Tuesday, August 14, 2018

History vs Story: What Did the In-Store Lit Group Think of Killers of the Flower Moon?

Killers of the Flower Moon is one of those books you don't need to hear more about. Peter Grann tells the little-known history of the Osage Tribe and what happened to them after they resettled in a little-wanted piece of Oklahoma, which happened to be oil rich. Having read the book, the comparison to Devil in the White City is more apt than ever  - the true crime lures you in, and the history comes along for the ride. And while the second half of the story, about the birth of the FBI, is fascinating, it's this unburied story of America's treatment of Native Americans that is vital to our understanding of the present.

As one person said, you start out thinking it's a whodunit, and by the end you're wondering "Who didn't dunnit?"

Grann had great success with his previous history, The Lost City of Z, also a national bestseller and the source of a 2018 film. But Killers of the Flower Moon reached a whole new level of fame, shortlisted for the National Book Award and reaching #1 on the paperback New York Times bestseller list.

Here's Greg Curtis writing about the book in The Wall Street Journal: "Reading Mr. Grann’s writing has long given the same pleasure as reading a stylish, finely crafted detective story. It’s no accident that a collection of his stories from The New Yorker and other magazines is titled The Devil and Sherlock Holmes : Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession. And like a master of the detective story, Mr. Grann knows to save the best for last. That is where his meticulous, patient, detailed and often inspired research finally penetrates through the fog of lies and conflicting evidence to the hard ground of truth."

Hoover! It's fascinating what he did with the FBI. You can see how his attempt to bring law and order to the West also planted the seeds for his future problems. And the story is fascinating in how much change happens in the story. Tom White enters the FBI a cowboy and leaves a paper pusher. In that way, I was reminded of the changes the Akhar people went through in a few short years in Lisa See's The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. We think we're dealing with change at a greater magnitude than the past, but history is filled with this kind of thing.

Can I just say that Tom White was an amazing person? I think I was almost more stunned by the way he handled the Kansas prison riot after he left the FBI than I was by his tenaciousness in pursuing the killers of Mollie's family.

So did the In-Store Lit Group like the book? Yes, it was almost unanimous and we had one of our biggest turnouts of the year. But it was the remark of one of the attendees who had mixed feelings that got me thinking. Killers of the Flower Moon is so successful because it manipulates the structure of the story for maximum effect. The coda of the story, at the Osage History Museum, is actually the beginning. People who turn out to be criminals are described in less than heinous brushstrokes. Clues are sprinkled into the story, not piled on. Is that bad if it got us to not only read the book, but recommend it to others?

Contrast this book to an equally worthy tome that just came out, The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality. Historian Anna-Lisa Cox has been unpacking a story even more forgotten than Grann's. At least in Grann's case, the Osage still remembered. In the case of Cox's, historians have greatly underestimated the number of black pioneers and what led them to disappear into history. But unlike Grann, she had to cut her story to fit a smaller page count. There is more academic explanation, and there needed to be room for notes and references. I found the story fascinating, and passed my copy to friends at the America's Black Holocaust Museum. Cox's version of history much better explains the rise of the KKK in Indiana and environs.

The truth is that The Bone and Sinew of the Land has a story no less fascinating, uncovering history that needs to be told. But the style is for a completely different audience. I said to Cox "There's a trade book in this source material for you to write" and one day she might write it.

Upcoming In-store Lit Group discussions at Boswell:
--Monday, August 27, 7 pm - Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
--Tuesday, October 2, 7 pm - The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry
--Monday, November 5, 6 pm - The Winter Soldier, by Daniel Mason
--Monday, December 3, 7 pm - Hotel Silence, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Please note the next three meetings all involve a change of date or time.

Upcoming Sci-Fi Book Club discussions at Boswell:
--Monday, September 10, 7 pm - The Space Between the Stars, by Anne Corlett
--Monday, October 8, 7 pm - An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon
--Monday, November 12, 7 pm - Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz
--Monday, December 10, 7 pm - The Freeze-Frame Revolution, by Peter Watts

Upcoming Books and Beer Book Club discussions at Cafe Hollander:
--Monday, August 20, 7 pm - Mister Monkey, by Francine Prose
--Monday, September 17, 7 pm - Bannerless, by Carrie Vaughan
--Monday, October 15, 7 pm - The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak
I will be attending the Mister Monkey discussion. I just finished it!

