Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Boswell Kids' Bestsellers of 2014 Part One: Picture Books and Middle-Grade Books.

Picture Books and Board Books
1. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
2. Goodnight Moon board book, by Margaret Wise Brown
3. The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
4. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
5. Skippyjon Jones: Snow What, by Judy Schachner
6. Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
7. The Scraps Book, by Lois Ehlert
8. The Pout Pout Fish Goes to School, by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna
9. The Noisy Paintbox, by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre
10. Fiona's Lace, by Patricia Polacco
11. President Taft is Stuck in the Bath, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
12. Before After, by Matthias Arégui and Anne-Margot Ramstein
13. It's an Orange Aardvark, by Michael Hall
14. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
15. Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
16. I Want my Hat Back, by Jon Klassen
17. This is Not my Hat, by Jon Klassen
18. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes board book, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
19. Contablock, by Christopher Franceschelli, illustrated by Peskimo
20. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers
21. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
22. The Scrambled States of America, by Laurie Keller
23. Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
24. Little Blue Truck's Christmas, by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
25. Time For Bed board book, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Jane Dyer
26. Hush Little Polar Bear board book, by Jeff Mack
27. The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book, by Eric Carle
28. Good Night Wisconsin, by Adam Gable and Mark Jasper
29. The Pilot and the Little Prince, by Peter Sís
30. Telephone, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace
31. Arnie the Donut, by Laurie Keller
32. The Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
33. Have You Seen my Dragon?, by Steve Light
34. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichenheld
35. Journey, by Aaron Becker

If anything, our kids' bestsellers are even more event driven than our adult ones, though I should note that Sam & Dave Dig a Hole would have made this year-end list even without the event. Left off this list are bulk orders of older titles, but I'll include them if we've had several bulk orders throughout the year. The board book sales tend to build over time, hence a lot of backlist titles. So it's a big deal when new hardcover picture books really makes the list on it's on, without an' event, like Steve Light's Have You Seen my Dragon?

Alas, there did not seem to be a picture book driving folks into the store, the way The Day the Crayons Quit last year was, or Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site in 2011 and though Dragons Love Tacos has been on the national bestseller lists for close to a year, we simply haven't gotten the traction on that one.  The current #1 on the NYT is B.J. Novak's The Book with no Pictures, which is selling ok for us.

Chapter and Middle-Grade Books
1. Hollow Earth, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
2. Einstein the Class Hamster and the Very Real Game Show, by Janet Tashjian
3. Timmy Failure: Now Look What You've Done, by Stephan Pastis
4. The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, by Sheila Turnage
5. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage
6. Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not so Glam TV Star, by Rachel Renée Russell
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, by Jeff Kinney
8. Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made, by Stephan Pastis
9. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
10. The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
11. Bird, by Crystal Chan
12. Better Nate than Ever, by Tim Federle
13. The Scavengers, by Michael Perry
14. Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief, by Wendelin Van Draanen
15. Missing: Found, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
16. The 26-Story Treehouse, by Andy Griffiths
17. Einstein the Class Hamster, by Janet Tashjian
18. The Heroes of Olympus: The Blood of Heroes, by Rick Riordan
19. The 13-Story Treehouse, by Andy Griffiths
20. The Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela
21. Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo
22. My Life as a Book, by Janet Tashjian
23. Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, by Tom Angleberger
24. Animalium, by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott
25. Five, Six, Seven, Nate, by Tim Federle
26. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell
27. The Unwanteds: Island of Silence, by Lisa McMann
28. Adventures of Artie the Donut: Bowling Alley Bandit, by Laurie Keller
29. The Minecraft Essential Handbook, by the Scholastruic Editors
30. The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani
31. The Unwanteds: Island of Legends, by Lisa McMann
32. Missing: Sent, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
33. My Life as a Cartoonist, by Janet Tashjian
34. Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier
35. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, by Jeff Kinney
36. Wildwood, by Colin Meloy
37. The Thickety: A Path Begins, by J.A. White
38. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger
39. Squirrels on Skis, by J. Hamilton Ray
40. Spy Camp, by Stuart Gibbs

One of the tricks of kids' events is that sometimes the author only does schools and doesn't have the public event. There are twofold issues. For developing authors, a there's some concern that the author doesn't have enough of a following to get a big enough audience. There are also logistics issues. If you're planning on a different city every day and the author is doing schools in the morning and afternoon, you need the evening for travel.

