Here are the Boswell bestsellers for the week ending February 6, 2016.
1. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
2. The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin
3. Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
4. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
5. Noah's Wife, by Lindsay Starck
6. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
7. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
8. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of Your Fist, by Sunil Yapa
9. Nox, by Anne Carson
10. Warriors of the Storm, by Berard Cornwell
I'm not sure why, but we had a much better 2nd week than its first week out for The Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin. It's a novel based on the friendship and destruction of said friendship between Truman Capote and Babe Paley. Caroline Preston's review in The Washington Post writes: "In her author’s note, Benjamin says she had more fun writing “The Swans of Fifth Avenue” than her previous novels, and it shows. The best scene in the book, the fabulous Black and White Ball told from the viewpoints of various guests, displays Benjamin’s wit and verve."She notes the similarities between Charles Lindbergh in her previous bestseller, The Aviator's Wife, and Bill Paley in this novel. And here's Caroline Leavitt's interview with Benjamin on her blog CarolineLeavittville.
1. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paula Kalanithi
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Binge, by Tyler Oakley
4. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
6. Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
7. Presence, by Amy Cuddy
8. Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks
9. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
10. Miller: Inside the High Life, by Paul Bialas
When Breath Becomes Air continues to be our top seller in this category. Lucy Kellaway in The Financial Times writes: "Anyone buying this book expecting a mawkish weepie will be disappointed. It turns out not really to be about dying at all but about life and how to live it — though the closeness of death gives it an urgency and economy: by the end, Kalanithi’s hands were so sore that he wore seamless gloves to type."
If you want to know what folks who like Grace Helbig are also interested in, this bestseller list offers some hints. Two books that popped at our event are Welcome to Night Vale, and especially Tyler Oakley's Binge. Note that both editions were signed. We probably could have sold another 10-20 of the latter, but the attendees pretty much cleaned us out.
Note to Tyler Oakley fans: we have signed copies of Grace and Style.
1. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
2. Agamemnon, by Aeuschylus, translated by David Mulroy
3. The Fathers We Find, by Charles P. Ries
4. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
5. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
6. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
7. How to Be Both, by Ali Smith
8. My Brilliant Friend V1, by Elena Ferrante
9. Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
10. Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby
We're a little late to the party, but now it appears that everyone at Boswell is reading A Man Called Ove, a book that is currently top 10 on national bestseller lists. As Jane notes, of all the curmudgeons we've championed, Ove is about the curmudgeon-iest. Jane Clinton in the (UK) Sunday Express notes: "Fredrik Backman, a well-known blogger and columnist in his native Sweden, launched the character of Ove in a blog post and his readers demanded more. So A Man Called Ove was born. This word-of-mouth bestseller has sold more than 650,000 copies in Sweden and has been a hit across Europe. It deserves to do at least as well here. I loved A Man Called Ove so much that I started to ration how much I read to prolong my time with this cantankerous, low-key, misunderstood man. If you enjoyed Rachel Joyce’s marvellous bestseller, The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, you will love this book."
1. Grace and Style, by Grace Helbig
2. Grace's Guide, by Grace Helbig
3. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
4. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
5. Coloring for Contemplation, by Amber Hatch
6. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
7. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
8. Graphesis, by Johanna Drucker
9. Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin
10. The Ramen Fusion Cookbook, by Nell Benton
We were out of World War II Milwaukee for several weeks, hoping for restocking from our wholesalers, but finally found success when we went directly to Arcadia/History Press. Jones recently had a column in the Journal Sentinel about Bob Birmingham, a World War II vet: "It was Jan. 17, 1945, in the final months of World War II, and Birmingham's fifth bomber mission. He had celebrated his 19th birthday five weeks earlier. It was a time when fresh-faced teenagers like Birmingham were forced to grow up in a hurry. He didn't attend his graduation ceremony at Pius XI High School; he was drafted during his senior year. His diploma was mailed to him."
Books for Kids:
1. Stick Dog Tries to Take the Donuts V5, by Tom Watson
2. Two Friends, by Dean Robbins
3. Hello, by Liza Wiemer
4. Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream V4, by Tom Watson
5. Stick Dog V1, by Tom Watson
6. Stick Dog Chases a Pizza V3, by Tom Watson
7. Anna and the Swallow Man, by Gavriel Savit
8. Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog V2, by Tom Watson
9. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
10. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
Since our top eight bestsellers are event books this week, I could say that the spring author event season is on. I should note, however, that it took a little bit to sort out our school events for Tom Watson, author of Stick Dog Tries to Take the Donuts. Watson has another new book coming out in May, Stick Cat. Kirkus Reviews writes on the upcoming book: "Transitioning smoothly are the plentiful line drawings and the humor of misunderstanding. Fans of Stick Dog will enjoy this series kickoff whether they are cat kids or dog kids." One thing I've noticed about series is that the advance review organs are likely to review first in the series but after a while, they are well aware that librarians, booksellers, and even reviewers look at track and reviews mean less, so they go where they are needed.
Over at the Journal Sentinel, Brian E. Clark profiles The Sacred Disease: My Life with Epilepsy, from Madison doctor Kristin Seaborg. "Seaborg said her advice to those with epilepsy, which affects 3 million Americans, is to not let the condition define who they are. 'Epilepsy is not a sentence,' she said. 'It's something you need to be aware of and treat. But you shouldn't let it limit what you want to achieve. And that includes having children, which is always a roll of the dice. But our three are perfectly healthy, so we are blessed.'"
Erin Kogler reviews Dawn Tripp's Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe. The book focuses on her long relationship with New York photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz. She writes: "Overall the book is a lovely portrayal of an iconic artist who is independent and multidimensional. Tripp's O'Keeffe is a woman hoping to break free of conventional definitions of art, life and gender, as well as a woman of deep passion and love." Kogler also appreciated the "vivid descriptions of of O'Keeffe's work and her intense personality."
Mike Fischer takes on Howard Jacobson's, My Name is Shylock. This former Man Booker winner has written a book in the new Hogarth Shakespeare series, which offers contemporary takes on classic plays. Fischer's take: "Jacobson's treatment of Strulovitch's Christian tormentors — including a version of Portia as a reality TV host who never met a plastic surgery she didn't love and a presentation of the daughter-stealing Lorenzo as a footballer with rocks for brains — is so broad that the intended humor falls flat. But there's nothing flat about Jacobson's provocative exploration of what Shylock embodies and who his Jewish descendants are — a question of identity that's itself been shaped by how both Christians and Jews see Shylock himself."
And finally, Jim Higgins reviews Charlie Jane Anders's All the Birds in the Sky, which mashes up science fiction and fantasy together through the characters of a witch and a scientist in near-future San Francisco coping with climate change apocalypse. What does Higgins think? The novel "is as light and crisp as an apple yet as pleasingly dense as a burrito. It engages with a metaphor at least as old as medieval Sufism while also drawing on the preoccupations of today's hipsters."
And just one more news piece. Laurie Hertzel's On Books column in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune looks at a survey that shows that 92% of college students prefer print to ebooks for studying.