Sunday, September 27, 2015

Reagan, Gutenberg, and More Math Books Than Even I would Expect, All Featured on This Week's Annotated Boswell Bestseller Lists for the Week Ending September 26, 2015. Plus Links to the Journal Sentinel Book Page.

You know it's autumn when what might have been the #1 nonfiction hardcover book in July or August is now a solid #4.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Trisha's Table, by Trisha Yearwood
2. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson (event 10/27, 6:30 pm)
3. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda (event 12/2, 7 pm)
4. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
5. Why Not Me?, by Mindy Kaling
6. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng
7. Rising Strong, by Brene Brown
8. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
9. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
10. The Magic of Math, by Arthur Benjamin

Not one but three math books land in this week's top tens. In addition to my faves How to Bake Pi and How Not to Be Wrong, there is also The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Y, by Arthur Benjamin. Speaking of magic, we had a very strong pop for Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, and how could we not - she completely charmed 300+ people at her visit to Boswell for her novel The Signature of All Things. Jennifer Reese in The Washington Post writes that "Gilbert’s love of creativity is infectious, and there’s a lot of great advice in this sunny book about setting your own agenda, overcoming self-doubt and avoiding perfectionism, a buzzy subject these days thanks to the popularity of vulnerability guru Bren√© Brown, who has appeared on Gilbert’s podcast." And yes, Brown's Rising Strong is also in our top ten.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine, by Alex Brunkhorst
2. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
5. Finale, by Thomas Mallon
6. The Girl in the Spider's Web, by David Lagercrantz
7. Make Me, by Lee Child
8. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
9. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore
10. Did You Ever Have a Family?, by Bill Clegg

Thomas Mallon has written a lot of praised novels, and I've been doing bestseller lists for a long time (seven years for Boswell, and another 20 or so for Schwartz), but I think this is the first time that this fine author has hit the top five for a week. I checked and his last novel, Watergate had a week at #7. Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years was reviewed by Janet Maslin in The New York Times, who didn't think it hit quite the heights of Watergate, while Chris Tucker in the Dallas Morning News writes that "even readers who don’t remember the waning days of the Cold War will find masterful performances, by the author and by his subject, in Finale."

Paperback Fiction: 1. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28, 7 pm, at Boswell*)
2. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
3. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
4. Saving Kandinsky, by Mary Basson
5. The Martian, by Andy Weir
6. Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
7. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
8. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
9. Again and Again, by Ellen Bravo
10. Gutenberg's Apprentice, by Alix Christie

As I'm checking through our top ten, there are a lot of repeats (including a classic being read by an area book club), but first time on is Gutenberg's Apprentice, by London journalist Alix Christie. This historical novel is told through the eyes of scribe who is called to Mainz to be an apprentice to Gutenberg by his foster father, a wealthy bookseller. Needless to say, their plan to print the Bible hits some snags, and Gutenberg himself is not the greatest boss. But reviews say that the true hero of the novel is the press itself. Bruce Hosinginger in The Washington Post offers that "Christie’s novel is a worthy tribute to the technological revolution it re­imagines, as well as a haunting elegy to the culture of print."

Paperbck Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
3. The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, by Robert Schnakenberg
4. The Beer Bible, by Jeff Alworth (event 10/19, 7 pm, at Sugar Maple)
5. Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar
6. Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin
7. Milwaukee Food, by Lori Friedrich (event 11/24, 7 pm, at Boswell)
8. Impulse Society, by Paul Roberts
9. How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg
10. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein

Regional cookbooks tend to hit the restaurant circuit in lieu of traditional visits and Mary Bergin's Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook: Iconic Fare and Nostalgia from Landmark Eateries has a series of dinners planned around the state. They launched at Smoky's in Madison and followed that up with Joey Girard's this week. Coming up is the House of Embers is the Wisconsin Dells on October 15 and The Red Mill in Stevens Point on November 7. Here's the author talking about the book on Wisconsin Public Radio's Jo Caridin Show.

Books for Kids:
1. Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
2. Rump, by Liesl Shurtliff
3. Jack, by Liesl Shurtliff
4. Finders Keepers, by Shelley Tougas
5. Shipwreck Island, by S.A. Bodeen
6. Lost, by S.A. Bodeen
7. Rump (cloth edition), by Liesl Shurtliff
8. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
9. The Orphan Army, by Jonathan Maberry
10. The Graham Cracker Plot, by Shelley Tougas

If you follow the blog regularly, I'm sure you know that we just hosted visits from Katherine Applegate and Liesl Shurtliff, but because they only did schools and had no public event (there was one with Books and Company in Oconomowoc), you might not be aware of Wisconsin writers Shelley Tougas and S.A. Bodeen. They were a big hit at the four schools that Phoebe set up for them to visit, and you'll likely be seeing future pops on this list as we process the sales. Yes, there's a bit of a delay.

The most popular choice turned out to be Finders Keepers, which sort of reminds me of a Wisconsiny Three Times Lucky (but that's a shot in the dark as I haven't read it) but other critics have referenced Gennifer Choldenko, likely because of the use of a similar mobster reference. A young girl's family spends their summers on Whitefish Lake, but when her dad loses her job, they have to sell the cabin and Christa decides to find Al Capone's hidden blood money to save the family. Kirkus called it "entertaining and humorous."

S.A. Bodeen's Shipwreck Island chronicles a blended family's vacation in Tahiti that goes...horribly wrong. Kirkus wrote: "The book ends abruptly and on an ominous note, with a "smear of red" in the sky and many unanswered questions.More tantalizing appetizer than full entree, this book will leave readers hungry for a second helping." Fortunately Lost is already out, which Kirkus called "enjoyable castaway fare enhanced with a touch of sci-fi futurism." The reviewer was anxious for part three.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Edwidge Danticat's Untwine, a novel for young adults that comes out September 29.It's about a family whose lives are shattered figuratively (the parents have separated) and literally (a car crash). Higgins writes "Scholastic Press is targeting Edwidge Danticat's new novel Untwine at readers 12 and older. But this tale of grief and resilience should appeal to people who love Danticat's fiction for adults, too, such as Breath, Eyes, Memory and Claire of the Sea Light.

Not so much for Mike Fischer and his review of Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last, where only the wealthy can have police and live on tax-free sea platforms, while the middle class struggles under a constricting economy that allows them to live half the year in relative comfort but the other half in a prison. Fischer notes that Atwood raises: "interesting philosophical questions, but the way they're presented here undermines what could have been a much better novel." Dave Burdick in The Denver Post has a more positive take, offering that the humor here lands a bit better than in the recent Year of the Flood: "It's skin-crawling satire and doublespeak mastery. It's too close to some version of our shared truth for comfort." Out September 29.

And finallym also out September 29, there is The Doldrums, a novel from Nicholas Gannon, reviewed by Erin Kogler. A young boy yearns for adventures like his grandparents. And then, "When a stranger with an eye patch shows up at Archer's door and suggests that Rachel and Ralph Helmsley might still be alive, Archer begins to hatch a plan, albeit not a great plan, to travel to Antarctica to rescue his grandparents from the iceberg." Kogler's take: "Gannon's prose is filled with wit and humor and many literary allusions that reference classic adventure stories that will entertain adult readers as well as children."

Speaking of the Journal Sentinel, check out our ad in today's Tap section. We've got info about six of our most exciting events coming in October and November--Graham Elliot, Sarah Vowell, Marlon James, Jennifer Chiaverini at the Hose Tower, The Night Vale creators (Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, in conversation with Patrick Rothfuss), Rainn Wilson (!!!!), and Chris Van Allsburg (not enough exclamation points).

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