Thursday, July 20, 2017

Books About Young Children Left with a Relative, Part Two: Bianca Marais's "Hum If You Don't Know the Words"

By now, I'm hoping you're familiar with Indies Introduce, the American Booksellers Association that tries to highlight debut authors. About ten booksellers make up a semi-annual panel, one each for adult and kids titles, and this group reads through 50-60 titles that are submitted by publishers. Each is only allowed a certain number of submissions, so I'm sure there's some politics as to which ones make the cut.

The year I was on the panel, our selections including Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, and Antoine Laurain's The President's Hat, all of which went on to great success at Boswell and elsewhere. I enthusiastically recommended being on the panel to Jason, our adult buyer, and what a treasure trove this experience has been. He's read all kinds of great books he might not have read under usual circumstances, and his enthusiasm has been infectious, leading me to read Finn Murphy's The Long Haul and Augustus Rose's The Readymade Thief.*

However, the book from the Indies Introduce that has found the greatest success among Boswell booksellers is definitely Bianca Marais's Hum If You Don't Know the Words, which has now been read by no less than five Boswellians. I took that as a dare, and recently brought the number of fans to six.

The novel is set in South Africa in the 1970s. The Conrads live in a whites-only suburb of Johannesburg, where the father, Keith, is a supervisor at a mine. Boisterous Robin, along with her much quieter sister Cat, are taken care of by Mabel, their black maid. There's tension, not between whites and blacks, but between Brits and Afrikaners, a legacy of the Boer War.

Meanwhile, Beauty Mbali is a teacher with two children, one of whom, Nomsa, is going to high school far away. What she doesn't know is that Nomsa, a brave woman who was taught to stand up for justice, is helping lead a very large protest, in response to government decree that students must be taught in Afrikaans, not English. But the government retailiates violently and Nomsa disappears. And Beauty sets off to find her, not knowing if she's even alive.

At this same time, Robin's family is attacked at a party, leaving Robin abandoned. She and Mabel are taken away, with Robin eventually put in the care of Edith, her mother's sister. And this is where I was reminded of Simon Van Booy's Father's Day. Robin is not much different than Van Booy's Harvey in age, and just as precocious. Like Jason, Edith is in no position to take care of a little girl. She's trying to be good, and even gives up her job as a flight attendant, but, well, things don't quite as well for Marais's characters. She winds up bringing in Beauty, who is hiding out in Johannesburg while trying to find her daughter.

The story alternates between Robin and Beauty's stories. Robin slowly gets a new family, including Maggie, the librarian heroine (and who doesn't love that), young Morrie Goldman and his family, Edith's friend gay friend Victor, and King George, a mixed-race gentleman who lives in the basement. Even the evil Afrikaner social worker turns out to be not quite what Robin expected. But the true heart of the story is the relationship between Robin and Beauty.

Putnam has been positioning the novel as great for readers of The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. Marais had several sensitivity readings, as she was well aware that a white writer portraying the lives of black South Africans during Apartheid could run into problems, particularly because the story is a little more nuanced.

Here's what our buyer Jason Kennedy wrote about Hum If You Don't Know the Words: "Bianca Marais does a remarkable job at breathing life into such a sad and tense time in South Africa's history; this is a book many people should have on their must-read lists of 2017."

In addition, Sharon called the novel "terrific," Anne proclaimed it "great" (informally, while she so me carrying around the advance reading copy), and Jane regaled me with several email messages about how good the book was and what interesting discussions it would spark. In other words, perfect for book clubs!

We're so excited about this upcoming visit from Bianca Marais to the Lynden Sculpture Garden in River Hills on Sunday, July 23, 2 pm, as part of their Women's Speaker Series. Both Jason and I have met Ms. Marais, Jason at Book Expo during the Indies Introduce presentation, and I at a Putnam reception for several authors in Chicago.  We both can vouch that Marais is the kind of author you really want to meet, which you can't always say about debut authors. You will love her!

Here's my suggestion. The book is just out and your book club has probably selected books out for at least a few months, if not the whole season. But why don't one or two of you consider attending Sunday's event? You can decide for yourself if it works for your group, and you'll be ahead of the game at getting material to prepare for the discussion.

Want a sneak peak? Marais will be speaking to Mitch Teich on Lake Effect on Friday's show.

Tickets are $30, including the book, tax, admission, and light refreshments. If you belong to the Lynden Scultpure Garden, the cost is $25. Visit their website or call them at (414) 446-8794. And I have to say, it wouldn't be a bad thing to read Father's Day before or after.

