Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving - Ann Patchett, Jodi Picoult, Charles Baxter, Jo PIazza

Thanksgiving gives me the chance to catch my breath and write a post. 

The tidal wave of new releases slows down by mid-November. One gets the feeling that if you release too late, you won't make roundups. For example, Charles Baxter's The Sun Collective just made the New York Times notable books of 2021 - the link is to the paperback. The reason that is odd is that the book came out in November 17, 2020. I remember - we hosted Mr. Baxter virtually. But the review for the book came out in the December 13 print issue of The New York Times, after the deadline for their notable books roundup, and rather than ignore those books altogether, they feature them the next year. But other roundups basically ignore books they got to too late.

Our buyer Jason told me that about six 2020 titles wound up on the 2021 list. It reminds of when I followed Billboard and some of the biggest titles on the yearend roundup to my mind were from the prior year. 

This week's notable new release for us was Ann Patchett's collection of essays, These Precious Days. You'll see its presence on Sunday's bestseller list roundup. I like to say that the book starts out like This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage and then morphs into Truth and Beauty. It's a lovely book and if I hadn't read it already, I'd say it's a great book to read on Thanksgiving if you don't want to watch football. Just beautiful! (More on our shared December 7 event here). It could be a notable book of 2022.

We've continued our COVID policy of offering bundled event books before the event, so if you ordered These Precious Days from us and you haven't picked it up yet, you can this weekend. We're trying something new - we've always bagged paid purchases to distinguish them from unpaid holds. But with us doing this for close to two years, and a 20% increase in our paper bag prices, we're experimenting with just having a paid bookmark in them. We're hoping to expand this to all prepaid purchases of one book. And then when you pick them up, if you want a bag, just ask. 

A big release next Tuesday is Jodi Picoult's Wish You Were Here. Picoult generally releases every two years, but she had a little time on her hands and was inspired to write a novel set during COVID-19. This might be one of the reasons why there seem to be so many heavy hitters this fall. We also think there were a number of titles delayed from 2020, with good reason.

We're doing an event (tickets here) with Ms. Picoult as well, a joint program with Books & Company at the Oconomowoc Arts Center on December 8, the day after Ms. Patchett. This one's in person - our first big thing we're running that's not virtual. It's been an interesting season - virtual attendance has declined, but in-person attendance, we're told, is also not at the levels it was pre-pandemic. While we might not equal her previous numbers, ticket sales for Picoult's event are going well, so that's a relief. Alas, because the event is in person and run jointly, we cannot facilitate picking up books in advance.

I was just talking about Wish You Were Here with Jo Piazza, who was visiting family for Thanksgiving. You might know Piazza from her many novels and works of nonfiction. We just hosted her with Christine Pride for We Are Not Like Them - you can watch that wonderful event here. Jo also signed our stock, if you were thinking of buying a copy. Piazza and Picoult were touting each other's novels. I really love the way Picoult champions up-and-coming writers. 

Patchett does as well. Speaking of which, I think I promised I'd read Sorrow and Bliss. Maybe by the end of 2021.

Have a great turkey/tofurkey day.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending November 20, 2021

Here's what is selling at Boswell for the week ending November 20, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Sentence, by Louise Erdrich
2. The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles
3. Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
4. Our Country Friends, by Gary Shteyngart
5. Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead
6. Bewilderment, by Richard Powers
7. Oh William, by Elizabeth Strout
8. Termination Shock, by Neal Stephenson
9. State of Terror, by Hilary Clinton and Louise Penny
10. The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah

While the bulk of fall releases had November 9 release dates or earlier, there are still high profile titles schedule going forward. The top first week fiction release for us is Termination Shock, said to be Neal Stephenson's return to the technothriller genre. It's got a rec from Boswellian Kay Wosewick who says, "Termination Shock is set about two decades out, when climate change is wreaking havoc in nearly all corners of the world. Someone must take action ASAP, right?! Politics are messy, technology is clever, and the characters are an eclectic lot. This is top-notch Stephenson, though he leaves us hanging. Speed it up Neal!!"

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. 1619 Project, by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times Magazine
2. The Midwest Survival Guide, by Charlie Berens
3. Lead with Me, by Simon Mainwaring
4. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
5. The Bathroom Book for People Not Pooping or Peeing but Using the Bathroom as an Escape, by Joe Pera
6. Gastro Obscura, by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras
7. How Magicians Think, by Joshua Jay
8. The Wisconsin Supper Clubs Story, by Ron Faiola
9. Lyrics, by Paul McCartney
10. The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wingrow

Two huge books for us out of the gate, one that probably had similar sales at many bookstores (1619 Project) and the other that might have had an edge in Wisconsin (The Midwest Survival Guide), being that Charlie Berens has the popular Manitowoc Minute web series. We have more copies of hot title #1 (1619 - though no signed copies left) and we should have more of #2 (Berens) shortly. We're still taking orders for this this. Fox6 has a story on the book and Berens three January 2022 shows at the Riverside Theater.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Dune V1 (two editions), by Frank Herbert
2. Churchill's Secret Messenger, by Alan Hlad
3. Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession
4. Dune Messiah V2 (also two editions), by Frank Herbert
5. The Drifter V1 (two editions), by Nick Petrie
6. The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune
7. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
8. The Christmas Bookshop, by Jenny Colgan
9. Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
10. Send for Me, by Lauren Fox

Nick Petrie's Peter Ash series no longer has dual trade/mass editions as of #6 The Breaker, but we're still selling both of The Drifter. While I'm not mourning the loss of the trade editions of the later titles, I'm hoping that trade edition of The Drifter stays available, being that the book works as a stand-alone, a book club selection, and the entry point to the series. We continue to backlist the further adventures of Dune, with a lot of folks wondering if they will shoot the film that would be the second part of Dune plus Dune Messiah (#2) at the same time, much as they did for Lord of the Rings. Final box office will likely be a factor in that.

