Sunday, November 19, 2017

Boswell bestsellers, week ending November 18, 2017: literary authors, presidential photos, movie openings, slime, and the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page

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

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The House of Unexpected Sisters, by Alexander McCall Smith
2. Future Home of the Living God, by Louise Erdrich
3. Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson
4. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
5. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
6. Origin, by Dan Brown
7. Artemis, by Andy Weir
8. The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
9. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
10. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (National Book Award winner)

Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God would definitely be on our "what to read after Handmaid's Tale" if we had one, but we don't have one yet, and this time of year, it's hard to find a free display table. In January? That's another story. The book seems to be the top-reviewed book of the week and compared to her last two novels, the opinions are more polarized. Here's a profile from Bethanne Patrick in Los Angeles Times. Erin Vanderhoof called it "smart and thrilling" in Vanity Fair. But Ron Charles has issues in The Washington Post.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
2. Everything Is Awful, by Matt Bellassai
3. Montaigne in Barn Boots, by Michael Perry
4. The Financial Diaries, by Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider
5. Grant, by Ron Chernow
6. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
7. Obama, by Pete Souza
8. The Future Declassified, by Mathew Burrows
9. Promise Me Dad, by Joe Biden
10. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

It appears that Obama: An Intimate Portrait had a huge start, based on my observation that there are no copies at either wholesaler and something like 35,000 copies on order. It's the kind of book, due to the $50 price point, that builds over the holiday season. The book is topping bestseller lists and Souza is speaking to capacity crowds. Why? The New York Times ponders: "Here are a few hunches: With Mr. Obama giving few public statements since leaving office, Mr. Souza’s words and images will have to work as a conduit for now. Since posting a photo from a military helicopter as Mr. Obama left the White House on Inauguration Day - 'We used to live there,' Mr. Souza heard the departing president remark on that ride to no one in particular - Mr. Souza has been constructing a virtual timeline that juxtaposes events of Mr. Obama’s presidency with Mr. Trump’s, one that has so far been defined by defying norms, bucking expectations and attempts to reverse the legacy of his predecessor."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
2. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
3. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
4. The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson
5. Bronzeville at Night: 1949, by Vida Cross
6. 44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith
7. No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
8. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
9. The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
10. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald

We were a little unprepared but not completely surprised that Min Jin Lee's Pachinko was rushed out in paperback on November 14. That old problem--do you rush out a paperback when an award is about to be announced, or do you wait to pull the trigger after the win or loss. My guess is that if Pachinko had been the favorite, Grand Central would have reprinted hardcovers and perhaps moved the paperback date out. But a finalist slot, even without a win, is enough extra publicity to take advantage of the book's momentum, which one doesn't always have ninth months after pub date. She talked to Jonathan Soble in The New York Times: "Ms. Lee spent nearly two decades conceiving, writing and rewriting Pachinko. The seed was planted in 1989, when, as a student at Yale, she attended a talk by a Protestant missionary who had spent time among the zainichi. Until then, she said, she had never heard of this branch of the Korean diaspora. Growing up in the United States, she was used to Koreans being viewed as hardworking and upwardly mobile, a model American minority. But many zainichi, she was surprised to discover, languished at the bottom rungs of Japan’s socioeconomic ladder."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Danger, Man Working, by Michael Perry
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. The Distance Between Us, by Reyna Grande
4. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, David Luhrssen
5. Best American Magazine Writing 2017, edited by Sid Holt
6. The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis
7. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
8. Quotes for Nasty Women, by Linda Picone
9. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
10. The Zen of Slime, by Prim Pattanaporn and Alena Woods

I am so glad to be living through the slime renaissance. The gooey and often green substance rose to prominence on Nickelodeon in the 1980s, but nowadays, you can't go into a office supply store without seeing a display for make your own slime. I think that the Crazy Aaron putty craze is also part of this. And that's why it's not surprising that our notes for Prim Pattanaporn (@sparklygoo) and Alena Woods's The Zen of Slime says to make sure the book is display next to our thinking putty. And yes, it turns out that the slime crazy is being driven by social media. Here's Charlotte Lieberman in Marie Claire on the craze: "The trend is almost post-modern in its apparent pointlessness. I never would have guessed that I'd someday live in a world where it was normal to spend hours watching other people squish an inorganic substance (and I say this as a Millennial who grew up playing with Nickelodeon's Gak) but then again, what is normal anymore? Given that most of our lives are mediated by a screen—and that that screen spends a lot of time lately delivering nerve-frying, anxiety-inducing news—it makes sense that we would be drawn to the hyper-tactile, harmless, primordial nature of hands kneading goo.

