Sunday, April 24, 2016

Boswell Bestsellers, Week Ending April 23, 2016

Here is our bestseller lists!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton (event Sun 5/1, 1 pm, see Journal Sentinel story below)
2. The North Water, by Ian McGuire
3. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
4. Journey to Munich, by Jacqueline Winspear
5. The Last Mile, by David Baldacci
6. Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld (MPL lunch 5/3, 11 am)
7. The Murder of Mary Russell, by Laurie R. King
8. My Struggle V5, by Karl Ove Knaussgaard
9. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
10. The Other Side of Silence, by Philip Kerr

Let's talk about The North Water. This novel from Ian McGuire about the last days of the whaling industry has gotten massive attention in the UK, like this write up from Helen Dunmore in The Guardian which notes: "The strength of The North Water lies in its well-researched detail and persuasive descriptions of the cold, violence, cruelty and the raw, bloody business of whale-killing." It was a nuanced review, but The New York Times piece from Column McCann has no quibbles: "McGuire has an extraordinary talent for picturing a moment, offering precise, sharp, cinematic details. When he has to describe complex action, he ­manages the physicality with immense clarity. He writes about violence with unsparing color and, at times, a sort of relish. The writing moves sometimes from the poetic to the purple, but McGuire is careful not to use too many metaphors or similes or too much fancy writing when he needs to make clear what cold feels like, or hunger or fear." He sees it as a story of good v. evil and exhibit A for the latter is definitely Henry Drax, who has few qualms about violence.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Fierce Optimism, by Leeza Gibbons
2. The Third Wave, by Steve Case
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. The Gray Rhino, by Michele Wucker
5. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
6. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Mirnda and Jeremy McCarter
7. The Art of Happiness, by Dalai Lama
8. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
9. People Get Ready, by Robert McChesney and John Nichols
10. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl has become a national bestseller, chronicling the life of professor of geobiology Hope Jahren. The book was reviewed well by Michiko Kakutani in the daily New York Times, and by that, she mostly describes the book, but has no complaints: "By crosscutting between chapters about the life cycle of trees and flowers and other green things, and chapters about her own coming-of-age as a scientist, Ms. Jahren underscores the similarities between humans and plants — tenacity, inventiveness, an ability to adapt — but, more emphatically, the radical otherness of plants: their dependence on sunshine, their inability to move or travel as we do, the redundancy and flexibility of their tissues." Beth Kephart reviewed the book in the Chicago Tribune, while Renee Montagne talked to her on NPR's Morning Edition.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
2. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
3. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (event Sat 5/14, 2 pm)
4. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
5. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
6. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredik Backman
7. The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy
8. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
9. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (event Thurs 5/19, 7 pm)
10. The Dig, by John Preston

Another historical novel popping this week is John Preston's The Dig, a fictional recreation of the Sutton Woo dig, a priceless treasure discovered in East Anglia in the early years of World War II. Rowland Manthorope wrote in The Guardian: "The Dig shows a delicate awareness of modernity's ambivalent legacy. Preston's feeling is for the soil and its scions, not the bright, shiny figures of the modern age. Ignoring the self-proclaimed heroes of the excavation, he takes characters who are, themselves, submerged." Interestingly enough, this book came out in the UK in 2007 (more details in Wikipedia), and was a BBC Radio drama in 2008. Why was it released now? And here's Preston's version of how the book came about in the Telegraph.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Descent into Happiness, by David Howell
2. What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus, by Evan Moffic
3. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
4. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
5. Soup of the Day, by Ellen Brown
6. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
7. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day (ticketed event 4/25, 7 pm)
8. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
9. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
10. The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen with Amy Ellis Nutt

When I saw how many copies of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults we had sold last week, I actually looked at the sales log to see if it was a bulk order. It was not - all the copies were to individual purchasers, and that made it worthy of writing up here. Jensen appeared on Fresh Air when the book came out in hardcover, where they noted: "Jensen, who's a neuroscientist and was a single mother of two boys who are now in their 20s, wrote The Teenage Brain to explore the science of how the brain grows — and why teenagers can be especially impulsive, moody and not very good at responsible decision-making." We had a pop the first time it aired too. Want more? Here's a C-SPAN interview.

