Sunday, February 21, 2016

Boswell Bestsellers, Week Ending February 20, 2016

Here's what sold at Boswell last week!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
2. The Ancient Minstrel, by Jim Harrison
3. Cometh the Hour, by Jeffery Archer
4. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
5. Breaking Wild, by Diane Les Becquets
6. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
7. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
8. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
9. Midnight Sun, by Jo Nesbo
10. Georgia, by Dawn Tripp

It's Jim Harrison's second week on our top ten for The Ancient Minstrel and as I search for trade reviews, I keep coming up with Bernard Quetchenbach at the Billings Gazette. Am I really quoting a newspaper from Montana? Why not - perhaps someone in Montana is right now quoting the Journal Sentinel! Quetchenbach notes: "the three novellas in the collection are linked thematically, each one pitting an aging protagonist against the sense that his or her life ultimately hasn’t amounted to much" He has some caveats in his enthusiasm for this new collection, but overall "Harrison remains an engaging, competent and at times profound storyteller. Overall, The Ancient Minstrel, though not completely satisfying, offers a welcome return to an often-neglected genre and an addition to the oeuvre of one of Montana’s most distinguished contemporary authors."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
2. The In$ane Chicago Way, by John Hagedorn
3. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
4. Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
5. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Originals, by Adam M. Grant
7. Pretty Happy, by Kate Hudson
8. In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri
9. Alive Alive Oh!, by Diana Athill
10. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

It's soapbox time! Why is Adam Grant's Originals a nonfiction book but Amy Cuddy's Presence advice? Both are professors at business schools, Grant at Wharton and Cuddy at Harvard. The New York Times itself says that Grant "offers suggestions." Isn't that advice? And Cuddy has plenty of studies that don't necessarily tell you what to do? I mentioned this to our buyer Jason and he brought up similar arbitrary examples. To take a snippet from The Financial Times review from Andrew Hill: "Even hereditary traits are malleable. Later-born children are more rebellious than older siblings. However, 'by adopting the parenting practices that are typically applied primarily to younger children, we can raise any child to become more original,' Grant writes. Isn't this advice? And please note, this is no knock on Grant's book.

Paperback Fiction:
1. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
2. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (event 5/19, 7 pm)
3. The Slow and Painful Awakening of Herr Wilhelm Neimann, by Kennth M. Kapp
4. The Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (event 5/14, 2 pm, at Boswell)
5. The Life of Elves, by Muriel Barbery
6. Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín
7. Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
8. Lois Looking for Love, Kenneth M. Kapp
9. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
10. We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas

After a long wait, the true follow-up to The Elegance of the Hedgehog is out from Muriel Barbery. I say true follow up as a previous novel was released in the wake of this hit. The Life of Elves. Alexander Alter writes in The New York Times: "Now she has surprised readers and critics by delivering an enigmatic and beguiling fairy tale, unicorns and all. The story centers on two 12-year-old girls: Maria, a charmed orphan with supernatural powers who is taken in by villagers in France, and Clara, a clairvoyant piano prodigy in Italy, who begins having visions of Maria and realizes their fates are intertwined. The girls never meet, but they are drawn together in an epic supernatural battle between the world of elves, a land of swirling mists, shape-shifting creatures and celestial music and art, and an evil elf faction seeking the end of humanity."

I should note here that two of our bestselling paperback fiction titles are by Swedish novelists, and while we've had big fiction bestsellers in the past (Astrid and Veronika comes to mind), most of them have been in the crime genre. Even more exciting is that both authors are visiting Boswell in May.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor
2. The Mafia in Italian Lives and Literature, by Robin Pickering-Iazzi
3. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson (correction! Tix still available)
4. First They Killed My Father, by Loung Ung (event 3/1, 7 pm, at University School)
5. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones (event at Milwaukee Public Library in April)
6. H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (ticketed event at Schlitz Audubon 4/12)
7. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
8. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
9. White Dresses, by Mary Pflum Peterson (event 2/29, 7 pm, at Boswell)
10. 17 Carnations, by Andrew Morton

