Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How did the book club go? Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

How did the book club go? Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.

Is a novel long-awaited if you never thought it would happen? Saunders move from cult status* to mainstream phenomenon came with Tenth of December, which The New York Times proclaimed in an early January edition to be the best book of the year. Though kind of a cocky move (and a publicist's dream), at year's end, the book indeed made a lot of best-of lists. And then Saunders followed-it up with his first novel, which wound up not only making best-of lists, but won the Man Booker Prize, the second American to win in only two years when they were able to qualify. No wonder there's a contingent that would like to see the United States kicked out again.

Every book group who tackles Lincoln in the Bardo knows that it is the story takes place in 1862, after the death of Abraham Lincoln's son Willie. Talk was that Willie was temporarily kept at a crypt, and in his grief, Lincoln visited multiple times. The book takes place on one visit. What is well-known about the book is that the dialogue is from various ghosts. This fact has taken center stage as the audio book version of Lincoln in the Bardo has received more than one award. They used 166 actors for the voices, including the power couple Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, David Sedaris, Don Cheadle, Bill Hader, and well, you can see the rest in Entertainment Weekly.

Another structural achievement of Saunders book is in the non-dialogue part. Our book club (like many) has read a good amount of historical fiction and often discusses the research that goes into the work. We often note how the research is used - did the research set the framework for the novel or was it used to fill in gaps afterwards after the author free-wheeled the narrative, E.L. Doctorow style? And most notably, did the author keep control of the research or did it overwhelm the narrative. And one should note that's a matter of taste - many readers love historical fiction that might be more correctly called "historical fact-ion."

In Lincoln, George Saunders takes all the reference material and crazy-quilt stitches them into the story, in the exact wording, references and all. I had never seen this before and thought it made a fascinating counterpoint to the main narrative, which was speculative in nature.

I wasn't sure how our book club, which this month had thirteen attendees, would react. We had a spirited discussion about how Saunders wove the historical narrative into the fantastical story. We had a lot to say about how he touched on race, class, and gender issues. There was a lot of talk about the Lincoln family and the Civil War, and how their personal story fit into the larger narrative. I'd say about eight of them were very enthusiastic about the book, while the rest were on the fence or failed to be engaged.

This is one of those books that drives the cultural conversation in literature, and I use the book club as a way of checking off several of these titles that I didn't get to in hardcover. I think any book club that includes "important" or "adventurous" in its mission statement (you all have mission statements, right?) should have Lincoln in the Bardo on their reading list. And for those groups where a good portion does not want to read something they feel uses the verb "to tackle," but a vocal minority wants to visit the Bardo, maybe it's best to wait for the movie version, also being helmed by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally.

*George Saunders visited the Downer Avenue location of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops for one of his early collections. I am pretty confident at this point that we've hosted several authors who one day we'll look back and say, how the heck did we get them to come?

Don't forget about book club Monday!
--First Monday: In-Store Lit Group, 7 pm at Boswell*
--Second Monday: SF Book Club, 7 pm at Boswell
--Third Monday: Books and Beer Book Club, 7 pm at Cafe Hollander
--Fourth Monday: Mystery Book Club, 7 pm at Boswell

*September's meeting always falls on Labor Day.  This year we're meeting August 27 to discuss Sing, Unburied, Sing. Our complete schedule is on the Boswell book club page.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Event alert: Timothy Lensmire at Shorewood Public Library tonight 6/19, Josh B. Noel at Good City on Thursday 6/21, Sabaa Tahir 6/22, Cara Black 6/24, John Gurda at Discovery World 6/25 - register for Gurda and Tahir.

Tuesday, June 19, 6:00 pm, at Shorewood Public Library, 3920 N Murray Ave Timothy Lensmire, author of White Folks: Race and Identity in Rural America

White Folks explores the experiences and stories of eight white people from a small farming community in northern Wisconsin. Lensmire grew up in this community and creates a generous but clear-eyed portrait of white folks’ conflicting ideas and feelings about race and who they are, as white people, in America. Lensmire will read from and sign copies of his book.

