Friday, October 24, 2014

Chris Hadfield at Boswell, in Conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn, This Coming November 13 and We've Got the Window to Prove It.

We recently switched out our fall window and our space table to make a fall table and space window. Moving things around is a lot easier than coming up with new display ideas, and sometimes has the same effect.

In the case of our space display, the focus is of course on astronaut Chris Hadfield's new book, You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes: Photographs from the International Space Station, which came out on October 14. This is the follow up to last year's hit, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything.
Chris Hadfield is coming to Boswell on Thursday, November 13, for a ticketed event, a conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn.

We've structured the event as a fundraiser for WPR. Your $30 ticket includes a copy of You are Here, a $3 donation to Wisconsin Public Radio--unlike a lot of other tickets out there, it also includes sales tax plus the Brown Paper Tickets fee. And I don't know if you know this, but Dunn is being inducted into the Milwaukee Media Hall of Fame this week. How's that for an achievement? We are so lucky to have her in Milwaukee--and this wonderful event features a world-class astronaut and a top-notch interviewer. What more could you want? Well, you could get a $22 gift card the night of the event, in lieu of the book.

The idea for the window, which, as always, is a bit tough to photograph with the glare, was an astronaut floating through space, featuring the Earth in the distance. The astronaut is a blow up mounted one of our old foam board jacket covers (Thanks, Clark Graphics) while the Earth is one of our globe puzzles (they also have the United States and the Solar System, though they make less sense being globe shaped, I suppose).

I should also note the idea for the display came partly from two of our author friends who had new space-themed books out, Stuart Gibbs' Space Case and William Alexander's Ambassador. I definitely had to give a shout out to them!

But those books are in another orbit, right? So to sum up, space window, Astronaut Chris Hadfield, WPR's Kathleen Dunn, ticketed event (tickets on sale here), November 13 7 pm at Boswell, excitement.

Oh, and the fall window looks even nicer reset as a table. Great job, Anne!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Guest Post from David Mallmann--Longtime Bookseller and Now Our W.W. Norton Rep, with a Few Stories About Our Hannah Pittard/Will Boast Event on Friday, October 24 and Why You Shouldl Read Both Books.

The route to an author event can be filled with as many coincidences as any of my favorite novels. Here's our guest post from David Mallmann, former bookselling colleague, current sales rep, and the circuitous journey that leads to this Friday's author event.

I’ve worked in the book business for nearly twenty years. Since 1995, I’ve worked one year for a Little Professor Book Center in Oshkosh; nearly 15 years for Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Brookfield, including four years as store manager; then I spent three years as the buyer for the Next Chapter Bookshop in Mequon, and now I’ve spent the last year as the Midwest Trade Sales Representative for W.W. Norton, the largest independent publisher in the country.*

As with twenty years in any business, I’ve come across many weird coincidences, serendipitous moments, bizarre occurences. I think of them sometimes as strange intersections. For instance, I ran into a former Milwaukee Harry W. Schwartz colleague working at Parnassus Books in Nashville while I was calling on them for Norton. I had no idea that he worked there. It’s strange to be standing in a bookstore in Tennessee and hear a deep voice say, “didn’t you used to work at the Schwartz Bookshop in Brookfield?”

The strange intersection that most recently struck me starts with my time at Next Chapter in Mequon. I had read and reviewed a very impressive debut novel by Hannah Pittard called The Fates Will Find Their Way. I called it “a bold and innovative debut from a fine new literary talent.” My blurb was used in the national Indie Next newsletter. Shortly after the Indie Next flier was printed, I got to have dinner with Ms. Pittard with a bunch of other booksellers from the Chicago and Milwaukee area. It was a lovely evening. Friends were made.

So now I’ll switch gears entirely to another author….

When you work as a buyer for a bookstore, you know every book that’s coming out from every publisher. That’s what makes the job so enjoyable. When you work as a sales rep for a publisher, you get tunnel vision. You spend most of your reading time reading your publisher’s books. I’m fortunate to work for a publisher that – in my opinion – publishes some of the finest books out there.

Still, even though I expect great things from Norton – Historians Eric Foner and Ian Toll! Anthropologist Jared Diamond! Scientists E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins! Philosopher Daniel C. Dennett! Fiction writers Andrea Barrett and Brady Udall! And all those poets!!! – every season we are confronted by new faces, and it’s their books that are most in need of our attention.

So it was a happy coincidence that very early in my life as a rep, while I was still getting my sea legs, I got the chance to read Will Boast’s memoir, Epilogue. Not only is Epilogue one of my favorite books of the Fall, but it was the perfect book for me to read at the time. Boast is, like me, from Wisconsin. We’re about the same age. We have a lot of the same interests. While his book is often sad and even tragic, it is buoyed by that understated Midwestern sense of humor that I can relate to so well. Reading his book was like listening to an old friend. Now that the book is out, I’m so happy to hear from booksellers in my territory about how much they love the book as well. So…

Flash forward to the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Trade Show in Norfolk, VA just last month. I was there representing Norton (Norton’s version of the Midwest includes Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, etc.). On the last day of the conference, I was essentially wasting time until I had to go to the airport when I scanned a list of authors who were signing in a nearby conference room and on that list was , of all people, Hannah Pittard!

I had only recently heard that she had a second novel coming out (remember what I said about sales reps having tunnel vision when it comes to upcoming books). I went into the signing room and we caught up as if that Chicago dinner was just a couple weeks ago. She gave me a copy of the new novel, Reunion, and – guess what? She’ll be in Milwaukee for a book event! That’s great, I said, I’ll read the book and come to the event. Then she mentioned that it would be a joint event with another author; an author, she said, whose new book is wonderful, just wonderful! That other author? You guessed it: Will Boast.

So, I don’t know where you will be this Friday night, but I will be at Boswell Book Company which – at least for that evening – is at the strange intersection of Pittard and Boast.

*Editor's note: I'm not sure of how it is determined that a publisher is independent. I think it means that they are not publicly traded, but there may be another formula. They are certainly the largest employee-owned publisher in the country. And thank you, Dave, for a lovely post.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Kids Books Go Up a Vine, Aong the Silk Road, Around the World by Boat, and Fall Off a Train.

This week we're looking at new kids' books. Our pal (hey, you drive 'em to schools once and you think you're on the holiday card list!) William Joyce returns with the help of Kenny Callicut in their retelling of the classic fairytale, A Bean, A Stalk, and A Boy Named Jack. So of course I start reading about the book and learn that there are a few twists here. The kingdom is in drought, and it's the king's decree that creates the magic bean that leads to the vine that brings Jack and Bean to the Giant.

Callicut works for Joyce's Moonbot studios, and you can see how their multimedia background has influenced the book's work. Kirkus Reviews calls this "a high-concept romp," "praising the engrossing illustrations and quirky humor." And Publishers Weekly notes: "Fast pacing and fresh visuals provide continuous laughs and entertainment as Joyce and Callicut drive home a lighthearted message that smallish kids (and beans) can bring about big change" and ponders further re-imagined fairytales.

Months ago, Boswellian Jannis Mindel raved to me about Marla Frazee's book, The Farmer and the Clown, and I was similarly taken. Here's her recommendation, now that the book is released: "As a farmer works in his field he watches a circus train going by. Just as the train hits a bump he sees someone fly off the back. When the farmer goes to investigate he finds a small child dressed as a clown sitting in the field. In this beautifully illustrated wordless picture book, Frazee tells the touching story of friendship and kindness as the farmer welcomes the boy into his home to feed and bathe him. All ends well as the boy rejoins his clown family, but not before someone else from the circus is left behind to follow the farmer home!"

For a second, equally enthusiastic opinion, read  Grace Lin's review in The New York Times Book Review. 

Speaking of The New York Times Book Review, a recent roundup included not just Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen's Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (you forget so quickly--we have signed copies) but also Mac Barnett's Telephone, which he wrote with illustrations from Jen Corace. Maria Russo called this a "raucous avian take on the old-school children’s game" and called the illustrations "delicate and lively." Our children's buyer Amie Mechler-Hickson calls it another hit for Barnett. I don't know if she'll hand-sell as many copies of this as she did President Taft is Stuck in a Bath, but I wouldn't put it past her.

