Sunday, December 17, 2017

Annotated Boswell bestsellers for the week ending December 16, 2017, plus the Journal Sentinel critics best books of 2017

Here comes the second most exciting weekly bestseller list of the year!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (Finally readers respond to these amazing reviews!)
2. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
3. Devotions, by Mary Oliver
4. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
5. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
6. The Power, by Naomi Alderman (two top tens plus an award + Handmaid's Tale comparison)
7. Origin, by Dan Brown
8. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (yes, we're still selling hardcovers)
9. Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks
10. Future Home of the Living God, by Louise Erdrich
11. The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
12. Artemis, by Andy Weir
13. Hum If You Don't Know the Words, by Bianca Marais (only a few indies seem to understand the potential of this book, according to Treeline)
14. The House of Unexpected Sisters, by Alexander McCall Smith (post-event buzz. Sandy doesn't generally have this long tail of sales with us)
15. How to Find Love in a Bookshop, by Veronica Henry (always need a bookstore book)

On Wednesday, I spoke to Mitch Teich on Lake Effect and mentioned the two critical darlings. Our customers love critical praise (and so do we) and I was struggling to understand our good but not great sales. So it's nice to see that our customers are finally responding to the power of Sing, Unburied, Sing and made it our #1 hardcover fiction book for the week.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Obama, by Pete Souza (we're not out of books yet!)
2. Grant, by Ron Chernow
3. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
4. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan (not out of this either! I guess a lot of places are)
5. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
6. Everybody Lies, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
7. The Color of War, by Richard Rothstein (Milwaukee appearance next spring, not through spring)
8. Promise, Me Dad, by Joe Biden (Riverside appearance next spring, not through us)
9. The Secret Lives of Color, by Kassia St. Clair
10. Wait, What?, by James E. Ryan
11. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
12. We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
13. Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris (we hid away some signed copies!)
14. The Driftless Reader, by Curt Meine and Keeley Keefe
15. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben (2016 redux, though we were lagging other bookstores then)
16. Milwaukee City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
17. Endurance, by Scott Kelly
18. Priestdaddy, by Patricia Lockwood
19. Silence, by Erling Kagge
20. Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook, by Jim Lahey

I think I knew pretty early that Grant and Leonardo Da Vinci would be two of our yearend bestsellers, but I have to say that I didn't expect a $50 photography book about Obama to take off. I didn't understand how Souza stood above other photographers (official + social media) and that many, many folks would like to have a very nice memento of Obama's legacy.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (wow!)
2. Nobody's Fool, by Richard Russo (one customer's list)
3. History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund
4. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (I forget, this is its first Christmas!)
5. I Will Send Rain, by Rae Meadows
6. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
7. The Mistletoe Murder, by P.D. James
8. Al the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
9. The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn
10. The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
11. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
12. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
13. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
14. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
15. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

To delay or not to delay paperbacks. Pachinko is one example of a book that got rushed out in paperback for the holidays and it's clearly paid off (as I think they got some momentum help with the a new release). History of Wolves from Emily Fridlund had been scheduled for paperback release pre-Christmas for some time and it's similarly had a nice pop. The book was a Man Booker finalist but it's hardcover rebound sales as a result of the nom did not come close to this (and we had a display). And since our bestseller numbers in paperback have been pretty moribund, I have to say that maybe we could use a few more releases in the fourth quarter if you've got a book with buzz but not selling at bestseller levels in hardcover. But if everyone did this, the sales pops would be fewer and farther between. It's like the old coloring book dilemma--the craze was killed partly because it was a craze, but also by the a huge increase in supply (both in publications and outlets) which outstripped demand.

So nice to see books like I Will Send Rain and The Alice Network showing strong sales. Hoping that after the holidays, one or two of these will break nationally. Hey, New York Times, it would help if you increased the trade paperback fiction list from 10 to 15.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Beer Lovers Wisconsin, by Kathy Flanigan (out of stock many places!)
3. Lolas' House, by M. Evelina Galang
4. Women and Power, by Mary Beard
5. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
6. Global Discontents, by Noam Chomsky
7. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
8. How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh
9. World Almanac and Book of Facts 2018, edited by Sarah Janssen
10. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
11. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
12. Jane Austen Illustrated Quotations, edited by the Bodleian Library

Working with Boswell's Jane at the front desk yesterday, we each put a book at our register. I had my Lonesome Lies Before Us, while Jane's pick was the Jane Austen Illustrated Quotations, which made sense because it was Austen's 243rd birthday.

Books for Kids:
1. Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers (our buyer Amie knew in seconds this would be a top seller for us)
2. Dream Big Dreams, by Pete Souza
3. Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
4. The Explorer, by Katherine Rundell
5. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesa Cavallo
6. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
7. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, by Karina Yan Glaser (another Amie pick)
8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Getaway, by Jeff Kinney
9. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls V2, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
10. The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman
11. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen
12. After the Fall, by Dan Santat
13. The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown
14. Wonder (both editions), by Peter Brown
15. Dog Man Unleashed, by Dav Pilkey
16. Pup and Bear, by Kate Banks and Naoko Stoop
17. Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
18. Undefeated, by Steve Sheinkin
19. A World Full of Animal Stories, by Angela McAllister
20. Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
21. Ship of the Dead, by Rick Riordan
22. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
23. Restart, by Gordon Korman
24. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban illustrated, by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay
25. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them illustrated, by J.K. Rowling and Olivia Lomenich Gill
26. Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower, by Hiro Kamigaki
27. Red and Lulu, by Matt Tavares
28. Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid, by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis
29. A World of Cookies for Santa, by M.E. Furman with illustrations by Susan Gal
30. The Stars Beneath Our Feet, by David Barclay Moore

Over at the Journal Sentinel, critics Jim Higgins, Carole E. Barrowman, and Mike Fischer pick the best books of 2017.

Jim Higgins picks:
--All Grown Up, a novel, by Jami Attenberg
--The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story, by Edwidge Danticat
--Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York, by Roz Chast
--Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay
--Janesville: An American Story, by Amy Goldstein
--Lincoln in the Bardo, a novel, by George Saunders
--Make Trouble, by John Waters
--Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy, by Michael Perry
--300 Arguments, by Sarah Manguso
--An Uncommon Reader: A Life of Edward Garnett, Mentor and Editor of Literary Genius, by Helen Smith.

Carole Barrowman picks:
--Bluebird Bluebird, by Attica Locke
--The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne
--Lola, by Melissa Scrivner Love
--August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones
--Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
--Garden of Lamentations, by Deborah Crombie
--Burning Bright, by Nick Petrie
--Sulphur Springs, by William Kent Krueger
--Afterlife, by Marcus Sakey
--The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman

Mike Fischer picks:
--Augustown, by Kei Miller
--Autumn, by Ali Smith
--The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick, selected by Darryl Pinckney
--Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
--Forest Dark, by Nicole Krauss
--Grant, by Ron Chernow
--The Idiot, by Elif Batuman
--Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
--The Unwomanly Face of War, by Svetlana Alexievich
--We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

And so we go into the next week! I'm not linking this week (except to the newspaper) because, well, it's a lot of work! We'd love to hear from you. Call us at (414) 332-1181 or email us (for ordering info) at

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