Sunday, November 17, 2013

What Sold at Boswell This Week, Including Links, Insights, and the Journal Sentinel's Interview with Anita Shreve.

We start with an interview with Anita Shreve by Jim Higgins in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Ms. Shreve is visiting Boswell tomorrow, November 18, 7 pm, and Stella Bain places #4 on this week's hardcover fiction bestseller list. "I think it would be fair to say (WWI) is the most romantic of all wars, of our immediate history. I use the word Romantic in its largest sense. Young men went into it with this highly idealized notion of what the war would be like, a quiet battle and a cricket match and then home free. What happened was slaughter en masse." Read the rest of the article here.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan
2. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
3. Dog Songs, by Mary Oliver
4. Stella Bain, by Anita Shreve
5. The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton

Was it only two years ago that I was whining about the lack of high-profile non-genre novels written by women for the holiday season? After two years of solid releases, I must stand corrected. We have an all-female sweep of the top five. #6 was John Grisham's Sycamore Row. And one more thing on Stella Bain--Terry Miller Shannon says in the Book Reporter website: "Master storyteller Anita Shreve spins a spell-binding web of a tale, guaranteed to snare her readers into turning pages until three in the morning."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Good Stock, by Sanford D'Amato (at Boswell 12/17, 7pm)
2. Monsters, by Rich Cohen
3. It's All a Kind of Magic, by Rick Dodgson
4. Driven, by Donald Driver
5. The Bully Pulpit, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Rich and Rick show up in the top five, based on events at the store this week. Of Monsters, Rick Kogan in the Chicago Tribune calls the author a wonderful writer. Cohen wanted the book to be "about the Bears, but also about the ecstasy of winning and what it means to be a fan."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
2. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
3. Gnarly Wounds, by Jayson Iwen
4. The Dinner, by Herman Koch
5. Road Film, by Ernest Loesser

Iwen and Loesser teamed up for an event with another Wisconsin alum, their publisher of Emergency Press. Former Milwaukeean Iwen is still in Wisconsin, but as an assistant professor at University of Wisconsin-Superior, he's about as far from Milwaukee as you can be and still be in the state. I'm not sure why Beautiful Ruins seems to have started climbing in sales again. It doesn't seem to be following the national lists, where the book is now charting below Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

Finally, here's the Bookslut review for Herman Koch's The Dinner. Bookslut's Managing Editor was yet another of our visitors this week, Charles Blackstone, author of Vintage Attraction. Here's a link to Blackstone's press, along with a photo of a dog friend browsing both Vintage Attractions and Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. We're just about to confirm Wolitzer for the paperback tour of this novel, with a visit likely next April.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee at Water's Edge, by Tom Pilarzyk
2. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh
3. Far from the Tree, by Andrew Solomon
4. My Life with the Green and Gold, by Jessie Garcia
5. Food Rules, by Michael Pollan with illustrations by Maira Kalman

One might not expect a book like Andrew Solomon's Far from the Tree to do so well in paperback (it just feels like a hardcover sale) but everything changes when there is someone aggressively recommending the book and we've got that in Hannah. Nathan Heller's New Yorker review said that Solomon is "fascinated by the paradoxes of procreation: how do you nurture a child who may be unlike anything you’ve encountered before?"

Books for Kids:
1. The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, by Jane Kelley
2. Hard Luck, by Jeff Kinney
3. The Girl Behind the Glass, by Jane Kelley
4. Nature Girl, by Jane Kelley
5. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak

Jane Kelley came back to town for her new book, The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya, visiting not just the Weyenberg Library, but two area schools. Sales continue for Jeff Kinney's latest Wimpy Kid novel, and sales build for The Book Thief, due to open soon at the Downer Theatre.

In a busy week, Jim Higgins also reviews a new work by Jennifer Michael Hecht. Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It is an argument against despair suicides from a secular point of view, looking at classic historical cases, and arguing "that a suicide harms multiple other people, so deciding to live helps those same people. The suicide also deprives both the world and her future self of life and of her potential effect on others and the world."

Carole E. Barrowman reviews fellow Scottish writers Morag Joss, whose new novel is Our Picnics in the Sun, and Frank T. Muir, whose latest is Tooth for a Tooth. The former is about a couple after the wife has had a debilitating stroke. Barrowman compares Joss favorably with Kate Atkinson.  Muir's mystery is the second in a series featuring a St. Andrews detective. Andy Gilchrist finds the remains of a woman's body that's been untouched for thirty years, just as he's mourning the death of his wife.

And finally, Mr. Higgins spoke to Thomas Cahill, in conjunction with his recent visit to Milwaukee for his Heretics and Heroes. He notes "Thomas Cahill brings together two kinds of people who may not seem to have that much in common: Renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, and Reformation leaders, notably Martin Luther. But the Reformation and Renaissance come out of the same source: the Italian rediscovery of the classical Greco-Roman heritage."

Addendum: also in the print edition but late to the Journal Sentinel website was Mike Fischer's rave of  Wonder of Wonders, Alisa Solomon's history of Fiddler on the Roof. "In more than 30 years of reading, writing and thinking about theater as an actor, critic and fan, I've never read a book on the subject that taught or moved me as much — reflecting Solomon's ability to weave gobs of meticulous research into a compelling, beautifully written story about the musical she persuasively argues has seeped into our culture like no other, before or since."

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