Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Annotated Boswell Bestseller List for the week ending May 28 2016, or should I say it's the Main Street bookstore, at least for some the Journal Sentinel reviews and summer reading guide.

Welcome to the Boswell urban planning bookstore. We sold books at the Main Street Now Conference that was in Milwaukee this past week. Next year, some list you get from a Pittsburgh store will be filled with city books. But maybe not - this was the first time they used a bookstore in a number of years.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. The Happiness Track, by Emma Seppala
3. City of Thorns, by Ben Rawlence
4. Serengeti Rules, by Sean B. Carroll
5. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turkle
7. One in a Billion, by Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher
8. Milwaukee City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
9. The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
10. Urban Street Design Guide, by National Association of City Transportation Officials
11. America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook
12. Urban Bikeway Design Guide, by National Association of City Transportation Officials
13. Transit Street Design, by National Association of City Transportation Officials
14. 32 Yolks, by Eric Ripert
15. Terror in the City of Champions, by Tom Stanton (Event at Boswell Friday June 10, 7 pm)

It's a weird sales week in general. We also had a number of bulk sales, from school orders to authors, to books for a local business. But we've got at least one book from this week's events (One in a Billion) and a pop in sales from an upcoming book (Terror in the City of Champions), though I did sell at least one of Tom Stanton's books at the Main Streets Now conference. It's part of the explosion of books about Detroit that continues. We're just booking another author for this fall, Christopher Hebert, whose novel is Angels of Detroit.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
3. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
4. Zero K. by Don DeLillo
5. Everybody's Fool, by Richard Russo
6. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
7. The Yid, by Paul Goldberg
8. The Fireman, by Joe Hill
9. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
10. North of the Tension Line, by J.F. Riordan

It was just a hunch, but it felt like Don DeLillo's Zero K was selling better for us than his last few. In fact, it has already outsold Point Omega (2010) and the story collection The Angel Esmerelda (2011), as well as the Downer Schwartz sales for Falling Man (2007). What's different? Six years between books definitely helps and the reviews are everywhere. Meghan Daum writes: "Adjectives like cold and numb are frequently applied to DeLillo’s work, even—perhaps especially—by those who consider him a genius. Zero K, a novel that is literally about coldness, is duly benumbed and also duly brilliant in its imaginative scope (which, rather miraculously, the author manages to contain to fewer than 300 pages)." One should note that the novel is about cryogenic freezing, giving greater weight to a cold and numb setup. But we also have a reader in Chris (or at least I think we do, I've been distracted) and that helps.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Life on the Loose, by Cari Taylor-Carlson
2. Old Town, New World, by Jason Broadwater
3. Street Fairs for Community and Profit, by Bridget Bayer
4. The Start-up City, by Gabe Klein
5. Tactical Urbanism, by Mike Lydon
6. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
7. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
8. Fantastic Cities, by Steve McDonald
9. Charrette Handbook, by Bill Lennertz
10. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
11. City by City, edited by Keith Gessen
12. After Preservation, by Ben Minteer
13. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
14. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
15. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

I went a little deeper than normal just to list a few of these interesting Main Street bestsellers. Most of the titles that did best were from Island Press, and a few came from the American Planning Association. More than a couple were self-published. But City by City, Keith Gessen's n+1 collection of writing about cities, which I took a chance on and brought in more copies. It was hard to say what might have also hit our bestseller list if we had decided to be a bit more speculative about titles, but instead we combed not just our architecture and urban planning, but current events, history, travel lit, bicycling, and even our urban farming sections. We sold out of the copy of Bike Battles that Todd found in about 10 minutes, but with speculative buying comes speculative returns, and really, it wasn't that large a conference, nor did we know what traffic would be like. Thanks to Tina Hochberg for putting this together. Attendees really seemed to enjoy browsing the display.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart
2. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
3. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
4. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
6. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
7. Murder in the Museum, by John Rowland
8. Death Comes Darkly, by David Pederson (event at Boswell Sat June 4, 7 pm)
9. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
10. My Sunshine Away, by Mo Walsh

If you are looking for a good Baton Rouge novel, look no further than My Sunshine Away, though he must note that his town lives in the shadow of New Orleans, the generic mediocre version. Alfred Hickling in The Guardian noted the comparisons to Go Set a Watchman, but only in the setup (a rape in the past, told through the haze of memory). And Meredith Maran in the Chicago Tribune writes: "A gripping read that's more than a thriller, more than a traditional Southern tale, My Sunshine Away is a brilliant meditation on the unpredictability and the lifelong effects of childhood events and relationships: how they make us who we are, and who we wish we were, and who we wish we weren't." And we've got a great rec from Sharon too.

