Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boswell's Annotated Bestseller Lists, for the week ending November 19, featuring the National Book Awards sales pop and more.

Here's what sold at Boswell last week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
2. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
3. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
4. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
5. Death in Cold Water V3, by Patricia Skalka
6. The Whistler, by John Grisham
7. Precious and Grace V17, by Alexander McCall Smith
8. No Man's Land V4, by David Baldacci
9. Chaos V24, by Patricia Cornwell
10. Night School V21, by Lee Child

Apparantly November brings out the series buyer at Boswell, with fully half the top ten fiction titles featuring a recurring protagonist. But at the top are four stand-alones, with the top three all being shortlisted for the National Book Award. In the end, The Underground Railroad took home the prize but his top ranking at Boswell was eclipsed by News of the World due to some hand-selling and a gift order from one of our regulars.

From The New York Times, Janet Maslin writes of Jiles's latest: "News of the World is a narrow but exquisite book about the joys of freedom (experienced even by a raging river threatening to overrun its banks); the discovery of unexpected, proprietary love between two people who have never experienced anything like it; pure adventure in the wilds of an untamed Texas; and the reconciling of vastly different cultures (as when Kidd has to explain to Johanna, who is all set to collect a white man’s scalp, that this 'is considered very impolite' and simply isn’t done). That’s a lot to pack into a short (213 pages), vigorous volume, but Ms. Jiles is capable of saying a lot in few words."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Torn in Two, by Michael Schumacher
3. Much Ado, by Michael Lenehan (event 12/5, 7 pm, at Boswell)
4. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
5. Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard
6. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
7. Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders
8. Lithium Jesus, by Charles Monroe-Kane
9. Appetites, by Anthonny Bourdain
10. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

In the wake of the election, I suspect that sales for Bernie Sanders's Our Revolution are higher than had Hillary Clinton won the Electoral College, but I guess we'll see this coming week when the Bookscan and New York Times numbers come out. The Chicago Tribune covered a Sanders appearance at North Central College: "Sanders was ostensibly at North Central College to plug his new book, Our Revolution, but he gave a postelection version of his populist anti-Wall Street stump speech that the audience of liberal arts students and other fellow travelers seemed desperate to hear. Less boisterously received, however, were some of Sanders' comments about Donald Trump, who he said "did something the Democrats do not do often enough and that is speak about the pain and despair" felt by people "all over this country who are working two and three jobs. ... They are struggling and nobody is paying attention to them."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox
2. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
3. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. The Drifter V1, by Nick Petrie
6. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
7. Death Stalks Door County V1, by Patricia Skalka
8. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
9. Selected Stories, by Anton Chekhov
10. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

Our book club night with Lauren Fox for Days of Awe edged out Paul Beatty's sales surge for The Sellout post Man Booker win. Does this definitively determine that the Man Booker has more domestic oomph than does the National Book Critic Circle Awards? It certainly has proven so in this case. And the book with the most oomph at our book club night? It was Miriam Toews's All My Puny Sorrows. And while we're doing just fine with the book, there's said to be a store out west that is on its way to selling 1000 copies of this book. Now that's passion.

Nonfiction Paperback:
1. Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton
2. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3. The Clothing of Books, by Jhumpa Lahiri (originally a speech that Lahiri gave in Italy)
4. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
5. Magna Carta, by Dan Jones
6. Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit
7. November's Fury, by Michael Schumacher
8. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
9. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
10. A Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes

If I had the energy, I'd figure out why it took four years to do a paperback on Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography (see above) and got very nice reviews, like this from Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Was it selling too steadily in its hardcover edition? Was it not selling enough? Was it selling just enough to slowly sell down the hardcovers and the demand was mostly academic so price point didn't matter? Our sales are classroom purchases (yes, college students still very occasionally come into a trade bookstore to buy their textbook, if the indie-bookstore-fan instructor pushes students in that direction) so that might be the case. But I don't have the energy.