Books for Kids:
1. Hollow Earth, by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
2. The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters, by Sean Connolly
3. Red, by Michael Hall
4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Getaway, by Jeff Kinney
5. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
6. The Book of Dust: La Bell Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
7. Frankencrayon, by Michael Hall
8. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
9. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
10. Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower, by Hiro Kamigaki

I'm not a movie scheduler, but I'm sort of surprised that there are two major movies based on book properties, one called Wonder and one called Wonderstruck. The marketing push for Wonder was this week, which was helped by good reviews (and a very enthusiastic readership base that has been anticipating this film with Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay). Wow, listen to this from Glenn Kenny in The New York Times: "Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the screenplay with Steve Conrad and Jack Thorne, the movie has a cast that’s wonderful from top to bottom. As Auggie’s parents, Ms. Roberts and Mr. Wilson are doing things we love to see those actors doing. (Ms. Roberts lets loose with her trademark ebullient laugh at least once, and Mr. Wilson explains life’s issues to Auggie in a droll drawl.) All the young people in the ensemble, anchored by Mr. Tremblay’s Auggie, are perfect. Wonder is that rare thing, a family picture that moves and amuses while never overtly pandering."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Basketball (and Other Things), by Shea Serrano, illustrated by Arturo Torres. He enjoys this "entertaining" book. Here's one of his observations: "The questions Serrano asks and answers (and that Arturo Torres illustrates in engaging graphic-novel style) include many barstool argument well as some nerdily conceptual ones."

Also reviewed:
--Kim Willis reviews Joe Hagan's Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine (USA Today)
--Claire Ballor reviews Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life, by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush (Dallas Morning News)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Event alert: Michael Perry, Alexander McCall Smith (almost sold out), Vida Cross

Event alert! Here's what's happening at Boswell this week (from Daniel and Kelli)

Tuesday, November 14, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Perry, author of Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy.

The beloved memoirist and bestselling author of Population: 485 reflects on the lessons he's learned from his unlikely alter ego, French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne. Written in a spirit of exploration rather than declaration, Montaigne in Barn Boots is a down-to-earth (how do you pronounce that last name?) look into the ideas of a philosopher "ensconced in a castle tower overlooking his vineyard," channeled by a Midwestern American writing "in a room above the garage overlooking a disused pig pen." Perry champions academics and aesthetics in a book that ultimately emerges as a sincere, unflinching look at the vital need to be a better person and citizen.

Jim Higgins, of the Journal Sentinel wrote of Perry, "Of the recent books extolling and commending French essayist Michel de Montaigne, Michael Perry's new one might be the Montaignest. Like Montaigne - the 16th-century writer and philosopher generally considered the Babe Ruth of personal essayists - Perry knows both the acute agony of passing a kidney stone and the chronic anxiety of living in a time of conflict. And if you're willing to stretch a definition, both might be considered gentlemen farmers (though Montaigne never had to sing for his supper on public radio)." Full article here.

Wisconsin native Michael Perry is a humorist, radio host, songwriter, and the bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Visiting Tom and Coop, as well as a novel, The Jesus Cow. This event if free but will be very popular. Come early for a good seat!

Thursday, November 16, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Ticketed Event: Fill the Shelves with Alexander McCall Smith, author of The House of Unexpected Sisters

Boswell and the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library announce a very special event with Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and other titles featuring Precious Ramotswe, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, 44 Scotland Street, and many other beloved titles. It's your last chance to see Alexander McCall Smith before we sell out. This is his first visit to Milwaukee since 2004!

