Sunday, March 15, 2015

Boswell-a-palooza: Our Annotated Bestsellers for The Week Ending March 14, 2015.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, by Jennifer Chiaverini
2. Leaving Berlin, by Joseph Kanon
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. The World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane
6. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
7. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
8. Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell
9. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
10. The Whites, by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt (event 3/21, 2 pm)

The second novel from Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life, has been getting a lot of press attention. This story of "bright young things moving to New York" as, Entertainment Weekly put it, got a B+ from them. Leah Greenblatt writes: "A Little Life is not a little book—at 720 pages it’s a massive, sometimes maddening read—but it is a little bit of a bait and switch: Roughly halfway through, the other characters move to the margins, and Jude’s story takes over." And Claire Fallon in The Huffington Post notes: " Emotionally harrowing yet full of rather implausible sources of comfort, A Little Life somehow throws readers between the most unlikely extremes of horror and joy that life holds, making for a compulsively readable if artistically flawed sophomore effort." Our buyer Jason was a big fan of Yanagihara's first novel, The People in the Trees.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson (ticketed event 3/24...must by a ticket, not a book, to get in!)
2. Pioneer Girl, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (it's finally back!)
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon
5. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty
6. Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C. K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy, and Translator, by Jean Findlay
7. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
8. The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, by Kevin Carey
9. Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art, by Christophe Andre
10. Silence, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Today's New York Times has a column, this one from Frank Bruni, about why the chase for elite schools and the subsequent rejections, can offer a tunnel vision view of success, with several stories that parallel Malcolm Gladwell's profiles in David and Goliath. We've also been seeing an explosion of online options, from for profits, new style nonprofits and traditional schools offering online options, so it's not surprising that Kevin Carey's The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere is popping on our bestseller list.

Carey was recently on Fresh Air, where he discussed the state of higher ed. Here's hist take on college admissions: "The problem with college admissions is that colleges don't really know that much about students. All they kind of have to go on is an SAT [or ACT] score, which is kind of a blunt instrument ... a high school transcript, which is sort of hard to figure out, [and] maybe a personal essay, who knows who wrote the personal essay. So they tend to fall back on, 'Is this person a legacy? Did they go to a good high school?' Well, everyone figures out where 'good high schools' are and people pay a lot of money in tuition if it's a private high school, or in the real estate market to buy a house near the good high school. And so again the opportunities for students to go to particularly elite colleges that are often the stepping stone toward the best jobs in government or business are in many ways constricted to a narrow band of people."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henríquez (ticketed event 4/8 at Lynden Sculpture Garden)
2. Mr. Palomar, by Italo Calvino
3. Redeployment, by Phil Klay
4. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
5. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini
6. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler (event 4/16 at Shorewood Public Library)
7. Mrs. Lincoln's Rival, by Jennifer Chiaverini
8. The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty
9. Babel 17, by Samuel R. Delany
10. An Elm Creek Quilts Companion, by Jennifer Chiarverini

OK, An Elm Creek Quilts Companion may not exactly be fiction, but it made sense to shelve the books with the novels and by the time I separated out the lists, it was too much work to move them around. I have so many issues with bestseller classification that you can give us a little wiggle room here. At her recent talk at the Weyenberg Library, Chiaverini was asked if there would be any more Elm Creek novels. For now, she's finished the series, but she said that for fans, they actually are rewarding on second read, as lots of details were placed in early volumes that play out later, and readers will get a kick out of spotting them. I should also note that Chiaverini talked up Mary Doria Russell's novels Doc and Epitaph. 

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt
2. What the Dog Knows, by Cat Warren
3. The International Bank of Bob, by Bob Harris
4. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
5. How to be a Heroine, by Samantha Ellis
6. Dear Mrs. Griggs, by Genevieve McBride and Stephen Byers
7. Milwaukee Mafia: Images of America, by Gavin Schmitt
8. White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise
9. Physics in Minutes, by Giles Sparrow
10. 1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, by Mimi Sheraton