Upcoming Mystery Group discussions at Boswell:
--Monday, August 27, 7 pm - Death in Nantucket, by Francine Mathews
--Monday, September 24, 7 pm - The Dry, by Jane Harper
--Monday, October 22, 7 pm - Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke

Links to all the books on our Boswell-run book club page.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Event alert: Peter Coviello and Michael Zadoorian, Still Waters poets, Erin Buhr

Wednesday, August 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Peter Coviello, author of Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs, in conversation with Michael Zadoorian, author of Beautiful Music

Peter Coviello, whose previous work tackled Steely Dan, Prince, and the history of sexuality, memoir joins Michael Zadoorian, author of the novel that became this year’s film from Sony Pictures Classics, The Leisure Seekers for an evening of music-inspired fiction and

Coviello’s memoir Long Players considers grief and the things that keep us alive, namely sex, talk, and dancing. It’s about the different ways we have of falling in love: with bands and songs and books, but also with our friends, lovers, the families we imagine, and the families we make. It’s a story of heartbreak, (ex)stepparenthood, and the limitless grace of pop songs for anyone who has loved a record like their life depended on it.

Here's my take on Beautiful Music: It’s late 1960s Detroit and young Danny Yzemski listens to CKLW on his radio. Dad loves music too, but his sound of choice are the beautiful music instrumentals that we now call elevator music. And mom? She sits on the couch drinking and ranting. Danny has to swerve to avoid the bullies at school and work both, and only his friendship with a tall kid with a white boy Afro who shares his taste for Iggy Pop, NME, and secret record runs to Korvettes (a discount department store), keep him sane. Let’s just say that things get worse before they get better, with the family disintegrating and racial tensions ratcheting up at school. Beautiful Music (told in rat-a-tat, diary-like entries) is both funny and poignant, nostalgic and surprisingly of the moment. Danny messes up sometimes, but you’ve got to give this kid props for trying." (Daniel Goldin)

Peter Coviello, Professor of English at University of Illinois at Chicago, has written about Walt Whitman, Mormon polygamy, and Prince, and his work has appeared in The Believer, Raritan, and Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as in several books, including Tomorrow's Parties: Sex and the Untimely in Nineteenth-Century America. He was also a 2017-18 fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Michael Zadoorian the author of The Leisure Seekers, Second Hand, and The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit. Zadoorian is a recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Michigan Notable Book Award. His fiction has appeared in the Literary Review, American Short Fiction, and North American Review.

Thursday, August 16, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Still Waters Collective Anthology Contributors to Runs Deep

The Still Waters Collective anthology celebrates our community and writing craft. This event features reading from eight contributors, including Nikki Jansen, Lisa Williams, Isaiah Furquan, Rap Kamasutra,Lybra Olbrantz, Cameron Robertson, Ryeshia Farmer, Nia Mooney, Robert Parker, and DIVA.

Runs Deep is a showcase of poetry and stories inspired by workshops from various Still Waters Collective sponsored programs including: PENtastic, FoxTales, The Write In, Voltage, and High School Slam League. The anthology includes 60 pieces to enjoy, written by teens and adults that tell tales of identity, women’s empowerment, Milwaukee neighborhoods, racial justice, family, love, and more!

Still Waters Collective began as an adult open mic at a Milwaukee nightclub called Mecca. From four poets standing sharing their work around a tall cocktail table, the Still Waters series grew to a weekly institution that nurtured a community for more than a decade.

Friday, August 17, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Erin Buhr, author of Little Walks, Big Adventures: 50+ Ideas for Exploring with Toddlers

Erin Buhr comes to Boswell to take us on little walks that contain big adventures and help parents and guardians teach toddlers about their surroundings through fun and adventurous local explorations, outdoor games, and activities that promote and enhance learning.

While most activity books encourage indoor explorations, countless adventures and learning opportunities await outside! Going for a walk or exploring the local community can bring about much more than just exercise.

Intended for parents and caregivers of children ages 10 months to 3 years, Little Walks, Big Adventures provides at-home or at-school activities that correspond to outdoor explorations, extending the learning opportunities after you return from your adventures. Sections of beautiful photography illustrate various outdoor concepts, from home and community to vehicles to animals.

