Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Sold at Boswell for the Week Ending April 5, 2014?

You're probably wondering why there is never a tie on our bestseller lists. It turns out I despise ties and always have. I've been tabulating book bestseller lists for over 25 years now, but I've changed the way I break ties. In the old days, I used to give weight to the previous week of sale, but now I break ties by price point, with the more expensive book selling "more." And I let however the computer is sorting handle the rest. It's not as often an issue for our top five, but I send off 10-15 titles per category to publishers, more in December.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine
2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin (event 4/28)
3. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
4. The Accident, by Chris Pavone
5. Children of the Revolution, by Peter Robinson

I noticed this week that both Shotgun Lovesongs and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry were top five on the Indie Bound independent bookstore bestseller lists, but of course the publishers would love us to help pop the books onto the national lists too. That said, it often seems that these indie push books show their real power in paperback. I thought about this when I saw a recent national paperback list that had The Orphan Train and Me Before You as the top two in paperback fiction sales.

It's hard to believe that Children of the Revolution (Morrow) is the 21st Inspector Banks novel. The newest dead body is a disgraced college professor, whose story harkens back to his days as a student activist. The starred Booklist review calls this a "first-rate procedural and character study."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Zero to Breakthrough, by Vernice Armour
2. House Hold, by Ann Peters (ticketed event 4/23 at Lynden)
3. A Feathered River Across the Sky, by Joel Greenberg
4. Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis
5. A Call to Action, by Jimmy Carter

Mel and I both fell in love with Vernice Armour, one of the featured speakers at this year's Women's Leadership Conference. Not only does she have a great story, she's just great at connecting with people. And there's no question that hanging around the conference not only sold more copies of Zero to Breakthrough: The 7-Step, Battle-Tested Method for Accomplishing Goals that Matter, but will also likely lead to more appearances.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Chicago Secrets, by J. Thomas Ganzer
2. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer (event 4/24)
3. The Hakawati, by Rabih Alameddine
4. The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline
5. The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes

How great to have two authors in as many weeks whose previous novels were featured in our in-store lit group. Rabih Alameddine appeared at UWM on Friday, discussing and reading from An Unnecessary Woman, as part of their cross-departmental lecture series, "Arab and American." It turned out that even though not everybody could make the weekday daytime talk, we had a lot of folks who discovered the book as a result of the ensuing attention.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Age is Just a Number, by Dara Torres
2. Think Sideways, by Tamara Kleinberg
3. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
4. Shakespeare Saved my Life, by Laura Bates
5. The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan

Olympic swimmer Dara Torres was the other featured speaker at the Woman's Leadership Conference and Tamara Kleinberg spoke at one of the breakout sessions. No, Don Miguel Ruiz did not show up, but The Four Agreements was the top selling stock title at the show, with Vernice Armour recommending it to several people. Armour and I agreed that "Don't take anything personally" is a particularly useful agreement.

Books for Kids:
1. Bird, by Crystal Chan
2. The Noisy Paint Box, by Barb Rosenstock, with illustrations by Mary GrandPre
3. The Gospel of Winter, by Brendan Kiely (event 4/30)
4. Noggin, by John Corey Whaley (event 4/30)
5. Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley (event 4/30)
6. When I was the Greatest, by Jason Reynolds (dare I say it? Event 4/30)
7. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
8. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
9. Allegiant, by Veronica Roth
10. The Scraps Book, by Lois Ehlert (event 4/19, 2 pm)

We are so excited about the Gentleman's Tour pizza party and the three schools that have joined together to host the Gentleman during the day are equally excited, hence some nice presales. I think we still have one school slot open. Check in with Hannah or Jannis about the possibility. Oh, and we also had a great time with Crystal Chan and Barb Rosenstock. Signed copies of Bird and The Noisy Paint Box are now available.

In the Journal Sentinel this week, Jim Higgins recommends Adam Begley, who recommends Updike (Harper) in his eponymously titled new biography. He writes that "Begley's biography touches on many other subjects: critical response to Updike's work, including the oft-repeated complaint that his beautiful style wasn't put to better or more serious uses; Updike's relationships with other writers, both amiable (Joyce Carol Oates) and complicated (Philip Roth); the distance his second wife helped create between Updike, a decent but not awesome father, and his grown children; his book reviewing, art criticism and poetry; the success of his larks, including the Bech stories and The Coup (some of my favorite Updike works)."

Regarding the review of Frog Music (Little, Brown), I don't think we can blame Mike Fischer for the groaner headline "Donoghue's Frog Music frequently croaks off-key," but alas, he isn't the biggest fan. Publishers Weekly contrarily noted "Donoghue's signature talent for setting tone and mood elevates the book from common cliffhanger to a true chef d'oeuvre." And The Scotsman offers this praise: "The novel is fast-paced and Donoghue’s talent for storytelling shows in her ability to jump around without ever losing the reader. She also has a knack for description: both her characters and the world she portrays come alive in your mind" though I should note that reviewer Rosamund Urwin took issue with some of the sex scenes.

Reprinted in the Journal Sentinel is the review of Grandma Gatewood's Walk (Chicago Review Press), by Tampa Bay Times writer Ben Montgomery. William McKeen says that the story her 2000 mile Appalachian Trail journey is "beautifully told"

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