Friday, January 5, 2018

Book club brochure update: January and February offer a sleigh's full of discussable new paperback releases

Putting together a book club brochure is a lopsided affair from a seasonal standpoint. Almost everything comes out between January and July so doing three releases in January, May, and September means that two of the lists change a lot while the September release, not so much.

Unlike other promotions, like our Boswell's Best or our event programming, somebody has to have read the book cover-to-cover in order to make the promotion, and two people is even better. We use this list when we do book club talks around town, and it wouldn't make sense to feature a book where we had nothing to say.

Here are the titles added to the winter-spring list.

I Will Send Rain, by Rae Meadows
We always have demand for historical fiction, and there are suddenly a lot of great books in that genre selling off our front table. We didn't want to duplicate all of them in the rear display but Rae Meadows's latest had book love from both Jane and Sharon. It's set in 1930s Oklahoma, a nice change-of-pace setting. This is the book that got away - we were talking with the publisher about an event for the hardcover, but we'd already booked the Lynden and our reads came in late so we wound up putzing around and by then, she and her publisher decided to do Madison only. Had the reads come earlier or had we had the right format, we would have locked this in. It happens! The paperback jacket is standard woman looking away from camera from a distance. I think I actually prefer it to the hardcover, which was somehow a bit intimate for me.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday, by Susan Rivers
This is another Jane and Sharon pick, set during the Civil War and told through letters, diary entries, and court documents. Sharon's been passionate about this book since hardcover, and we're hoping that the book club table will help spread the word. Shortlisted for Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Rivers has also won some playwriting awards. The quotes: Alice LaPlante and Hillary Jordan, whose Mudbound is seeing sales from the acclaimed film adaptation. The cover treatment is the same script for the title, only instead of a sheet of paper as the background, the paperback features an outdoor scene of birds. Why is the sky red? Is that smoke from the war?

A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline. While I did not read Orphan Train, I read Kline's latest for two reasons - I am often drawn to novels about art and artists (this is about Andrew Wyeth and Christina Olson, the model for Christina's World) and because we co-hosted her at the Lynden. Tim was also a fan of this, and he wound up reading Kline's first book for kids, Orphan Train Girl, as well. The novel is sort of Girl with a Pearl Earring-esuqe in that it gets you inside the artist and the art. I'm sort of confused by the paperback cover. It's now a close-up of the house in the hardcover, only with a Mrs. Kimble-like dress on the line. But because of the change in perspective, it no longer looks like Christina's World. It's also bluer than the hardcover, that had a more greenish tint. Go figure!

Janesville: An American Story, by  Amy Goldstein
While I'm not sure it was a good idea to send this book into paperback so quickly, the upside is that we could feature it on the book club table. This book has been so great to sell this year, and I'm hoping that lots and lots of book clubs take this on. So timely, and with some unexpected insights into the retraining programs for displaced workers. Also showed up on President Obama's top books of 2017. No change for the paperback jacket.

Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood that Helped Turn the Tide of War, by Lynne Olson
Citizens of London, the last book by Olson, turned out to be a huge book club book at Boswell, and Jane is pretty confident we can repeat some of that success with this book, the story of the Allied governments that were exiled to London after invasion. And you know that when Jane recommends history, it's not going to be dry. The Washington Post confirms this: "A book to be welcomed, both for the past it recovers and also, quite simply, for being such a pleasant tome to read." No change for the paperback jacket.

Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, by Lauren Elkin
So I was saying to Jane while we were planning this list, "You know what we really need that we haven't had in a while? Travel lit. But maybe not Paris." And Jane immediately said she had just the book. Elkin turns a male-dominated genre of meander-lit on its head and its the perfect companion to Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, which comes out in paperback in April.  Jane was also hot this holiday season on Women Walking: Freedom, Adventure, Independence. Same jacket as hardcover.

Pachinko, by  Min Jin Lee
Well, duh! This saga of a Korean family in Japan has been a staff favorite since its release last February and it was so exciting to see it become a National Book Awards finalist and a New York Times top ten pick of 2017. Such a great book club selection - despite it being a little long for some groups, it's got a page-turner aspect to it that makes it read relatively quickly. I'm hoping we see it back on the New York Times bestseller list. If only they would expand the list back to at least 15 slots. Jen and I are the big fans. I liked the hardcover but didn't expect it to stay. I've heard that had the book broken out in hardcover, it might have been more likely to stay for the paperback. I wasn't surprised by the paper treatment in terms of image but I was surprised by how blue the book went.

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
The paperback comes out January 30 and our event at UWM is January 31. Tickets here. Whitehead's novel has been one of those hardcover books that showed up regularly as a book club selection; we're hoping the momentum continues into paperback. We're hoping for a trajectory at least as good as All the Light We Cannot See, being that it is coming much faster in paperback than Anthony Doerr's novel. Both Jason and I read and recommend this.  Effectively the same jacket as hardcover.

August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones
This is one of my favorite mysteries of 2017 - the other is Bluebird, Bluebird which won't be out in paperback for a while. I like to have at least one mystery pick on the list. Mysteries are a great change of pace for a reading group, particularly if they have some meat to them. In the case of Jones's debut, there's Detroit-in-recovery setting and the class issues that permeate the narrative. That there's a crazy conspiracy plot at its core is just another thing to bring to the conversation. Sharon also recommended. Same jacket.

History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund
Fridlund's book is selling so well in paperback that I thought about not including it in book club, but from the Minnesota wild setting to the beautiful writing to the unique coming-of-age-and-out-of-innocence narrative at the core, there's a lot to talk about here. That Man Booker finalist nod really put this book on everybody's radar. So glad we could help launch the book with a conversation (with me!) last January. Here's an interesting aside - Jason and I checked Above the Treeline to see how the book is selling. Of the 15 stores selling the most, all but two are in the Northeast or the Midwest, with all the top stores being in the latter. I thought the jacket would change but it didn't.

Ginny Moon, by Benjamin Ludwig
Kay was our big reader for this, but once we decided to host an event for the paperback (on January 23), Jane dove right into it and started handselling the book the day after she finished it. It's about a teenage autistic girl whose been adopted into a family after a series of false starts, but she's still  having issues, mostly because she keeps contacting her unhinged mom and asking about her Baby Doll. Jane says this book is so on the money about adoption and foster care. Lots of reviewers compared the book to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I'm now about halfway through! Very paperbacky jacket with Ginny covering her face with a package. While you know I don't love these covers, sometimes they make sense and this is one of these times.

The Hearts of Men, by Nickolas Butler
Butler is so good about writing about men's friendships. In this book, he also tackles father-son relationships and we've heard there are some autobiographical elements to the story. It's three generations at a Wisconsin Scout camp and the book brought back my own Scouting memories (and my own lack of friendships). I also think it's a great book about honor. I posted this already in a photo but isn't it funny how similar this paperback jacket is to Peter Heller's Celine, both of which are big changes from their hardcover treatments - black and brown tints, with water.

On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman
Jane used to have a category in her book club list called Light with a Bite and our enthusiasm for Elinor Lipman made me want to bring back that category. Maybe a table is in our future! In Lipman's latest, a fundraiser (she's very good at thank-you notes) buys a house for her soon-to-be husband, only he decides he needs to go on a journey to find himself. And the house has its own issues.  Same jacket as hardcover.

Still on our list:
News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
Karolina's Twins, by Ronald H. Balson
Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
Books for Living, by Will Schwalbe
The Six, by Laura Thompson
Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard
Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
Miss Jane, by Brad Watson
Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
The Wangs vs. the World, by Jade Chang

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