Monday, March 23, 2015

Erik Larson Sold Out, but You Can Still Attend Carson Ellis on Wednesday, Liam Callanan on Friday, and Judith Claire Mitchell Next Wednesday, April 1, All at Boswell.

Tuesday, March 24, 7 pm at Boswell: our sold-out event with Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

The good thing about reading this blog regularly is that you probably got enough warning to buy your tickets to Erik Larson's event on Tuesday before it sold out. For those who weren't paying attention, it is in fact sold out. Here's what else you need to now.

a. Boswell will be closing to the general public at 5:30 pm on Tuesday.

b. All folks with tickets should arrive by 6:45 pm to make sure they get a seat. After that, we will sell a limited number of standing-room tickets, which are also $30 and have the same option as the regular tickets (a copy of Dead Wake or a $22 gift card).

c.Your copy of Dead Wake will be autographed. If you'd like to get your book personalized (with a name - no messages please), there will be a signing line afterwards. Folks will line up by line letters. We'll start giving out line letters around 5 pm. If you are getting more than 4 books signed (most likely a dealer), we ask you to wait until after everyone else has gotten their books signed.

d. Yes, you can take photos, with these caveats. No flash, no posed photos on line, and please, no video taping.

e. And finally, we do have enough copies such that we can get a book signed for you, with one caveat. You must purchase the book first to guaranty getting the book signed, even if it's signature only. You can personalize, but names only, no messages.

f. I should note that our next ticketed event is for Neal Stephenson, coming for the release of Seveneves. He's at Boswell on Friday, June 5, 7 pm, and tickets will go on sale by April 1.

Wednesday, March 25, 7 pm, at Boswell: Carson Ellis, author and illustrator of Home.

It's not often that a first-tme author/illustrator gets the kind of enthusiasm that Carson Ellis is generating, but  that's partly because she's already illustrated many beloved books, from Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society (only the first volume) to Lemony Snicket's The Composer is Dead, to the Wildwood series, with husband Colin Meloy. One of the books that was no longer available was Dillweed's Revenge: A Deadly Dose of Magic, which she illustrated for Wisconsin's late beloved author, Florence Parry Heide. I would like to note that Heide's niece, Leslie Parry, is appearing at Boswell on Friday, May 15, 7 pm, for her first novel, Church of Marvels, but I digress.

While vaguely on the subject of Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis is actually in town because she's following the tour for The Decembrists, who are playing a sold-out show at The Riverside Theatre the very night Ellis is in town. While that may cause some consternation, because many of Ellis's fans are also Decembrists' fans, But you can do what our friend John M. is doing. He's going to the Decembrists show in Milwaukee and seeing Carson Ellis in Chicago. She'll be at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square on Friday, March 27,

I've been saying to folks since Amie was sold the title and fell in love with it that Home will surely be up for some sort of award at some point. Of course there are not that many awards to be had in the picture book world (whereas an adult novelist might strike out at the big three and still win the PEN/Faulkner or Dylan Thomas or other equally prestigious prize) but I did notice that she showed up on some mock Caldecott ballots and I think this book actually qualifies for 2016's awards.

Here are a couple of official Boswell recommendations of Home. From Barbara Katz: "Readers can anticipate a treat coming when they view the striking cover of Home and see its bright red endpapers. The large pages feature many homes, such as the artist's home on the front and pack pages, a bus home, and even a shoe home! Bold illustrations done in gouache and ink feature muted colors accented with bright red and yellow. Small details in each picture create a story for the reader to imagine. Fun touches include a bird appearing throughout the book, and surprises in the artist's studio. This beautiful book invites readers to interact with it, as they think about other homes and also answer 'Where is your home? Where are you?'"

And from Boswellian Jannis Mindell, another recommendation of Home: "What is your concept home? Is it the physical building where you live or the place that connects you to the larger world around you? These are some of the questions tackled in the beautiful picture book written and illustrated by Carson Ellis. The simple text is perfectly matched by the gorgeous and rich illustrations showing various different homes. Some are in the country and others in the city, some are under the sea while others live in a hollow in a tree. Careful and observant readers will find picture clues in some of the final pages. A great addition to any picture book collection!"

Friday, March 27, 7 pm, at Boswell: Liam Callanan, author of Listen and Other Stories.

Ever since we opened Boswell, one of our staunchest supporters has been Liam Callanan, professor of English and Creative Writing at UWM. He's not only talked up our events, but encouraged student readings too, from UWM's United We Read program for the graduates and another for the St. Robert elementary school students. But we've really never celebrated one of Callanan's own books, so it's a very special treat that his new collection, Listen and Other Stories, is finally out. But it's not just the programming he's helped us with. Liam Callanan is a true FOB (Friend of Boswell), providing support and encouragement, and more than a few laughs. In fact, if I spot anyone in the Callanan clan at Boswell, my happiness quotient immediately goes up a few notches.