Here's a little more about White Folks. What does it mean to be white and American? White Folks moves beyond the dominant critical methodologies of examining 'whiteness, ' to conceptualize white people in a way that is unafraid to confront, head on, the violence at the core of white racial selves, but that also that illuminates conflicts and complexities there. The book focuses on the authors' own experience of growing up in a small, rural community in northern Wisconsin, and the stories of people from that community, drawn from a series of in-depth interviews.

Timothy Lensmire is a Professor at University of Minnesota's Department of Curriculum and Instruction. In the author's words, "I explore the possibilities and problems of various critical pedagogies for how they can promote and embody radical democracy; and I explore how white people learn to be white in our white supremacist society."

The sponsors of this event are Shorewood Public Library, the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, and the Shorewood School District. Please note that Boswell will be on hand to sell books, but supply is limited.

Thursday, June 21, 7:00 pm, at at Good City Brewing, 2108 N Farwell Ave in Milwaukee:
Josh Noel, author of Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business, in conversation with Good City Brewing’s Andy Jones

Boswell cosponsors an event with Chicago-based Josh Noel, one of the nation’s foremost beer journalists, for his new book, Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out, at Good City Brewing Company. Noel will discuss the state of craft beer and the impact of Goose Island’s history and unprecedented sale to Anheuser-Busch on the beer industry with Goose Island alum and Good City Brewmaster Andy Jones.

Goose Island opened as a family-owned Chicago brewpub in the late 1980s and soon became one of the most inventive breweries in the world. In an age of light, bland, and cheap beer, John and Greg Hall brought European flavors to America. Goose Island became one of the 20 biggest breweries in the United States, an American success story and a champion of craft beer.

Then, the Halls sold the brewery to Anheuser-Busch, maker of the least craft-like beer imaginable. The sale forced the industry to reckon with craft beer’s mainstream popularity which few envisioned. Beer fanatics across the country as the discussion escalated into a craft beer war. From that outcry rises a question: how should a brewery grow?

Josh Noel writes about beer and travel for the Chicago Tribune, has contributed to This American Life and The New York Times, and has won multiple awards from the North American Guild of Beer Writers. Note that both Boswellians Daniel and Jason have read Barrel-Aged Stout and both thought Noel did a great job.

Friday, June 22, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Sabaa Tahir, author of A Reaper at the Gatesnow in conversation with Boswell's Jenny Chou

Boswell is so excited to be part of the tour for Sabaa Tahir’s A Reaper at the Gates, the third volume of The Ember Quartet. This event will be free but registration is required at tahir.bpt.me. Registration gets you better an earlier line letter, and trading up to the book with ticket package offers a shot at reserved searing. Please note that VIP tickets to this event are sold out.

Here’s more about the latest book from Boswellian Jen Steele: “Laia, Elias, and Helene all have a path they are meant to follow and straying from it might lead to grim consequences. With enemies lurking at every turn, Laia of Serra must find the strength to prevent the Nightbringer's destruction of her people and the world. Helene, the Blood Shirke, must persevere through the ongoing threats, not only from the Emperor himself, but from the deadly Commandant in order to protect her family and the Empire itself. As much as Elias loves Laia and wants to protect her, it may not be within his power. Can Elias fulfill his new duties as Soul Catcher without sacrificing all it means to love and be human? A Reaper at the Gates will keep you on the edge of your seat 'til the very end! You will not want to put this book down. I know I didn't.”

Not enough enthusiasm? Here's a review from Boswellian Jenny Chou, who will be in conversation with Tahir for the event: "My first thought after finishing A Reaper at the Gates: Not sure how I will go about my day in this world when my heart is still with Laia, Elias, and Helene in theirs. The stories of the three main characters are tightly intertwined, and each can only survive at the demise of the others. And yet none are willing to sacrifice love, and so they struggle to find another way and a shred of hope. But war is looming, and tough choices must be made. Brilliantly plotted, this YA fantasy will satisfy long-time fans and if you haven't started the series yet, snap up the first volume, An Ember in the Ashes, and spend the summer (or one really intense weekend) reading all three!!"

