Sunday, June 14, 2015

Annotated Boswell Bestsellers For the Week Ending June 13, 2015

How'd your favorite book do at Boswell this week?

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
3. The Jesus Cow, by Michael Perry (event with Dean Bakopoulos Fri. June 19 at Boswell)
4. The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma
5. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
6. The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi
7. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
8. Finders Keepers, by Stephen King
9. The Bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson (event at Boswell Monday, July 20, 7 pm)
10. Piranha, by Clive Cussler with Boyd Morrison

On our recent trip to the Book Expo convention, our buyer Jason met Mr. Bacigalupi at not one but two book events. I accompanied him to a signing for a new edition of The Windup Girl. Bacigalupi's universe is in the near future, with water shortages leading to a Cold War between California, Nevada, and Arizona. Of The Water Knife, Jason Kennedy writes: "Paolo Bacigalupi writes some bleak futures in his novels. First in, The Windup Girl, and now in his new intense, water-deprived world of The Water Knife, we come to see the many different ways our civilization and ecosystems could go terribly wrong. This is an intense and violent ecopunk novel that follows Angel Velasquez and Lucy Monroe on a hunt for an ancient water deed that could change the southwest water rights. Can they trust each other? Is finding the deed going to solve the water problem or lead to a bigger ill for most everybody? Characters are multidimensional and you can never peg somebody as always being the good person or the bad, and that is how Paolo sucker punches you time again as the plot unfurls. Brilliant novel, a bit too close to reality sometimes, but that could be what we need."

Dave Burdick in The Denver Post adds: "This is a rich and, yes, gritty world from a smart author who knows the American Southwest well and knows readers better. The particulars of water rights, policy, studied bureaucratic ignorance and Freedom of Information Act requests do not necessarily a blockbuster make, and a blockbuster is what's on offer here, more so than previous Bacigalupi novels. There's a little more techno-jargon, there are explosions and helicopters, breathless action and genuine suspense — even handy places a studio could score a buck or two from product-placement deals with Tesla and others."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
2. Jimmie Lee and James, by Steve Fiffer and Adar Cohen
3. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
4. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
5. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
6. Milwaukee Wisconsin: A Photographic Portrait, by Anne Bingham
7. It's a Long Story, by Willie Nelson with David Ritz
8. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
9. A Lucky Life Interrupted, by Tom Brokaw
10. The Man who Painted the Universe, by Ron Legro and Avi Lank (event at Boswell Monday June 15, 7 pm)

Wow, the nonfiction list is looking might Father's Day, ain't it? It's a lot of history, with memoirs from Willie Nelson and Tom Brokaw. A new review from Douglas Brinkley in The Washington Post says of It's a Long Story: "Although Nelson is a God-loving Methodist turned Zen philosopher, his renegade antics provide this simple memoir with a happy-go-lucky zest." And in this profile by Mary Ann Gwinn in The Seattle Times, David McCullough discusses how his last book about France led him to The Wright Brothers: "I was delighted to find that Wilbur, at every chance, went to the Louvre to look at paintings, and the degree that he was moved by the great Gothic works of France was far beyond that of an ordinary tourist. … It’s important to convey now, when so many people are dismissing the liberal arts or skirting around them … (that) the Wright brothers, who accomplished one of the greatest technical achievements of all time, achieved what they did by reading widely and deeply."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Collar Robber, by Michael Bowen, writing as Hillary Bell Locke
2. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
3. We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
4. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
5. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
6. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
7. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
8. Euphoria, by Lily King
9. Nora Webster, by Colm Toíbín
10. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain

I so hoped our blog post about our new book club brochure would come out last week, in time for our presentation along with Emma Hooper on Wednesday for Etta and Otto and Russell and James, but it was not to be. That said, several (to be exact, seven) of our top ten titles on the fiction list are featured in our brochure, and that's with us passing up on The Goldfinch for some lesser known titles. One title that was in our brochure for several seasons was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which is still getting picked up by book clubs, and recent had a cover change. That's right, after the book found its market, it now has a cover that doesn't give away the plot twist.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Carl Barks' Duck, by Peter Schilling
2. We Should All be Feminists, by Chinananda Ngozi Adichie
3. Up in Here, by Mark Dostert
4. The Lady in Gold, by Anne Marie O'Connor
5. How to be a Heroine, by Samantha Ellis
6. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
7. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
8. The War That Ended Peace, by Margaret Macmillan
9. Rocket Boys, by Homer Hickam
10. The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, by Sam Kean

