Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekly Bestsellers from Boswell, Including Review Links, Little Known Facts, and the Journal Sentinel Book Page Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. To Dwell in Darkness, by Deborah Crombie
2. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
3. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
4. Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín
5. Blue Horses, by Mary Oliver
6. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
7. The Children Act, by Ian McEwan
8. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
9. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
10. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel

The Man Booker Prize was announced this week and the winner was Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North, about Australian prisoners or war held by the Japanese in 1943. For those of you who buy books because they win prizes, that's all I have to tell you, right? But if you want some recommendations, Ron Charles in The Washington Post writes "Nothing since Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has shaken me like this — all the more so because it’s based on recorded history, rather than apocalyptic speculation."

Also on The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Alex Preston in the (UK) Guardian calls it "a novel of extraordinary power, deftly told and hugely affecting. A Classic in the making." But he also warns: "This is not an easy novel. The winding path of memory that serves for narrative structure can be disconcerting until we fall into its rhythm. There are scenes of violence on the "Line" that reminded me of The Part About the Crimes in Roberto Bolaño's 2666 – violence so relentless and brutal it threatens to swamp us."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Not that Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
2. A Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker
3. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
4. Milwaukee Then and Now, by Sandra Ackerman
5. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
6. The Innovators, by Walter Isaacson
7. How We Got to Now, by Steven Johnson
8. Jesus, by James Martin
9. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
10. Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi

How's that for a serious top ten? Our poppiest books books are by an Emmy-nominated actress and a James-Beard-award-winning chef. In The New York Times, Janet Maslin offered a very positive but strangely unquotable review of Being Mortal. She describes Atul Gawande's writing style as "clear and illuminating" and offers nothing but praise for both his thesis and the stories he tells to get us there. You can also check out Gawande's essay in New York magazine about how medicine has "changed the way we die, and not always for the better."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
2. The Shelter Cycle, by Peter Rock
3. A Share in Death, by Deborah Crombie
4. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
5. How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny
6. Luka and the Fires of Life, by Salman Rushdie
7. The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline
8. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
9. Best American Short Stories 2014, edited by Jennifer Egan
10. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

There was a little grumbling that folks are not thrilled with the new packages for the "Best American" series, but in the end, it's what's inside that counts. I'm mostly upset that series editor Heidi Pitlor stole my line that there are now more writers than readers in America. Arielle Landau in The New York Daily News is very pleased with Jennifer Egan's final choices in Best American Short Stories 2014, loving Egan's criteria of searching for stories that make her lose her bearings. Landau's on Joshua Ferris' "The Breeze" and T.C. Boyle's "Night of the Satellite." For those who want a little background, John Williams in The New York Times looks at the development of the "Best American" series since its inception in 1915. That's right, next year is the centennial!

Paperback Nonfiction
1. Unlikely Heroes, by Jennifer S. Holland
2. Through the Eye of the Tiger, by Jim Peterik
3. Germaine Dulac, by Tami Williams
4. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
5. Christianity without God, by Daniel Maguire
6. Milwaukee Rock and Roll, by Larry Widen
7. No Struggle, No Progress, by Howard Fuller
8. What We See When We Read, by Peter Mendelsund
9. Shakespeare Saved by Life, by Laura Bates
10. Studying Wisconsin, by Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes

So it's not unusual for our top 6 nonfiction books to be current, former, and upcoming events, but the funny thing about this list is that our #1 book was actually postponed. That said, one of the schools we were involved with said the books were so anxious to get the books that they bought them anyway, including this week's #1, Unlikely Heroes. Workman has assured us this that Holland will be back in Milwaukee when she is better. The fans are really looking forward to it. Here's what Holland told Chicago Tribune reporter William Hagemann in his recent profile: "'Because I've been looking into this sort of thing a long time, I'm not necessarily shocked and amazed, but there is something that makes you scratch your head, especially when it's not a dog or big mammal doing something a human would do,' Holland says. 'When you see an elephant seal step in in a heroic manner, it's a bizarre situation. I think for me investigating what we know about other animals, and about empathy and sympathy and animal intelligence is an important part of this. I'm happy to see people more comfortable now than they used to be assigning these things to animals.'"