Sunday, June 24, 3:00 pm, at Boswell:
Cara Black, author of Murder on the Left Bank, cosponsored by Alliance Française de Milwaukee

Milwaukee loves Cara Black and loves Paris, too, so Black is returning to Boswell with the 18th mystery in her Parisian detective series full of local color and French culture, an atmospheric thriller with a savvy take on international arms dealing. Cosponsored by Alliance Française de Milwaukee and Crimespree Magazine.

A confession fifty years in the making puts everyone’s favorite Parisian détéctive très chic, Aimée Leduc, on a collision course with the Black Hand, a cabal of corrupt Parisian cops, among whose ranks her disgraced father may have once found membership. When a friend’s child is kidnapped while wearing her daughter’s hoodie, Aimée realizes that the case has crossed into the realm of the personal in more ways than one.

Early reviews on Murder on the Left Bank are great. Publishers Weekly wrote: "Once again Black combines a twist-filled mystery with a convincing look at the culture and politics of the City of Lights" And Booklist offers this take: "For longtime Aimée fans - and are there any other kind, really? - this episode is particularly poignant, both for the backstory it reveals and what it suggests about the future."

Lee Child calls Black’s chic computer-hacker-turned-criminal-investigator Aimée Leduc “one of the very best heroines in crime fiction today!”

Cara Black is the author of eighteen books in The New York Times bestselling Aimée Leduc series. She has received multiple nominations for the Anthony and Macavity Awards, and her books have been translated into German, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew. She lives in San Francisco and visits Paris frequently.

Monday, June 25, 7:00 pm, at Discovery World Pilot House, 500 N. Harbor Drive:
John Gurda, author of Milwaukee: A City Built on Water

Milwaukee’s preeminent historian makes his first public appearance with his latest book, Milwaukee: A City Built on Water, which expands upon his popular PBS Milwaukee documentary to relate the mucky history of the waters that gave Milwaukee life. Boswell is cosponsoring this event, and registration is required for attendance, by emailing whspress@wisconsinhistory.org or calling (608) 264-6465. Doors open 6:30 pm. We're going to double check this morning to see if the event is full and update the blog and website if it is.

Telling tales of brewers, brickmakers, ecologists, and engineers, Gurda explores the city’s complicated connection with its most precious resource and greatest challenge. Generations of people, from a Potawatomi chief to fur traders and fishermen, settled on the small spit of land known as Jones Island. Learn how Milwaukee’s unique water composition creates its distinct cream-colored bricks, visit Wisconsin’s first waterparks, and see how city leaders transformed the Milwaukee River, once described as a “vast sewer” with an “odorous tide,” into today’s lively and lovely Riverwalk.

John Gurda is a Milwaukee-born writer who has been studying his hometown since 1972. He is the author of twenty-one books, including histories of Milwaukee-area neighborhoods, churches, and industries. He is also a photographer, lecturer, regular contributor to Milwaukee PBS's Around the Corner with John McGivern, and local history columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Gurda is an eight-time winner of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Award of Merit.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Summer is to paperbacks as is fall to hardcovers, or so it seems - Boswell bestsellers for week ending June 16, 2018

Summer is to paperbacks as is fall to hardcovers, or so it seems on the Boswell bestseller list for the week ending June 16, 2018.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan (signed copies available)
2. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer (also signed copies available)
3. The Life Lucy Knew, by Karma Brown
4. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
5. The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go, by Amy E. Reichert
6. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney (two events on 6/26, details on upcoming event page)
7. Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero
8. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See
9. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
10. Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan
11. History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
12. In This Moment, by Karma Brown
13. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
14. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
15. Borne, by Jeff VanderMeer (SF Book Club, 7/9 at Boswell, 7 pm)

Yes, 6 of these top 15 titles are on the list because of events this week, but book clubs are also an important component of this list. We had one of our clubs who buys their books for the season together start to come in and make their purchases, and I'm excited to say they took some of our suggestions, including Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (they meet near the Frank L. Weyenberg Library, where Rooney will be on Tuesday, June 26, 2 pm), Sing, Unburied, Sing, and History of Wolves (and of course Fridlund visited Boswell for her hardcover tour.

