Sunday, February 22, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers, Week Ending February 21, 2015.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Prudence, by David Treuer
2. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
5. The Whites, by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt (event Sat 3/21 2 pm)

According to a recent interview on Fresh Air, Richard Price signed a contract writing a novel under the pen name Harry Brandt and then had regrets and now says The Whites is just like any other Richard Price novel. My original perception was that the books under Harry Brandt might follow the mystery structure more tightly, but whatever, many critics are saying this might be Price's best novel to date. John Wilwol in Newsday praises "the vivid portrayals of the streets," the characters of the Wild Geese (wizened detectives who bonded after rising from street soldiers to detectives), and of course, the language, perhaps "the chief pleasure" of Price's work. And yes, really, Price is coming to Boswell on March 21, 2 pm.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. A Kim Jong-Il Production, by Paul Fischer
2. The Beautiful Music All Around Us, by Stephen Wade
3. H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
4. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
5. What the Dog Knows, by Cat Warren (event for paperback Tues 3/10 7 pm)

H is for Hawk had great credentials even before coming out in the United States, including winning the Costa Prize and the Samuel Johnson award. Now it's the front page feature in The New York Times Book Review; Vicki Constantine Croke calls this memoir of training a hawk in the wake of the author's grief "breathtaking." Boswellian Mel is also a big fan.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Girl-King, by Brittany Cavallaro
2. In the Light of What We Know, by Zia Haider Rahman
3. Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger
4. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
5. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

We had a quick start to the paperback edition of In the Light of What We Know, the story of a struggling investment banker who gets a surprise visit from an old friend, a South Asian mathematician who disappeared under mysterious circumstances several years prior. The Kirkus starred review set the tone: "War can divide friends. But then again, so can peace and all that falls between, the spaces inhabited by this ambitious, elegiac debut novel."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
3. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
4. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
5. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt (event Sat 3/14 2 pm)

I was reminding a bookseller my crazy pet peeve that the propped books on the edge of the display should face the direction that would make a visitor walking the store see them. I'll save the details for another post (it involves charts!) but as we were talking about it, a customer came up to us and said, "I'm buying Milwaukee Mafia" because I saw it displayed on the floor. Gavin Schmitt's book chronicles the 20th century crime families, and while it has the same name as his previous work from Arcadia, Milwaukee Mafia, one should note that the previous work was mostly archive photos, whereas the new book is text.

Books for Kids:
1. Big Magic for Little Hands, by Joshua Jay
2. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
3. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
4. Click, Clack, Peep, by Doreen Cronin
5. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

We've mentioned before that additions to an established picture book franchise either have a holiday element (the Christmas book) or reflect some child's first experience (the first day at school, a new sibling). What was amusing for me about Click, Clack, Peep, is that while "getting a child to sleep" is a cottage industry unto itself (Good Night Anything), Cronin's latest almost seems like advice to the parent, not the child. But don't feel fooled, it's a "delightful" (Booklist) bedtime story.

From the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Jill Bialosky's new book of poems, The Players. He writes: "With its thematic sequences, straightforward vocabulary, and broadly appealing subjects, The Players is an accessible collection of quality. If you've wanted to try or get back into contemporary poetry but have been afraid of getting stuck in something hermetic, here's an excellent choice for you."

It was a busy week for the JS crew as it was time for the preview of fall theater in the Milwaukee, the equivalent of the week before Summerfest for popular music in town. Here's Higgins' piece on the upcoming season at the Milwaukee Rep. The paper also reprinted this profile of Paula Hawkins in the Houston Chronicle from Maggie Galehouse, getting to the story behind the amazing breakout of The Girl on the Train.

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