Monday, May 2, 2016

Better late than later! Here's the annotated Boswell bestseller lists for the week ending April 30, 2016

A little late, but no less exciting! Here are this past week's Boswell bestsellers.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
2. Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
3. Extreme Prey, by John Sandford
4. The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O'Brien
5. My Struggle, volume 5, by Karl Ove Knausgaard
6. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
7. The Yid, by Paul Goldberg (event 6/6, 7 pm, at Boswell)
8. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
9. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
10. North Water, by Ian McGuire

We had a wonderful afternoon with Jane Hamilton, thought the official event book sales will not show up till next week. Connie Ogle reviewed the book in The Miami Herald: "The Excellent Lombards is Hamilton’s seventh book, and though it is funny and heartbreaking, colored with a palpable wistfulness, it feels lighter than some of her earlier works" but by lighter, I do not thinkk she might that it was any less wonderful a story. She continues, noting that "for all its simplicity, The Excellent Lombards is deeply affecting, a moving elegy for an idyllic way of life that’s slipping away as development and technology encroach and children grow up and away from rural pleasures."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Fierce Optimism, by Leeza Gibbons
2. The Startup Checklist, by David Rose
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
5. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
6. Deep South, by Sally Mann
7. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
8. Le'ts Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris
9. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
10. Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts, by Maja Safstram

Chalk up another success for the impulse table. The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts is not a groundbreaker in terms of concept, but it's the wonderful drawings by Swedish artist Maja Safstram that set it apart. But it never hurts to know that sea horses are the slowest fish and travel in pairs. Visit the website.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg
2. Even in Paradise, by Elizabeth Nunez
3. The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy
4. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
5. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (event 5/14, 2 pm, at Boswell)
6. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (event 5/19, 7 pm, at Boswell)
7. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris
8. Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, edited by David Sedaris
9. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
10. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

Number of Elizabeths in the top 2: 2
Number of books set in a bookstore in our top 10: 2
Number of titles translated from Swedish: 3
Number of titles in translation: 5

Five of our top ten fiction books are works in translation. A lot of folks don't know that The Little Paris Bookshop is translated from German. And don't forget another great week for Karl Ove Knaussgaard, who I'm told had close to 1000 people for his recent event in Chicago. Wow!

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
2. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
3. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, by David Sedaris
4. Ghettoside, by Jill Leovy
5. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
6. When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris
7. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
8. Descent Into Happiness, by David Howell
9. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
10. Barrel Fever, by David Sedaris

When you note that Jill Leovy's Ghettoside was the title that David Sedaris hand-sold at his Riverside Theater event last week, it becomes clear that this category was completely event driven, with only Helen Macdonald being event aftereffects and not the event itself. We will probably run through our signed copies of H Is for Hawk pretty soon if we haven't already.

Books for Kids:
1. Two Friends, by Dean Robbins
2. Hattie's War, by Hilda and Emily Demuth
3. Dear Pope Francis, by Pope Francis, edited by Antonio Spadaro.
4. The Jungle Book (illustrated with interactive elements), by Rudyard Kipling (HarperDesign edition)
5. The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater
6. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, with illustrations by Jon Klasssen
7. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
8. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, Jonathan Auxier
9. Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
10. Rose and the Dagger, by Renee Ahdieh

It's not to common to have a bestseller from Loyola Press but we've now had multiple weeks on the bestseller list for Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World. The New York Post profiled the book when the editor was in New York on the book's publication. One kid asked the Pope what his favorite sport was, while other questions were more spiritual in nature. Do bad people have guardian angels? According to Pope Francis, the answer is yes.

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Matt Haig's Reasons to Stay Alive, a memoir about coping with depression and anxiety which is also an argument against suicide. Higgins notes: "A British writer for youth and adults whose novels include The Humans and The Radleys, Haig writes with a direct but gentle voice in Reasons to Stay Alive. His arc is hopeful but realistic; he never minimizes his struggles. In fact, I'd say his ability to observe himself realistically is one of the strengths that has helped him recover." One piece of advice for the loved ones - don't resort to tough love. As Haig notes: "Turns out that just good old 'love' is enough."

Also on the books page was a profile of Kao Kalia Yang in conjunction with the release of The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father, written by Laurie Hertzel, and originally published in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. The book, the story of Yang's relationship with her father, a farmer turned factory worker, was originally submitted to Coffee House Press, but the publisher encouraged her to go bigger, and the book wound up at Henry Holt's Metropolitan Books imprint.

Monday, April 25, 2016

This week at Boswell: Ticketed Events with Felicia Day, Elizabeth Berg, and Sally Mann, Jane Hamilton, Elizabeth Nunez, Eric Dregni, Fox and Branch, Independent Bookstore Day

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week. This is pretty much our email newsletter minus the recommendations,, but with a little bonus content. Note: tickets for Felicia Day close out at 3 pm, or when we're out of tickets. There are no walk up ticket sales available for this event.

Monday, April 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A Ticketed signing with Felicia Day, author of You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).

As always, we've got some exciting events planned for you. First up is a last-minute reminder that Felicia Day's ticketed signing is tonight. Tickets are $17 and are available at Brown Paper Tickets until 3 pm. Alas, it looks like walk-up tickets will not be available at this event. Also please note that Boswell will be closed to the general public at 5:30 pm tonight, in order to best accommodate this event. And finally, please note that you must buy a ticket to the event for entry. Ms. Day will personalize books upon request, and will sign one piece of memorabilia, a rare treat.

Felicia Day is a professional actress who has appeared in numerous mainstream television shows and films, currently recurring on the CW show Supernatural, and recently completing a two-season arc on the SyFy series Eureka. However, Felicia is best known for her work in the web video world, behind and in front of the camera. She co-starred in Joss Whedon’s Internet musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. She also created and stars in the hit web series The Guild, which is currently in its sixth season. Her production company Knights of Good produced the innovative web series “Dragon Age” in conjunction with EA/Bioware in 2011 and in 2012 she launched a funded YouTube channel called Geek & Sundry. Felicia continues to work as creative chief officer with her company, as well as develop television and web projects for her to write, produce and star in. Bonus video below -- a travel site, a game recommendation, playing the theremin.


Wednesday, April 27, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Elizabeth Nunez, author of Even in Paradise.

Please join us for an evening with honorary doctorate from Marian University, Elizabeth Nunez, author of Even in Paradise, a modern-day King Lear and novel of greed, resentment, jealousy, betrayal, and romance set in Trinidad, Jamaica, and Barbados. Beautifully written in elegant prose, Nunez weaves themes of racism and classism into the postcolonial world of the Caribbean, giving us a diverse cast of characters of African, Indian, Chinese, Syrian/Lebanese, and English ancestry.

Peter Ducksworth, a Trinidadian widower of English ancestry, retires to Barbados, believing he will find an earthly paradise there. He decides to divide his land among his three daughters while he is alive, his intention not unlike that of King Lear’s who hoped, “That future strife / May be prevented now.” But Lear made the fatal mistake of confusing flattery with love, and so does Ducksworth. Feeling snubbed by his youngest daughter, Ducksworth decides that only after he dies will she receive her portion of the land. In the meantime, he gives his two older daughters their portions, ironically setting in motion the very strife he hoped to prevent.

Even in Paradise is Caribbean drama as grand epic. Nunez, always a master of unexpected contrasts, does it here again. A story told on a huge scale that still manages to be achingly personal and intimate.” —Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

Elizabeth Nunez is the award-winning author of eight novels and a memoir. Both Boundaries and Anna In-Between were New York Times Editors’ Choices. Anna In-Between won the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award and was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Bonus review: Publishers Weekly calls Even in Paradise "impressive."

Thursday, April 28, 7 pm reception, 7:30 talk, at the Lynden Sculpture Garden:
A ticketed event with Elizabeth Berg, author of The Dream Lover

Milwaukee Reads presents Elizabeth Berg at The Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W Brown Deer Rd. Tickets are $22 ($18 for Lynden members) and include a paperback copy of The Dream Lover, wine, and light refreshments provided by MKE Localicious. The event is cosponsored by Bronze Optical.

George Sand was a 19th-century French novelist known not only for her novels but even more for her scandalous behavior. After leaving her estranged husband, Sand moved to Paris where she wrote, wore men's clothing, smoked cigars, and had love affairs with famous men and at least one actress. This is Berg's first historical novel, which makes it particularly great for book clubs, as you can draw on both Sands's novels and the historical period in which the book is set.

Emily Rapp Black wrote of The Dream Lover in The Boston Globe: "The most fascinating aspect of Sand’s life is that she created her own rules to live by, no matter the personal cost, and Berg brings these conflicts to light brilliantly, almost effortlessly. The book, imagistic and perfectly paced, full of dialogue that clips along, is a reader’s dream." Join us at the Lynden on Thursday, April 28, 7 pm reception, 7:30 talk. You can also reserve your spot by calling (414) 446-8794.