If you exclude events, the bestselling titles turn out to be Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, which was the bestselling book of the year on Bookscan, for adults or kids, Wonder, and The Blood of Heroes. Wonder is the current #1 on the New York Times. Oh, to continue the confusion, I grouped 10 and up books with young adult if that's where we sectioned them, whereas the NYT calls them middle grade. You'll catch that difference on the next list, which I'll post as soon as I can, as I am bringing my laptop in yet again.

And one last note, there is probably at least one error in here. I almost lost Animalium somehow in the tabulations, and I have no idea why. I'm going to blame the laptop and the still-hyper-sensitive touchpad.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Boswell's Top Nonfiction Bestsellers of 2014!

A new hard drive for my laptop left me struggling to find time to get the blog out, and it didn't help that once it was complete, I had a number of problems getting my computer back up to snuff. It's still got some weird quirks, like I can no longer turn off my touchpad. I can't wait for the Milwaukee branch of Milwaukee PC to reopen. It's no longer as close to us as it was on Farwell, but fortunately, the new Jackson Street branch is not too far away. Paul, we miss you!

Our last few days confirm--warm, dry weather plus cheap gas led to more folks feeling they had extra money in their pocket and their was nothing stopping them from visiting stores. It will be interesting to see whether our holiday season was better for bricks-and-mortar stores than it looked like it would be going into fall, when a lot of projections were down, and the media was making speculations about the season based on a weak Black Friday.

Hardcover Nonfiction
1. David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
2. The Keillor Reader, by Garrison Keillor
3. You are Here, by Chris Hadfield
4. The Future of the Mind, by Michio Kaku
5. Things that Matter, by Charles Krauthammer
6. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
7. Capital in the Twenty First Century, by Thomas Piketty
8. How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellengberg
9. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
10. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast
11. Baking Chez Moi, by Dorie Greenspan
12. Astoria, by Peter Stark
13. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
14. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
15. Not that Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
16. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, by Steven Pinker
17. Milwaukee Then and Now, by Sandra Ackerman
18. A Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker
19. Prune, by Gabrielle Hamilton
20. The Happiness of Pursuit, by Chris Guillebeau
21. What If?, by Randall Munro
22. The Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills
23. Good Stock, by Sanford D'Amato
24. Jesus, by James Martin
25. Tequila Mockingbird, by Tim Federle
26. Perimeter, by Kevin Miyazaki
27. Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar
28. Zero to Breakthrough, by Vernice Armour
29. Make It Ahead, by Ina Garten
30. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
31. Small Victories, by Anne Lamott
32. The Best Cat of Book Ever, by Kate Funk
33. The Cooks Illustrated Meat Book, by America's Test Kitchen (Jack Bishop)
34. Pabst Farms, by John C. Eastberg
35. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
36. I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai
37. Old Man Drinks, by Robert Schankenberg
38. Fighting Chance, by Elizabeth Warren
39. Thrive, by Arianna Huffington
40. Recipes from my Home Kitchen, by Christine Ha
41. Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis
42. Great Maps, by Jerry Brotton
43. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein
44. Schottenfreude, by Ben Schott
45. I'll Take You There, by Greg Kot
46. The Horse Lover, by Alan Day and Lynn Wiese Sneyd
47. Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
48. My Family and Other Hazards, by June Melby
49. The Invisible Bridge, by Rick Perlstein
50. Little Failure, by Gary Shteyngart

