Sunday, August 30, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestseller List for the Week Ending August 29, 2015

What an exciting week! Yesterday I inadvertently sent out our staff newsletter to our entire mailing list. Perhaps it's not a good idea to work on both at the same time. Fortunately our staff newsletters don't tend to be chastise-y but information driven, so we had a long list of booked events that haven't been posted, plus a whole mess of staff recs, including many going into 2016. it turned out to be quite a conversation driver, and a lot of folks liked looking at, as my friend John says, "how the sausage is made."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
2. Wind/Pinball, by Haruki Murakami
3. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox (event at Shorewood Public Library, 9/15, 6:30 pm)
4. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal
7. X, by Sue Grafton
8. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore (ticketed event 9/9, 7 pm)
9. Girl on a Train, by Paula Hawkins
10. Among the Ten Thousand Things, by Julia Pierpont

August 25 was definitely a mystery red letter day for releases with not just Louise Penny's latest, The Nature of the Beast, which have great recommendations from regular readers Sharon and Anne, but Sue Grafton's X, which is just two letters away from the end of the alphabet. At one time she said the series would be done with 26 installments, and she confirms in an interview with Mark Rubinstein in The Huffington Post that this is still the case. She also discusses how the series, like many, has moved from closed mysteries to open ones. The latter category is when you know who the villain is. I've always thought of that genre more as a thriller because I felt the whodunit was intrinsic to the genre, but of course, that's just one reader's opinion. I love the terms though and plan to use them a lot!

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Palm Springs Modern Living, by James Schnepf
2. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. The Grain Brain Cookbook, by David Perlmutter
4. The Last Love Song, by Tracy Daughterty
5. Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath
6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
7. Brain Maker, by David Perlmutter
8. We're Still Here, Ya Bastards, by Roberta Brandes Gratz
9. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng (event 9/19, 2 pm, at Boswell)
10. Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

Several folks were buzzing about the new biography of Joan Didion, The Last Love Song, including Dennis, our #1 store champion (if you've ever been a bookseller in Milwaukee, you know who he is). Ariel Gonzalez reviews the book for the Miami Herald: "Joseph Heller and Donald Barthelme, the subjects of Daugherty’s last two books, were no longer around when he dove into their pasts. Though she is getting on in years (she turns 81 in December), Didion still speaks — but not, alas, to Daugherty. She withheld her cooperation. Faced with a shut door, he instead exploited the accessibility of her printed words. Hence the problem. Heller and Barthelme rarely wrote about themselves; Didion did — quite a bit, in fact. Summary and quotes from those widely praised works saturate this biography. You may be tempted to bypass it and go straight to the primary sources, but then you will miss Daugherty’s exemplary criticism; his autopsying of the corpus is incisively professional, close reading done with enthusiasm." Carolyn Kellogg's review from the Los Angeles Times is reprinted in the Journal Sentinel this Sunday.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28 at Boswell, 7 pm)
2. Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum
3. Will's Music, by Obie Yadgar
4. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
5. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
6. Euphoria, by Lily King
7. Nora Webster, by Colm Toíbín
8. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
9. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert (event 10/6 at East Library, 6:30 pm)
10. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler

It's not too common that a traditional publisher sets a book in Milwaukee, so it's nice to see not one, but two books with local settings. Lauren Fox's Days of Awe is a bit soft focus Milwaukee, but The Coincidence of Coconut Cake screams Cream City, and in this case that stands for cream sauce, cream puff, and creme bruleee. It's the story of a critic who gives a small restauranteur a bad review, but this awkward beginning leads to romance. I guess you would call the book genre, but it's more romantic comedy. When you dig for reviews, you mostly get bloggers, not traditional media write ups. One thing I've learned is that many bloggers don't use their last names, which sort of changes the relationship between reviewer and reviewed. "Kathy" calls the book "a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together" while "Staircase Wit" found the book a bit improbable for her taste, but noted that "Lou is a delightful heroine, if a bit too good to be true, and her determined efforts to reveal the charming side of Milwaukee are very endearing and made me wish she had been my guide on my long ago trip when I had only a copy of Betsy in Spite of Herself and the Gen Con attendees to keep me company.* Ah, Gen Con.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Sex Myth, by Rachel Hills
2. 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die, by Jennifer Posh (event at Boswell 9/1, 7 pm)
3. The Diary of a Teenage Girl, by Phoebe Glockner
4. Think Like a Freak, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
5. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
6. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
7. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
8. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
9. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
10. The Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin

Being that Just Mercy is also being aggressively featured at Starbucks next door, I thought that would sort of deflate our sales, but demand is strong enough for that not to be the case. Just out in paperback, with Bryan Stevenson's interview repeated on Fresh Air, Rob Warden in The Washington Post wrote that "Stevenson, the visionary founder and executive director of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, surely has done as much as any other living American to vindicate the innocent and temper justice with mercy for the guilty — efforts that have brought him, among myriad honors, a MacArthur genius grant and honorary degrees from Yale, Penn and Georgetown."

Books for Kids:
1. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt, with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
2. What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss
3. The Nutshell Library, by Maurice Sendak
4. Appleblossom the Possum, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
5. The Book of Dares for Lost Friends, by Jane Kelley
6. Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby
7. Malcollm Under the Stars, by W.H. Beck
8 Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, by Maggie Stiefvater and Pearce Jackson
9. Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories, by R.J. Palacio
10. Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead

People are wondering about what begat Auggie and Me when author R.J. Palacio has said there would likely not be a sequel. Well it turns out that these are three collected short ebooks published for the first time in print, each one about a kid featured in the book Wonder. Publishers Weekly describes the book but doesn't quite review it and most of what else I found were bloggers. Hey, I'm a blogger--I can't wait to be quoted in someone else's newsletter. Unfortunately I did not read Auggie and Me so it won't be for that. I have however read The Day the Crayons Come Home and proclaim it "a technicolor sequel that rivals the Fast and Furious Franchise for nonstop action."

So what's likely to hit our bestseller lists next week? We turn to the Journal Sentinel book page where Mike Fischer reviews Jonathan Franzen's Purity, a likely our #1 hardcover fiction title for next week. He begins "Purity Tyler — heroine of the latest novel confirming that Jonathan Franzen is among this country's best living writers — goes by the nickname Pip. It's a nod to the hero of Dickens' Great Expectations — a novel that, like Purity itself, explores how we project our childish fantasies onto our children, making it harder for anyone to ever mature."

Reviewed by Jim Higgins is Kathleen Ernst's A Settler's Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons. Higgins notes that "In a time when the word immigrant is flung about in political discourse like a swear word, A Settler's Year is a gentle, visually engaging reminder that just a few generations ago, nearly all the people living in Wisconsin came from somewhere else — and made a new life here through hard work and the support of their neighbors."

September 1 is a huge release week, and the beginning of fall. And that's why Jim Higgins did a round up authors coming to the Milwaukee, area, including several Boswell-sponsored events. Perhaps the biggest might be John Gurda's Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, launching September 24 at the Grain Exchange. Gurda will be doing plenty of events around the metro area all fall to promote the book, including one at Boswell later in the season. Read all the highlights here.

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