Basson
4. Still Life, by Louise Penny
5. This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper
6. The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
7. The Circle, by Dave Eggers
8. Everything Beautiful Began After, by Simon Van Booy
9. The Redeemer, by Jo Nesbo
10. The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith

You hear a lot about how what the Boswellians are reading, but even with a decent amount of taste, some books fall through the cracks. Sometimes its because we haven't gotten a read and other times we got a read but the bookseller didn't write anything up. The Lowland, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award last year, is about two brother who take very different paths, one staying home to become a political activist and the other emigrating to the United States. Lahiri was interviewed in The New Yorker by Cressida Leyshon, where she explains that this also could be known as her Rhode Island novel.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. Milwaukee Rock and Roll, by Larry Widen
3. Inner Dialogue in Daily Life, edited by Charles Eigen
4. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
5. How to Sit, by Thich Nhat Hanh
6. Christianity without God, by Daniel Maguire (event at Boswell Tuesday 10/7)
7. No Struggle, No Progress, by Howard Fuller
8. Will it Waffle?, by Daniel Shumski
9. One Pot, from Martha Stewart Living
10. Viruses, Plagues, and History, by Michael Oldstone

One book on this list that caught my eye on this list was Thich Nhat Hanh's How to Sit. There are a gajillion Thich Nhat Hanh books out there. One assumes that someone is always following him around with a recorder, sending out manuscripts each night. Coming soon, his complete recaps on Game of Thrones, season one! So it's interesting to me that his new book on sitting meditation hit our bestseller list off the impulse table--I double checked to see if they were individual and not bulk sales*, and they were. Erika Kulnys in the Shambhala Sun writes that "Thich Nhat Hanh offers us a fresh, accessible guide to sitting meditation, explaining both how to sit and why. It’s a dynamic introduction for those exploring meditation for the first time, and a hearkening back to the essentials for the experienced meditator."

Books for Kids:
1. Afterworlds, by Scott Westerfeld
2. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
3. The Odyssey, literary touchstone edition, by Homer
4. The Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld
5. The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
6. Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld
7. Minecraft Construction Handbook
8. Kate Walden Directs Night of the Zombie Chickens, by Julie Mata
9. Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld
10. Room on the Boom, by Julia Donaldson

There are a few moments you remember before a book completely explodes. Before the film version of The Maze Runner, we hosted Mr. Dashner for not one but two of the installments. You could tell right away that this was a series with strong momentum, but one never knows what the film is going to be like, and whether it's going to exceed expectations. It did, with stronger reviews than several other entries in the YA marketplace.

I'm particularly amused by this write up by Brid-Aine Parnell in the British technology website, The Register: "Well it’s another teen dystopia novel turned into a film – which is fast turning into a reason not to see a movie instead of a reason to see a movie as studio heads hope – but what’s this? No love triangle? No whining? Teenagers with a modicum of self-respect? A decent storyline? It’s all gone strangely right for the makers of The Maze Runner."

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews On Immunity: An Innoculation, by Eula Bliss. "Eula Biss'On Immunity: An Inoculation probes the vexing question of why many determined people oppose the vaccination of children and blame vaccines for autism and other conditions. It would fit snugly on a bookshelf between Susan Sontag's AIDS and Its Metaphors and Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Emperor of all Maladies, both cited in its smart, slim text."

Also in the Journal Sentinel, Christi Clancy reviews Jane Smiley's Some Luck, coming out this Tuesday, October 7. She writes: "Smiley's ambitious book chronicling an Iowa farm family from 1920 through the 1950s — the first in a planned trilogy — is a long meditation on the little hard bits of things we encounter in our lives that shape our personal histories. We aren't defined solely by big events like births and deaths, friendships gained and lost, and passions thwarted and fulfilled, but also by small moments: making an angel food cake, almost falling into a well, wondering why we have to grow up, and experiencing 'the silent ecstasy' with which we give thanks when we run a finger along the perfect curve of a baby's ear."

The third home-grown review this week is another October 7 release, Marilynne Robinson's Lila. Reviewer Mike Fischer explains the set up: "Her name — and the title of Marilynne Robinson's glorious new novel — is Lila. We've met her before, because she'll grow up to marry the much older Reverend John Ames and bear him the child to which Ames pens the moving love song Robinson called Gilead (2004). Late in this new novel, it's Lila who suggests he write it, so that his son can remember him after he's gone. Robinson's third novel to be set in the fictionalized Iowa town of Gilead — there's also Home (2008) — Lila is a prequel to both, focusing on the period in the late 1940s during which Lila and Ames meet, marry and have a child."

And finally here's the interview with Lena Dunham by Associated Press reporter Alicia Rancilio for Not That Kind of Girl. Just a tease: "It is important to me to provide life lessons to others.... I don't think there is one person who is qualified to share their eternal wisdom and fix everybody up, and I'm sure there are a lot of people who would disagree with all the choices I have made, but for me, it just makes me feel like all my mistakes might have some kind of use when I feel that I might be imparting some comfort or knowledge onto other young people."

*Originally read "salse", which might have been mistaken for "salsa."

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