Books for Kids:
1. Sophie's Squash Go to School, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf
2. Because of Thursday, by Patricia Polacco
3. Sharing the Bread, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Jill McElmurry
4. Sophies Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf
5. Double Down V11, by Jeff Kinney
6. Magic School Bus and the Climate Change, by Joanna Cole
7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a screenplay by J.K. Rowling
8. Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin
9. Dog Man V1, by Dav Pilkey
10. Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin

We shorthand all the Harry Potter books with author J.K. Rowling so they will be placed together, but like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I thought that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would have other writers. But no, I checked Ingram's database and Amazon's IMDb and both only list Rowling. I know with films there can be multiple writers that do not get writing credits, but for my purposes, it's Rowling all the way. Chris Nashawaty gave Beasts a B- in Entertainment Weekly: "The film, directed by seasoned Potter pro David Yates, unspools like a kiddie version of the X-Men flicks. The xenophobic Muggle population (or No-Majs, as they’re called Stateside) live in rabid suspicion of the hidden world of hocus-pocus. And like those films, its phantasmagorical special effects are easy on the eyes. So why does Fantastic Beasts feel so oddly lifeless? Why doesn’t it cast more of a spell? First, there are the performances, which aside from Redmayne’s are surprisingly flat. And second, the thinness of the source material gives the whole film a slightly padded feeling." Well, it is based on a textbook.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement. He writes: "What makes They Can’t Kill Us All more than a ripped-from-the-headlines chronicle is Lowery’s combination of solid reporting, emotional commitment to his story as a black man and a reflective turn of mind."

For another take, here's Joy-Ann Reid in The New York Times: "Lowery is unflinchingly honest about the journalistic temptation to seek false balance. He describes grasping at a story of positive policing that turns out to be less than what it seemed. He questions the media’s tendency to put the dead on trial, noting that 'a journalist’s portrait of the deceased is often used by the casual reader to decide if the tragic outcome that befell him or her could have happened to us,' or if it was 'reserved for someone innately criminal who behaved in a way we never would.'”

Carole E. Barrowman has three recommendations in her "Paging Through Mysteries" column.

Of Phoef Sutton's Heart Attack and Vine, which features a Los Angeles bodyguard and bouncer, Barrowman writes: "In my world any novel that alludes to a Tom Waits song with its title gets a closer look. When that reference also characterizes the sly tone, the slick characters, and the twisty plot, then I’m singing, too...every chapter was steeped in snark, wit and movie references. There’s magic in this book."

A Timely recommendation follows. From Barrowman: "Stefanie Pintoff’s City on Edge takes the thriller motif of the ticking clock and inflates it with helium, setting the search for a kidnapped teenager against the time it takes for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to march through the streets of New York." This New York writer has previously won an Edgar Award for her first novel, In the Shadows of Gotham.

And finally, Charles Finch has a new book in The Inheritance, set in 19th century London and featuring Charles Lenox, the Victorian-era gentleman sleuth who investigates the death of his old friend's mum. Barrowman writers: "Significantly more measured in its pacing than my first two recommendations, this novel is no less entertaining and evocative, a sense of time and place heightened by Finch’s elegant prose and characters this Dorothy Sayers fan adores."

And finally, from the man who knows a thing or two about chipped ham and sandwiches with french fries on them (and salads too, Pittsburgh is quite the city), Jim Higgins, Journal Sentinel Assistant Entertainment/Features Editor, reviews Chuck Noll: His Life's Work, from Michael MacCambridge. As Higgins notes: "Is any great National Football League coach so little discussed, outside of western Pennsylvania, as Chuck Noll? His Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in six seasons in the 1970s, a stretch of dominance surpassed only by the Green Bay Packers' run of championships in the 1960s. Perhaps Noll's luster has dimmed because he appeared to have the demeanor of Bob Newhart without the shtick: a low-key, almost stoic professional who saw himself as a teacher. His teams weren't gimmicky; in fact, Noll had to be prodded into using the shotgun formation. His teams just won, baby."

Now that he mentions it, What are Mike McCarthy's hobbies? And why don't I have a good hobby? Reading really makes you think.

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