Much like kids being groomed for prestigious academic institutions, there's concern that each book is one of a kind—something unique and special and unlike any other book that has been published prior. Or, at least, that is the messaging we’re supposed to believe given certain retailers’ insistence on creating new categories on a near-daily basis so that books can garner that illusory and ultimate facile “#1 bestseller” tag. To that end, we’d like to dedicate this week’s newsletter to Categories You Never Knew Existed, But Now That You Do, OMG! How Can You Be Out of the Loop on This New Category Bestseller?
Because, bookselling is all about making you afraid that you’re missing out on some conversation somewhere, right?
This week’s #1 Bestseller in the always popular category of Plot Holes Are Covered Up By Explosions is Clive Cussler’s 25th Dirk Pitt book. Also the #1 Bestseller in the Category of Books Whose Unintentional Metanarrative About the Distinction Between Wish Fulfillment and Self-Actualized Reality Is Really Confusing When You Think About It, Celtic Empire is co-written by Clive’s son, Dirk, who is the namesake for Cussler’s eternal protagonist, but there’s also a Dirk Jr. in the book. As well as a twin sister, and as far as we know, Dirk Cussler doesn’t have a sister . . .
Anyway, uh, where were we? Oh yes, stuff blows up. There’s a plot that seems recycled from a couple other Cussler novels from a decade ago (but who’s checking, right?), and the world is saved again because every single villain doesn’t understand that the “U” in NUMA stands for “Underwater.”
And the #1 Bestseller in Quietly Devastating Books About Periods of American History When The US Behaved Poorly Towards Its Citizens and Immigrants is Susan Meissner’s The Last Year of the War. Additionally, Meissner’s book charts high on the Let’s Use That Old Person Looking Back on Their Life As a Framing Device Trope list, but hey, if it works, it doesn’t need to be fixed, right? In her twilight years, Elise Sontag—who grew up in Iowa during WWII—looks back on the time when her family was interred for being German-Americans. While in the camp, Elise met Mariko, who was Japanese-American, and the two became fast friends. Naturally, xenophobic government policies sent both girls (and their families) back to their respective countries, and Elise hopes that she’ll be reconnected with her dear childhood chum. The bonds of friendship and family bolster this novel, and you can’t help but get swept up in Elise’s enduring hopefulness.
And the #1 Bestseller in the OMG! So Cute! Can We Take Them Home and Snuggle Them? category is Olivier Dunrea’s latest picture book in the world of Goosie & Gertie. This time, though, it’s Ruby & Rufus Love the Water! as the two wee ducklings head out for some pond time, weather notwithstanding. The text doesn’t have the same degree of reversals and betrayals and surprise twists that a Cussler novel does (this is why we have many, many categories, because it’s not right to judge all books by the same criteria), but what it lacks in narrative ham-fistedness, it more than makes up with marvelously colorful and sublime drawings of small ducks.
And here is Meagan Spooner's Sherwood, which is #1 in the category of Hawt New YA Thing That Gender-Flips An Old Classic, But Really Just Does Away With the Named Character We All Know So That We Can Have Angsty Romance Between Secondary Characters, One of Whom Probably Secretly Conspired to Do Away With That Famous Character as No One Ever Remembers Him Being Part of a Love Triangle in the Old Days Because, Frankly, There Wasn’t One—Except When the Author Needed Conflict Between the Leads as Part of the Narrative Arc for the Fifth or Twelfth Story in the Series.
Do we need to cover anything else, or does the category sum it up well enough? Excellent. Moving on . . . .
Let’s see. The #1 Bestseller in the category of No, Seriously, Be Nicer to Yourself This Week is John Niland’s The Self-Worth Safari, a great little book that asks you to sit down for a frank talk about self-worth, anxiety, and how you need some perspective on all that fear you’re letting run your life.
We’ve got a copy already, so you don’t have to worry about grabbing one before we get a chance to sit in the back and cry during our lunch break. And those aren’t tears of letting go, by the way; it’s allergy season already.
And the #1 Bestseller in Everything You Think You Know is Wrong and All the Narrators Are Totally Unreliable is Josh Malerman’s newest book, Inspection, which is about what happens when kids start asking awkward questions. D. A. D., aka Richard, has a plan: if he puts all the boys in a creepy old tower, deep in the forest, and doesn’t tell them about girls—ever—maybe they’ll be properly obedient. Naturally, there’s a tower where all the girls are kept, and of course, we know that a boy—J, in this case—will get out and cause trouble, and that a girl—K—will also go over the wall. They’ll find each other—somewhere out there, in the woods, where all bad ideas get hatched—and then things will get really, really weird.
[Ed. note: This summary is #1 in overuse of em-dashes, by the way.]
Topping the War is Hell—Even More So When You Throw in Time Travel category is Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. Hurley’s debut trilogy, the Bel Dame Aporcypha, was a rip-snorting, bugpunk, genre-subverter, and we’ve looking forward to see what she does with a book that has been called “Edge of Tomorrow meets Starship Troopers.”
This week’s leader in the category of Gritty Noir Buddy Novels That Veer Between Sensitive Explorations of Identity and Compassion and Seriously Messed Up Violence is the latest Hap and Leonard novel from Joe Lansdale. The Hap and Leonard books were the basis for three seasons on SundanceTV, but the cancelation of the show didn’t spell the end for the duo, who continue to try to save the downtrodden and unlucky in East Texas. In The Elephant of Surprise, Hap and Leonard save a woman from a mob hit, and as usual, things get wildly out of hand from there.
And, in the Venn diagram overlap between Irish aristocrats, sauce tycoons, papal countesses, and nuclear physicists is Number 45, one of the most famous copies of that first text that Johann Gutenberg made with his remarkable machine in Mainz, Germany, during the mid-15th century. Margaret Leslie Davis’s The Lost Gutenberg is the five-hundred year journey of that rarest of rare prizes in the book collector market: a Gutenberg Bible. Davis’s narrative of the chain of ownership of this specific book will make you feel better (or worse, we suppose) about your own obsessive need for books.
And speaking of obsessions getting the better of you, Jack Skillingstead has a new novel out this week. In The Chaos Function, Jack effortless delivers a whiz-bang thriller that manages to co-exist in the same space as a thoughtful meditation on dealing with grief, the elusive nature of reality, and how trauma makes us re-consider what we thought was important. AND, because Jack doesn't know how to stop there, The Chaos Function is also a Philip K. Dick-style cognitive puzzle about the past, the future, and how bending both makes the present somehow make sense. It's a great thinky book that lets things blow up when the philosophical questions get too deep. It's also the #1 Bestseller in the category of Books Released This Week By Authors With Wry Senses of Humor Who Are Stalked By Poodles.
And finally, the winner in our own category of Super Bookselling Ideas, we have the Shelf of Awesome, which narrowly beat out the Wunderkammer and the Secret Stash of Books. The Shelf of Awesome scoops up a bunch of books that fall into a specific subgenre and gets them all in a huddle. Why? Because theme shelves are awesome, that’s why! And because sometimes it’s a little easier when you’re looking for a specific type of book, but you’re not quite sure how to explain what it is that you’re looking for, and man, if only your local bookstore could figure out what you were in the mood for and have a bunch of options waiting for you when you arrived.
That’s what the Shelf is Awesome is for. And if you were hankering for a little grimdark fantasy this week, well, we read your minds! Aren’t we the best?