Here's a write-up from Ann Christensen at Milwaukee Magazine: "In his new Listen and Other Stories (Four Way Books), MKE author Liam Callanan begs for an ear. He has a willing set right here. The protagonists in these disparate, nuanced stories are connected by the universal need to be heard. That moment might be precipitated by an event, life-changing (such as the gay man who captures his lover’s last breath inside a balloon) or not. We’re bystanders, pulled along eagerly, only knowing so much. But enough. Callanan, a professor in the English department at UW-Milwaukee, explores “voice,” letting events unfold without resorting to pathos. Listen carefully."

And here's my recommendation of Listen and Other Stories: "consequences. An arts critic refuses to join a tradition of going pantsless on an anchor’s last day. A lot of the folks in Liam Callanan’s fine new collection of stories are on the cusp of making important decisions. And perhaps those decisions are a bit constricting, and just to amplify that point , a number of characters are physically trapped, whether in a locked mausoleum, a tent with a ferocious bear outside, a dilapidated convent on fire, or in a home being flooded by dam. Past decisions are equally debilitating, and that sometimes leads to an attempt to preserve the lost, perhaps through their voices, or their breath. Whatever their foibles, it’s hard not to connect with the life-infused characters of Listen and Other Stories, blessed as they are with the author’s grace and good humor. " (Daniel Goldin)

Want to read more before attending on Friday? I love this column about exploring Paris with children and books that was published in The Wall Street Journal.

And then we have a little break, first while I visit my Mom and sister and go to a gift show in Boston and Worcester with Kirk, and then we run up against Good Friday, Passover, and Easter. But we do have one upcoming event which makes the whole week, Judith Claire Mitchell's long-awaited second novel, A Reunion of Ghosts, which goes on Sale March 24. Our event is Wednesday, April 1, 7 pm, at Boswell.

Here's Boswellian Jen Steele's recommendation of A Reunion of Ghosts, which will give you a handle on the book. "'The sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to the 3rd and 4th generations.' These are the words that the Alter sisters live by. It has become their motto and this conviction becomes part of the reason they have chosen to die at their own hands on December 31st, 1999. Lady, Vee and Delph Alter have written a suicide note together, which is more than a "goodbye, world" note; it's also a family history. You see, the Alter sisters are descendants of Lenz Otto Alter and Iris Emanuel Alter. Lenz was a chemist and the creator of the poison gas that was first used in WWI. Iris was the first woman to earn a PhD in chemistry and the first in the family to commit suicide. A Reunion of Ghosts is a captivating chronicle of a family and the weight of consequences, which grows heavier with time. It's the quirky, dark comedy, family saga you'll want to read."

And here's a little excerpt from the Publishers Weekly starred review: " Moving nimbly through time and balancing her weightier themes with the sharply funny, fiercely unsentimental perspectives of her three protagonists—each distinct, yet also, as their name suggests, at “different stages of a single life”—Mitchell’s fictional suicide note is poignant and pulsing with life force." Read the rest here.

I should note that if you read our blog via Facebook, it's increasingly likely that you're not seeing it unless we boost it by paying. I think it's time for you to start subscribing, allowing it to show up in your in box. Sign up here!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Boswell Bestsellers for the Week Ending March 21, 2015, Including Annotations and Journal Sentinel Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Whites, by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt
2. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
3. Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. Leaving Berlin, by Joseph Kanon

Nothing new popped into our top five this week, but it's nice to see not just our current week's event, with Richard Price for The Whites, who was also a guest on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me this week, but also former event titles Epitaph and Leaving Berlin (and below in paperbacks, Lydia's Party).

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. On the Edge, by Alison Levine
2. Better and Faster, by Jeremy Gutsche
3. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson (our event on 3/24 is sold out)
4. The Politics of Promotion, by Bonnie Marcus
5. Small Miracles from Beyond, by Yitta Halberstam

Some of this week's bestsellers are from the Women's Leadership Conference, and the other two are for offsite events that weren't part of our programming, and Erik Larson's event is sold out, so really, there's nothing to talk about this week. The big news is at #7, where for the second week, Pioneer Girl has been in our top. So glad that the South Dakota State Historical Society was finally able to reprint Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography.

Oh, and while we didn't run out during the signing, by the end of Women's Leadership Conference we we out of On the Edge: Leadership Lessons from Mount Everest and Other Extreme Environments. We'll have more copies on Tuesday.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Euphoria, by Lily King
2. Clockers, by Richard Price
3. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
4. Citizen, by Clauida Rankine
5. Lydia's Party, by Margaret Hawkins

Congratulations to Claudia Rankine, whose book Citizen won the National Book Critics Circle award for poetry. And we're thrilled to see the release of Antoine Laurain's new book, The Red Notebook, his follow-up to The President's Hat. Here's Anne McMahon's recommendation: "It may not be a complicated story, but what a story it is! Laure gets mugged. Laurent the bookseller finds her purse. He tries to find her. As he gets clues to her life and gets closer and closer, he finds himself wanting to know everything about her but at the same time, scared to meet her. It takes his precocious daughter (his fairy goddaughter?) to put them together. Such a delightful tale, perhaps even better than The President's Hat. I thoroughly enjoyed it!"

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt
2. How to be a Heroine, by Samantha Ellis
3. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. North Africa, by Phillip Naylor
5. How to be Interesting, by Jessica Nagy (event at Boswell 4/27)

Our How to be a Heroine promotion is going strong, where now you can also pick your favorite heroine, enter our drawing, and win a copy of...How to be a Heroine! Time for Jane Glaser's recommendation: "Traveling the Haworth moors of the Bronte sisters sets off a query between the author and her friend as to whether Jane Eyre or Catherine Earnshaw is the more admired heroine. Part memoir of growing up in an Iraqi-Jewish family and part informed commentary, readers will travel on a literary journey of self discovery, focusing on the impact that the joy of reading has on shaping our lives, in all its fluidity. Revisiting the heroines of her favorite books, among them as diverse as fairy tale's The Little Mermaid, to Jane Austen's Lizzie Bennett, Thomas Hardy's Tess, E M Forster's Lucy Honeychurch, Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett and Melanie, Salinger's Franny, Sylvia Plath's Esther Greenwood, the author also interweaves a reflection of her life as a writer with the inspired storytelling of Scheherazade. So engaging and enjoyable was this book that it sent me back to the back to the bookshelves to rediscover my favorite heroine!"

Books for Kids:
1. The Thickety V1: The Path Begins, by J.A. White
2. The Thickety V2: The Whispering Trees, by J.A. White
3. Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg
4. Witherwood Reform School, by Obert Skye
5. Arlo Needs Glasses, by Barney Saltzberg
6. The Keepers V1: The Box and the Dragonfly, by Ted Sanders
7. A Little Bit of Oomph, by Barney Saltzberg
8. Creatures from my Closet V1: Wonkenstein, by Obert Skye
9. In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler
10. The Thickety V1: The Path Begins (cloth edition), by J.A. White

This week's top 10 is completely event driven, and like the adult list, there are authors who came to town who did not do a public event, like Barney Saltzberg. What a great day two schools had celebrating Beautiful Oops. For J.A. White, we did the opposite and had two public events, in addition to our three school visits. If you haven't dived into The Thickety series, start with The Path Begins and you'll want to continue with The Whispering Trees. The great thing was that at all the events, lots of kids had read the books already and they were so excited to talk to the author about the books (and since Jerry White teachers third grade, he certainly was the perfect person to talk to him about it.) If you are at a K-12 school within commuting distance of Milwaukee, what are you waiting for? Sign up with Phoebe for our authors in schools program.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins offers his take on Jill Ciment's new novel, Act of God: "Forgive me, mycologists and 'shroom-heads, but few things unsettle me more deeply than the unexpected discovery of fungi where fungi are not supposed to be. Adult twin sisters Edith and Kat make such a find in the opening of Jill Ciment's novel Act of God: 'A small phosphorus organism, about as bright and arresting as a firefly's glow, bloomed in the seam of the hall closet.... A swell rose out of the glow until the head of whatever was fighting to get born pushed through... Kat gasped. Her breath must have disturbed the new life, or awakened it, because a puff of spores sprayed out, luminous and ephemeral as glitter.'Oh dear."

And also from Jim Higgins, here's that Richard Price (writing as Harry Brandt) review of The Whites. "The Whites grips a reader as firmly as any cable or pay-cable cop show you can think of — plus it offers the rich texture of Price's deeply informed writing." If you now feel the desperate urge to see Price in person, my apologies, but it was yesterday. Perhaps it's time to sign up for our email newsletter. But you should also note that we do have some signed copies.

And reprinted from the Miami Herald, Connie Ogle waxes about Phil Klay's Redeployment, just in time to encourage you to read the book and come to our May in-store lit group discussion on May 4.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hanging Out at the Women's Leadership Conference with Carly.

As we do every year about this time, today Boswell sold books at the UWM Women's Leadership Conference. The opening speaker was Erin Brockovich, but go figure, she doesn't actually have any books in print at this time. For the lunch, the lead was Alison Levine, author of On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership., and goodness, was she dynamic! Nowadays you wonder how these offsite events are going to go, but the attendees were crazy over her talk and the call to buy was very strong. Publishers Weekly wrote: "In her assured, personable debut, Levine-team captain of the first American Women's Everest Expedition and a former associate at Goldman Sachs-takes lessons learned on the slopes of the world's tallest mountains and applies them to everyday business challenges for executives at all levels, as well as politicians, educators, and students."

Another attendee was Bonnie Marcus, the author of The Politics of Promotion: How High-Achieving Women Get Ahead and Stay Ahead. We had a little mix-up with the publisher and our order sat in their in-box instead of being processed. Fortunately we were able to get copies from our wholesaler Ingram at the last minute and in another shout out, our UPS driver adjusted his root today so that we could get our delivery a bit earlier. I offer Lois Frankel's quote today, as we sold a copy of one of her books at the conference: "If you're one of those nice girls who thinks politics is a four-letter word, think again. From promotions to perks to plum assignments, savvy women know the path to success is paved by politics. "The Politics of Promotion" will help you to make workplace politics an integral part of your skill set without feeling as if you've compromised your integrity."

Our focus for the event, besides selling books, was getting the word out atbout Jessica Hagy's event on April 27 for The Art of War Visualized: The Sun Tzu Classic in Charts and Graphs. I made a special quarter-page flier, and handed it out to anyone who showed interest in either The Art of War Visualized or her previous book, How to Be Interesting (In Ten Simple Steps). Hagy does a great job; we had a wonderful program with her last time. One person bought out our stock of Interesting, and headed to Boswell to buy more. It's a good book; I hope she shows up for the event.

I haven't been reading too many business books of late (The Great Beanie Baby Bubble is more of a business narrative than a how to, but one book I'd read through and particularly appreciated the program (which we saw at Winter Institute) for is Yes, And: Lessons from Second City, by Kelly Leonard and Tom Yorton. The authors use the model of Second City Works, the training unit of the famed comedy operation in Chicago and Toronto, to show how the rules of improv can improve communication, team-bulding, sales, and more for corporations, nonprofits, schools, and other organizations.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Event with Erik Larson is Sold Out for March 24.

We're sold out of the Erik Larson event as of today! We just heard back that the Wauwatosa Libray Luncheon is sold out as well. That means a lot of things to do. Update the signs, web page, and write this blog. Get a press release out. And of course, figure out the options. Didn't get a ticket? You still have three great options.

All the details are here on this lovely sign.

As per the sign, you still have three options

A. We will have a limited number (about 25) standing room seats available on the night of the event

B. We’ll have a post-event signing line outside Boswell, which we expect will start between 8:30 and 9 pm.

C. Not able to attend? Buy a copy of Dead Wake and we’ll get it signed for you. For this event, you must purchase your Dead Wake ahead of time, whether you get it personalized or not.

D. And here's a fourth option - why not come to our events with Stewart O'Nan (Friday at 7 pm) and/or Richard Price (Saturday at 2 pm). They are also amazing writers.

And if you missed out, make sure you're getting our email newsletter and don't forget to open it. There's important stuff in there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Epitaph" Reviewed in "The Washington Post", Mel's "Jam on the Vine" Review in "Lambda Literary", and Our "How to Be a Heroine Display" is a Work in Progress.

I don't usually sit around waiting for a review, particularly after an event has happened, but I've been on pins and needles to see if The Washington Post would review Mary Doria Russell's Epitaph, particularly since Ron Charles practically begged for a sequel. And while Russell has really only written one direct sequel, she does write her books in thematic pairs. So yes, a really great review finally came out, but it wasn't done by Charles. Instead Steve Donoghue, another enthusiastic fan of Russell's work at the Washington Post, rode in to her rescue.

Donoghue writes: "The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been dramatized in numerous books, on stage, on screen, and in one particularly far-fetched episode of Star Trek .” In Epitaph, Mary Doria Russell revisits the iconic shootout, delving into its dramatic back story and aftermath. With vast amounts of research and a poetic prose line, she puts the hard kernel of the gunfight’s violence at the center of a setting as wide and complicated as the young United States itself. It's a remarkable accomplishment..." and there's nothing but rave from there on out. We've still got a number of signed first editions available.

We haven't had too many Boswellians reviewing for other publications, but Mel Morrow recently had a review published in Lambda Literary for Jam on the Vine. If you've chatted with Mel in store, you know how much she loves this book, and that enthusiasm is redoubled here. She starts: "Recall your first reading of a favorite book: pulse quickening with resonance, your fascination with this new, yet familiar, world fueled by desire to forfeit reality for another moment with characters who feel like old friends. That expansive, lingering ache when life calls you to set the book aside, and the heady rush of picking up where you left off in the pages. This is how I felt the first time I followed Janie through Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, the intensity and depth of that adventure a singular event until recently when I met Miss Ivoe Williams in the pages of LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s breathtaking debut novel, Jam on the Vine."

And this should grab you: "Jam on the Vine will resonate with many kinds of readers in myriad ways. Not only is it a well-researched and historically accurate account of southern African American survival, northern migration, and identity formation, it is an arresting real-world allegory." If I didn't have ten upcoming event books I had to read in the next week, I'd drop everything and read this right now. And yes, we ran out of books today. But we're back in stock on another Grove Atlantic winner, H is for Hawk.