There's nothing to me that indicates more the polarization of the Milwaukee area than our nonfiction bestseller list. Despite the gush of celebrity books, there really only are a couple that made our top 50 (with Dunham and Poehler fighting it out to the end). No, its really events, awards, impulse table, a few gift picks (like Great Maps), and what were probably the biggest books on the ABA (indie) bestseller lists.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
3. Healing the Soul, by Bhupendra Khatri
4. Strength for the Struggle, by Joseph Ellwanger
5. Everything that Remains, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
6. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
7. 101 Things to Do in Milwuakee Parks, by Barbara Ali
8. Studying Wisconsin, by Martha Bergland and Paul Hayes
9. Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon
10. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
11. Shakespeare Saved my Life, by Laura Bates
12. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
13. Civil Rites Activism in Milwaukee, by Paul Geenen
14. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
15. Quiet, by Susan Cain
16. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
17. How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough
18. The Hidden History of Milwaukee, by Bobby Tanzilo
19. Assholes, by Jim Aaron
20. Christianity without God, by Daniel Maguire
21. Eat Bacon, Don't Jog, by Grant Petersen
22. A Food Lover's Guide to Wisconsin, by Martin Hintz
23. Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
24. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
25. Pretty Good Joke Book, by Garrison Keillor
26. Redefining Girl, by Melissa Atkins Wardy
27. Think Happy, Be Happy, by Workman Publishing
28. The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan
29. Going Somewhere, by Brian Benson
30. How to Eat, by Thich Nhat Hanh
31. Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah (two local high schools read this)
32. Your Living Compass, by Scott Stoner
33. The Unwinding, by George Packer
34. Age is Just a Number, by Dara Torres
35. Knocking on Heaven's Door, by Katy Butler
36. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett
37. How to Sit, by Thich Nhat Hanh
38. The Heart of Everything that is, by Bob Drury
39. Philosophy in Minutes, by Marcus Weeks
40. Graduates in Wonderland, by Rachel Kapelke Dale and Jessica Pan
41. One Summer, by Bill Bryson
42. Milwaukee Rock and Roll, by Larry Widen
43. The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison
44. Zealot, by Reza Aslan
45. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
46. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
47. After Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey
48. Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela
49. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
50. Dear Mrs. Griggs, by Genevieve McBride and Stephen Byers (event on 1/30, 4 pm)

A big shout out to Kira Henschel at Henschel Haus, who published two of our top five titles, from Khatri and Ellwanger. Our next event with her authors is for The Boys on the Porch, by June Nilssen Eastvold. We're celebrating the release on January 15, 7 pm. Events and regional books and authors are also important to this list, as is the impulse table. And for the category in general (for not just Boswell), boy did films make a difference.

A number of publishers put "review copy" stickers on their books they send us and we are respectful of this, but sometimes it pays to leave this off. Workman sent us a few comp copies (with letters) of Think Happy, Be Happy, a book we originally just represented. That was enough to get it on our impulse table where it now has sold well over 50 copies.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Boswell's 2014 Fiction Bestsellers!

Computer issues are slowing me down! I had a hard drive replaced and it's taken a long time to put my database back together, even though I had a full backup before bringing my laptop in. That said, our year-end bestsellers are itching to be posted, so here they are. Fiction's up first!

Hardcover Fiction
1. The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss
2. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. The Serpent of Venice, by Christopher Moore
5. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
6. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
7. The Book of Life, by Deborah Harkness
8. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin (only book to make hardcover and paper top 50)
9. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
10. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
11. Bark, by Lorrie Moore (one of five story collections)
12. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
13. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
14. Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
15. The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
16. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
17. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
18. Redeployment, by Phil Klay
19. The Adventure of Princess and Mr. Whiffle Thing Beneath the Bed, by Patrick Rothfuss
20. The Children Act, by Ian McEwan
21. In Liberty Name, by Eva Rumpf
22. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
23. Mrs. Lincoln's Rival, by Jennfier Chiaverini
24. The Secret Place, by Tana French
25. The Liar's Wife, by Mary Gordon
26. California, by Edan Lepucki
27. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
28. The Magician's Land, by Lev Grossman
29. Family Furnishings, by Alice Munro
30. The Crane Wife, by Patrick Ness
31. The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
32. Gray Mountain, by John Grisham
33. Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
34. Let Me Be Frank with You, by Richard Ford
35. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris
36. To Dwell in Darkness, by Deborah Crombie
37. Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
38. One More Thing, by B.J. Novak
39. Midnight in Europe, by Alan Furst
40. Blue Horses, by Mary Oliver
41. Goodnight Darth Vader, by Jeffrey Brown
42. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel
43. The Hundred Year House, by Rebecca Makkai
44. An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine
45. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton (both this and Goldfinch were on top hardcovers of 2013)
46. Wolf in White Van, by John Darnielle
47. Still Life with Bread Crumbs, by Anna Quindlen
48. Nora Webster, by Colm Toíbín
49. The Martian, by Andy Weir
50. The String Diaries, Stephen Lloyd Jones

I was writing a bit about the list and realized it was all a bit mindless. In the end, it's not that striking--only a few indie publishers (you'll see more in the paperback list), generally literary, flirting with genre, not as diverse as I'd like or even as we've seen in past years. I'm not really sure what's up with that.