Books for Kids:
1. Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs, by Mike Lowery
2. Symphony for the Dead, by M.T. Anderson
3. The Last Star by Rick Yancey
4. Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie with illustrations by Yuyi Morales
5. The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan
6. The Crown, by Kiera Cass
7. The Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs
8. Waiting, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
9. Stories from Bug Garden, by Lisa Moser with illustrations by Gwen Millward
10. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, with illustrations by Jon Klassen

Kiera Cass's Selection series tends to be #1 New York Times bestsellers, though of course #1 and #2 are listed as teen novels and as of #3, the books jump to the series. But that's only if they are identified by series, which sometimes makes me a little confused about the lists. There aren't generally traditional reviews for most series, but there are lots and lots of blogger write ups. But in this case for The Crown, the final book in the Selection, we can link to the romantic trailer.

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins offers the annual summer reading list, including favorites in all sorts of categories. He starts off with Larry Watson's As Good as Gone, who will be at Boswell on launch day, June 21. I expect to see a review for the book on June 19 (I'm just being logical, since it's an editor's pick. I don't know anymore than you do).

Being a compulsive checklister, I had to count how many books I've already read on the Journal Sentinel summer reading list (nine, but I don't include picture books). But maybe a better number for you is how many do you want to read?

Christi Clancy reviews Jean Thompson's newest novel, She Poured Out Her Heart, about a dysfunctional friendship that becomes an even more dysfunctional love triangle. Her take: "In a less capable writer's hands, it would be easy to know who to root for and who to condemn in this awkward love triangle, but Thompson muddies our ideas about culpability and blame. In doing so, she elevates a plot that might have the makings of a soap opera into a nuanced study of marriage and friendship, fidelity and deceit, and our lonesome search for meaningful connection."

Chris Foran reviews Alan Furst's newest. The verdict?: "A Hero of France is the 14th of Furst's novels taking place during or in the years leading up to World War II, and his third straight (after Mission to Paris and Midnight in Europe) set principally in Paris — this time in early 1941, months into the German occupation after the fall of France in 1940.But unlike many of Furst's previous spy thrillers, the emphasis is on the milieu, and the danger, more than the intrigue. And while that makes the story seem a little slight by comparison, the result is no less captivating."

It's quite the book section, isn't it? It's also time for Carole E. Barrowman's Paging Through Mysteries. Here are her four summer picks:

--I Let You Go, by Claire Mackintosh. Set in Bristol, Carole calls this an "astonishing debut is the kind of psychological thriller that burns into your psyche and blacks out everything else until you finish it."

--The Second Life of Nick Mason, by Steve Hamilton, which is already a national bestseller, supporting Hamilton's contentious exit from another publisher for lack of support. The setup? "Ex-con Nick Mason wants so much to rebuild his life with his family that he agrees to a deal with a devil (a Godfather-like convict running his business from a cell) to get an early release. The price? Don't get in trouble and do whatever he's told. Mason discovers quickly that you really can't go home again, but if you do, watch your back." The Barrowman bite? "It's a killer read."

--Stealing People, by Robert Wilson. Here's the Barrowman-date: "I loved this novel's detailed twisty plotting and its multidimensional characters, including kidnapping consultant Charlie Boxer, his detective ex-wife, and his latest client, a young transsexual woman whose father may be a suspect."

--Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry, set in the remote English countryside. What's the fear factor? "Told in first person from Nora's perspective (and in present tense), this psychologically intense and darkly atmospheric mystery reminded me of Patricia Highsmith in its vivid style and toxic substance."

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