Sunday, December 29, 2019

Boswell bestsellers, week ending December 28, 2019 - The ten-best effect, author bests, movie-tie ins,Petrie backlist, plus the Journal Sentinel book page

Here's what we sold at Boswell this past week (December 22-28, 2019)

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
2. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern
4. The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner
5. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
6. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
7. Exhalation, by Ted Chiang
8. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
9. The Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli
10. Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi

Finally the National Book Award winner Trust Exercise has started selling. It will be interesting to see whether this holds up in 2020, especially during January gift card spending. Here's what Helen McAlpin wrote on the NPR website: "Book groups, meet your next selection. Trust Exercise, Susan Choi's powerful fifth novel, will give you plenty to talk about. At 257 pages, it's not a major time commitment, but be warned that it is impossible to discuss this book meaningfully if everyone hasn't read the whole thing. It's also tricky to review, as it derives so much of its impact from audacious narrative twists that I don't want to risk spoiling."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Rock and Roll, 1950-2000, by David Luhrssen, Phil Naylor, Bruce Cole
2. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
3. Educated, by Tara Westover
4. The Yellow House, by Sarah M Broom
5. 100 Years in Titletown, by Vernon Biever, Jim Biever
6. Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat
7. Climbing My Mountain, by Sheldon Lubar
8. The Map of Knowledge, by Violet Moller
9. The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power
10. The Joy of Coking, by Irma S Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker, John Becker, Megan Scott

It seems to be a strong hardcover Christmas for the Knopf/Doubleday division of Penguin Random House, with four of our top ten bestsellers on the fiction side and another 2 in nonfiction (plus The Guardians and The Body at #12 on their respective lists).

I wasn't much paying attention to the May-published The Map of Knowledge: A Thousand-Year History of How Classical Ideas Were Lost and Found before the year-end lists. Rachel Newcomb in The Washington Post notes: "Popular opinion seems to assume an unbroken connection from the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance, but after the decline of the western Roman Empire in 476 A.D., most of what is now Western Europe was in fragments. The rise of Christianity led to the destruction of libraries and nonreligious (hence 'pagan') texts, and 'by the year 500, secular book production had effectively gone underground.' Moller enhances our understanding of the period from late antiquity until the Renaissance by highlighting the many cities where knowledge continued to thrive during the Medieval era, and where important manuscripts were lovingly translated and protected while elsewhere they had been reduced to ashes."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
2. Girl Woman Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
3. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
4. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
5. Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk
6. Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
7. We're All in This Together, by Amy Jones
8. Little Women (movie-tie-in and Penguin Classic), by Louisa May Alcott
9. Ohio, by Stephen Markley
10. Light It Up V3, by Nick Petrie (trade and mass market)

We had a nice holiday pop on all of Nick Petrie's novels, not just because it's gift-giving time, but because book #5, The Wild One, is just about here. Join us for the preview launch on January 13, and if you pre-order, you'll get a discount on the book and a Nick Petrie ice scraper, being that the new book is set in Iceland. Tear It Down was actually #11 this past week.

While The Bookish Life of Nina Hill lagged a bit the last week (though we're still in the top 5 reporting indies for sales), we still had a very strong paperback original top 10, with four titles taking spots. Aside from Girl Woman Other, we're #1 or #2 on Edelweiss for reporting indies. I guess that's not surprising for Milwaukee Noir (as it's set here) or We're All in This Together (being that it seems to be off the radar of most other stores) but it is a little strange for Book Woman, a novel set in Kentucky. We'll never catch the #1 store, but we're a solid #2. I've also noticed that Book Woman (also Bookish Life) hit the #50 paperback fiction bestsellers for Milwaukee on Bookscan, which was not the case on other Midwestern market-area charts, so our enthusiasm had an impact outside the store.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg
2. 111 Places in Milwaukee That You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden
3. Calypso, by David Sedaris
4. Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Chuck Hagner
5. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
6. The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis
7. Classic Krakauer, by Jon Krakauer
8. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stephenson (original and tie-in edition)
9. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
10. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan

Finally, it's great to see some film tie-ins working. While our sales on I Heard You Paint Houses/The Irishman have been ok, several other books have not taken off, though I should note that fall wasn't great for adaptation success. Now we have Little Women in fiction and Just Mercy in nonfiction. Here's AO Scott's review in The New York Times, where he notes that "Just Mercy is saved from being an earnest, inert courtroom drama when it spends time on death row, where it is opened up and given depth by two strong, subtle performances, from Foxx and Rob Morgan."

Books for Kids:
1. Fetch-22 V8, by Dav Pilkey
2. Guts by Raina Telgemeier
3. Guide to Creating Comics in 3D: Dog Man, by Kate Howard
4. Children of Virtue and Vengeance V2, by Tomi Adeyemi
5. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
6. The Story Orchestra: Swan Lake, by Jessica Courtney Tickle
7. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Renee Graef
8. Children of Blood and Bone V1, by Tomi Adeyemi
9. Fountains of Silence, by Ruta Septys
10. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, with illustration by Richard Scarry

We have several big fans of Ruta Sepetys on staff and I'm happy to tell them that The Fountains of Silence has passed her hit Salt to the Sea in hardcover sales at Boswell. We went on to have a huge sale in paperback for Salt so it will be nice to see how the latest does. From Sarah Harrison Smith in The New York Times: "Spain under Francisco Franco is as dystopian a setting as Margaret Atwood’s Gilead in Ruta Sepetys’s suspenseful, romantic and timely new work of historical fiction, The Fountains of Silence. It’s 1957, but Franco’s isolationist policies and a powerful Catholic Church ensure that Spanish women are treated like chattel, Spanish babies lack basic medical care and Republican sympathizers end their days laboring like slaves. Even in Madrid, ordinary Spaniards live in fear and poverty."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Brian Truitt of USA Today reviews the new memoir from by Anthony Daniels: "I Am C-3PO: The Inside Story is the 73-year-old British actor’s new memoir chronicling his more than 40 years spent on “Star Wars” sets playing the fan-favorite droid. The eccentric Threepio is fluent in 6 million forms of communication, and Daniels feels his book is just as universal."

Jeff Rowe of Associated Press reviews Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park that Changed the World: "The book suggests lessons that extend to today: Passion for an idea and a plan are important, but so is research. Disney’s focus and self-confidence allowed him to push on despite family and friends who told him that an amusement park was folly."

Will Lester, also of AP, covers the political thriller Oppo, new from Tom Rosenstiel: "The novel looks at the story of Wendy Upton, a centrist Republican senator offered the VP slot by leading presidential candidates from both parties. Very soon, she gets a mysterious threatening call that could derail her career... Through the adventures of Rena and Brooks, he tells how these political dramas can play out, with a good eye for Washington detail and characters."

Addendum: Here's an article in the Journal Sentinel about the state of independent bookstores, including Boswell.

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