Sunday, February 28, 2016

Boswell Bestsellers for the Week Ending February 27, 2016

I have to decide once and for all whether to keep the commas in between title and author on our lists. The New York Times does it, and that's why I started doing it many years ago, but I cannot find other examples, and the two grammar websites I checked with thought it was unnecessary. That said, The New York Times uses quotes for book titles, as does the Journal Sentinel, but I've found enough examples of italics from other journalistic enterprises that I'm not even on the fence here.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
2. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
5. What Belongs to You, by Garth Greenwell
6. Elantris Tenth Anniversary Edition, by Brandon Sanderson
7. Mistborn: The Shadows of Self V5, by Brandon Sanderson
8. Mistborn: The Bands of Mourning V6, by Brandon Sanderson
9. The Ancient Minstrel, by Jim Harrison
10. Pride and Prejudice (Clothbound Classics edition), by Jane Austen

As you'll see below, our big sales this week were from kids events, but there was some adult sales that came out of them, most notably the Brandon Sanderson backlist. Regarding our pop for Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You, this story about an American teacher in Bulgaria who becomes involved in a complicated relationship with a hustler has gotten great reviews. Dwight Garner in The New York Times wrote: "The later sections of What Belongs to You may lack the thrilling darkness of the long beginning, but Mr. Greenwell remains a writer who opens chasms rather than builds substandard bridges. He is a subtle observer of human interactions. He underscores the way expressions of love are nearly always, in part, performance." It's possible that Greenwell may eventually come to town, as he attended the Iowa Writers Workshop with an FOB (Friend of Boswell).

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Eniac in Action, by Thomas Haigh
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
4. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
5. In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri
6. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
7. The Rise and Fall of American Growth, by Robert Gordon
8. The Black Presidency, by Michael Eric Dyson
9. The Givenness of Things, by Marilynne Robinson
10. Saving Captialism, by Robert B. Reich

Michael Eric Dyson's The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America has spun off into a New Republic cover story (on why Hillary Clinton might do more for black people than Obama could) and this Salon piece, which followed a Cornel West assessment last summer. David Daley writes: "It’s a brilliant and complicated portrait of a brilliant and complicated president. Dyson has been an Obama supporter, and remains close enough that he was granted an Oval Office interview for this book. Where he disagrees with Obama, even vehemently, Dyson remains deeply respectful of the man and with the profound circumstances and forces he wrestles with every day. Dyson’s analysis differs from his former professor Cornel West — Dyson laid out his thoughts on West’s more frustrated and radical disappointment with Obama in a New Republic piece last summer, and in this great interview with Joan Walsh in Salon after that."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Aftermath, by LeVar Burton
2. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (event 5/14, 2 pm, at Boswell)
3. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
4. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (even 5/19, 7 pm, at Boswell)
5. My Brilliant Friend V1, by Elena Ferrante
6. The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings V1, by Brandon Sanderson
7. Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
8. The Slow and Painful Awakening of Herr Wilhelm Neiman, by Kenneth M. Kapp
9. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg
10. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

I will be on Kathleen Dunn's Wisconsin Public Radio show at 2 pm tomorrow (2/29) with a focus on film adaptations, in lieu of the Oscars tonight. We have no idea how the movie is going to be but it's said that the trailer for Me Before You was so compelling that it propelled the book back to #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. The tie-in edition hasn't even gone on sale yet for this one - it's due April 26. The book's already been a huge success, a Gone Girl with weeping instead of screaming. Boswellian Sharon called it "unexpectedly touching" in her 2013 recommendation.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. And Goodnight to All the Beautiful Young Women, by Joel Kriofske
2. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson (event 3/9, 1:30 at MATC. Tix still available, but you must register)
3. We Gotta Get Out of This Place, by Craig Werner and Doug Bradley (event 2/29, 7 pm, at Boswell)
4. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
5. First They Killed My Father, by Loung Ung (event 3/1, at USM in River Hills. Free event - please register!)
6. You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
7. Grace and Style, by Grace Helbig
8. Doctor Who Coloring Book, from Price Stern Sloan
9. The Lucky Child, by Loung Ung
10. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones

It's time to check in on Jen Sincero's You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life. Last summer the folks at Boulder Book Store told us they had sold well over a thousand copies of this book and convinced us to commit to it - we'd sold 10 in its first two years of release. We're now closing in on 100 copies, part of word-of-mouth momentum that got the book onto national bestseller lists. Last time I went to Urban Outfitters, it was one of their best represented books. If you're an independent bookstore that has another lead for me, I'm happy to share what works for us. Hey, I'm doing it right now!

Books for Kids:
1. Masterminds V1, by Gordon Korman
2. The Reckoners: Calamity V3, by Brandon Sanderson
3. Masterminds: Criminal Destiny V2, by Gordon Korman
4. Ungifted, by Gordon Korman
5. The Thickety: A Path Begins V1, by J.A. White
6. The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, by LeVar Burton
7. The Thickety: Well of Witches V3, by J.A. White
8. The Thickety: The Whispering Trees V2, by J.A. White
9. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, with illustrations by Jon Klassen
10. The Reckoners: Firefight V2, by Brandon Sanderson
11. The Reckoners: Steelheart V1, by Brandon Sanderson
12. The Hypnotists: Dragonfly V3, by Gordon Korman
13. Geography from A to Z, by Jack Knowlton
14. Two Friends, by Dean Robbins
15. Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians V1, by Brandon Sanderson

Rankings can be misleading! We sold a lot more copies of LeVar Burton's kids book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm (and no, we do not have signed copies left over on this one) than we did for his old science fiction mass market that was a facsimile print on demand title, including ads for other 1990s titles from what was then Warner Books, but the competition in kids was fierce. Between Sanderson, Jerry White, and the last round of Gordon Korman, it was hard for Sara Pennypacker's Pax to get into the top ten, whereas in a non-event, non-Christmas season week, I suspect the book would be our #1 bestseller.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins profiles Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the New American City. Expect this to be #1 on our nonfiction bestseller list next week. Higgins writes: "Evicted should provoke extensive public policy discussions. It is a magnificent, richly textured book with a Tolstoyan approach: telling it like it is but with underlying compassion and a respect for the humanity of each character, major or minor. Desmond presents the two landlords, whom he calls Sherrena and Tobin, as hard-nosed entrepreneurs pursuing profit, but he doesn't demonize them, just as he refrains from airbrushing the tenants, who sometimes make their lives even more difficult through impulsive acts or poor choices."

Evicted was also the subject of a Journal Sentinel profile by John Schmid. He notes: "Desmond's research, which grew into a massive, multiyear data-gathering effort, lays bare a phenomenon that is stunning in its everyday commonality." Higgins continues: "In an interview, Desmond said he had expected the loss of a job to be a primary driver for an eventual eviction. 'But eviction is a bigger cause of job loss than the other way around.' Evictions, in other words, not only perpetuate existing poverty, but also create new poverty along with a class of displaced urban nomads."

Also at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer takes on Blackass, a first novel from a Nigerian writer and wait till you catch the title reference. From Fischer: "Invoking the opening of Kafka's Metamorphosis, A. Igoni Barrett begins Blackass — his smart and provocative debut novel — with his protagonist waking from sleep to discover that he's been utterly transformed. Having dreamed of being white, 33-year-old Furo rises from his bed in Lagos as a white man.

And finally, Jim Higgins talks up Juan Felipe Hererra's visit at the UWM Union on Thursday, March 3, 7 pm. I did not know this but Hererra is also appearing at a craft talk at Bolton Hall at 2 pm.

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