Jeff VanderMeer's Borne is the next pick of the in-store SF book club. And I should note that Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (signed copies available*), who visited on Thursday, is the July selection for the Books and Beer Book Club. For me, I am currently reading Underground Airlines, which is being discussed tomorrow, July 18, at Cafe Hollander. I can't wait to hear what Jen has dug up about the book.

Speaking of events, congrats to recent guest Gail Honeyman, for debuting at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list in paperback for Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (a few signed copies available). I noticed that the publishers seemed to try something different with this release, keeping the paperback info off public websites as long as possible to keep sales going on the hardcover.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Semiosis, by Sue Burke
2. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
3. What Should Be Wild, by Julia Fine
4. The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
5. Florida, by Lauren Groff
6. Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje
7. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (register for this event on July 20 here)
8. The Outsider, by Stephen King
9. There, There, by Tommy Orange
10. The Overstory, by Richard Powers

Short story collections don't always create a flurry of activity, especially for authors better known for their novels, but I spoke to several customers, and at least one author, who were anxiously awaiting the release of Lauren Groff's Florida. Of the new book, Jackie Thomas-Kennedy wrote in the Star-Tribune wrote that Florida "is filled with the mesmerizing, decadent language one finds in all of her work. Although a few of the stories follow Floridians abroad (in Brazil and in France), the titular state looms as a setting of lush beauty and swift menace: snakes and hurricanes, ghosts and sinkholes, panthers and St. Augustine grass."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee: A City Built on Water, by John Gurda (registration almost closed for this event)
2. Calpyso, by David Sedaris
3. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
4. Pops, by Michael Chabon
5. You Can't Spell Truth Without Ruth, by Mary Zaia
6. The Soul of America, by Jon Meacham
7. Young Washington, by Peter Stark
8. The Reporter, by Seymour Hersh
9. Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston
10. When Einstein Walked with Godel, by Jim Holt

Look at that! A sales pop for a book (Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces) specifically published for Father's Day. Though this salute to dad does lead to book sales, the sales seem to be a bit more diffuse, though it seems clear that books that might be for a Father's Day gift do usually get published 4-6 weeks before the holiday. So it takes guts to publish an essay collection that might die on June 17, but if you're lucky, will perennially sell in future Junes.

Fiona Sturges wrote about Michael Chabon's latest in The Guardian: "Pops, then, is for him another in a long line of books that, once published, will refuse to reciprocate the time and nurturing poured into them. It is not, it should be noted, a misty-eyed treatise on the miracle of life, or a parenting manual dispensing solemn advice about how best to steer one’s offspring towards a rich, rewarding adulthood. Yet it stands as a heartfelt and thoughtful meditation on what parenthood asks of a man. "

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
2. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
3. Janesville, by Amy Goldstein
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
5. The Long Haul, by Finn Murphy
6. Paris in Stride, by Jessie Kanelos Weiner
7. Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris
8. Priestdaddy, by Patricia Lockwood
9. Project Fire, by Steven Raichlen
10. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein

Yes, Father's Day was once about grilling and golfing, but nowadays we've got Priestdaddy. Patricia Lockwood's father was a married (with child) Lutheran minister who got dispensation from the church to convert and become a priest. This book, a bestseller in hardcover, was reviewed by Liam Carson in The Irish Times: "Like Flannery O’Connor, Lockwood looks beyond surface grotesquery to find 'mercy.' In an era of black-and-white ideological battle lines, Priestdaddy’s wonderful wit, candour**, compassion – and often lyrically gorgeous prose – is a much-needed antidote to simplistic caricatures.

