Sunday, September 20, 2020

Boswell bestsellers, week ending September 19, 2020

Here are the Boswell Bestsellers for the week ending September 19, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar (Register for September 22, 7 pm event here)
2. Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
3. Troubled Blood, by Robert Galbraith
4. The Evening and the Morning, by Ken Follett
5. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
6. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
7. The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante
8. All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny
9. What Are You Going Through, by Sigrid Nunez
10. Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi

New on the list is Homeland Elegies, which as noted above, is the focus of a Boswell event on September 22 with Mark Clements of the Milwaukee Rep. As you probably know, Akthar's work is the subject of a multi-year Rep project, culminating in an original play to be premiered in Milwaukee. The New Yorker has a profile from Alexandra Schwartz in the current issue that transitions from the plays to the novel: "With Homeland Elegies, Akhtar was just as intent on capturing his reader’s attention. The novel wears its erudition boldly. Discourses on Islamic finance, medical-malpractice suits, and Robert Bork’s antitrust theory punctuate the narrative. Writers of the show-don’t-tell school might worry about didacticism undermining artistry, but Akhtar has a different philosophy. 'Telling is amazing - some of my best experiences have been being told stuff,' he told me."

Following Akhtar is Piranesi, the new novel by Susannah Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is in the running for the book I read the most of and still didn't finish. David Mitchell has offered praise and this is from Paraic O'Donnell in The Guardian: "The result is a remarkable feat, not just of craft but of reinvention. Far from seeming burdened by her legacy, the Susanna Clarke we encounter here might be an unusually gifted newcomer unacquainted with her namesake’s work. If there is a strand of continuity in this elegant and singular novel, it is in its central preoccupation with the nature of fantasy itself. It remains a potent force, but one that can leave us – like Goethe among the ruins – forever disappointed by what is real." If you like the Ron Charles book videos, here's his take on Piranesi.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Rage, by Bob Woodward
2. Good Company, by Arthur M. Blank
3. Vesper Flights, by Helen Macdonald
4. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Well Plated Cookbook, by Erin Clarke
6. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
7. Disloyal, by Michael Cohen
8. His Truth Is Marching On, by Jon Meacham
9. Tyranny of Merit, by Michael J. Sandel
10. Me and Sister Bobbie, by Willie Nelson

Our biggest non-local-connected pop this week is for Bob Woodward's Rage, which I'm sure you've already heard plenty about.

Bringing up the rear with a nice first-week sale is Me and Sister Bobbie; True Tales from the Family Band, not Nelson's first memoir, but the first cowritten by his sister. It's also helped along by veteran music writer David Ritz. Searching for reviews led me to a let of excerpts, but I'll note that our sales rep John says "They were abandoned by their parents in East Texas and raised in poverty by their grandparents," and "they still play music and tour together."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Dune, by Frank Herbert (two editions contributing)
2. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
3. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
4. Beowulf, a new translation by Maria Dahvana Headley
5. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
6. The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
7. Selected Works of Audre Lord, edited with an introduction by Roxane Gay
8. Scorpionfish, by Natalie Bakopoulos (Register for September 21, 7:30 event here)
9. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
10. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This looks like a list packed with school adoption, but it turns out some of these titles are new releases, like the new translation of Beowulf (August 2020). Ruth Franklin in The New Yorker shows where Headley is coming from with her translation: "In 2018, Headley published The Mere Wife, an astonishing novel in which she reimagines the “Beowulf” story, setting it in modern times and placing the female characters at its center. Grendel’s mother becomes an Iraq War veteran, her child likely the result of rape, while Wealhtheow, Hrothgar’s queen, is represented by Willa, a wealthy suburban housewife who posts photographs of her home-cooked meals and suppresses her fantasies of violence. The novel is both a brilliant investigation of the man-monster dichotomy—the line between them is not as clear as we might think—and a caustic sendup of contemporary family life. In their own way, the novel suggests, all women are warriors, even if their armor takes the form of a sequinned cocktail dress."

Similarly, Roxane Gay's edited version of The Selected Works of Audre Lord was released just last week. Parul Sehgal writes in The New York Times: "Any opportunity to contemplate Lorde would be a cause for celebration. The Selected Works of Audre Lorde, edited and introduced by Roxane Gay, arrives at an especially interesting moment, however. Lorde’s writing has rarely been more influential -or more misunderstood."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
2 Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Charles Hagner
3. The American Crisis, by Writers of The Atlantic
4. Epic Tomatoes, by Craig Lehoullier
5. Charged, by Emily Bazelon
6. Baby 411, by Ari Brown
7. Walking Milwaukee, by Royal Brevväxling and Molly Snyder
8. Birth of a White Nation, by Jacqueline Battalora
9. The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry
10. Walking with the Wind, by John Lewis

The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover, is edited by Jeffrey Goldberg and features contributions from Danielle Allen, Anne Applebaum, Yoni Appelbaum, Molly Ball, David W. Blight, Mark Bowden, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lizabeth Cohen, McKay Coppins, James Fallows, Drew Gilpin Faust, Caitlin Flanagan, Franklin Foer, David Frum, Megan Garber, Michael Gerson, Elizabeth Goitein, David A. Graham, Emma Green, Yuval Noah Harari, Ibram X. Kendi, Olga Khazan, Adrienne LaFrance, Annie Lowrey, James Mattis, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Angela Nagle, Vann R. Newkirk II, George Packer, Elaina Plott, Jeremy Raff, Jonathan Rauch, Adam Serwer, Clint Smith, Matthew Stewart, Alex Wagner, Tara Westover, and Ed Yong.

Books for Kids:
1. You Matter, by Christian Robinson (Register for September 25 event here)
2. Hello Neighbor, by Matthew Cordell
3. Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang
4. My Map Book, by Sara Fanelli
5. Antiracist Baby picture book, by Ibram X. Kendi, with illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky
6. The Very Last Leaf, by Stef Wde, with illustrations by Jennifer Davidson
7. It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
8. Legendborn, by Trace Deonn
9. Grime and Punishment, by Dav Pilkey
10. I Dissent, by Debbie Levy

Just a hint of what we should see this upcoming week with a showing for I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes her mark. We are currently out of stock.

Our top 3 look like a greatest hits of our spring authors-in-school season. And so it is. We're actually booking virtual school visits. Contact Jenny for more info.

This week's piece from Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel features Wisconsin Funnies: Fifty Years of Comics at the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend with a mini exhibition at the Saint Kate.

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