*Augustus Rose is coming to Boswell on Tuesday, August 22, 7 pm.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Books About Young Children Left with a Relative, Part One: Our Book Club Discusses Simon Van Booy's "Father's Day"

I had been feeling remiss for not reading Simon Van Booy's Father's Day, a novel that had three great readings at Boswell, plus we did sell hundreds of The Illusions of Separateness, plus there was a Boswell reference in his last short story collection, Tales of Accidental Genius. So when the hardcover opportunity came and went, I realized that this would be a great slot for our In-Store Lit Group. I hate to repeat, but the group so much liked The Illusion of Separateness, that I thought we'd do a return engagement.

Of course, who doesn't love The Illusion of Separateness*? I was sort of shocked to see that demand for Illusion trails Van Booy's an earlier short story collection, Love Begins in Winter, as well as his first novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, which I still have to read. We're also looking forward to his first kids book, Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things, which comes out in October.

But I digress, as always. Father's Day is the story of Harvey, a young girl growing up on Long Island, who is sent to the care of her uncle Jason when her parents die in a freak accident. Now I should just say that Jason doesn't really want to take care of Harvey, and most social service agencies wouldn't go through the effort of placing her with him, but there's something special that Wanda sees, in Jason, and jumps through a number of hurdles to make it happen.

Jason and his brother Steve (Harvey's dad) were abused by their father, and it's left him, as one of my old friends used to say, tortured. Jason is, to his reckoning, damaged goods, and absolutely not the person who should be raising a little girl. But he takes this on, because in the end, he is not the person he thinks he is. He is, in fact, good.

This is sort of Van Booy's philosophy in a nutshell - we all have the potential for goodness, and even greatness. It's a delicate line to walk, and I think were Van Booy to explode in popularity, he would get the kind of backlash that follows writers that flirt with inspiration. I think it's Van Booy's writing skills and quirkiness that allow him to skirt the haters for now, plus his relative obscurity.

Father's Day jumps around in time a bit, most notably when Harvey is in her twenties. She's working for an animation studio in Paris, and Jason comes to visit, and Harvey decides to give him a series of gifts that unlock some memories, and also provide some revelations. Even though our book club talked about them at length, it's hard for me to talk about them without giving too much away, but there's also something to be said that giving away spoilers actually helps garner more readers.

Did the book club like the book? I think we had one naysayer and everyone else just sighed fondly. Several folks questioned Harvey's motivations for moving so far away from Jason and others simply found the name Harvey confusing. Since I've knew at least one woman named Harvey, it wasn't an issue to me. I have yet to meet a female David or Jeffrey, but I'm sure they are out there.

Father's Day has the kind of connective tissue that made so many people like The Illusion of Separateness. It's a more intimate story, so on one hand, it doesn't have the scope, but on the other hand, it feels more instinctively like a novel, and less like linked stories with a purpose. I know that the market for this book is not tapped. I would love to send out 100 copies to people of influence who I thought would like it. But I have other fish to fry, so this writeup will have to suffice.

I also thought that the Long Island and Queens detail rang true to me. Apparantly Mr. Van Booy picked up a lot of this local color during a stint as a restaurant reviewer. You've got to listen to this book club discussion with Arsen Kashkashian of Boulder Book Store on KGNU Boulder Public Radio, as it's filled with interesting details.

Is your book club planning to talk about Father's Day? HarperCollins has a sheet of discussion questions.

On Monday, August 7, 7 pm, we'll be discussing Noah Hawley's Before the Fall, Edgar Award winner for best novel. It also just won best novel at Thrillerfest, presented by ITW. Best first novel went to Nick Petrie's The Drifter!

On Tuesday, September 5, 7 pm, we'll be Nicole Dennis-Benn's Here Comes the Sun. It's back to school time, as this one's a little more dense than our last two. It was shortlisted for the John Leonard First Novel prize, presented by the National Book Critics Circle, and won a Lambda Literary Award.

*This is rhetorical. No need to write back if you disagree. I know that people disagreee about books.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"&" the Relatively New Ticketed Events: Nancy Pearl with Kathleen Dunn on September 9 and Kate DiCamillo at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on October 29

I guess we're in the midst of fall ticketed events. If you don't get our email newsletter, you might not have heard about these.

#1: Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust and her first novel, George & Lizzie, at Boswell on Saturday, September 9, 7 pm. Pearl will be in conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleeen Dunn. If you love those shows with Pearl and Dunn (yes, does sound like a country music band), you'll love this in-store event.

Tickets are $29, and include admission and a copy of George & Lizzie. A $19 Boswell gift card will be available on the night of the event only.

