Sunday, January 10, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 9, 2021

What's selling at Boswell, week ending January 9, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
2. The Prophets, by Robert Jones, Jr
3. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, by V.E. Schwab
4. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar
5. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
6. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
7. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy
8. The Talented Miss Farwell, by Emily Gray Tedrowe
9. The Liar's Dictionary, by Eley Williams
10. Push, by Ashley Audrain

New this week is The Prophets, by Robert Jones, Jr, the third breakout bestseller from Putnam edited by Sally Kim, who also shepherded The Immortalists and Such a Fun Age. This #1 Indie Next Bestseller is winning raves everywhere, and will likely to accumulate laurels through awards season this fall. Edmund White wrote in Publishers Weekly: "This is a first novel, but I hope it took years and years to write since it is so powerful and beautiful. It is an antebellum story of a flourishing Mississippi plantation some people refer to as 'Nothing' and others call 'Elizabeth,' the name of the owner's mother. This is a love story of two gay enslaved men, Isaiah and Samuel (not their original African names), who've been assigned to look after the horses and who work together in perfect harmony in the barn...The lyricism of The Prophets will recall the prose of James Baldwin. The strong cadences are equal to those in Faulkner's Light in August. Sometimes the utterances in the short interpolated chapters seem as orphic as those in Thus Spake Zarathustra. If my comparisons seem excessive, they are rivaled only by Jones's own pages and pages of acknowledgments. It seems it takes a village to make a masterpiece."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
2. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
3. Keep Sharp, by Sanjay Gupta
4. A Better Man, by Michael Ian Black (Register for January 12 JCC event here)
5. Braiding Sweetgrass gift edition, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
6. What It's Like to Be a Bird, by David Sibley
7. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
8. Wintering, by Katherine May
9. 99% Invisible City, by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
10. The Best of Me, by David Sedaris

It looks like the 'New Year, New You' breakout is Sanjay Gupta's Keep Sharp: Build Your Brain at any Age, a title-explains-it-all guide from CNN medical correspondent and also a neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta. When you get advance blurbs from Dean Ornish, Dr. Oz, Walter Isaacson, and Bill Gates, you probably... stop looking for blurbs. But there are actually more. From Terry Gross's Fresh Air interview: "I think that crossword puzzles and brain training exercises can be quite helpful at making the roads in your brain that you use a lot already, keeping them strong... It's kind of the 'practice makes perfect' part of your brain. And some of the brain games can actually increase your processing speed, the speed at which you process new content and new information. But I really do draw a line between that and keeping a brain sharper and building cognitive reserve throughout your life. That's different. You want to be doing different things in order to build that reserve, as opposed to doing the same thing better and better."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Devotions, by Mary Oliver
2. Feast Your Eyes, by Myla Goldberg (February Daniel's Lit Group pick- register here)
3. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw
4. The Home Front, by D.W. Hanneken (Register for January 26 event here)
5. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
6. Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (January Books and Beer pick - register here)
7. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
8. Poems 1962-2012, by Louise Glück
9. 11-22-63, by Stephen King
10. Dune, by Frank Herbert

Post-Christmas, we noticed that publishers started to drop in paperback releases of big titles from 2020, 2019, and at least from one case, 2018. First up is The Dutch House, Ann Patchett's 2019 hit that was detoured from a fall paperback release, which was already a longer run than Commonwealth, which followed its fall publication with a May paperback publication. After a year of delaying paperbacks, publishers are back to contracted hardcover runs. Lydia Millet's The Children's Bible, is now schedule for February.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Nicholas Black Elk, by Jon Sweeney (Register for January 14 event here)
2. Deep Hope, by Diane Eshin Rizzetto
3. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
4. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
5. Heart Talk: The Journal, by Cleo Wade
6. What Unites Us, by Dan Rather
7. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
8. Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler
9. Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari
10. ABA Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Charles Hagner

Two older books with large quantities at Ingram show that sales have continued long after pub date. Cleo Wade's Heart Talk: The Journal, is the companion to Heart Talk, and I got a little confused about whether to put this in fiction, with poetry trending one way and affirmations the other. Dan Rather's What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, has had a independent bookstore/social media campaign all fall and couldn't be more timely.

Books for Kids:
1. Baby Faces board book, from DK Publishing
2. The Hero Next Door: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
3. Ghost, by Jason Reynolds
4. Magical Yet, by Angela DiTerlizzi
5. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer
6. Most People, by Michael Leannah
7. 50 Adventures in 50 States, by Kate Siber
8. Today Tonight Tomorrow, by Rachel Lynn Solomon
9. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake
10. On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier

Jenny's championing of the Rachel Lynn Solomon novels get us her on the bestseller list again with Today Tonight Tomorrow, seven months after publication, and earns her the bests sales to date at Boswell, multiples over her last two. It's the story of two high school rivals who team up to compete in a scavenger hunt/competition. From Voice of Youth Advocates: "There is a bittersweet nostalgia, the letting go of the past to move forward and a longing for what has been lost by choosing a contentious path. The romance is sweet and sudden. The passion Rowan has for romance novels is mirrored in the story of the relationship. There is vulnerability that both characters develop with the other, and it is evident that opening up to a rival can be painful, but it also holds the potential for deep fulfillment."

From Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel, a review of Nick Petrie's The Breaker, which goes on sales on Tuesday. Signed copies still available. Cosponsored event with Books and Company and Whitefish Bay Public Library. Higgins writes: "If Milwaukee has become drab and listless to you during the pandemic, turn to Nick Petrie's The Breaker for a more exciting view of the city: Stalking an assassin through the Milwaukee Public Market! An ax murderer on the loose in Riverwest!" More here. 

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