Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Annotated Boswell Bestsellers for the Week Ending April 2, 2016

Here are our Boswell bestsellers for the week ending April 2, 2016.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Contrary Motion, by Andy Mozina
2. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paul Hawkins
4. The Ancient Minstrel, by Jim Harrison
5. Spill Simmer Falter Wither, by Sara Baume
6. The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson
7. The Crossing, by Michael Connelly
8. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
9. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
10. The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O'Brien

It's been six years since Boswell favorite Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but Helen Simonson is back with The Summer Before the War, a novel about a new teacher who arrives to teach Latin, the first woman in the post, in 1914. Judith Martin in The New York Times Book Review compared the book to E.F. Benson's Lucia and Mapp novels, though she had some quibbles. Jean Zimmerman on the NPR book page, notes, as did Martin, that one character is a stand-in for Henry James. She also observes the way the Great War looms over this pastoral comedy of manners: "It is a shadow all the more poignant because the lives portrayed in The Summer Before the War have been so pleasant and pacific — yet through all the lovely season, the specter of death has been much closer and more imminent than they knew. The contrast between pastoral peace and the violent chaos of war is what gives this novel its heft."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Lauren Conrad Celebrate, by Lauren Conrad
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5. Half-Earth, by Edward O. Wilson
6. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paula Kalanithi
7. Lauren Conrad Beauty, by Lauren Conrad
8. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson
9. The Finest Traditions of My Calling, by Abraham Nussbaum
10. A Mother's Reckoning, by Sue Klebold

Edmund O. Wilson's 32nd book is Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life. In it, he advocates for creating a natural reserve for 50% of the planet. In speaking to Claudia Dreifus in The New York Times, he notes: "Now, this proposal does not mean moving anybody out. It means creating something equivalent to the U.N.’s World Heritage sites that could be regarded as the priceless assets of humanity. That’s why I’ve made so bold a step as to offer this maxim: Do no further harm to the rest of life. If we can agree on that, everything else will follow. It’s actually going to be a lot easier than people think." Alas, Jedediah Purdy in The New Reublic opines: "The glimmer of an important argument is here, but it is not much developed beyond the title."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
2. The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg (event 4/28 at Lynden)
3. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (event 5/19 at Boswell)
4. An Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
5. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (event 5/14, 2 pm, at Boswell)
6. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
7. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
8. Dirty Dust, by Mairtin O'Cadhain
9. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
10. Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell

The transformative novel continues to dominate our bestseller lists with Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop taking the top spot, with Katarina Bivald and Fredrik Backman (both coming in May) close behind, and even a pop for one of the earlier favorites, An Uncommon Reader. I think this needs to be discussed a little more in a blog post. Janet Saidi has quibbles but ultimately writes in The Christian Science Monitor: "Ultimately, Nina George’s creation is not only picturesque, it’s a journey to find a life well-lived and -loved. And for this, readers will be grateful. The best platitude delivered in the novel is the most unexpected one, on life: 'It’s never easy,' Perdu’s lover, Manon, writes, 'and there are a thousands ways to live it.' This story makes you want to live life all those thousand ways, taking enough food, wine, books, and friends along for the journey."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. White Dresses, by Mary Pflum Peterson
2. Elle and Coach, by Stefany Shaheen with Mark Dagostino
3. Essential Strums and Strokes for Ukulele, by Lil' Rev
4. Dying to Be Me, by Anita Moorjani
5. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Bruce J. Davidson
6. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor
7. Lauren Conrad Style, by Lauren Conrad
8. Wisconsin Off the Beaten Path, by Martin Hintz
9. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
10. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (ticketed event 4/12, almost sold out)

Though it did not work for us in hardcover, an offsite event helped pop Elle and Coach, the paperback edition of Stefany Shaheen's story of a service dog that helped her daughter cope with type 1 diabetes. We've seen the rise in service animals for people with folks working with issues beyond blindness. Kelli Bender explains in People Magazine: "With his special set of skills, this highly trained canine helps Elle, now 15, detect changes in blood sugar before she feels symptoms. But Coach is more than just a tool. Over the past two years, the doting dog has become a best friend, bedside companion and family member to Elle. Most important, Coach has shown Elle that diabetes is not a battle she has to manage alone but an opponent they can tackle together."

