Sunday, January 3, 2021

What did I really want? The Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 2, 2021

What did I really want? The Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 2, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy
2. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
3. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
4. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar
5. The Searcher, by Tana French
6. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
7. Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi
8. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
9. The Cold Millions, by Jess Walter
10. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman

My end of the year reading is like a literary Janus - I'm simultaneous looking ahead to 2021 while still wondering what I missed in 2020. I wound up reading Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi's second novel, which would help me get some points in the "how many books did you read on various notable books of the year roundups." Ron Charles in The Washington Post: "When she was just 25, Gyasi reportedly sold her debut novel, Homegoing, for $1 million. It was the kind of financial windfall that whips up fawning publicity and - despite the book’s success — skepticism. If there are any skeptics left, they can stand down now. Homegoing wasn’t beginner’s luck. Gyasi’s new novel, Transcendent Kingdom, is a book of blazing brilliance." I also thought it was an interesting match with Brandon Taylor's Real Life (shortlisted for the Booker), another novel set in a science graduate program.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
2. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
3. Wintering, by Katherine May
4. Modern Comfort Food, by Ina Garten
5. 99% Invisible City, by Roman Mars and Kurth Kohlstedt
6. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
7. Mediocre, by Ijeoma Oluo
8. Food Fix, by Mark Hyman
9. Songteller, by Dolly Parton
10. Dessert Person, by Claire Saffitz

December publications are always a tricky thing - you've got to carefully stage for January and February reviews and features without the appearance of the book having sat around too long. Brittney Cooper reviewed the December 1 release Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America in The New York Times, writing: "Ijeoma Oluo punches up rather than down, reckoning culturally, politically and historically with white men. These are the people, she writes, who do most of the dirty work and decision-making that goes into maintaining America’s systems of power."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Big Girl, Small Town, by Michelle Gallen
2. The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune
3. Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stewart
4. Circe, by Madeline Miller
5. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
6. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
7. The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler
8. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
9. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
10. Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie

We had a very nice first week of paperback sales on The House in the Cerulean Sea, which had a nice holiday pop in hardcover. Jen writes: "Linus Baker is your typical by-the-book company man, so when he is given a classified assignment - go to a secret location for a month and observe the six children of the orphanage and its head master - you could say the unflappable Mr. Baker may be in over his head. Especially when one of those children is the antichrist." Macmillan is the Bethlehem Steel of trade paperback pricing. Please refer to my college economics class for details.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Locally Laid, by Lucie B. Amundsen
2. The Ballad of an American, by SHaron Rudahl
3. How to Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell
4. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
5. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
6. Know My Name, by Chanel Miller
7. Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino
8. The Office, by Andy Greene
9. Walking Milwaukee, by Royal Brevvaxling and Molly Snyder
10. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs, by Caitlin Doughty

Another first week sales pop recorded, this time for How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy - looks like the paperbacks are getting a head start on the hardcovers coming out next week. Here's Ellie Schechert in The Guardian talking to Jenny Odell, who introduces her profile thusly: "Redirecting our attention towards our natural surroundings is Odell’s strategy for resisting a profit-driven tech landscape that, in separating our bodies and co-opting our attention, is possibly torching our ability to live meaningful lives, and preventing us from noticing. (Odell herself uses birdwatching as an antidote."

Books for Kids:
1. My Little Golden Book about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Shana Corey
2. When, by Victoria Laurie
3. Hope Nation, by Brock Rose
4. Scritch Scratch, by Lindsay Currie
5. A Friend for Henry, by Jenn Bailey
6. I See Things Differently, by Pat Thomas
7. Planet Earth Is Blue, by Nicole Penteleakos
8. Ian's Walk, by Laurie Lears
9. One of Us Is Next, by Karen McManus
10. Dear Justyce, by Nic Stone

It's a school order, but it's also from 2020 - the paperback edition of Planet Earth Is Blue. From the starred Booklist review: "Panteleakos' debut novel is an intricate and poignant portrait of love, loss, and courage. Nova, 12, is autistic and nonverbal, and she and her devoted older sister, Bridget, have been bounced from foster home to foster home since Nova was five. The story's set in the mid-1980s, so the resources available to Nova are paltry, and the language about her diagnosis is hurtful, though Bridget and Nova's new foster parents, Francine and Billy, are wonderfully supportive."

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