 Speaking of books that a Boswellian is crazy about, we're working on our display for How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much, by Samantha Willis. Jane and Jen came to me and asked to do a display, and it has several moving parts to it, so it's taking a while to put together. First of all, booksellers are going to pick their favorite heroines, and we'll have bookmarks (made yesterday) explaining our choices. Then we'll have a drawing (I hope that will be done today) where customers can tell us their favorite literary heroine and enter a drawing for a copy of How to be a Heroine. We'll put the choices on Twitter (thank you) and add the best ones to our display.

Monday, March 16, 2015

This Week's Boswell Happenings: Phillip Norman on North Africa tonight (Monday), J.A. White at Elm Grove Library (4 pm) and Boswell (6:30) on Wednesday, Stewart O'Nan on Friday (7 pm ) and Richard Price on Saturday (2 pm), Both at Boswell. Plus a Little About Mary Nohl Day at the Public Museum and Last, Last Chance to Get Erik Larson Tickets.

In the next week, we have not one but two authors whose latest books were featured on the front page of The New York Times Book Review.

Monday, March 16, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Phillip Naylor, author of North Africa:: A History from Antiquity to the Present

North Africa has been a vital crossroads throughout history, serving as a connection between Africa, Asia, and Europe. Paradoxically, however, the region's historical significance has been chronically underestimated. In a book that may lead scholars to reimagine the concept of Western civilization, incorporating the role North African peoples played in shaping "the West," Phillip Naylor describes a locale whose transcultural heritage serves as a crucial hinge, politically, economically, and socially.

Phillip C. Naylor is professor of History at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he directed the Western Civilization program. His previous books include The Historical Dictionary of Algeria and France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Transformation.

Wednesday, March 18, 4 pm at Elm Grove Library
Wednesday, March 18, 6:30 pm, at Boswell:
J.A. White, author of The Thickety: The Whispering Trees

In the dark world of The Thickety, 12-year-old Kara lives an outcast’s life as a suspected witch. When she was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. Years later, Kara and her little brother Taff are still shunned by the people of their village who believe that nothing is more evil than magic…except, perhaps, the mysterious forest called the Thickety that covers nearly the entire island. After discovering a strange book with unspeakable powers – a book that might have belonged to their mother—Kara and Taff flee to the only place they know they won’t be followed: the Thickety. But the Thickety’s unknown magic lurks behind every twist and shadow, leading the children down a dark and wicked path. J.A. White is the writer for the book trailer production company, Escape Goat, as well as an elementary school teacher. Whether you live on the East Side or West Side of metro Milwaukee, we've got a J.A. White event for you.

A fellow who makes trailers better have a good trailer and Mr. White does. Here's the video for The Thickety: The Whispering Trees:

That's 4 pm at Elm Grove Library and 6:30 pm at Boswell. The Elm Grove Library is located at 13600 Juneau Blvd, north of Bluemound Road, east of Moorland Road. For more info, contact the -library at (262) 782-6717.

Friday, March 20, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Stewart O'Nan, author of West of Sunset

Today F. Scott Fitzgerald is widely revered as one of America’s greatest writers, and with recent releases of both books and movies adapting his work or re-imagining his life, his reputation has swelled to almost mythic proportions. While he and his wife Zelda were celebrities in the 1920s, by the late 1930s Fitzgerald had fallen out of the public eye and into harder times. It is this period that critically acclaimed novelist Stewart O’Nan brings vividly to life in West of Sunset.

Maureen Corrigan writes in The Washington Post review: "As he has demonstrated in Last Night at the Lobster and Emily, Alone, O’Nan is a writer alert to the courage and beauty inherent in the stories of people who simply have to keep on keeping on. What interests him about Fitzgerald’s exile in Hollywood is not so much the glitter (although Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich and other stars make appearances), nor his love affair with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham (whose blond good looks evoked the young Zelda), but rather Fitzgerald’s anxious commitment to his work as a screenwriter. Most of the movies Fitzgerald was assigned to were dreck (although there was a short stint on Gone with the Wind). Nevertheless, sitting down every day in his office or the various furnished cottages and apartments he rented in and around Hollywood, Fitzgerald fueled himself with cigarettes and Cokes (or, frequently, something more potent) as he labored to make flimsy scripts better. Fitzgerald was always a worrier, relentlessly tinkering with The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, even after the publication of those novels. It’s that F. Scott Fitzgerald — the worn-out yet relentless craftsman — whom O’Nan compassionately evokes in West of Sunset.

Stewart O'Nan is author of many previous novels and works of nonfiction, including his collaboration with Stephen King on Faithful, their book about being a Red Sox fan.

