Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's the annotated Boswell bestseller list for the week ending January 23, 2016.

Here are our bestsellers for the week ending January 23, 2016.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
2. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
5. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, by Sunil Yapa
6. The Guest Room, by Chris Bohjalian
7. A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin
8. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
9. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
10. Two Years, Eight Months, and 28 Nights, by Salman Rushdie

Hey, we had a nice pop in sales on Sunil Yapa's Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. At least a couple sold off my staff rec shelf, so I'm happy about that. Alas, Mike Fischer didn't like it so much (see below). Benjamin Rybeck in The Houston Chronicle wrote: "Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist captures sustained energy - the sense of a situation whirling out of control. The protest becomes more violent, the book becomes noisier (cacophonous almost, with chants, grunts and shouts), and each character watches somebody get beaten. In these moments, Yapa keys into the physiological effects of witnessing violence. Victor in particular wants to witness, and by witnessing make (the violence) real, unable to be forgotten.' But on the next page, Yapa drops all literary pretension and provides a line of blunt power: 'Oh God, Victor was scared.'"

It's a second very strong week for My Name is Lucy Barton, which exploded at #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists. That gave the Random House division of Random House #1 on the fiction and the nonfiction lists, with When Breath Becomes Air also taking the top spot. And yes, we had a great week with The Drifter without any events. There are two more next week, on January 27 and 29. Details in tomorrow's blog.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Sustainable Edge, by Ron Carson
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
3. Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
4. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
5. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson
6. And Yet, by Christopher Hitchens
7. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald (link to our April 12 event here)
8. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehithi Coates
9. Why the Right Went Wrong, by E.J. Dionne
10. Excellent Daughters, by Katherine Zoepf

Several books of note should have strong showings on the New York Times next week, most likely led by Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer. The story behind the story of Dark Money is as interesting as the story itself. Here are pieces about the book in The National Review and Mother Jones. Because the book skews left, it will not duplicate our sales at mass merchants, most likely tempering its position on national lists. But it really depends what the competition is. I was amused to see though we've been selling lots of Star Wars stuff, particularly in kids, we have yet to sell a single copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which has been at #1 and then #2 on national lists. We had some space so I moved it up to "new and noteworthy." Let's see if I can fire sales into the single digits with this placement.

You can guess it's a presidential election year by seeing more political books in our top 10. But maybe we can detour to Great Britain, where Bill Bryson's newest book is a return to what broke him out internationally in Notes from a Small Island. Here's Griff Witte in the Denver Post writing about Bryson's newest curmudgeonly UK travelogue, The Road to Little Dribbling: "Bryson seems to go out of his way to avoid actually interacting with the British. And when that fails, the result is typically a contest to determine who can be crankier. He spars epically with a McDonald's cashier who scrambles his order, and he fantasizes about clubbing to death a dog-walker who refuses to clean up a freshly befouled trail."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (are you shocked?)
2. Impersonations, by Mark Zimmermann
3. My Brilliant Friend V1, by Elena Ferrante
4. Agamemnon, by Aeschylus, translated by David Mulroy (event 2/4, 7 pm)
5. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert
6. The Story of a New Name V2, by Elena Ferrante
7. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
8. Nora Webster, Colm Tóibín
9. Brooklyn (both trade editions), Colm Tóibín
10. Carol/The Price of Salt (both trade editions), by Patricia Highsmith

I noticed that all the national lists were combining film and non film tie in editions for all the movies out, but it really adds another step to our process and I generally hope that one of the editions (generally the non tie-in, which will generally do better in our store) will pop alone. That said, with the number of books I'm scanning down from December (dramatically), I thought the list was small enough to match up sales and that affected three titles, including Brooklyn and Carol/The Price of Salt. Since the editions really are identical, aside from the jacket and in one case, the title of the book, it seemed fair. It's just that I can't say I can consistently do this, so enjoy it this time.

The Oscar nominees seem to have an unusually large number of book origins this year. Even Spotlight has Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The Findings of the Investigation That Inspired the Major Motion Picture Spotlight. Since the film has been down the block for weeks, we're hoping that featuring this Boston Globe book, originally published in 2002 with a slightly different title, will get a sales pop in the coming weeks.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
2. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
3. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. The Magic of Awareness, by Anam Thuben
5. Physics in Minutes, by Giles Sparrow (selling off our impulse table)
6. Riverwest, by Tom Tolan
7. Graphesis, by Johanna Drucker
8. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
9. Leaving Before the Rains Come, by Alexandra Fuller
10. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer

Another book that benefitted from me researching various editions is The Big Short, by Michael Lewis. I did a lot of research on tie ins coming back in September and for some reason, this did not come up on my radar, as I realized that I left it off our film table sign. That is remedied, with us taking off some of the titles that have come and gone, like The 33. Maybe Deep, Down, Dark would have also been a perfectly acceptable film name, and then you would have had all the awareness from the book. More and more you are seeing that a successful book is a leg up, right? I'm excited to see The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison, is finished and debuting at film festivals. It features Selena Gomez, who was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live last night.

