Sunday, November 22, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers for Week Ending November 21, 2015

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Lake House, by Kate Morton
2. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
3. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Muralist, by B.A. Shapiro
6. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
7. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
8. Fortune Smiles, by Adam Johnson (yes, we still have signed copies)
9. Six Poets, edited by Alan Bennett
10. The Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham

You can tell that Jane and I did some presentations this week, as two of her picks are our top two hardcover bestsellers for the week. Hannah Rothschild's The Improbability of Love is recommended by both Jane and Sharon, who called the novel "a joyful romp through the world of high-end art dealing, obsessive collectors, and family secrets." Amanda Craig in the UK Independent notes that "Part of the novel's charm is that its characters, rich or poor, are all a mixture of frailties. Like a Rococo painting, this clever, funny, beguiling and wholly humane romance is a treat worthy of its subject." It's giving The Muralist a run for its money as the art novel of fall 2015.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. In Pursuit of Beauty, by Timothy Whealon
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda (event 12/2)
3. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. The Bassoon King, by Rainn Wilson (signed copies available)
5. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, by Sarah Vowell (a few signed copies left)
6. Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations, by Greil Marcus
7. Real Life Rock, by Greil Marcus (a few signed copies available)
8. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
9. M Train, by Patti Smith
10. My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl

This is our 4th design event at the Villa Terrace, this time for Timothy Whealon's In Pursuit of Beauty, and every speaker comments on how lucky we are to have this beautiful David Adler building open to the public in our neighborhood. Speaking of beautiful buildings, the Woman's Club, which is the oldest private club in the city and the oldest woman's club in the country, according to their materials, was designed by the architectural firm of Ferry and Clas.

One of the books that Jane was recommending at our Woman's Club lunch is Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year, a memoir with recipes that was inspired by Reichl's life after the closing of Gourmet magazine. Who knew that the magazine at eight test kitchens and 12 full-time cooks. More from this Morning Edition piece.

Paperback Fiction:
1. White Collar Girl, by Renée Rosen
2. Washing the Dead, by Michelle Brafman
3. What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen
4. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
5. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
6. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
7. The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens
8. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
9. Best American Short Stories 2015, edited by T.C. Boyle
10. Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher

To continue on this theme, the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden where Renée Rosen spoke about White Collar Girl were designed by William Langford and Theodore Moreau. The current home of the JCC, where Michelle Brafman spoke about Washing the Dead, was the former home of University School, and is on the list of historic buildings in the Village of Whitefish Bay. I'm glad to see that my enthusiasm for both All My Puny Sorrows and Dear Committee Members are popping sales a bit. In addition to our two offsites together, we both chatted with a book club for about 15 minutes in the store on our way to the Woman's Club, but then we left them with Sharon, who convinced them to read The Paying Guests.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs, by Greil Marcus
2. Educating Milwaukee, by James K. Nelsen
3. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
4. Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus
5. Milwaukee Food, by Lori Fredrich (event 11/24, 7 pm)
6. The Beer Bible, by Jeff Alworth
7. Lost Ocean, by Johanna Basford
8. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor
9. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
10. Milwaukee Mayhem, by Matthew J. Prigge

Seven of our top ten bestsellers are current or former featued event titles this week. It turns out that it was touch and go whether we'd have Educating Milwaukee in time for our event. After we scheduled our talk with Mr. Nelen, the pub date moved a bit, requiring books to be drop-shipped from the printer. Fortunately all worked out in the end, and while the snow scare probably depressed attendance a bit (our club is that after the event, the store was pretty much empty), we had a nice crowd listening to the how various educational policies have fared over Miwaukee's history. Signed copies are available.

Books for Kids:
1. Need, by Joelle Charbonneau
2. Hello, by Liza Wiemer
3. Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
4. Old School V10, by Jeff Kinney
5. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
6. Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson
7. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
8. The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau
9. I Really Like Slop, by Mo Willems
10. The 50 States, by Gabrielle Balkan with illustrations by Sol Linero

As one of those kids who counted the number of states visited, which by the way, I consider one of the reasons why I wound up in Wisconsin, The 50 States is the perfect book for me to hand-sell for the holidays. You can see the touch of Rachel Williams, who was most recently running the Big Picture Books imprint for Candlewick, in the packaging. Author Gabrielle Balkan and Argentina-based artist Sol Linero have created a picture book that doubles as both an atlas and an almanac. More on Wide Eyed Editions here from Publishers Weekly.