Books for Kids:
1. The Burning Maze V3, by Rick Riordan
2. Children of Blood and Bone V1, by Tomi Adeyemi
3. How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens V1 by Paul Noth
4. Invisible Emmie, by Terri Libenson
5. A Reaper at the Gates V3, by Sabaa Tahir (Register for 6/22 event here)
6. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
7. An Ember in the Ashes V1, by Sabaa Tahir (see above)
8. The Lifters, by Dave Eggers
9. Writing Radar, by Jack Gantos
10. Julian Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

In Dave Eggers's latest novel for middle-grade readers, The Lifters, Granite (Gran) Flowerpetal and his family move to the family home in a town that once made carousels. Publishers Weekly writes that Eggers "successfully blends the real and the fantastic in unexpected ways as Gran and Catalina face a mysterious, hurricane-like force that thrives from their fellow townspeople's sadness and fear. Black-and-white drawings by Renier lend a retro storybook feel to this cozy contemporary novel about lifting spirits and rebuilding community through teamwork and imagination."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Kathy Flanigan profiles Josh B. Noel's Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business. She writes: "For anyone who frequents Milwaukee’s 30 craft breweries, or anyone who has quaffed a beer in the Goose Island Bourbon County bar at the Wisconsin State Fair, Noel’s story sets up the brew battle with insider knowledge that only a beer reporter could have. For those whose love of beer is related to knowing who made what’s in the glass, Barrel-aged Stout and Selling Out is important information. Read the book. Rethink the pour." Noel will be at Good City Brewing on 2108 N Farwell on Thursday, June 21, 7 pm.

From Jocelyn McClurg at USA Today comes a review of Todd Fisher's My Girls: A Lifetime With Carrie and Debbie. Son of Debbie and sister of Carrie (as opposed to Sister Carrie) notes that he was not a fan of Papa Eddie and that Robert Wagner might have been the love of Debbie's life. Another takeaway: "Unlike his sister, Todd Fisher always got along famously with his mother 'My mom was fun and funny and playful and smart and beautiful,' he writes. 'It was one of the core facts of my life that she and I adored each other, that we’d had a rare connection from the moment I started growing in her belly.'"

*Should I just abbreviate that as SCA?

**candor

Monday, June 11, 2018

Event alert: Jennifer Egan and Andrew Sean Greer in conversation (ticketed), plus Julia Fine, Karma Brown in conversation with Amy E. Reichert, Edgar Cantero in conversation with Matt Wild, Sue Burke

Tuesday, June 12, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Julia Fine, author of What Should Be Wild

DePaul University professor and Chicago-based writer Julia Fine comes to Boswell with her darkly funny debut novel about a highly unusual young woman who must venture into the woods to remove a curse that has plagued the women in her family for centuries.

Maisie, born with the power to kill or resurrect at her slightest touch, has spent her childhood sequestered in the family’s manor at the edge of a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father has warned her that local villagers talk of men disappearing inside this dark wood; when they return, their minds are addled, their stories strange. What he has not told her is that for centuries, her female ancestors have also vanished into the wood, never to emerge.

But one day Maisie’s father disappears and Maisie must venture beyond the walls of her carefully constructed life to find him. Away from her home and the woods for the very first time, she encounters a strange and terrifying world filled with love, excitement, and dark human forces. Yet the further she strays, the more the wood calls to her. For only there can Maisie finally reckon with her power and come to understand the wildest parts of herself.

Julia Fine teaches writing at DePaul University and is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s M.F.A. program.

Wednesday, June 13, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Karma Brown, author of The Life Lucy Knew in conversation with Amy E. Reichert, author of The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go

Two awesome authors. Two brand new novels. One wonderful event! Bestselling author Karma Brown visits Boswell for a conversation with Wisconsin’s Amy E. Reichert about fiction and families, secrets and surprises, and the unexpected twists of their characters’ lives.

Brown’s newest, The Life Lucy Knew, is the emotionally charged story of a woman finding out that everything she knows about her life might not be true. One fateful morning, Lucy awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she loves is not her husband. The happily-ever-after she remembers is what doctors are calling a “false memory,” created after an accidental head injury. When the life she believes she had slams up against the reality she’s been living for years, Lucy must make a difficult choice about which life she wants and who she really is.

Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. In The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go, Reichert unfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out. When Gina’s mother suffers a stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go.

Karma Brown is an award-winning journalist and author of the bestsellers Come Away With Me, The Choices We Make, and In This Moment.

Amy E. Reichert is the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, Luck, Love and Lemon Pie, and The Simplicity of Cider, and serves on Hartland (Wisconsin) Public Library’s board of directors.

Thursday, June 14, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Edgar Cantero, author of Meddling Kids

Milwaukee Record presents Edgar Cantero for a stop at Boswell on the paperback tour of Meddling Kids, the enjoyably batty book that’s perfect for fans of horror and hilarious hijinks and anyone who grew up on Saturday mornings filled with sugar-coated cereal and Scooby-Doo.

In the summer of 1977, the Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster: another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion.

Thirteen years have passed and those former kid detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be explained away by a guy in a mask. The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.

Edgar Cantero is a writer and cartoonist born in Barcelona in 1981. Meddling Kids is his second novel in English; his first was The Supernatural Enhancements.

See our goofy ad on Milwaukee Record's website.

Friday, June 15, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
A ticketed event with Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach, in conversation with Andrew Sean Greer, author of Less

Presenting two Pulitzer Prize winners in conversation! Jennifer Egan, winner of the Pultizer Prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad and current winner of the Carnegie Medal for Manhattan Beach, is joined by Andrew Sean Greer, current winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Less. It’s a first for Boswell and it’s a one-of-a-kind event that is only happening in Milwaukee.

Manhattan Beach, Egan’s first foray into historical fiction, takes us into a world before and during World War II, populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men in a dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.

And here’s more about Less. Arthur Less, a failed novelist, is about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail from Less’s boyfriend of the past nine years. He can't say yes - it would be too awkward - and he can't say no - it would look like defeat. On the desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world. So how does Arthur arrange to skip town? He accepts them all. What could possibly go wrong?

Tickets to this event are $19 and are available at egangreer.bpt.me. The price includes admission, all taxes and fees, and a paperback copy of Manhattan Beach or Less or both at a special price of $34. Only 300 tickets available for this event.

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of five previous works of fiction, including The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named a best book of 2004 by The San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. 

Jennifer Egan is the author of five previous books of fiction, including A Visit from the Goon Squad, which also received the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Look at Me, a National Book Award Finalist.

Saturday, June 16, 2:00 pm, at East Branch, Milwaukee Public Library, 2320 N Cramer St:
Sue Burke, author of Semiosis

Milwaukee native and Clarion workshop alumnus Burke visits Milwaukee Public Library’s East Library Branch for a discussion of Semiosis, a sweeping sci-fi epic of first contact that spans generations of humans struggling to survive on an alien world. Boswell is cosponsoring this event.

Colonists from Earth wanted the perfect home, but they’ll have to survive on the one they found. They don’t realize another life form watches... and waits. They weren’t prepared for a planet which provides a lush but inexplicable landscape or to deal with the ruins of an alien race. Conflicts between generations arise as they struggle to understand one another and grapple with an unknowable alien intellect.

Perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer, Burke spins this knowledge into a remarkable tale of interspecies interaction, taking cutting edge botanical and ecological science and driving it to the logical extreme for her impressive debut.

Chicago-based Sue Burke spent many years working as a reporter and editor for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including those in the Milwaukee area. A Clarion workshop alum, Burke has published more than thirty short stories in addition to working extensively as a literary translator.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Boswell bestsellers, week ending June 9, 2018

Here are this week's bestsellers.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
2. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
3. There, There, by Tommy Orange
4. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
5. Florida, by Lauren Groff
6. The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
7. You Think It, I'll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld
8. The Outsider, by Stephen King
9. Brief Cases, by Jim Butcher
10. The Word Is Murder, by Anthony Horowitz