For those who like tales set in historical places, here's one that travels to medieval Mongolia. Night Sky Dragons, from Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, with illustrations from Patrick Benson, is about a boy who loves making kites back in the days of the Silk Road with his grandfather, but his father, is not impressed. But when bandits invade the han (the trade stop that Father controls), Yazul and his grandfather use kites to save the day. Kirkus Reviews starred write-up  proclaims: "This dazzling, heartwarming story excites, soars and redefines 'go fly a kite.'”

Our buyer Amie placed a bet on Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud's Under the Ocean, the story of the boat Oceano as it travels from busy port to icy Arctic, through stormy seas and into the sunset, to paraphrased the publisher's rather romantic copywriter. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review too, noting that "Gracefully engineered pop-ups lift vertically to reveal the majesty and depth (in more ways than one) of the undersea world—a pop-up demonstrating just how much of an iceberg exists underwater is downright revelatory. All the while, a running narrative hints at the ocean’s biodiversity, as well as human-created hazards. A thought-provoking and gorgeously executed nautical journey." If you love this one, you might want to go back and get Wake Up, Sloth! too. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Here's What's Going on at Boswell This Week--Wendelin Van Draanen and Mark Huntley Parsons Tonight, Judy Schachner at Mequon Nature Center, Allessandra Branca at Villa Terrace, Larry Watson at the Sunset Playhouse, plus David Finkel, Jack Bishop, Will Boast, and Hannah Pittard at Boswell.

Here are our this week's events. You know it's October when we've got four events in two days.

Monday, October 20, 7 pm:
The He Said, She Said Tour, featuring Edgar-Award-winning novelist Wendelin Van Draanen, author of Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye, and Mark Huntley Parsons, author of Road Rash.

Please join us in welcoming the He Said, She Said Tour to Boswell, featuring celebrated author of the Sammy Keyes Series, Wendelin Van Drannen, who will discuss the final book in the series, Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye, and her husband Mark Huntley Parsons, debut author of the young adult novel Road Rash, in which teen drummer Zach’s star is on the rise. Great for ages 10 and up, you won’t want to miss this dynamic duo at their Milwaukee stop on this unique cross-country tour.

Dubbed “the most winning junior detective ever in teen lit” by Midwest Children’s Book Review, Sammy Keyes doesn’t go looking for trouble, but seems to find it everywhere. Until now: one of the bad guys has caught up! Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye is an emotional conclusion to the beloved, long running Sammy Keyes Series, demonstrating just how many lives one nosy girl can touch and paying tribute to a life well sleuthed.

In what Booklist is calling “a must-read for young garage-band types,” Mark Huntley Parsons’ debut teen young adult novel, Road Rash, is the story of 16-year-old drummer Zach, who is dropped from one band only to be invited on tour with a better band. Great for anyone who loved Almost Famous or This is Spinal Tap, Road Rash is “a road-trip adventure in romance and friendship that is ultimately all about the music” (Kirkus Reviews).

Tuesday, October 21, 4:30 pm (note special time), at the Mequon Nature Preserve, 8200 West County Line Road:
Judy Schachner, author of Skippyjon Jones: Snow What. This event is co-sponsored by the Mequon Nature Preserve and Milwaukee Reads.

Please join us at the Mequon Nature Preserve for a magical event with Judy Schachner, the Mamalita behind the bestselling Skippyjon Jones Series, including Skippyjon’s most exciting adventure yet, Skippyjon Jones: Snow What, in an event great for ages 3 and up!

Skippyjon Jones is back and off to a magical snow forest of make-believe in Skippyjon Jones Snow What, in which the irrepressible Siamese cat who thinks he’s a Chihuahua teams up with his pals, the Chimichango gang, to save the frozen princess and make sure this fuzzy tale ends happily ever after. Frolicking through the snow with his amigos, the group takes on a job only El Skippito can do: to wake up Nieve Que, the frozen Princess, by kissing her! Kissing? Yuck! Will this hero agree to don a prince’s pantalones and save the day?

