Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Annotated Boswell Bestseller List for the week ending May 28 2016, or should I say it's the Main Street bookstore, at least for some lists...plus the Journal Sentinel reviews and summer reading guide.

Welcome to the Boswell urban planning bookstore. We sold books at the Main Street Now Conference that was in Milwaukee this past week. Next year, some list you get from a Pittsburgh store will be filled with city books. But maybe not - this was the first time they used a bookstore in a number of years.


Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. The Happiness Track, by Emma Seppala
3. City of Thorns, by Ben Rawlence
4. Serengeti Rules, by Sean B. Carroll
5. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Reclaiming Conversation, by Sherry Turkle
7. One in a Billion, by Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher
8. Milwaukee City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
9. The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
10. Urban Street Design Guide, by National Association of City Transportation Officials
11. America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook
12. Urban Bikeway Design Guide, by National Association of City Transportation Officials
13. Transit Street Design, by National Association of City Transportation Officials
14. 32 Yolks, by Eric Ripert
15. Terror in the City of Champions, by Tom Stanton (Event at Boswell Friday June 10, 7 pm)

It's a weird sales week in general. We also had a number of bulk sales, from school orders to authors, to books for a local business. But we've got at least one book from this week's events (One in a Billion) and a pop in sales from an upcoming book (Terror in the City of Champions), though I did sell at least one of Tom Stanton's books at the Main Streets Now conference. It's part of the explosion of books about Detroit that continues. We're just booking another author for this fall, Christopher Hebert, whose novel is Angels of Detroit.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
3. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
4. Zero K. by Don DeLillo
5. Everybody's Fool, by Richard Russo
6. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
7. The Yid, by Paul Goldberg
8. The Fireman, by Joe Hill
9. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
10. North of the Tension Line, by J.F. Riordan

It was just a hunch, but it felt like Don DeLillo's Zero K was selling better for us than his last few. In fact, it has already outsold Point Omega (2010) and the story collection The Angel Esmerelda (2011), as well as the Downer Schwartz sales for Falling Man (2007). What's different? Six years between books definitely helps and the reviews are everywhere. Meghan Daum writes: "Adjectives like cold and numb are frequently applied to DeLillo’s work, even—perhaps especially—by those who consider him a genius. Zero K, a novel that is literally about coldness, is duly benumbed and also duly brilliant in its imaginative scope (which, rather miraculously, the author manages to contain to fewer than 300 pages)." One should note that the novel is about cryogenic freezing, giving greater weight to a cold and numb setup. But we also have a reader in Chris (or at least I think we do, I've been distracted) and that helps.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Life on the Loose, by Cari Taylor-Carlson
2. Old Town, New World, by Jason Broadwater
3. Street Fairs for Community and Profit, by Bridget Bayer
4. The Start-up City, by Gabe Klein
5. Tactical Urbanism, by Mike Lydon
6. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
7. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
8. Fantastic Cities, by Steve McDonald
9. Charrette Handbook, by Bill Lennertz
10. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
11. City by City, edited by Keith Gessen
12. After Preservation, by Ben Minteer
13. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
14. You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
15. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

I went a little deeper than normal just to list a few of these interesting Main Street bestsellers. Most of the titles that did best were from Island Press, and a few came from the American Planning Association. More than a couple were self-published. But City by City, Keith Gessen's n+1 collection of writing about cities, which I took a chance on and brought in more copies. It was hard to say what might have also hit our bestseller list if we had decided to be a bit more speculative about titles, but instead we combed not just our architecture and urban planning, but current events, history, travel lit, bicycling, and even our urban farming sections. We sold out of the copy of Bike Battles that Todd found in about 10 minutes, but with speculative buying comes speculative returns, and really, it wasn't that large a conference, nor did we know what traffic would be like. Thanks to Tina Hochberg for putting this together. Attendees really seemed to enjoy browsing the display.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart
2. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
3. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
4. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
5. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
6. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
7. Murder in the Museum, by John Rowland
8. Death Comes Darkly, by David Pederson (event at Boswell Sat June 4, 7 pm)
9. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
10. My Sunshine Away, by Mo Walsh

If you are looking for a good Baton Rouge novel, look no further than My Sunshine Away, though he must note that his town lives in the shadow of New Orleans, the generic mediocre version. Alfred Hickling in The Guardian noted the comparisons to Go Set a Watchman, but only in the setup (a rape in the past, told through the haze of memory). And Meredith Maran in the Chicago Tribune writes: "A gripping read that's more than a thriller, more than a traditional Southern tale, My Sunshine Away is a brilliant meditation on the unpredictability and the lifelong effects of childhood events and relationships: how they make us who we are, and who we wish we were, and who we wish we weren't." And we've got a great rec from Sharon too.

Books for Kids:
1. Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs, by Mike Lowery
2. Symphony for the Dead, by M.T. Anderson
3. The Last Star by Rick Yancey
4. Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie with illustrations by Yuyi Morales
5. The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan
6. The Crown, by Kiera Cass
7. The Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs
8. Waiting, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
9. Stories from Bug Garden, by Lisa Moser with illustrations by Gwen Millward
10. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, with illustrations by Jon Klassen

Kiera Cass's Selection series tends to be #1 New York Times bestsellers, though of course #1 and #2 are listed as teen novels and as of #3, the books jump to the series. But that's only if they are identified by series, which sometimes makes me a little confused about the lists. There aren't generally traditional reviews for most series, but there are lots and lots of blogger write ups. But in this case for The Crown, the final book in the Selection, we can link to the romantic trailer.