Books for Kids:
1. The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds
2. Summerlost, by Ally Condie
3. Booked, by Kwame Alexander
4. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
5. When I Was the Greatest, by Jason Reynolds
6. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
7. Tombquest: The Book of the Dead V1, by Michael Northrop
8. Hello?, by Liza Wiemer (event with Jennifer Armentrout on May 18, 6:30 Weyenberg Library)
9. Oh, The Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss
10. Surf's Up, by Kwame Alexander

It's a rare kids' top ten where three of my favorite books are the top three, but I guess that's what events are for. What an April we've had! I want to give special mention to Surf's Up, Kwame Alexander's February picture book about two frogs, one of whom doesn't want to go out to play because that frog is too involved in reading Moby-Dick, of all things. Alexander read the book dividing the audience into two halves, with each representing one of the two frog friends in the book. You can watch an animated version of the story from North South Books here.

There are a lot of book features in today's Journal Sentinel!

Jim Higgins profiles Jane Hamilton, whose The Excellent Lombards is already this week's #1 hardcover fiction book. Higgins writes: The Excellent Lombards, her new novel, is both a lively coming-of-age story and a deeply felt portrait of an endangered species, the American farm family. The Excellent Lombards could be read and taught in both an eighth-grade classroom and a small-business course — the latter because it grapples with agonizing issues of partnership and succession."

Mike Fischer reviews two books this week. First up is Elizabeth Nunez's Even in Paradise. Fischer writes: "It can feel at times like a light beach read made for a Caribbean vacation. But it also continually journeys inland, looking hard at the 'tiny shacks' abutting the Ducksworth mansion, the Jamaican slums near Émile's university and the significance of shady Trinidadian trees protecting estates 'where there were Africans beaten and tortured.' Hence Nunez's frequent, deftly inserted lessons involving Caribbean history. As her title suggests, one can never escape that history, even when sipping rum on a hilltop mansion overlooking paradise."

Also covered by Mike Fischer is Howard Means's 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence, the Vietnam War protest that led to four student fatalities. On the book's take: "Means is less interested in blaming the soldiers than the leaders — civilian and military — who failed them by creating an impossible situation in the first place. His gallery includes a laissez-faire university president who let things drift; a mayor who panicked in calling for the Guard after an initial night of rioting that was less about Cambodia than beer; an overly zealous law-and-order governor in a tough election campaign; and Guard commanders who didn't have a clear sense of what they were trying to accomplish." He notes that the National Guard themselves were "young, sleep deprived, inexperienced, badly trained, poorly led, angry and scared."

Plus Meredith Black profiles Padma Lakshmi, author of Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir, newly out from Ecco. This profile, which originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times is of course conducted over food: "She writes with candor about her romances with author Salman Rushdie and billionaire Teddy Forstmann, her struggle with debilitating endometriosis, and the acrimonious legal battle for custody of her daughter, Krishna, now a spirited 6-year-old who tagged along with her mother to the interview. The memoir, which Lakshmi will discuss April 9 at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, also delves into childhood traumas, including sexual abuse, the car accident that resulted in a 7-inch scar on her right arm, and the rootlessness that arose as she shuttled back and forth between America and India." I was fascinated that the Ilene Beckerman memoir was influential enough to be a riff on another memoir title, but I remembered that Love, Loss, and What I Wore also became a play, which would probably have more cultural resonance, especially if the adaptation was by Nora and Delia Ephron.

Jim Stingl profiles Dobie Maxwell, whose recent Monkey in the Middle retells the legendary story of a legendary bank robber who turned out to be Maxwell's close friend: "The second of the two vault raids grabbed headlines in Milwaukee and beyond because the robber — Maxwell's best friend Timothy Raszkiewicz, a jury decided — was wearing a gorilla costume, carrying balloons and pretending to be delivering a gorilla-gram to First Financial Bank in downtown Milwaukee," write Stingl. The book is available from Eckhartz Press.

And finally, the Fresh section profiles new gardening books, including Container Theme Gardens: 42 Combinations, Each Using 5 Perfectly Matched Plants, by Nancy J. Ondra. Joanne Kempinger Demski has 20 suggestions. She writes: "Pick one that meets your needs, and then head outside and sit in the sun with it to start planning your dream garden."

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