Jane continues to hand-sell How to be a Heroine, from Samantha Ellis. This week we're going to work on putting up a display around the book, so we can sell even more copies. Grace Labatt recently reviewed the book in The Santa Fe New Mexican. She writes: "What would happen at a cocktail party attended by literature’s great heroines? Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara would try to teach Lizzy Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) to flirt, Franny Glass (Franny and Zooey) would do a soft shoe, and Mildred Lathbury (Excellent Women) would accidentally gets tipsy on sherry. Lizzy would laugh at Scarlett, who wouldn’t seem to mind.Samantha Ellis’ vision of the most fabulous imaginary bash ever follows her close study of each heroine above, along with many others. In How to Be a Heroine, which is part literary criticism, part memoir, she revisits characters from her life as a reader in order to reassess her initial readings (or, she speculates, misreadings) and to reflect upon her own arc — her moments as some sort of a heroine."

Books for Kids:
1. Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg
2. Witherwood Reform School, by Obert Skye
3. The Keepers V1: The Box and the Dragonfly, by Ted Sanders
4. A Little Bit of Ooph, by Barney Saltzberg
5. The War that Saved my Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
6. Arlo Needs Glasses, by Barney Saltzberg
7. The Thickety V2: The Whispering Trees, by J.A. White (event 4/18 4pm at Elm Grove Library and 6:30 at Boswell)
8. The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds
9. The Adventures of Beekle, by Dan Santat
10. Big Nate Lives it Up, by Lincoln Peirce

Tieing in to our bestseller Big Nate Lives it Up, the currrent season of First Stage is currently featuring Big Nate: The Musical, now through March 29. Mike Fischer reviewed the show in the Journal Sentinel, observing that "true to Lincoln Peirce's beloved Big Nate cartoons — true, for that matter, to the spirit of musical theater itself — just about everything in Big Nate is similarly exaggerated, generating humor from the resulting disconnect between the average 11-year-old's humdrum life and the unfettered world of the sixth-grade imagination, in which a heightened view of reality hasn't yet been entirely cut down to size."

Moving from the theater reviews in Tap to those of books, Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Dead Wake, the new book from Erik Larson whom we're hosting on March 24. We're not quite sold out, but if you are planning to come, you should buy your tickets now. Higgins writes: "arson's book is a work of carefully sourced nonfiction, not a novelization, but it has a narrative sweep and miniseries pacing that make it highly entertaining as well as informative. As Larson points out more than once, a single decision or twist of fate out of many possible turning points could have resulted in the liner arriving safely in Liverpool." Buy your ticket now.

Kevin Lynch reviews Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, special to the Journal Sentinel. His take? "At the author's best, the sheer number of escapes, heroes and villains carries the reader along, as if galloping through a valley of subterfuge and salvation that might also doom freedom at any time. One fugitive's betrayal pivots on both a southbound carrier pigeon and a "stool pigeon." The stories convey the sometimes breathtaking effect of the spontaneously growing collaboration between whites and blacks." Lynch also suggests further reading.

Carole Barrowman's "Paging through Mysteries" column offers the following recommendations:
--The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell, is "a scholarly and suspenseful thriller" set during the last days of John Paul II. It's also the #1 Indie Next recommendation for this month.
--On Firebreak, by Tricia Fields: "Fields' descriptions of people are sharp and pointed (Billy is 'utterly confident in his long-legged swagger') and the landscape of west Texas with its flat mesas and jagged mountains has a presence as real as her characters."
--Cuba Straits, by Randy Wayne White is the latest Doc Ford mystery. Per Barrowman, the newest "Set in southern Florida and Cuba, this book sees Ford lured into helping his friend, General Juan Garcia, whose discovery of a set of love letters between Fidel Castro and a mistress results in lots of bad things happening."

Mary Louise Schumacher discusses the new children's book, In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler. These former Milwaukeeans (more specifically Shorewood and Whitefish Bay) authors have created a delightful story, on sale Tuesday, and the subject of Mary Nohl Day at the Milwaukee Public Museum next Saturday. Schumacher ties the book's release to the news that the Kohler Art Museum will not be moving the house to Sheboygan..."Which is why the Kuglers' book is precious. It is a way to linger with the scores of woodland sculptures of monsters and sunny-faced figures, examine the blocks of cheerful color and abstract, geometric forms that define the property. No patrol cars will shoo us away."

And here is more on the National Book Critics Circle Awards winners.

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