Sunday, October 18, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestseller Lists for the Week Ending October 17, 2015.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda (event at Boswell 12/2/15)
2. Courtroom Avenger: The Challenges and Triumphs of Robert Habush, by Kurt Chandler
3. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson (event 10/27, see below)
4. Black Earth, by Timothy Snyder
5. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Once in a Great City, by David Maraniss
7. Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, by Elvis Costello
8. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
9. M Train, by Patti Smith
10. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
11. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
12. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
13. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
14. The Quiet Season, by Jerry Apps (event at Schlitz Audubon 10/25)
15. Lobster is the Best Medicine, by Liz Climo

One day when I don't have event books to read I hope to have a week with Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink, the new memoir from Elvis Costello. Like many folks (including Kathy Flanigan at the Journal Sentinel) , I had a very strong emotional connection to his early albums. For example, he came up in Rainn Wilson's The Bassoon King. That one I read, because he's coming to the Pabst Theater on November 12. The book is winning raves everywhere, like David L. Ulin's piece in the Los Angeles Times, who calls the book "often brilliant and wholly idiosyncratic." There are caveats, like from Eric Swedlund in Paste, who writes: "Unfaithful Music contains a web of tangents and muddled chronology, with ventures into family history that bog down an already lengthy book."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Felicity, by Mary Oliver
2. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
3. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
4. The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks
5. All the Lights We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James (event 11/1, 3 pm)
7. The Girl in the Spider's Web, by David Lagercrantz
8. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore
9. Mountain Shadow, by Gregory David Roberts
10. City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg

There are some books that are just meant for some readers. So when FOB (Friend of Boswell) Gloria walked in the store this week and said, "What should I read?" there really was no new book that was meant to be with her than Garth Risk Hallberg's City on Fire. Knopf and the Random House sales team have been talking up the book since last winter, when the author came to Winter Institute. Alex Preston in The Guardian offers this taste: "City on Fire takes place between Christmas 1976 and 13 July 1977, the date of the great New York blackout. Although even an attempt to describe something as simple as the novel’s setting in time and place is complicated. This is a book deeply engaged with questions of novelistic time, whereby it at once enacts and undermines literary convention. It reminded me often of John Lanchester’s Capital – both books want to give the reader the traditional satisfactions of the novel while pursuing more high-minded, experimental objectives in the wings."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Let Me Be Frank With You, by Richard Ford
2. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James (yes, the same author!)
3. The Martian, by Andy Weir
4. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez
5. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
6. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
7. Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
8. Meet Me Halfway, by Jennifer Morales
9. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
10. The First Bad Man, by Miranda July

The First Bad Man got an eight month paperback cycle, meaning that if a bookseller really loved this book, there's no hardcover to hand-sell for Christmas. Many reviews focused on how hard July is to pigeonhole. Margaret Wappler in the Los Angeles Times writes "The First Bad Man embraces the strange and taboo: psychosomatic throat problems, weird affairs that cross age boundaries, violent but transcendental interactions between women and the graphic sexual fantasies of a frumpy control freak in her early 40s." For another take on the author, here's a profile of Rihanna in The New York Times that very much infuses the writer's voice and thoughts.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Food, by Lori Friedrich (event 11/24 at Boswell)
2. Milwaukee Mayhem, by Matthew Prigge (event 10/20 at MPL's Loos Room)
3. The Romance of Wisconsin Names, by Robert Gard
4. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
5. Healthy at Home, by Tieraona Low Dog
6. How to Relax, by Thich Nhat Hanh
7. Milwaukee Bucket List, by Barbara Ali
8. Christ Actually, by James Carroll
9. Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
10. The Birth of the Pill, by Jonathan Eig

Just out in paperback is Christ Actually: Reimagining Faith in the Modern Age, by James Carroll. His thesis is that even if you contend that we live in a religionless world (and world events seem to contest that), there is still much to be gained in being more like Christ. From Scott Korb's review in the Los Angeles Times: "'Imitation,' Carroll contends, 'can make us more than human.' And while the Christian devotional practice may have its roots in Thomas à Kempis' 15th century handbook "Imitation of Christ," Carroll reminds us that "from the start, those who fell under his spell understood that being like Jesus was the only point.' Through imitation we transcend ourselves. Offering the further examples of humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer and pacifist Dorothy Day, Carroll argues that the imitation of Christ is one truly viable way that remains to make belief believable."