Saturday, March 21, 2 pm, at Boswell:
Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt, author of The Whites

Edgar Award-winning beloved master of crime fiction, Richard Price, is coming to Boswell to read from and sign copies of his latest novel (under the pen name Harry Brandt), The Whites, the electrifying tale of Billy Graves, sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch, a small team of detectives charged with responding to all night-time felonies from Wall Street to Harlem, which Stephen King has dubbed “the crime novel of the year,” calling it “grim, gutsy, and impossible to put down.”

Michael Connelly, writing about The Whites in The New York Times: "Written under the pen name Harry Brandt, his new novel, The Whites, is as much an entertaining story as it is an examination of the job of policing. It’s a job that’s difficult to do right. It’s even more difficult to do safely — especially when you try to prevent it from slowly hollowing out the holder of the badge. The novel posits a simple axiom: Those who go into darkness as a matter of course and duty bring some measure of darkness back into themselves. How to keep it from spreading like a cancer, eating at your humanity, is the police officer’s eternal struggle. It’s this struggle that Brandt places at the heart of his storytelling. Another great so-called crime novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, has said that the best crime novels aren’t about how cops work cases, they’re about how cases work cops. This holds true, with fervor, in The Whites."

Don't miss this interview with Richard Price on Fresh Air.

Tuesday, March 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Thirty tickets left for Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake.

Boswellian Anne McMahon says: "I suspect that like most people, I knew the bare facts of the Lusitania sinking. The full story as revealed by author Erik Larson is both fascinating and tragic. The depth of Larson's research is amazing and his writing ability produces history that reads like a novel. The past comes alive in a book that is a must-read."

Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel writes: "Larson's book is a work of carefully sourced nonfiction, not a novelization, but it has a narrative sweep and miniseries pacing that make it highly entertaining as well as informative. As Larson points out more than once, a single decision or twist of fate out of many possible turning points could have resulted in the liner arriving safely in Liverpool." Read the rest of the review here.

Don't forget, Boswell closes at 5:30 to the general public for this special event. Tickets (as 2 pm Monday) still available.

One last thing, This Saturday, March 21 is Mary Nohl Day at the Milwaukee Public Museum, celebrating the release of the new absolutely delightful picture book, In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler. It's free with Museum admission.

Mary Nohl Day Happenings
10 – 11 a.m.: Presentation by authors Tina and Carson Kugler and discussion by Mary Nohl historian Debra Brehmer followed by a book signing.
11 - 12:30 p.m.: MPM Art Room open for all guests – create rock art jewelry, a fish, a pet rock or a moai sculpture.
1 - 2 p.m.: Presentation by authors Tina and Carson Kugler and discussion by Brehmer followed by a book signing.
2 – 3:30 p.m.: MPM Art Room open for all guests – create rock art jewelry, a fish, a pet rock or a moai sculpture.

The first 200 families to arrive will also receive a special sketchbook! Explore the museum to listen to stories, sketch your “travels” just like Mary, learn about Mary Nohl and the book, and even create your own fantastical artworks. And if Debra Brehmer's involved, we know it's going to be a great discussion. (We're working with Brehmer on another event at the Portrait Society Gallery on May 1 for photographer Paul Koudounaris. Very exciting!)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Boswell-a-palooza: Our Annotated Bestsellers for The Week Ending March 14, 2015.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, by Jennifer Chiaverini
2. Leaving Berlin, by Joseph Kanon
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. The World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane
6. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
7. A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler
8. Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell
9. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
10. The Whites, by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt (event 3/21, 2 pm)

The second novel from Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life, has been getting a lot of press attention. This story of "bright young things moving to New York" as, Entertainment Weekly put it, got a B+ from them. Leah Greenblatt writes: "A Little Life is not a little book—at 720 pages it’s a massive, sometimes maddening read—but it is a little bit of a bait and switch: Roughly halfway through, the other characters move to the margins, and Jude’s story takes over." And Claire Fallon in The Huffington Post notes: " Emotionally harrowing yet full of rather implausible sources of comfort, A Little Life somehow throws readers between the most unlikely extremes of horror and joy that life holds, making for a compulsively readable if artistically flawed sophomore effort." Our buyer Jason was a big fan of Yanagihara's first novel, The People in the Trees.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson (ticketed event 3/24...must by a ticket, not a book, to get in!)
2. Pioneer Girl, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (it's finally back!)
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon
5. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty
6. Chasing Lost Time: The Life of C. K. Scott Moncrieff: Soldier, Spy, and Translator, by Jean Findlay
7. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
8. The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, by Kevin Carey
9. Looking at Mindfulness: 25 Ways to Live in the Moment Through Art, by Christophe Andre
10. Silence, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Today's New York Times has a column, this one from Frank Bruni, about why the chase for elite schools and the subsequent rejections, can offer a tunnel vision view of success, with several stories that parallel Malcolm Gladwell's profiles in David and Goliath. We've also been seeing an explosion of online options, from for profits, new style nonprofits and traditional schools offering online options, so it's not surprising that Kevin Carey's The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere is popping on our bestseller list.