Erin Buhr has a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and over 15 years of experience working with young children. More upcoming events on our upcoming events page.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Not-quite-back-to-school bestsellers at Boswell, week ending August 11, 2018

Not-quite-back-to-school bestsellers at Boswell, week ending August 11, 2018

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Lost Family, by Jenna Blum
2. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
3. Dear Mrs. Bird, by AJ Pearce
4. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
5. The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
6. The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
7. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate
8. My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh
9. The Incendiaries, by Ro Kwon
10. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

The #1 Indie Next pick is The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon and it also makes its first appearance on our top 10. From The New Yorker, Laura Miller offers: "Faith - ts loss, its kindling, and its susceptibility to being twisted into something monstrous - is Kwon’s theme here, but so is grief, which often drives us into faith’s arms. All of the young characters in “The Incendiaries,” students and ex-students at a liberal-arts college in the Hudson River Valley, are, like Will, in mourning, but none more flamboyantly so than John Leal. John, the sort of oddball character who often ends up kicking around college towns - he walks everywhere barefoot - gradually assembles a band of disciples who will, in the course of the novel, morph from a community of Christian seekers into a cult capable of extraordinary violence."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Calypso, by David Sedaris
2. The Fall of Wisconsin, by Dan Kaufman
3. Educated, by Tara Westover
4. Indianapolis, by Lynn Vincent
5. The Soul of America, by Jon Meacham
6. The World As It Is, by Ben Rhodes
7. Milwaukee: A City Built on Water, by John Gurda
8. Dopesick, by Beth Macy
9. You're on an Airplane, by Parker Posey
10. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan

Nowadays, there are so many celebrity memoirs that it's hard for them to stand out. According to Laura Adamczyk in The A.V. Club, You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir by Parker Posey is the rare celebrity memoir worth reading: "Incorporating goofy collages (many of her dog, Gracie), tossed-off puns ('Being a vampire sucks'), and the occasional recipe (one for a Manhattan with an Atomic Fireball in it), You’re On An Airplane exemplifies Posey’s wry, devil-may-care sensibility, all while describing hobbies like yoga and ceramics, meaningful points in her wide-ranging career, apartments she’s lived in, and her upbringing in Louisiana and Mississippi."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (In-Store Lit Group discussion Mon Aug 27, 7 pm)
2. Hotel Silence, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
3. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
4. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
5. The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry (In-Store Lit Group discussion Tue Oct 2, 7 pm)
6. Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
7. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
8. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
9. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
10. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney

The film Crazy Rich Asians opens this week. Joey Nolfi notes in Entertainment Weekly: "Crazy Rich Asians is enjoying a wealth of adoration from critics as it helps usher in a resurgence of the romantic comedy genre. The Jon M. Chu-directed feature - featuring a predominantly Asian cast including Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, and Awkwafina - has vaulted to an impressive 100 percent fresh rating on reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, notching 21 total positive reviews (with zero negative) thus far."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
3. The Death of Life in the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
4. Black Klansman, by Ron Stallworth
5. They Can't Hunt Us until They Kill Us, by Hanif Abdurraquib
6. The Long Haul, by Finn Murphy
7. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
8. Little Walks, Big Adventures, by Erin Burh (event at Boswell, Fri Aug 17, 7 pm)
9. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
10. Democracy in Chains, by Nancy MacLean

Another big opening this week is Spike Lee's Blackklansman, based on the 2014 book Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime. DeNeen L. Brown spoke to Stallworth for The Washington Post: "Ron Stallworth, the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, was scanning a local newspaper in October 1978 when he spotted a classified ad placed by the Ku Klux Klan: 'For more information,' the ad said, 'contact P.O. Box 4771, Security, Colorado.' Stallworth responded to the ad with a short note," and that was the beginning of the story.

Books for Kids:
1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
2. Illegal, by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, Giovanni Rigano
3. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
4. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
5. Click, Clack, Quack to School, by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin
6. Endling V1, by Kathleen Applegate
7. A Tale of Two Kitties V3, by Dav Pilkey
8. Encyclopedia of Immaturity, from Klutz
9. Out of the Wild Night, by Blue Bailiett
10. Nightbooks, by J.A. Whie

While Out of the Wild Night, the latest from Blue Bailiett, came out last spring, to me, it's a classic fall title, perfect for Halloween tables. Here's Julia Keller in the Chicago Tribune: "If ghosts were ever to unionize - and can’t you just imagine Local 187 of the International Brotherhood of the Writhing and Shrieking Deceased? - among their demands would be a requirement that Out of the Wild Night be inserted into the backpacks of children everywhere. That’s because the new novel for young readers by Blue Balliett is more than just ghost-friendly. It is passionately, poetically and profoundly pro-ghost. It shimmers and shivers with beautifully wrought passages that turn ghosts into superstars."

Here's what's happening on the Journal Sentinel Tap book page.

--Mary B., by Katherine J. Chen, reviewed by Mark Athitakis (USA Today): "Once Chen leaps past Austen’s plot, Mary B becomes more fully inspired and free to upend Austen’s novel. Darcy’s storied estate, Pemberley, becomes a gilded cage for Elizabeth; Mary’s impetuous sister Lydia, who eloped to London, learns what little support society has for a woman without money or education."