Books for Kids:
1. Big Nate: Welcome to My World, by Lincoln Peirce
2. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick
3. Big Nate: Say Goodbye to Dork City, by Lincoln Peirce
4. Big Nate: The Crowd Goes Wild, by Lincoln Peirce
5. Big Nate's Greatest Hits, by Lincoln Peirce
6. Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice, by Marilyn Sadler
7. Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary D. Schmidt
8. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
9. Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick
10. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
11. Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
12. Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
13. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, by Rick Riordan
14. Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell
15. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, illustrated edition, by J.K. Rowling

You have to go pretty far down the list to find a non-event book. At the bottom are new blockbusters from Rick Riordan and Rainbow Rowell, plus the new version of Harry Potter. In The Sword of Summer, the first book in Riordan's spinoff series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, where a homeless boy learns he is the son of a Norse God. Kirkus writes: "Riordan consciously crafts a diverse cast, including a dark-skinned dwarf and a deaf elf. Muslim Valkyrie Samirah is a particularly interesting character. Though she does not come across as devout-she doesn't seem to take time out to pray, for example-Riordan's choice to make her happy with her future arranged marriage both honors her culture and allows her friendship with Magnus to develop blessedly free of romantic tension. A fast-paced, eventful, and largely successful pivot."

In the Journal Sentinel this week is a full slate of book features. Jim Higgins reviews the new collection from Bonnie Jo Campbell, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. He writes: "Campbell's new collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories, continues her line of fiction about women scratching and clawing their way through another day on the outskirts of the American Dream. Her previous collection, American Salvage, was a National Book Award finalist; her novel Once Upon a River, the odyssey of a teenage sharpshooter living by her wits along Michigan rivers, led reviewers to invoke Mark Twain and even Homer." Higgins will be in conversation with Campbell on Thursday, October 23, 7 pm, at Boswell.

Chris Foran reviews Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, from author Sarah Vowell. from his Journal Sentinel piece: "The Lafayette of "Lafayette in the Somewhat United States" is equal parts cheerleader for the cause of liberty and a symbol of its possibilities — an odd mix for a man born into privilege who left his family behind to pursue adventure half a world away. That status as a symbol, Vowell asserts, is crucial to understanding America, particularly since Lafayette was a rare bird: something we all could agree on. When Lafayette was invited back to the United States in 1824, two-thirds of the population of New York City turned out to see and cheer him." Vowell is coming back to Milwaukee for an event at Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall on Saturday, October 31, 7 pm. Yes, it's Halloween, so feel free to come in your best Revolutionary War or Colonial attire. We'll be giving out prizes for the best costume.

Jenny Lawson is profiled in an article by Amy Reyes, which originally appeared in the Miami Herald. Reyes notes: "A few years into blogging, Lawson revealed to her readers that she suffered from mental health issues. In Furiously Happy she explains her diagnosis: 'high-functioning depressive with severe anxiety disorder, moderate clinical depression, and mild self-harm issues that stem from an impulse control disorder.' Throw in avoidant personality disorder, depersonalization disorder, a little rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune issues and 'sprinkled in like paprika over a mentally unbalanced deviled egg, are things like mild OCD and trichotillomania — the urge to pull one’s hair out — which is always nice to end on because whenever people hear the word "mania" they automatically back off and give you more room on crowded airplanes.'" There's nothing like quotes within quotes within quotes to get me to pull my hair out. Lawson is coming to Boswell on October 27, 6:30 pm.

No, not every book piece features an upcoming event visit. Hey, it's October--we stacked the deck with something like 40 events (if you include the offsites and school visits). Mike Fischer reviews Orhan Pamuk's A Strangeness in My Mind. In it, Mevlit marries what he thinks is the beautiful Rayiha, only he was mistaken as to whose eyes he'd seen (her face was covered, of course) and he wound up marrying her older and homelier sister. Fischer explains: "Mevlut's sense of disconnect between self and world — and his lifelong efforts to harmonize the two — sound a recurring theme in Pamuk's writing and dominate this novel, in which a long, early section retraces the years culminating in the climactic elopement, followed by a portrait of Mevlut and Rayiha's marriage, the years after Rayiha's premature death in 1995 and a double coda concluding in 2012."

And finally, from Paula Suozzi, a review of Diana Nyad's Find a Way, a memoir of the acclaimed long-distance swimmer. She writes about her five attempts to swim from Florida to Cuba: "For those of the public who followed her 2011-'13 attempts at this crossing, we are in familiar territory. But the devil is in the details, and reading about her training, her mind-set and how she managed and organized and inspired so many to work for no pay with her on this goal is exciting, because she always weaves that extra story throughout. This is not a dry training journal, this is a life-affirming story about a real person with a real goal who is willing to work harder than anyone else to fulfill that goal." Her only caveat: the abuse scenes from her stepfather and first swim coach might be too graphic for young readers.

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