This Week’s Best Sellers — May 29, 2016

This Week’s Best Sellers — May 22, 2016

Staff Reads — May 23, 2016


Here are your staff reads as you gear up for Memorial Day Weekend!

Ashley: Forgive Me if I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters; The Boys who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose


  • The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built by Jack Viertel. This is my favorite non-fiction book I have read, this year. Heck, this is probably my favorite book I have read, this year! My (not so) secret desire is to be a character actress or a lead in a Broadway musical. There’s just that one little problem of not having an ounce of talent when it comes to singing, dancing, or acting, so I imagine an audition would be a painful process for all involved. I may or may not have imagined myself winning Tony awards for my roles as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls and as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man. But, hey, I couldn’t play Marian on stage, so at least I get to be her in real life. I love to read books about the history of Broadway, but I felt like this book was written for me. Okay, so I’m not that delusional, but producer, former critic, and instructor at New York University Jack Viertel seems to have gotten into my brain as he not only makes the case for the importance and significance of all musicals, he appreciates many of the same aspects of them that I do. Dividing the book into different segments of the show, he takes the reader through the opening number, the number by the secondary couple, and even the show stoppers, showing how they’ve evolved over time, and how different numbers may play different roles in individual shows. His book demonstrates how older musicals led the way for the modern era (Hair begat Rent which begat Hamilton, The King and I begat The Book of Mormon, and Little Shop of Horrors begat Hairspray, for examples. He and I even have the same taste. The epilogue consists of a list of cast recordings from a variety of musicals that he recommends. In most cases, Viertel maintains that the original cast recording is the best, something with which I’m in complete agreement. In one example, however, he says that it’s hard to choose, so it’s important to own two cast recordings of Guys and Dolls: the 1950 original cast starring Sam Levene and Vivian Blaine as Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide and the 1992 revival cast recording starring Faith Prince and Nathan Lane in the same roles. Guess which is the only show I own the original cast and the revival cast on Itunes? In my head, I’m telling you!
  • Bucky &***** Dent by David Duchovny. (That second word of the title is actually a familiar word with one letter missing. I’m sure you can figure out the word!) My second fantasy job after being the queen of the Broadway stage is to play right field for the Boston Red Sox, in which I would have hit the game winning home run in a decisive game 7 of the World Series. (This was pre-2004, when my chances of playing for the Red Sox were about as likely as them winning a World Series in my lifetime). Since, however, my baseball abilities are about on par with my acting and singing abilities, this wasn’t happening. I do, however, love to devour books about baseball, and when I heard that Agent Mulder, er, David Duchovny, from one of my favorite shows was writing a novel about the 1978 Red Sox and Yankees, I was intrigued. I’m always a bit wary about actors who write novels, and therefore had fairly low expectations, which helped. Wannabe writer, Ted Fullilove, is a peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium in 1978, when he receives news that his estranged Red Sox fan father, is dying. The two slowly come to a reconciliation amidst the backdrop of the 1978 playoff battle between the Red Sox and Yankees. (Fans of either team, regardless if they were born yet, know what happened in that one game playoff when the Red Sox hearts were broken again.) This short book will be fun for fans of either team, but there are a lot of cliches, the characters are a bit one note and the scenes are similar to a Hallmark Channel movie (plus some extreme profanity which doesn’t bother me but may bother some readers). I was not surprised to read in multiple reviews that this was originally intended as a screenplay as the book is full of television and movie tropes. Duchovny clearly loves baseball (See his X-Files directed episode, “The Unnatural”) and that comes through (mostly) in a lovely way, here, but, unless you’re also a baseball fan, or have fond or painful memories of the 1978 season, this book probably won’t do anything for you.

Janice: In honor of the passing of the esteemed George Martin on March 8, I read his memoir All You Need is Ears. It’s an oldie from 1979, but gives a lot of dirt on the famous record producer’s star performers- Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Peter Sellers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, America, and of course, the Beatles. The amazing career of “the Fifth Beatle” spanned everything from the old 78’s to the onset of the digital era. Much like reading Orwell’s 1984 with today’s eyes, some of Martin’s statements are amusing in their naivete, such as: quadrophonic recording was too complicated to catch on, or the Beatles’ early songwriting ability did not appear saleable. On the other hand, with Sergeant Pepper he correctly predicted that highly produced recorded music would not be reproducible in an arena or auditorium, which became a major reason the Beatles, among others groups, stopped touring.


  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood published in 1996: This book was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and England’s Booker Prize and won the Giller Prize for Fiction.
    Alias Grace is based on the case of sixteen year old Grace Marks, who, in 1843 was imprisoned for a double murder. She was released with a pardon in 1872 from the Provincial Penitentiary in Ontario to New York State to a “home provided” and may or may not have gotten married. It is not clear if Ms. Marks was actually a murderess or if the evidence was circumstantial. This is a great read for anyone who likes psychological fiction, historical fiction or an exploration of the lives of domestics in the 1840s.
    Readalikes, Viewalikes: Upstairs, Downstairs, Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Story that Inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey by Margaret Powell, My Thirty Years Backstairs At the Whitehouse by Lilian Rogers Parks, Backstairs at the Whitehouse, The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  • Eileen by Ottessa Mossfegh: This is one of these wonderful, dark, dysfunctional tales told by an unreliable narrator that is just not to be missed. If you enjoyed The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, get ready for another wild ride. Eileen lives with her alcoholic retired policeman father in a squalor filled house in the 1950s. The fictional working class Massachusetts town by the sea boasts a juvenile prison for boys. Eileen works there by day and returns to her crazy father at night. When a new employee named Rebecca begins working at the prison and seems to take a shine to Eileen, things begin to change. Gillian Flynn fans, take note. You won’t want to miss this novel. I am waiting for more by Ottessa Mossfegh.


This Week’s Best Sellers — May 1, 2016

Here are the bestseller lists for the week of May 1, 2016: