Sunday, December 9, 2018

Boswell bestsellers, week ending December 8, 2018

What is selling at Boswell?

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Winter Soldier, by Daniel Mason
2. Kingdom of the Blind V14, by Louise Penny
3. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
4. Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
5. Transcription, by Kate Atkinson
6. The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
7. Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami
8. The Witch Elm, by Tana French
9. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
10. The Friend, by Sigrid Nunez

How are author's current books performing, compared to previous works? This is Daniel Mason's first novel since Boswell has been open, I should note that we've probably sold more copies of The Winter Soldier at Boswell than all the Harry W. Schwartz stores sold of The Far Country. I can't say that for The Piano Tuner, which was a big hit at a few of the Schwartz locations.

I'm guessing that the November release of Kingdom of the Blind will not dramatically increase sales for Penny's latest over her previous novel, Glass Houses, at least not at Boswell. And it looks like Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel, Unsheltered, will perform for us somewhere between The Lacuna (2009) and Flight Behavior (2012), the latter of which had sales about double of the former for us. Similarly, Kate Atkinson likely won't hit the heights she had at Boswell for Life After Life (2013), but Transcription is looking to outperform A God in Ruins (2015). In that case, Atkinson did an event at Boswell for Life After Life, so the numbers are not really comparable.

Finally, all comparisons to Richard Powers previous books are thrown out with The Overstory. His last two novels, Generosity (2009) and Orfeo (2014) sold in the single digits, but we're well into the triple digits with his latest, and I can't remember, in all my years at Schwartz, having a Richard Powers novel sell in these kinds of numbers in hardcover. And that includes The Echo Maker, which won the National Book Award.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
2. Conversations with Abner Mikva, by Sanford Horwitt
3. Educated, by Tara Westover
4. You Can't Spell Truth without Ruth, edited by Mara Zaia
5. Ottolenghi Simple, by Yotam Ottolenghi
6. In the Hurricane's Eye, by Nathaniel Philbrick
7. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
8. These Truths, by Jill Lepore
9. Sister Pie, Lisa Ludwinski
10. Born to Be Posthumous, by Mark Dery

In a way, Michelle Obama is responsible for two books in the top three. She's the author of Becoming  (along with collaborator Sara Corbett, per her acknowledgments) and also mentioned she is reading Educated, after a recommendation from her husband. Now of course Tara Westover's memoir has been a bestseller since its February release and it also was just named ten best by The New York Times, but I'm guess the Obama mention didn't hurt.

When Jason says cookbook's have become more fourth quarter driven, he's not kidding. We have two books in our top ten this week, Yotam Ottolenghi's Ottolenghi Simple and Lisa Ludwinski's Sister Pie, and another at #12, Chinese Soul Food, is Aaron's pick, from Hsiao-Ching Chou. Many of you might not know that Aaron worked at a Chinese restaurant. The author is a former food editor at Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In addition to cooking classes at the Hot Stove Society, she's on the James Beard cookbook committee. Per Publishers Weekly, not a cookbook for vegans: "Chou thickens her fillings not with gelatin but with the natural collagen from simmered pork skin."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Lord of the Butterflies, by Andrea Gibson
2. Colors of The Sun, by Douglas Armstrong
3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
5. Hotel Silence, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
6. Milkman, by Anna Burns
7. Friday Black, by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah (In-Store Lit Group, Mon Feb 4, 7 pm, at Boswell)
8. Improvement, by Joan Silber (In-Store Lit Group, Mon Jan 7, 7 pm, at Boswell)
9. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
10. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney

Sometimes I read a book late just to see what makes it tick, and that's why I'm about a third of the way through The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Barbara Spindel at The Christian Science Monitor wrote that the book is " flawed, remarkable, wrenching, moving." She notes that your take on Life Is Beautiful will probably give you a handle on how you'll react to the book, which is currently #1 on The New York Times bestseller list for paperback fiction. Here's another take from Sophie Cohen in The Jewish Chronicle.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Mettle and Honor, by Mark Concannon
2. Countdown to Pearl Harbor, by Steve Twomey
3. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
4. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
5. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
6. 100 Things Bucks Fan Should Know and Do Before They Die, by Eric Nehm (event Thu Dec 13, 7 pm, at Boswell)
7. Call Them by Their True Names, by Rebecca Solnit
8. Somos Latinas, by Andrea-Teresa Arenas and Eloisa Gómez
9. From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City, by Carl Baehr (event Fri Dec 14, 2 pm, at Boswell)
10. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda (signing Sat Dec 15, 2 pm)

Issues and regional books drive nonfiction paperbacks, as is generally the case - Evicted and Death and Life of the Great Lakes falls into both categories. I know that biography and history bestsellers tend to skew hardcover, but what happened to things like self help and popular memoirs. I should note that our media table (which has both Beautiful Boy and Boy Erased) moves to the back of the bookstore during holiday season. Speaking of it, you can see David and Nic Sheff at Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on January 11, presented by Elmbrook Schools, REDgen, and Your Choice. Register here.

Books for Kids:
1. Santa Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
2. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Renée Graef
3. Bruce's Big Move, by Ryan T. Higgins
4. Tomorrow I'll Be Brave, by Jessica Hische
5. National Parks of the USA, by Kate Siber
6. Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
7. Hotel Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
8. Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs, by America's Test Kitchen
9. Anthology of Intriguing Animals, from DK
10. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats

Interest in cookbooks includes those published for kids. America's Test Kitchen Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs brings the same testing rigor of other titles in the series to this volume, with Booklist noting: "The inviting, encouraging tone, which never talks down to the audience; emphasis on introducing and reinforcing basic skills; and approachable, simplified recipes make this a notable standout among cookbooks for kids." The sales pop was so strong I assumed that some of the sales were to another store for whom we effectively wholesale - and whose numbers I generally back out of our printed lists. But these were all individual sales!

Over at the Journal Sentinel:
--Charles Finch looks at five takeaways from George RR Martin's Fire and Blood: "There’s a riddle: 'What’s always coming and never arrives?' The answer is 'tomorrow,' but a reply of The Winds of Winter should receive partial credit from now on." Originally from USA Today.

Matt Damsker, also from USA Today, reviews Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood, by Karina Longworth. He writes: "Film critic and creator of the popular Hollywood-themed podcast You Must Remember This, Longworth delivers much more than a warmed-over recounting of the eccentric Hughes saga and the famous women who helped define it."

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