Sunday, March 5, 2017

Boswell's annotated bestsellers--more on staff favorite "Pachinko," "The Flâneuse" pops from a local review, "The Hate U Give" is a buzzed-about YA with a great bookseller rec, and more.

Here's what sold at Boswell last week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Mycroft Holmes, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse
2. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
3. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
4. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
5. Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay
6. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
7. A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline
8. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
9. The Refugees, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
10. On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman

It's the third week in our top ten for Min Jin Lee's Pachinko, and we can thank some great reviews and interviews, plus two staff recs, from Boswellian Jen Steele and myself a bit too. Jen was a very early reader of the book who wrote: "Through it all is a message about love, faith, and the deep-rooted bonds of family. Min Jin Lee gives us a phenomenal story about one family's struggle that resonates to us today." Jean Zimmerman reviewed the book on the NPR website: "We are in Buddenbrooks territory here, tracing a family dynasty over a sprawl of seven decades, and comparing the brilliantly drawn Pachinko to Thomas Mann's classic first novel is not hyperbole." And here's Arifa Akbar in The Financial Times (which no longer has print delivery or distribution in retailers for Wisconsin): "The story that follows is a deeply wrenching one of migration, circling around themes of in-between identities, belonging and acceptance."

Migrant stories are getting extra attention this year because of their timeliness. Expect to see a nice pop in sales next week for the release of Mohsin Hamid's Exit West (more on that book below), and everybody is talking about Lisa Ko's debut, The Leavers, coming in May. As always, you can hold a copy at Boswell here, and you don't have to register or prepay to do this.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Writings on the Wall, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with Raymond Obsfeld
2. The Death of Expertise, by Tom Nichols
3. At Mama's Knee, by April Ryan
4. Atari Age, by Michael Z. Newman
5. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
6. Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari
7. Books for Living, by Will Schwalbe (Event Mon 3/6, 7 pm)
8. The Flâneuse, by Lauren Elkin
9. The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
10. The Education of Will, by Patricia B. McConnell

New on the list is Yuval Noah Harari's Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, his follow-up to Sapiens. In The Guardian, David Runciman wrote: "At the heart of this spellbinding book is a simple but chilling idea: human nature will be transformed in the 21st century because intelligence is uncoupling from consciousness...That fact has the potential to change what it means to be human." That's the thesis, here's his take: "This is a very intelligent book, full of sharp insights and mordant wit."

Please note that Elfrieda Abbe, who reviewed this week's bestseller The Flâneuse for the (Journal Sentinel last week, will be at Boswell in conversation with historical novelist Margaret George on Thursday, March 9, 7 pm, for The Confessions of Young Nero. More on that below.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Intuitionist, by Colson Whitehead
3. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
4. The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson
5. The Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
6. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
7. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
8. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, by Phaedra Patrick
9. Britt Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
10. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

So many Jane favorites on this list. I wanted to write up The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper again - my new information is that one of our dear Friends of Boswell told us it was her favorite novel of 2016. But instead, let's say a word about Martha Hall Kelly's The Lilac Girls, a World War II historical that hit the hardcover bestseller lists. The starred Library Journal review notes: "It’s apparent that Kelly, who was inspired by real events and people, has done the research necessary to tell this extraordinarily powerful historical story well. She vividly evokes not only the horrors of the gruesome experiments but also the painful realities of trying to survive them and the difficult search for justice and closure afterward."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, David Luhrssen
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. The Family Tree, by Karen Branan
4. Girls Get Curves, by Danica McKellar
5. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
6. Why We March, collected by Artisan
7. 300 Arguments, by Sarah Manguso
8. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
9. Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown
10. Lion/A Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley

This is the definition of an independent bookstore--where Danica McKellar's geometry book (Girls Get Curves) gets on the adult bestseller list but the algebra book (Hot X) hits the kids list, and honestly, I don't have the energy to move it around (though it's my error that Curves was counted as an adult book here). It's tricky because the books are published by an adult division publisher but the books are targeted to kids, but not really--there's a feeling that these books are really targeted to their parents and maybe belong in parenting, not teen nonfiction. And there's the coincidental detail that our math section is very close to teen nonfiction and is more heavily shopped. And the result is a little bit of everything. Alas, it's academic as the author didn't sign stock (Insider detail--it's hard to get stock signed at events where we're selling the books but not running the events, so if you want a signed book, you're best off attending.)