--How to Love a Jamaican, by Alexia Arthurs, reviewed by Jennifer Kay (Associated Press): "A timely exploration of multigenerational waves of immigration, the impact separating families has on children and the desire to be included."

Four debuts from Asian-American writers, reviewed by Grace Li (USA Today)
--If Your Leave Me, by Crystal Hana Kim: "Maneuvers between narrators in this intergenerational saga about the Korean War of the 1950s and the lives caught in it."

--A River of Stars, by Vanessa Hua: "A migrant narrative tenderly constructed around (main character) Scarlett’s quest to carve a life for her daughter and herself at the risk of deportation."

--The Book of M, by Peng Shepherd: "One day, a man in a market in India loses his shadow, and soon, his memory with it. Very quickly, more and more follow, and entire countries collapse as the new 'shadowless' forget their families, their names and their ability to perform basic functions, such as eating. Author Peng Shepherd examines the lengths afflicted loved ones will go to stay together – or split apart."

--Half Gods, by Akil Kumarasamy: "The Sri Lankan Civil War (1983-2009) serves as both a backdrop and a catalyst for Akil Kumarasamy’s debut, a short-story collection flooded with inspired detail."

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

From the Boswell Book Club Newsletter - Hotel Silence

Did you know the Boswell book club flyer is right at your fingertips? The link is right here. Every season we look at new releases for books we've liked that are perfect for discussion. Of course we'd still love for you to visit Boswell to pick one up and browse our recommendations. Don't forget about our book club wall at the front of our store. It shows what registered book clubs around Milwaukee are reading next.

Here's one more book that we think every book club has to read that didn't make summer flier. Hotel Silence was discovered by Boswellian Lynn, the first to write a recommendation. Friend-of-Boswell (and one-time Boswellian) Melissa saw the rec and book and convinced her book club to read it. The book club includes Melissa's spouse Jason, who also happens to be our adult buyer. He passed it to me. I passed it to Jane. Jane passed it to Jen. Now we've got a copy going to Conrad.

The story begins with Jonas's life in tatters. His marriage has ended and his ex-spouse tells him his daughter is not his own. He decides to end his life and takes a voyage to a war-torn country, partly because he won't know anyone and maybe also because nobody will notice. He travels light, ready to finish the job off with his tool box. But after settling in to Hotel Silence, it turns out that tool box is going to change the course of his life. We love that Isabel Berwick in The Financial Times says "Olafsdottir's writing is at once profoundly Icelandic - focusing the reader on all the particularity of life on that isolated island - and universal."

It's also on our A Gentleman in Moscow table, and it's got some shades of A Man Called Ove, and not just because it's translated from Icelandic with the original title Ör. Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir has written a short but powerful, sometimes funny novel about connectivity and finding purpose, no matter where you are in life.

Read the rest of the Boswell book club newsletter here.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Just Because It's August Doesn't Mean There Aren't Book Events to Enjoy: Amy E. Reichert, Jenna Blum, Duane Scott Cerny

Just Because It's August Doesn't Mean There Aren't Book Events to Enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 6:30 pm, at Zablocki Library, 3500 W Oklahoma Ave: The Great American Read presents Amy E. Reichert, author of The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go.

It's time for the Great American Read Summer Reading Picnic at the Zablocki Branch of Milwaukee Public Library. Meet Milwaukee Author Amy E. Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and other great novels. Amy loves to write stories that end with characters you'd invite to dinner. Reichert will talk about love and its influence on stories.

Bring your lawn chair or blanket, a picnic basket if you want to, and get ready to enjoy a spirited discussion on how books influence our own self-discovery and life journey. Bring any book you are interested in discussing as well. Register here.

This event is also cosponsored by Milwaukee Repertory Theater and and Literacy Services of Wisconsin. Don't forget that after you read (or reread) Pride and Prejudice, you'll want to get tickets for Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley. Get them here.

Thursday, August 9, 7 pm reception, 7:30 talk, at Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 West Brown Deer Rd in River Hills:
A ticketed event with Jenna Blum, author of The Lost Family

Milwaukee Reads and Boswell welcome Jenna Blum as a part of the Lynden Sculpture Garden Women’s Speaker Series. Tickets are $32, $27 for Lynden members, and include admission to the event, autographed copy of The Lost Family, and light refreshments from MKE Localicious.

Tickets available for this event online, at lyndensculpturegarden.org/JennaBlum.

Manhattan, 1965. Patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its Brisket Bourguignon and admire its dashing owner. With movie-star good looks and a tragic past, Peter is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the women hoping to catch his eye. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of a Nazi death camp while his wife, the restaurant’s namesake, and his two young daughters perished.