Oh, and we're all taking bets on when we get the news that the paperback publication of All the Light We Cannot See is postponed. It's currently scheduled for June but we see a full year and another Christmas of hardcover sales, particularly if it wins either the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
2. Saving Kandinsky, by Mary "Peetie" Basson
3. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
4. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
5. The Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
6. The Supremes at Earl's All You Can Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore
7. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
8. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
9. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
11. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
12. Kindred, by Octavia Butler
13. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
14. Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent
15. The Selector of Souls, by Shauna Singh Baldwin
16. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
17. The Circle, by Dave Eggers
18. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
19. The Tiger Claw, by Shauna Singh Baldwin
20. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra
21. Tenth of December, by George Saunders
22. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
23. What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen
24. TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann
25. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
26. Infautations, by Javier Marias
27. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
28. The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson
29. The President's Hat, by Antoine Laurain
30. Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O'Farrell
31. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud
32. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
33. Torchwood: The Exodus Code, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
34. Unmentionables, by Laurie Loewenstein
35. Longbourn, by Jo Baker
36. Best American Short Stories 2014, edited by Jennifer Egan
37. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
38. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
39. Benediction, by Kent Haruf
40. A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin
41. The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
42. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
43. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
44. Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
45. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
46. Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer
47. And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini
48. Someone, by Alice McDermott
49. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
50. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
The main story this year is that there was not a main story year, unlike last year when Beautiful Ruins exploded in paperback. Aside from our ticketed event with Elizabeth Gilbert, our top two books sold about half the level of Jess Walter and the two books that worked at that level nationally (Flynn and Kline) are more like 40% of our Walter sale. While I kept saying that The Illusion of Separateness is a book that, once you start hand-selling it, begins to sell itself as readers tell each other about it, there just didn't seem to be enough indie booksellers out there willing to give it the running start it needed. In that sense, it is 2014's President Hat. I did notice that Costco tried it but I think it didn't have enough momentum, which is why our last shipment of books arrived with a bunch of Costco stickers on them.

Similarly, I hoped that Burial Rites would break out in paperback, what with all the great indie reads in hardcover, but that didn't seem to happen. We're the #2 store in the country on Above the Treeline, and while that's great for us (and shows how touring an author can have lasting effects), it's not fabulous for the book in general, And notice the paperback list is a little more diverse, but still isn't that indie heavy. Here's hoping we find a few more Unmentionables in 2015.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What's Selling at Boswell for This Week Ending 12/27/14? Runaway Bestellers from Doerr, Kondo and Brown, but Lots to Talk About in All Categories.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
3. Redeployment, by Phil Klay
4. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
5. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
6. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
7. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
8. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
9. Family Furnishings, by Alice Munro
10. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James

If you've been under a log, it turns out that Anthony Doerr's novel All the Light We Cannot See is a hit. Alexandra Alter gets the story behind the story in The New York Times. Note: I have to find an image of the cover with all the "medals" on it. I was also thrilled to see Station Eleven get back on The New York Times printed top 15. But I should note that the real winner is Penguin Random House, who has seven of the top 10. Knopf has 3, Riverhead 2, Penguin Press and Little Random House each have one.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
2. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
3. Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar
4. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant, by Roz Chast
5. David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
6. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
7. Great Maps, by Jerry Brotton
8. What If, by Randall Munroe
9. Milwaukee Then and Now, by Sandra Ackerman
10. Make it Ahead, by Ina Garton

While PRH doesn't rule this list the way they do fiction, it is bookended by hits from the Crown division. Three hits are from Macmillan, with one title each from FSG (Tobar), Holt (Gawande) and the distributed Bloomsbury (Chast). If you thought the Amazon boycott didn't hurt Hachette, think again. I think they found it particularly hard to break out books this fall--I noticed that aside from You Are Here, which had a strong post-event sale, our biggest hardcovers were from 2013, from Malcolm Gladwell and Donna Tartt.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Best American Short Stories 2014, co-edited by Jennifer Egan
2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
3. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
4. The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami
5. The Circle, by Dave Eggers
6. Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
7. Still Life with Bread Crumbs, by Anna Quindlen
8. The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson
9. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
10. What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen

The new Best American Short Stories 2014 may be at the top but unlike many of our other categories (hardcover fiction and nonfiction, paperback nonfiction), it's not a runaway bestseller. In fact, it's trailing 2013 for us. It's sometimes a function of the editor, but I think in this case, the new packaging might have a role. And once again, PRH has 7 of the top 10 bestsellers, but this time Knopf is more in the lead with four. I'm wondering if "The Interview" incident might be helping sales of The Orphan Master's Son.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
3. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
4. Eat Bacon, Don't Jog, by Grant Petersen
5. How to Eat, by Thich Nhat Hanh
6. A History of the World in 12 Maps, by Jerry Brotton
7. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett
8. How to Sit, by Thich Nhat Hanh
9. Studying Wisconsin, by Martha Bergland and Paul Hayes
10. Milwaukee Rock and Roll, by Larry Widen

It wasn't too long ago that you didn't know who Jerry Brotton was, but with two books on our bestseller list (Great Maps, our bestselling DK book in a long time, and A History of the World in 12 Maps), you now can't forget this BBC host and professor at Queen Mary University of London. And now here's something unusual--our top 3 matches The New York Times top three for this category on the December 21 list, only not in the same order--Unbroken, The Boys in the Boat, Wild. You just can't top a movie tie-in in the mass market, especially one that outperforms the pundits.

Books for Kids
1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 9: The Long Haul, by Jeff Kinney
2. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers
3. Nuts to You, by Lynne Rae Perkins
4. Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, by Katherine Rundell
5. Animalium, curated by Jenny Broom and Katie Scott
6. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
7. The Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove
8. The Latke who Couldn't Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket
9. I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
10. The Accidental Highwayman, by Ben Tripp

Hey Amie, I was talking to a librarian yesterday who said that Nuts to You had Newbery Medal buzz. I guess that's not a stretch, since Perkins has previously won the honor. But this novel about two squirrels who try to save their friend from a hawk is certainly her bestselling hardcover since Boswell has been open and according to my very old records, has substantially outperformed her Newbery winner Criss Cross from 2005 at this store when it was a Schwartz (though probably not the Shorewood location, from which we picked up a lot of the kids' business). And speaking of beating old books, Katherine Rundell's Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms has already surpassed Rooftoppers in hardcover sales and still has some momentum.

On the older YA front (our teen section, as they called it when our section was rebranded many years ago), Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun is well outperforming her previous novel, The Sky is Everywhere, at least with us, but when I looked at Treeline, I can safely say that this is the case in many bookstores. This was one of Phoebe's picks in our holiday newsletter.

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins rounds up regional favorites:
a. Pabst Farms, by John Eastberg (event on December 30)
b. The Widows' Handbook, edited by Jacqueline Lapidus and Lise Menn
c. Dispatches from the Drownings, by B.J. Hollars
d. The Milwaukee Bucket List, by Barbara Ali
e. Badger Sate Buddies, by Noreen O'Brien

On the Pabst Farms book (our event is Tuesday!): "Eastberg's book also serves as a fascinating case study of a brewery that survived prohibition; among other revenue streams, Fred Pabst Jr. and brewery chemist Alfred J. Schedler created Pabst-ett, an aged processed cheese spread often described as similar to Velveeta."

Plus there's a review of the holiday hit, When Books Went to War, by Molly Guptill Manning. It's "the fascinating story of how the military teamed up with New York publishers to bring books to the troops in the field." The review was originally in Newsday and appears in today's Tap section of the print edition. You'd think that this book would resonate with our customer and in fact, we had a very good December with it. It's unusual for a book like this to release December 2; hoping momentum continues into the new year.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What I Learned About Our Customers From the Clearance Table.

1. Like many retailers, our December has been back up to two years ago levels after a not-so-great holiday last year. Fortunately that December capped a strong year, so it wasn't really an issue. But as a result, I cut our holiday boxed cards for 2014 and we found ourselves with very left to sell for the last week, and pretty much nothing at clearance (only about a dozen boxes).  Next year I'll bring my numbers back up a bit.

2. We don't bring in too much packaged holiday wrap but only one was a complete dud. It was a cartoon nativity scene. What I learned from this was that we have customer who like cute and customer who like religious, but not too many who like both at the same time.