Books for Kids:
1. Stories from Bug Garden, by Lisa Moser
2. The Book Thief Tenth Anniversary Edition, by Markus Zusak
3. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, will illustrations by Jon Klassen
4. L.A. Candy, Lauren Conrad
5. Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick, with illustrations by Sophie Blackall
6. The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds (ticked lunch 4/23 at ICC)
7. Masterminds: Criminal Destiny V2, by Gordon Korman
8. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander (event 4/17 at Boswell)
9. The Key to Extraordinary, by Natalie Lloyd
10. Tru and Nelle, by G. Neri (signed copies available)

Lisa Moser's newest release, Stories From Bug Garden, is a collection of short prose poems on all our garden friends. Kirkus Reviews called this picture book "Whimsical and delightful, a celebration of imagination." And Paul O. Zelinsky writes in The New York Times Book Review: "These tales carry a sense of purpose, of meaning more than what’s apparent. At their best they feel like little puffs of wisdom."

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Chris Foran offers his annual round-up of baseball books for opening day, This year's crop of contenders:

--The Selling of the Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend, by Glenn Stout

--If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers - Stories from the Milwaukee Brewers Dugout, Locker Room, and Press Box, by Bill Schroeder with Drew Olson

--Stealing Games: How John McGraw Transformed Baseball With the 1911 New York Giants, by Maury Klein. Chris's commentary: "The argument's not always convincing...but Stealing Games does a terrific job of re-creating the tail end of the dead-ball era.

--Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball With the '86 Mets, by Erik Sherman. This comment is for both this book and the Klein - can you ever imagine a New York publishing house purchasing a book of this sort from any other team except the Mets and Yankees? Well, maybe the Red Sox. There are a lot of New Englanders in publishing.

--Baseball and the Law, by Louis N. Schiff and Robert M. Jarvis (I'm not bothering linking as this publisher is really not interested in distribution through bookstores)

--Double Switch, by T.T. Monday. The second in a mystery series by writer Nick Taylor about an aging major-league relief pitcher who moonlights as a private detective.

--The House of Daniel, by Harry Turtledove. Alternative baseball history with vampires and zombies. The For-answer: "The supernatural stuff sometimes gets in the way, but Turtledove does a good job evoking the world of the barnstormer, and captures the rhythm of a life punctuated by baseball."

--Bucky F*cking Dent, by David Duchovny. Yes, the actor. Chris's critique: "Duchovny sometimes loses the thread, and baseball itself is an in-and-out presence in his story. But the relationship between father and son — difficult but candid, warm but resistant to traditional forms of sentimentality — echoes the bonds forged through baseball in books like W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe."

--Baseball History for Kids, by Richard Panchyk. "Bright and readable," says Foran

--The Kid From Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton, by Audrey Vernick and Steven Salerno. It's true!

--The Hero Two Doors Down, by Sharon Robinson. Written by Jackie's daughter. CF calls it a "story of friendship, understanding and bridging different cultural experiences through communication."

Also in the Journal Sentinel, a review of Ella Enchanted, at the Milwaukee Rep. Drama critic Mike Fischer writes: "In a world where date rape remains widespread, one can't say often enough that "no means no." But what about the larger problem of a culture continually telling women from the time they're girls that they should say "yes," appeasing and pleasing rather than choosing for themselves? That's the question at the heart of Gail Carson Levine's marvelous Ella Enchanted, a novel in which Cinderella becomes the story of a girl who learns to say no...To steal the names of First Stage's alternating casts of young performers, Ella is both 'spectacular' and 'brilliant.' Despite its serious message, it's also uproariously funny..."

Don't forget, Gail Carson Levine will be at Boswell on Saturday, April 16, 2 pm. But you'll want to purchase your tickets to the First Stage production of Ella Enchanted here.

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