Then June Bouquet, an up-and-coming model, appears, piercing Peter’s guard. Over the next two decades, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways. Spanning three cinematic decades, from the explosive 1960s to the glittering 1980s, Blum artfully brings to the page a husband devastated by grief, a wife struggling to compete with a ghost she cannot banish, and a daughter sensitive to the pain of both her own family and another lost before she was born.

Blum’s novel, which People calls “an exquisite page-turner,” is positioned to be a perfect book club read, and has earned starred reviews from Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly.

Jenna Blum is the international bestselling author of novels Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers. She has taught novel workshops for 20 years at Grub Street Writers in Boston, where she earned her M.A. at Boston University. In addition to interviewing Holocaust survivors for the Shoah Foundation, Jenna is a public speaker and avid cook: she creates and tests all the recipes in her novels.

Friday, August 10, 3:00 pm, at Antiques on Pierce, 1512 W Pierce St:
Duane Scott Cerny, author of Selling Dead People's Things: Inexplicably True Tales, Vintage Fails and Objects of Objectionable Estates

Boswell and Antiques on Pierce are pleased to cosponsor a lively afternoon of stories from the dead. Duane Scott Cerny is co-owner of The Broadway Antiques Market, Chicago’s oldest and largest vintage shopping market. He’ll give a wry, behind-the-curtains peek into the world of antiques and their obsessive owners, in life and after their passing.

An amusing observer of the human condition, Cerny entertains in illuminating, scary, sad, or frightfully funny resale tales and essays. Whether processing the estate of a hoarding beekeeper, disassembling the retro remains of an infamous haunted hospital, or conducting an impromptu appraisal during a shiva gone disturbingly wrong, every day is a twisted treasure hunt for this twenty-first-century antiques dealer.

While digging deep into the basements, attics, and souls of the most interesting collectors imaginable, traveling from one odd house call to the curious next, resale predicaments will confound your every turn. Be careful where you step, watch what you touch, and gird your heart - Antiques Roadshow, this ain't!

Duane Scott Cerny’s writing has appeared across a myriad media forms, from essays in The New York Times to stage plays, poetry, and musical releases on nearly a dozen international record labels.

Wednesday, August 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Zadoorian (right), author of Beautiful Music 
Peter Coviello (left), author of Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs

Michael Zadoorian, author of the novel that became this year’s film from Sony Pictures Classics, The Leisure Seekers joins Peter Coviello, whose previous work tackled Steely Dan, Prince, and the history of sexuality, for an evening of music-inspired fiction and memoir.

Zadoorian’s novel Beautiful Music is a funny, poignant, novel about love, fear, death, race, music, and the intense passions of youth. In 1970s Detroit, Danny Yzemski listens to CKLW on his radio. Dad loves music too - the beautiful instrumentals we now call elevator music. Mom drinks and rants. Danny dodges the bullies at school and work, and things get worse before they get better, with the family disintegrating and racial tensions ratcheting up.

Coviello’s memoir Long Players considers grief and the things that keep us alive, namely sex, talk, and dancing. It’s about the different ways we have of falling in love: with bands and songs and books, but also with our friends, lovers, the families we imagine, and the families we make. It’s a story of heartbreak, (ex)stepparenthood, and the limitless grace of pop songs for anyone who has loved a record like their life depended on it.

Publishers Weekly praised both books, calling Beautiful Music a “raucous bildungsroman… full of energy, pain, growth, and great music,” and saying Long Players is “memorably passionate… a sprawling and tempestuous affair.”

Michael Zadoorian is also the author of Second Hand and The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit. Zadoorian is a recipient of a Kresge Artist Fellowship, the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award, and the Michigan Notable Book Award. His fiction has appeared in the Literary Review, American Short Fiction, and North American Review.

Peter Coviello, a professor of English at University of Illinois at Chicago, has written about Walt Whitman, Mormon polygamy, and Prince, and his work has appeared in The Believer, Raritan, and Los Angeles Review of Books. He was also a 2017-18 fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

More on Peter Coviello's memoir:

--Jennifer Finney Boylan in The New York Times talks about how Coviello coming through his depression through music led her to make her own playlist.

--Large Hearted Boy maps out the Coviello playlist on his blog.

