Sunday, November 12, 2017

Boswell bestsellers: new novel from Isabel Allende, Jane's food-related pick for an area luncheon, Reese Witherspoon hand-sells a book, crazy science experiments at area schools, plus a Journal Sentinel review of Louise Erdrich

Here's what's selling at Boswell.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan
2. The House of Unexpected Sisters, by Alexander McCall Smith (ticketed event 11/16)
3. The Midnight Line, by Lee Child
4. In the Midst of Winter, by Isabel Allende
5. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, by David Lagercrantz
6. Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire
7. Complete Stories, by Kurt Vonnegut
8. Origin, by Dan Brown
9. The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
10. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan

Isabel Allende's In the Midst of Winter is her 19th novel. I'm going to use the Kirkus Reviews description: "Thrown together by a Brooklyn blizzard, two NYU professors and a Guatemalan nanny find themselves with a body to dispose of." The reviewer is a fan, though it didn't get the coveted Kirkus star. Anita Felicelli really liked the contemporary love story (the courtship of the two professors) but felt that the immigration backstory was a bit Manichean (I have no idea what that means), compared to say, John Ridley's American Crime on television. But I would say that most Allende writers would prefer it in the style that Allende wrote it. Does that make sense to you?

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
2. The Storm Before the Storm, by Mike Duncan
3. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
4. Montaigne in Barn Boots, by Michael Perry (event 11/14 at Boswell - free!)
5. Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
6. Grant, by Ron Chernow
7. God, by Reza Aslan
8. Obama, by Pete Souza
9. What She Ate, by Laura Shapiro
10. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

A lot of this week's programming happened offstage, so to speak. In addition to our event with podcaster Mike Duncan, we sold books at several theater, school, and luncheon events, and Amie and I did a talk at the Wisconsin Woman's Club. One of the books that popped was one of Jane's holiday picks, What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Told Their Stories, by Laura Shapiro. Megan Volpert wrote in Pop Matters: "These women are all more or less famous, all more or less influential in their professional spheres. Yet their food stories are common, are all too familiar in their resonance as modern feminist conundrums. Shapiro portrays each of her six subjects with warmth and as fully rounded characters. They win some and lose some, they resist or persist when they are able. The universal necessity of food ensures that it is a powerful tool, and Shapiro’s approach to gendering it is enlightening without being too insistent about what works or what doesn’t."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Engagements, by J. Courtney Sullivan
2. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
3. Commencement, by J. Courtney Sullivan
4. Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan
5. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (In-Store Lit Group discussion, Tue Jan 2, 7 pm)
6. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
7. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
8. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith (In-Store Lit Group discussion, Mon Dec 4, 7 pm)
9. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
10. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

Selling books at the Ozaukee Family Services luncheon convinced me to read Saints for All Occasions, which is now on my staff rec shelf. Sullivan's presentation. Ron Charles in The Washington Post called Saints "a quiet masterpiece": "In a simple style that never commits a flutter of extravagance, Sullivan draws us into the lives of the Raffertys and, in the rare miracle of fiction, makes us care about them as if they were our own family." Notice we had very strong backlist sales - The Engagements turned out to be the top seller after Sullivan mentioned that Reese Witherspoon bought the film rights. Her are a few of Witherspoon's other properties, as noted in Glamour. And here's Ron Charles's review of The Engagements.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
2. Blood in the Water, by Heather Ann Thompson
3. See Me for Who I Am, edited by David Chrisinger
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
5. The Distance Between Us, by Reyna Grande
6. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
7. Thank You for Being Late, by Thomas L. Friedman
8. Population 485, by Michael Perry
9. Rasputin, by Douglas Smith
10. Bolshoi Confidential, by Simon Morrison

For the second week in a row, the paperback edition of Thomas L. Friedman's Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations sits in our top ten, and appears to be even more timely. The publisher's description: " His thesis: to understand the twenty-first century, you need to understand that the planet's three largest forces--Moore's law (technology), the Market (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss)--are accelerating all at once." Some reviews complained the book was too long and seemed to be an indictment more of Friedman than his work. Gillian Tett in Financial Times was more positive, but worried it might be a bit difficult to get Friedman's Minnesota Nice philosophy to go global.

Books for Kids:
1. She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Getaway, by Jeff Kinney
3. It Takes a Village, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, illustrated by Marla Frazee
4. The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters, by Sean Connolly
5. The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science, by Sean Connolly
6. The Book of Dust: La Bell Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
8. Pop, by Gordon Korman
9. Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower, by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4Design
10. Keeper of Lost Cities: Nightfall, by Shannon Messenger

From this week's school visits were from Sean Connolly, whose new book is The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters. From Stacia Barton on Salt Lake City's Good4Utah: "Arranged chronologically from ancient times to the 21st century, the book takes readers on an illustrated tour through the physics and technology of crumbling buildings, sinking ships, wobbly bridges, mud-stuck tanks, and much more. Covering a wide range of snafus, mishaps, and outright disasters throughout history, some infamous, like the Titanic sinking and Chilean miners getting trapped underground, and others lesser known, like the Fidenae Stadium collapse in ancient Rome, these hands-on experiments put readers' newfound knowledge into action." You can watch Connolly here.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Future Home of the Living God, the new novel from Louise Erdrich. He writes: "In the future chronicled by Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a pregnant Native American writing a journal that her unborn child may never read, evolution has reversed course. Infants are losing the power of speech. Plants and animals increasingly resemble long-extinct fossils. Weird birds take flight, alongside dragonflies with three-foot wingspans and softball-sized eyes.'Our bodies have always remembered who we were,' muses Cedar. 'And now they have decided to return. We’re climbing back down the swimming-pool ladder into the primordial soup.'" Fischer is mixed on the new book.

Also reviewed (well, profiled) is Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, by John Hodgman. The review from Carolyn Kellogg originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times. She likes it!

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