Tuesday, October 21, 7 pm, with reception at 5:30 pm:
A Ticketed Event with Alessandra Branca, author of New Classic Interiors at Villa Terrace, 2220 N. Terrace Ave. This event is co-sponsored by Friends of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.

Please join us at Villa Terrace for a ticketed event with Chicago-designer Alessandra Branca, author of New Classic Interiors, a revealing look at her step-by-step creative process perfect for anyone who is ready for invaluable guidance on creating a home that is both gorgeous and livable. Admission is $10, which goes to directly to Villa Terrace.

For Alessandra Branca, living means living comfortably. Growing up in Rome, Branca was always surrounded by exquisite art and architecture. She learned early on that beauty is meant to intermingle with everyday life, and to this day her interior designs, while abiding by classical principles, comfortably accommodate her clients’ lifestyles. “You can’t just do something that looks pretty,” she says. “It has to work.”

Beginning with her own Chicago townhouse and interweaving insights drawn from several other prominent projects in New Classic Interiors, Alessandra Branca shows how she assesses each space’s form and function, selects foundation elements, chooses furniture and lighting, and, finally, incorporates decorative elements that reflect the resident’s personality. Illustrated with 200 lush photographs, the book offers a welcomes introduction to Branca’s enchanting and livable interiors.

Wednesday, October 22, 7 pm:
David Finkel, author of Thank You for Your Service, shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle prize.

Please join us for an evening with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, MacArthur “Genuis” Grant recipient, and author of The Good Soldiers, David Finkel, as he presents his latest, Thank You for Your Service, an important book filled with great truths, none more powerful than when Finkel writes: “while the truth of war is that it’s always about loving the guy next to you, the truth of the after-war is that you’re on your own.”

No journalist has reckoned with the psychology of war as intimately as David Finkel. In The Good Soldiers, his bestselling account from the front lines of Baghdad, Finkel shadowed the men of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion as they carried out the infamous surge, a grueling fifteen-month tour that changed all of them forever. Now, in Thank You for Your Service, Finkel follows many of those same men as they return home and struggle to reintegrate—both into their family lives and into American society at large. Where do soldiers belong after their homecoming? Is it possible, or even reasonable, to expect them to rejoin their communities as if nothing has happened? And, in moments of hardship, who are soldiers expected to turn to if they feel alienated by the world they once lived in? A mesmerizing account of the pain and hope that they carry from day-to-day, Thank You for Your Service is more than a work of journalism—it is an act of understanding, shocking but always riveting, unflinching but deeply humane, that takes us inside the heads of those who must live the rest of their lives with the chilling realities of war.

David Finkel is a staff writer for The Washington Post, he is also the leader of the Post’s national reporting team. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2006, and the MacArthur “Genius” Grant in 2012.

Wednesday, October 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
The Friends of the Elm Grove Library present Let Him Go by Larry Watson at the Sunset Playhouse.

The Friends of the Elm Grove Library presents their “Elm Grove Reads” selection for 2014, Let Him Go, by local author Larry Watson. With this riveting tale of blood ties and familial love set in North Dakota, Watson reminds us why the American West as a literary genre is worth preserving. The Elm Grove Reads celebration is being held at the Sunset Playhouse. Tickets are $5 and are available at the Elm Grove Library, (262) 782-6717.

Set in 1951 North Dakota, Let Him Go is the story of George and Margaret Blackledge. A few months ago, their son’s widow took off with their grandson to remarry a man from a somewhat troublesome family, the Weboys. Resolved to find her grandson, who is also the last connection they have to their son, who died years ago, Margaret insists on taking to the road to bring him home. George, a retired sheriff, is hesitant but agrees, and together they leave the Dakota badlands, headed for Montana. The Weboy clan, however, is not going to give up the boy without a fight.

Thursday, October 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jack Bishop, editorial director of America’s Test Kitchen and co-editor of The Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book: An Authoritative Guide to Selecting and Cooking Meat and Poultry with 450 Recipes.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got burgers, steak, ribs, or roast chicken on the menu—shopping for and cooking meat can be confusing, and mistakes can be costly. Join us for an evening discussion with Jack Bishop, editorial director of America’s Test Kitchen as he presents The Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book, which begins with a 27-page master class in meat cookery that covers shopping, storing, and seasoning meat, including 450 foolproof recipes from America's most-trusted food magazine.