Find out more on our upcoming events page.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

State Fair Edition: Boswell Bestsellers on a Stick - Week Ending August 4, 2018

State Fair Edition: Boswell Bestsellers on a Stick - Week Ending August 4, 2018

Hardcover Fiction:
1. There, There, by Tommy Orange
2. Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, by Jo Piazza
3. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
4. Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler
5. Circe, by Madeline Miller
6. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
7. Florida, by Lauren Groff
8. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
9. Dear Mrs. Bird, by AJ Pearce
10. The Other Woman, by Daniel Silva

Unlike the national bestseller lists, which had a big pop of sales on Madeline Miller's Circe, as if the book were the new installment in a thriller series, our sales have been remarkably steady since first release, more like a word-of-mouth bestseller than a branded one. We sold more copies in June than we did in April, for example. For more, visit Book Riot for Nikki Vanry's interview. Vanry's opening: "In her newest release Circe, Madeline Miller tackles one of the world’s most enduring stories from a new point of view and, in doing so, gives a voice to the woman at the sidelines of Homer’s myth. The effect is deeply personal and deeply universal, her style born of the mythological realism we all loved in her debut novel, The Song of Achilles."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. No One Tells You This, by Glynnis MacNicol
2. The Fall of Wisconsin, by Dan Kaufman
3. Backlash, by George Yancy
4. Indianapolis, by Lynn Vincent
5. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson
6. Milwaukee: A City Built on Water, by John Gurda (event 10/1 at MPL Loos Room, 6 pm)
7. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
8. Don't Make Me Pull Over, by Richard Ratay
9. The Plant Paradox, by Steven R. Gundry
10. Calypso, by David Sedaris

This is the second week in Boswell's top ten for Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man. Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic's history of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in World War II has gotten many fine reviews. Terry Hartle in The Christian Science Monitor writes: "As with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the loss of the Indianapolis has been clouded in mystery and controversy, leading both conspiracy buffs and historians to pore over the records in an effort to understand what happened. Thanks to Indianapolis, a new book by Lynn Vincent and Sarah Vladic, we now have a complete and accessible story of this saga."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (In-Store Lit Group discussion Mon 8/27, 7 pm)
2. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
3. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
4. Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan
5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
6. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
7. A Column of Fire, by Ken Follett
8. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
9. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy
10. Hotel Silence, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid was an early recommendation by Boswell's Jen , who noted that the story "will leave you utterly absorbed and wishing Evelyn Hugo was a real-life film star." In the day, this is the kind of book that would have had a big mass market paperback auction, but nowadays, the book just gets released in paperback from the same publisher. Per Tara Block in Pop Sugar, her inspiration was Ava Gardner's memoir, only released after her death (and that of the ghostwriter too), after Frank Sinatra sort of bought her off. Other inspirations were Elizabeth Taylor (seven husbands) and Rita Hayworth, a Spanish author who changed her name and colored her hair to make her appear less ethnic.

Paperback Nonfiction
1. Graceful Leadership in Early Childhood Education, by Ann McClain Terrell
2. Life Without Pockets, by Carla Anne Ernst
3. Hard to Do, by Kelli María Korducki
4. The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
5. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
6. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
7. A General Theory of Love, by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, Richard Lannon
8. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
9. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
10. Drawdown, by Paul Hawken

Can a bookseller's recommendation single-handedly get a book on our bestseller list? Yes, if it's A General Theory of Love from Thomas Lewis. Released in paperback in 2000, I'm pretty sure it had fallen out of the old Schwartz inventory by the time we opened in 2009. And then Boswellian Scott put the book on his staff rec shelf in early 2015 and has pretty much kept it there. And now Boswell has the second best sales at a reporting independent in the country for the last year, per Above the Treeline (soon to be Edelweiss Analytics). From Clarissa Cruz in Entertainment Weekly: "In elegant prose that keeps the dry scientific jargon to a blessed minimum, they argue why certain widely held societal beliefs (career success equals happiness; being in love means the sparks never disappear) clash with biological reality — and why we need a culture attuned to the ways of the heart."

Books for Kids:
1. A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade, with illustrations by Melanie Demmer
2. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay
4. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls V1, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
5. Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers
6. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
7. We Don't Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins
8. If You Had a Jetpack, by Lisl Detlefsen with illustrations by Linzie Hunter
9. The Elephant and Piggie Biggie, by Mo Willems
10. The First Bible Story Book, from DK

It's back to school time! Ryan T. Higgins's We Don't Eat Our Classmates is the first release to hit our bestseller list. The book is on the Summer 2018 Kids Indie Next List. Here's a part of the rec from Sara Crochowski at McLean and Eakin: "Penelope, a pink-overall-clad T-rex, is exceptionally nervous about her first day of school. She’s so nervous that, after learning her classmates are all children, she eats them. Delicious! But Mrs. Noodleman is not amused. It isn’t until someone tries to make Penelope into a snack that she begins to understand just how her classmates feel." More Kids Indie Next recommendations here.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins offers "25 Books that form a portrait of Wisconsin." Some of the books included:
--The Drifted Reader, edited by Curt Meine and Keefe Keeley
--Population 485, by Michael Perry
--Mary Nohl: A lifetime in Art, by Barbara Manger and Jenine Smith
--One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake
--Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
--Selma of the North, by Patrick D. Jones
--A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold.