Carey was recently on Fresh Air, where he discussed the state of higher ed. Here's hist take on college admissions: "The problem with college admissions is that colleges don't really know that much about students. All they kind of have to go on is an SAT [or ACT] score, which is kind of a blunt instrument ... a high school transcript, which is sort of hard to figure out, [and] maybe a personal essay, who knows who wrote the personal essay. So they tend to fall back on, 'Is this person a legacy? Did they go to a good high school?' Well, everyone figures out where 'good high schools' are and people pay a lot of money in tuition if it's a private high school, or in the real estate market to buy a house near the good high school. And so again the opportunities for students to go to particularly elite colleges that are often the stepping stone toward the best jobs in government or business are in many ways constricted to a narrow band of people."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henríquez (ticketed event 4/8 at Lynden Sculpture Garden)
2. Mr. Palomar, by Italo Calvino
3. Redeployment, by Phil Klay
4. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
5. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini
6. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler (event 4/16 at Shorewood Public Library)
7. Mrs. Lincoln's Rival, by Jennifer Chiaverini
8. The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty
9. Babel 17, by Samuel R. Delany
10. An Elm Creek Quilts Companion, by Jennifer Chiarverini

OK, An Elm Creek Quilts Companion may not exactly be fiction, but it made sense to shelve the books with the novels and by the time I separated out the lists, it was too much work to move them around. I have so many issues with bestseller classification that you can give us a little wiggle room here. At her recent talk at the Weyenberg Library, Chiaverini was asked if there would be any more Elm Creek novels. For now, she's finished the series, but she said that for fans, they actually are rewarding on second read, as lots of details were placed in early volumes that play out later, and readers will get a kick out of spotting them. I should also note that Chiaverini talked up Mary Doria Russell's novels Doc and Epitaph. 

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt
2. What the Dog Knows, by Cat Warren
3. The International Bank of Bob, by Bob Harris
4. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
5. How to be a Heroine, by Samantha Ellis
6. Dear Mrs. Griggs, by Genevieve McBride and Stephen Byers
7. Milwaukee Mafia: Images of America, by Gavin Schmitt
8. White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise
9. Physics in Minutes, by Giles Sparrow
10. 1000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, by Mimi Sheraton

Jane continues to hand-sell How to be a Heroine, from Samantha Ellis. This week we're going to work on putting up a display around the book, so we can sell even more copies. Grace Labatt recently reviewed the book in The Santa Fe New Mexican. She writes: "What would happen at a cocktail party attended by literature’s great heroines? Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara would try to teach Lizzy Bennett (Pride and Prejudice) to flirt, Franny Glass (Franny and Zooey) would do a soft shoe, and Mildred Lathbury (Excellent Women) would accidentally gets tipsy on sherry. Lizzy would laugh at Scarlett, who wouldn’t seem to mind.Samantha Ellis’ vision of the most fabulous imaginary bash ever follows her close study of each heroine above, along with many others. In How to Be a Heroine, which is part literary criticism, part memoir, she revisits characters from her life as a reader in order to reassess her initial readings (or, she speculates, misreadings) and to reflect upon her own arc — her moments as some sort of a heroine."

Books for Kids:
1. Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg
2. Witherwood Reform School, by Obert Skye
3. The Keepers V1: The Box and the Dragonfly, by Ted Sanders
4. A Little Bit of Ooph, by Barney Saltzberg
5. The War that Saved my Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
6. Arlo Needs Glasses, by Barney Saltzberg
7. The Thickety V2: The Whispering Trees, by J.A. White (event 4/18 4pm at Elm Grove Library and 6:30 at Boswell)
8. The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds
9. The Adventures of Beekle, by Dan Santat
10. Big Nate Lives it Up, by Lincoln Peirce

Tieing in to our bestseller Big Nate Lives it Up, the currrent season of First Stage is currently featuring Big Nate: The Musical, now through March 29. Mike Fischer reviewed the show in the Journal Sentinel, observing that "true to Lincoln Peirce's beloved Big Nate cartoons — true, for that matter, to the spirit of musical theater itself — just about everything in Big Nate is similarly exaggerated, generating humor from the resulting disconnect between the average 11-year-old's humdrum life and the unfettered world of the sixth-grade imagination, in which a heightened view of reality hasn't yet been entirely cut down to size."

Moving from the theater reviews in Tap to those of books, Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Dead Wake, the new book from Erik Larson whom we're hosting on March 24. We're not quite sold out, but if you are planning to come, you should buy your tickets now. Higgins writes: "arson's book is a work of carefully sourced nonfiction, not a novelization, but it has a narrative sweep and miniseries pacing that make it highly entertaining as well as informative. As Larson points out more than once, a single decision or twist of fate out of many possible turning points could have resulted in the liner arriving safely in Liverpool." Buy your ticket now.

