Sunday, September 26, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending September 25, 2021

Here's what is selling at Boswell.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead
2. Bewilderment, by Richard Powers
3. Beautiful World, Where Are You, by Sally Rooney
4. Under the Whispering Door, by TJ Clune
5. The Madness of Crowds, by Louise Penny
6. Matrix, by Lauren Groff
7. Apples Never Fall, Liane Moriarty
8. The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave
9. The Love Songs of WEB DuBois, by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
10. The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix

The top fiction debut this week is Richard Powers's Bewilderment, which is both longlisted for the National Book Award and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. That said, if you look at Bookmarks, you can see mixed reviews and even pans, including Dwight Garner in The New York Times and Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal, unusual for a book already getting award mentions. Event Adam Roberts's rave in The Guardian should actually be classified as either positive or mixed, calling it "suffocating" and noting there's "much to admire" but "doesn't reach the heights of his previous work." He compares it to Flowers for Algernon.

I can't let that sit. Let's quote Ellen Akins in the Star Tribune: "This all might sound a bit sci-fi technical, but all the scientific razzle-dazzle, including the details of the planets that Theo elaborately imagines for Robbie, simply underlines the human story at its center - and makes the tenderness between father and son seem so real and heartfelt that the novel becomes its own empathy machine. What's more powerful, though, is how the emotions Bewilderment evokes expand far beyond the bond of father and son to embrace the living world and Robin's anguish at its plight, experienced ever more exquisitely as the experiment progresses."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X Kendi
2. Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa
3. Provoke, by George Tuff
4. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
5. Fuzz, by Mary Roach (Register for September 27 event here)
6. All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner
7. The Secret History of Food, by Matt Siegel (Register for October 5 event here)
8. Vanderbilt, by Anderson Cooper
9. Unbound, by Tarana Burke
10. Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard

Our new releases about President Trump have taken a bit of a downward sales trajectory, but we saw strong sales of Peril, the conclusion of Bob Woodward's Trump trilogy, with help from Robert Costa. We'll be back in stock shortly. Chris Megerian in Los Angeles Times called it "tedious" - that was a pan, while Ron Elway's positive (per Bookmarks - so nice that I don't have to select the adjective, though as above, I can sometimes question their conclusion) NPR review says that while other revelations are familiar, others have an element of discovery.

One book with nothing but raves (albeit from trade sources rather than the big newspapers is Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, by Tarana Burke. Kirkus Reviews called it "an unforgettable page-turner of a life story rendered with endless grace and grit." But maybe an endorsement and social media push from Brené Brown is more important that that. She notes: "Sometimes a single story can change the world. Unbound is one of those stories. Tarana’s words are a testimony to liberation and love.” The book is also from Oprah Winfrey's Oprah subimprint of Flatiron.

Paperback Fiction:
1. You Exist Too Much, by Zaina Arafat
2. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
3. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
4. Dune (two editions), by Frank Herbert
5. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
6. People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
7. Anxious People, by Fredrick Backman
8. The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante
9. Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno Garcia
10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

When we get a multi-copy purchase, there are several things that will make it show up or not show up on our bestseller list. How new is the book? Is it selling individually as well? Is it a trade title we can easily get for other readers? How crowded is the list - will the bulk orders push out the titles selling to folks shopping at the bookstore or at events? You Exist Too Much passes on all counts, so allow me to share Gabino Iglesias's review on the NPR website: "Arafat tries to do a lot in this novel, and she pulls it off. This is a story about a woman trapped in the interstitial space between different cultures and religions, but it's also about sexual identity and the effects of fear of rejection and codependency. The main character knows what she wants, but she doesn't know why she wants it — and understands that her family will abandon her if she tells them what she wants. Her desires are always in conflict with what she's been told she should want — a good husband, babies, and a nice house. Her struggle with sexuality pushes her towards cocaine, alcohol, and random romantic encounters, but none of that stops the confusion and pain." Plus Roxane Gay called it "my favorite book of the year."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X Kendi
2. Being Lolita, by Alisson Wood
3. Milwaukee River Greenway, by Eddee Daniel
4. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kemmerer
5. The Best of Me, by David Sedaris
6. The Socrates Express, by Eric Weiner
7. New York Times Cooking No Recipe Recipes, by Sam Sifton
8. The Vapors, by David Hill (Join our virtual book club - details here)
9. Voice of Milwaukee Bronzeville, by Sandra E Jones
10. Inspired, by Rachel Held Evans

The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers has been out in paperback since May and this week pops onto our bestseller list. Eric Weiner (The Geography Genius and The Geography of Bliss, a recent WPR book club selection) gets this praise from Lucinda Robb in The Washington Post: "Part travelogue, part soul-searching memoir and part intellectual matchmaker, Weiner’s book packs an extraordinary amount into 287 pages of text. Erudite, funny and frequently self-deprecating, Weiner serves as your interpreter and guide along the way."

Books for Kids:
1. Change Sings, by Amanda Gorman
2. Antiracist Baby Picture Book, by Ibram X Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky
3. Stamped, by Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds
4. Last Kids on Earth and the Doomsday Race V7, by Max Brallier
5. Stamped for Kids, by Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds
6. Fallout, by Steve Sheinkin
7. Egg Marks the Spot V2, by Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen
8. Rite of Passage, by Richard Wright
9. Iron Widow, by Xiran Jay Zhao
10. Eek Halloween, by Sandra Boynton

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, whose poem "The Hill We Climb" was featured at President Biden's inauguration this week released her first picture book. Change Sings has illustrations by Loren Long. From Booklist: "The positive messaging speaks to building bridges rather than walls and embracing differences, and with each new child encountered, the girl hands them an instrument, inviting them to take up the song. A lovely and loving call to action and kindness."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins has a feature on 21 books by Wisconsin writers for the 21st Century, including works from Ayad Akhtar, Lydia Barry, Jane Hamilton, and Dasha Kelly Hamilton.

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