3. Our biggest problem was ornaments was that our original display went out a bit late and in a place where the ornaments were hard to see. There were some duds which I caught as soon as we started receiving (they looked better in the catalog) and some others that surprised me. But in the end, our sales have wound up being about flat with last year. I wish our sell through was better, but Jason reminded me that in this seasonal business, a 75% sell through is a hit, whereas I want everything to sell out 100% before the holiday. I need to remember that when we sell everything through too quickly and completely, we are left with disappointing customers that last week.

4. Also on the clearance table, we've got some puzzles with damaged packaging, some summer stuff that didn't work, some things that have been hanging around in the store too long, and a few display leftovers like one bird kite, which otherwise were quite popular. I'm pretty sure there's at least one box of markdowns that we can't find. I'm not sure why, but this happens every year. I think it's probably piled below some old invoices or second-hand books in storage.

5. I thought we were out of the lamp, which is from 2013 at least. But here it is, pulled from its well-hidden box.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Well, That's It! We Got Through Our Sixth Shopping Season.

December 24th is always a strange day. I feel a sense of exhaustion during the day, but I also feel a kind of sadness at 5 pm, when we close. We were bustling just about all day, until about 10 minutes before closing, when everyone disappeared. The lucky folks who came in to get All the Light We Cannot See and Deep Down Dark, which showed up from one of our wholesalers today, felt they grabbed the brass ring on the merry go round.

Thanks to all of you for a great holiday season, and yes, I'm including you, Mother Nature. 

From all of us, but particularly from Phoebe, Barb, and Josh, who are not pictured, have a great Christmas and we'll see you on Friday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What Was that Book I Heard on the Radio; Some Select Links to Lake Effect and Kathleen Dunn.

It's December 23, which can often be our biggest non-event day of the year, and I'm focused on just a few things, like getting several key titles up to one hundred sold for the year, and hand-selling enough titles to get them on our bestseller list. We're out of a number of the hot titles but certainly not everything. The key is that if you're checking stock on our website, don't assume that we have something; it could well be on hold for someone else. There's a good chance we're getting more All the Light We Cannot See tomorrow (yes, December 24) and I don't think they are all accounted for by special orders, so if you have desperately trying to hunt one down, call us (yes, call, don't email)and you can get on the waiting list. Meanwhile, here are some links to book-related pieces that you couldn't remember you heard on public radio.

Our FOB Jenny Benjamin reads her poem East Wood.

There's not a separate segment pulled out, but Anson Williams also appeared for his book, Singing to a Bulldog: From "Happy Days" to Hollywood Director, and the Unlikely Mentor Who Got Me There.

Craig K. Collins offers a memoir through guns in Thunder in the Mountains: A Portrait of American Gun Culture.And over on Lake Effect, Kathleen Dunn talked to Stephen Hargareten about prevention strategies for reducing gun violence.

Bret Anthony Johnston talks about his novel, Remember Me Like This. The paperback releases on February 3, 2015 with special Reader's Circle features.

And here is a piece on Mike McCabe's Blue Jeans in High Places. Little Creek/Kristin Mitchell is a contract publisher in Madison that generally doesn't index on Ingram, which is the feeder for most independent bookstore websites.

Kathleen Dunn talked to Vinh Chung, who wrote, with Tim Downs, his memoir, Where the Wind Leads: A Refugee Family's Miraculous Story of Loss, Rescue, and Redemption. I think this is a reairing.

Allen Guelzo is the editor of this Life Magazine project, Lincoln: An Intimate Portrait, also on Kathleen Dunn. We generally don't stock most of these Time/Life books. This reminds me a bit of the British book that used the Smithsonian brand I mentioned earlier this fall. Life Magazine? Yes, I know the book is using their archives, but it's still an odd brand to feature.

Lindsay Mark Lewis, a former fundraiser for the Democratic Party and the co-author of Political Mercenaries: The Inside Story of How Fundraisers Allowed Billionaires to Take Over Politics, talks to Dunn about how the super-wealthy shackle political candidates not only by injecting millions of dollars into elections, but also by sucking up their time that could be spent governing

Oh, and Matt Bai appeared on Dunn's show on December 11 to talk about All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, which I've written about on Boswell and Books.  I'll have to go back and listen to that one; I also had a lot of questions.

