Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Annotated Boswell Bestseller List, Week Ending September 20, 2014, Plus the Journal Sentinel Book Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (event at Boswell 9/22)
2. The Edge of Eternity V3, by Ken Follett
3. The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
4. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
5. The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
6. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
7. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
8. The Wolf in the White Van, by John Darnielle
9. The Secret Place, by Tana French
10. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, by Margaret Atwood

Station Eleven beat out some mighty stiff competition, though I'll admit that sales are clumped together at the top. I was a little nervous that Emily St. John Mandel started off a little slowly last week, but with some nice reviews, a National Book Award longlist, some bookseller enthusiasm, and a really exciting event on Monday,

There's a lot of enthusiasm for Ken Follett's work at Boswell, both from customers and our buyer Jason, so I'm not sure why the first week pops don't equal those for Mitchell, Penny, and Murakami. My only guess is that his customer base is stronger in the mass merchants, and with a $36 price point, folks a bit more price sensitive, even with the book on Boswell's Best. Melinda Bargreen in The Seattle Times calls The Edge of Eternity as "compulsively readable" as its predecessors.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Perimeter, by Kevin Miyazaki
2. World Order, by Henry Kissinger
3. So We Read On, by Maureen Corrigan
4. The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau (event at Boswell 9/24)
5. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
6. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein
7. In a Nutshell, Cara Tannenbaum
8. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott
9. Thirteen Days in September, by Lawrence Wright
10. How We Learn, by Benedict Carey

So much to talk about this week, but only because I have other things to do today, let's just focus on So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, from Maureen Corrigan. I heard Corrigan speak at a lunch at Book Expo and was very interested in her take on the book. It seems that just about every other in-store lit group discussion somehow touches on The Great Gatsby during the hour.

Daniel Dyer in the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes: "Confessing she disliked the book in high school, Corrigan now considers it not just our best novel but 'as perfect as a novel can be.' And in her revelatory text, she spins around inside GatsbyLand like a thrilled toddler on a Tilt-A-Whirl, returning continually to reconsider its myriad facets."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
2. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy (event at Boswell 9/30)
3. TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann
4. Unmentionables, by Laurie Loewenstein
5. Acceptance, by Jeff Vandermeer
6. Saving Kandinsky, by Mary Basson
7. The Circle, by Dave Eggers
8. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra
9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
10. Trillium, by Jeff Lemire

Did you ever have one of those weeks where every person who comes into the store seems like the perfect candidate to read the same book? I can't figure out how Life After Life surpassed The Illusion of Separateness, being that we're still getting orders for both from a large book club, but I think we've also got another book club reading the Atkinson, which gave it the edge. We've also still got a lot of book clubs reading Mary Basson's Saving Kandinsky, even with the exhibit ready to move on to Nashville. And the new Jeff Vandermeer, Acceptance, seems to also be driving enthusiasm for his previous entries, Annihilation and Authority. Scott Hutchins called the Southern Reach Trilogy "pure reading pleasure" in his New York Times review.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Will it Waffle?, by Daniel Shumski
2. From the Top, by Michael Perry
3. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander (event at MATC 9/26)
5. A Brief History of Neoliberalism, by David Harvey
6. The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan
7. Once Upon a Time in China, by Christine Merritt (event at Boswell 9/26)
8. Stuffed and Starved, by Raj Patel
9. Zealot, by Reza Aslan
10. The Family, by David Laskin

There are several new in paperback books on the list, including David Laskin's The Family, who chronicles his family's story from a Russian-controlled town where his ancestor was a Torah scribe, to the United States and Israel, and those who stayed behind, caught in the Holocaust.

Also out is the #1 bestseller Zealot, a theologian's portrait of Jesus that was met with very strong reviews, and due to some manufactured controversy, particularly good sales. Dale Martin in The New York Times Book Review explains it all: "Some conservatives seem offended by merely the idea that a Muslim scholar would write a book about Jesus. This should be no more controversial than a Christian scholar’s writing a book about Islam or Muhammad. It happens all the time. Nor is Mr. Aslan’s thesis controversial, at least among scholars of early Christianity."