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins offers the annual summer reading list, including favorites in all sorts of categories. He starts off with Larry Watson's As Good as Gone, who will be at Boswell on launch day, June 21. I expect to see a review for the book on June 19 (I'm just being logical, since it's an editor's pick. I don't know anymore than you do).

Being a compulsive checklister, I had to count how many books I've already read on the Journal Sentinel summer reading list (nine, but I don't include picture books). But maybe a better number for you is how many do you want to read?

Christi Clancy reviews Jean Thompson's newest novel, She Poured Out Her Heart, about a dysfunctional friendship that becomes an even more dysfunctional love triangle. Her take: "In a less capable writer's hands, it would be easy to know who to root for and who to condemn in this awkward love triangle, but Thompson muddies our ideas about culpability and blame. In doing so, she elevates a plot that might have the makings of a soap opera into a nuanced study of marriage and friendship, fidelity and deceit, and our lonesome search for meaningful connection."

Chris Foran reviews Alan Furst's newest. The verdict?: "A Hero of France is the 14th of Furst's novels taking place during or in the years leading up to World War II, and his third straight (after Mission to Paris and Midnight in Europe) set principally in Paris — this time in early 1941, months into the German occupation after the fall of France in 1940.But unlike many of Furst's previous spy thrillers, the emphasis is on the milieu, and the danger, more than the intrigue. And while that makes the story seem a little slight by comparison, the result is no less captivating."

It's quite the book section, isn't it? It's also time for Carole E. Barrowman's Paging Through Mysteries. Here are her four summer picks:

--I Let You Go, by Claire Mackintosh. Set in Bristol, Carole calls this an "astonishing debut is the kind of psychological thriller that burns into your psyche and blacks out everything else until you finish it."

--The Second Life of Nick Mason, by Steve Hamilton, which is already a national bestseller, supporting Hamilton's contentious exit from another publisher for lack of support. The setup? "Ex-con Nick Mason wants so much to rebuild his life with his family that he agrees to a deal with a devil (a Godfather-like convict running his business from a cell) to get an early release. The price? Don't get in trouble and do whatever he's told. Mason discovers quickly that you really can't go home again, but if you do, watch your back." The Barrowman bite? "It's a killer read."

--Stealing People, by Robert Wilson. Here's the Barrowman-date: "I loved this novel's detailed twisty plotting and its multidimensional characters, including kidnapping consultant Charlie Boxer, his detective ex-wife, and his latest client, a young transsexual woman whose father may be a suspect."

--Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry, set in the remote English countryside. What's the fear factor? "Told in first person from Nora's perspective (and in present tense), this psychologically intense and darkly atmospheric mystery reminded me of Patricia Highsmith in its vivid style and toxic substance."

Friday, May 27, 2016

What did the book club think of "The Turner House?" and why I think your book club should read it too.

Sometimes you just don't know where you're next favorite book will come from. I read a lot of reviews, but when The Turner House came out, I thought to myself, that this seems like a good book. I have a pile of good books, a tower of good books, a castle of good books. I don't have an event with this author, so I'm not getting pressured to read it, and I don't know the editor, so he or she isn't sending me very lovely notes about why this is the best book ever.

It got a wonderful review from Mike Fischer at the Journal Sentinel, which always resonates with me. But of course I had already fallen in love with another National Book Award shortlist title, Fates and Furies, and we were hosting an event with another, the eventual winner, Adam Johnson for Fortune Smiles. And I didn't want this to turn into a three-way emotional horse race, so I put off the read until paperback, where I hoped we'd read it for our in-store lit group.

But Mr. Fischer made another pitch in the store. There are books he loves and books that I love, and he was well aware that not every book is in the intersection. But he Venn Diagrammed me on this one and he was completely correct. I love this review quote, which really captures the story in all its poetic glory: "For all our past failures and disappointments, can we be more than the ruins we all eventually resemble? Can we escape the haints that would pull us backward into a darker past? Do we, against the evidence, still dare to hope?"

The story is set in Detroit. I have been reading a lot of Detroit books lately, including Beer Money, Frances Stroh's memoir of growing up at the tail-end of a beer dynasty, and much but not quite all of Once in a Great City, David Maraniss's history of early sixties Detroit. On my pile now is Tom Stanton's Terror in the City of Champions, a story of domestic terrorism in the 1930s set against an unprecedented year of Motor City sports achievements. Stanton's coming to Boswell on Friday, June 10, 7 pm.

The Turner family home is in East Detroit. The patriarch has died, mom's having health problems and is now living at her eldest son Cha-Cha's house, and though she's raring to return, her kids, 13 in all, know that's not likely to happen. The house is under water from remortgaging and the kids are not on the same page about what to do - keep the house and have someone live with her, or sell at a short sale. One son, Troy, as the idea to sell at a short sale to a friend of the family, keeping the house but getting the bank to take the hit.

One of the great things about Angela Flournoy's novel is that it is very much a story about a story about a contemporary African American family, and yet the large family complications and machinations are universal. I convinced my colleague Jane to read the book and she took to it in a big way. Being that she's from a family of 12 herself, she saw some of the same family dynamics play out in her own family.