Why was I just having a conversation with Jason and our Harper rep about Rocket Boys. I was telling them that the book (and subequent musical), Rocket Boys, changed its name to the film October Sky, and that the two titles were surprisingly complex anagrams. Years later, I am still amazed that someone figured this out. Just out in paperback is Sam Kean's The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery, which Sam Elingburg in Pop Matters recommended in its cloth edition: "Kean’s title refers to two then-named neurosurgeons, Ambroise Pare and Andreas Vesalius, who were granted the dubious honor of caring for King Henri II of France after he very nearly lost his head in a jousting accident—an event, insanely enough, predicted by none other than Nostradamus. Pride, it seems, was ultimately King Henri II’s undoing, opting to face a more experienced jouster than lose face in front of his subjects. And it’s exactly the kind of bizarre, larger-than-life tale that lends The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons such swagger and breakneck pacing."

Books for Kids:
1. Home, by Carson Ellis
2. Paper Towns, by John Green
3. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
4. Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer
5. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
6. Where's Waldo: Totally Essential Travel Collection, by Martin Handford
7. Copper Sun, by Sharon Draper
8. Wildwood, by Colin Meloy
9. Under Wildwood, by Colin Meloy
10. Ice Cream Summer, by Peter Sis

It's nice to see Meg Wolitzer's Belzhar having legs to return to our bestseller list many months after publication. It's a young-adult tale of a girl sent to a special boarding school in New England after the loss of her boyfriend. She's in a class where they study Sylva Plath (bell-zhar, get it?) and on their off hours, the students get together and discuss their lives, most notably, that the journals they are writing in have the power to transport them to a time and place before they had a trauma, and they call that place Belzhar. Jennifer Ray Morrell in Slate writes: "Enough background is given in Belzhar so that a familiarity with The Bell Jar is not necessary to enjoy the novel. But for those who are familiar with the text, this is a chance to see it again through the fresh eyes of teenagers, and a fine companion piece for those who are unsure of how to manage the darkness."

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Uprooted, which we've already had great reads on from Boswellians Phoebe Dyer and Pam Stilp. Higgins writes "Calling Naomi Novik's Uprooted a riff on Beauty and the Beast doesn't begin to describe the richness, depth and sheer pleasure of this fantasy. As heroine Agnieszka learns and as Novik demonstrates over and over in this story, powerful magic flows from a combination of heart and getting the details right." And just to reinforce the book's greatness, let's have Phoebe weigh in: "The world building in this book is extensive and impressive. I was thoroughly immersed in the book's world and the plights of the characters, especially Agnieszka. The magical elements are explained with intricate detail that had me riveted and nearly believing the magic myself. Even more impressive to me, is that the ending strikes that rare balance between being satisfying as a standalone and leaving the story open to a sequel. This one had me rooted in place from start to finish."

Allison Garcia of the Journal Sentinel reviews The Man Who Painted the Universe, written by journalists Ron Legro and Avi Lang, who are at Boswell tomorrow. She writes: "When Ron Legro's housekeeper recommended he visit Kovac's Planetarium in Rhinelander, he didn't know she had just pitched the story behind The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods. After Legro met Frank Kovac, a man with an unwavering desire to stare at the sky, he recognized that he had a story. Not sure exactly what he wanted to do with the idea, he nudged his neighbor Avi Lank to visit the planetarium. Legro and Lank used to work together as reporters at the Milwaukee Sentinel, among their other jobs in media, before they each began easing into retirement. And the rest is history, as the Wisconsin Historical Society Press picked up the book as an account of the birth of a Wisconsin attraction." My apologies for squooshing together what were separate paragraphs in the newspaper.

And for folks who want to get out today, we're hosting Patricia Skalka and James DeVita for their latest mysteries at 3 pm. Mike Fischer at the Journal Sentinel reviews A Winsome Murder, the first in a series from the DeVita. Fischer's take: "DeVita is best known as a gifted actor and smart director who is also one of the mainstays at American Players Theatre, where he first appeared 20 years ago this summer as Romeo, in an unforgettable production of Romeo and Juliet. It therefore comes as no surprise that James Mangan — the Chicago-based detective called upon to solve a string of murders beginning with Deborah — has a great deal in common with DeVita himself, from first name and physique to an unquenchable passion for Shakespeare."

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