Books for Kids:
1. The Scavengers, by Michael Perry
2. The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School, by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna
3. Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bust, by Tom Angleberger
4. Pout-Pout Fish in the Big, Big Dark, by Deborah Diesen and Dan Hanna
5. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger
6. Art2 D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling, by Tom Angleberger
7. Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories, by Dr. Seuss
8. Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000, by Dav Pilkey
9. Darth Paper Strikes Back, by Tom Angleberger
10. The Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (event at Shorewood Public Library 10/1)

So now you know what we've been doing this week. We've also got Mr. Westerfeld visiting two schools, in advance of his new book, Afterworlds, which comes out this Tuesday. Alexis Burling in Publishers Weekly did a very nice profile with Scott Westerfeld in advance of the book's publication, in which he shows how the book within the book shows how the writer's life (in this case Darcy Patel) influences the writing. Hey, I like that new author photo with the facial hair.

In the Journal Sentinel this week, the entertainment-oriented Thursday Tap section had a review of the new Cosby (Cosby: His Life and Times) biography from Mark Whitaker, with the review written by Chris Foran. He observes: "It's hard to call Cosby: His Life and Times an objective, warts-and-all look at its subject. While Whitaker acknowledges Cosby's shortcomings — his philandering, his distrust of outsiders — he is clearly a fan, and more often than not gives the comedian the benefit of the doubt, or at least the last word."

Jim Higgins sells today's feature review in the Journal Sentinel better than I ever could: "In a terrific concept that's well-executed, contemporary cartoonists and illustrators portray legends of their field in Monte Beauchamp's new anthology, Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World — 16 Graphic Biographies. Put this on the gift list for the person you know who loves comics, graphic novels and visual storytelling."

And Mike Fischer is a fan of Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh too. His Journal Sentinel review reads: "Lahr tells that story brilliantly — offering penetrating psychological readings, making the case for Williams' neglected later work and giving props to key supporting players who helped make Williams' plays shine." Fischer opens by calling the book "magnificent... one of the best written and most extraordinary biographies I've ever read, in any field." What more can you say, honestly?

Carole E. Barrowman rounds up the month's best mysteries in her Journal Sentinel column. First up is Minerva Koenig's Nine Days. How's this for a backstory (from the publisher)? "She's short, round, and pushing forty, but Julia Kalas is a damned good criminal. For 17 years she renovated historic California buildings as a laundry front for her husband's illegal arms business. Then the Aryan Brotherhood made her a widow, and witness protection shipped her off to the tiny town of Azula, Texas. Also known as the Middle of Nowhere." Now she's being watched, so she can't jump right back in the game, so what's a gal going to do when confronted by a dangerous property development scheme? Barrowman's take? "With biting dialogue, a twisty plot and a hero with an attitude as big as her mouth, this book's got lots of game."

William Kent Kreuger's latest, Windigo Island, is already a New York Times bestseller, but despite some big fans in Milwaukee, we'll never say no to another enthusiastic recommendation, and Barrowman's got one. Her Journal Sentinel write up calls this "absorbing and tragic tale", "a mystery rich in the symbolism of Native American myths and a plot that exposes one of society's most shameful secrets — the sexual trafficking of Native American teenage girls." Cork O'Connor is drawn into the story when pushed by his daughter; a Wisconsin game warden from Bayfield also plays a role.

Finally there is Murder on the Ile Sordou, coming on September 30. A judge and his law professor girlfriend solve crimes. In their fourth adventure together, they are vacationing on the Mediterranean. Barrowman writes: "When one of the hotel guests is murdered (off the page and off the cliffs), Verlaque and Bonnet guard the body while sipping from a "thermos of tea" and nibbling on homemade scones (with a touch of lavender)." The verdict is in - this mystery is "charming."

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