Despite all these characters, Flournoy wisely decides to focus on three of them - the oldest son \Charles, and the two youngest, Troy and Lelah. That said, you really get a feeling for a lot of the siblings and there's one fascinating passage where every sibling gets their voice.

And there's another through line -- Cha Cha is convinced that he's seeing a haint. That's like a ghost, only with a bit of an African American twist. Haints are one of the plot points of Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men, so I know have an additional homework assignment to read that. You can also check out Flournoy's essay about the book's influence on her in The Atlantic.

There's so much to talk about in this book. There's the issue of parental caregiving, which we've also been discussing in George Hodgman's Bettyville. There's the backstory of Detroit itself. There are the family dynamics, and there's also the Great Migration from the South to Detroit, and what happened when the jobs dried up. And there's the way that Flournoy gave each character a struggle - you might call it an addition - Cha Cha's haint is most noticeable, but there's also Lelah's gambling addition, one sibling who has struggled with drugs, the brother obsessed with self help success, and the sister who a collector verging on hoarder.

And of course there is the youngest daughter Lelah's predicament, homeless through a series of bad breaks and of course her uncontrolled gambling. Its like a story straight out of Matthew Desmond's Eviction. And I want to note that Flournoy does a really great job capturing the euphoria that gambler's feel in the moment.

Albert didn't expect to like The Turner House but he was won in by Flournoy's ability to radiate humanity. These characters are real and you feel the flaws. On the other side was Mickey, who didn''t connect with the characters. Other attendees, however, wound up liking a number of the characters a lot. I had one reader say to me, "I am totally Francey!"

Jeff thought that Flournoy had a particularly good ear for dialogue, particularly the party scene. And by the way, according to Daniel's law, this is in my book officially a comic novel, as it ends with a party. I also really loved the party, I want to add. That was another scene when the less-seen siblings really came to life.

Juli loved it. She really enjoyed the obsessions, and found the therapist an interesting character. I forgot to mention that Cha Cha sees this therapist when his haint causes an accident and while she clears him, he keeps seeing her until things get a little complicated on both sides.

We had a few more loves, some mixed, some disappointed - the usual mix. This is the market of a great book club selection; you need a little disagreement to keep the juices flowing. One problem we had with A Man Called Ove was that everyone liked it so much and the conversation seemed to peter out after we all agreed it was good. Backman suggests that book clubs read My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry instead - it's a lot more polarizing!

For Jane and me thought, the book hit hard, and it's been so much fun telling folks to read it. We're in the top five stores for sales on Above the Treeline (which most indies use as a buying resource but I obsesss over in terms of how we're doing against other stores on particular titles) and for a while we were #1, but we've slowed down after the book club. I'm hoping to get a lot of clubs in the metro area to choose it.

Rand Richards Cooper reviewed The Turner House for Commonweal Magazine. He wrote: "Flournoy’s command of unspectacular daily realities is near perfect. She’ll write a passage describing life on an automobile assembly line, and not only does she get it right, but the passage lacks the researchy feel that such set-pieces can have; instead, the depiction of work forms a seamless and necessary part of the evocation of the life of Cha-Cha Turner, the family member who’s working the line. Flournoy moves deftly from small daily actions to the interpretations her characters themselves make of those actions; she catches the way people read big meanings into the small events of their own lives"

Oh, and if you wind up liking The Turner House, I've already read two books coming out this fall that have to go on your to-be-read list - Brit Bennett's The Mothers and Jacqueline Woodson's Another Brooklyn. Flournoy has a great quote on The Mothers, which is one of the things that drew me to this book coming this fall.

I've got our next three in-store lit group selections laid out and take special note, because two meetings don't follow our normal schedule.

On Monday, June 6, 6 pm, we're reading Paul Goldberg's The Yid. We're meeting early so we can attend his conversation at 7 with Joel Berkowitz of the UWM Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies. The Yid is set in the last days of Stalin, when a ragtag group of rebels comes up with a plan to assassinate him. Goldberg will stop by at the end of our discussion to let us ask spoiler questions. Don't attend if you haven't read - we plan to reveal all twists! Note that you get 10% off on our selection if you're reading it for the book club, but folks are getting 20% off on this one since we don't normally choose a hardcover. It's hard coded, so you don't have to ask on this.

Because Boswell closes at 5 on July 4, the in-store lit group will move to Monday, July 11, 7 pm, to discuss Anne Tylers A Spool of Blue Thread. The science fiction group is also meeting at that time so we'll be at the back of the store.  I've read a lot of Tyler over the years but stopped a few books ago, but this one has gotten some of her best reviews and was shortlist for both the Baileys Womens Prize and the Man Booker Prize.

Speaking of prizes, well be discussing Viet Tranhn Nguyen's The Sympathizer, recent winner of the Pulitzer as well as the Edgar for Best First Novel. It's about a group of Vietnamese folks who post-war, wind up in an American immigrant community. And one is a spy!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday, May 26, 7 pm - Join us for an evening with Mark Johnson, Kathleen Gallagher, and Alan Mayer, the reporters and pediatric gastroenterologist behind the Pulitzer Prize winning story series, "One in a Billion."

Tonight (Thursday, May 26, 7 pm) we're hosting Mark Johnson and Kathleen Gallagher, authors of One in a Billion: The Story of Nic Volker and the Dawn of Genomic Medicine. Special guest will be Dr. Alan Mayer, the pediatric gastroenterologist who pointed the way to gene mapping to identify and treat Volker's gut-destroying disease.