Kevin Lynch reviews Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, special to the Journal Sentinel. His take? "At the author's best, the sheer number of escapes, heroes and villains carries the reader along, as if galloping through a valley of subterfuge and salvation that might also doom freedom at any time. One fugitive's betrayal pivots on both a southbound carrier pigeon and a "stool pigeon." The stories convey the sometimes breathtaking effect of the spontaneously growing collaboration between whites and blacks." Lynch also suggests further reading.

Carole Barrowman's "Paging through Mysteries" column offers the following recommendations:
--The Fifth Gospel, by Ian Caldwell, is "a scholarly and suspenseful thriller" set during the last days of John Paul II. It's also the #1 Indie Next recommendation for this month.
--On Firebreak, by Tricia Fields: "Fields' descriptions of people are sharp and pointed (Billy is 'utterly confident in his long-legged swagger') and the landscape of west Texas with its flat mesas and jagged mountains has a presence as real as her characters."
--Cuba Straits, by Randy Wayne White is the latest Doc Ford mystery. Per Barrowman, the newest "Set in southern Florida and Cuba, this book sees Ford lured into helping his friend, General Juan Garcia, whose discovery of a set of love letters between Fidel Castro and a mistress results in lots of bad things happening."

Mary Louise Schumacher discusses the new children's book, In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler. These former Milwaukeeans (more specifically Shorewood and Whitefish Bay) authors have created a delightful story, on sale Tuesday, and the subject of Mary Nohl Day at the Milwaukee Public Museum next Saturday. Schumacher ties the book's release to the news that the Kohler Art Museum will not be moving the house to Sheboygan..."Which is why the Kuglers' book is precious. It is a way to linger with the scores of woodland sculptures of monsters and sunny-faced figures, examine the blocks of cheerful color and abstract, geometric forms that define the property. No patrol cars will shoo us away."

And here is more on the National Book Critics Circle Awards winners.

Friday, March 13, 2015

In Short: Green Eggs and Ham, A Toast to the Jordans, a Short Goodbye.

a. If you follow The New York Times bestseller lists, you may think you know the bestselling book titles in America, but of late, the actual top ten, at least in the trade marketplace, are books that aren't listed, due to their age. There's been a huge Dr. Seuss promotion going on at mass merchants and those titles have completely dominated sales for the last few weeks.  The top title overall was Green Eggs and Ham, and both One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and The Cat in the Hat were in the top ten.

b. Playing catch up, I wanted to note that Friends of Boswell Jon and Ruth Jordan are being feted at the Mystery Writers of America banquet on April 29. They are receiving the Raven Award, for "outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing." Jim Higgins profiled them in February in the Journal Sentinel. Publishing Crimespree Magazine in their spare time (yes, they both hold other jobs), Jon and Ruth make Milwaukee a go-to destination for mystery writers. As Hillary Davidson says, they are "The heart and soul of the crime fiction community."

c. And finally, we're saying goodbye to two dear friends this week. As the person who makes the obituary signs, I sort of spend a little extra time with each author that passes away. Already this year we've had displays for Kent Haruf and Robert Stone, and today I put up the display for Terry Pratchett, finally taking down the P.D. James display from November. It's always tricky to determine which author or popular figure warrants a display, as we don't want the bookstore to become a mausoleum. So adios to Leonard Nimoy and Sam Simon as well, whose creations (in collaboration with others, of course) became numerous Star Trek and Simpsons books, respectively.

d. And on a personal note, I need to say goodbye to Bob Wosewick, who together with Kay, have been two of the dearest Friends of Boswell since we've opened. It started on a bit of a sour note, as the couple moved back to Milwaukee, lured in part by Harry W. Schwartz, their favorite bookstore. And as they were moving, Schwartz announced their closing. They tentatively threw in their lot with us and didn't look back, befriending more than half the Boswellians, and always up for some book discussion. When one of my colleagues threw me a surprise birthday party several years ago, Kay and Bob were two of the customers that Rebecca invited, and they came, and they celebrated.

When the news looked bad, the couple sold their house in Shorewood and relocated to a condo, and darn it if it wasn't just a block from Boswell. And over the last few months, Bob's friends and family have been making pilgrimage to Milwaukee to say goodbye, and just about every person came to the bookstore. In true Bob fashion, he finished his bucket list several days before he passed away.

Of late, every visit from Bob ended with a just-in-case hug. I'm generally not a touchy person (a quirk some use to torment me, and I'm talking to you, Aaron) but in this case, I'm grateful. (And if you think my showing The Long Goodbye is just a pun, we had recently had a conversation about  reading Raymond Chandler's novels. The title is just a coincidence.)