2021 is very different from 2020 - it's much harder to make a sleeper book work, but we're still getting sales on Leonard and Hungry Paul, plus now we have some book clubs picking it up. I looked at Edelweiss and there are definitely more stores doing well with the paperback than were with the hardcover. The big question is, who will publish Panenka, Hession's follow up, in the US?

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Watergate Girl, by Jill Wine-Banks (some signed copies available)
2. Voices of Milwaukee Bronzeville, by Sandra E Jones (same)
3. Cain's Jawbone, by Edward Powys Mathers
4. The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk
5. Tacky, by Rax King

No, we don't have Cain's Jawbone in stock. And once again I am stumped - is this a novel (fiction) or a book of puzzles (nonfiction?) And while it's fun (and featured on BookTok), the prize is already claimed. In fact, this is a reissue of a book from 1934! But our publisher notes say the prize of £1,000 for the first reader to solve the puzzle within a year of publication was awarded to the actor and comedy writer John Finnemore. Or maybe he has film rights with Neil Gaiman. I'm completely confused. (Time passes) Update - according to The Guardian, he did actually re-solve the puzzle, as it had been solved a few times before, only the answer had been lost for decades. I'm still a little confused.

Up next, a run on Who Killed the Robins Family? If only we'd had BookTok back then, maybe the paperback would have worked (released after the prize was given out), says my former publicist self.

Since our 6-10 numbers are pretty small in this category, I gave the shelf space to the remaining list with the best 11-15 numbers, and that happens to be hardcover nonfiction.
11. Betrayal, by Jonathan Karl
12. Best Wishes Warmest Regards: The Story of Schitt's Creek, by Daniel and Eugene Levy
13. World Travel, by Anthony Bourdain
14. Carnival of Snackery, by David Sedaris (Tickets for December 10 Riverside show here)
15. Shape, by Jordan Ellenberg

Books for Kids:
1. Roxy, by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman (signed copies available - real ones!)
2. 1619 Project: Born on the Water, by Nikole Hannah-Jones
3. Aaron Slater, Illustrator, by Andrea Beaty, with illustrations by David Roberts
4. Big Shot V16, by Jeff Kinney
5. The Beatryce Prophecy, by Kate DiCamillo
6. Willodeen, by Katherine Applegate
7. African Icons, by Tracey Baptiste
8. It Fell from the Sky, by The Fan Brothers
9. Norman Didn't Do It, by Ryan T Higgins
10. The Snowy Day Board Book, by Ezra Jack Keats

In Aaron Slater, Illustrator, the new Questioneers book (Ada Twist, Scientist, et al), Aaron Slater doesn't let his dyslexia stand in his way of becoming a storyteller. The story is informed by illustrator David Roberts's dyslexia. From the starred Kirkus review: "In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron's tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale"

Jim Higgins unveils his holiday picks in the Journal Sentinel!

Monday, November 15, 2021

One more week of Boswell events before a small Thanksgiving break - Cecily Wong/Dylan Thuras, Neal Shusterman (in person), Gary Shteyngart, Sandra E Brown (in person)

Here's what's happening at Boswell, in person and virtual.
 
Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras, authors of Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer's Guide
A Virtual conversation with Michael Harlan Turkell
Monday, November 15, 7 pm
Register for this virtual event here

Boswell presents a virtual evening with Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras. The curious minds behind Atlas Obscura turn to the hidden curiosities of food in Gastro Obscura, a gateway to fascinating stories about human history, science, art, and tradition.

Truly a feast of wonders, this breathtaking guide transforms our sense of what people around the world eat and drink. Covering all seven continents, Gastro Obscura serves up a loaded plate of incredible ingredients, food adventures, and edible wonders. Ready for a beer made from fog in Chile? Sardinia’s “Threads of God” pasta? Egypt’s 2000-year-old egg ovens? But far more than a menu of curious minds delicacies and unexpected dishes, Gastro Obscura reveals food’s central place in our lives as well as our bellies, touching on history, culture, far-off travel, and hidden gems that might be right around the corner.

Alice Waters says, "This captivating book celebrates the incredible global diversity of food, ingredients, and cooking practices. What could be more important in this moment in time than to be so delightfully engaged in the many ways food cultivates - through sometimes eccentric means! - a profound sense of togetherness." 

And because I watch Top Chef, here's Tom Colicchio: "Like a great tapas meal, Gastro Obscura is deep yet snackable, and full of surprises. In these pages, you'll find riveting stories of human culture ancient and present, history, climate, mythology, commerce and geography -- all through the lens of that thing you thought you already knew: food. This is the book for anyone interested in eating, adventure and the human condition."

Cecily Wong is a writer at Atlas Obscura and author of the novel Diamond Head, recipient of an Elle Readers' Prize. Dylan Thuras is Cofounder and Creative Director of Atlas Obscura. Michael Harlan Turkell, a once aspiring chef, now photographer, author, and podcast host, has captured the inner workings of kitchens for his "Back of the House" project. His book Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar won the IACP award for Culinary Travel Writing.

Tuesday, November 16, 6:30 pm
Neal Shusterman, author of Roxy
Hybrid Event at Boswell
Register for the in-person event here.
Watch the broadcast event by registering here.

Neal Shusterman, one of the authors behind the bestselling Dry, joins us live and in-person at Boswell for a conversation about his riveting new thriller that explores the opioid crisis. This event is best for readers age 13 and up.

Mask required for event attendees at Boswell. Please note that the author may not be masked during the event.

Roxy is an allegorical take on the opioid epidemic which provides an utterly unique point of view on the lives of those struggling with drug dependencies. Isaac turns to Oxycontin when an ankle injury threatens his chance at a soccer scholarship. Meanwhile, Ivy uses Adderall in an attempt to get her life on track. As the two sink into addiction, Roxy captures the allure of drugs and the horrible spiral that addiction can entail.

From Booklist: "This allegorical take on the opioid epidemic provides an utterly unique point of view on the lives of those struggling with drug dependencies. Surprisingly, this approach does not water down the stark realities besetting Ivy and Isaac as they sink into addiction. Rather, it captures the drugs' allure, from granting small benefits and initial highs, before taking the reader through the horrible spiral that addiction can entail. Gritty and unflinching, this book portrays the opioid crisis in a way older YA readers can feel and understand."

Neal Shusterman was our last author to visit for a Boswell event before the COVID shutdown, in March 2020, at the Wauwatosa Public Library.

Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books, including the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, the Skinjacker trilogy, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award.

Wednesday, November 17, 7 pm
Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends
in Conversation with Chris Lee for a Virtual Event
Register for this virtual event here.

Boswell welcomes Gary Shteyngart, a novelist The New York Times calls “one of his generation’s most original writers,” for a conversation about his latest novel. Eight friends, one country house, four romances, and six months in isolation collide in a book that reads like a great Russian novel; call it Chekhov on the Hudson. In conversation with Chris Lee of Boswell Book Company.

It’s March 2020 and a calamity is unfolding. A group gathers in a Russian-born novelist’s country house to wait out the pandemic. Over the next six months, new friendships and romances will take hold, while old betrayals will emerge, forcing each character to reevaluate whom they love and what matters most. Both elegiac and very, very funny, Our Country Friends is Shteyngart's most ambitious book yet.

Conversation partner Chris Lee picked Our Country Friends as one of his top 5 books of the year. He says: “Extraordinary. I love every word Shteyngart’s ever written, and this is his best novel by an upstate country mile. I said I never wanted to read a 2020 pandemic novel, but I was wrong. I needed to read one - this one.” And Salman Rushdie adds, “Shteyngart’s most moving novel, Chekhov and Boccaccio reimagined in America in the year of the pandemic, is a powerful fable of our broken time.”

From Diane Cole in The Washington Post: "Throughout, Shteyngart emphasizes that, immigrants or not, each one of his characters has been displaced, not just from their coddled cosmopolitan settings, but from the assumption of safety. Made vulnerable by Covid in a way they have not experienced before, Sasha’s always talkative guests struggle with a predicament they prefer not to verbalize: that no amount of wealth or talent or intellectual smarts can save anyone from disease or death. And so they push against their pandemic-induced emotional free fall in the only way they know: by freaking out and acting out at the slightest provocation."

Gary Shteyngart is author of The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, as well as Absurdistan, Lake Success, and the memoir Little Failure, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.

Thursday, November 18, 6:30 pm
Sandra E Jones, author of Voices of Milwaukee Bronzeville
in Conversation with Sharon Adams for a Hybrid Event at Boswell
Register for the in-person event here
Or watch the virtual broadcast event by registering here.

Join us for an evening in-person at Boswell featuring Sandra E Jones, author of a new book that captures the history and spirit of Milwaukee’s Bronzeville.

Mask required for event attendees at Boswell. Please note that the author may not be masked during the event.

Some people don't have to imagine what Milwaukee's Bronzeville was like. They have only to remember. They recall Walnut Street alive with businesses serving a hardworking Black population making something out of the meager resources available to them. They describe religious establishments such as St. Mark's Methodist Episcopal, St. Benedict the Moor, Calvary Baptist and St. Matthew CME attending to the spiritual life and remember the Flame, the Metropole and Satin Doll nightclubs taking care of entertainment and secular needs.

Above all, they recollect a people looking out for the well-being of all within its realm. Gathering interviews with residents of the now-vanished neighborhood, Jones reimagines Bronzeville not just as a place, but as a spirit engendered by a people determined to make a way out of no way.

Sandra E Jones has lived her entire life in Milwaukee. She earned a doctorate from the UWM and served as Assistant Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies and as Assistant Director of the UWM Cultures and Communities curriculum development program. Sharon Adams is the cofounder of Walnut Way Conservation Corp and Adams Garden Park.

We're taking a Thanksgiving event break. See you on November 30 with our virtual event for Lisa McMann. More event info here.

Photo credits!
Cecily Wong by Heather Hawksford
Dylan Thuras by Timothy Shivers
Neal Shusterman by Corby Gerstler
Gary Shteyngart by Brigitte Lacombe

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending November 13, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending November 13, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Sentence, by Louise Erdrich
2. Our Country Friends, by Gary Shteyngart (Register for November 17 virtual event here)
3. Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
4. The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles
5. Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead
6. Oh, William!, by Elizabeth Strout
7. Crossroads, by Jonathan Franzen
8. State of Terror, by Hilary Clinton and Louise Penny
9. Shoulder Season, by Christina Clancy (Clancy is conversation partner for Rachel Kapelke-Dale on December 15)
10. Invisible Life of Addie Larue special edition, by VE Schwab

We had a very strong week for Louise Erdrich's The Sentence, but it wasn't a runaway #1, beating out Gary Shteyngart's Our Country Friends by one copy. Ron Charles is among the raves, this from The Washington Post: "The coronavirus pandemic is still raging away and God knows we’ll be reading novels about it for years, but Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence may be the best one we ever get. Neither a grim rehashing of the lockdown nor an apocalyptic exaggeration of the virus, her book offers the kind of fresh reflection only time can facilitate, and yet it’s so current the ink feels wet."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Woodrow on the Bench, by Jenna Blum
2. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
3. The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow
4. Red Roulette, by Desmond Shum
5. Wisconsin Supper Clubs Story, by Ron Faiola
6. Taste, by Stanley Tucci
7. Gastro Obscura, by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras (Register for November 15 virtual event here)
8. Shape, by Jordan Ellenberg
9. Lyrics: 1956 to Present, by Paul McCartney
10. Powers and Thrones, by Dan Jones

Top new nonfiction honors go to Woodrow on the Bench, which was the subject of an event at Shully's in Thiensville. Runner up is The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, written by anthropologist David Graeber (recently lost to necrotizing pancreatitis) and archeologist David Wengrow. From Jennifer Schuessler's profile in The New York Times: "In a video interview last month, Wengrow, a professor at University College London, slipped into a mock-grandiose tone to recite one of Graeber’s favorite catchphrases: 'We are going to change the course of human history - starting with the past.' More seriously, Wengrow said, The Dawn of Everything - which weighs in at a whopping 704 pages, including a 63-page bibliography - aims to synthesize new archaeological discoveries of recent decades that haven’t made it out of specialist journals and into public consciousness."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
2. Dune, by Frank Herbert (two editions)
3. Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession
4. There There, by Tommy Orange
5. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
6. Send for Me, by Lauren Fox
7. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
8. Circe, by Madeline Miller
9. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
10. The Chanel Sisters, by Judithe Little

This week's top ten honors includes the National Book Critics Circle Awards winner (Hamnet), two Pulitzer winners (The Overstory and The Night Watchman) and the runners up in the TikTok Choice Awards (Circe and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), which of course lost to "anything by Colleen Hoover." But the only new book on the list is The Chanel Sisters, by Judith Little, subject of the Ozaukee Family Services brunch with Barbara Rinella at Shully's (yes, we were there twice this week). Susan Meissner said this story, about Antoinette and Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, is "beautifully told to the last page.”

Book dramatist Barbara Rinella started honing her skills when she was a teacher at New Trier High School, in order to engage her students. More here.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Life in Short, by Dasha Kelly Hamilton
2. Milwaukee River Greenway, by Eddee Daniel
3. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
4. Being Adopted, by Amy Wilkerson
5. Tacky, by Rax King
6. Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, by Noor Murad and Yotam Ottolenghi
7. Voices of Milwaukee Bronzeville, by Dr Sandra E Jones (Register for November 18 in-store event here or register for virtual broadcast here)
8. Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell
9. Radical Ambivalence, by Angela O'Donnell
10. On Story Parkway, by Jim Cryns

Our newsletter landed this week and while most of the focus is on hardcovers, we have a page of featured paperbacks, including Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer, by Rax King. Praise comes from Kristin Arnett, Samantha Irby, and Hanif Abdurraqib, who notes "The meditations in the book are equal parts comical, heartbreaking, and revelatory. A monument to uplifting the parts of popular culture that might otherwise be shrugged off and/or dismissed by those who don't have the imagination to celebrate what they might consider mundane." Plus it's a Madi rec.

Books for Kids:
1. The Fishermen, the Horse, and the Sea, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Renée Graef
2. Change Sings, by Amanda Gorman, with illustrations by Loren Long
3. Norman Didn't Do It, by Ryan T Higgins
4. Mindful Mr Sloth, by Katy Hudson
5. Just Be Claus, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Kimberley Barnes
6. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
7. Roxy, by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman (Register for November 16 in-store event here, or watch it virtually by registering here)
8. The Animals' Santa board book, by Jan Brett
9. Big Shot V16, by Jeff Kinney
10. The Story Orchestra: The Magic Flute, by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Top honors for the week go to Barbara Joosse, who actually has two new releases (including Just Be Claus), both in our top 10. We've just had a virtual school visit with her, but she was also a hit at Ozaukee Family Services, being that so many of the attendees have worked with her over the years. The Fishermen, the Horse, and the Sea, is based on a story about young Lester Smith who helped with a dramatic rescue at sea (in the book) and went on to found Smith Brothers (not part of this story), the beloved Port Washington fish eatery. I went there with my parents!

Tomorrow - one last packed week of events before our Thanksgiving event break.

Monday, November 8, 2021

this week: Uwem Akpan, Tracey Baptiste, Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, Joshua Jay, Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras

Here's what's happening this week at Boswell:

Monday, November 8, 7 pm
Uwem Akpan, author of New York, My Village
in Conversation with Elias Rodriques for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here.

Boswell hosts an evening with Uwem Akpan, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Say You’re One of Them, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (Africa Region), the PEN Open Book Prize, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, for a conversation about his new novel, which melds humor, tenderness, and pain to explore the myriad ways that tribalism defines life everywhere, from the villages of Nigeria to the villages within New York City. Akpan will chat with Elias Rodriques, author of All the Water I’ve Seen Is Running.

From a suspiciously cheap Hell’s Kitchen walk-up, Nigerian editor and winner of a Toni Morrison Publishing Fellowship Ekong Udousoro is about to begin the opportunity of a lifetime: to learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry from its incandescent epicenter. While his sophisticated colleagues meet him with kindness and hospitality, he is soon exposed to a colder, ruthlessly commercial underbelly. Reckoning with the recent history of the devastating Biafran War, in which Ekong’s people were a minority of a minority caught up in the mutual slaughter of majority tribes, Ekong’s life in New York becomes a saga of unanticipated strife.

Here's a staff recommendation from Jenny Chou: "It is the rare work of literary fiction that leaves readers wondering if the war against those stealthy little insects known as bed bugs can ever really be won. After finishing Uwem Akpan’s shrewd, heartfelt, and ultimately delightful novel New York, My Village, I turned that question over in my mind for a while before shifting my thoughts to war in general and the scars left behind even if the battles end and a victor is declared..." (read the rest of the review on the New York, My Village website page.)

Uwem Akpan's writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Nigerian Guardian, and O, The Oprah Magazine. His story collection Say You're One of Them was a 2009 Oprah Book Club selection. Elias Rodriques has published in venues such as The Guardian and The Nation, and he is Assistant Editor at n+1. He is Assistant Professor of African American Literature at Sarah Lawrence College.

Tuesday, November 9, 1 pm
Tracey Baptiste, author of African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History
in Conversation with Peace Adzo Medie for a Virtual School Visit
Register for this event here.

We’re happy to host a daytime event featuring New York Times bestseller Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies series and the forthcoming novel Because of Claudette, for a conversation about her new history book for young readers, African Icons, with Peace Adzo Medie. This will be a virtual, schools-inclusive conversation between two authors, so it’s perfect for anyone interested in Baptiste’s book as well as teachers who’d like to register their classrooms to see the presentation.

Black history began long ago with the many cultures and people of the African continent. Through portraits of ten heroic figures, Baptiste takes readers on a journey across Africa to meet some of the real-life kings, queens, inventors, scholars, and visionaries whose vision built a continent and shaped the world.

Ibram X. Kendi, the National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist, says, “In African Icons, Baptiste engages in the hard work of unveiling the myths about the African continent to young readers… This is a great beginner’s guide to pre-colonial Africa.” And from School Library Journal’s starred review: “Baptiste sheds light on the rich and complex pre-enslavement history of the African continent… A spellbinding collection… An impeccably researched revelation that fills a too wide gap in collections; it’s unfair how long it’s taken for these histories to be made public to young readers.”

Tracey Baptiste is author of The Jumbies series, Minecraft: The Crash, and the forthcoming novel Because of Claudette. Baptiste is a former teacher who works as a writer and editor. Peace Adzo Medie is author of the novel His Only Wife. She is a Ghanaian writer and Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol in England.

Wednesday, November 10, 7 pm
Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen, authors of Patient Zero: A Curious History of the World's Worst Diseases
A Virtual Event with the two authors in conversation
Register for this event here - ask for your signed bookplate

Pub date may have moved to November 16, but we're still on board to host a virtual evening with Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. Enjoy a virtual evening with the co-authors of Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, who with their latest offer a history of disease outbreaks (and their patient zeros) and an overview of the science, culture, and cures for different types of epidemics and pandemics.

Kang and Pedersen tell the long and fascinating history of disease outbreaks - how they start, how they spread, the science that lets us understand them, and how we race to destroy them before they destroy us. Learn the tragic stories of Patient Zeros throughout history, such as Mabalo Lokela, who contracted Ebola while on vacation in 1976, and the Lewis Baby on London’s Broad Street, the first to catch cholera in an 1854 outbreak that led to a major medical breakthrough. Interspersed are origin stories of a different sort, like how a rye fungus in 1951 turned a small village in France into a phantasmagoric scene reminiscent of Burning Man. Plus the uneasy history of human autopsy, how the HIV virus has been with us for at least a century, and more.

From the Flatwater Free Press/The Reader: "In late 2019, well before the pandemic became a daily thought in our minds, I had been chatting with my editor and co-author about writing a new book to follow Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything in 2017. Nate Pedersen and I felt ready to write a new book, and together with our editor, we set our eyes on the subject of pandemics." And then we were in the midst of one!

From Publishers Weekly: "Kang and Pedersen's conversational tone keeps things moving, and they're magnificent at reminding readers that, although pathogens will probably continue to "consume ravenously, kill what's in their way, and adapt," medicine has come a long way from recommending blood baths, drinking urine, and consuming mercury as treatments. Readers will be swept away by this energetic and enlightening survey."

Lydia Kang, MD, is a practicing internal medicine physician and author of YA novels including Control, Catalyst, and the upcoming The November Girl, plus A Beautiful Poison, her debut novel for adults. Her nonfiction has been published in JAMA, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Nate Pedersen is a librarian, historian, and freelance journalist with over 400 publications in print and online, including in The Guardian, The Believer, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

In person! Sunday, November 14, 4 pm
Joshua Jay, author of How Magicians Think: Misdirection, Deception, and Why Magic Matters
in Conversation with Mark Pocan for a Hybrid Event at Boswell
Register for the in-person event here, or register to watch the virtual broadcast here.

Masks required for attendees to this event. Please note that our author and conversation partner will likely not wear masks during the conversation.

The door to magic is closed, but it’s not locked. Jay's fascinating book of essays opens that door to reveal the artistry and obsessiveness, esoteric history, and long-whispered-about traditions of a subject shrouded in mystery. Jay offers an inside look at how the very best magicians think about magic, how they practice and put together a show, what inspires them, and the psychology behind creating wonder and being tricked when we expect both, as well as why we seek magic in the first place.

David Copperfield says, “Joshua Jay is a superb, innovative conjurer with an unrelenting love of the art. This captivating book is proof of that passion.” And from Teller of Penn & Teller fame, “A loving, behind-the-scenes map of the world of magic, by someone who knows and lives the art. Swift, funny, honest, and alive with enthusiasm. And he has the good sense to quote me a lot.”

From Booklist: "The book is delightful in being both a how-to book for aspiring artists and an in-depth view of the world of magic and its artisans. Jay is refreshingly candid in how he views his work, often self-deprecating, but always serious about his passion for his trade. An entertaining book from start to finish."

Joshua Jay is author of MAGIC: The Complete Course and, for children, Big Magic for Little Hands. Jay has performed in more than 100 countries, is a former World Champion in Sleight-of-Hand, and helped the US Postal Service with their "Art of Magic" postage stamps. Jay has performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, fooled Penn & Teller on their show, Fool Us, and starred in his own off-Broadway magic show, Six Impossible Things. Mark Pocan is the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s second congressional district.

Monday, November 15, 7 pm
Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras, authors of Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer's Guide
A Virtual Event with the two authors in conversation
Register for this event

Boswell presents a virtual evening with Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras. The curious minds behind Atlas Obscura turn to the hidden curiosities of food in Gastro Obscura, a gateway to fascinating stories about human history, science, art, and tradition.

Truly a feast of wonders, this breathtaking guide transforms our sense of what people around the world eat and drink. Covering all seven continents, Gastro Obscura serves up a loaded plate of incredible ingredients, food adventures, and edible wonders. Ready for a beer made from fog in Chile? Sardinia’s “Threads of God” pasta? Egypt’s 2000-year-old egg ovens? But far more than a menu of curious minds delicacies and unexpected dishes, Gastro Obscura reveals food’s central place in our lives as well as our bellies, touching on history, culture, far-off travel, and hidden gems that might be right around the corner.

Chef, restauranteur, food activist, and Top Chef cohost Tom Colicchio writes: "Like a great tapas meal, Gastro Obscura is deep yet snackable, and full of surprises. This is the book for anyone interested in eating, adventure and the human condition." And Alice Waters says, "This captivating book celebrates the incredible global diversity of food, ingredients, and cooking practices. What could be more important in this moment in time than to be so delightfully engaged in the many ways food cultivates - through sometimes eccentric means! - a profound sense of togetherness." Dig in and feed your sense of wonder.

From Zebulin Evelhoch in Library Journal: "Pick a region, pick a page--you can't go wrong. Armchair travelers and foodies will be left hungry, nostalgic, more knowledgeable about dishes from all over, and, most importantly, ready to try something different, whether it's found around the corner or across the world."

Cecily Wong is a writer at Atlas Obscura and author of the novel Diamond Head, recipient of an Elle Readers' Prize. Dylan Thuras is Cofounder and Creative Director of Atlas Obscura.

More on Boswell Upcoming Events page

Photo credits!
Uwem Akpan by UNLU Photo Services
Tracey Baptiste by Latifah Abdur
Peace Adzo Medie by Sylvernus Darku
Cecily Wong by Heather Hawksford
Dylan Thuras by Timothy Shivers

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending November 6, 2021

Here's what's selling at Boswell this week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Our Country Friends, by Gary Shteyngart (register for November 17 virtual event here)
2. The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles
3. Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
4. Oh, William!, by Elizabeth Strout 
5. State of Terror, by Hilary Clinton and Louise Penny
6. The Stranger in the Lifeboat, by Mitch Albom
7. The Judge's List, by John Grisham
8. Bewilderment, by Richard Powers
9. Crossroads, by Jonathan Franzen
10. Beautiful World, Where Are You?, by Sally Rooney

While I can't say that Our Country Friends is Chris's top book of the year, I know it's in the running. So excited that he will be talking to Shteyngart for this event. Reviewers are equally enthusiastic (about the books, about Chris's conversation, I don't know). Here's Laura Miller in Slate: "When members of the creative class (the ones who could afford it, at least) fled from their customary urban habitats to the safety of rural retreats last year, the literary reference that seemed to come to nearly everyone’s mind was Boccaccio’s The Decameron, a collection of tales traded by characters waiting out the Black Death in a Tuscan villa. But the novelist Gary Shteyngart, born in St. Petersburg, Russia, found a much richer vein to mine: the plays of Anton Chekhov, particularly Uncle Vanya, the apparent inspiration for his fifth novel, Our Country Friends."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Storyteller, by Dave Grohl (We're out of signed copies)
2. Gastro Obscura, by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras (Register for November 15 event here)
3. The Book of Hope, by Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams
4. Renegades, by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen
5. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
6. Taste, by Stanley Tucci
7. Lyrics 1956 to Present, by Paul McCartney
8. A Carnival of Snackery, by David Sedaris (Tickets to December 10 Riverside Theater event here)
9. Cravings All Together, by Chrissy Teigen
10. A Fullness of Uncertain Significance by Bruce H Campbell

When the industry worries about running out of stock, a likely candidate is Renegades: Born in the USA, based on the eight episode podcast from Higher Ground productions by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. Here's an interesting story on Higher Ground buying the podcast rights to The Sum of Us, which is a new thing. And here's one from Deadline about podcasts selling adaptation rights.

Another music superstar with a hard to reprint book is The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, by Paul McCartney. No, there aren't any copies at the Ingram wholesaler. From Kenneth Womack in Salon: "Edited by celebrated Irish poet Paul Muldoon, the anthology is a feast for the eyes. Dyed-in-the-wool Beatles fans will be bowled over by the sheer profundity of unpublished photographs, previously unseen lyrics sheets, journal entries, paintings, and the like. Indeed, The Lyrics easily represents the finest collection of illustrations associated with McCartney's life and work. And it's beautifully rendered, to boot. Drop-dead gorgeous as books go, The Lyrics rivals the finest art imprints, including the handsome limited editions from the likes of Taschen and Genesis."

Paperback Fiction:
1. We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry
2. Dune, by Frank Herbert
3. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
4. Circe, by Madeline Miller
5. Detransition, Baby, by Torrie Peters (Boswell-run book club selections here)
6. Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett
7. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
8. It Ends with Us, by Colleen Hoover
9. The Glass Hotel, by Emily St John Mandel
10. To Have and To Hoax, by Martha Waters

If you're curious about how We Ride Upon Sticks is our #1 paperback, a group of high schoolers are reading it for a book club. This was onen of my top picks for 2020 and it also have one of my top paperback treatments - same image on a different background color. They are also doing that for The Five Wounds from Kirstin Valdez Quade. I should also note that Barry will be doing a virtual event with Boswell for her next novel, When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East. It comes out February 22 and that's when our event is. Details to come.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
2. Voices of Milwaukee Bronzeville, by Sandra E Jones (Register for the in-store November 18 event here or register for the virtual broadcast here)
3. Being Adopted, by Amy Wilkerson
4. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
5. Hope Is the Thing, edited by BJ Hollars
6. Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, by Howard Snyder
7. Milwaukee River Greenway, by Eddee Daniel
8. Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, by Murad Noor and Yotam Ottolenghi
9. Sapiens: A Graphic History V1, by Yuval Noah Harari, David Vandermeulen, and Daniel Casanave
10. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari

Big question - are #9 (Sapiens) and #10 (Sapiens: A Graphic History) the same book? If they were the mass market and trade paperback edition, it wouldn't be an issue. But isn't artwork an important part of a graphic adaptation? I think so, which is why I added the artist to our bibliographic data. In addition, it's only the first part of the adaptation. Part 2 of Sapiens: A Graphic History, came out October 25.

Books for Kids:
1. Animal Architects, by Amy Cherrix
2. African Icons, by Tracey Baptiste (Register for November 9 virtual event here - great for school classrooms)
3. Big Shot: Diary of a Wimpy Kid V16, by Jeff Kinney
4. Pony, by RJ Palacio
5. How to Find What You're Not Looking For, by Veera Hiranandani
6. The Beatryce Prophecy, by Kate DiCamillo, with illustrations by Sophie Blackall
7. Change Sings, by Amanda Gorman, with illustrations by Loren Long
8. Our Table, by Peter H Reynolds
9. Clarice the Brave, by Lisa McMann (Register for November 30 event here - great for school classrooms)
10. How to Train Your Dad, by Gary Paulsen

Peter H Reynolds (among other things, the illustrator for Peace Train, which was a multi-week Boswell bestseller earlier this year) has a new book, Our Table, about a family whose dining room table shrinks away when they stop using it for family meals. Don't worry, Violet figures out a way to solve this problem. From the starred Booklist: "Reynolds tells the story simply and illustrates it expressively. The scenes depicting the child's isolation are drawn in black lines with moody purple-gray washes on white backgrounds, but when Violet reminisces about the past happiness and later, when the family comes together again, colorful washes brighten the pages. A reminder of what really matters."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Carol Deptolla profiles Ron Faiola's third entry in his supper clubs series The Wisconsin Supper Clubs Story: An Illustrated History, with Relish, where she breaks the news that Lawry's: The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills was hardly the first supper club. Don't trust Wikipedia!

From Faiola, via Deptolla: "'It looked pretty fishy to me because they name a guy, but they don’t name a supper club,' Faiola said by phone. And another thing: 'Why in Beverly Hills? I mean, why not, but still.' Certainly, Beverly Hills boomed in the 1920s and developed its ritzy reputation, but it was no New York City, more playground for movie stars than center for innovation."

Look for the event roundup on Monday.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Catching up on Anne Tyler - Noah's Compass

In anticipation of Anne Tyler's next release, French Braid, which is coming out next March, I decided to read the very last Tyler I hadn't read, Noah's Compass. I had gone on a Tyler* binge in the mid-1980s, scooping up some of the mass markets at the old Womrath's Bookstore in Fresh Meadows, back when they were published by Fawcett Popular Library and Playboy, but after Digging to America (2006), I stopped for a few books. I don't know why - I liked Digging a lot. It was partly that in the last years of Schwartz and the first years of Boswell, I was reading a lot less, and a lot of my reading was focused on authors we were hosting. And sadly, we never hosted Anne Tyler. She just didn't seem like a person who would do that sort of thing.

Noah's Compass (which says October 2009 on the Knopf hardcover but has a January 2010 on all websites) and The Beginner's Goodbye (2012) were both quiet for us, but A Spool of Blue Thread  (2015) led a Tyler resurgence, perhaps due to the Booker Prize shortlisting. Whatever it was, it led me to read that book, whatever else had come out since 2006, and each subsequent book as we received advance copies. 

Anne Tyler is in the air this year. The authors of two of my favorite novels of 2021, Katherine Heiny for Early Morning Riser and Jessica Anya Blau for Mary Jane, cited Anne Tyler as an influence. I can use as proof the fact that in both cases, I went back and read one of each author's previous novels - that's not something I do often. Blau went so far as to set Mary Jane in the Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore, though her book, unlike Tylers, calls attention to the covenants that were in place in that neighborhood until the 1970s. Our heroine unknowingly becomes a nanny to one of the early Jewish families - the father, is not just a doctor, he's a psychiatrist. 

Like in many Anne Tyler novels, the Cones shop at Eddie's supermarket. After talking with Blau about Eddie's the institution, I learned that the Jewish Museum of Maryland had an exhibit on the supermarket, and that lead me to realize that Eddie's owners, the Cohens (different spelling but effectively the same name as the family in the book) would not have been allowed to live in the neighborhood where they were a beloved institution.

Folks who haven't paid attention to Mary Jane should. Our sales are good, but there are other indies around the country that are selling it hand over fist. And we're still hearing about readers' very enthusiastic reactions to the book, such as former Boswellian, now Whitefish Bay Librarian Sharon.

My friend Michael, knowledgeable about all things Baltimore, clued me in that for the holidays, there is an Eddie's jigsaw puzzle (its official title is "To Market, To Market") made by New York Puzzle Company. If you're wondering why we haven't made a Boswell puzzle, we've certainly thought about it, but the minimum printing is 500. Grocery stores, even indie ones, have a lot more traffic than book stores. On November 7, the University of Maryland Puzzle Club attempts to put together the 1000-piece puzzle before the Charles Street location closes for the day.

In Noah's Compass (and by the way, the Noah of the title isn't a character, but that guy in the ark), Liam Pennywell goes to the Charles Street Eddie's where he runs into the mother of a character he is seeing, only she doesn't know who he is. Her identity is revealed when she is forced to say who she is for her house account. They don't make her do that at the Roland Park location, as everyone knows who she is. 

I liked reading Noah's Compass, with its classic Tyler-esque hero. Unlike some of her other books, where he is counterpointed by a very strong female character, the yang to Liam's yin, we have instead here have a number of distinct and interesting women, but they are all definitely supporting players. But hey, now I know why they put crayons on the rejacketed paperback.

I can't tell you how French Braid, Tyler's next book is, because I haven't read it. But to quote Mameve Medwed, author of Minus Me, who reviewed the book for the Boston Globe, Anne Tyler never disappoints, and Mameve hasn't lied to me yet. 

*The first Anne Tyler novel I read was Searching for Caleb, suggested to me by my college friend Julia. This is the only Tyler novel that I have read twice.