Matching cut to cooking method is another key to success, which is why The Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book includes fully illustrated pages devoted to all of the major cooking methods: sautéing, pan-searing, pan-roasting, roasting, grilling, barbecuing, and more. The editors of Cook’s Illustrated identify the best cuts for these methods and explain point by point how and why you should follow their steps (and what may happen if you don’t). Among the 450 foolproof recipes included in The Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book are recipes for new ways to cook some of your favorite dishes, such as: pan-seared thick cut steak, juicy pub-style burgers, oven roasted BBQ ribs, slow-roasted pork, crispy-skinned chicken breasts, and roast turkey.

Friday, October 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Will Boast, author of Epilogue, and Hannah Pittard, author of Reunion

Please join us for an exciting evening with two authors whose books, although one fact and one fiction, delve into the delicate and dicey territory of family secrets. In Will Boast’s memoir, Epilogue, Boast thought he'd lost his family, until a deeply held secret revealed a second chance he never thought he’d have. In Reunion, Hannah Pittard’s “engaging and vigorous” (Chicago Tribune) prose masterfully illuminates the problems that can divide modern families—and the ties that prove impossible to break.

In Epilogue, having already lost his mother and only brother, twenty-four-year-old Will Boast finds himself absolutely alone when his father dies of alcoholism. Numbly settling the matters of his father's estate, Boast is deep inside his grief when he stumbles upon documents revealing a secret his father had intended to keep: He’d had another family before Will’s—a wife and two sons in England. This revelation leads to a flood of new questions. Setting out in search of his half brothers, he attempts to reconcile their family history with his own, testing each childhood memory under the weight of his father's secret. With the piercing gaze of a novelist, Boast transforms the pain and confusion of his family history into an achingly poignant portrait of resilience, revising the stories he's inherited to refashion both his past and his present. Heartbreaking and luminous, Epilogue is the stunning account of a young man's struggle to understand all that he has lost and found, and to forge a new life for himself along the way.

Hannah Pittard, author of the highly acclaimed The Fates Will Find Their Way, Pittard returns with a fully-realized novel about a far-flung family reunited for one weekend by their father's death. There is no shortage of novels about dysfunctional families, but this story explores the incredibly complex emotional relationships between adult siblings in a way that rings so authentic and true that the reader feels as if they are part of the family. Written with huge heart and bracing wit, Reunion takes place over four days, as family secrets are revealed, personal foibles are exposed, and Kate—an inveterate liar looking for a way to come clean—slowly begins to acknowledge the overwhelming similarities between herself and the man she never thought she'd claim as an influence, much less a father. Reunion delves into the heart of what family means and how adult siblings can simultaneously share the closest of bonds and feel completely estranged.

Sneak Peek for Monday, October 27, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Christopher Buehlman, author of Those Across the River and The Necromancer’s House, presenting his latest novel, The Lesser Dead.

It's an early Halloween for Boswell as we welcome Christopher Buehlman, reading from his creepy new vampire novel, The Lesser Dead. This time Buehlman takes readers to the dangerous and dirty streets of New York City in 1978, where a gruesome game of cat and mouse between the city’s undead residents and a formidable foe is about to begin.

Joey Peacock has spent the last forty years as an adolescent vampire, perfecting the routine he now enjoys: womanizing in punk clubs and discotheques, feeding by night, and sleeping by day with others of his kind in the macabre labyrinth under the city’s sidewalks. The subways are his playground and his highway, shuttling him throughout Manhattan to bleed the unsuspecting in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park or in the backseats of Checker cabs, or even those in their own apartments who are too hypnotized by sitcoms to notice him opening their windows. It’s almost too easy. Until one night he sees them hunting on his beloved subway. The children with the merry eyes. Vampires…like him…or not like him. Whatever they are, whatever their appearance means, the undead in the tunnels of Manhattan are not as safe as they once were. And neither are the rest of us. Both harrowing and humorous, The Lesser Dead is an expertly-crafted novel from one of the horror genre’s most exciting new voices.