More reviews!
--Give Me Your Hand, by Megan Abbott, reviewed by Oline Cogdill of the Associated Press
--The Poisoned City, by Anna Clark, reviewed by Gene Seymour for USA Today
--The Mere Wife, by Maria Dahvana Headley, reviewed by Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Music! Books! Books about Music! Focus on Michael Zadoorian, author of Beautiful Music.

Wednesday, August 15, 7 pm, at Boswell: Peter Coviello, author of Long Players: A Love Story in 16 Songs, and Michael Zadoorian, author of Beautiful Music

Thursday, September 6, 7 pm, at Boswell: Lil Rev, celebrating the release of his new CD, Mountain Dulcimer.

Saturday, September 22, 7 pm, at Boswell: Jessica Hopper, author of Night Moves, in conversation with Justin Barney, Music Director of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee (our event's cosponsor)

***

Back in the winter, Jason and I went to Winter Institute in Memphis. As I've said before, it's a great opportunity to learn about our industry, discover new books, and network with fellow booksellers. But the oyster in the pearl is definitely the chance to meet authors. There are multiple opportunities to get books signed by writers who are promoting upcoming (and sometimes current) titles. If you follow Book Con, it's kind of a private version of that.

I generally try to head to these programs, whether it is Winter Institute in January-February, Book Expo in May-June, or Heartland Fall Forum in September-October, with at least one book read that is being promoted, something I can help talk up. In the best of all possible worlds, I would have read three or four. I have attended dinners where it seemed like my fellow booksellers had read every featured book by the feted writers. That's not me.

To bookend that idea, I usually like to start reading at least one book that I received at the show, often on my way home from wherever it is. This year, the book I chose was Michael Zadoorian's Beautiful Music. Now I didn't expect to host Michael - though he doesn't live that far away (Detroit), we didn't see him for The Leisure Seeker, though I had met him many years ago at Schwartz for his first novel, Second Hand.

Zadoorian has a distinctive way of writing, in short journalistic bursts, despite the stories falling into the fiction camp. Second Hand was about a guy running a vintage, well, not boutique, that gives it too much glamour, so I'll say store. I called it Nick Hornby-esque. His second novel, which was made into a film with Helen Mirren, is about an elder couple, one in treatment for cancer, the other with Alzheimers, who escape from their families in a trailer.

And Beautiful Music? Here's my rec: It’s late 1960s Detroit and young Danny Yzemski listens to CKLW on his radio. Dad loves music too, but his sound of choice are the beautiful music instrumentals that we now call elevator music. And mom? She sits on the couch drinking and ranting. Danny has to swerve to avoid the bullies at school and work both, and only his friendship with a tall kid with a white boy Afro who shares his taste for Iggy Pop, NME, and secret record runs to Korvettes (a discount department store), keep him sane. Let’s just say that things get worse before they get better, with the family disintegrating and racial tensions ratcheting up at school. Beautiful Music (told in rat-a-tat, diary-like entries) is both funny and poignant, nostalgic and surprisingly of the moment. Danny messes up sometimes, but you’ve got to give this kid props for trying. Rock on, Yzemski!

The thing about music is that I mostly listen to it in two ways: 1) Second hand from whatever Jason's playing at his desk 2) On my phone or laptop when I'm trying to remember what something sounds like. Often this stems from me reading a book (or sometimes an article) about a song or artist. So you can only imagine that when reading Beautiful Music, I more than once went back to reference songs. Here is some of the music referenced in Beautiful Music, and some notes.

"Build Me Up, Buttercup," by The Foundations. Danny is listening to the song on Detroit's CKLW. This was a clear channel station, officially from Windsor, Ontario, and you could listen to it in New York at night if the weather was right. I recall the best reception on New Year's Eve 1974, when I wrote down most of their top 100. There were a lot of soul crossover songs (like The Miracles's "Do It Baby") that didn't get play on the pop stations of New York, which to me, were more disco-y than R&B. It felt like WABC played The Hues Corporation's "Rock the Boat" every 15 minutes, not that this was a bad thing.

"And When I Die," by Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Danny requests this. Let me just say that anything written by Laura Nyro qualifies for classic status. Several more songs are mentioned that are in rotation, making it clear that we are talking about early 1969.