At the conference, the book You Are a Badass proved to be even more popular than we expected at the Women Leaders Conference, where we sold books on Friday. Our pile disappeared very quickly. Each attendee who bought a book got a bookmark with information about the ticketed event for You Are a Badass at Making Money on Tuesday, April 25 at Boswell.

Oh, and did I mention we had a very strong first week in paperback for Evicted?

Books for Kids:
1. The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can, by Tererai Trent, with illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist
2. What Color Is My World, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obsfeld
3. Here We Are, edited by Kelly Jensen
4. Math Doesn't Suck, by Danica McKellar
5. Sci Fi Junior High, by Scott Seegirt and John Martin (we did school visits--a few signed are available)
6. Goodnight Numbers, by Danica McKellar with illustrations by Alicia Padron
7. Kiss My Math, by Danica McKellar
8. Hot X, by Danica McKellar
9. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
10. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Because of all the event books, our sales are quite substantial all the way to #10, where Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give would have been #2 in a non-event week. Both our buyer Amie and Boswellian Teasha are fans of the book. Teasha's take: "With inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement, along with Starr's introspection, Angie Thomas' creates a sentimental, compelling novel that proves that we should always do what is right, even when it is hard." And from Leah Greenblatt at Entertainment Weekly: "The Hate U Give arrives with the kind of frenzied hype—more than a dozen publishing houses battled for the manuscript; the film rights have already been sold—that can easily sink a first-time novelist. But Thomas delivers with supreme style and self-assurance, cannily balancing pointed examinations of gun violence, racial profiling, and political activism with the everyday concerns of ordinary teendom (boys, clothes, the profound embarrassment of watching your parents make out)."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, The TapBooks page has a full slate of reviews this week.

First up is Laura Patten's review of Nickolas Butler's The Hearts of Men. Like me, she's a fan. A big fan! Patten writes: "Within the first few pages of Nickolas Butler’s The Hearts Of Men, our own hearts already feel as if they might break. And repeatedly over 388 pages, they do. But our hearts also drink in this beautiful story of love and courage. Told in four parts spanning 60 years, we grow up with Nelson and watch him turn into the leader he’s destined to become — who the old scoutmaster said he’d become." Butler is at Boswell on Tuesday, November 7, 7 pm.

Next from the Journal Sentinel is Jim Higgins's review of Margaret George's The Confessions of Young Nero. Here's a short excerpt from his review: "With tongue in cheek, the Madison novelist could have titled this coming-of-age story about a young aesthete A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, had James Joyce not already snatched up that title. George's The Confessions of Young Nero traces how a boy who wanted only to learn to play the cithara and watch chariot races grew into the notorious Roman emperor. As she did in earlier novels, including The Autobiography of Henry VIII, Mary Called Magdalene, and Helen of Troy, in Confessions George creates a three-dimensional portrait of a figure that time and popular imagination have reduced to a cartoon." Ms. George will be in conversation with writer, editor, and critic Elfrieda Abbe on Thursday, March 9, 7 pm, at Boswell.

Elfrieda Abbe (see below) has a review in the TapBooks page, of Jami Attenberg's 4th novel, All Grown Up, which comes out on March 7. From Abbe: "Andrea’s friends are all asking her the same question: Has she read the book, the one about being single?...It’s a sly introduction to Jami Attenberg’s protagonist in “All Grown Up, a smart, funny/sad and unflinchingly honest novel about a single New Yorker with a decent career, who lives alone, isn’t that interested in the men she sleeps with, marriage or children, but remains vaguely discontent. What Andrea really wants is to feel good in her own skin." Attenberg is in conversation with Chicago writer Wendy McClure on Wednesday, March 29, 7 pm, at Boswell.

And yes, there's one author reviewed who isn't coming to Boswell, though I should note that Mr. Hamid did come for his last novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. For his newest, Exit West, about the journey of two migrants from a war-torn country, the competition was fierce and while we were considered, we didn't make the cut. Cue behind the scenes heartbreak, as Hamid is a fantastic reader and speaker. And of the new book? Mike Fischer reports for the Journal Sentinel that his 4th novel, "For all its sadness, Exit West is a hopeful book. Hamid doesn’t avoid or sugarcoat the heartache and hurt accompanying contradiction and change, as people “all over the world were slipping away from where they had been.” But he also has the courage to accept mortality as inevitable and see change as an opportunity."

Here's Mr. Hamid's tour. I'm really excited as I might be able to attend one of the events. Yes, despite hosting 7 authors in the next 6 days, I can get as excited about these things as anyone.

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