As you know, Kathleen Dunn will be retiring this August. It will be hard to say goodbye. We're so grateful for her participation in this event. And yes, this event is cosponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio, and $5 from each ticket will be donated back to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here's a condensation of my recommendation of George & Lizzie, the quriky and charming novel from Pearl: "It’s hard not to root for Lizzie, a hero in the vein of Laurie Colwin or more recently, Elizabeth McKenzie’s The Portable Veblen. She's living proof that you can overcome the burdens of your past, especially if you remember the mantra that nobody cares what happened to you in high school."

I just want to say a word about titles with ampersands. One of my booksellers told me that I spelled the title of the novel wrong because I spelled out "and." But the truth is that especially when your writing is going back and forth between html code, those ampersands can be pesky. It's my feeling that using one over the other was a decision made by the art director, not the writer, but I could be wrong.

#2: Kate DiCamillo, author of Raymie Nightingale and La La La: A Story of Hope, at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield's Mitchell Park on Sunday, October 29, 2 pm. This is the second collaboration between Boswell and Oconomowoc's Books & Company.

Tickets are $22, and include admission and a copy of La La La. There is no gift card option for this event, but think of how close you are to the holidays. La La La makes a great gift. DiCamillo is one of the most inspiring speakers you'll ever hear and does very little touring to bookstores. This is her first public event in Milwaukee since 2012.

Here's more about this very special book. "With the simplest of narratives and the near absence of words, Kate DiCamillo conveys a lonely child’s yearning for someone who understands. With a subtle palette and captivating expressiveness, Jaime Kim brings to life an endearing character and a transcendent landscape that invite readers along on an emotionally satisfying journey."

The Wilson Center is a beautful venue with convenient parking. We had such a great time there with Adriana Trigiani last week. And there are lots of great places to eat beforehand in Sendik's Town Center. Our first week of sales on this one was very strong - we could sell out on this one, especially because there's a lot of DiCamillo love floating around the Milwaukee area. The Elmbrook Schools are having a DiCamillo district read this fall, and First Stage will be performing The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

I also didn't catch that our partners on this event, Books & Company, generally spell their store with an ampersand. I'm trying to catch this and hope that the coding doesn't mess me up.

All this and one other fall event already sold out! But there are plenty more exciting events to come this fall. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Event blog! David Grann, Evelyn M. Perry with Mitch Teich, Where's Waldo, Tim Taranto, Bianca Marais, Kathleen Davis

Monday, July 17, 7 pm, at Boswell:
David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

From The New Yorker staff writer David Grann, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.

Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.

In this last remnant of the Wild West - where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes like Al Spencer, the "Phantom Terror," roamed--many of those who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll climbed to more than twenty-four, the FBI took up the case. It was one of the organization's first major homicide investigations and the bureau badly bungled the case. In desperation, the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only American Indian agents in the bureau. The agents infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.

Here's a recommendation from Tim McCarthy at Boswell: "The terrifying, sad story is expertly told by David Grann, whose ability to keep diverse characters fresh and create compelling suspense is truly impressive. Grann weaves together a story that includes very carefully researched history about: the west and U.S. expansion; the Texas Rangers, and how one former Ranger became the heroic lead investigator of these crimes during the earliest days of J Edgar Hoover's five decades in leading the FBI; the nation's first uses of careful evidence gathering and fingerprinting; and the ridiculous willingness of many white Americans to throw away lives considered less important than their own, for the sake of greed. Reading this book was like watching a train wreck - I couldn't have been at once more horrified and also transfixed."

David Grann is the best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, which was chosen as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other publications, and has been translated into more than twenty-five languages. He is also the author of The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. His work has garnered several honors for outstanding journalism, including a George Polk Award.

Tuesday, July 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Evelyn M. Perry, author of Live and Let Live: Diversity, Conflict, and Community in an Integrated Neighborhood, in conversation with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich.

While conventional wisdom asserts that residential racial and economic integration holds great promise for reducing inequality in the United States, Americans are demonstrably not very good at living with difference. Perry's analysis of the multiethnic, mixed-income Milwaukee community of Riverwest, where residents maintain relative stability without insisting on conformity, advances our understanding of why and how neighborhoods matter.

In response to the myriad urban quantitative assessments, Perry examines the impacts of neighborhood diversity using more than three years of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews. Her in-depth examination of life "on the block" expands our understanding of the mechanisms by which neighborhoods shape the perceptions, behaviors, and opportunities of those who live in them. Perry challenges researchers' assumptions about what "good" communities look like and what well-regulated communities want. Live and Let Live shifts the conventional scholarly focus from "What can integration do?" to "How is integration done?"

Evelyn M. Perry received her Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Sociology, Indiana University. Perry is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology at Rhodes College in Memphis. Mitch Teich is the Executive Producer of Lake Effect.

Thursday, July 20, 4:00 pm, at Boswell:
Where's Waldo 30th Celebration Party!

Join Boswell as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the beloved search and find character Waldo! This celebration is family fun for all, we’ll have a raffle, games, photo booth, and light refreshments. And as an added bonus, all Waldo books, will be 20% off the month of July.

So what should you expect? A fun-filled day for the whole family. Here's what we have going on:
a. A Waldo scavenger hunt
b. Pin the hat on Waldo
c. Make a Waldo hat and other activities
d. The great Waldo raffle, including Boswell gift cards
f. A Waldo photo booth
g. Light refreshments.

Bust out your binoculars and celebrate the 30th anniversary of Where's Waldo.

Thursday, July 20, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Tim Taranto, author of Ars Botanica.

A moving meditation on grief, memory, and the way we return to ourselves after loss.

Written as letters to his unborn child, Tim Taranto's Ars Botanica describes the infinite pleasures of falling in love: the small discoveries of each other's otherness, the crush of desire, the frightening closeness, and the terrifying impossibility of losing someone. Through examinations of the ways in which various cultures and religions process grief, Taranto discovers the emotional instincts that shape his own mourning. At times astonishingly personal and even painful, Ars Botanica is also playfully funny, a rich hybrid of memoir, poetry, and illustration that delightfully defies categorization.

From Karen Russell, the author of Swamplandia!: "Ars Botanica is a gorgeous hybrid: a memoir in letters to a phantom addressee, an introduction to life on this planet, a primer for how to live, a meditation on family. It also winds up being a beautiful and highly personal field guide to the natural world. It’s one of the most wrenching and honest accounts of falling in and out of love, of moving through a season of grief, that I’ve ever read."

Tim Taranto is a writer, visual artist, and poet. His work has been featured in Harper’s, McSweeney’s, and The Paris Review. Taranto is a graduate of Cornell University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Sunday, July 23, 2 pm at Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W Brown Deer Rd:
The Women's Speaker Series presents a ticketed event Bianca Marais, author of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. This event is cosponsored by Milwaukee Reads.

Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970’s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built and shatters their worlds when Robin's parents are left dead and Beauty's daughter goes missing.

Told through Beauty and Robin's alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum If You Don't Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.

No less than four Boswellians have loved Hum If You Don't Know the Words, which was also picked as an Indies Introduce title by the American Booksellers Association. Here's our buyer Jason Kennedy's review: "Set during the Apartheid in South Africa, the story follows two characters who live in different worlds but the same country. There is Beauty, who will stop at nothing to find her daughter during the Soweto Uprising, and there is ten-year-old Robin who goes through some horrific tragedy of her own that turns her world upside down. Robin and Beauty work at picking up the pieces of their shattered lives. They find each other, and though, they are from different worlds, they recognize the same sadness, anxiety, and fear inside the other. Bianca Marais does a remarkable job at breathing life into such a sad and tense time in South Africa's history; this is a book many people should have on their must-read lists of 2017."

Tickets for this event are $30, $25 for members, the book is included as well as tax and fees. For more information, here's an interview with Marais about the book.

Bianca Marais holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto's SCS, and her work has been published in World Enough and Crime. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans.

Monday, July 24, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Kathleen Davis, author of You Never Told Me That!: A Crash Course in Preparing Your Kids for Independence.

The day is finally coming when your baby bird will fly away from the family nest. But is he or she ready? Are you? There are thousands of handbooks on raising infants, toddlers, and adolescents, but no proper manual for preparing your social media-obsessed teen for life in the real world until now.

In this informative guide, Whitefish Bay mom Kathleen Davis offers invaluable, commonsense advice to help you help your kid become a successful-or at least functional-adult. She covers the big and small stuff, from doing laundry to paying bills to building character and showing empathy for others. And she doesn't shy away from tough topics like drinking, drugs, and sex. You Never Told Me That! throws a lifeline to soon-to-be empty nesters. Whether your kids are off to college, their first apartments, or new jobs, it's time to get them ready for real life.

Kathleen Davis is a writer, painter, and Realtor who is currently raising her two teenage sons, Henry and George, in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.  In her spare time, she has spent several years volunteering as a coach and mentoring middle and high school students. She is passionate about the importance of education and worked with the school district of Whitefish Bay to develop its anti-bullying program so that all kids could come to school and feel safe.

Check out our upcoming events page for more literary happenings.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Boswell's annotated bestsellers for the week ending July 15, 2017, plus Journal Sentinel book reviews

Here's the Boswell bestseller list for the week ending July 15, 2017.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigiani
2. House of Spies, by Adam Silva
3. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
4. Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
5. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy
6. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
7. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
8. The Witchwood Crown, by Tad Williams
9. Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins
10. Anything Is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout

Two fall 2016 hardcovers, Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things and the second novel for Amor Towles, continue to make regular appearances on the hardcover bestseller lists, and in both cases, the paperbacks were delayed until at least 2018. A Gentleman in Moscow had a big leap on The New York Times lists, reflecting sales from about three weeks ago, and sure enough, our numbers have also gone up. I haven't been able to pick out on the local front what created the uptick, though I'm sure the publisher knows. On our end, it is the first selection of the Pfister Hotel Book Club. How fitting, being that a hotel is almost a character in this novel. Check with the hotel to find out their next selection.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Find a Way, by Diana Nyad
2. Raising Human Beings, by Ross W. Greene
3. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken
4. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
5. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann (event Monday July 17, 7 pm, at Boswell)
6. Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance
7. Hunger, by Roxane Gay
8. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
9. Janesville, by Amy Goldstein
10. Blood in the Water, by Heather Ann Thompson

The Frank P. Zeidler Lecture on Monday, November 6 features Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water. I don't know if they are asking for registration, but here's the Facebook page, where you're sure to get more info. The original spring date had to be delayed as Thompson was receiving the Bancroft Prize that evening. This is the second time in two years because an event we were involved in had to be postponed because of a prize ceremony where the author won. The other was Marlon James and the Man Booker Prize. Wouldn't it have been funny if our updated date for Blood on the Water was the Pulitzer Prize ceremony, which Thompson also received, for history. The paperback comes out August 22.

Paperback Fiction:
1. My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter, by Aja Monet
2. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
3. Here Comes the Sun, by Nicole Dennis-Benn (in-store lit group Tuesday, September 5, 7 pm)
4. Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (in-store lit group, Monday, August August 7, 7 pm)
5. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
6. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
7. The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro
8. The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore
9. The Shoemaker's Wife, by Adirana Trigiani
10. Lucia, Lucia, by Adriana Trigiani

It's book club week and once again I hoped that one of our blog posts this week would discuss our July selection. Maybe this coming week will be better. I'm excited about these upcoming books - Before the Fall is a quality summer thriller that won the Edgar, and Here Comes the Sun won a Lambda Literary Award and was shortlisted for two major first novel prizes (at least). Coincidentally Noah Hawley reviewed The Last Days of Night for The New York Times Book Review when the book was first published. It's a thriller about the electricity wars between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Hawley writes about what makes a fictional novel feel true or not. In The Washington Post, Patrick Anderson called Moore's novel "a model of superior historical fiction."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Lost and Found, by Ross W. Greene
3. Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities, by Margo Vreeberg Izzo and Lede Horne
4. Just Give Him the Whale, by Paula Kluth
5. Pedro's Whale, by Paula Kluth
6. Lost at School, by Ross W. Greene
7. The Explosive Child, by Ross W. Greene
8. The Principal's Handbook for Leading Inclusive Schools, by Julie Causton
9. You're Going to Love This Kid, by Paula Kluth
10. No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein

Why so much Ross W. Greene and Paula Kluth? Wasn't that conference last June? Yes, and such are the mysteries of bestseller lists. Another mystery is that for her new book No Is Not Enough, about political convictions and activism, Naomi Klein went with Haymarket Books in the United States, even though it's published by Knopf in Canada. The page has recommendations from Junot Diaz, Michelle Alexander, Cornell West, and more. Gillian Tett in The Financial Times writes: "I hope that Klein’s book is read by more than just her (mostly) leftwing fan base. For whatever you think about her economic arguments, she makes a powerful and an important point: that you cannot understand Trump without looking at how he reflects bigger cultural and social dynamics."

Books for Kids:
1. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, with illustrations by Richard Scarry
2. World's Collide, by Chris Colfer
3. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagarara
4. Hammer of Thor, by Rick Riordan
5. Posted, by John David Anderson
6. Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
7. Dog Man Unleashed, by Dav Pilkey
8. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee
9. The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
10. She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton, with illustrations by Alexandra Boiger

My guess is that Chris Colfer's Land of Stories appearance at Andersons (in conjunction with the release of Worlds Collide) has been long sold out, but here's the tour schedule anyway. The website also has a program to storify yourself, which seems like a good idea. We listened to Colfer on Ask Me Another yesterday, where Ophira Eisenberg quizzed him about fan fiction.

Jounal Sentinel TapBook page features!

1. Jim Higgins review Meddling Kids, the new novel from Edgar Cantero, with the title of his work being a reference to Scooby Doo. Higgins writes: "Cantero's novel, which can be considered either humor-laced horror or horror-laced humor, turns this formula inside out. In Meddling Kids, the former amateur child detectives return as troubled young adults to the spooky place where they once put a small-time crook away to confront the real supernatural evil embedded there. As the publicity pitch accurately puts it, it's Scooby-Doo meets H.P. Lovecraft. Cantero does justice to both sides of that equation." Not for kids, Higgins notes.

2. Mike Fischer reviews When the English Fall, the new novel from David Williams. It's a story set in the near future imagining "what would happen to such a seemingly isolated Amish enclave once everything and everyone around it slouch toward the sort of dystopia we see in Cormac McCarthy's The Road." Fischer's not a fan - I would have suspected Higgins might have liked it more. It also had great advance reviews from the trades, including this starred Kirkus, where the reviewer called this "a standout among post-apocalyptic novels, as simply and perfectly crafted as an Amish quilt."

3. Sheryl Sandberg is profiled by Andrea Januta in The Miami Herald.

4. Karla Huston "brings a playful spirit to Memory Cafe events," per Jim Higgins. She recently read at Poetry in the Park.

Is a new lower-case logo moving to the print edition?

Monday, July 10, 2017

This week: Adriana Trigiani. Next week: David Grann (and more). Not happening till August 17: Kathy Flanigan

Now that Summerfest is over, we're gearing back up to a fuller schedule, but I guess baby steps first.

Please note that our event with Kathy Flanigan for Beer Lover's Wisconsin has been rescheduled for Thursday, August 17.

Wednesday, July 12, 7:00 pm at Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, 19805 W Capitol Dr:
A ticketed event with Adriana Trigiani, author of Kiss Carlo.

The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, Oconomowoc’s Books & Company, and Milwaukee’s Boswell Book Company present their first literary collaboration, an evening with Adriana Trigiani, beloved by millions of readers around the world for her bestselling novels, including All the Stars in the Heavens, The Shoemaker’s Wife, the Big Stone Gap series, and Lucia, Lucia.

Tickets are $32.00 and include admission to the event, all taxes and fees, and a copy of Trigiani’s latest novel, Kiss Carlo. A signing will follow the talk.

Here's Jane Glaser's recommendation: "Set against the post-World-War-II streets of South Philadelphia, a mountaintop village in Italy and the golden age of New York television, this is a story that celebrates the expansive life of one Italian-American family. As branches of the Palazzini family are involved in a decades old feud over their cab driving business, ironically it is the orphaned cousin Nicky Castone who brings about a reconciliation. While he drives a cab by day, Nicky begins to fulfill his dream of becoming an actor by volunteering at the struggling Borelli Theatre in the evening and there he meets the love of his life. From page one, readers will engage in this vibrantly drawn heartwarming epic story of family and friendship, love and forgiveness and ultimately dreams fulfilled. Perfect choice for summer reading!"

Monday, July 17, 7 pm at Boswell:
David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

From The New Yorker staff writer David Grann, best-selling author of The Lost City of Z, comes a twisting, haunting true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history. Let's just do a list of enthusiastic recommendations, from a who's who of literature.

A fascinating account of a tragic and forgotten chapter in the history of the American West. As in all his work, David Grann digs deep, and this powerful story reveals the unimaginable scale of theseshocking murders almost a hundred years ago.
--John Grisham, bestselling author of Camino Island and The Whistler

"Quite simply, this is a remarkable book, by a remarkable author an exhumation of a shockingly brutal series of historical murders, that I for one knew nothing about. Utterly original, completely compelling."
--Erik Larson, bestselling author of Dead Wake and Devil in the White City

"Killers of the Flower Moon is a magnificent book a riveting true story of greed, serial murder, and racial injustice that exposes an extremely disturbing episode of American History. David Grann is a terrific journalist, and this is maybe the best thing he's ever written."
--Jon Krakauer, bestselling author of Missoula and Into Thin Air

"Loyal readers of David Grann's books have come to expect jaw-dropping set-ups and brilliantly crafted narratives. Both are on full, dazzling display here. There is an unexpected bonus in the book s final section, when Grann puts on his deer-stalking hat and proceeds to solve several 85-year-old, unsolved crimes."
--S.C Gwynne, bestselling author of Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon

"Killers of the Flower Moon brings shattering resolve to a story that resonates now. As Native Americans fighting to protect resources on the remnants of our lands, we confront the same paternalism, hypocrisy, and greed that destroyed Osage lives and culture in the early 1920s. David Grann has a razor keen instinct for suspense. He shapes outrage into a principled steady insistence that voice be given to the victims and their descendants. He creates deeply human portraits of every character in this drama the evil, the just, the innocent, the doomed. Through meticulous detective work, Grann rescues unbearable truth. As with all of his books, this is a mesmerizing read."
--Louise Erdrich, award-winning author of The Round House and LaRose

"Killers of the Flower Moon is an exceedingly rare book: at the same time a riveting, page-turning mystery and a deeply researched, serious work of nonfiction. This stunning story had been lost to time. Now, thanks to David Grann, it will never again be forgotten".
 --Candice Millard, bestselling author of Hero of the Empire and Destiny of the Republic

More upcoming events here, including Evelyn M. Perry, author of Live and Let Live, in conversation with Mitch Teich on July 18.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Time travel, trees, sorceress school, and mysterious portraits in this week's Boswell annotated bestseller list for the week ending July 8, 2017

Marking the end of Summerfest's 50th anniversary celebration with a Boswell bestseller wrap up.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy
2. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
3. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
4. The Rose and Fall of D.O.D.O., by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
5. Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
6. Camino Island, by John Grisham
7. The Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
8. The Force, by Don Winslow
9. Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory
10. The Accomplished Guest, stories by Ann Beattie

Here are some things you should know about The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. 1) D.O.D.O stands for Department of Diachronic Operations. 2) It is the #1 Indie Next book for July. Bill Cusumano of Square Books in Oxford writes: "For someone who approaches such serious scientific and technological subjects, Neal Stephenson can be outrageously funny. Combine that with Nicole Galland’s storytelling ability and you have a rollicking roller coaster of a novel." 3) Our buyer Jason brought in signed copies of the new book. 4) Need more? Adam Roberts in The Guardian reviews the book, and calls it "big, roomy, and enjoyable." And note to Tracy, it's a time-travel novel.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken
2. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, by Sherman Alexie
3. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
4. Chuck Klosterman X, by Chuck Klosterman
5. Janesville, by Amy Goldstein
6. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
7. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
8. Playing with Power, by Garitt Rocha
9. Wiscsonsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, by Ron Faiola
10. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann (free event at Boswell, Monday, July 17, 7 pm)

The top nonfiction is not turning much (I've read four of the top five, which is an indicator), meaning we've written up just about all these titles before. A bulk sale popped Playing with Power onto our list. So let's talk more about Killers of the Flower Moon, the acclaimed new David Grann history book where we just announced an appearance with Grann on July 17. Though I didn't read The Lost City of Z, it is one of those nonfiction adventure/history narratives that is easy to sell, especially because we knew so many people loved it. We do have a great read on Grann's latest from Boswellian Tim McCarthy, a big fan who writes: "I couldn't have been at once more horrified and also transfixed." We're going to get his complete write up on our blog this week. And I just started reading it too.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
2. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
3. Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny
4. Life on Mars, by Tracy K. Smith
5. Burning Bright, by Nick Petrie
6. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
7. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
8. The Portrait, by Antoine Laurain
9. The Expanse Between, by Lee L. Kreklow (group event on Monday, August 21, 7 pm)
10. Here I Am, by Jonathan Safran Foer

While it might not sell the 300 copies of The Red Notebook (which has been popular enough to have a gift edition coming this fall), Antoine Laurain's The Portrait, his very first novel, is doing pretty well off our front table. It's the story of an obsessive collector who spots an old painting, where the subject's likeness is uncannily like his own, but nobody around him seems to recognize this. While I don't expect to see a review in The New York Times Book Review, it's been getting some nice writeups in decent-sized blogs, such as His Futile Preoccupations, who wrote "The Portrait asks what would happen if we were given a chance to walk away from a life we found tedious, crude, and worthless. Would we take that chance? Delightful." Laurain is still working on his next new work - I think we can expect to see that in 2018. And yes, we are once again stocking some Antoine Laurain novels in French.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn Perry (event with Mitch Teich on Tuesday, July 18, 7 pm, at Boswell)
3. White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg
4. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, and David Luhrssen
5. The Long, Long Life of Trees, by Fiona Stafford
6. Hour of Land, by Terry Tempest Williams
7. No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein
8. Irena's Children, by Tilar J. Mazzeo
9. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
10. Preservation, by Christina Ward

While our buyer Jason includes university press titles on our new paperback table with some regularity, few have the momentum to pop onto the bestseller list, but The Long, Long Life of Trees was able to do so, and that's with individual (not bulk) sales. This very attractive volume follows 17 varieties of trees, with one of them including the ash. I'm sad because we just lost another two ash trees a block from my house, and Downer Avnue really has been decimated. Sid Perkins writes in UK's Science News that this new book by Stafford (an Oxford professor and UK radio personality) is "an engaging book from cover to cover" and "a wonderful walk through the woods."

Books for Kids:
1. She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton, with illustrations by Alexandra Boiger
2. Herbie Jones, by Suzy Kline
3. Dog Man Unleashed, by Dav Pilkey
4. Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded, by Sage Blackwood
5. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
6. Natural World, by Amanda Wood
7. Dark Prophecy, by Rick Riordan
8. Dragons Love Tacos 2, by Adam Rubin, with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri
9. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
10. Little Excavator, by Anna Dewdney

A sleeper that has quietly notched some very strong sales at Boswell is Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded. It has a recommendation from Jen, who wrote: "When all the Sorceresses in town disappear, it's up to Chantel and her friends to rescue them. As she makes new friends and foes, Chantel embarks on an adventure that will reveal long hidden truths and test her at every turn." All the trade reviews were also strong, with School Library Journal writing "This book features a strong plot and well-developed characters. Readers who enjoyed Blackwood's earlier works will not be disappointed. Hand this to fans of Diana Wynne Jones and Shannon Hale."

This week in the Journal Sentinel, The TapBooks page offered an excerpt from Wisconsin Literary Luminaries, featuring Cordwainer Smith, the cult classic science fiction writer. His given name was Paul Linebarger, which Bay Viewers will recognize from the street named after his family. As Jim Higgins notes, Smith had a "short but remarkable career" and chronicles his major works.

Also listed are two high profile books from authors visiting Milwaukee in the coming weeks. Patty Rhule's writeup of Kiss Carlo and Don Oldenberg's review of Killers of the Flower Moon both come from USA Today. Adriana Trigiani will be at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Performing Arts, presented by Boswell and Oconomowoc's Books & Company, this Wednesday, July 12 (it's ticketed) while David Grann will be at Boswell on Monday, July 17

Friday, July 7, 2017

New to the rec shelf: Everybody Lies, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Here's the thing about podcasts. I find that I really like the ones that double as NPR shows, but don't like the ones that are just people talking about a particular subject. I'm not sure if it's a lack of structure or what, but even when I like the person hosting the podcast, I quickly get bored by the chatter. Why is this ironic? Because that's pretty much me when I go on a radio show to talk about books.

One show/podcast that I often like listening to is Freaknomics Radio. Inspired by the book (and it's spinoffs, I guess), it's hosted by the co-author Stephen Dubner, with the occasional contribution of economist Stephen Levitt. Sometimes the show hits right on the nose of what I'm thinking, like its episode that investigated why there are so many mattress stores. There's an epilogue to that story - Mattress Firm, who fattened up and bought a bunch of competitors, which is why there are multiple locations on both Highway 100 and Miller Park Way, itself sold off to a South African Company. Don't forget, venture capital generally means exit strategy.

Another episode that I really enjoyed featured Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, who uses Google searches to uncover when and how people lie, as well as answers to all sorts of weird questions, such as when do most people form their s political affiliations. The interview was connected to the release of his book, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Reveals About Who We Really Are. I think I was affected by an advance review that called the book depressing. A lot of the media focus has been on how Stephens-Davidowitz's data analysis showed that we continue to be more racist that we admit in public, or even in surveys. There's also a lot of sex data.

But more than the negative data, I was most fascinated about their analysis of Obama's post-terrorism attack speeches, and how curiosity about prominent Muslims in American history, sports, military, and architecture let to less anti-Muslim searches and more curious searches to learn more about the positive impact of Muslims, which I didn't find depressing, but inspiring*. As I've learned from other psychology books, there are people who only react to carrots, not sticks, which was, by the way, tied into another piece of Stephens-Davidowitz's data about the effect on prisons to harden instead of reforming criminals.

The truth is that Everybody Lies, when it is not tackling the heavy duty subjects, can be quite entertaining. The author has a sparkling, often-self-deprecating wit, such that I wouldn't just recommend this book to folks who like data driven economics and behavioral psychology books, but also someone who's a fan of Larry Davidson. Where did that come from? I loved the author trying to figure out why he loves the Mets but his brother does not. I appreciated the comfort of knowing that Facebook data may reveal a lot about our behavior as well, but it's not true that all our friends are smart, more sophisticated, wealthier, and worst of all, happier than we are.

And while he bursted my bubble that money doesn't buy happiness - lottery winners, in general, do wind up happier - he gave me solid advice on what to do if a neighbor wins the lottery. Move away, fast, or you'll buy your way into bankruptcy trying to keep up.

Stephens-Davidowitz (photo credit Jim Hauser) had a stint at Google, after starting his data research during his schooling.  Now he's writing op-eds for The New York Times and speaking professionally. Since I'd like to hear him and I think it's a long way off to another book that might involve a tour, I'm hoping someone who has a big budgeted speaking engagement series will sign him up and we can sell books. It's a win-win-win.

*The truth is that if you read these kinds of books, you learn that some people are good, some people are bad, but most people are in the middle, and can go either way. Cheating is bad, but apparently cheating on taxes is not so bad for most people, at least in private. Something that nudges (yes, I was a fan of the book Nudge) folks to go in a positive direction is pretty great.