Sunday, January 22, 2017

Boswell annotated bestsellers for the week ending January 21, 2017, plus Journal Sentinel book reviews

Here's what sold at Boswell this week.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Wisconsin Sentencing in the Tough-on-Crime Era, by Michael O'Hear
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
4. Tears We Cannot Stop, by Michael Eric Dyson
5. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
6. I Hate Everyone, Except You, by Clinton Kelly
7. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
8. The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes
9. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
10. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

The most noticeable pop of sales for a new title was Michael Eric Dyson's Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, which should not be surprising in the context of the other titles on our bestseller list - Evicted, Hillbilly Elegy, and Born a Crime. Patrick Phillips in The New York Times wrote: "The result is one of the most frank and searing discussions of race I have ever read. This is a book that will anger some readers, especially those who reject Dyson’s central premise: that if we want true racial equality in America, whites themselves must destroy the enduring myths of white supremacy. Even sympathetic readers might mistake this extraordinary work for merely a catalog of white sins." Here's another essay from Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Burning Bright, by Nick Petrie
2. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
3. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
4. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Transit, by Rachel Cusk
7. Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay
8. The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden
9. The Death of Kings, by Rennie Airth
10. Class, by Lucinda Rosenfeld

There are a few new titles on the bestseller list this week, but so much exciting has happened for Nick Petrie's Burning Bright that I need to mention them. First week's sales on Milwaukee Bookscan were great - Burning Bright came in #3 on the 100 bestselling titles, and The Drifter popped back on at #36. But the biggest news was the release of the Edgar finalists, where Burning Bright got a nom for Best First Novel.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. On Air, by Katrina Cravy
2. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero (ticketed event 4/26 at Boswell)
3. Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
4. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
5. What We Do Now, edited by Dennis Loy Johnson
6. March V3, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
7. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
8. You Can't Touch My Hair, by Phoebe Robinson
9. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
10. Best American Essays, edited by Jonathan Franzen

Our nonfiction paperback list reflects the mood of many of Boswell's customers. One anthology, What We Do Now, is a collection of essays from folks such as Paul Krugman, Cornell Williams Brooks of the NAACP, Elizabeth Warren, Bill McKibben, and Kristina Vanden Heuvel of The Nation. Johnson publishes Melville House, and here's an interview with him in Kirkus Reviews that happened well before the election, but still gives you a handle on his worldview. I guess he should be happy that the adult coloring book fad is collapsing.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar
2. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
3. The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
6. Selected Stories, by Anton Chekhov
7. Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain
8. American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar
9. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
10. Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur

While I still haven't seen the Milwaukee Rep production of Disgraced, I read the play to prepare for Saturday's conversation with Ayad Akhtar, the playwright who also places his novel, American Dervish, on this week's bestseller list. I know that we didn't promote this as a conversation but it was only decided on Friday. Mike Fischer raves about the production in today's Journal Sentinel: "What makes Disgraced great is the strength of its characters, coupled with Akhtar’s willingness to test them through fearless writing on sex, race and — especially — the price we pay when pursuing the American Dream. In trying to fulfill ourselves, do we lose sight of who we are and where we’re from? Would that more American plays asked. This one consistently does." Buy tickets for this production, running through February 12.

Books for Kids:
1. Egg, by Kevin Henkes
2. Heart to Heart, by Lois Ehlert (event 2/11, 2 pm, at Boswell)
3. The Bad Beginning V1, by Lemony Snicket
4. When Spring Comes, by Kevin Henkes, with illustrations by Laura Dronzek
5. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes
6. The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes
7. Welcome to the World, by Delane Marfe Ferguson
8. Carve the Mark, by Veronica Roth
9. The Secret Keepers, by Trenton Lee Stewart
10. Hands, by Lois Ehlert

Veronica Roth's latest novel, Carve the Mark, is her first following the Divergent trilogy, is an intergalactic saga about two kids from different worlds, one, Cyra, who lives in constant pain whose give is to gift the pain to others, and the second, Akos, whose power is to relieve Cyra of said pain. She told NPR her inspiration: "I had several friends who experienced chronic pain over, you know, like a decade and had their pain underestimated by doctors, which statistically is more likely if you're a woman by like a drastic degree. And they were eventually diagnosed with endometriosis [an often painful disorder]. This is like a couple people just in my immediate social circle. So I thought about them a lot, about how pain takes over your life and limits your potential and how difficult it can be to find someone who will take it seriously."