Christopher Buehlman not just the author of four novels of genre-bending horror; he's also winner of the 2007 Bridport Prize for Poetry. Most importantly, he is Christophe the Insultor, a popular entertainer at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekly Bestsellers from Boswell, Including Review Links, Little Known Facts, and the Journal Sentinel Book Page Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. To Dwell in Darkness, by Deborah Crombie
2. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
3. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
4. Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín
5. Blue Horses, by Mary Oliver
6. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
7. The Children Act, by Ian McEwan
8. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
9. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
10. The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel

The Man Booker Prize was announced this week and the winner was Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North, about Australian prisoners or war held by the Japanese in 1943. For those of you who buy books because they win prizes, that's all I have to tell you, right? But if you want some recommendations, Ron Charles in The Washington Post writes "Nothing since Cormac McCarthy’s The Road has shaken me like this — all the more so because it’s based on recorded history, rather than apocalyptic speculation."

Also on The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Alex Preston in the (UK) Guardian calls it "a novel of extraordinary power, deftly told and hugely affecting. A Classic in the making." But he also warns: "This is not an easy novel. The winding path of memory that serves for narrative structure can be disconcerting until we fall into its rhythm. There are scenes of violence on the "Line" that reminded me of The Part About the Crimes in Roberto Bolaño's 2666 – violence so relentless and brutal it threatens to swamp us."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Not that Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham
2. A Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker
3. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
4. Milwaukee Then and Now, by Sandra Ackerman
5. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
6. The Innovators, by Walter Isaacson
7. How We Got to Now, by Steven Johnson
8. Jesus, by James Martin
9. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
10. Plenty More, by Yotam Ottolenghi

How's that for a serious top ten? Our poppiest books books are by an Emmy-nominated actress and a James-Beard-award-winning chef. In The New York Times, Janet Maslin offered a very positive but strangely unquotable review of Being Mortal. She describes Atul Gawande's writing style as "clear and illuminating" and offers nothing but praise for both his thesis and the stories he tells to get us there. You can also check out Gawande's essay in New York magazine about how medicine has "changed the way we die, and not always for the better."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
2. The Shelter Cycle, by Peter Rock
3. A Share in Death, by Deborah Crombie
4. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
5. How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny
6. Luka and the Fires of Life, by Salman Rushdie
7. The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline
8. Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple
9. Best American Short Stories 2014, edited by Jennifer Egan
10. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson


There was a little grumbling that folks are not thrilled with the new packages for the "Best American" series, but in the end, it's what's inside that counts. I'm mostly upset that series editor Heidi Pitlor stole my line that there are now more writers than readers in America. Arielle Landau in The New York Daily News is very pleased with Jennifer Egan's final choices in Best American Short Stories 2014, loving Egan's criteria of searching for stories that make her lose her bearings. Landau's on Joshua Ferris' "The Breeze" and T.C. Boyle's "Night of the Satellite." For those who want a little background, John Williams in The New York Times looks at the development of the "Best American" series since its inception in 1915. That's right, next year is the centennial!

Paperback Nonfiction
1. Unlikely Heroes, by Jennifer S. Holland
2. Through the Eye of the Tiger, by Jim Peterik
3. Germaine Dulac, by Tami Williams
4. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
5. Christianity without God, by Daniel Maguire
6. Milwaukee Rock and Roll, by Larry Widen
7. No Struggle, No Progress, by Howard Fuller
8. What We See When We Read, by Peter Mendelsund
9. Shakespeare Saved by Life, by Laura Bates
10. Studying Wisconsin, by Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes

So it's not unusual for our top 6 nonfiction books to be current, former, and upcoming events, but the funny thing about this list is that our #1 book was actually postponed. That said, one of the schools we were involved with said the books were so anxious to get the books that they bought them anyway, including this week's #1, Unlikely Heroes. Workman has assured us this that Holland will be back in Milwaukee when she is better. The fans are really looking forward to it. Here's what Holland told Chicago Tribune reporter William Hagemann in his recent profile: "'Because I've been looking into this sort of thing a long time, I'm not necessarily shocked and amazed, but there is something that makes you scratch your head, especially when it's not a dog or big mammal doing something a human would do,' Holland says. 'When you see an elephant seal step in in a heroic manner, it's a bizarre situation. I think for me investigating what we know about other animals, and about empathy and sympathy and animal intelligence is an important part of this. I'm happy to see people more comfortable now than they used to be assigning these things to animals.'"