At the top of this week's list is the high-profile ex-president collaboration, The President Is Missing, which like most James Patterson books, is released on a Monday instead of the traditional Tuesday. It's also getting some very good reviews, like this from Mark Lawson in The Guardian: "If Clinton clearly brings new details and insights to the presidential thriller, his co-writer stays closer to convention. Some elements – a Bach-loving assassin, assorted boat and car chases – could have come from almost any Patterson book. The greatest justification of the project is that the eventual revelation of the villain, which is satisfying and surprising, really does feel like the outcome of a conversation between one writer with an unusual skill at thriller plotting and another with an exceptional grasp of global politics. The literary running mates have earned a second term."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Third Door, by Alex Banayan
2. One Day You'll Thank Me, by David McGlynn
3. The Deepest Well, by Nadine Burke Harris
4. Calypso, by David Sedaris
5. Sex and the City and Us, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
6. You Can't Spell Truth Without Ruth, by Mary Zaia
7. The Soul of America, by Jon Meacham
8. The World as It Is, by Ben Rhodes
9. The Sun Does Shine, by Anthony Ray Hinton
10. Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston

This week Oprah's new book club pick was announced and it was The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, from Anthony Ray Hinton and Lara Love Hardin. While the book has not yet gotten many reviews, Hinton is well known from Bryan Stephenson's book Just Mercy. As Tim Adams notes, again from The Guardian: "When Stevenson took up the case in 1999, he engaged independent firearms experts who unanimously agreed that Hinton’s mother’s gun was not that used in the murders. It took another 16 years of contested litigation, however, for Hinton’s case to be reheard by the Alabama courts, and for his acquittal."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
2. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer (ticketed event 6/15. Info here)
3. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
4. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
5. Sour Heart, by Jenny Zhang (In-Store Lit Group Mon Jul 2, 7 pm)
6. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
7. The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett
8. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
9. See What I Have Done, by Sarah Schmidt
10. The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go, by Amy E. Reichert (event 6/13 with Karma Brown)

Great to see Sarah Schmidt's See What I Have Done hit the top ten in paperback. This novel about Lizzie Borden had nice buzz in hardcover. Leah Greenblatt offered this A- review in Entertainment Weekly: "See is the product of 11 years of that obsession, and it’s a prickly, unsettling wonder: a story so tactile and feverishly surreal it feels like a sort of reverse haunting... Her protagonist comes more fully alive than almost any character in recent memory, and the final pages are a wild, mind-bending revelation."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Somos Latinas, edited by Andrea-Teresa Arenas and Eloisa Gómez
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. The View from Flyover Country, by Sarah Kendzior
4. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel Tatum
5. Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown
6. Hollywood Heyday, by David Fantle
7. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
8. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
9. Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean
10. Vacationland, by John Hodgman

As his publisher noted in Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, John Hodgman's career was built on fake news and invented facts at The Daily Show, but nowadays, the routine doesn't seem to be so funny because everyone is doing it: "Disarmed of falsehood, he was left only with the awful truth: John Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privileged Sasquatch through three wildernesses: the hills of Western Massachusetts where he spent much of his youth; the painful beaches of Maine that want to kill him (and some day will); and the metaphoric haunted forest of middle age that connects them." Erik Henriksen writes in Seattle's The Stranger: "Self-reflection—and reflections on family, and death, and what it means to be a white man in 2017—are at the core of Vacationland, except funnier than I just made them sound."

Books for Kids:
1. Grump, by Liesl Shurtliff
2. Red, by Liesl Shurtliff
3. Rump, by Liesl Shurtliff
4. Jack, by Liesl Shurtliff
5. Save the Date, by Morgan Matson
6. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
7. Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson
8. Lifters, by Dave Eggers
9. How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens, by Paul Noth
10. An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir (Register for our Fri Jun 22 event here)

We say goodbye to the 2017-2018 school year the best way we know how - with our top four titles coming from Liesl Shurtliff, who visited three area schools on Monday. Her latest, The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves focuses on Borlen, whose nickname is, well, guess. Grump was reviewed by Karen Valby in The New York Times Book Review. She writes: "The premise is rich: How does one survive, let alone smile, in a world he feels desperately bound to leave? At 52 years old (a tween in a dwarf’s life cycle), Borlen is a worry to his parents and a whipping boy among his gem-crunching peers. The scenes of his marginalization are painful and true — always the pebble, never the geode in games of Pebble, Pebble, Geode. When he escapes to the forbidden Surface, and allies himself with Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.), Grump convinces himself he’s finally living his best life. But then his new bud starts kidnapping babies and demanding the murder of her stepdaughter, Snow White, and he’s back under a dark cloud."

