Sunday, November 23, 2014

Conjugated? Promulgated? Celebrated? Annotated!: The Boswell Bestseller Lists for the Week Ending November 22, 2014.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis
3. Let Me be Frank with You, by Richard Ford
4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
5. The Escape, by David Baldacci
6. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
7. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
8. Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
9. The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
10. Lulu's Christmas Story, by LudmiLla Bollow (event Wed. Dec. 10 at North Shore Library, 6:30 pm)

While Anthony Doerr did not take the National Book Award (it feels more like a Pulitzer kind of book, but we're really completely dependent on a small judging panel here), congrats to Phil Klay whose Redeployment collection took the honor.

Let Me Be Frank with You, Richard's Ford's connected stories about Frank Bascombe, seems to be touching a nerve with reviewers. Hey, we're all getting older! Newsweek's Dan Cryer rates the Charlotte Pines story the best, and asks folks to see past the wink-wink title to the substantial collection that it is. On comparing Bascombe to John Updike's Rabbit: "Frank is far more discerning and sophisticated. He analyzes the landscape, while Rabbit melts into it. He comprehends what only mystifies Rabbit."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Motivation Manifesto, by Brendan Burchard
2. Money: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins
3. Prune, by Gabrielle Hamilton
4. Lost Classroom, Lost Community, by Margaret F. Brining and Nicole Stelle Garnett
5. Make it Ahead, by Ina Garten
6. At Home with Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson
7. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
8. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
9. Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar
10. Small Victories, by Anne Lamott

So with two people telling me in the last couple of weeks (our own Boswellian Sharon and bookseller Ann Patchett) that I needed to sell Deep Down Dark to folks who liked Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat, and that was after much enthuusiasm from our rep Anne, how could I not climb on board? From Mac McClelland in The New York Times Book Review: "Whether the story is completely new to you, or if you were one of the millions glued to the news reports and wondering, will they make it — physically, emotionally, spiritually — you’ll be greatly rewarded to learn how they did." My only quibble: I think the title gets lost in the book jacket graphic.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Tradition of Deceit, by Kathleen Ernst
2. What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen
3. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
4. Dubliners, by James Joyce
5. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
6. Once We Were Brothers, by Ronald H. Balson
7. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
8. Suspended Sentence, by Patrick Modiano
9. Still Life with Bread Crumbs, by Anna Quindlen
10. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

So I was looking at Once We were Brothers, the Ronald Balson novel, and noticed we'd have several special orders for it as a print-on-demand title from the previous publication. In its Griffin edition, it started slow, but in the last two months, we started selling it regularly. Written by Chicago attorney, it's about a philanthropist who is accused of being a Nazi collaborator. From Jackie Cooper in The Huffington Post: "There are many, many legal thrillers on the book market today, and there are always novels concerning the holocaust coming forth one after the other. Still this book is different in its passion and its presentation. It is worth your time and you won't be disappointed."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Blood, Bones and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton
2. The Urban School System of the Future, by Andy Smarick
3. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard Davidson (registration is closed for this December 2 event)
4. Your Living Compass, by Scott Stoner (event is December 4 at Boswell)
5. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
6. Behind the Beautiful Forever, by Katherine Boo
7. How to Sit, by Thich Nhat Hanh
8. How to Eat, by Thich Nhat Hanh
9. God Calling, by A. J. Russell
10. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

There are a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh books out there, many of which are folks simply writing down what he says at speeches, but not all of them take off the way How to Eat and How to Sit do. The packaging is great, the titles conform more to an impulse table's demands, garnering better placement, and while the author has certainly touched on mindful eating previously (here's an interview with Oprah), the counterpoint of the two titles makes the concept seem fresh.

Books for Kids:
1. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #9: The Long Haul, by Jeff Kinney
3. Ocean by Carol Kaufmann, created by Dan Kainen
4. Before After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui
5. The Animal's Santa, by Jan Brett
6. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
7. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
8. Snow Days, a Disney activity book
9. Animalium, by Jenny Broom
10. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers. (Yes, there are a lot of alphabets and counting books this fall)

A lot of books on this week's list popped on from a talk that Jane and I did at the Woman's Club of Wisconsin on Tuesday. This is great practice for what I'll be handselling this holiday season, not just from what I've liked and found interesting, but also from Jane's list. She paired up a new pop-up version of The Mitten with the new Jan Brett, The Animal's Santa, a story about the animals wondering exactly who the fella is who is handing out the presents. The new version of The Mitten is written by Jessica Southwick, illustrated by Pippa Curnick (who is not getting credited on either Ipage or the ABA website we use--somebody should fix that) and with paper engineering by Yevgeniya Yeretskaya.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews The Three-Body Problem, a Chinese sci-fi thriller that mixes physics with gaming. His intriguing set-up: It combines fascinating extrapolations from astronomy and physics with a compelling first-contact story and a remarkable gaming/virtual reality tale — and sets the whole thing in contemporary China, among characters profoundly shaped by the notorious Cultural Revolution."

From Mike Fischer, a revisit of the best stories from Alice Munro's six collections published over the past twenty years in Family Furnishings. Just to let you know where Fischer stands on this collection, these entries are not stories but "miracles." His take: "'We say of some things that they can't be forgiven, or that we will never forgive ourselves,' Munro says near the close of 'Dear Life,' fittingly the last story in this collection. 'But we do — we do it all the time.' Munro has been teaching us how for half a century, one story at a time."

Reprinted from Newsday, Melissa Anderson reviews Jill Lepore's The Secret History of Wonder Woman. The thesis?: "Lepore, a professor of American history at Harvard, a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of several books on U.S. political life past and present, seamlessly shifts from the micro to the macro in arguing that Wonder Woman is 'the missing link in a chain of events that begins with the woman suffrage campaigns of the 1910s and ends with the troubled place of feminism fully a century later.'"

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