Don't forget, we open at 9 am today (12/23) and tomorrow (12/24) and we close early on December 24 (5 pm, not six, alas) and December 31 (5 pm). We're open New Year's Day from 10 am to 5 pm.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Winter 2015 Book Club Brochure is Fabulous Fireball Fuschia.

Just what the winter reader needs, a bright collection of book club offerings. I've updated the fall recommendations a bit, winnowing out a few of the titles that had fallen off or were no longer timely, and adding a few new releases. I should note that it's important for me to include six nonfiction titles, which tend to be a bit more out-of-the box than the fiction selections. We also try to offer a spread, including both short and long books, and with a reads that go from relaxing to challenging.

One 2014 novel whose paperback dropped in December is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, which as you remember, helped us celebrate our five-year anniversary. I am always a little sad when a book like this doesn't get it's hardcover holiday season, but Algonquin got the book into the top 10 of the bestseller list in paperback, so that early release paid off, and we still sold at least one in cloth. I do love the added touch that the hardcover is in the bookstore window of the paperback jacket.

One book coming in paperback right after Christmas is Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler, on sale in paperback on 1/27. We've had a nice resurgence of sales in December, and why would we not, being that the book is a Wisconsin-infused story of friendship which had something like six recommendations from current and former Boswellians. We've already started getting the word out that Butler's book is the Shorewood Reads selection this spring. He'll be at the Shorewood Public Library on April 16.

One of the big biographies of fall has been Hermione Lee's Penelope Fitzgerald. I started thinking about just how few major biographies their were this fall, and realized that that is a whole 'nother blog post. What's been so great is that the bio is not only selling, but it's also driving sales of Fitzgerald's novels. Jane's pick to start is Offshore, the Man Booker winning novel about a bunch of folks living on a houseboat. If you do pick this novel, we suggest one of you should read the bio for some background.

We're always looking for a good historical novel and Renée Rosen's What the Lady Wants fit the bill for us. The great thing about historicals at book clubs is that you put the book in the context of the times, and what with the popularity of Mr. Selfridge, I continue to hope that this novel finds finds well beyond the Marshall Field's trading area.

For groups that want a bit more of a challenge, I think Daniel Alarcón's At Night We Walk in Circles might fit the bill. I still think fondly about the heyday of Latin American writers (remember the Bard series from Avon?) and I'm always looking for writers who are part of the new renaissance. Hey, it ain't gonna come if we don't make it a "thing." His novel is a contemporary suspenseful novel, set in an unnamed South American nation, of a man who sets out to find the truth behind another man's downfall. I'll have more to talk about after our In-Store Lit Group meets to discuss the book on January 5.

Our nonfiction selections had the most turnover from the fall brochure. One book that should have been there is This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett. Her essays together read like a memoir and have already had some nice pickup from book clubs. Patchett resonates with so many of our customers; even her book picks carry weight around the country. Everyone is out of stock of Deep Down Dark since she picked it for the Morning Edition Book Club and even Barbara Trapido's Brother of the More Famous Jack has become a rediscovery, due to Patchett's help. I think that also deserves a full post.

Two other books that have had strong pops this fall make great book club selections. Simon Winchester's The Men Who United the States and Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist might not exactly target the same reader, but wouldn't it be cool if a group read the two in succession? I'm also convinced that Greg Kot's I'll Take You There: Mavis Staples, The Staple Singers, and the March Up Freedom's Highway would make a wonderful discussion. It's a survival story in the context of our history that is also a great read and what a fun evening you'd have if somebody made a playlist. 

The carry-overs from fall, and yes, earlier, still going strong:
Someone, by Alice McDermott
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra
A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann
Unmentionables, by Laurie Loewenstein
The Rathbones, by Janice Clark
Longbourn, by Jo Baker
After Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey
The Everything Store, by Brad Stone

Don't forget, Jane, Anne (and who knows, maybe one of our other Boswellians) will present to your book club at Boswell. Weekday afternoons work best, but some evenings are available, depending on our event programming. We'd hope you'd have at least eight folks attending and that there was a least some idea that you'd be making some purchases, as we don't charge a fee for the service. We've also had some really great feedback about our talks at the Woman's Club and the Shorewood Library, so if you have a larger proposal for us, ask away!

Want something a little handier? We've got the fabulous fuschia fliers at the store, along with an insert of some great events for book clubs this winter.