What an unusual situation in that fully half of our top ten nonfiction paperbacks are tied into upcoming events. One isn't quite booked yet (Meg Jones) and another is sold out (Bryan Stephenson) but hey, that's still three choices for readers! One author who is not coming is Andrew Morton, whose new book 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History. Frances Wilson wrote in The Guardian: "Twenty-three years ago, Andrew Morton’s first bestseller, Diana: Her True Story, turned biography into an incendiary device...After Diana he spilt the secrets of Madonna, Tom Cruise, Posh and Becks and Angelina Jolie in salacious biographies they all complained about. It’s a wonder, given his radar for a seedy story, that it took him so long to get round to the business of the Windsors and their Nazi friends."

Books for Kids:
1. Cupcake Cousins V1, by Kate Hannigan
2. The Detective's Assistant, by Kate Hannigan
3. Two Friends, by Dean Robbins
4. Summer Showers V2, by Kate Hannigan
5. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
6. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Rison with illustrations by Richard Scarry
7. Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant
8. The Monster at the End of This Book, from Sesame Street
9. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt, with illustrations from Oliver Jeffers
10. Calamity V3, by Brandon Sanderson (event 2/23, 7 pm, at Boswell)

Wow! Pax is a hit, both at Boswell and nationally, where the book jumped to #1 on The New York Times. Kirkus Reviews writes: "Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption." And Boswellian Barbara calls Pax "compulsive reading."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Piece of Mind, by Michelle Adelman. It's about a New York woman who has had a traumatic brain injury since she's been three. Raised in a protective household, she winds up moving in with her brother. Fischer writes: "Piece of Mind is no A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but there's some fine passages on the unique bond between siblings, including one culminating in the little brother who'd once looked up to Lucy realizing he can now do things his sister cannot." Fischer's take is that Adelman's novel "meanders as much as Lucy herself, frequently lighting up with good writing and astute observation, while simultaneously pocked with flat stretches in which Lucy's unique voice gets held hostage by the plot."

It's time for Carole E. Barrowman's monthly roundup of mysteries! First up is a police procedural set in Atlanta called Out of the Blues. Trudy Nan Boyce captures a place that is the intersection of Old and New South featuring Sarah Alt, a newbie homicide detective. From Barrowman: "I figured authenticity would thrum from the dialogue, reality would pulse from the plot and the blues would be the narrative's soundtrack. I was correct on all counts."

South of Nowhere, by Minerva Koenig features reformed criminal Julia Kalas investigating a body that shows up in an old house she's renovating. Oh, and she has PTSD. That's two connections to The Drifter - maybe someone will review them together. Per Barrowman, Kalas is "caught up in the collateral damage of drug cartels, domestic terrorism and a group of factious American Indian women" with the results being "wild and weird."

Barrowman also gives a shout out to indie Polis books, with two new mysteries of note. Dave White's An Empty Hell features Jackson Donne, a former New Jersey narc cop hiding out in Vermont, but one of his old enemies hires a bounty hunter to bring him back to the police. She calls this "a compulsive redemption story that speeds to a confrontation in a high school gym and takes the series to a place rich with possibilities."

And finally there is City of Rose by Rob Hart. The Rose City is of course Portland and follows the first Ash McKenna mystery, New Yorked. McKenna decamps the big apple to be a bouncer at a strip club, but when he agrees to find a missing child, he is himself abducted. Book two is "hard-boiled with a soft heart and packed with the kind of patter and adrenaline-fueled plotting," says Barrowman.

A bonus feature for the print edition has Connie Ogle in the Miami Herald profiling Alafair Burke, who chronicles the family move from Miami to "safer" Wichita, only to learn of the existence of the BTK killer. Oh, and don't forget the father changing jobs in this case was classic crime writer James Lee Burke. She credits that terrible case, and not the tradition of children of post office employees being more likely to take jobs at the post office, as her route to writing 13 crime novels. She's also a law professor. There are also details about her new novel, The Ex.

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