This series of articles won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting and of course you can read the articles right here. This Journal Sentinel link will lead you to the three-part series.

Reviews have been strong for the recently released book. Kirkus Reviews wrote that "the authors do a solid job integrating the personal stories of a wide cast of characters—Nic, his family, and the doctors and researchers involved with his treatment—with the exciting tale of a major medical milestone."

And from Publishers Weekly: "By sequencing all 21,000 or so of his genes, investigators sussed out the right one—a gene known as "XIAP"—and alerted Volker's parents and doctors that they'd chosen the right treatment (a bone marrow transplant). This is a moving, skillfully written book that's well positioned to introduce a broad audience to the profound clinical relevance of whole-genome and exome sequencing."

You can also listen to Kathleen Gallagher and Mark Johnson discuss genomic medicine on The Joy Cardin Show with John Munson on Wisconsin Public Radio. Gallagher notes how she first heard about the story from a tip about "the great things going on at Children's Hospital." It started to be a great story when they met the Volker story - "they'd already been through two years of searching for answers for Nic's disease."

That's where we learn that Nic's mom, Amylynne Santiago Volker, did the search to find Dr. Mayer, not satisfied with the other doctors' lack of answers.

Mark Johnson is a health and science reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where he has worked since 2000. He was a member of the Journal Sentinel team that won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting on the Nic Volker story in 2011. He is also a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has won numerous other awards for his reporting.

Kathleen Gallagher is a business reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, where she has worked since 1993. She was a member of the Journal Sentinel team that won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting on the Nic Volker story in 2011. She was also part of a team that won the 2006 Inland Press Association award for explanatory reporting.

Dr. Alan Mayer is a pediatric gastroenterologist currently in practice with GI Associates, LLC and affiliated with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. He received his medical degree and PhD in molecular biology at Cornell University, completed residency training at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and subspecialty training at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He has authored over 30 research articles and book chapters in molecular genetics and intestinal development

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Boswell Bestsellers for the week ending May 21, 2016--Good Housekeeping pops a book, an unpublished WPA book is a local success, and what about those missing 26th and 27th Elephant and Piggie books?

Here we go!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Audacity of Goats, by J.F. Riordan
2. The Charm Bracelet, by Viola Shipman
3. Don't You Cry, by Mary Kubica
4. North of the Tension Line, by J.F. Riordan
5. LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
6. Everybody's Fool, by Richard Russo
7. Zero K, by Don DeLillo
8. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
9. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
10. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

We had a very nice week of author appearances, including The Charm Bracelet. According to Wade Rouse, who is writing as Viola Shipman after a series of nonfiction books under his own name, has found new success, including international sales and an Italian bestseller. See, the Italian critics were right to suspect that Elena Ferrante's novel might actually written by a man. Just kidding. In any case, Rouse told me that this Good Housekeeping piece was actually one of the most influential pieces in helping get the word out about his new book.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. No House to Call My Home, by Ryan Berg
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
3. The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
5. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
6. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
7. Valiant Ambition, by Nathaniel Philbrick
8. Grit, by Angela Duckworth
9. The Romanovs, by Simon Sebag Montefiore
10. Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, by Ron Faiola

One hot title in the bookstore marketplace has been Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Gene, his follow up to the award-winning The Emperor of All Maladies. Kevin Canfield for the San Francisco Chronicle called this "a rich, occasionally whimsical book." He continues: "Mukherjee spends most of his time looking into the past, and what he finds is consistently intriguing. But his sober warning about the future might be the book’s most important contribution."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
2. Lucadora!, by Alvaro Saar Rios
3. Clouds of Witness, by Dorothy L. Sayers
4. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
5. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
6. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
7. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
8. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
9. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
10. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

I made the pitch to the In-store Lit Group that A Spool of Blue Thread had a little more review attention than her previous two novels, but I would say that this was mostly contingent on the Man Booker shortlist. It was also on the Baileys Women's Prize shortlist. So maybe I should say it was the better reviewed in the UK! But here's Ron Charles in The Washington Post, talking about it: "Everything about her new novel — from its needlepointed title to its arthritic plot — sounds worn-out. So how can it be so wonderful? The funky meals, the wacky professions, the distracted mothers and the lost children — they’re all here. But complaining that Tyler’s novels are redundant is like whining that Shakespeare’s sonnets are always 14 lines long. Somehow, what’s familiar seems transcended in these pages, infused with freshness and surprise — evidence, once again, that Tyler remains among the best chroniclers of family life this country has ever produced."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
2. Milwaukee in the 1930s, by John D. Buenker
3. Life on the Loose, by Cari Taylor-Carlson (event today at 3 pm)
4. Kitchen Hacks, by America's Test Kitchen
5. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
6. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
7. Between You and Me, by Mary Norris
8. My Holiday in North Korea, by Wendy E. Simmons
9. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
10. A Lucky Life Interrupted, by Tom Brokaw

We're selling books at the Main Street Now conference downtown on Monday through Wednesday. One book we'll definitely be bringing is Milwaukee in the 1930s by John D. Buenker. Here's David Luhrssen's review in the Shepherd Express.

Books for Kids:
1. American Born Chinese, by Gen Luen Yang
2. The Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
3. The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
4. Hello?, by Liza Wiemer
5. The Problem With Forever, by Jennifer Armentrout
6. Thank You Book, by Mo Willems
7. The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan
8. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
9. The Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan
10. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier

So the big question is whether The Thank You Book is the last Elephant and Piggie story. Indeed, Mo Willems's website says as much but the Wikipedia page says We Are Superheroes was scheduled for July and A Great Party is on the schedule for October:
26. We Are Super Heroes! (July 2016)
27. A Great Party (October 2016)

What's up with this? Did these exist and were they cancelled? Where's 60 Minutes when you need it?

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews a book that looks at how the American military broke new grounds in fairness. He writes: "I begin with this story (of the army throwing out a court martial for a black soldier refusing to move to the back of a bus) so I might honor the effective way Chris Bray starts most of the chapters in his impressively researched, well-written and thoroughly entertaining account of military justice in U.S. history. I didn't expect a book titled Court-Martial: How Military Justice Has Shaped America from the Revolution to 9/11 and Beyond to be riveting as well as informative. I was spectacularly wrong."

Also included in the print edition is Laurie Hertzel's profile of Louise Erdrich, author of LaRose, whose story turns on the Native American tradition of sharing a child in the face of loss. From Hertzel: "This fluidity was misunderstood by Western social workers, who also took advantage of it, adopting Indian children out of the tribe, out of the community. Since the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, which makes it more difficult to remove children from their families."

But that's just the tip of the iceberg of this interview. It got an nice spread in today's paper.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Boswell Events This Week: Alvaro Saar Rios, Mary Kubica, Jennifer Armentrout plus Liza Wiemer, Book Club Night with Katarina Bivald, J.F. Riordan, Wade Rouse writing as Viola Shipman, Cari Taylor Carlson.

What's going on this week?

Monday, May 16, 7 pm, at Boswell
Alvaro Saar Rios, author of Lucadora!

Alvaro Saar Rios’ plays have been performed in New York City, Hawaii, Milwaukee, and all over Texas. His play Luchadora!, now in book format was named one of the 15 best plays of 2014-15 in Milwaukee when it was premiered by First Stage. We're excited to be hosting a talk and dramatic reading of this moving tale of fathers and daughters, secret identities, and the exciting world of lucha libre-Mexican wrestling.

Here's a little more about the story. The discovery of a worn pink wrestling mask prompts Nana Lupita, a Wisconsin grandmother, to share her tale about growing up in 1960s Texas. As her tale unfolds, Lupita’s life as a teen tomboy comes alive-bike riding with her friends Leopold and Liesl, working at her father’s flower stand and lucha libre. When a World Championship match is announced, Lupita anticipates seeing it until she discovers her ailing father is one of the wrestlers. With the help of a magical mask maker, Lupita secretly trains to take her father’s place. She soon finds it difficult keeping her secret from her friends and, most importantly, her father.

From Jim Higgins at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "If you're the parent or abuela of girls, this production is a must. Every female character is presented as either competent or determined or both, from tween Liesl (Miranda Cecsarini), who fixes bicycles, to Lopez-Rios' Mask Maker, a Latina cognate of "The Karate Kid's" Mr. Miyagi, but with better boots and special sopa. But the boys represent themselves well, too. Flores makes a warm, believable father, except that he sings more beautifully than most of our fathers do. He and Mercado have a seemingly natural rapport, especially in a scene where he reveals his secrets to her."

Tuesday, May 17, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mary Kubica, author of The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, and Don't You Cry
This event is cosponsored by Crimespree Magazine.

From the moment her novel The Good Girl was released, Mary Kubica has been hailed as a breakout star of psychological suspense. Her book was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, with Pretty Baby following in its footsteps. Now she's back for Don't You Cry, which Lisa Scottoline calls "Single White Female on steroids.

Booklist wrote "Kubica's latest will please fans of her first two similarly themed thrillers. The twists and turns will keep readers guessing right up to the conclusion." And Kimberly McCreight, author of Reconstructing Amelia called Don't You Cry "an artfully crafted, wickedly smart page-turner about the razor thin line between suspicion and obsession, will keep you glued to its pages–and guessing wrong about who to trust - until its breathless ending."

Mary Kubica's tales of obsession and deception are truly terrifying, but like many thriller writers, the author herself could not be more charming. Come meet her on Tuesday, May 17, 7 pm to celebrate the release (check the pub date, it's launch day) of Don't You Cry, at Boswell.

Wednesday, May 18, 6:30 pm, at the Frank L. Weyenberg Library of Mequon-Thiensville, 11345 N Cedarburg Rd:
Jennifer Armentrout, author of The Problem With Forever, and Liza Wiemer, author of Hello?

We've been behind the scenes working with Liza Weimer and her debut YA novel Hello? for close to the year. Wiemer not only had a wonderful launch here, but has been visiting schools all over Wisconsin and even other states in the Midwest.

And the response has been great. There are so many write ups like this one from Genesis in Latte Night Reviews: "I can’t believe Hello? is a YA debut. It is extraordinary! The way Liza portrays different lives, each one so unique and inspiring is so beautiful and astonishing. This book has a lyrical writing to it with amazing characters and an original story that many readers will relate to."

During the process, Wiemer spoke to me quite a bit, and one source of inspiration that she brought up several times was Jennifer Armentrout, who, like Wiemer, had her first novel published at Spencer Hill Contemporaries. So when Harlequin came to me and offered us an event with Jennifer Armentrout for her new novel, The Problem With Forever, I immediately thought to pair them up. And what's even better, Wiemer thought to ask Jamie and Erin Arkin of Fiction Fair if they could moderate the discussion. And they could!

Here's a little more about The Problem With Forever: Mallory “Mouse” Dodge has learned growing up that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn't seen since childhood, on her very first day. It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she's not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out - for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

In Hello?, Liza Wiemer weaves together five teen's stories into a compelling narrative. Tricia is a girl struggling to find her way after her beloved grandma’s death. Emerson: A guy who lives his life to fulfill promises, real and hypothetical. Angie: A girl with secrets she can only express through poetry. Brenda: An actress and screenplay writer afraid to confront her past. Brian: A potter who sets aside his life for Tricia, to the detriment of both. Linked and transformed by one phone call, Hello? is, in the words of YA writer Huntley Fitzpatrick, "extraordinary."

The Weyenberg Library is just north of Mequon Road on Highway 57, north of Colectivo and south of Fiddleheads, to put it in coffee shop perspective.

Thursday, May 19, at ManpowerGroup, 10 Manpower Place in downtown Milwaukee.
Ryan Berg, author of No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions.
This event is cosponsored by Manpower Elevate, Pathfinders, Milwaukee Pride

In No House to Call My Home, Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writers Fellow Ryan Berg immerses readers in the gritty, dangerous, and shockingly underreported world of homeless LGBTQ teens in New York. As a caseworker in a group home for disowned LGBTQ teenagers, Berg witnessed the struggles, fears, and ambitions of these disconnected youth as they resisted the pull of the street, tottering between destruction and survival.

Focusing on the lives and loves of eight unforgettable youth, No House to Call My Home traces their efforts to break away from dangerous sex work and cycles of drug and alcohol abuse, and, in the process, to heal from years of trauma.

Manpower Place is located on Riverwalk Way between Vliet and Cherry, on the west bank of the Milwaukee River.

Thursday, May 19, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Book club night with Katarina Bivald, author of The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.

Swedish week continues with a visit from Katarina Bivald. But before we get started, Jane Glaser and I will be previewing our newest collection of book club recommendations. I'm having someone proof it now! I'll have a separate blog post on that.

We'll also be serving some Swedish treats, such as Anna's cookies (you know, those yummy super crispy ones. Ginger is the best!) and crackers. Alas, I haven't had enough time in the kitchen to make blåbärssoppa.

More about The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. This has been one of our favorite books to hand-sell this season. Jane Glaser writes: "I love books about books and this beautiful story is about how a small dying Midwestern town is regenerated with the arrival of Swedish bookseller, Sara Lindqvist, who has come to meet her bookloving pen pal, Amy Harris, only to find out that she has died. The townspeople of Broken Wheel, Iowa, in mourning for their beloved Amy, invite Sara to live in Amy's house. Rewarding this hospitality and honoring Amy's memory, Sara opens a bookshop, inventoried with Amy's vast collection of books. As Sara is determined that everyone who lives in Broken Wheel will be matched with just the right book, this community of diverse and engaging characters come to know the transformative power of living between the pages of books...and beyond! This is an inspiringly perceptive and heartwarming ode to reading that booklovers and book clubs will want to add to their list of favorites."

And here's a recommendation from Jen Steele, the first member of Team Broken Wheel: "Coming to a small town in America may not seem like the ideal vacation for most European tourists. But for Sara, it's an ideal trip. The bookstore where Sara worked has gone out of business. It's the perfect time to leave her home in Sweden and visit her pen-pal and fellow bibliophile, Amy, in Broken Wheel, Iowa. Unfortunately, she arrives in Broken Wheel to find Amy has died and she just missed the funeral. Sara's arrival becomes the talk of the town and her new neighbors take it upon themselves to help her stay any way they can, whether she likes it or not. In return for their kindness, Sara is committed to finding just the right book for everyone in town. The best of intentions quickly lead to misunderstandings, shenanigans and self-discovery. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a book for everyone. It is a charming, light-hearted story. If you're not a booklover already, Sara and the town of Broken Wheel may just turn you into one!"

Friday, May 20, 7 pm, at Boswell:
J.F. Riordan, author of North of the Tension Line and The Audacity of Goats.

Last year we cosponsored an event with J.F. (Jan) Riordan at the Milwaukee Public Library for her first novel, North of the Tension Line, a quirky story about a city dweller, Fiona Campbell, who moves to the Door County village of Ephraim, and quickly gets immersed in the complications of small-town life.

Now the first novel is out in paperback and the second, The Audacity of Goats, has just been released in cloth, and this time Riordan will be reading at Boswell. Here's a little more about the book. All is not well north of the tension line. A series of unsettling nighttime incidents have left the islanders uncertain whether to be nervous or annoyed. Are they victims of an elaborate teenage prank, or is there a malevolent stranger lurking on the island? Meanwhile, out-of-state owners of a new goat farm seem to consider themselves the self-proclaimed leaders of the island; Pali, the ferry captain, is troubled by his own unique version of writer s block; and Ben, the captain s ten year-old son, appears to be hiding something.But it is only when the imperturbable Lars Olafsen announces his retirement, and Stella declares her candidacy for office, that the islanders realize trouble is brewing. Fiona must decide whether it is time to leave the island for good, or to make another reckless gamble.

Saturday, May 21, 7 pm, at Boswell
Wade Rouse writing as Viola Shipman, author of The Charm Bracelet.

When a humorist with a track record that includes such comedic gems as Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler and I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship (that's a collection he edited about dogs and their human companions) comes to a publisher with a gentle series of novels based on family heirlooms, they are likely to make some tweaks to the author bio. And that's why the author on the jacket of his first novel is Viola Shipman.

It turns out that Shipman is an homage to his grandmother. The title is something of an homage to her as well, for it was her charm bracelets that inspired this story about three women linked by a treasured family heirloom. Rouse says: “It was while studying the charms of this woman I thought I knew so well that I came upon charms that made no sense to me…or came from places I never knew she had traveled. It made me consider how well I knew her, how well we know our elders, and how her life helped to make me (and all of us) who we are today. I had the theme of charms in my head for years, and wanted to write a story that focused on three generations of women who are reunited by them and reminded of what is most important in life.”

Adriana Trigiani has said of The Charm Bracelet: “Like a rare jewel that will be passed down one generation to the next, and from one book club member to the next until everyone has read this heartfelt story.”

In addition to writing nonfiction such as At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream: Misadventures in Search of the Simple Life, Rouse has written for Entertainment Weekly and Coastal Living. Rouse is currently at work on The Hope Chest, the second novel in the Heirloom Series. He lives in Michigan, except in winters, when he turned out to be living in Palm Springs, next to two Friends of Boswell.

Sunday, May 22, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Cari Taylor-Carlson, author of Life on the Loose: My Journey From Suburban Housewife to Outdoor Guide.

Life on the Loose explores Cari Taylor-Carlson’s 32-year adventure with Venture West as she and her customers traveled the world with backpacks, canoes, and kayaks. This was a risky business with an unexpected learning curve - from the first backpacking trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to the final hiking trip in Zion National Park. She experienced the highs and the pits of the outdoor travel world as she navigated the unknown with her trusting customers following behind. Taylor-Carlson holds nothing back in her story as she somehow survived her own occasional negligence. She learned the art of the fake smile when things fell apart as she stuffed her panic because it was her job to set the tone for the group.

A painful divorce led Taylor-Carlson to recognize her need for wilderness, her safe place. That’s what gave her courage to pursue her dream and start her business. Taylor-Carlson explores two journeys - the internal angst of the guide and the external beauty of the places she traveled. People who look for inspiration, or enjoy an unvarnished insider’s account of the outdoor adventure travel business, or simply like a good story told with complete honesty, will want to read Life on the Loose.

In addition to her adventure travel work, Cari Taylor-Carlson is well known in Milwaukee for her local walking and eating guides. It's hard not to be inspired by Taylor-Carlson's story. Please help us celebrate the book's release this Sunday at 3 pm.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

What's Selling at Boswell and a little bit of why, plus how we got more signed copies of a popular title by meeting the author at a truck stop...plus the Journal Sentinel book features.

Despite being gone to BEA for a few days, we had plenty of events, including some school visits that weren't on our public calendar, and due to Jane and I selling at a lunch and a brunch, we had some extra handselling going on, which definitely helped our bestsellers lists, hence a slight expansion of hardcover fiction and a breakout and tripling of our normal kids bestseller report.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
3. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave (#16 on the NYT - congrats!)
4. LaRose, by Louise Erdrich (Associated Press has a review from Carla Johnson)
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Everybody's Fool, by Richard Russo
7. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
8. Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain (Barbara Rinella's focus title at Ozaukee Family Services)
9. Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
10. The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson
11. Zero K, by Don DeLillo
12. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Thank you to Jane Hamilton, who met Lisa of Books and Company and me at the truck stop and O&H kringle stand on I-94 and Highway 20. We got more books signed as we sold out of copies at Hamilton's event. Plus our server bought a book for her mom. Plus Lisa and I bought kringles (the official pastry of Racine) - I like them more than the other brands that are sold in Milwaukee, though you don't have to go all the way to Highway 20 - they have another stand on 27th and Ryan.And that's one reason why we had an excellent week for The Excellent Lombards. The other reason is that it's a great book.

And because you're asking (I can tell) whether we have signed copies of Britt-Marie Was Here and paperback Backman backlist, we do.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Code of the Extraordinary Mind, by Vishen Lakhiani
2. The Romanovs, by Simon Sebag Montefiore
3. The Courage Solution, by Mindy Mackenzie
4. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
5. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
6. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
7. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
8. The Last Goodnight, by Howard Blum
9. Grit, by Angela Duckworth
10. The Heart of Europe, by Peter H. Wilson

Angela Duckworth tells how teaching seventh grade math led her to the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance. The book had a good week at Boswell, following up a strong debut nationally. Here's her TED Talk. There have been lots of stories on the book, and much of the buzz about Duckworth's work started before publication, like this NPR story, where Anya Kamenetz reported on Duckworth's concerns that enthusiasm was getting ahead of the science.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
3. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
4. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
5. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (event 5/19, 7 pm, at Boswell)
6. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
7. Burning Dark, by Adam Christopher
8. Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart
9. The Secret of High Eldersham, by Miles Burton
10. Death Stalks Door County, by Patricia Skalka