Books for Kids:
1. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
2. Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
3. The Dog and the Piglet, by Jennifer S. Holland
4. I want my Hat Back, by Jon Klassen
5. The Blood of Olympus, by Rick Riordan
6. Freddy and Betty and the Halloween Rescue, by Randy Soudah
7. The Leopard and the Cow, by Jennifer S. Holland
8. The Dark, by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen
9. The Monkey and the Dove, by Jennifer S. Holland
10. Clariel, by Garth Nix
11. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
12. A Halloween Scare in Wisconsin, by Eric James and Marina La Ray
13. Once Upon an Alphabet, by Oliver Jeffers
14. Monsterator, by Keith Graves
15. Telephone, by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jen Corace

We have a tendency to just list the writer of children's books in our database, though whenever we can, we also put the illustrator. I wish the bookstore inventory systems allowed for 2nd authors and illustrators, but they do not, which of course means we often still have to use outside systems like our Ingram program to look things up. That's why it's so nice when an illustrator like Oliver Jeffers, probably most famous for the drawings in The Day the Crayons Quit, writes and illustrates a book - no complications (but while he's had bestsellers before, like This Moose Belongs to Me, nothing has topped the popularity of his collaboration with Drew Daywalt, so there's something said for the traditional model, right?

His new Once Upon an Alphabet, contains 26 stories about the letters. This book took a long time to write and illustrate - almost every story but two were changed from the original conception. And he told Robert Siegel on NPR's All Things Considered that he illustrated the book all the way to "T" when he realized that this oil paint/collage/multimedia compositions were too much for the story, and he started again in ink/ink wash with a little splash of watercolor.

In the Journal Sentinel Book Page, Jim Higgins has several reviews featured. First of all there is When Mystical Creatures Attack , by Kathleen Founds. The winner of the John Simmons award, this novel in stories is very funny, but Higgins notes: "As funny as Founds' book is — and it is a veritable enchiridion of comic literary strategies — it probes dark territory in the story of Freedman, the young English teacher. Her missing diary is a running joke early in the book, but when Founds reveals its contents later, it portrays a lonely woman, struggling with the legacy of her mother's death and her own mental illness, and over her head as a new teacher in a Texas high school."

Also on the book page, Jim Higgins also reviews How to Speak Money: What the Money People Say--And What It Really Means, by John Lanchester, which is at least in part, a modern-day, economic Devil's Dictionary. He notes: "Lanchester explains the weird Humpty-Dumpty turn some economic words have taken as 'reversification': 'a process in which words come, through a process of evolution and innovation, to have a meaning that is opposite to, or at least very different from, their initial sense.' Take 'hedge fund': That use of 'hedge' began as a word to describe a kind of investing that involved setting limits to a bet, like putting a hedge around a field. Many of today's hedge funds have little to do with that kind of careful hedging."

And finally Carole E. Barrowman rounds up her three mystery picks for the month. Alas, we booked our Tasha Alexander event a bit late, so we weren't able to get notice in the Journal Sentinel. The newest Lady Emily novel, The Counterfeit Heiress, which alternates this time between our protagonist and that of the heiress (the last one had an upstairs/downstairs split), "parallel plots that come together in a surprising way. Barrowman notes that the tagline of this mystery could be "the best sort of historical fiction." Our evening of British mystery features Tasha Alexander and Charles Finch (ok, they both live in the Chicago area) is Tuesday, November 25, 7 pm.

John Connolly's The Wolf in Winter is fighting for wolf rights with Jon Darnielle's Wolf in White Van. His newest is "set in a twisted town in Maine, with creepy selectmen, brooding Gothic Mansions, and an ancient pagan church" and finds Charlie Parker (no, not the jazz musician) in the town of Prosperous, founded by a religious sect, "mired in redness and sin" with a "populace bound together with bonds of matrimony, loyalties, and fear." My apologies, but I'm quoting within quotes a lot and have sort of lost track of where each source begins and ends. Let it just be said that none of the ideas are mine, and to really understand this book, you should read the original review. Barrowman suggests for fans of American Horror Story, Supernatural, Grimm, and other shows that tell of the monsters amongst us.

Oy, there's another book called Wolf Winter coming in January from Cecelia Ekback. And there was also Winter of the Wolf Man. And plenty more where that came from, including a bunch of self-published titles.

Finally the Barrowman book bouquet is rounded out by Murder at the Brightwell, a debut novel from Ashley Weaver. This mystery is set in the 1930s at a seaside resort, where Amory Ames offers to help her former fiancee Gil (she's sort of not getting along with her playboy husband Milo) and unfortunately Gil is then accused of murder. It's all reather messy. From Barrowman: "I adored much about this book, especially the romantic tension and snappy repartee between its main characters." And Weaver is a Louisiana librarian, which of course we all love.

Wow, another great selection of titles from Higgins and Barrowman. I just want to drop everything and read Kathleen Founds' When Mystical Creatures Atack.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Milwaukee Public Radio Fundraiser with Mitch Teich this Morning--Tune into 89.7 at 10 AM.

If you've lived in other cities, you may have noticed that Milwaukee seems to get more than its share of authors compared to some similar-sized towns in the Midwest. While it is true that a strong, event-driven independent can make a difference, and our proximity to Chicago doesn't hurt, there are other factors at play. It's my thought that one reason is our media is very good and is interested in authors and what they have to say. We are very lucky to have the Journal Sentinel Book Page, Wisconsin Public Radio (including Milwaukee's Kathleen Dunn), Morning Blend, and several other weeklies like Shepherd Express and web magazines like OnMilwaukee.com and Urban Milwaukee that regularly cover our events.

But today it is my day to give a shout out to Milwaukee Public Radio, 89.7 and Lake Effect in particular. There are few public radio shows out there that give a regular voice not just to topical nonfiction, but also to novels and even kids' books, and that's on top of everything else they cover. Their plate is indeed full.

One thing we always hear from both publicists and authors alike is that when Lake Effect does an interview, they always do a great job. I was a publicist many years ago and it was not unusual for my authors to get to an interview and for the host to inadvertently let out that they really didn't know what the author's book was about. Not only do Mitch and Bonnie and company know the books and authors they interview, they've usually read the book thoroughly. It isn't unusual to hear an author say, "That's a great question, and nobody has ever asked me that before."

So today I'm going on Lake Effect to chat with Mitch and remind everyone how important the station and the show is to Milwaukee. I'm a member of WUWM and we underwrite there as well. Hope you consider the same, and not to suck up to you or anything, but it would be really great to pledge during my appearance.

(I took a blog break so I could catch up with event booking. I'm hoping to fill in the gaps today).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The New Dark Green Bag.

So it's already time for another plastic bag, but there's a little story behind that. As you may know, we brought in a bright yellow bag for summer. It was a bit difficult to make out exactly who the store was, but on the other hand, how many times do you see a yellow and white bag? My idea behind this was that we'd been around long enough (2021 days as of October 23, but who's counting?) that we could get away with this low-contrast bag, and it was sort of a play on all the low-contrast signage that I see being created by twenty somethings.

Now of course I had some friends critiquing the store recently and I was just waiting for someone to say, "You've got a problem with your bag. It's unreadable" and just to counter that, I already had our next bag ready to show. I figured that as we went into the holiday season and started helping folks who might only shop in a bookstore for Christmas, they might not get the joke.

We also hastened the release of our dark green bag, at right, because our normal bag vendor's vendor outsourced to a supplier who gave us bags that were the same thickness, but were clearly from a different composition, and could clearly not handle our customer's demands for many heavy books. The new green bags are more durable, and while many of our customer don't take a bag, the ones that do will clearly be able to reuse these again and again. Come March, when you're really in the mood for a little spring brightness, the yellow bags will make a reappearance, daffodil-like.

For those who prefer paper, we have our small and medium bags, plus we've also brought out our handled seasonal bag from Aaron Boyd. And of course we also sell our reusable cloth tote.