Friday, April 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Eric Dregni, author of Let's Go Fishing: Fish Tales from the North Woods

Please join us for an event with Eric Dregni, author of Let's Go Fishing!: Fish Tales from the North Woods, an illustrated compendium of the lore and legacy of fishing in the northland. Dregni, who has entertained countless readers with enlightening tales of Midwest marvels, here shows his considerable skills as a raconteur and cultural historian of the fun and the facts of fishing in the Great Lakes region.

Fishing contests and taxidermy, lures and earthworms, fishing scenes on beer cans, and the peculiar genre of fishing photographs: no detail is too small, reflection too deep, or bridge too far to escape his eye and ready wit, from gear madness to true grit, angling heroics to solitary pleasures, small-town festivals to sport-fishing meccas. And he has the images to prove it, which will be featured in his slide presentation. Let's Go Fishing is an always fascinating, occasionally hilarious, and often oddly informative compendium of fishing lore destined to reel in the uninitiated and to occupy the aficionado in those long, empty hours between seasons.

Saturday, April 30, 10 am opening, 11 am concert, 2 pm lit quiz, at Boswell:
Independent Bookstore Day Celebration.

At 10 am, we're open for business, selling limited edition items like an Anne Patchett essay, a Fran Lebowitz stencil, a new set of literary tea towels (a big hit in 2015!), and very limited number of special Curious George plush monkeys. There are no holds, and no phone or web orders. There is also a limit of only one of each item per customer, at least through noon. More about the items available here.

At 11 am, we're featuring a kids concert with Fox and Branch, the popular folk duo. And then at 2 pm we'll have our second annual Boswell literary trivia contest. You can win a $50 Boswell gift card and yes, there will be several other prizes. Please note that Boswell will close to the general public at 5:30 on Saturday, due to our ticketed event with Sally Mann.

Saturday, April 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A ticketed event with Sally Mann, author of Hold Still.
Presentation followed by conversation with Liam Callanan, author of Listen and Other Stories.

Join us at Boswell for a ticketed event with photographer Sally Mann, giving a presentation on, discussing, and signing copies of what was considered one of the best books of 2015. Hold Still is a revealing and beautifully written memoir and family history from a beloved and acclaimed photographer. Tickets are $20 including all taxes and fees, and includes admission for one to the event and a copy of the paperback. Our event will feature a slide presentation, followed by a conversation with Liam Callanan.

In this groundbreaking book, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Mann’s preoccupation with family, race, mortality, and the storied landscape of the American South are revealed as almost genetically predetermined, written into her DNA by the family history that precedes her. A National Book Award finalist, Hold Still was named one of the Best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, and NPR.

Please note, Boswell will close to the general public at 5:30 pm on April 30. And we ask for no photography or video at this event.

Sunday, May 1, 1 pm, at Boswell:
Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards

We're so excited to be hosting Jane Hamilton for her first novel since 2009. Critics are raving about this book. Jim Higgins of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes: "The Excellent Lombards, her new novel, is both a lively coming-of-age story and a deeply felt portrait of an endangered species, the American farm family. The Excellent Lombards could be read and taught in both an eighth-grade classroom and a small-business course - the latter because it grapples with agonizing issues of partnership and succession."

Here's what Boswellian Sharon Nagel had to say about The Excellent Lombards: "Jane Hamilton's latest novel is about Mary Frances Lombard, a young girl growing up on her family's orchard in rural Wisconsin. There is family tension, love, and lots and lots of apples. Mary Frances thinks it is perfect, but perhaps that is because it is all she knows. She just assumes that she and her brother William will grow up and take over ownership of the orchard, while their parents want much more for their children than this challenging way of life. A charming coming-of-age story set comfortably in Wisconsin that will appeal to all readers."

Hamilton appeared at Boswell as part of our grand opening celebration for Laura Rider's Masterpiece. And now she's back, with a special introduction by longtime friend, arts educator and former bookseller Pegi Christiansen. Hope you'll join us in a cider toast on Sunday, May 1, at a special time of 1 pm.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Boswell Bestsellers, Week Ending April 23, 2016

Here is our bestseller lists!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton (event Sun 5/1, 1 pm, see Journal Sentinel story below)
2. The North Water, by Ian McGuire
3. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
4. Journey to Munich, by Jacqueline Winspear
5. The Last Mile, by David Baldacci
6. Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld (MPL lunch 5/3, 11 am)
7. The Murder of Mary Russell, by Laurie R. King
8. My Struggle V5, by Karl Ove Knaussgaard
9. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
10. The Other Side of Silence, by Philip Kerr

Let's talk about The North Water. This novel from Ian McGuire about the last days of the whaling industry has gotten massive attention in the UK, like this write up from Helen Dunmore in The Guardian which notes: "The strength of The North Water lies in its well-researched detail and persuasive descriptions of the cold, violence, cruelty and the raw, bloody business of whale-killing." It was a nuanced review, but The New York Times piece from Column McCann has no quibbles: "McGuire has an extraordinary talent for picturing a moment, offering precise, sharp, cinematic details. When he has to describe complex action, he ­manages the physicality with immense clarity. He writes about violence with unsparing color and, at times, a sort of relish. The writing moves sometimes from the poetic to the purple, but McGuire is careful not to use too many metaphors or similes or too much fancy writing when he needs to make clear what cold feels like, or hunger or fear." He sees it as a story of good v. evil and exhibit A for the latter is definitely Henry Drax, who has few qualms about violence.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Fierce Optimism, by Leeza Gibbons
2. The Third Wave, by Steve Case
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. The Gray Rhino, by Michele Wucker
5. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
6. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Mirnda and Jeremy McCarter
7. The Art of Happiness, by Dalai Lama
8. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
9. People Get Ready, by Robert McChesney and John Nichols
10. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl has become a national bestseller, chronicling the life of professor of geobiology Hope Jahren. The book was reviewed well by Michiko Kakutani in the daily New York Times, and by that, she mostly describes the book, but has no complaints: "By crosscutting between chapters about the life cycle of trees and flowers and other green things, and chapters about her own coming-of-age as a scientist, Ms. Jahren underscores the similarities between humans and plants — tenacity, inventiveness, an ability to adapt — but, more emphatically, the radical otherness of plants: their dependence on sunshine, their inability to move or travel as we do, the redundancy and flexibility of their tissues." Beth Kephart reviewed the book in the Chicago Tribune, while Renee Montagne talked to her on NPR's Morning Edition.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
2. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
3. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (event Sat 5/14, 2 pm)
4. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
5. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
6. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredik Backman
7. The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy
8. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
9. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (event Thurs 5/19, 7 pm)
10. The Dig, by John Preston

Another historical novel popping this week is John Preston's The Dig, a fictional recreation of the Sutton Woo dig, a priceless treasure discovered in East Anglia in the early years of World War II. Rowland Manthorope wrote in The Guardian: "The Dig shows a delicate awareness of modernity's ambivalent legacy. Preston's feeling is for the soil and its scions, not the bright, shiny figures of the modern age. Ignoring the self-proclaimed heroes of the excavation, he takes characters who are, themselves, submerged." Interestingly enough, this book came out in the UK in 2007 (more details in Wikipedia), and was a BBC Radio drama in 2008. Why was it released now? And here's Preston's version of how the book came about in the Telegraph.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Descent into Happiness, by David Howell
2. What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus, by Evan Moffic
3. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
4. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
5. Soup of the Day, by Ellen Brown
6. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
7. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day (ticketed event 4/25, 7 pm)
8. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
9. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
10. The Teenage Brain, by Frances E. Jensen with Amy Ellis Nutt

When I saw how many copies of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults we had sold last week, I actually looked at the sales log to see if it was a bulk order. It was not - all the copies were to individual purchasers, and that made it worthy of writing up here. Jensen appeared on Fresh Air when the book came out in hardcover, where they noted: "Jensen, who's a neuroscientist and was a single mother of two boys who are now in their 20s, wrote The Teenage Brain to explore the science of how the brain grows — and why teenagers can be especially impulsive, moody and not very good at responsible decision-making." We had a pop the first time it aired too. Want more? Here's a C-SPAN interview.

Books for Kids:
1. The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds
2. Summerlost, by Ally Condie
3. Booked, by Kwame Alexander
4. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
5. When I Was the Greatest, by Jason Reynolds
6. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
7. Tombquest: The Book of the Dead V1, by Michael Northrop
8. Hello?, by Liza Wiemer (event with Jennifer Armentrout on May 18, 6:30 Weyenberg Library)
9. Oh, The Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss
10. Surf's Up, by Kwame Alexander

It's a rare kids' top ten where three of my favorite books are the top three, but I guess that's what events are for. What an April we've had! I want to give special mention to Surf's Up, Kwame Alexander's February picture book about two frogs, one of whom doesn't want to go out to play because that frog is too involved in reading Moby-Dick, of all things. Alexander read the book dividing the audience into two halves, with each representing one of the two frog friends in the book. You can watch an animated version of the story from North South Books here.

There are a lot of book features in today's Journal Sentinel!

Jim Higgins profiles Jane Hamilton, whose The Excellent Lombards is already this week's #1 hardcover fiction book. Higgins writes: The Excellent Lombards, her new novel, is both a lively coming-of-age story and a deeply felt portrait of an endangered species, the American farm family. The Excellent Lombards could be read and taught in both an eighth-grade classroom and a small-business course — the latter because it grapples with agonizing issues of partnership and succession."

Mike Fischer reviews two books this week. First up is Elizabeth Nunez's Even in Paradise. Fischer writes: "It can feel at times like a light beach read made for a Caribbean vacation. But it also continually journeys inland, looking hard at the 'tiny shacks' abutting the Ducksworth mansion, the Jamaican slums near Émile's university and the significance of shady Trinidadian trees protecting estates 'where there were Africans beaten and tortured.' Hence Nunez's frequent, deftly inserted lessons involving Caribbean history. As her title suggests, one can never escape that history, even when sipping rum on a hilltop mansion overlooking paradise."

Also covered by Mike Fischer is Howard Means's 67 Shots: Kent State and the End of American Innocence, the Vietnam War protest that led to four student fatalities. On the book's take: "Means is less interested in blaming the soldiers than the leaders — civilian and military — who failed them by creating an impossible situation in the first place. His gallery includes a laissez-faire university president who let things drift; a mayor who panicked in calling for the Guard after an initial night of rioting that was less about Cambodia than beer; an overly zealous law-and-order governor in a tough election campaign; and Guard commanders who didn't have a clear sense of what they were trying to accomplish." He notes that the National Guard themselves were "young, sleep deprived, inexperienced, badly trained, poorly led, angry and scared."

Plus Meredith Black profiles Padma Lakshmi, author of Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir, newly out from Ecco. This profile, which originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times is of course conducted over food: "She writes with candor about her romances with author Salman Rushdie and billionaire Teddy Forstmann, her struggle with debilitating endometriosis, and the acrimonious legal battle for custody of her daughter, Krishna, now a spirited 6-year-old who tagged along with her mother to the interview. The memoir, which Lakshmi will discuss April 9 at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, also delves into childhood traumas, including sexual abuse, the car accident that resulted in a 7-inch scar on her right arm, and the rootlessness that arose as she shuttled back and forth between America and India." I was fascinated that the Ilene Beckerman memoir was influential enough to be a riff on another memoir title, but I remembered that Love, Loss, and What I Wore also became a play, which would probably have more cultural resonance, especially if the adaptation was by Nora and Delia Ephron.

Jim Stingl profiles Dobie Maxwell, whose recent Monkey in the Middle retells the legendary story of a legendary bank robber who turned out to be Maxwell's close friend: "The second of the two vault raids grabbed headlines in Milwaukee and beyond because the robber — Maxwell's best friend Timothy Raszkiewicz, a jury decided — was wearing a gorilla costume, carrying balloons and pretending to be delivering a gorilla-gram to First Financial Bank in downtown Milwaukee," write Stingl. The book is available from Eckhartz Press.

And finally, the Fresh section profiles new gardening books, including Container Theme Gardens: 42 Combinations, Each Using 5 Perfectly Matched Plants, by Nancy J. Ondra. Joanne Kempinger Demski has 20 suggestions. She writes: "Pick one that meets your needs, and then head outside and sit in the sun with it to start planning your dream garden."

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Day with Jason Reynolds and David Sedaris, but not together. It's a long day.

What an exciting day we have today. First Olivia S. and I are off to the Italian Community Center to sell books for the Delta Memorial Fund luncheon featuring Jason Reynolds. Their focal book is The Boy in the Black Suit, but we'll also have copies of All American Boys and When I Was the Greatest.*

Then Teasha and Jen and I are off to the Riverside Theater to sell books for David Sedaris, who is appearing as part of his national tour. I know he's traveling from Tampa, as I saw a sign for his event on April 22 at Inkwood Books. Hope that was a great evening.

I have always identified with Mr. Sedaris in quirky ways. I have also been known as the odd person who picks up litter. Years ago I met the owner of Bella's Fat Cat because he spotted me gathering wrappers and drink cups and (most difficult of all) cigarette and candy-flavored cigar butts off the nearby bus stop and sometimes the sidewalk in front of his store. It is not unusal for me to carry in some waste on my way into work, and I try to be good about gathering the smoker butts that gather on Downer. I even had a time when I picked one day a week when I would find a plastic grocery bag and try to fill it with as much garbage as I could before I threw it away. Anti-litter campaigns have given way to recycling campaigns but short of throwing the butts in a bowl and trying to roll a new cigarette, I think garbage is the best I can do. Even Mr. Sedaris has given up smoking!

I've tried to figure out how close our times at Macy's coincide, but in the late 70s, which is likely close to when Mr. Sedaris played a holiday elf and wrote his experiences into a legendary comic essay, I also got a job at the Macys Herald Square as Christmas help. Alas, I did not have what it took for people work, and thus was scheduled in the sub-basement, where we wrapped packages for shipping. It was a very structured environment, the kind of place where you clock in and out for bathroom breaks. I am suspecting that the hourly office help upstairs did not follow that protocol.

They also separated us by gender, to avoid social interaction of an intimate nature. The women wrapped soft goods and the men wrapped hard goods. A radio blasted WKTU and that's how I know it was 1979 - about every hour they played The Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper's Delight and close to half the gentlemen I was working with knew the lyrics. And that's why to this day, whenever I hear "Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn," my Pavlovian reflex is to worry about breaking a lamp.

Tickets still available to the show. Say hi to Boswell and don't forget to pick up David Sedaris's author rec, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, by Jill Leovy.

*The publisher has given us permission to sell As Brave As You, Reynolds's new middle-grade novel, before pub date. We'll have that too.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

May Indie Next Selections, including three that are upcoming events with Boswell.

As you all know, every month we promote the Indie Next list, the 20 recently published titles that have the most recommendations from independent booksellers. Are they the books that independent booksellers like the most? No, there are many factors involved, including how much the publishers push it, the genre (some kinds of books have broader appeal at indie bookstores than others), and whether there's an advance copy. If there's no advance copy, or even if it's only an egalley, I think the odds for making the list go a bit long. I had a local author ask me how to make the list, and that's another thing--you've got to time everything just right. You can't start a campaign once the book is already out.

I am glad to say that this year's Pulitzer Prize winner, The Sympathizer, was an April 2015 pick, but alas, The Sellout, the National Book Critics Circle Award winner, did not make the list. It's possible that his next book will, now that he's better known. There are always some long shots too, and I would say that Julia Reed's South: Spirited Entertaining and High-Style Fun All Year Long is this month's.

May 2016's #1 pick is The Atomic Weight of Love, by Elizabeth J. Church. The selected quote, from Anderson McKean of Page and Palette of Fairhope (a gulf town not too far from Mobile), Alabama. McKean writes: "Church deftly traces the life of Meridian Wallace, an intelligent young woman who is searching for who she is and what she wants to become. As America braces for entrance into WWII, Meri falls for the ambitious Alden Whetstone, a much older but brilliant scientist. Aspiring to be a ‘good wife,’ Meri abandons her own academic pursuits in ornithology to follow Alden to Los Alamos, but the years that follow are filled with dashed hopes and compromises. Over the decades of her marriage, Meri attempts to fill the void of unrealized dreams by making a home and reclaiming her sense of self. Filled with sharp, poignant prose, the novel mimics the birds Meri studies, following her as she struggles to find her wings, let go, and take flight. Church gives readers a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of the sacrifices women make in life and the courage needed for them to soar on their own."

One thing that we find in the store is that some months are stronger than others. There are some months where we don't have any reads from staff on books but May is chock full of bookseller favorites. Sharon Nagel's rec from Eligible was included on the list. She's on a roll, as we've heard they'll be using one of Sharon's recs for June too. As you know, the Milwaukee Public Library is featuring Sittenfeld at their literary lunch, but I can assure you that Sharon, a huge Sittenfeld fan, would have read the book even if Sittenfeld did not come within a thousand miles of us. That's quite unlikely, as the author lives in St. Louis and the book is set in Cincinnati. I'm just making a point. Here is info on how to attend the lunch on May 3.

And here is Sharon Nagel's rec for Eligible: “It is a universally acknowledged truth that a retelling of Pride and Prejudice must be cleverly written and wickedly funny. Sittenfeld has accomplished that and more with her fantastic new novel. The Bennet sisters have been transported to modern day Cincinnati. Jane is a yoga instructor, Liz, a writer for a women’s magazine, Lydia and Kitty do nothing but work out, and Mary spends most of her time in her room. The two older sisters live in New York, but have come home to check on Mr. Bennet who is recovering from a heart attack. The storyline is one that will be familiar to most Austen readers, but with some extremely funny twists.”

Sharon is also a big fan of Simon Van Booy's Father's Day and sent in a nomination. The rec is from Don Luckham, The Toadstool Bookshop, Keene, NH. And LaRose, the newest from Louise Erdrich, was recommended by Peter Sherman of Wellsley Books of Wellsley, Massachusetts, but we also sent in a nomination from Caroline Froh. Our rec nomination for Fredrik Backman's Britt-Marie Was Here came from Jen Steele, but Carol Schneck Varner of Schuler Books of Okemos, Michigan got the slot. And I sent in a recommendation for Everyone Brave is Forgiven from Chis Cleave, but the rec came from Casey Protti at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Cleave, as you know, is visiting Boswell on May 5 and I'm going to be leading my first author conversation. And Fredrik Backman will be at Boswell too, also in conversation. We've just lined up Claire Hanan, senior editor at Milwaukee Magazine, to lead the discussion.

Like a good handout? We've got May Indie Next fliers for you to use as reference. We've also got some April ones left. The rule of thumb is that all the May books should be in store by May 10. Britt-Marie Was Here and Everyone Brave is Forgiven both come out May 3. Why not place a copy on hold with us now?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Events This Week: Jessica Knoll, Meg Jones, David Howell, Michele Wucker, Elizabeth Crane, plus we're the booksellers for the hot tickets with Jason Reynolds and David Sedaris.

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week.

Monday, April 18, 6:30 pm, at the Milwaukee Public Library Rare Books Room:
Meg Jones, author of World War II Milwaukee.

If you haven't been to the Rare Books Room, it's on the 2nd floor of Central Library, and it's quite the special place to hear a talk. The Milwaukee Public Library presents Meg Jones, a reporter at the Journal Sentinel who specializes in military and veterans issues, for a talk on her recent World War II Milwaukee. And let me assure you, it will be a great talk!

Milwaukee played a special role in World War II, from the equipment made my Milwaukee-area companies to the photos of journalist Dickey Chapelle that brought the war home. As Lake Effect notes: "Jones framed the book based on her knowledge of a Milwaukee captain of the USS Arizona at the beginning of the war, and the role Douglas Macarthur played in commanding the USS Missouri and his signature on the Armistice with Wisconsin Made pens." Parker Pens were made in Janesville, but hey, that's close enough.

Tuesday, April 19, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jessica Knoll, author of Luckiest Girl Alive, in conversation with Carole E. Barrowman.

Ani FaNelli has it all. The perfect magazine job. The perfect fiancee. The perfect condo in Brooklyn. The wedding's going to be perfect.

There's only one hitch, and that's the documentary that's being planned for that thing that happened when she was in prep school in Bryn Mawr. It's a messy business indeed, but hey, she's gotten through it all, and now she's absolutely perfect.

Jessica Knoll tells the story, alternating with Ani telling of her current life with that of her times at Bradley School. As Entertainment Weekly wrote about the book, it's sort of a reverse of Gone Girl, where a likable character becomes more monstrous as the layers are revealed. Ani (or TiFani, in prep school) starts out pretty awful and then gets at least somewhat humanized.

It's really hard to stop reading Knoll's novel. I was literally gulping it down. And of course some of the incidents take on more resonance, as Knoll revealed details behind the sexual assault incident that is one of the pivots of the story. Read more in The New York Times.

Wednesday, April 20, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michele Wucker, author of The Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore

Please join us for an event with Guggenheim Fellow and author of Lockout and Why the Cocks Fight, Michele Wucker, discussing her latest book, The Gray Rhino, which draws on her extensive background in policy formation and crisis management, as well as in-depth interviews with leaders from around the world, to explain how significant crises can be recognized and countered strategically.

From Publishers Weekly: "Wucker introduces a variation on risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Talebas concept of the black swan, a term for outlier events that are hard to anticipate and harder to plan for. This book looks, instead, at events that should have been predicted, like the 2008 financial crisis. Enter the gray rhino, aa highly probable, high-impact threat: something we ought to see coming.a Wucker believes that the problem is systemic: the political and financial world rewards short-term thinking, and itas difficult for institutions to pivot quickly when necessary."

Michele Wucker is also at an event at the University Club on April 19, in conversation with Willie Wade and Ken Hanson. This event is ticketed: $30 for University Club members and $35 for nonmembers. Details on their website.

Thursday, April 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
David Howell, author of The Descent into Happiness: A Bicycling Journey across the Northern Tier

Boswell Book Company and Ben's Cycles and Fitness are proud to present an event with Milwaukee’s own David Howell, Professor in the Humanities Department at MSOE, talking about and signing copies of his latest, a memoir about his cross-country, solo, self-supported bicycle ride from Seattle to Milwaukee titled The Decent into Happiness: A Bicycling Journey over the Cascades and Rockies and across the Great Plains.

For more info, visit Ben's Blog, where there's an interview with Howell: "His wife of 20-some years, Sue, bought him a Salsa Vaya, and he set about making the trip in the summer of 2015. He said he was able to find a deep sense of empathy on the bike trip, not because of the bicycle, but because the bicycle slows everything down enough to pay attention to others."

Friday, April 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Elizabeth Crane, author of The History of Great Things.

Please join us at Boswell for a reading and signing with Elizabeth Crane, author of The History of Great Things, a witty and irresistible story of a mother and daughter regarding each other through the looking glass of time, grief, and forgiveness. Intimately connected and not connected enough, The History of Great Things will make readers laugh and cry and wonder how we become the adults we always knew we should—even if we’re not always adults our parents understand.

Maddie Crum reviewed the book for The Huffington Post. She starts: "The first person everyone meets is her mother. Whatever else may follow, she’s there from the start, and her presence, or absence, looms. It’s a truth that sounds throughout literature, not to mention psychotherapy — your mother is accountable for your neuroses, your ambitions, your wants and your fears. That’s the case, at least, for Betsy Crane, one of the two narrators in Elizabeth Crane’s inventive new novel, The History of Great Things. The other narrator, as it were, is her mother, Lois."

Saturday, April 23, 11:30 am, at the Italian Community Center:
A ticketed lunch with Jason Reynolds, author of The Boy in the Black Suit and the about-to-be released As Brave as You. Tickets available by calling (414) 640-2654 or email dmeftickets@yahoo.com. Tickets do not include a book.

We're selling books for the Delta Memorial Fund on Saturday, April 23, 11:30 am. This is their annual luncheon honoring scholarship winners. They always bring in a great speaker, and this year is no exception.

Jim Higgins talked with Jason Reynolds in advance of the book's release. Here's his profile in the Journal Sentinel. Just a taste: "Family and friends have inspired many of his stories. The Boy in the Black Suit, about a teen who goes to work in the neighborhood funeral home after his mother dies of cancer, grew out of his own experience of having lost multiple family members early in life. 'I realized nobody was actually talking to young people about how to grieve and how to cope and what to do with loss,' he said." As Brave As You, a novel for middle-grade readers that will be published May 3, riffs on his relationship with his older brother and a blind grandfather. 'I try to create characters people want to sit with, even if nothing is happening,' Reynolds said."

Saturday, April 23, 8 pm, at the Riverside Theater:
A ticketed talk/reading with David Sedaris.
Tickets are available at the Pabst/Riverside box office. More on their webiste.

Joanne Weintraub profiled Sedaris in the Sunday Journal Sentinel. She writes: "'I've pretty much done everything in my life the opposite of the way he's said I should,' Sedaris notes. Still, he's planning to visit his dad in Raleigh on this reading tour, along with his scattered siblings, one of whom is actress Amy Sedaris. He generally gets to the States twice a year and tries to catch up with 'everyone in my address book,' he says. Sedaris's mother died several years ago. He's written touchingly of her death from lung cancer, which convinced him to give up smoking."

We'll have books for sale in the lobby, and yes, a signing will follow. In addition to Sedaris's many books, we'll also have his personal recommendation, Jill Leovy's Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. Leovy's book was recently shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Please note that Ms. Leovy is not in attendance, but there's nothing like a rec from David Sedaris when he's on tour.

Once again, please note that a book does not come with a ticket to this event.

Monday, April 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A ticketed signing with Felicia Day, author of You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost).

We're counting down the clock to the signing with Felicia Day. We're not sure if there will be a ticket cutoff, but right now we're at least going to 500 slots and there's still one left for you. While Day is not talking, the signing format will allow every fan to meet Day, get a signed book and photo. And in a rare treat, Day will also sign one piece of memorabilia.