Sunday, September 11, 2016

Annotated Boswell Bestseller List, week ending September 10, 2016

Here is what's been selling at Boswell this past week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny
2. Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer
3. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
4. Razor Girl, by Carl Hiaasen
5. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton (in conversation with Ann Patchett 10/19, ticketed)
6. Karolina's Twins, by Ronald H. Balson (event 9/19 at Samson JCC in Whitefish Bay)
7. The Nix, by Nathan Hill
8. The Girls, by Emma Cline
9. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
10. As Good as Gone, by Larry Watson

Just a week after The Wall Street Journal feature about how Dave Barry premise that Florida is the punchline state comes Carl Hiaasen's newest, Razor Girl, about a car crash scam that spins out into absolute craziness. Janet Maslin uses one of her precious allotted reviews to note that his new book is pretty much just like his other books and worth buying - this is my definition of really, really well done commercial fiction that I was referring to yesterday. The other interesting thing about Hiaasen is that he peppers his stories with weird Wisconsinites, with one story having a tourist from Kinnickinnic Ave, which is one block over from my home. Razor Girl features a family of transplanted Milwaukeeans who have a fraudulent television show called "Bayou Brethren." And yet he doesn't tour Wisconsin. In another take, Jacksonville's Florida Times Union says that Razor Girl is fun and fast.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. John Bascom and the Origins of the Wisconsin Idea, by J. David Hoeveler
2. Seinfeldia, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (event is tomorrow at The Soup House, not quite sold out yet)
3. Braving It, by James Campbell
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond ($50 fundraiser with Desmond for Mercy Housing Lakefront on November 2. Tickets here.)
5. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer
6. My Son Wears Heels, by Julie Tarney (event 9/21 at Boswell)
7. Pigeon Tunnel, by John LeCarre
8. White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg
9. Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
10. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

So while Doubleday for Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad cancelled the original edition when the Oprah edition was announced, Flatiron decided to go with two versions of Love Warrior, a regular edition and an Oprah Book Club edition. Both options had their problems - Doubleday sometimes shipped out both orders after saying they wouldn't, while Flatiron has two editions of the book floating around, which means we have to add them up for this bestseller list and one still shows an "untitled" image on our website. Now I understand having a non-Oprah version of Franzen's Freedom, especially with their special history, but when Love Warrior fan would not want an Oprah seal on their book? Let's just say that either method is complicated and it's impressive that it all comes together.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley (it's textbook season and a class is reading this)
2. Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser (book club discussion with Florentine Opera on 10/3, 7 pm)
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. Eileen, Otessa Moshfegh (book club discussion 11/7)
5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
6. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart
8. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
9. My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
10. A Manual For Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin

You'll be reading a lot more about Eileen in this column, like later in the week when I publish our "What did the book club think of She Weeps Each Time You're Born?" blog post. Moshfegh's novel won the PEN Hemingway and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It sounds like psychological suspense, like Unbecoming that we read in January. I'll be interested to see what sets it apart.

Another suspenseful novel on our list is Jade Dragon Mountain, which I'm excited to note has us ranked #1 on Treeline among registered independents, the way we did for the hardcover. Alas, in his new book, we learn that Li Du did not get relocated back to Beijing, or at least not yet. The White Mirror finds him investigating the death of a monk while on the road. Oline Cogdill's Associated Press review notes: "Hart’s precise research makes 18th-century China seem fresh and relevant as she steeps The White Mirror with vivid scenery and believable characters. She manages to find the commonalities between centuries while keeping the sensibilities of historical China."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
2. Neurotribes, by Steve Silberman
3. Milwaukee in the 1930s, by John D. Buenker
4. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
5. LGBT Milwaukee, by Michail Takach
6. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
7. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
8. M Train, by Patti Smith
9. Old Records Never Die, by Eric Spitznagel
10. Sit Stay Heel, by Mel Miskimen (event 9/14 at Boswell)

Sometimes these lists can be like a knife to the heart. I'll confess that for about a week, we thought we were going to host Patti Smith at an area theater for the paperback release of M Train, but it was not to be. That said, you can still fly out and see her at the Mark Twain House in West Hartford, Connecticut. Here's M.G. Lord's review of the hardcover in The New York Times Book Review.

Books for Kids:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
2. The Thank You Book, by Mo Willems
3. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
4. Appleblossom the Possum, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
5. Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale
6. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, with illustrations by Richard Scarry
7. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
8. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, by Michelle Cuevas, with illustrations by Erin Stead
9. Be a Friend, by Salina Yoon
10. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Now in paperback is Appleblossom the Possum, one of Boswellian Barb Katz's favorite books of 2015. Her recommendation noted the book was "filled with humor, theatrical happenings and perfect expressive illustrations - this book is super special!" Ann M. Martin's NYT Book Review essay praised the "delightfully amusing imaginings of possum life" and learned the valuable lesson that while possums are solitary, they are not alone.

Over at the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page, five books are featured!

1. Mike Fischer reviews Commonwealth, Ann Patchett's newest. He agrees with what everyone is saying, calling it "a moving, beautifully crafted novel." He offers this take: "Patchett’s dramatic forward and backward shifts in time and among her characters, coupled with her frequently elegiac tone, recall Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. But Egan’s great subject was how time alters our sense of the choices (mostly bad) that we’ve made. For Patchett, in Commonwealth as in so many of her novels, the grand theme is fate, with all the ways it circumscribes the choices (usually disappointing) we even have. This explains her focus on the offspring, none of whom had a say regarding the circumstances throwing them together."

Don't forget, tickets are now on sale for our event but you've only got one more day to choose the early pickup option, where you can pick up your copy of Commonwealth that goes with the ticket in advance of the event. As of Tuesday, you'll only be able to get your book on the night of the event.

2. Laura Patten reviews My Son Wears Heels, the new memoir by Julie Tarney about raising Harry. She writes: "For those of us who raised sons who wore heels — and feather boas, tutus and Easter bonnets — the book is affirming. No, we aren’t coddlers or negligent parents or sinners who pervert young minds, Tarney’s message conveys. For those who never experienced the confusing emotions (including fear) when your young son says that inside his head he’s a girl, the book is eye-opening. And for sons who wear heels, or even daughters who prefer tuxedos to toile, they’re introduced to a young man who could become their hero, mostly because Harry respects himself enough to proudly let his freak flag fly — and pretty much always did." Tarney is coming to Boswell on Wednesday, September 21, 7 pm.

3. As Jim Higgins notes in his review of Alexander Weinstein's Children of the New World, "The typical protagonist of Alexander Weinstein's cautionary tales in "Children of the New World" is a man who could benefit from reading these stories, but probably never would, unless someone found a way to pipe them directly into his eyeballs." A lot of the stories touch on how virtual reality may somehow negatively affect our lives, a sex substitution and a new drug to become dependent on. Jim's pick is "Rocket Night," a contemporary take on "The Lottery."

4. In the Journal Sentinel print edition is The Man Who Snapped His Fingers, by Fariba Hachtroudi, reviewed by Ginny Greeene, originally from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It's an "arresting tale of a woman held in a military prison in an unnamed theological republic who is brutally tortured but refuses to give up the man she loves." I definitely want to call the next book I read about a prisoner "arresting." That's just too good. Her take? "The story leaves us chilled by the tyrannical culture that created this macabre bond. But at the end, it’s just as much a tale of the capacity to love."

5. Melissa Davis's review of A Gentleman in Moscow originally appeared in The Seattle Times. She writes: "In Amor Towles’ enjoyable, elegant new novel, an enormous hotel becomes an art nouveau prison for a nobleman after the Bolsheviks sentence him — for life — to house arrest there. Once an aimless man of means and leisure, he finds leisure is mostly what remains after he’s suddenly “relocated” from a suite to a tiny attic room, 'cleared of all but a cast-iron bed, a three-legged bureau, and a decade of dust.'" It will not disappoint fans of The Rules of Civility.

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