Sunday, August 17, 2014

Math, Maps, and Letters of Recommendation, Plus Our Biggest Non-Event Sale This Year in Hardcover Fiction--Thanks, Murakami! All in Our Bestseller Blog (and Journal Sentinel Round Up--Barrowman is Back!).

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
2. Remains of Innocence, by J.A. Jance
3. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
4. After the Fire, by J.A. Jance
5. The Magician's Land, by Lev Grossman

Well, I guess you know it's fall when you have your best hardcover fiction non-event sale of the year. Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage is close to double the sales of our previous record holder and only short of the first week's sale of 1Q84 by five copies. On one hand, the world is a different place from 2011, but on the other, that was considered a particularly important Murakami book, and while the reviews are great, this one seems to be positioned on the quieter side. This review from Pasha Malla in the Toronto Globe and Mail is definitely on the mean side, however--it's "his dullest book to date."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. How Not to be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg (event 11/19 at Boswell)
2. How Jesus Became God, by Bart D. Ehrman
3. Building a Better Teacher, by Elizabeth Green
4. Great Maps, by Jerry Brotton
5. Capital in the 21st Century, by Thomas Piketty

Since we focus below on  Jordan Ellenberg How Not to be Wrong when we get to the Journal Sentinel book page, let's look at Jerry Brotton's Great Maps. Like many categories that are perceived to be dying in the book world, sometimes the titles just have to be positioned differently. Dictionaries may be a tough sell (though there was a great pop on the new edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary below) but word books still have a market. And though we don't sell atlases like we once did, a good map book can have a surprisingly strong sale. This is a look at 55 maps through the ages, including background info and graphic close-up images.

Paperback (not hardcover) Fiction:
1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
2. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy (event 9/30, at Boswell)
3. The Circle, by Dave Eggers
4. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
5. The Hour of the Hunter, by J.A. Jance

One of the things thats always interesting about mystery events is wondering what book the audience is going to gravitate to. Of course the new book, Remains of Innocence was in hardcover, and there are still signed copies available. And After the Fire was Jance's personal hand-sell, a poetic memoir. But the book that many of the fans had overlooked and wanted was The Hour of the Hunter, the first installment of the Brendan Walker series. Folks were saying it's a good recommendation for Tony Hillerman fans. It's the only book of many, many, many different Jance titles that we could have had more of.

Paperback Nonficiton:
1. Scoop, by Jeff Miller
2. The Merriam Webster Official Scrabble Players Dictionary
3. The War that Ended Peace, by Margaret MacMillan
4. Bed Feminist, by Roxane Gay
5. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris

Just out in paperback is Margaret MacMillan's The War that Ended Peace, from the author of Paris 1919. William Anthony Hay in his Wall Street Journal review notes that "the author questions the charge that German leaders deliberately started the war but argues that they effectively chose war by giving Austria unconditional support and by sticking with a plan of operations that made escalation inevitable."

Books for Kids:
1. Isla and the Happily Ever After, by Stephanie Perkins
2. Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, by Tom Angleberger (event 9/14, 3 pm, at Boswell)
3. Return of the Star Padawan, by Jeffrey Brown
4. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (various Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editions)
5. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (various Penguin Random House editions)

Not one but two Star Wars inspired kids' series are on this week's bestseller list. As I've noted previously, we'll see how loose they'll be with the license now that it's controlled by Disney? My guess? Not loose at all. The big news this week was Isla and the Happily Ever After's pop in sales--we had a nice promotional giveaway to go with purchase, and it doesn't hurt that Rainbow Rowell is a big fan, writing “Stephanie Perkins’s characters fall in love the way we all want to, in real time and for good."

Carole E. Barrowman returns with her roundup of mysteries and thrillers. From earlier in the spring is Terry Hayes' I am Pilgrim. She writes: "Set in the world of post 9-11 espionage, and I was impressed with the confidence of Hayes' narrative voice and the complexity in his plotting."
n the Journal Sentinel,

The Mulholland imprint of Hachette continues to have some of the most exciting genre smashing releases around. Barrowman recommends Marc Guggenheim's Overwatch--yes, we're definitely playing catch up. Just a smidge of the recommendation: "Overwatch is two parts spy story, one part legal thriller with a twist of paranoid, a splash of crazy, stirred in a cinematic narrative that charges to its conclusion. In fact, a third of the way in Alex Garnett, the main character, is involved in a car crash that's one of the most exciting I've read in a thriller."

A July release that has engaged Barrowman is Dwayne Alexander Smith's Forty Acres. She writes: "On the surface this is a skillful re-imagining of John Grisham's "The Firm," but because Smith has made race an integral part of his narrative and its themes, he's elevated the book to a more layered read. I can't wait to read what this young writer does next." Here's also the PW review.

We're hosting Chelsea Cain on Tuesday, September 16 for a free event at Boswell and it's great to hear that Barrowman is excited about Cain's new series which starts with One Kick. From Barrowman: "Kick Lannigan is an avenging angel with tons of attitude and just as much angst. A victim of abduction in her early childhood, Kick's now in her 20s and her emotions are still so raw 'she has to put them in a box in a jumble.' But she has mad skills (many of them illegal) and loyal friends (many of them criminals)." It's said to be a little less violent than her other series, by the way.

She's also a fan of the ebook-only The Fear in Her Eyes, but alas, this one isn't even print on demand, even short discount, even nonreturnable. Them's the breaks!

Fortunately there is still a print edition of Julie Schumacher's Dear Committee Members, the novel in letters of recommendation that releases on August 19 and for which we have an event on August 26, 7 pm. Higgins writes: "If Fitger wrote only sarcastic letters, that would be one thing, but in this short tome a man appears between the zingers. His persistent pleas in support of his defunded graduate student, which grow increasingly desperate, may come from too strong an identification with said student, but nonetheless humanize the professor. And how can we, apatosauri ourselves, not rally behind this writer, as venal and self-serving as he is, who can stand for literary culture in this indifferent milieu? (Though we're a bit puzzled that the name of the enemy here is Econ; wouldn't one of the STEM departments be more logical today?)"

I wondered about that as well. Economics is the enemy? Not STEM? But I happened to be spending the weekend with my sister Claudia, who is a college professor in the humanities, albeit Chinese, whose fortunes have risen over the past few decades. I asked her about economics, and she told me they are still favored children at many universities. For one thing, students still want to major in it, especially in liberal arts schools that don't have business majors. And for another thing, many of the professors use the leverage of being in demand for alternative employment, something that is tougher for the humanities to pull off.

Who said August isn't a great month to see an author? This Tuesday we're hosting Jordan Ellenberg (our #1 nonfiction bestseller is How Not to be Wrong) and Jim Higgins spoke to the author, a mathematics professor at UW-Madison. One alluring excerpt: "'Math is like an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength,' Ellenberg writes in How Not to Be Wrong. Early in the book, he offers an excellent example — how mathematician Abraham Wald figured out the best way to armor American military planes during World War II. (Sorry, you have to read the book for that one.)"

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