Sunday, January 8, 2017

Boswell Bestsellers, week ending January 6, 2017

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
2. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
3. The Mothers, by Brit Bennett (event at Boswell Mon Feb 6, 7 pm)
4. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
5. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
6. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
7. The Nix, by Nathan Hill
8. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
9. The Trespasser, by Tana French
10. History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund (event at Boswell Fri Jan 13 7 pm)

It may be a new year but this week's top 10 looks surprisingly like holiday 2016, with the addition of Emily Fridlund's History of Wolves. The Minneapolis Star Tribune features a review from Peter Geye, whom has coincidentally been one of the comparison authors we've been using as we promote the book and event on January 13. He writes: "When a young family moves in across the lake, she finds herself babysitting the family’s young boy, Paul. If their bond does not evolve into love, it certainly takes on the blush of a deep and curious friendship. Over the course of a year, as their bond forms, Linda and Paul learn to coexist in a house most notable for its strangeness."

 I understand Geye wanting to pull out the factual errors in a fictional book as I almost threw a novel against a wall several years ago when an author who set a book in Milwaukee listed street names in the wrong order and incorrect zip codes. By all means change a place for the sake of the book, but if you're going to use real details, please get them right for the locals. You wouldn't put have a character cross Madison Avenue between First and Second in Manhattan, would you? But I digress.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. America's War for the Greater Middle East, by Andrew J. Bacevich
2. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
3. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
4. Upstream, by Mary Oliver
5. Classic German Baking, by Luisa Weiss
6. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
7. The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes
8. Books for Living, by Will Straube (event Mon 3/6, 7 pm)
9. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
10. Mary Astor's Purple Diary, by Edward Sorel

When your losing faith in print reviews, along comes Woody Allen's take on Mary Astor's Purple Diary (already recommended by Jen Steele at Boswell) in The New York Times Book Review, which gives Edward Sorel's biography a nice bump: "I believe it was Sartre who said all lives were of equal value and who am I to argue the point, but some lives are so much more fun to read about than others, and Sorel has told Astor’s story with great flair and energy. I hope he gets his wish and over time Mary winds up commemorated on a postage stamp. Until then, I’m going to have another look under my linoleum. Maybe among all that schmutz there’s an idea I could take to the bank."

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie (event Tue Jan 10, 7 pm)
3. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
4. Selected Stories, by Anton Chekhov
5. The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
6. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
7. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
8. The Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer
9. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
10. City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg

The Fishbowl is the story of one goldfish's plunge down 27 stories of apartment building as life goes on around it. The rumor is that Bradley Somers's novel worked much better in independent bookstores than other channels. If other booksellers are as enthusiastic as Boswell's Sharon Nagel, the paperback will break out! We're now close to 20 copies sold, on top of the 10 we sold in hardcover. It might be time for some of the rest of us to get our hand-sell groove on and help Sharon, who called the story "unique and fun."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. On Air, by Katrina Kravy (event at Boswell Thu Jan 19, 7 pm)
2. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3. Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
4. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
5. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
6. Nonstop Metropolis, by Rebecca Solnit
7. Milwaukee in the 1930s, by John D. Buenker
8. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
9. My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem
10. Bob Burgers Adult Coloring Book, by Loren Bouchard

With the opening of Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterley's nonfiction account has gone to the top of the national charts. One of the strange things that happens when the film rights are sold quickly is that the hardcover only really got a few months before paperback release. From Cara Buckley's New York Times profile: "Ms. Shetterly happened upon the idea for the book six years ago, when she and her husband, Aran Shetterly, then living in Mexico, were visiting her parents here. The couple and Ms. Shetterly’s father were driving around in his minivan when he mentioned, very casually, that one of Ms. Shetterly’s former Sunday school teachers had worked as a mathematician at NASA, and that another woman she knew calculated rocket trajectories for famous astronauts."

Books for Kids
1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K Rowling
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone illustrated by J.K. Rowling/Jim Kay
3. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen
4. Dog Man Unleashed V2, by Dav Pilkey
5. The Warden's Daughter, by Jerry Spinelli
6. Double Down V11, by Jeff Kinney
7. Dog Man V1, by Dav Pilkey
8. We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen
9. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
10. Pat the Zoo, by Dorothy Kunhardt

Who doesn't love a new release in January? The publisher calls The Warden's Daughter a knockout story of a girl who must come to terms with her mother's death from inside the walls of a prison. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro covers this novel, which has origins in a real-life woman he met in Norristown, Pennsylvia, his hometown: NPR notes: "Spinelli tells the story of Cammie O'Reilly, who lost her mother when she was a baby. Cammie has grown up in the Hancock County Prison, where her dad is the warden. With her 13th birthday approaching, Cammie decides it's time to find a mom, so she seeks out maternal support from the female inmates."

Over at the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page, Nick Petrie is featured for his second novel. Jim Higgins notes: Burning Bright (yes, titled after William Blake's famous poem) moves from California redwoods to the high-tech, caffeinated world of Seattle. 'Part of the DNA of Peter is that he moves from place to place, and that's a lot of fun for a writer,' Petrie said during a recent interview. Petrie said those dramatic scenes among the redwoods were partly inspired by his reading Richard Preston's The Wild Trees, a nonfiction account of the ecosystem among the treetops — and of the unusual scientists and explorers who climb up there."

From Lauren Patten comes a review of Chris Bohjalian Sleepwalker, the story of the disappearance of Annalee Ahlberg. The author of Before You Know Kindness and The Sandcastle Girls keeps us guessing: "Along the way, Bohjalian educates us about the scientific explanations for sleepwalking. At first they seem merely interesting. Then Bohjalian leads us into a darker topic, sexual behavior in sleep (SBS). At that point, we realize that by his offering the matter-of-fact scientific evidence behind sleep disorders, Bohjalian has been slowly conditioning us to willingly enter a somewhat alarming and deviant place. The SBS angle only deepens the plot."

Christi Clancy takes on Roxane Gay's new collection of short stories, Difficult Women. She notes: "Many of Gay’s primarily female characters are haunted by painful memories of abuse and loss. Some are loved and some are lonely, although these categories are not mutually exclusive. They are horny. They are not nice. They are calloused and bruised and yet, somehow, they endure. Endurance, however, comes at a cost. The constant friction in their lives is a source of quiet anger — an anger you hardly notice in one story, but then you read another, and another, and, taken together, the low hum of discontent in this collection rises to an alarming shriek."

Oh,  and one last link! Ayad Akhtar will be in town for the Milwaukee premiere of Disgraced at the Milwaukee Rep. In this profile, Jim Higgins notes in the Journal Sentinel notes: "Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2013, Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced, featuring an explosive dinner-party argument about Islam, has become a bit less shocking but even more relevant. When a future president banters with reporters about the idea of a Muslim registry or lashes out at the Muslim parents of an American soldier killed in Iraq, it's not hard to imagine an increase in public arguments resembling the private one in Disgraced. Akhtar will be speaking at Boswell on Saturday, January 21, 11 am.

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