Sunday, July 24, 2016

What's a bookstore bestseller list without dogs and Paris? Here's the annotated Boswell list for the week ending July 23, 2016

Here's what sold at Boswell this week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown
2. Before We Visit the Goddess, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. Black Widow, by Daniel Silva
5. End of Watch, by Stephen King
6. Belgravia, by Julian Fellowes
7. Pond, by Claire-Louise Bennett
8. Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley
9. How to Set a Fire and Why, by Jesse Ball
10. First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin

A lot of folks ask whether I've read something but when I get two questions in short order, I start paying attention, and that's been the case with Claire-Louise Bennett's novel Pond. Alexis Burling does a good job describing it in the San Francisco Chronicle: "The book is a collection of 20 interconnected short stories, some lasting not even a page. Each is narrated by the same woman of indeterminate age and loosely centers on — even fixates on, in a stream-of-consciousness fashion — an object, string of emotions or theme. When spliced together, these mostly plotless thought pieces paint a patchwork yet intimate portrait of the woman’s mostly solitary life in the Irish countryside."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, by Blair Braverman
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. Hidden Hemingway, by Robert K Elder, Mark Cirino, and Aaron Vetch
4. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
5. Grunt, by Mary Roach
6. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
7. Seinfeldia, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (event Mon 9/12, 7 pm, now $5 ticketed at Soup House downtown*)
8. Terror in the City of Champions, by Tom Stanton
9. Harley Davidson, by Darwin Holmstrom
10. Wisconsin Summer Clubs: Another Round, by Ron Faiola (event Mon 8/18, 7 pm, with Kyle Cherek)

*$6.17 including service fee. Now includes a bowl of soup, while supplies last

Mary Roach's latest, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, has been steadily selling at Boswell since release, with its biggest champion being our now-in-Madison former bookseller Halley. Why does it appear that the book has a sales pop every time she comes east for a haircut or to visit her sister? Steve Mirsky in Scientific American writes: "In her book, Roach takes a deep dive into military science and medicine and how even the simplest activities are complicated by the realities of combat or readiness for it. For example, most of us may take for granted being able to hear co-workers when collaborating on a task. But ears take a constant beating in the service—weapons and explosions, Roach writes, 'are the biggest contributors to the $1 billion a year the Veterans Administration spends on hearing loss and tinnitus.'"

Paperback Fiction:
1. Exodus Code, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
2. Luck, Love and Lemon Pie, by Amy E. Reichert
3. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert
6. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
7. The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown
8. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
9. The Marriage of Opposites, by Alice Hoffman
10. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman

Alice Hoffman certainly got her groove back by diving into history. The Marriage of Opposites got a great review from Wendy Smith in The Washington Post, who calls it "A fierce, sorrowful tale of the conflict between personal desire and social constraints that echoes through three generations on the island of St. Thomas in the first half of the 19th century. Like her most recent novels, this story is grounded in historical events and assiduous research, but Hoffman goes a step beyond The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Thing by taking real-life figures as her protagonists. Staying close to the known facts about the artist Camille Pissarro and his parents, she forcefully imagines their interior lives and surrounds them with a full-bodied supporting cast of characters." Note that her next novel, Faithful, out in November, veers back to contemporary.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Fast and Easy Five Ingredient Recipes, by Philia Kelnhofer
2. The Big Thirst, by Charles Fishman
3. Dog Medicine, by Julie Barton
4. Night, by Elie Wiesel
5. My Holiday in North Korea, by Wendy E. Simmons
6. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
7. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
8. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
9. Elizabeth and Hazel, by David Margolick
10. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari

Some folks might wonder how tiny Rosettabooks has placed into our top ten more than once since a May release for My Holiday in North Korea. Boswellian Conrad is selling off his rec shelf. He writes: "North Korea is a truly bizarre and comical place. Wendy Simmons introduces each chapter with quotations from Lewis Carroll to perfectly heighten the sense that you have passed into a distorted world: one in which the ridiculous is commonplace, the normal is surreal, truths are lies, and reality is whatever the Party says it is...I read this book in one sitting and have seldom laughed so hard." You can read more about the book, including how the country responded to Simmons' trip to a soccer game, on our website.

Books for Kids:
1. Hollow Earth, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
2. The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan
3. Zoo Break, by David Macaulay
4. Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, by Lynne Rae Perkins
5. School for Good and Evil Ever Never Handbook, by Soman Chainani
6. Darkstalker Wings of Fire: Legends, by Tui T Sutherland
7. Stories from Bug Garden, by Lisa Moser with illustrations by Gwen Millward (event Sun 8/28 at Boswell)
8. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker with illustrations by Jon Klassen
9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book, by Eric Carle
10. A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara

Once you finish a series, how do you get readers to stay connected? Soman Chainanin's Ever Never Handbook is a companion to The School for Good and Evil trilogy, "full of everything students need to learn in order to survive their own fairy tale from dress codes and school rules to alumni portraits, kingdom maps, and much, much more." And yes, IMDB says the film is still in devlopment.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Eau Claire professor's This Is Only a Test, a collection of essays that Higgins notes, "mixes memoir, storytelling and research in a way that can be labeled creative nonfiction, Hollars writes in an accessible, personable voice. A high school student could read this book, and appreciate much of it." His Pick is "Buckethead," a cautionary tale about a boy who hides in a disused refrigerator that becomes "a cautionary tale about cautionary tales."

Also featured:

Jonathan Unleashed, by Meg Rosoff, reviewed by Laurie Hertzel in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis). For folks who attended our event with Julie Barton for Dog Medicine, or our upcoming one with Mel Miskimen for Sit Stay Heal on September 14, this story of a young man who moves to New York "to live the life he thinks he is supposed to lead. He might have the right job, apartment, and girlfriend, but in actuality, they are all so wrong. As Hertzerl writes, "Dog to the Resucue!"

Sarong Party Girls, by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, reviewed by Kaitlynn Martin of the Dallas Morning News, the story of a woman from Singapore who vows to marry a rich Caucasian in New York. Martin calls particular attention to the style, much of it is written in Singlish : "The flavor of this novel is robust, offering a taste to an audience that is willing to learn more about modern Asia, and to look beyond what first meets the eye.

The Singles Game, by Lauren Weisberger, reviewed by Connie Ogle of The Miami Herald. You might not think a novel about a tennis protege connects to Weisberger's still best-known novel, The Devil Wears Prada, but she "says what she's really interested in exploring is how young women build their careers and live in a competitive society." Ogle's profile indicates that Weisberger didn't realize how grueling the tennis schedule is: "The women play 10-plus months out of 12."

And finally Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters, from Newsday. Sachs notes that unlike many alternate history books, there's no way to read this one about a United States where slavery is still legal, at a safe distance: "The story reverberates eerily and unsettlingly with the anti-black violence profiling and open racism that have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement." As Sachs notes: Underground Airlines tells us we all need to be saved and we all need to do the saving."

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