Books for Kids:
1. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
2. Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
3. The Dog and the Piglet, by Jennifer S. Holland
4. I want my Hat Back, by Jon Klassen
5. The Blood of Olympus, by Rick Riordan
6. Freddy and Betty and the Halloween Rescue, by Randy Soudah
7. The Leopard and the Cow, by Jennifer S. Holland
8. The Dark, by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
9. The Monkey and the Dove, by Jennifer S. Holland
10. Clariel, by Garth Nix
11. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
12. A Halloween Scare in Wisconsin, by Eric James and Marina La Ray
13. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers
14. Monsterator, by Keith Graves
15. Telephone, by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jen Corace

We have a tendency to just list the writer of children's books in our database, though whenever we can, we also put the illustrator. I wish the bookstore inventory systems allowed for 2nd authors and illustrators, but they do not, which of course means we often still have to use outside systems like our Ingram program to look things up. That's why it's so nice when an illustrator like Oliver Jeffers, probably most famous for the drawings in The Day the Crayons Quit, writes and illustrates a book - no complications (but while he's had bestsellers before, like This Moose Belongs to Me, nothing has topped the popularity of his collaboration with Drew Daywalt, so there's something said for the traditional model, right?

His new Once Upon an Alphabet, contains 26 stories about the letters. This book took a long time to write and illustrate - almost every story but two were changed from the original conception. And he told Robert Siegel on NPR's All Things Considered that he illustrated the book all the way to "T" when he realized that this oil paint/collage/multimedia compositions were too much for the story, and he started again in ink/ink wash with a little splash of watercolor.

In the Journal Sentinel Book Page, Jim Higgins has several reviews featured. First of all there is When Mystical Creatures Attack , by Kathleen Founds. The winner of the John Simmons award, this novel in stories is very funny, but Higgins notes: "As funny as Founds' book is — and it is a veritable enchiridion of comic literary strategies — it probes dark territory in the story of Freedman, the young English teacher. Her missing diary is a running joke early in the book, but when Founds reveals its contents later, it portrays a lonely woman, struggling with the legacy of her mother's death and her own mental illness, and over her head as a new teacher in a Texas high school."

Also on the book page, Jim Higgins also reviews How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say--And What It Really Means, by John Lanchester, which is at least in part, a modern-day, economic Devil's Dictionary. He notes: "Lanchester explains the weird Humpty-Dumpty turn some economic words have taken as 'reversification': 'a process in which words come, through a process of evolution and innovation, to have a meaning that is opposite to, or at least very different from, their initial sense.' Take 'hedge fund': That use of 'hedge' began as a word to describe a kind of investing that involved setting limits to a bet, like putting a hedge around a field. Many of today's hedge funds have little to do with that kind of careful hedging."

And finally Carole E. Barrowman rounds up her three mystery picks for the month. Alas, we booked our Tasha Alexander event a bit late, so we weren't able to get notice in the Journal Sentinel. The newest Lady Emily novel, The Counterfeit Heiress, which alternates this time between our protagonist and that of the heiress (the last one had an upstairs/downstairs split), "parallel plots that come together in a surprising way. Barrowman notes that the tagline of this mystery could be "the best sort of historical fiction." Our evening of British mystery features Tasha Alexander and Charles Finch (ok, they both live in the Chicago area) is Tuesday, November 25, 7 pm.

John Connolly's The Wolf in Winter is fighting for wolf rights with Jon Darnielle's Wolf in White Van. His newest is "set in a twisted town in Maine, with creepy selectmen, brooding Gothic Mansions, and an ancient pagan church" and finds Charlie Parker (no, not the jazz musician) in the town of Prosperous, founded by a religious sect, "mired in redness and sin" with a "populace bound together with bonds of matrimony, loyalties, and fear." My apologies, but I'm quoting within quotes a lot and have sort of lost track of where each source begins and ends. Let it just be said that none of the ideas are mine, and to really understand this book, you should read the original review. Barrowman suggests for fans of American Horror Story, Supernatural, Grimm, and other shows that tell of the monsters amongst us.

Oy, there's another book called Wolf Winter coming in January from Cecelia Ekback. And there was also Winter of the Wolf Man. And plenty more where that came from, including a bunch of self-published titles.

Finally the Barrowman book bouquet is rounded out by Murder at the Brightwell, a debut novel from Ashley Weaver. This mystery is set in the 1930s at a seaside resort, where Amory Ames offers to help her former fiancee Gil (she's sort of not getting along with her playboy husband Milo) and unfortunately Gil is then accused of murder. It's all reather messy. From Barrowman: "I adored much about this book, especially the romantic tension and snappy repartee between its main characters." And Weaver is a Louisiana librarian, which of course we all love.

Wow, another great selection of titles from Higgins and Barrowman. I just want to drop everything and read Kathleen Founds' When Mystical Creatures Atack.

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