Books for Kids:
1. Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick, with illustrations by Sophie Blackall
2. Ollie's Valentine, by Olivier Dunrea
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, by Pablo Hidalgo
4. Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
5. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
6. Silly Wonderful You, by Sherri Rinker Duskey, with illustrations by Patrick McDonnell
7. Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
8. Be a Friend, by Selena Yoon
9. Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics, by Chris Grabelstein
10. Augie and Me, by R.J. Palacio

As our trade buyer Jason recently said to me, Valentine's Day is a kids book and gift (nonbook) holiday but it's tough to have adult titles that work for gift giving. Aside from Roger Rosenblatt's The Book of Love: Improvisations on a Crazy Little Thing, which we recently added to or display, indeed it is the children's books that drive the holiday sales at Boswell. One title on our bestseller list this week is Olivier Dunrea's Ollie's Valentine, a new board book in Dunrea's Gossie and Friends series. I looked for a roundup of new Valetine's Day books, but the one I found was clearly from an aggregator and was filled with previously released licenesed-character driven titles with Valentine in the tile. Alas, not really helpful, and it would miss a book like Sherri Rinker Duskey and Patrick McDonnell's Silly Wonderful You, a book with no Valentine heart on the cover, but is definitely about love.

I mentioned that Mike Fischer reviewed Sunil Yapa's Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. He was dismayed by the clumsy metaphors and bad writing. He's not necessarily alone, though Jenny Hendrix's New York Times Book Review was a bit more nuanced. I guess that sort of didn't bother me, as I was much more interested in the relationships between the characters, particularly the father and son on opposite sides of the skirmish.

And hey, Ron Charles at The Washington Post is a fan. He writes: "What is so enthralling about this novel is its syncopated riff of empathy as the perspective jumps around these participants — some peaceful, some violent, some determined, some incredulous. Constantly moving to “one more story among a thousand such stories,” Yapa creates a fluid sense of the riot as it washes over the city. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist ultimately does for the WTO protests what Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night”did for the 1967 March on the Pentagon, gathering that confrontation in competing visions of what happened and what it meant."

It's time for Carole E. Barrowman's monthly mystery roundup:

--The Ex, by Alafair Burke is the newest novel to feature criminal defense attorney Olivia Randall. Barrowman writes that "with her pacey plot and fascinating characters, Burke proves she's at the top of hers as a writer."

--Medusa's Web, by Tim Powers channels old Hollywood in its present-day Los Angeles setting. Barrowman calls this an "ingenious supernatural mystery that snagged my imagination from its opening pages."

--False Positive, by Andrew Grant is a terrific new mystery featuring "Alabama detective Cooper Deveraux, driven, dedicated, but deeply flawed with a hair-trigger conscience and a history of violence." He gets "a new partner and a troubling new case with a kidnapped foster child at its center."

Also in the print edition is a review of The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in the Modern Age from Peter Smith in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. From Smith: Veteran Catholic journalist John Thavis explores their world of Marian apparitions, relics, exorcisms, doomsday visions, and other purported encounters with the supernatural."

And finally I'm glad I got a heads up on Jim Higgins' profile of Lindsay Starck, author of Tuesday's debut, Noah's Wife, as it was in page 2 of the news section of the Journal Sentinel and I might have missed it. "I had my favorite books. I was a reader who found a book I love and I would just read it over and over and over again," she told Higgins. Starck attended University School and Yale, and then decided to make writing her career, detouring from a life in law. Join Starck at the Milwaukee Public Library reading room for a launch of her novel, Noah's Wife on Tuesday, January 26, 5:30 reception, 6 pm reading.

if you'd like a review, check out Kim Kankiewicz's take in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune on this "impressive debut": "Although Noah's wife eventually comes into her own as a protagonist, her story is but one of many in the novel. Starck devotes entire chapters to several supporting characters, including eccentric townspeople and inhabitants of the city Noah and his wife have left behind. Starck's talent is on display in her vivid portrayals of these characters. We learn about their fears and foibles and greatest desires. We see where their allegiances lie and how they respond when their fidelity is tested."

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