Sunday, November 19, 2017

Boswell bestsellers, week ending November 18, 2017: literary authors, presidential photos, movie openings, slime, and the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page

Here's what's been selling at Boswell this past week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The House of Unexpected Sisters, by Alexander McCall Smith
2. Future Home of the Living God, by Louise Erdrich
3. Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson
4. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
5. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
6. Origin, by Dan Brown
7. Artemis, by Andy Weir
8. The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
9. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
10. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (National Book Award winner)

Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God would definitely be on our "what to read after Handmaid's Tale" if we had one, but we don't have one yet, and this time of year, it's hard to find a free display table. In January? That's another story. The book seems to be the top-reviewed book of the week and compared to her last two novels, the opinions are more polarized. Here's a profile from Bethanne Patrick in Los Angeles Times. Erin Vanderhoof called it "smart and thrilling" in Vanity Fair. But Ron Charles has issues in The Washington Post.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
2. Everything Is Awful, by Matt Bellassai
3. Montaigne in Barn Boots, by Michael Perry
4. The Financial Diaries, by Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider
5. Grant, by Ron Chernow
6. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
7. Obama, by Pete Souza
8. The Future Declassified, by Mathew Burrows
9. Promise Me Dad, by Joe Biden
10. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

It appears that Obama: An Intimate Portrait had a huge start, based on my observation that there are no copies at either wholesaler and something like 35,000 copies on order. It's the kind of book, due to the $50 price point, that builds over the holiday season. The book is topping bestseller lists and Souza is speaking to capacity crowds. Why? The New York Times ponders: "Here are a few hunches: With Mr. Obama giving few public statements since leaving office, Mr. Souza’s words and images will have to work as a conduit for now. Since posting a photo from a military helicopter as Mr. Obama left the White House on Inauguration Day - 'We used to live there,' Mr. Souza heard the departing president remark on that ride to no one in particular - Mr. Souza has been constructing a virtual timeline that juxtaposes events of Mr. Obama’s presidency with Mr. Trump’s, one that has so far been defined by defying norms, bucking expectations and attempts to reverse the legacy of his predecessor."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
2. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
3. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
4. The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson
5. Bronzeville at Night: 1949, by Vida Cross
6. 44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith
7. No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
8. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
9. The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
10. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald

We were a little unprepared but not completely surprised that Min Jin Lee's Pachinko was rushed out in paperback on November 14. That old problem--do you rush out a paperback when an award is about to be announced, or do you wait to pull the trigger after the win or loss. My guess is that if Pachinko had been the favorite, Grand Central would have reprinted hardcovers and perhaps moved the paperback date out. But a finalist slot, even without a win, is enough extra publicity to take advantage of the book's momentum, which one doesn't always have ninth months after pub date. She talked to Jonathan Soble in The New York Times: "Ms. Lee spent nearly two decades conceiving, writing and rewriting Pachinko. The seed was planted in 1989, when, as a student at Yale, she attended a talk by a Protestant missionary who had spent time among the zainichi. Until then, she said, she had never heard of this branch of the Korean diaspora. Growing up in the United States, she was used to Koreans being viewed as hardworking and upwardly mobile, a model American minority. But many zainichi, she was surprised to discover, languished at the bottom rungs of Japan’s socioeconomic ladder."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Danger, Man Working, by Michael Perry
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. The Distance Between Us, by Reyna Grande
4. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, David Luhrssen
5. Best American Magazine Writing 2017, edited by Sid Holt
6. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
7. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
8. Quotes for Nasty Women, by Linda Picone
9. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
10. The Zen of Slime, by Prim Pattanaporn and Alena Woods

I am so glad to be living through the slime renaissance. The gooey and often green substance rose to prominence on Nickelodeon in the 1980s, but nowadays, you can't go into a office supply store without seeing a display for make your own slime. I think that the Crazy Aaron putty craze is also part of this. And that's why it's not surprising that our notes for Prim Pattanaporn (@sparklygoo) and Alena Woods's The Zen of Slime says to make sure the book is display next to our thinking putty. And yes, it turns out that the slime crazy is being driven by social media. Here's Charlotte Lieberman in Marie Claire on the craze: "The trend is almost post-modern in its apparent pointlessness. I never would have guessed that I'd someday live in a world where it was normal to spend hours watching other people squish an inorganic substance (and I say this as a Millennial who grew up playing with Nickelodeon's Gak) but then again, what is normal anymore? Given that most of our lives are mediated by a screen—and that that screen spends a lot of time lately delivering nerve-frying, anxiety-inducing news—it makes sense that we would be drawn to the hyper-tactile, harmless, primordial nature of hands kneading goo.

Books for Kids:
1. Hollow Earth, by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
2. The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters, by Sean Connolly
3. Red, by Michael Hall
4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Getaway, by Jeff Kinney
5. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
6. The Book of Dust: La Bell Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
7. Frankencrayon, by Michael Hall
8. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
9. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
10. Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower, by Hiro Kamigaki

I'm not a movie scheduler, but I'm sort of surprised that there are two major movies based on book properties, one called Wonder and one called Wonderstruck. The marketing push for Wonder was this week, which was helped by good reviews (and a very enthusiastic readership base that has been anticipating this film with Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay). Wow, listen to this from Glenn Kenny in The New York Times: "Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the screenplay with Steve Conrad and Jack Thorne, the movie has a cast that’s wonderful from top to bottom. As Auggie’s parents, Ms. Roberts and Mr. Wilson are doing things we love to see those actors doing. (Ms. Roberts lets loose with her trademark ebullient laugh at least once, and Mr. Wilson explains life’s issues to Auggie in a droll drawl.) All the young people in the ensemble, anchored by Mr. Tremblay’s Auggie, are perfect. Wonder is that rare thing, a family picture that moves and amuses while never overtly pandering."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Basketball (and Other Things), by Shea Serrano, illustrated by Arturo Torres. He enjoys this "entertaining" book. Here's one of his observations: "The questions Serrano asks and answers (and that Arturo Torres illustrates in engaging graphic-novel style) include many barstool argument well as some nerdily conceptual ones."

Also reviewed:
--Kim Willis reviews Joe Hagan's Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine (USA Today)
--Claire Ballor reviews Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life, by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush (Dallas Morning News)

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