Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Three events this week - Gail Tsukiyama with Jane Hamilton on July 14, Christina Schwarz with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin on July 15, Charles Hagner on birding with Schlitz Audubon's Don Quintenz on July 16

This week at Boswell!

Tuesday, July 14, 7:00 pm:  Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Color of Air, in conversation with Jane Hamilton for a virtual event

When we heard that there was a new Gail Tsukiyama novel, we didn't know what to expect. The author left her longtime home at St. Martin's Press for  HarperVia, the new imprint under the auspices of Publisher Judith Curr, Executive Editor Juan Mila, and Associate Publisher Tara Parsons. Would they tour her or not? We stressed and stressed - until of course we realized we would definitely not get on the tour, because there wouldn't be a tour.

So we were thrilled (yes, a rollercoaster of emotions) when we were offered a virtual event with Tsukiyama, winner of  Academy of American Poets Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award. And we knew exactly who we'd propose for a conversation partner - Tsukiyama's long-time friend Jane Hamilton (The Book of Ruth, The Excellent Lombards, and every wonderful novel in between), who brought Tsukiyama to Milwaukee for A Hundred Flowers, in conjunction with a residency at Ragdale. The Color of Air is the story of a Japanese-American family set against the backdrop of Hawaii's sugar plantations.

Long-time Boswellian Jane Glaser considers Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden to be one of her favorite contemporary novels of all time. She offers this praise for The Color of Air: "Bestselling author Gail Tsukiyama gifts readers with a beautifully rendered story set against the backdrop of 1935 Hawaii as the tremors of the Mauna Loa volcano threaten the community of Hilo, whose livelihood depends on fishing and the sugar cane plantations. Despite the anticipated danger, the people of Hilo are planning a celebration to welcome home a native son from Chicago, where he studied and became a doctor, a first for his family of Japanese descent. Daniel's return not only brings together a joyous gathering, but the reunion also sets off a chain of events where long-buried secrets and moral dilemmas emerge, endangering the relationships of a close-knit town during a time of impending natural disaster. Yet, under the pen of an extraordinary storyteller, Ms. Tsukiyama creates a remarkably soulful portrait of richly drawn characters who, in the face of uncertain times, shows the strength, wisdom, forgiveness, and enduring love that will embrace the heart of every reader. Destined to be one of my favorite books of 2020!"

This event will be broadcast via Zoom, and registration is required. Register today for tonight's event. And purchase your copy of The Color of Air from Boswell from now through at least July 21 for 20% off list price. After the event, we'll link to the recorded event here, as long as nothing goes awry!

Wednesday, July 15, 7:00 pm
Christina Schwarz, author of Bonnie
in conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for a virtual event

In the days of in-person events, two events in a market could make sense, even if they were targeted to the same general audience. But when Lisa and I were both offered an event with former Metro Milwaukeean Christina Schwarz (author of The Edge of the Earth and the #1 bestseller Drowning Ruth) for her fifth novel Bonnie, we decided to join forces and do the event together, sort of a virtual version of our events at the Sharon Lynn Wilson Center. You can buy the book at either Boswell or Books & Company. And yes, I want to call this program something like Readings from Oconomowaukee. Still working on that, but I really like the Oconomowaukee part.

We were told that Bonnie vividly evokes the perennially fascinating true crime love affair of Bonnie and Clyde and were promised a book that was a suspenseful, gorgeously detailed fictional portrait of Bonnie Parker, one of the world's most enigmatic woman. And having read the book, that's a fair assessment. One of the fun things about our dual conversation (this is the first time Lisa and I have done this) is that we got to have a book discussion beforehand, where we traded reflections about the novel.

Schwarz did a lot of research on Bonnie, visiting many of the towns portrayed in the book. She's created a Bonnie who is driven less by boredom (the raison d'etre of Arthur Penn's film version) than by thwarted ambition. Bonnie Parker's poetry is an important part of the story. One of the things I also noted about the story is how mothers and motherhood drives so much of the story - both Bonnie and Clyde are obsessed with their moms, and their crime sprees are often detoured by parental visits. For Lisa, the story's plot arc is almost completely driven by cars and guns. And you know where that got them. But we don't want to give everything away - we've got plenty more questions for Wednesday evening. Meanwhile, read Elizabeth Brundage's review in The New York Times.

This event will be broadcast via Zoom, and registration is required. Click this link to register right here today! And purchase your copy of Bonnie from Boswell for 20% off list price (or you can buy it at Books & Company here), at least through July 22. After the event, if all goes well, you should be able to watch the interview here.

Thursday, July 16, 7:00 pm
Charles Hagner, author of American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, in conversation with Don Quintenz for a virtual event. Cosponsored by Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

A tremendous addition to our birding section was Charles Hagner's American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds in Wisconsin. It took us a while to schedule an event (we had two in the works before COVID-19) and even longer for us to convert to virtual, but we're thrilled to have a great virtual program planned with Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. Thanks to former bookseller turned Schlitz Audubon Marketing and Communications Director Nancy Quinn for having pivot patience!

For this event, State Director of Bird City Wisconsin and former Editor in Chief of BirdWatching magazine, Charles Hagner chats about the wonderful wildlife of Wisconsin’s skies depicted in his latest work with Don Quintenz, Senior Ecologist at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. Filled with gorgeous color images, this new field guide (the format is Audubon-esque, with its flexi cover) is the perfect companion for anyone wanting to learn more about the natural history and diversity of the state's birds and when and where to see them. Hagner is also Board Chair of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. Alas, I don't think Field Guide to Bats of Wisconsin is in the works. Do imaginary books need to be italicized? Discuss.

With more than 15,000 interior lakes and bordering both Lake Superior to the north and Lake Michigan to the east, Wisconsin is famous as a place to observe waterbirds of all types. It also has expansive forested areas, plains, and farmlands providing ideal habitats for hummingbirds, raptors, warblers, sparrows and more. And with nine national wildlife refuges, two national parks, and more than three million acres of IBAs (Important Bird Areas), Wisconsin is truly a great state for birds and birders.

Broadcast via Zoom, registration is required. Click right here to register today! American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin is on sale at Boswell for 10% off list price through at least July 23. And don't forget, if all goes well, we'll have a link to Hagner's talk right here afterwards. As for all the books, we have free sidewalk pickup (it's a shipping option on our website) or $4 media mail shipping in state, $6 nationally. We have signed bookplates for Tsukiyama and Schwarz.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending July 11, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending July 11, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor V2, by Hank Green
2. The Color of Air, by Gail Tsukiyama (Register for July 14 event here)
3. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
4. The Lives of Edie Pritchard, by Larry Watson (Register for July 21 event here)
5. Bonnie, by Christina Schwarz (Register for July 13 event here)
6. Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno Garcia
7. The Heir Affair V2, by Heather Cocks
8. The Second Home, by Christina Clancy (signed copies again available)
9. Antkind, by Charlie Kaufman
10. Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh

What a great time we had with Hank Green for An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. His new tour was virtual and fans responded well to the sequel's release. Here's Delfina V. Barbiero in USA Today: "Green is clearly inspired by Dungeons and Dragons and internet culture – inspirations he uses to build a world so vividly grounded in reality it’s sometimes hard to forget that Green wrote this before the pandemic and not during. While there are many parallels to our current climate, A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is a hopeful read that provides a Black Mirror-like warning of new technology without the heavy feeling of dread."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
2. Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath
3. Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad
4. Demagogue, by Larry Tye (Register for the Jewish Federation's August 12 event here - suggested donation $5)
5. The Room Where It Happened, by John Bolton
6. Begin Again, by Eddie S. Glaude
7. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson
8. The Rules of Contagion, by Adam Kucharski
9. The Beauty in Breaking, by Michele Harper
10. I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown

Another book that has taken off as the United States explores its racist past and present. Princeton University Professor and Chair of the African American Studies Department Eddie S. Glaube's June release, Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own has close to 10,000 copies on backorder at our wholesaler. Edwidge Danticat writes: "Begin Again is a magnificent book filled with the type of passion, lyricism, and fire that James Baldwin commands and deserves. Eddie Glaude Jr. takes us on a unique and illuminating journey through Baldwin's life and writings by both physically and philosophically following in his footsteps. In this phenomenal work, we are treated to a timeless and spellbinding conversation between two brilliant writers, thinkers, and active witnesses, addressing issues--past, present, and future--that are necessary, urgent, and vital for our survival."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
2. Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim (sign up for the August 3 In-Store Lit Group discussion here)
3. I Was Told It Would Get Easier, by Abbi Waxman (watch the Women's Speaker series event here)
4. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
5. Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
6. All the Right Mistakes, by Laura Jamison (Register for August 13 event here)
7. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman
8. Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi
9. The Plague, by Albert Camus
10. Bad Axe Country V1, by John Galligan (we are holding the August 24 event now virtual)

Miracle Creek, the courtroom thriller from Angie Kim, is the winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. It is also probably one of the last books to be published by the FSG Sarah Crichton Books imprint, as Crichton has now moved to Editor in Chief at Holt under Amy Einhorn. I love that the book was a pick for both Good Morning America (recommended by Tea Obreht) and The Today Show (from Jennifer Weiner). And Erin Morgenstern wrote "I literally couldn't put it down. It's that wonderful, brilliant story of book that you want to shove at other people as soon as you've finished."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
2. The Color of Love, by Marra B. Gad
3. Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
4. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel Tatum
5. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
6. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
7. American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Charles Hagner (Register for this July 16 event here)
8. Grant, by Ron Chernow
9. These Truths, by Jill Lepore
10. Wow, No Thank You, by Samantha Irby

Whereas event sales tended to be much more focused into the week of the event, they are more spread out now. For example, all three event books this coming week hit our bestseller list. The American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds has likely been helped by increased interest in birdwatching. Our friends at Downer Hardware just told us that they had an unprecedented run a bird seed this spring. As mentioned above, we're cosponsoring a Schlitz Audubon conversation with Charles Hagner and Don Quintenz on July 16.

Books for Kids:
1. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
2. Goodnight Moon Board Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Clement Hurd
3. The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
4. Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds
5. Baby Monkey Private Eye, by Brian Selznick
6. Joey, by Jill Biden
7. Dude, by Aaron Reynolds
8. The Land of Permanent Goodbyes, by Atia Abawi
9. The One and Only Bob, by Katherine Applegate
10. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

It's an election year, and that seems to now mean picture books about the candidates. Published on June 30 was Joey: The Story of Joe Biden, by Jill Biden with Kathleen Krull, with illustrations by Amy June Bates. I should note that Amy June Bates wrote and Kathleen Krull illustrated Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins writes about Demagogue, the new biography of Joe McCarthy. He notes: "Biographies of McCarthy have been written before, including Wisconsin historian Thomas Reeves’ The Life and Times of Joe McCarthy (1982). So what new element does Tye, a former Boston Globe reporter, bring to his? Tye had access to three previously unavailable stashes: boxes of personal documents, including diaries, school transcripts and love letters, in McCarthy’s private files in the Marquette University archives; transcripts of the many private hearings McCarthy conducted in the Senate; and his military records, including his military medical records."

From Margot Armbruster at the Journal Sentinel, a story about Milwaukeean Mark D. Bruce's new book, Jackie, a Boy, and a Dog: A Warm Cold War Story. The Jackie is Jackie Kennedy. From the piece: "Bruce is an ER physician, a medical ambassador to Belize and Canada, and a longtime Milwaukee Public Schools volunteer; he has little time for leisure writing. But he chose to share his story, one of many narratives he’s collected throughout an adventurous life, because he feels it offers important lessons about divine beneficence and hope in the hard times."

Monday, July 6, 2020

Touring colleges with Abbi Waxman and her fourth novel - I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIER (virtual event on July 7, 2020)

Last year one of our surprise bestsellers was Abbi Waxman’s third novel, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. It’s not actually that much of surprise – as a bookstore, we tend to get excited about bookseller protogonists. Over the course of the book, Nina, who was raised by a single mom, finds out that she was in the will of her father, and turns out to have a much larger family than she could have imagined, with all the ups and downs that this would entail. At the same time, Knight’s Bookstore is having financial problems, while Nina juggles running book clubs, events, and a street festival. Outside of work, Nina’s into competitive trivia. This is a delightful romantic character with a Bridget Jones vibe. No wonder the book hit a nerve with our customers. You can read this 2016 article about Chevalier’s the actual bookstore in the Larchmont Village neighborhood Bookselling this Week, or to be precise, Bookselling 200 Weeks Ago.

I enjoyed the book so much that I read another of Waxman’s novels, The Garden of Small Beginnings, about a recently widowed mom who takes a gardening class. And then I read another, Other People’s Houses, about a woman who runs a one-person carpool service for the families on her block, and what happens when one of the neighbors is caught in an affair. I guess that's all of them, except for the 12 page book she wrote in fourth grade about a magic chicken's adventures.*

The stories are all set in the same Los Angeles neighborhood, Larchmont Village, and as I started reading the books, I noticed that major characters in one story would pop up in the other novels. I’m not generally a fan of sequels, but I love this sort of companion novel, which can be as serious as Marilynne Robinson’s cycle that includes Home and Gilead, Tana French’s thrillers, or the reappearance of characters in the beloved novels of Barbara Pym. I still remember gasping with delight when the heroes of A Glass of Blessings showed up as tourists in No Fond Return of Love.

So you can only imagine how excited I was to learn that Waxman’s next novel, I Was Told It Would Get Easier was scheduled for June of 2020. Like the folks on Good Reads always say, we were provided an advance copy of the book courtesy of Berkley Books. I think it’s time for my staff rec.

“Jessica, a forty-something lawyer, hires a service to take her and her daughter Nina on a college tour of top-rated east-coast schools. They are not doing this alone – along for the tour is a highly-motivated degree-less father and his son, an academic mom who has her son’s life scheduled in hour increments, and model-turned-film exec’s wife and her influencer daughter. Jessica’s dealing with some serious workplace sexism that is preventing her mentee from getting promoted, while Emily’s got her own problems with a cheating scandal at school. And why are they on a tour to schools like Princeton when Emily’s rocking B’s? By the end of the tour, let’s hope that mother and daughter see each other for who they truly are. If you loved The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, fear not – they may not be organizing author events and book clubs, but Emily’s got a lot in common with Nina. The interpersonal relationships are great and Waxman’s comic charms shine brightly. I give it an A!” (Daniel)

If you are quoting yourself in the context of a blog, do you need quotation marks? I really don’t know. And yes, I know that college tours are likely virtual now.

After reading these books, I started feeling the need to know more about Waxman. Sometimes this is not the greatest idea – my sister Merrill was just telling me that the worst thing that happened to her regarding a not-to-be-named author was reading an interview with her and finding she didn’t like her. But that’s not the case with Waxman. I learned from her website that she was born in England, which explains the cross-cultural characters. There are also a lot of single moms, but she’s happily married to her husband. And needless to say, mother-daughter relationships play a strong role in her books, and she has three kids. And yes, she lives in Los Angeles. But it’s hard to imagine she wouldn’t have lived in Los Angeles for at least a bit – there’s such a strong sense of place in the stories. I’ve read some really great books that captured a place without the author living there, but rarely do they return to that location in a subsequent book without some first-hand knowledge.

Once I finished I Was Told It Would Get Easier, I passed it on to two other Waxman fans - Jen, who originally convinced me to read Nina Hill, and Jenny, who could empathize with the plotline of a mother and daughter on a college tour, having two daughters in college herself. Unlike Jenny’s kids, my parents didn’t travel around with me to schools, but they paid for a school bus trip (sans parents) to several schools in New England. I also took the Jessica role in the story when I visited several Philadelphia-area schools with my niece Jocelyn. From these experiences, I did learn that you can make snap decisions about schools very easily, but on the other hand, you have to remember that they are not a complete picture.

Another reader whom I thought would enjoy the set-up of Waxman’s novel was Margy Stratton, producer of the Women’s Speaker Series, as she was in the process of shepherding her own daughters through the college process. I proposed to Berkley an event at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, and for a few weeks we were discussing a visit to their beautiful grounds on Brown Deer Rd. But alas, the decision to tour fell through. But but! - in the age of COVID, with us pivoting to virtual events, we were able to go back to the publicist and see if a Zoom event would work. And it did. And so we have one scheduled for Tuesday, July 7, 7 pm, a virtual Women’s Speaker series event, cosponsored by the Lynden Sculpture Garden, with Waxman in conversation with producer Margy Stratton.

More about I Was Told It Would Get Easier.

Publishers Weekly: “Waxman expertly navigates the fraught shoals of college admissions in this spot-on tale…. Waxman’s alternating first-person narration from Jessica and Emily rings true, while a memorable supporting cast…provide excellent support…This sweet treat doesn’t require a college-bound child to enjoy, though anyone who has helped their offspring weather the admissions process will definitely appreciate this sharp send-up.”

Jen Steele, Boswell bookseller: "Jessica Burnstein and her 16-year-old daughter Emily are off on a week-long college tour. While Jessica hopes for some mother-daughter bonding time, a crisis at work may end up interrupting her plans. For Emily, dealing with the pressure to go to college and get good grades is very stressful, and she's unsure how to tell her mom what she really thinks. Along the way they have fights, awkward encounters, unspoken truths, and an overzealous college tour guide to deal with. Funny, emotional and relatable, Abbi Waxman delivers another feel good novel!"

Library Journal: “This book’s strengths are the exploration of the mother-teen daughter dynamics and relationship and the author’s remarkable gift for realistic, witty dialog. Verdict: Recommended for fans of mother-daughter fiction with both lighthearted and serious moments.”

I should note a couple of things here. One: we also have cute Waxman book plates (above left) for folks who purchase I Was Told It Would Get Easier. Two: It is a very rare thing nowadays for me to go back and read backwards, not just one novel but two – that is saying something. Three: Register for the event with Abbi Waxman in conversation with Margy Stratton on July 7 here at 7 pm CDT. Four: Purchase the book here. Five: Donate to the Lynden Sculpture Garden here. Six: See you on Tuesday, July 7, or if the event already, happened, you can watch the event here.

*Not yet confirmed to be a real book.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Boswell bestsellers, week ending July 4, 2020

Here are the Boswell bestsellers for the week ending July 4, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
2. Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno Garcia
3. The Coyotes of Carthage, by Steven Wright
4. Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh
5. The Second Home, by Christina Clancy
6. Empire of Gold, by S.A. Chakraborty
7. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
8. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
9. Rodham, by Curtis Sittenfeld
10. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

The big new release this week is Mexican Gothic, which the publisher described as a "darkly enchanting reimagining of Gothic fantasy, in which a spirited young woman discovers the haunting secrets of a beautiful old mansion in 1950s Mexico." Boswellian Jen Steele called it "unputdownable" in our most recent email newsletter. And Jessica Wick, on the NPR website, wrote: "Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel. I want to discuss it around tea, preferably while in the mountains, preferably somewhere well-lit. I remember placing my bookmark in the book and thinking, I should not have read this before bed."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
3. Spirit Run, by Noe Alvarez
4. Becoming Better Grownups, by Brad Mountague
5. Let the Children Play, by Pasi Sahlberg
6. The Joy of Movement, by Kelly McGonigal
7. Permission to Feel, by Marc Brackett
8. The Person You Mean to Be, by Dolly Chugh
9. The Power of Moments, by Chip Heath
10. The Room Where It Happened, by John Bolton

It's summer, and that means educational development for teachers. One of the books on this week's list is The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, by Kelly McGonigal. I was actually discussing some of the ideas in this book with my sister Merrill, whose advanced degrees are in English literature and exercise physiology. She noted that exercise and physical activity strengthens her mental health, and now I know that her opinion is backed by neuroscience and evolutionary biology. McGonigal was on Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast when the book was released earlier this year.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
2. Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
3. House of Broken Angels, by Luis Albert Urrea
4. Queenie, by Candice Carty Williams
5. Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
6. Dear Mrs. Bird, by A.J. Pearce
7. The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler
8. Circe, by Madeline Miller
9. Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim
10. Confessions of Frannie Langton, by Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a "terrific story involving a former Jamaican slave on trial in London for the grisly murder of her employers. Did she do it? Over the course of her trial we learn Frannie's backstory as a slave to a master involved in unsavory science experiments (shades of Mary Shelly) and of her romance with the mistress of the house where she served in in London. Collins draws on Moll Flanders, Jane Eyre, and Frankenstein while morphing those themes into a story very much her own." Winner of the Costa First Novel Prize, Collins also recipient of the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize for Creative Writing.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. We Want to Do More Than Survive, by Bettina Love
2. Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
3. Real American, by Julie Lythcott-Haims
4. Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone
5. My Grandmother's Hands, by Resmaa Menakem
6. Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels
7. Lost at School, by Ross Greene
8. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
9. Reader Come Home, by Maryanne Wolf
10. Unselfie, by Michele Borba

Educator University of Georgia Associate Professor Bettina L Love's We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom was published in February 2020, one of Beacon Press's timely books about race. Library Journal notes: "Rather than tinkering around the edges of the system in order to ensure the mere survival of children from marginalized communities, Love shows instead how schools can encourage these students to thrive."

Books for Kids:
1. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
2. The Land of Permanent Goodbyes, by Atie Abawi
3. You Matter, by Christian Robinson
4. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins
5. The One and Only Bob, by Katherine Applegate
6. Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin, with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri
7. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
8. Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi
9. How to Be a Person, by Catherine Newman
10. Love, Creekwood, by Becky Albertalli

The film Love, Simon was based on Becky Albertalli's Simon Vs. the Homo-Sapien Agenda. It's being spun off to a Hulu series called Love, Victor. And Albertalli has written a novella set in the same universe called Love, Creekwood. Regarding this story told in emails, "Readers of the Simonverse will fall in love all over again with their favorite characters (Simon, Blue, Leah, and Abby) in this epilogue novella, updating fans on their college lives and the state of their relationships—spoiler alert: still going strong."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Poet Laureates Peggy Rozga and Dasha Kelly Hamilton are interviewed by Margot Armbruster about "living in a turbulent time." Hamilton notes: "There's a thousand issues where I would, should, could respond in a poem, but I've made it a point not to ever make that how or why I write. And I don't want to be the shiny Black person, especially at a time like this. So instead it's something that is snatched out of my chest, or an abstraction that I'm figuring out how to capture between glass."

Monday, June 29, 2020

Event alerts - Katherine Addison with Jim Higgins on June 30 - Steven Wright with Chris Lee on July 1

Hey, welcome back to the Monday Boswell event blog! We've got two great events this week.

Tuesday, June 30, 7:00 pm - First up is Katherine Addison, the author of The Angel of the Crows. Addison is an acclaimed Wisconsin science fiction/fantasy writer that is a particular fan of Journal Sentinel Arts and Book Editor Jim Higgins. He'd already named Addison's latest one of his summer reading picks. So when we were offered the chance to host a virtual event (register here) with Addison, we knew exactly who should be the conversation partner.

This Madison-area writer has won praise under two names! To quote from her publisher, As Addison "her short fiction has been selected by The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and The Year’s Best Science Fiction. As Sarah Monette, she is the author of the Doctrine of Labyrinths series and the Locus Award-winning novel The Goblin Emperor; and co-author, with Elizabeth Bear, of the Iskryne series."

Addison’s latest, an alternate history fantasy novel that is a unique take on the Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson legend. Angels inhabit every public building of London, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall (capitalized on purpose), and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.

Kirkus says The Angel of the Crows is “a Sherlock Holmes-esque novel that truly breaks the mold… As Doyle and Crow explore London’s seedy occult underground, Addison doesn’t shy away from discussing the era’s racism… what really makes this title stand out among a sea of Sherlock Holmes stories is its straightforward criticism of gender roles and the gender binary itself.”

And Jim Higgins notes in his Journal Sentinel review: "Even more than Holmes and Watson, Crow and Doyle are outcasts, nearly friendless before their fateful introduction. Doyle has been harmed by great evil and wrestles with that constantly. The doctor hides two dangerous secrets. I'm not an obsessive reader of Holmes pastiches, but "The Angel of the Crows" goes as deep into the strengths, weaknesses and psychology of the Watson character as any I have read, making the veteran much more than a simple bulldog with a medical bag and a revolver."

This event is free and you can register on Zoom right here. Copies of The Angel of the Crows is discounted 20% off the list price at least through July 6.

Wednesday, July 1, 7:00 pm - Steven Wright, author of The Coyotes of Carthage. Originally scheduled as an in-store event, we've converted Wright's event to Zoom (register here), and while we're now two months out from pub date, our enthusiasm hasn't diminished. In fact, it's risen - Chris Lee, who is doing the conversation for this one, convinced me to read The Coyotes of Carthage and now I'm a big fan too.

Madison author Wright is Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, and he also teaches in the UW-Madison's creative writing program. But wait, he also worked in the Obama administration. And did I mention that he writes for The New York Review of Books? But there's more - Wright runs the Wisconsin Innocence Project. I'm guessing that he's taught a lot of lawyers in Milwaukee!

John Grisham has been one of the book's champions, calling Wright "a major new voice in the world of political thrillers." And the publisher has positioned the book as Grisham's The Firm meets The Sellout, the Booker-winning political satire from Paul Beatty. And it is much like The Sellout in that they are both great books, but I would argue that the tone on The Coyotes of Carthage is not quite so satirical. I really think of this book's tone as more of an espionage novel, contemporary political espionage.

Here's Chris Lee's take “To save his career as a political fixer, Dre has a quarter million in dark money to convince a small town in South Carolina to let a company dig for gold (yes, really), strip mining the local nature preserve and poisoning the water. It’s a grimly hilarious assessment of one microcosm of the American body politic; literary ironies abound. As Dre grapples with his past, tries to care for what’s left of his family, and maybe even makes a friend, the novel evolves into a bracing portrait of a man trying to untangle the political from the personal to see if he can save what scraps of decency he might have left.”

The reviews on this book are so great so I just have to include one more, from James Grady, author of Three Days of the Condor, in The Washington Post: "Andre is a strong but narratively flawed character, a 30-something black man deployed to a largely white county in the former Confederacy, a scrappy D.C. street kid who loves his moneyed, morally bankrupt lifestyle yet also cares deeply about his mother. He’s a felon who served time, got a college degree and then the “right” door opened. His backstory allows Wright to shed light on important non-electoral political and social issues, but those same forces undercut his protagonist’s believability. And while some secondary characters personify other human hopes and foibles, they often feel too forced, too cliched, too narrowly used. But when Andre’s on his fixer’s game, ah, the places Wright will take you in the politics that shape our lives, the backrooms, back alleys and bad dreams of our cash-hacked system, and he does so with a ticktock pace and knockout prose."

Join us for Steven Wright's event on July 1, 7 pm. Register here. Buy The Coyotes of Carthage here. It's discounted 20% at least through July 7.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending June 27, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending June 27, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars., by Joyce Carol Oates
2. Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh
3. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
4. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
5. The Second Home, by Christi Clancy
6. Valentine, by Elizabeth Wetmore
7. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
8. A Burning, by Megha Majumdar
9. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
10. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

It was coming out in late April, then it was August, and then it was moved back to June - that's Ottessa Moshfegh's Death in Her Hands. Boswellian Chris Lee had his first #1 Indie Next pick for this book, where he wrote "Ponderous, violent, forgetful, and deft, Death in Her Hands is a genre-bender that teases you into asking - is this noir? Horror? A whacked out farce? Or a sly literary trick? I’ll tell you what it is - absolutely brilliant." And Kevin Power in The New Yorker called Death in Her Hands a "haunting meditation on the nature and meaning of art."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Room Where It Happened, by John Bolton
2. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X Kendi
3. Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F Saad
4. Turning 50, by Tom Haudricourt
5. Five Days, by Wes Moore
6. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
7. The Power of Ritual, by Casper Ter Kuile
8. I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown
9. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
10. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson

Recently Penguin Random House held a editor reception for booksellers and One World's Chris Jackson talked about his excitement for Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City. Wes Moore, who wrote this book with Erica L Green, came to prominence with his memoir The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. In his latest, Moore looks at the events of 2015 in Baltimore and the protests following the death of Freddie Gray through the eyes of seven different people - the format compares to Sheri Fink's acclaimed Five Days at Memorial. Shelf Awareness called it "essential reading for anyone looking to understand the systemic racism being exposed in America's cities, and the change the country desperately needs."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, by Hendrik Groen
2. Sounds Like Crazy, by Shana Mahaffey
3. I Was Told It Would Get Easier, by Abbi Waxman
4. Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi (In-Store Lit Group meeting July 6, 7 pm - register here)
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Circe, by Madeline Miller
7. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
8. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
9. Citizen, by Claudia Rankine
10. American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson

The Women's Speaker series continues online virtually with Abby Waxman, author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill and the just-released I Was Told It Would Get Easier. Waxman's latest is the story of a mother and daughter who sign up for a college tour. Yes, it seems like fantasy now, but the genre is contemporary romantic comedy. It also might be uplit, but I'm not really sure of that genre's qualifiers. What I know is that we had three great reads for this book, including one from me. I've now read all four of Waxman's novels. Register for the July 7 event here.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X Kendi
2. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
3. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
4. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
5. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
6. American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Charles Hagner
7. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
8. The Fire Next Time, by James A Baldwin
9. The End of Policing, by Alex Vitale
10. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson

Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law was the focus of two metro-wide book clubs several years ago and it's been one of the books whose sales have increased dramatically as people understand the country's history of racist policy. The book got as high as #3 on the June 21 New York Times bestseller list. Here's a link to the video Segregated by Design, which looks at the issues raised in the book, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in history.

Books for Kids:
1. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
2. Antiracist Baby board book, by Ibram X Kendi, with illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky
3. You Matter, by Christian Robinson
4. Kamala and Maya's Big Idea, by Meena Harris, with illustration by Ana Rami Gonzalez
5. The One and Only Bob, by Katherine Applegate
6. Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña, with illustrations by Christian Robinson
7. Saturday, by Oge Mora
8. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
9. The Kinder Poison, by Natalie Mae
10. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L Sanchez

The publisher notes that Saturday is "warm and tender story by the Caldecott Honor-winning creator of Thank You, Omu! and features "a mother and daughter on an up-and-down journey that reminds them of what's best about Saturdays: precious time together." The book came out last October, but sales have picked up in the past two weeks. It was featured in the NYT Anti-Racist books for children with Matt de la Peña (also on this week's list) calling it "pure joy" and "a quiet and profound picture book."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins looks at what books Wisconsin communities have picked for Big Reads.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Daniel on Larry Meiller Show - here's a list of books and links to purchase

Here are the books featured on Wisconsin Public Radio's Larry Meiller Show.

Larry just finished reading John Sandford's Masked Prey and John Grisham's Camino Winds. He also read Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party, who is not as well known as Grisham and Sandford.

I recommended The Coyotes of Carthage, a novel by Steven Wright.

And then The Beauty in Breaking, a memoir by Michele Harper

Susan recommends The Invsible Rainbow, by Arthur Firstenberg and Plague by Kent Heckenlively and Judy Mikovits. My suggestion was An Elegant Defense, by Matt Richtel.

Another recommendation - The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

Barbie in Washburn recommends Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters, by Jennifer Chiaverini. Daniel gives a shout out to Chiaverini's Resistance Women, now in paperback.

More from Larry on Grisham - did he get the bookseller right in the Camino novels?

Summer reads - Elin Hilderbrand's 28 Summers, James Patterson's Summer House, and Jennifer Weiner's Big Summer. And of course Christi Clancy's The Second Home.

Lee in St. Charles, Minnesota recommends Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes.

Susan from Fort Atkinson suggest Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny, by WitoldSzablowski.

Daniel recommends The Story of a Goat, by Perumal Murugan. He also mentions One Part Woman.

Jerome called to recommend The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E Baptist.

Daniel notes sales resurgence for Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns. Coming soon is her new book, Caste.

Cole suggests I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb. In retrospect, the person who likes this should read Brit Bennett!

Daniel recommends How We Fight for Our Lives, by Saeed Jones. This is an Lambda winner, as was Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn and Lot, by Bryan Washington.

And here's another - Everywhere You Don't Belong, by Gabriel Bump.

My short story pick is If I Had Two Wings, by Randall Kenan.

Here's one more - Crooked Hallelujah, by Kelli Jo Ford. And speaking of Oklahoma, I just read Boom Town, by Sam Anderson.

Another debut - Lakewood, by Megan Giddings.

And finally - We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry.

You can listen to the show here.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending June 20, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending June 20, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
2. The Second Home, by Christina Clancy
3. A Burning, by Megha Majumdar
4. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
6. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
7. The Paris Hours, by Alex George
8. The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes
9. Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars., by Joyce Carol Oates (register here for June 22, 7 pm event)
10. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

Oprah's Book Club selected Deacon King Kong as her 85th book club selection and the fifth since her new partnership with Apple. Per O: The Oprah Magazine, James McBride's latest is "set in a Brooklyn housing project in 1969 much like the one where the author grew up" and "features a cast of characters who struggle to keep their heads above water amid poverty, loss, racial tensions, and crime - yet they always have one another’s backs, and what could have turned tragic instead turns into a tale of resilience, hope, and humanity."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X Kendi
2. Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F Saad
3. Cookbook Politics, by Kennan Ferguson
4. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5. I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown
6. Milwaukee Brewers at 50, by Adam McCalvy
7. Falastin, by Sami Tamimi
8. The Hardest Job in the World, by John Dickerson
9. Turning 50, by Tom Haudricourt
10. Spirit Run, by Noe Alvarez

I don't think anybody expected that we'd be celebrating the Milwaukee Brewers 50th anniversary without a baseball season, but it hasn't started yet. Will it be shortened and regional? Concentrated in Southern California? I have no clue. That said, it's Father's Day and there are two commemorative titles in our top ten, Adam McCalvy's Milwaukee Brewers at 50 and Turning 50: The Brewers Celebrate a Half-Century in Milwaukee. Haudricourt's is signed, and I'm sure one day you'll be able to get McCalvy's signed as well. You can still order a sidewalk pickup copy between 11 and 5 pm today.

Paperback Fiction:
1. American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson
2. There There, by Tommy Orange
3. Hot Comb, by Ebony Flowers
4. Sing Unburied Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
5. Circe, by Madeline Miller
6. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
7. A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
8. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
9. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
10. The Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

While Hot Combs's Ebony Flowers now lives in Denver, she pursued her doctorate at UW-Madison. Of her 2019 work, Publisher Weekly writes: "Flowers's exploration of black women's relationships to their hair is rich with both sorrow and celebration as it champions black womanhood and family ties. In a series of comics vignettes, Flowers journeys through a first salon trip, a long-running case of trauma-generated trichotillomania (obsessive hair-pulling), and the collision of pain and piety that is a beloved matriarch's funeral." Note - the collection is a mix of stories and memoir so it could have also gone in nonfiction.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
2. Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X Kendi
3. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
4. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle ALexander
5. The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
6. Shameless, by Nadia Bolz Weber
7. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, by Beverly Daniel Tatum
8. Searching for Zion, by Emily Raboteau
9. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
10. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein

Originally published in 1997 and updated in 2017, Beverly Daniel Tatum's Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race. As noted, "Tatum presents strong evidence that straight talk about our racial identities - whatever they may be - is essential if we are serious about facilitating communication across racial and ethnic divides." The author is President Emerita of Spelman College and in 2014 received the Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology, the highest honor presented by the American Psychological Association.

Books for Kids:
1. You Matter, by Christian Robinson
2. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
3. Antiracist Baby, by Ibram X Kendi
4. This Book Is Anti Racist, by Tiffany Jewell
5. All Are Welcome, by Alexandra Penfold, with illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman
6. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins
7. The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson, with illustrations by Rafael Lopez
8. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
9. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
10. Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults, by Bryan Stephenson

The National Book Award-winner Ibram X Kendi's latest is Antiracist Baby a "new board book that empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves." Demand is so strong for this title, and the message so transcends the board book genre, that Kokila is also producing the book as a picture book. This format should dramatically increase the places where this book is sold and get it to slightly older kids who have passed the board book years. Here's the link to the format for older readers - it is publishing on July 14.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews the latest from Katherine Addison. He notes: In The Angel of the Crows, Madison novelist Katherine Addison remixes the Baker Street duo (that's Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson) in an alternate - history fantasy with an even weirder London where supernatural entities jostle with hansom cab drivers and Lestrade. Addison has called it a 'kitchen sink' novel, and she has put nearly everything in here: angels, fallen angels, vampires, werewolves, hellhounds, human carrion eaters, witches, ghosts and airships." You can register here for our Zoom event on June 30 with Addison in conversation with Jim Higgins. The novel goes on sale June 23, this coming Tuesday.