We've got a mystery-heavy top ten this week, though positioning might make you think otherwise. At least one person who read Girl Waits With Gun argued that the book wasn't a mystery, though the release of Lady Cop Makes Trouble this fall sort of indicates that this is a crime series. The Secret of High Eldersham is from the British Crime Library, the series from Poisoned Pen that is doing so well, and The Sympathizer not only won the Pulitzer, but the debut mystery award from the Edgars as well.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee in the 1930s, by John D. Buenker
2. Tomas Young's War, by Mark Wilkerson
3. Bettyville, by George Hodgman
4. Kitchen Hacks, by America's Test Kitchen
5. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
6. H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald
7. The Balkans, by Mark Mazower
8. The Residence, by Kate Andersen Brower
9. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
10. The Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin

America's Test Kitchen's Kitchen Hacks: How Clever Cooks Get Things Done is an impulse table pop. Claire Lower in Skillet called the book "a comprehensive, well-indexed tome of tips and tricks to help you clean, cook, store, and transport food in more efficient and clever ways, all without the use of fancy appliances. You will need some tongs though; the folks at Cook’s Illustrated seem to be obsessed with tongs." I was pleased to see the unwaxed dental floss method for cutting cakes, which for some reason, used to come up in my life with some frequency.

Picture books:
1. The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
2. Good Trick, Walking Stick, by Sheri Mabry Bestor with illustrations by Jonny Lambert
3. How to Dress a Dragon, by Thelma Lynne Godin with illustrations by Eric Barclay
4. Rain Fish, by Lois Ehlert
5. The Hula Hoopin' Queen, by Thelma Lynne Godin with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
6. Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie with illustrations by Yuyi Morales
7. Snail and Worm, by Tina Kügler
8. Stories from Bug Garden, by Lisa Moser with illustrations by Gwen Millward
9. Wolf Camp, by Andrea Zuill
10Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña with illustrations by Christian Robinson

It must be spring as there is definitely a nature theme in many of these titles, including Snail and Worm and Stories from Bug Garden. Some of these sales were from us ringing up sales from the Greedale Children's Book Festival. One highlight was definitely Thelma Lynne Godin hula hooping with the attendees for The Hula Hoopin' Queen. And the book that was most often bought outside the presentation was Sheri Mabry Bestor's Good Trick, Walking Stick.

Chapter books:
1. Rump, by Liesl Shurtliff
2. Red, by Liesl Shurtliff
3. Jack, by Liesl Shurtliff
4. Borrowed Time, by Greg Leitich Smith
5. Chronal Engine, by Greg Leitich Smith
6. Booked, by Kwame Alexander
7. The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan
8. Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo
9. Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
10. Kate Walden Directs Night of the Zombie Chickens, by Julie Mata

Liesl Shurtliff continues reimagining fairytales in Red: The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood. Kirkus Reviews called the newest a solid outing, noting: "Shurtliff brings inventive new dimensions to Granny and Red, whom readers met in the companion book, Rump. Granny, a witch, is none other than Rose Red, whose sister, Snow White, married a bear-prince. Red has powers, too, but she's been afraid to practice after a particularly disastrous spell almost killed Granny years ago."

Young Adult:
1. The Girl I Used to Be, by April Henry
2. The Body in the Woods, by April Henry
3. Blood Will Tell, by April Henry
4. The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead
5. Soundless, by Richelle Mead
6. The Book Thief Tenth Anniversary Edition, by Markus Zusak
7. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
8. Vampire Academy, by Richelle Mead
9. The Crown, by Kiera Cass
10. Quiet Power, by Susan Cain

April Henry continues to ring up book sales from her school visits. About her newest, The Girl I Used to Be, Booklist wrote: "With her straightforward thrillers, Henry has carved a welcome niche for herself in young adult literature, thanks to her great instinct for intriguing plots, likable characters, and fast-paced action. The short chapters with cliff-hanger endings, not to mention the juicy plot, will keep readers engaged to the end."

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews A Country Road, A Tree, a novel by Jo Baker about Samuel Beckett. which he calls a "moving, beautifully written and riveting historical novel." It's about Becket's life in Europe during World War II and Fischer notes that "Starting with her title, taken from the terse stage direction that opens Godot, Baker draws many understated parallels between Beckett's wartime experience and what would become his most famous play."

The Journal Sentinel's Jim Higgins covers the return of Siddhartha Mukherjee's new book, folowing his Pultizer-winning The Emperor of All Maladies. Higgins calls The Gene: An Intimate History "a fascinating and often sobering history of how humans came to understand the roles of genes in making us who we are — and what our manipulation of those genes might mean for our future." He later writes that "The Gene captures the scientific method — questioning, researching, hypothesizing, experimenting, analyzing — in all its messy, fumbling glory, corkscrewing its way to deeper understanding and new questions."

And finally in the print edition of the Journal Sentinel, Ed Sherman reviews The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, the book focuses on why baseball teams are so focused on pitchers (outspending football teams when it comes to paying quarterbacks), despite the high risks of injury. The problem is getting worse, and it's afflicting younger players. Sherman writes: "The Arm should be required reading for youth baseball coaches and parents with a child who appears to have a gift to throw a baseball. It also should be on the list for fans who want to understand why some of most expensive athletes in sports, pitchers, are such a fragile commodity."