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Petaluma readers can’t get enough of Madeline Miller

The top selling titles at Copperfield’s Books, in Petaluma, for the week of April 5-April 11, 2021

For the third week since its publication, Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” is the No. 1 title on Petaluma’s Bestselling Fiction and Nonfiction Books List. This not only marks the first time that a book of poetry has repeated three times in recent memory, it may be the first time since 1993 that a single individual poem has spent time on top of the list at all. That was 1993, and the poem was Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of the Morning,” yet another inaugural poem, in that case for President Bill Clinton. “The Hill We Climb,” by the way, will be released again in a full collection of Gorman’s poetry in September of this year.

Meanwhile, last week’s No. 2 book, Madeline Miller’s fantasy novel “Circe,” drops down to No. 3, making room for Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing” to move from No. 10 into this week’s No. 2 spot. It should be noted that another work by Miller, her debut novel “The Song of Achilles,” also appears on the Top 10 list this week, taking the No. 6 place. While it’s not terribly unusual for two books by the same author to end up on the list at the same time – Ibram X Kendi saw three titles appear all at once in Petaluma last summer – this is the first time that Miller’s Greek mythology-based novels have shared the list in the same week. That’s remarkable because, except for one brief anomaly in the middle of March (March 18, to be precise), Miller’s two books have been taking turns on the list, alternating back and forth, since the beginning of February.

The picture this would seem to paint illustrates a kind of literary physics, a law of attraction in which readers who find their way to a book by a particular author, assuming they enjoy the work, immediately seek out other books by the same writer. To some degree, it explains what happened with Kendi. At a time of national racial self-examination, his “How to Be an Antiracist” became a must-read in Petaluma and beyond. For the next several weeks, readers eagerly moved on to other of Kendi’s works.

It happens all the time.

Sometimes, when the books in question represent an established series, as with Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall’s “Ivy and Bean Get to Work!” the No. 1 title this week on Petaluma’s Kids and Young Adults list – and the final chapter in what is now 12 “Ivy and Bean” books – a freshly hooked reader will head right back to the bookstore for the next volume in the series.

One need not buy every book in a series at once, of course, or every available title by a newly discovered author. But some people do, so smitten are they with their latest literary crush.

This, for what it’s worth, is one of the reasons that used bookstores are so popular.

Say someone gives you Christopher Moore’s “Bloodsucking Fiends” as a birthday present, and upon finishing it, you discover there are more books about Jody and Tommy, the San Francisco hipster vampires, and that, in fact, Moore has dozens of similarly transgressive and hilarious works of horror comedy. It would not be at all unusual for you to soon visit a used bookstore and carry away every Christopher Moore book on the shelf.

That, too, happens all the time.

But just replace the name Christopher Moore with that of Virginia Woolf, or Toni Morison or John Irving or Kurt Vonnegut or Anne Rice or Isabel Allende or Kazuo Ishiguro or H.G. Welles or Octavia Butler or (getting back to where we started) Ibram X Kendi, Madeline Miller, Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall, and you will have a very good example of the literary law of attraction.

Because reading a good book just makes you want to read more good books.

And a good author is as addictive and irresistible as a really great poem.

Here are the complete Top 10 Books on Copperfield’s Fiction and Nonfiction list, along with the full Kids and Young Adults list.

FICTION & NON-FICTION

1. ‘The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country,’ by Amanda Gorman – With a forward by Oprah Winfrey, this “gift edition” presents the electrifying poem Gorman read during President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

2. ‘Where the Crawdads Sing,’ by Delia Owens – The bestselling novel about a young girl name Kya who lives in a Louisiana swamp, abandoned by everyone in her life until she learns how to survive by watching the insects and swamp animals around her. Oh, and there’s a murder mystery.

3. ‘Circe,’ by Madeline Miller – The notorious animal-transforming sorceress from “The Odyssey” tells her own story, and guess what? It’s not the same story told by the piggish men she encountered.

4. ‘The Body: A Guide for Occupants,’ by Bill Bryson – A light-hearted, deep-searching look at the human machine and why it does so many impressive and surprising (and sometimes terrible) things.

5. ‘A Long Petal of the Sea,’ by Isabel Allende – Set during the Spanish Civil War, a pregnant and widowed pianist enters into an unlikely marriage-of-convenience with her dead husband’s brother, and attempts to flee from warfare on a rescue ship chartered by the poet Pablo Neruda.

6. ‘The Song of Achilles,’ by Madeline Miller – The 2012 debut novel from the author of “Circe,” this mythological deep-dive explores the iconic love affair between Greek warriors Achilles and Patroclus.

7. ‘The Island of Sea Women,’ by Lisa See – An epic novel spanning decades on the Korean island of Jeju, where two girls become friends and grow up among the matriarchal Haenyeo, female divers known for holding their breath over three minutes and able to harvest fish and abalone as deep as 100 feet.

8. ‘Later,’ by Stephen King – A relatively short (256 pages) page-turner about a boy who can talk to the dead, and the ways that people in his life try to use this skill for good and (this being a Stephen King story) for evil.

9. ‘Braiding Sweetgrass,’ by Robin Kimmerer – A rich and lyrical nonfiction exploration of indigenous wisdom and the scientific look at what plants are able to teach us.

10. ‘The Midnight Library,’ by Matt Haig – A sneaky-wonderful fantasy blending whimsy and real human struggle as a woman hovering between life and death finds herself in a library where every book offers an alternative version of the life she might have lived, and might still be able to.

KIDS & YOUNG ADULTS

1. ‘Ivy and Bean Get to Work!’ by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall – The 12th and final episode of the popular early reader series sees the Emerson Elementary School friends meet Herman the Treasure Hunter, grab some shovels and head out on a treasure hunt.

2. ‘Dog Man: Mothering Heights,’ by Dav Pilkey – In the 10th book in the series by the creator of Captain Underpants, canine cop Dog Man teams up with Petey the Cat and a stray kitten to stop an onslaught of villains and prove the persistent power of love, kindness and dog-slobbering.

3. ‘They Both Die at the End,’ by Adam Silveira – An inventive YA novel about a future in which Deckers (people who have just one day left to live) are informed of their impending deaths by the ominous Death-Cast corporation, after which lonesome Deckers are paired up for their final day through the smart phone app Last Friend.

4. ‘We Were Liars,’ by E. Lockhart – This YA novel is a taught psychological thriller about a group of friends on a private family island struggling a legacy of darkly fairytale-ish secrets.

5. ‘Hilo: Gina - The Girl Who Broke the World,’ by Judd Winick – The latest sequel in the bestselling kids series about a robot-battling boy from another world.

6. ‘Six of Crows,’ by Leigh Bardugo – A gripping, 2015 YA fantasy Cracking page-turner about a multiethnic “family” of young, semi-magical criminals of various sexual orientations, engaged in a quest to rescue a kidnapped chemist in northern Europe just after the Italian Renaissance.

7. ‘Scythe,’ by Neal Shusterman – In a future Earth where disease and aging have been eradicated, two teens are trained to become Scythes, independent killers whose job it is to thin the population of the planet.

8. ‘Rock from the Sky,’ by Jon Klassen – Described a young readers’ “Waiting for Godot,” this absurdist picture book takes Klassen’s familiar animal characters and places them in a delightfully weird world that includes a killer alien and an asteroid that keeps getting closer and closer and closer.

9. ‘Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn,’ by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham – A tale of affirming one’s identity as told through the friendship between two different (but not-so-different) magical creatures.

10. ‘Mac B Kid Spy: Mac Undercover,’ by Mac Barnett – The first book in Barnett’s popular series about a kid spy on a series of hilarious and endlessly inventive adventures.

(Data compiled by Amber-Rose Reed, Manager of Copperfield’s Books)

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