Sunday, May 5, 2013

Boswell Bestsellers for Week Ending May 4--Dueling Royalty Princess Leia and Catherine the Great Come Out Swinging, Claire Messud Has a Big Sales Pop, Maria Semple's Big Event.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Vader's Little Princess, by Jeffrey Brown
2. The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud
3. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
4. Life Afer Life, by Kate Atkinson
5. Z, by Therese Anne Fowler

I admit it. If impulse stuff took over our bestseller lists, I would also segregate it into another category, but I just don't think that's going to happen in the near future. So congrats to Jeffrey Brown, who not only topped our fiction bestseller list with Vader's Little Princess, but whose backlist title also had a nice sales increase. 

Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs turned out to be the high-profile fiction release of the week for us. Liesl Schillinger covered the book in The New York Times Book Review. She writes "It’s exhilarating to encounter such unrestrained vehemence in a work by this controlled, intellectual author. Messud’s previous novels, albeit extraordinarily intelligent and well-crafted, are characterized by rationed or distant emotion. The Woman Upstairs  is utterly different — its language urgent, its conflicts outsize and unmooring, its mood incendiary."

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Cooked, by Michael Pollan
2. Wisconsin Supper Clubs, by Ron Faiola
3. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris (event is 5/26)
4. Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, by Daniel Dennett
5. The Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart

Philosopher Dennett offers some mind-stretching thought experiments in his new book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking. Troy Jollimore in the Boston Globe argues with Dennett in his review, still noting that the author "can still be read profitably both as a synthesizer of research and as a provocateur. His intellectual curiosity is deep and wide-ranging."

Paperback fiction:
1. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
2. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitgerald
4. This One is Mine, by Maria Semple
5. The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

Aside from selling copies of Semple's first novel, in both jacket designs, all four of our other entries in this list are also at the top of the national bestseller lists, which is actually a bit unusual. What a great event Semple's appearance was, and we particularly thank her for her afternoon visit to Riverside University High School. I realized that the new jacket for This One is Mine has been gender neutralized, which I assume happened after the publisher (or agent, or author) noticed that Semple has developed a strong male following for Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, which you could see in the event's attendance.

 One of the interesting things we learned at Semple's event is that she had a one-book deal for This One is Mine. The advance was large and the book didn't work, and it became much tougher to sell the second book and she lost her agent. Her new agent (who got the book, and its international potential) said, "all things being equal, stay with the same publisher," and so the book got sold, but for less than the first one. And then Little, Brown and Hachette fell in love with Where'd You Go, Bernadette? (signed copies available) and the novel's momentum began."

I hope it's ok that we reprinted the Where'd You Go Bernadette? action figure (looking suspiciously like a dolled up American Girl) from Semple's website.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
2. Food Rules, by Michael Pollan
3. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
4. A Merry Memoir of Love, Sex, and Religion, by Daniel Maguire
5. Catherine the Great, by Robert K. Massie

I might have mentioned we hosted an event with Michael Pollan this week. We also sold books at the annual lunch for Ozaukee Family Services, with Barbara Rinella presenting Catherine the Great, based on Robert K. Massie's acclaimed biography. She also does programs on Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra, Isabella Stewart Gardner and The Art Forger, and "From Einstein to Steve Jobs, based on Walter Isaacson's biographies. The only one I'm confused about is "Nora Ephron and the Panama Canal." I assume that was two different programs, but no, The Northbrook Park District is presenting the two together on May 22. Here's a list of her programs and recommended reading list; her recommendation of Caroline Kennedy's poems helped pop it to #1 below.

Books for Kids:
1. Poems to Learn by Heart, edited by Caroline Kennedy and Jon J. Muth
2. Crash, by Lisa McMann
3. The Unwanteds #2: Island of Silence, by Lisa McMann (signed copies available)
4. Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, with illustrations by Carson Ellis
5. A Beach Day for Hannah, by Linda Bunch

No brand new titles released, but Lisa McMann was back in town to do some school evnts in the Milwauke area. I was poking around and saw that two new Lisa McMann titles are scheduled for fall. Island of Fire is #3 in The Unwanteds series, while Bang is the sequel to Crash. While I was at it, I poked around to see if the third title in the Wildwood series was coming soon. No, but Under  Wildwood is due for paperback by fall.

From the Journal Sentinel book pages, Mike Fischer reviews the new Claire Messud novel, The Woman Upstairs, which we've already noted has had a big sales pop. He calls the story a "spellbinding, psychologically acute and deliberately claustrophobic new novel"

From the NYRB Classics series, Journal Sentinel arts editor Jim Higgins imagines that "In some other parallel world, Kingsley Amis' alternate-history novel The Alteration (1976) may already have the wide readership it deserves." It's "a terrific novel that blends the fantasy pleasure of alternate history with Amis' brand of literary satire."

Also in the Journal Sentinel, Marquette's Philip C. Naylor reviews Algerian Chronicles, a new collection of Albert Camus writings. He notes "Critics of Camus claim that the Nobel Prize winner ironically misperceived or underestimated that in his own land, colonized Muslims faced severe metaphysical consequences resulting from an oppressive colonialism. Given the publication of Algerian Chronicles, a chronological collection of Camus' essays from the 1930s to the 1950s, this criticism needs re-examination and reinterpretation."

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