And now here are features from the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page.

--Mary Ann Gwinn reviews Michael Ondaatje's Warlight a book that's been hitting the Boswell bestseller list for several weeks. She writes: "In Michael Ondaatje’s new book, warlight is the word for the twilight that shrouded London during the bombings of World War II, when lights were dimmed to avoid lighting the way for German bombs. It’s hard to imagine a more apt title for this dreamlike novel by the author of The English Patient, a story of secrets and revelations that unfolds like a night-blooming flower." This review originally appeared in The Seattle Times.

--From USA Today comes See You Again in Pyongyang: A Journey Into Kim Jong Un's North Korea. Chris Woodyard reviews Travis Jeppesen's unusual travel narrative: "What he (Jeppesen) finds is a land where you are almost always accompanied by escorts, a place so steeped in paranoia and leader worship that accidentally capturing a partial photo of Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, hanging on a wall poster and not deleting the image from your camera can land you in hot water." Jeppesen thinks that while Trump may indeed meet with Kim Jong Un (next week?), he finds it unlikely that North Korea's leader will ever give up supreme power or nuclear weapons.

 --I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness is the new book by Austin Channing Brown. Darcel Rocket reviews the book, with the review originally coming from the Chicago Tribune: "They’re words are about the black experience in America - about 'being calm in a world made for whiteness,' where 'half-baked efforts at diversity are enough because the status quo is fine.'" Rocket interviews Brown about her intended audience, how things have changed, and how they haven't.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Celebrate Sex and the City's 20th Anniversary with Sex and The City on Downer

It's the 20th anniversary of Sex and the City and Historic Downer Avenue is celebrating with an open house on Friday, June 8. Our happy hour is 5 to 8 pm and lots of retailers on the block have specials.

Bel Air Cantina – A scandalous margarita with just the right amount of sweet and spicy

Café Hollander – Sex and the City Cocktails = the Post-It Note Paloma, the Manolo Blahnik Slingback Mule, the Magnolia Martini, the Mr. Stout, or An Apartment in Brooklyn. Food items include a Mr. Big Salad

Downer Landmark Theatre – Stop by to enter the giveaway to win FREE movie passes and popcorn

Downer Avenue Wine and Spirits – Cosmo sampling

Lake Park Dental – FREE whitening strips, enter the giveaway for a pink Sonicare toothbrush


Nail Bar - $5 off any wax service, 20% off all retail

Pizza Man – Featuring Lady Madonna cocktails and cans of rosé

Robert Laurence Salon – $20 off of $40 or more in service PLUS complimentary Aveda make up lessons and touch ups PLUS spend $50 get 10% off, spend $100 get 15% off and spend $150 get 20% off all Aveda products

Salon Nova and Lash Boutique- $20 blow outs, $10 makeup touch ups (or $25 for both) PLUS 15% off all retail hair care and Stila makeup

Sendiks – Martini glass and high heel cookies, specialty cupcakes

Stone Creek Coffee Roasters – Cold brew cosmos, Manhattan cupcakes and Sex and the City sugar cookies. This is a great chance to check out the beautiful brand new Stone Creek on Downer.

At 7 pm, Boswell will be hosting a presentation from Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, the author of Sex and the City and Us: How Four Single Women Changed the Way We Think, Live, and Love. Armstrong, a former Entertainment Weekly writer who is also the author of Seinfeldia, is a pop culture historian of the highest order and her books always have new primary sources. This event is free and no registration is needed.

Many of the participants are donating to Look Good Feel Better, a a non-medical, brand-neutral public service program that teaches beauty techniques to people with cancer to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment.