Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Annotated Boswell Bestseller Lists for the Week Ending January 2, 2016.

Paperback Fiction:
1. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
2. Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm
3. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
4. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
5. The Door, by Magda Szabo
6. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
7. The Bishop's Wife, by Mette Ivie Harrison
8. Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton
9. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
10. Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman

I figured that since that since one of the big fiction stories of the year is Elena Ferrante, why not flip hardcover and paperback and show that My Brilliant Friend is firmly ensconced in the #1 slot. One thing of note is that The Door is the only fiction book from The New York Times Book Review ten best books of 2015 to show up on a list this week, though The Sellout and Outline are bubbling under and of course Ferrante's 4th book did make their cut.

Here's some news from Antoine Laurain. His new novel is called Rhapsodie Française and it has a pub date of January 13 in France. My suggestion is to not both translating the title. Based on the crowd who loves his other books, they would absolutely know what the book meant in English and the French title really captures that glow you get from reading Laurain's novels.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
2. Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich
3. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
4. Mindfulness Coloring Book, by Emma Farrarons
5. Lost Ocean, by Johanna Basford
6. Milwaukee Mayhem, by Matthew J. Prigge
7. Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin
8. Not that Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
9. Brothers Grimm Coloring Book, by Adam Fisher
10. Five Things We Cannot Change, by David Richo

The news about World War II Milwaukee is that we sold out of books at the end of the evening but we will soon have more and Jones has agreed to come sign our stock. The rest of the list is a combination of coloring books and oddly enough, upcoming in-store lit group selections. We'll be discussing Just Mercy on Monday, February 1 and Voices from Chernobyl on Monday, March 7, both at 7 pm.

New to the list is Gretchen Rubin's latest in paperback, Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits--to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life, which is all in all a jazzier (Ron Popeil-esque) package with a new subtitle, replacing Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, but is still about creating and reinforcing good habits. When Hanna Rosin reviewed the book in The New York Times Book Review, she noted: "My favorite passage in the book is a reprinting of Johnny Cash’s to-do list: 'Not smoke. Kiss June. Not kiss anyone else. Cough. Pee. Eat. Not eat too much. ­Worry. Go see Mama. Practice piano.' I like the list because it contains the seeds of its own undoing."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
5. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
6. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
7. The Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham
8. Banquet of Consequences, by Elizabeth George
9. The Lake House, by Kate Morton
10. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee

I am convinced that Fates and Furies is going to pull a Station Eleven, and will reappear on the bestseller lists when all the holiday merch sales die down and the titles that are being handsold keep up their momentum. As of January 10, the book was #17. I know that the people who hate the book REALLY hate the book, and it seems to consist of one of two arguments: 1) part one was boring or 2) part two wasn't boring enough. I have been continuing to look at top 10s where I can find them. Katy Waldman in Slate picked a number of titles that are showing up on lists--in addition to Fates and Furies, Between the World and Me, A Little Life, H is for Hawk, and The Story of the Lost Child are consistent winners, though like Groff's novel, A Little Life seems to sometimes get some rabidly angry responses.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Food Lab, by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
4. The Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe
5. Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks
6. Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton
7. Presence, by Amy Cuddy (event 1/28)
8. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
9. The Life-Changing Magic of not Giving a F*ck, by Sarah Knight
10. Florence, by Ross King

An interesting article in The New York Times discusses how Bill Gates's blog is driving book sales. He just gave a very strong shout-out to Being Nixon, by Evan Thomas, but he's also a fan of Thing Explainer. Here's a tiny excerpt of his essay in GatesNotes: "It is a brilliant concept. If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it. And Randall Munroe is the perfect guy to take on a project like this. He’s a former NASA robotics expert who now makes a living drawing the geeky comic strip XKCD and writing books. (I reviewed his What If? earlier this year.) Munroe reminds me of Sal Khan of Khan Academy, or the novelist and Crash Course host John Green. All three are polymaths who not only know a lot but are also good at breaking things down for other people." He's not a fiction reader, but he did like The Rosie Project. Here are his top books for 2015.

Books for Kids:
1. Appleblossom the Possum, by Holly Sloan Goldberg
2. I Really Like Slop, by Mo Willems
3. The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone illustrated, by J.K. Rowling with illustrations by Jim Kay
5. Old School, by Jeff Kinney
6. Star Wars Lightsaber Thumb Wrestling, from Chronicle
7. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
8. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick
9. Star Wars the Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, by Pablo Hidalgo
10. An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir

If our kids list looks like this, you can only imagine what a mass merchant's consists of - Star Wars, Star Wars, and more Star Wars. The Star Wars The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary is probably on many must-have lists, offering oodles of detail. Amy Ratcliffe wrote on the Nerdist: "I read through the book a couple of times because why wouldn’t you?" The book's obscure details are getting quoted a lot. Didn't you want to know how old Rey was during the events of the film? Screen Rant certainly did.

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins previews 15 books of interest in the first quarter of 2016. Titles featured:
--Presence, by Amy Cuddy
--A Hard and Heavy Thing, by Matthew J. Hefti
--Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, by Sunil Yapa
--All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
--The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
--Noah's Wife, by Lindsay Starck
--Black Deutschland, by Darryl Pinckney
--Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
--The Yid, by Paul Goldberg
--Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man, by William Shater and David Fisher
--What Happened, Miss Simone, by Alan Light
--Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
--All the Ways We Kill and Die: An Elegy for a Fallen Comrade, and the Hunt for His Killer, by Brian Castner
--At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others, by Sarah Bakewell
--The Making of the American Essay, edited and introduced by John D'Agata

The print edition features two essays from Marion Winik. The first is a review of Elizabeth Strout's long-awaited new novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. The second is a profile of Molly Crabapple, author of Drawing Blood.

As a bonus, here is Jim Higgins' list of 101 books he read in 2015. I got up to 66, which is better than I did in 2014! It is particularly interesting to see the older titles that are featured. Have any of you read these Catherine Aird mysteries?

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