Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Annotated Boswell bestseller list for the week ending June 4, 2016

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Sisi, by Allison Pataki
2. Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub
3. City of Mirrors, by Justin Cronin
4. Everybody's Fool, by Richard Russo
5. Hero of France, by Alan Furst
6. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
7. Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley
8. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
9. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
10. The Fireman, by Joe Hill

Series must sometimes give publishers headaches. It's not usual for the 2nd book in trilogy to drop a bit, only to have the third book pick up, sometimes dramatically, as with Justin Cronin's City of Mirrors, which is a recent #1 on The New York Times. Our buyer Jason thinks that the completion of the series opens a whole new market for the books, especially when the reviews are good. Sometimes the second book is phenomenal (as Jen says about the forthcoming A Torch Against the Night), but other times series can show too much plumbing and get bogged down. While the Washington Post's Ron Charles has criticisms, I would say this is a positive review for a paper that doesn't generally focus on this genre: "Cronin picks open the wound with a few unnerving disappearances, but then once the lights go out, he launches breathtaking Homeric battles between viral hordes and soft-bellied humans. Back in New York, the conflict soars from one abandoned skyscraper to another — a spectacular clash that looks ready-made for Ridley Scott. And he’s even more frightening in crowded, locked rooms where sweaty survivors listen to the vamps sniffing under the door. The lucky ones are eaten alive; the others become blood brothers of the nastiest sort." Scream on, hordes.

Hardcover Nonfiction
1. Joy on Demand, by Chade-Meng Tan
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
3. Boy Erased, by Garrard Conley
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
5. The View From the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman
6. You Are a Complete Disappointment, by Mike Edison
7. The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
8. Secondhand Time, by Svetlana Alexievich
9. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
10. Becoming Wise, by Krista Tippett

After winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Svetlana Alexievich's archive normally would have been swooped up and rolled out in English, much like Patrick Modiano's was the year before, but I think publishers are a little more hesitant about journalism, wondering what the expiration date is on interest, especially after the new prize is announced. Fortunately Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets recently came out from Random House, using her now familiar oral history technique, with little or no annotation. Rosemary Sullivan in Newsday wrote: "The polyphony of voices, with some individuals identified by their first names and patronymics, and others simply as “Snatches of Street Noises and Kitchen Conversations,” is astonishing; one wonders whether only Russians, inheritors of Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn, could be so raw and so tragically eloquent." We read Voices from Chernobyl for our book club and while the style wasn't to everyone's liking, the discussion was quite animated.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Death Comes Darkly, by David S. Pederson
2. The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
3. Clouds of Witness, by Dorothy L. Sayers
4. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
5. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
6. The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy
7. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
8. The Traitor's Wife, by Allison Pataki
9. The Accidental Empress, by Allison Pataki
10. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald

You've probably noticed several appearances for Clouds of Witness of late; that's a book club read. And book clubs continue to drive paperback nonfiction bestseller sales, particularly when we don't have events going on. So after Pederson and Pataki, who are in the former category, we have at least one current book club (and sometimes more) reading everything else on the list. Jane and I made a presentation last Tuesday, and you should see some of their picks show up again soon. Dorothy Sayers' novel came out in 1926, and had the copyright laws not been changed to help Disney some years ago, this book would not be in public domain. A lot of folks remember the television series from back in the early 1970s. The series was continued by Jill Paton Walsh, starting with an unfinished novel.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee in the 1930s, by John D. Buenker
2. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
3. We Should all Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
4. Happy Felsch, by Thomas Rathkamp (event June 15 7 pm, at Boswell)
5. Life on the Loose, by Cari Taylor-Carlson
6. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
7. Kitchen Hacks, by America's Test Kitchen
8. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
9. Sick in the Head, by Judd Apatow
10. If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers, by Bill Schroeder with Drew Olson

Regional generally drives this category and this week we have three titles in our top ten. If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers was an event that got away - we were offered it but we just had too much on our plate that April and I couldn't make it work. But the good news is that he book has been a big success, both at Boswell and in the general market. It's apparently one of the more successful series at Triumph, the publisher that sold to Penguin Random House, and in an unusual turn of events, for which I do not have specific details, was bought back. I am amused that Chris Foran's columnn on baseball books was picked up by the Pocono Record in Pennsylvania and they didn't edit out the Milwaukee reference. Good for you, Record! Milwaukee needs more good press in the Keystone State.

Books for Kids:
1. Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Septys
2. Seedfolks, by Paul Fleischman
3. Peace Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson (the rumors are true)
4. Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson (see below)
5. Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai
6. Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
7. Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
8. Sahara Special, by Esme Raji Codell
9. Things Not Seen, by Andrew Clements
10. Titanic April 1912, by Kathleen Duey

Most of this week's bestsellers are driven by school orders, but I wanted to note that Jacqueline Woodson, who has two books in our top ten, has been confirmed for an event for her new adult novel, Another Brooklyn (why not preorder it now?) The book goes on sale August 9, but her event, at Centennial Hall downtown, is on Friday, October 21, 6:30 pm, and its free. I've already read it and it's amazing, and while it's an adult story, I think there's clearly a lot of crossover. We'll be talking about this a lot in the coming months.

One recent book on the list is Salt to the Sea, the story of the Soviet torpedoing of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff in the Baltic Sea, a tragedy that killed over 9000 people, 5000 of whom were children, a disaster bigger than the Titanic and Lusitania combined, as Kirkus Reviews notes. Here's a quote: "In her intimate, extraordinary, artfully crafted novel, Sepetys shows both the wonder of humanity and the horror of dehumanizing people as "enemies" in wartime or any time."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, there's a full page of interesting reviews. Peter Geye, who is at Boswell this Tuesday, June 7, 7 pm, returns with Wintering, his third novel and first at Knopf. Mike Fischer opens: "In the autumn of 1963, a man and his son set out from their small town on Minnesota's Lake Superior shore, heading north by northwest into the desolate lakes and rivers straddling the Canadian border. Why would they do it, canoeing into unfamiliar territory even as winter approaches? That's one of the questions in "Wintering," Peter Geye's gripping new novel." Fischer praises Geye's taut and muscular prose. Wintering could be the breakout that folks have been expecting from Geye. See you Tuesday!

Jim Higgins reviews At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with John-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others and adds to the praise of Sarah Bakewell's recent group biography. He writes: "Bakewell focuses on Heidegger, the German philosopher whose "Being and Time" "wants to make the familiar obscure, and to vex us," and Sartre, the first self-acknowledged existentialist, and his companion and intellectual partner, Simone de Beauvoir. In telling their stories and burrowing into their texts, Bakewell also acquaints us with several dozen other fascinating people, such as Jean Genet, the thief turned novelist and subject of a Sartre biography; Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun, but was executed at Auschwitz by the Nazis; and Richard Wright, the black novelist who found France to be a freer place to live than his native United States."

And finally, the Journal Sentinel has a review of Marrow Island from Erin Kogler. Alexis M. Smith's new book follows the cult favorite Glaciers, which many will remember being hand sold to by a Boswell bookseller. Its a work of alternate history of sorts, with a woman coming to a colony off the coast of Washington State, 20 years after a devastating earthquake rocked the West Coast in 1993, with one of the tragedies being the explosion of an oil refinery. Lucie Bowen is the daughter of one of the victims, and she comes to the site of the tragedy, only to realize that this new settlement has its secrets. Kogler notes that "It's a pleasure to read a novel that offers an exciting story but does not sacrifice opportunities to also deliver gorgeous prose in the process."

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