"The Look of Love," by Sérgio Mendes and Brasil '66. Another of my favorites. One of my sisters owned both Look Around and the Fool on the Hill albums, and honestly, I'd listen to them both right now if I wasn't writing this. A&M always had other albums from their catalog on the record sleeve, so while I didn't own Equinox or Herb Alpert Presents..., I feel like I did. By the way, the DJ in this passage, J.P. McCarthy, later had a talk show for whom I used to book guests when I was at Warner Books.

Super Stereo Sound Effects. While I didn't own this album, my father, like Danny's loved the beautiful music stations while driving. I later read a book called Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong, by Joseph Lanza, that I believe actually had a long life in print - it's still published by University of Michigan Press.

"We've Only Just Begun," by the Carpenters. I was a complete Carpenters obsessive, like Danny's mom. And also like the Yzemski family, we bought most of our LP albums at Korvettes. As Casey Kasem would tell you, the song began as a bank jingle.

"Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)," by Gladys Knight and the Pips. I would definitely call myself a Pip fan, but the only album I had was the Claudine soundtrack, which, sadly, had very few Gladys Knight and the Pips songs. Classic bait and switch! Hey, it was 12 for a penny I think.

"Seasons in the Sun," by Terry Jacks. Danny learns that the songs he likes are "bogue" from his new friends. This was actually a pretty "bogue" song. I didn't like it when I was 13 and I don't like it now, even though I have learned it was a French song written by Jacques Brel and adapted by Rod McKuen. That's quite the pedigree.

"I Wanna Be Your Dog," by Iggy and the Stooges. Now Danny is a certified teen. Loving Iggy Pop is a badge of honor for Detroiters.

"Generation Landslide," by Alice Cooper. From the famous Billion Dollar Babies album. Little Dan is all adolescent. If you ask me for Alice Cooper songs, I can sing you little pieces of "School's Out" and "Only Women." Looking at this brought back memories of my Billboard-obsessed youth that Cooper had not one, not two, but three songs that peaked at #12. Like many rockers, most of his later hits for dreamy ballads with the edges shredded to make them less, well, whatever you're supposed to do to show that you're too cool to be beloved by adolescent girls.

"Funk #49," by the James Gang. This is one of those modest pop hits that became ubiquitous through placement in films. I wouldn't have been able to connect it to a tune if you asked, but when I heard it, I knew it well enough.

"Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo," by Rick Derringer. Danny can't get the song out of his head while he's walking around school, and now I can't either. This is one of those songs that in the days before the internet, I knew what the song was (from it's strong chart showing on Billboard), but I didn't know how it sounded. I swear, one of the first things I did when I could listen to music online was figure out what this song was.

"Tonight's the Night," by Rod Stewart. Now that I know. It was a big #1 hit when I was obsessing over radio play. That said, I think my interest in Rod Stewart peaked with "You Wear It Well." How come so few of my American 45 purchases came with the picture sleeves, but all my British ones did? They clearly had them. Oh well.

"Future Games," by Fleetwood Mac. It's from the first album to feature Christine McVie but doesn't include Lindsey Buckingham or Stevie Nicks. I only really know them going forward from the eponymous album in 1975.

Note that these songs, while all included in Beautiful Music, are slightly different from the official playlist. And now to analyze the blurbs!

From Nancy Wilson of Heart: "The story of Beautiful Music is painted with rich, exquisite detail and all the painful hyperawareness of growing up in a culture of mixed signals, confusion, and loss. Salvation comes through music. A miraculous safe place in which to belong." For some reason, I associate Heart with WKBW in Buffalo, another clear channel station that loved their independent album on Mushroom Records which had both "Crazy on You" and "Magic Man." It's my favorite Heart album.

Don Was, the Grammy Award-winning producer: writes "Michael Zadoorian has captured an era when Detroit simmered with anger and fear while it simultaneously reverberated with the joyous noise of rock and roll. Beautiful Music eloquently evokes the beauty, confusion, and power of that late 1960s/early 1970s milieu." Ok, I was also a Don Was groupie. Part of it was because he seemed to take a try at a lot of artists I liked, like Carly Simon and Michael McDonald. I was a huge fan of Ofra Haza's Kirya. But I think my adrenaline surged the greatest when I first heard Cosmic Thing by the B-52s. I still remember thinking, "this guy has taken everything I love about the band and distilled it to perfect popness." The Grammy is for Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time.

And just to bring it home, not that Ofra Haza dueted with Iggy Pop on a song called "Daw da Hiya" from the Kirya album.