The Booklist take?: "Though the pace sometimes drags, the fascinating, fantasy-sf-hybrid world building is deftly deployed and adds considerable depth. Inevitably, it ends on a tantalizing cliff-hanger, but Roth's fans will be happily on board for the forthcoming sequel."

Over at the Journal Sentinel Tap Books Page, editor Jim Higgins reviews Civilianized: A Young Veteran's Memoir, by Michael Anthony, as well as The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War, edited by Adrian Bonenberger and Brian Castner, who spoke at Boswell for his previous work, All The Ways We Kill and Die.

Of Michael Anthony's memoir, Fischer writes: "Civilianized is a remarkable account of what it's like to live inside post-traumatic stress disorder. It's also smart and mordantly funny. Its spareness and unflinching description of drug use and consequences reminds me occasionally of another short book, William S. Burroughs' Junky, though Anthony, even in his fighting mode, come across as a kinder and more compassionate character than Burroughs' Bill Lee." Of the anthology, Fischer observes: "Nothing in this anthology is definitive," the editors of The Road Ahead declare, emphasizing the constantly changing nature of these wars and the unique responses of each combatant. But The Road Ahead does capture what appears to me two of the distinctive elements of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts: the constant threat of improvised explosive devices and the wvidespread presence of women in combat roles. "

Also in the Journal Sentinel, Carole E. Barrowman's Paging Through Mysteries column offers another fine assessment of our resident breakout thriller writer's second novel: "Local author Nick Petrie’s thrilling Burning Bright transported me to the woods of northern California and the wilds of Washington state and I loved every page of this adrenaline-fueled journey. In fact, a beginning chase scene in the redwoods is not only breathtaking, it’s also one of the most original action scenes I’ve read (imagine The Fast and the Furious sampling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

Barrowman's other pick is Everything You Want Me to Be, from Mindy Mejia, who will be in conversation with Barrowman on Monday, February 13, 7 pm, at Boswell. The story is about the murder of a young woman playing the role of Lady Macbeth in a high school production. Barrowman notes: "I won’t spoil Mejia’s clever crafting and her sophisticated set up. Let me just add that Hattie’s narration and Peter’s guide us in flashback while Del’s narration keeps us in the novel’s present, but all three move us forward to the novel’s seductive conclusion. This means that all the other characters cross each of the narrations and this layering makes for a sophisticated and wicked whodunit."

Also on the Tap Books page is an assessment of Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, a new collection of stories from Randa Jarrar. Lorrain Ali, originally in the Los Angeles Times, wrote: "There is no easy way to connect the dots between the mostly fictional female characters in Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, Randa Jarrar’s debut collection of short stories, except that they are all of Middle Eastern descent and all deviate from the usual perceptions many Americans have about Arab women."

Reprinted from the Minneapolis Star Tribune is Laurie Hertzel's assessment of Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation, from Kyo Maclear. From her review: "One bird walk turns into a year of birding, during which Maclear meditates on her past, her parents, her marriage, books she loves, the nature of art, death, happiness, climate change and whatever else comes to her fertile, deeply curious mind. Though structured as a chronological memoir, hers is not a typical “year in the life” narrative. Each chapter is built around bird observations, but her excursions to the urban-bird habitats serve mainly as jumping-off points for her intelligent and thoughtful ramblings." Sounds like a great book who folks who enjoyed H Is for Hawk.

And here's one last profile from Nicole Brodeur, originally published in the Seattle Times. Laurie Frankel's This Is How it Always Is, a novel about a family "navigating the unexpected turns that come when a child states with unflinching certainty he (or she) belongs in a different body, and wants to transition." Though fiction, it's based on Frankel's own experience.

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