Please note: our sales for Chris Van Allsburg's blockbuster event at the Milwaukee Public Library will be in next week's list.

I am remiss in running down the Journal Sentinel book reviews, so here goes two weeks of links!

1. Mike Fischer reviews The Mare, Mary Gaitskill's first novel in ten years. Her last, Veronica, was shortlist for the National Book Award. Velvet is a Dominican girl who gets the chance to live in the country with Ginger and Paul and Fugly, their horse. Fischer writes: "Ginger falls for Velvet the way the girl falls for Fugly, setting up parallel explorations of all that's good but also fraught in any attempt to connect with another, no matter how loving such efforts might be. Particularly when, in Ginger's case, one adds race and class to the mix." Fisher calls Gaitskill "remorselessly honest and clear-eyed."

2. Jim Higgins reviews Concussion, by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Her book chronicles Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist, who discovered the links between brain injury and playing professional football. The book grew out of a story Laskas wrote for GQ, and is scheduled to be a film starring Will Smith this Christmas. The story is quite shocking, as Higgins notes: "Doctors paid by the NFL attacked the quality of Omalu's science, even though none of them practiced his specialty. When NFL resistance to the subject began eroding and the league convened gatherings of relevant researchers, Omalu was pointedly excluded. The NFL hired an independent researcher to go over Omalu's work. When that doctor confirmed Omalu's findings, the NFL buried his report."

3. Carole E. Barrowman pages through mysteries.

a. Barrowman's take on Barry Maitland's Crucifixion Creek, the first book featuring Sydney detective Harry Belltree: "Harry is booted off an investigation into a series of murders (a shooting, a suicide and a stabbing) because his brother-in-law is one of the victims. He ignores orders and teams up with a journalist working a land development story that may connect to the murders." Maitland has won the Ned Kelly award and his been a finalist for several others.

b. Dark Reservations, by John Fortunato is next, a special agent with the FBI who also has an MFA from Seton Hall. Barrowman calls it "a distinguished debut rooted in a southwestern landscape akin to late Tony Hillerman's books and populated with a similarly diverse cast of men and women." The investigators are Bureau of Indian Affairs Specal Agent Joe Evers and Navajo Tribal Officer Randall Bluehorse, who uncover a conspiracy after a congressman's car turns up years after his disappearance.

c. Erica Wright's second novel featuring Kathleen Stone, The Granite Moth, is up next. This time the private investigator tries to figure out who is menacing the drag queens in New York's Halloween parade. Barrowman: "All of this makes for a lively read as Kathleen tries to bring down a drug cartel while searching for the person behind a series of hate crimes."

d. Plus a shout-out to the new Sherlock Holmes novel omnibus in a deluxe edition.

4. Patrick McGilligan's newest is Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane, and it is reviewed by Chris Foran. The author will be at Boswell on Tuesday, December 8, 7 pm. Foran writes: "You'd be hard-pressed to find a figure in American arts around whom more stories swirl with varying degrees of truthfulness — in part fueled by the Kenosha native's own love of tale-telling. So in Young Orson, Milwaukee film historian Patrick McGilligan takes a different approach: Trust (sort of), but verify. The result is a richly detailed, often nuanced study of Welles' life and work from childhood through the first day of shooting of his 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane. It's a welcome addition to the burgeoning shelf of books on one of America's most distinctive talents."

5. Also reviewed by Jim Higgins is Robert Norrell's biography, Alex Haley: And the Books that Changed a Nation. Notes Higgins: "Alex Haley was a "working freelance writer, not an ideologue. Yet he wrot"e two of the 20th century's chief texts of African-American consciousness: The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the saa Roots. The latter was adapted for a blockbuster TV miniseries watched by a reported 130 million viewers. In Alex Haley: And the Books That Changed a Nation, Robert J. Norrell describes the making, often messy, of these seminal books and their powerful impact on American culture."

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