Sunday, August 9, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers for the Week Ending August 8, 2015, Plus Links to the Journal Sentinel Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox (event 9/15 at Shorewood Public Library)
2. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
6. Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain
7. Barbara the Slut and Other People, by Lauren Holmes (event 9/14 at Boswell)
8. Brush Back, by Sara Paretsky
9. Armada, by Ernie Cline
10. Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer

Things are heating up on the event front, as we had a nice first week for Barbara the Slut, whose author is coming to Boswell on September 14. But one breakout with no track or event on the horizon appears to be The Fishbowl, which had a great read from Boswellian Sharon and is an Indie Next Pick as well. Sharon's take: "Ian is a goldfish who lives on the 27th floor of a large apartment building. One day, he escapes from his bowl and finds himself in a precarious position. As he plunges to the street below, life goes on as usual around him. It may seem that Ian’s descent is going on for an amazingly long time, but all of the events are occurring in seconds. It’s the telling that takes some time. This first novel is unique and fun, covering the daily lives and activities of the residents of Seville on Roxy, an apartment building. Birth and death, betrayal and secrets are all taking place in the brief moments that it takes Ian to fall 27 floors."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
3. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
4. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
5. Red Notice, by Bill Browder
6. Pirate Hunters, by Robert Kurson
7. The Quartet, by Joseph Ellis
8. The Birth of the Pill, by Jonathan Eig
9. Stoned, by David Casarett
10. The Theft of Memory, by Jonathan Kozol

A Friend of Boswell came up to me this week and asked me about selections for their nonfiction book club, asking in particular about Joseph Ellis's The Quartet, which had a small pop in sales this week. It's Ellis's premise in his newest book that the United States truly became a nation through The Constitution, and profiles the four (get it?) figures at the center of the process--George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Monroe. Sam Jacobs writes in the Miami Herald: "Joseph J. Ellis says he got the idea for his latest book while listening to some middle school students struggling to recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: 'Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…' Suddenly Ellis realized that Honest Abe’s math was wrong. The new nation really wasn’t created in 1776 but rather in 1787 when the Constitution was written — or maybe two years later, when it had been ratified and George Washington took office as the first president of the United States of America."

Also on their list was Between the World and Me, which I thought would be a great selection for the group.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Euphoria, by Lily King
2. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28 at Boswell)
3. Nora Webster, by Colm Toíbín
4. The Hundred-Year House, by Rebecca Makkai (event 8/20 at Boswell)
5. Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
6. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
7. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
8. Listen and Other Stories, by Liam Callanan
9. The Secret Place, by Tana French
10. The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant

One of the generalizations I've noticed of late is that women tend to outnumber men on the paperback fiction bestseller list, while men have 9 of the top 10 slots on hardcover nonfiction. One author whose book just popped on to the top ten is Anita Diamant's The Boston Girl, which came out August 4. The book had a strong run in hardcover, probably her best since The Red Tent. I think we will easily beat our numbers for her last, Day After Night. I read that one but The Boston Girl probably had an even better indicator of success, my mom, who gave it this good recommendation: "It's good!" Joan Frank in the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a crisp, lively, clear, wry, affectionate, compulsively readable and very entertaining young adult novel." Now of course many would say it's not a young adult novel, but you'll have to read the review to hear her argument, and I should note, it's quite a positive review.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. People Tools, by Alan Fox
2. The Thriver's Edge, by Donna Stoneham
3. Tangible Things, by Sarah Anne Carter
4. Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect, by Jeffrey Gingold
5. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
6. The Secret Lives of the Supreme Court, by R. Schrakenberg
7. On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
8. Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Joke Book, by Garrison Keillor
9. The Delorme Wisconsin Atlas and Gazetteer
10. Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain

You may recognize four of the top five by past events, but somebody's obviously doing something with The Secret Lives of the Supreme Court, but I'm embarrassed to say, I don't know what. The book is about six years old with minimal stock at our wholesalers, but we've had about five months of decent sales, sales that dwarf our track record for years one through five. I have no references to this book to offer, but here's a Toledo Blade column about why so many courthouses have stone statues of The Ten Commandments, using Schnakenberg's The Secret Lives of the Great Filmmakers as a reference. Schankenberg's most popular book to date at Boswell has been Old Man Drinks.

Books for Kids:
1. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (paperback)
2. What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss
3. The Little Blue Truck board book, by Alice Schertle
4. The Nutshell Library, by Maurice Sendak
5. Paper Towns, by John Green
6. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (hardcover)
7. The Day The Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
8. In Mary's Garden, by Tina Kugler, with illustrations by Carson Kugler
9. Home, by Carson Ellis
10. Dinoblock, by Christopher Franceschelli, with illustrations by Peskimo

Only two more weeks to see the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Library. You can see that while many of Sendak's titles have been popular, Where the Wild Things are been one the big bestseller, both in hardcover and paperback. We even sold several copies in Spanish. Maurice Sendak: 50 Years Works Reasons is open Mondays from 12 to 5, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 5, and Saturdays from 10 to 4.

Over at the Journal Sentinel book page, Jim Higgins reviews The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu. He writes that the book "blows my mind with its big-picture storytelling, hard-science speculation and fiendish conundrums that confront mere mortal humans." This is the second book in a trilogy by China's "most beloved" science fiction writer. Aliens embark on a quest to take over earth; the one advantage of humans as that the folks from the dying planet of Trisolaris are incapable of lying, and thus do not understand deceit of subterfuge. To be fair, you really need to read The Three-Body Problem first, in order to tackle this.

One doesn't often think of Milwaukee as being influential in African American culture (where's our Milwaukee sound?) but in fact, one of the most influential writers of the 70s, and even today, is Iceberg Slim whose life is chronicled in Justin Gifford's Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim. Jim Higgins explains: "Milwaukee started Robert Beck on the path to selling millions of books, though not in a way that chambers of commerce like to brag about. While incarcerated in the Wisconsin State Reformatory and later Waupun in the late 1930s and early '40s for crimes he committed in Milwaukee, Beck learned the psychological tricks of pimping from older inmates. After his release, he became a rich pimp in Chicago and elsewhere, when he wasn't dodging potential Mann Act prosecution and other threats." Read more in the reivew about how he transformed this into a series of popular books, though like many African American artists, he didn't get his a very good deal.

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