Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Annotated Boswell Bestseller List for the Week Ending September 5, 2015

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
2. The Girl in the Spider's Web, by David Lagercrantz
3. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
4. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox (event 9/15, 6:30, at Shorewood Public Library)
7. Barbara the Slut and Other People, by Lauren Holmes (event 9/14, 7 pm, at Boswell)
8. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
9. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore (ticketed event 9/9, 7 pm, at Boswell)
10. The Water Museum, by Luis Alberto Urrea (event 9/17, 7 pm, at Boswell)

Four upcoming events make the top ten, but this week didn't have a hardcover fiction event, so there's no competition for Jonathan Franzen, and it's likely that an event still wouldn't have outsold Purity. If you want to see Franzen on tour, you can try St. Paul o 9/15, Kansas City on 9/16, or St. Louis on 9/17. It's quite possible that everything is sold out. As you may have read already, Michiko Kakutani's review in The New York Times comes straight out of a hymnal: "Mr. Franzen has added a new octave to his voice. In fact, even readers who have found his earlier work misanthropic, too filled with bile and spleen for their tastes, are likely to appreciate his ability here to not just satirize the darkest and pettiest of human impulses but to also capture his characters’ yearnings for connection and fresh starts — and to acknowledge the possibility of those hopes." Roxane Gay on NPR's All Things Considered not so much: "The shame of this novel is that purity is largely found not in the storytelling but in the author's passive aggressive contempt for nearly all his characters."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Bike Battles, by James Longhurst
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Grain Brain, by David Perlmutter
4. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng (event 9/19, 2 pm, at Boswell)
5. Rising Strong, by Brené Brown
6. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
7. H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
8. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
9. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
10. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari

I can't remember the last time I saw three books from the Spiegel and Grau imprint on one bestseller list report, but this week, Between the World and Me, Just Mercy, and Brené Brown's Rising Strong. This follow up to the Boswell bestseller Daring Greatly is perhaps best summed up by Brown herself: "I feel so passionate about this book for a simple reason: I need it. This research taught me how to stay brave in struggle – and not just getting my ass kicked in the arena, but how to own my disappointments, failures, and even those heartbreaks that can take your breath away. It’s by far my most personal book."

From the Guardian profile by John-Paul Flintoff in 2013: "Brown, a Texan academic turned bestselling author, wife, daughter, sister and mother of two, came to prominence after recording a Ted talk in which she argued that to live a full life requires courage – and showing courage means doing things that make you feel vulnerable. It quickly became one of the most successful Ted talks of all time: more than 10 million people have seen it online and shared her message that we should stop worrying about being perfect, accept ourselves as we are, and engage meaningfully with one another."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Again and Again, by Ellen Bravo
2. Gods in Oslo, by John Plaski
3. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28, 7 pm, at Boswell)
4. Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton (in store lit group, 11/2, 7 pm)
5. Granta Book of the African Short Story, edited by Helon Habila
6. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
7. Boy Snow Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi (in store lit group 10/5, 7 pm)
8. The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante
9. Euphoria, by Lily King
10. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews

The Story of the Lost Child is the final volume in Elena Ferrante's quartet of novels about two Napelese friends that began in My Brilliant Friend, which I recently wrote about in the "what did the book club think?" post. Darcey Steinke wrote in Los Angeles Times: "The Neapolitan quartet succeeds in capturing life as lived, the striving female mind, the power of unknowing, the idea that agency within one's fate, not the fate itself, is what truly matters. You can read The Story of the Lost Child as a stand-alone book, but I entreat you to start at the beginning of this masterwork. Finishing the last volume, I felt like I'd entered, for a time, another existence. Like Anna Karenina, Lila and Elena are volatile, full of desire and rage. They too break domestic conventions, but it thrills me that instead of killing them off, Ferrante allows them, in all their chaos and pain, to thrive."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die, by Jennifer Posh
2. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
3. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
4. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
5. A Path Appears, by Nicholas Kristof
6. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
7. Loving Lardo, by Wendy R. Olsen
8. The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar, by Martin Windrow
9. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
10. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson

Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton is the basis for the hit Broadway musical. That's a sentence I really never thought I would type. Leah Greenblatt writes in her Entertainment Weekly review: "Miranda’s singular gift for storytelling and wordplay makes even the Federalist Papers sound sexy, but the play’s intrigue come mostly from its potent stew of friendship and romance and outsize ambition; it’s as if House of Cards were folded into a sort of Days of Our Colonial Lives fever dream, then filtered through the minds of Tupac and Sondheim. It’s that strange and that spectacular, and you’d be crazy to miss it." It's going to be difficult for you to get tickets, but the book? That's easy.

Books for Kids:
1. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt, with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
2. Queen of Shadows, by Sarah Maas
3. Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks a Lot, by Dav Pilkey
4. Waiting, by Kevin Henkes
5. Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor, by Jon Scieszka
6. Maps, by Aleksandra Mizielinska
7. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell
8. What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss
9. Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans
10. Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate, by David Soman

Lots of new titles on the list this week, but let's focus on #2, Queen of Shadows by Sarah Maas, the fourth volume of the Throne of Glass series. From Kirkus Reviews: "At times believability is stretched (fugitives travel around the city freely, one or two heroes defeat large groups of enemies), but character motivations and interactions—friendships, romances, and others—are always nuanced and on point, especially as Aelin’s growing maturity offers her new perspectives on old acquaintances. The ending leaves readers poised for the next installment. Impossible to put down."

From the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Quixote: The Novel and the World, by Ian Stavans. He writes: "Not only does Miguel de Cervantes' novel Don Quixote (1605-'15) tower over Spanish literature like a giant windmill, it also can be seen as a turbine that powers Spanish culture. But the novel's kinetic energy doesn't stop at the Iberian peninsula. As scholar Ilan Stavans catalogs in his engaging cultural history, Quixote: The Novel and the World, Don Q and Sancho Panza have a powerful, ongoing influence on Latin American and U.S. literature and culture as well. Except for the Bible, no book has been translated into English more often, Stavans declares, listing 20 different English translations between 1612 and 2009."

Mike Fischer was less hot on the newest from Salman Rushdie, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights. He begins: "Midway through "Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights" — a novel so bad and boring that it's hard to imagine it would have been published if it hadn't been written by Salman Rushdie — one of the principal characters wonders why nobody in Manhattan notices him, even though he walks through air, nearly four inches from the ground."For a more positive take, read San Francisco Chronicle's Carolina De Robertis: "In reading this new book, one cannot escape the feeling that all those years of writing and success have perhaps been preparation for this moment, for the creation of this tremendously inventive and timely novel."

And finally, here's a profile of Bradley Beaulieu, who will be at Boswell on Tuesday, September 8, for his book Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. He writes: "Beaulieu has a well-deserved, and growing, reputation not only for the richness of his epic fantasies but also for drawing on fresher springs of inspiration in their design." And here's an interesting detail about how your science degree can help with your writing: "Beaulieu, who earned a computer science and engineering degree from the Milwaukee School of Engineering, used a software program called Fractal Mapper when building up a new world. By inputting a planet's diameter, number of moons and other data and choices, it generates maps and plans that stimulate his fictional planning."

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