Tickets are $29, including admission to the event, all taxes and fees, and a copy of The House of Unexpected Sisters. $5 from each ticket to this event will be donated back to the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation. This event is the launch of the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Fill the Shelves program. Fill the Shelves is a wonderful way to donate a book into library circulation, complete with a bookplate indicating you as the donor. Purchase one of the selected titles at Boswell, featured from November 16 through the end of 2017, and we’ll handle the details. You’ll even get a donation acknowledgement from the Friends.

Kirkus Reviews describes Smith's new book as "A deceptively slow opening movement ushers in one of the most complicated dockets ever for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency." Read the full review here.

Saturday, November 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Vida Cross, author of Bronzeville at Night: 1949 

Bronzeville at Night:1949 is a debut poetry collection by Vida Cross referencing her ancestry as a third generation Chicagoan and Bronzeville resident, as well as the artwork of Archibald J. Motley Jr., and the poetic research of Langston Hughes. Ian Bodkin raves “Cross pulls from Archibald Motley Jr.’s brushstrokes to conjure a music that plays behind the commotion of the street.” Visit here for more information.

Vida Cross was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. From 2009 to 2013, Cross was a Cave Canem Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Literary Review, The Reverie Journal, and The Journal of Film and Video. Vida splits her time between Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She teaches English Literature at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Boswell bestsellers: new novel from Isabel Allende, Jane's food-related pick for an area luncheon, Reese Witherspoon hand-sells a book, crazy science experiments at area schools, plus a Journal Sentinel review of Louise Erdrich

Here's what's selling at Boswell.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan
2. The House of Unexpected Sisters, by Alexander McCall Smith (ticketed event 11/16)
3. The Midnight Line, by Lee Child
4. In the Midst of Winter, by Isabel Allende
5. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, by David Lagercrantz
6. Hiddensee, by Gregory Maguire
7. Complete Stories, by Kurt Vonnegut
8. Origin, by Dan Brown
9. The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
10. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan

Isabel Allende's In the Midst of Winter is her 19th novel. I'm going to use the Kirkus Reviews description: "Thrown together by a Brooklyn blizzard, two NYU professors and a Guatemalan nanny find themselves with a body to dispose of." The reviewer is a fan, though it didn't get the coveted Kirkus star. Anita Felicelli really liked the contemporary love story (the courtship of the two professors) but felt that the immigration backstory was a bit Manichean (I have no idea what that means), compared to say, John Ridley's American Crime on television. But I would say that most Allende writers would prefer it in the style that Allende wrote it. Does that make sense to you?

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
2. The Storm Before the Storm, by Mike Duncan
3. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
4. Montaigne in Barn Boots, by Michael Perry (event 11/14 at Boswell - free!)
5. Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
6. Grant, by Ron Chernow
7. God, by Reza Aslan
8. Obama, by Pete Souza
9. What She Ate, by Laura Shapiro
10. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

A lot of this week's programming happened offstage, so to speak. In addition to our event with podcaster Mike Duncan, we sold books at several theater, school, and luncheon events, and Amie and I did a talk at the Wisconsin Woman's Club. One of the books that popped was one of Jane's holiday picks, What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Told Their Stories, by Laura Shapiro. Megan Volpert wrote in Pop Matters: "These women are all more or less famous, all more or less influential in their professional spheres. Yet their food stories are common, are all too familiar in their resonance as modern feminist conundrums. Shapiro portrays each of her six subjects with warmth and as fully rounded characters. They win some and lose some, they resist or persist when they are able. The universal necessity of food ensures that it is a powerful tool, and Shapiro’s approach to gendering it is enlightening without being too insistent about what works or what doesn’t."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Engagements, by J. Courtney Sullivan
2. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
3. Commencement, by J. Courtney Sullivan
4. Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan
5. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (In-Store Lit Group discussion, Tue Jan 2, 7 pm)
6. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie
7. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
8. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith (In-Store Lit Group discussion, Mon Dec 4, 7 pm)
9. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
10. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

Selling books at the Ozaukee Family Services luncheon convinced me to read Saints for All Occasions, which is now on my staff rec shelf. Sullivan's presentation. Ron Charles in The Washington Post called Saints "a quiet masterpiece": "In a simple style that never commits a flutter of extravagance, Sullivan draws us into the lives of the Raffertys and, in the rare miracle of fiction, makes us care about them as if they were our own family." Notice we had very strong backlist sales - The Engagements turned out to be the top seller after Sullivan mentioned that Reese Witherspoon bought the film rights. Her are a few of Witherspoon's other properties, as noted in Glamour. And here's Ron Charles's review of The Engagements.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
2. Blood in the Water, by Heather Ann Thompson
3. See Me for Who I Am, edited by David Chrisinger
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
5. The Distance Between Us, by Reyna Grande
6. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
7. Thank You for Being Late, by Thomas L. Friedman
8. Population 485, by Michael Perry
9. Rasputin, by Douglas Smith
10. Bolshoi Confidential, by Simon Morrison

For the second week in a row, the paperback edition of Thomas L. Friedman's Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations sits in our top ten, and appears to be even more timely. The publisher's description: " His thesis: to understand the twenty-first century, you need to understand that the planet's three largest forces--Moore's law (technology), the Market (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss)--are accelerating all at once." Some reviews complained the book was too long and seemed to be an indictment more of Friedman than his work. Gillian Tett in Financial Times was more positive, but worried it might be a bit difficult to get Friedman's Minnesota Nice philosophy to go global.

Books for Kids:
1. She Persisted, by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Getaway, by Jeff Kinney
3. It Takes a Village, by Hillary Rodham Clinton, illustrated by Marla Frazee
4. The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters, by Sean Connolly
5. The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science, by Sean Connolly
6. The Book of Dust: La Bell Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
8. Pop, by Gordon Korman
9. Pierre the Maze Detective: The Mystery of the Empire Maze Tower, by Hiro Kamigaki and IC4Design
10. Keeper of Lost Cities: Nightfall, by Shannon Messenger

From this week's school visits were from Sean Connolly, whose new book is The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters. From Stacia Barton on Salt Lake City's Good4Utah: "Arranged chronologically from ancient times to the 21st century, the book takes readers on an illustrated tour through the physics and technology of crumbling buildings, sinking ships, wobbly bridges, mud-stuck tanks, and much more. Covering a wide range of snafus, mishaps, and outright disasters throughout history, some infamous, like the Titanic sinking and Chilean miners getting trapped underground, and others lesser known, like the Fidenae Stadium collapse in ancient Rome, these hands-on experiments put readers' newfound knowledge into action." You can watch Connolly here.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Future Home of the Living God, the new novel from Louise Erdrich. He writes: "In the future chronicled by Cedar Hawk Songmaker, a pregnant Native American writing a journal that her unborn child may never read, evolution has reversed course. Infants are losing the power of speech. Plants and animals increasingly resemble long-extinct fossils. Weird birds take flight, alongside dragonflies with three-foot wingspans and softball-sized eyes.'Our bodies have always remembered who we were,' muses Cedar. 'And now they have decided to return. We’re climbing back down the swimming-pool ladder into the primordial soup.'" Fischer is mixed on the new book.

Also reviewed (well, profiled) is Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, by John Hodgman. The review from Carolyn Kellogg originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times. She likes it!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Event alert: Heather Ann Thompson's Zeidler Lecture at Turner Hall, David Chrisinger for Veterans Week, history podcaster Mike Duncan, Gothic and Gumshoe with Wendy Webb and Matt Goldman, plus Michael Perry and Alexander McCall Smith next week

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

Monday, November 6, 7 pm, at Turner Hall, 1034 N 4th St:
Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy

The Milwaukee Turners and Boswell Books are pleased to cosponsor the 2017 Frank P. Zeidler Memorial Lecture featuring Pulitzer Prize Winner Dr. Heather Thompson. Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising and its Legacy has been awarded both the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in history as well as the 2017 Bancroft Prize for history for its focus on the 1971 Attica Prison uprising.

From Mark Oppenheimer in The New York Times: "There’s nothing partisan or argumentative about Blood in the Water. The power of this superb work of history comes from its methodical mastery of interviews, transcripts, police reports and other documents, covering 35 years, many released only reluctantly by government agencies, and many of those “rendered nearly unreadable from all of the redactions,” Ms. Thompson writes. She has pieced together the whole, gripping story, from the conditions that gave rise to the rebellion, which cost the lives of 43 men, to the decades of government obstructionism that prevented the full story from being told."

Heather Ann Thompson is an award-winning historian at the University of Michigan. She is also the author of Whose Detroit?:Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City and the editor of Speaking Out: Activism and Protest in the 1960s and 1970s. She served on a National Academy of Sciences blue-ribbon panel that studied the causes and consequences of mass incarceration in the United States and has given congressional staff briefings on the subject.

Tuesday, November 7, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Celebrate Veterans Week with The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce and Dryhootch, who present David Chrisinger, author of See Me for Who I Am: Student Veterans' Stories of War and Coming Home.

See Me for Who I Am aims to undermine current cultural stereotypes of veterans. It brings together twenty young student veterans working to bridge the media-created gap that divides them from the American people they have fought to protect. With thoughtfulness, humor, and honesty, they relive and relate their worst memories, illustrate shared experiences, explain to us the fulfillment of combat, and show us what going to war really entails. For veterans, these voices will ring familiar. For civilians, the stories open a view into a world few ever see and, in the process, affirm our common humanity.

David Chrisinger is an Associate Lecturer at UW-Stevens Point, where he teaches a veteran reintegration course, Back from the Front. He also assists college administrations and corporate employers to create and sustain more productive relationships with veterans. He is the founder and managing editor of Stronger at the Broken Places, a website dedicated not only to raising awareness of the struggles and triumphs of American veterans throughout history, but to helping today's generation of student veterans tell their stories of war and coming home.

Thursday, November 9, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mike Duncan, author of The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

Mike Duncan will be joining us at Boswell to discuss his new book about the fall of the Roman Republic. This free event is sure to be popular. Doors close if we reach capacity. Get here early!

Mike Duncan is one of the foremost history podcasters in the world. His award-winning series The History of Rome chronologically narrated the entire history of the Roman Empire over 189 weekly episodes. Duncan has continued this success with his ongoing series Revolutions, which so far has explored the English, American, French, and Haitian Revolutions.

From Kirkus Reviews: "Award-winning history podcaster Duncan offers a lively, extremely well-informed chronicle of nearly seven decades of Roman political and social life, less well-known than the age of Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony that followed." Read the whole review here.

Saturday, November 11, 2 pm, at Boswell:
Boswell presents a Gothic and Gumshoe event with Wendy Webb, author of The End of Temperance Dare and Matt Goldman, author of Gone to Dust

First up is our gothic. Wendy Webb’s first novel, The Tale of Halcyon Crane, received the 2011 Minnesota Book Award for genre fiction. Her second and third novels, The Fate of Mercy Alban and The Vanishing, established her as a leading suspense novelist, who reviewers are calling the Queen of the Northern Gothic.

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists' retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor's dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a 'waiting room for death.' After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them. But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor's grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there's more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity.

And now our gumshoe. Gone to Dust is a sinister tale of a brutal crime and the ultimate cover-up. How do you solve a murder with no useable evidence? Private detective Nils Shapiro is focused on forgetting his ex-wife and keeping warm during another Minneapolis winter when a former colleague, neighboring Edina Police Detective Anders Ellegaard, calls with the impossible. A woman’s body has been found, brutally murdered and covered in bags of vacuum bag dust to destroy all evidence. When Shapiro digs into the dead woman’s history, it not only leads to further mystery but also to the potential killer.

Matt Goldman is a playwright and Emmy Award-winning television writer for Seinfeld, Ellen, and other shows. He brings his signature storytelling abilities to his debut novel Gone to Dust, which Lee Child called “A perfect blend of light touch and dark story - I want more of Nils Shapiro.”

Tuesday, November 14, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Perry, author of Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy

The beloved memoirist and bestselling author of Population: 485 reflects on the lessons he's learned from his unlikely alter ego, French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne.

From Jim Higgins's profile of Perry in the Journal Sentinel: "'I'm really in over my head with this,' but that's part of the fun, Perry said of his literary stroll with Montaigne. 'There are people who've built entire careers parsing just a paragraph of his. But on the other hand, I think that's part of Montaigne's charm, you have a right to sit in your deer stand and read him and go, Oh, well, here's what he made me think.'" Read the whole article here.

And finally, don't forget about our event with Alexander McCall Smith on November 16. Tickets are $29. We're almost sold out, so don't wait for the last minute. Buy here.

We're also selling books as the designated bookseller for Matt Bellassai's event on Wednesday, November 8 at Turner Hall Ballroom. Tickets are still available. Get them here.

And we're also the designated bookseller for the Hillary Rodham Clinton What Happened? tour. This one's almost sold out. Purchase here. Note that the basic ticket to this event does not include the book.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Annotated Boswell bestsellers for the week ending November 4: the paperback fiction offers a great reading list for mystery fans

Here's what's selling at Boswell.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones
2. The Last Place You Look, by Kristen Lepionka
3. Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, by Mark Frost
4. The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham
5. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
6. The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman
7. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
8. The Devouring, by James R. Benn
9. Two Kinds of Truth, by Michael Connelly
10. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan

What a day we had at the Murder and Mayhem Conference! We had particularly good sales with the two authors who did the Friday evening preview event, Stephen Mack Jones and Danny Gardner, but other authors also racked up some nice numbers, such as Kristen Leopionka's The Last Place You Look. Her novel features Columbus-based private investigator Roxane Weary, who is trying to help a woman whose brother is on death row. Booklist's starred review writes: "Roxane is a wonderfully complex character, involved in complicated sexual relationships, still struggling with her relationship with her father, and absolutely dogged in her pursuit of the truth. This is a remarkably accomplished debut mystery, with sensitive character development and a heart-stopping denouement." I am intrigued by the Columbus setting and the LGBT protagonist!

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Getting Tough, by Juilly Kohler-Hausmann
2. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
3. We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. Grant, by Ron Chernow
5. Bobby Kennedy, by Chris Matthews
6. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
7. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941, by Stephen Kotkin
8. The Last Castle, by Denise Kiernan
9. The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, by Brandy X. Lee
10. The River of Consciousness, by Oliver Sacks

MSNBC host Chris Matthews's book Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, has a nice pop this week, though it can't catch up to star biographers Walter Isaacson and Ron Chernow. Not surprisingly, most of the television hits for the book are from Comcast programs (such as the Today Show). I did find this interview with Matthews on THe Leonard Lopate Show. Not too many traditional reviews that I can find yet (lots of links to Parade!), but here's a piece on Salon, but once again, it's more like a podcast interview.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Negro and an Ofay, by Danny Gardner
2. Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda, by Chelsea Cain
3. The Hemingway Thief, by Shaun Harris
4. Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney
5. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
6. Billy Boyle, by James R. Benn
7. Bad Boy Boogie, by Thomas Pluck
8. The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden
9. Mockingbird: I Can Explain, by Chelsea Cain
10. Blackchurch Furnace, by Nathan Singer

Second time's the charm for Lou Berney, who had to back out of last year's conference, though even then, we had some nice sales, coming off an Edgar win for best paperback original (as well as Barry, Anthony, and Macavity awards) of Long and Faraway Gone. It's the story of an unsolved armed robbery killing in Oklahoma City that reverberate (I'm using a reviewer's word for this) many years later. Berney has a forthcoming novel called Double Barrel Bluff that at least one patron tried to find at the show, because at least one website said it came out this fall. Research on this new book featuring Shake Bouchon (Gutshot Straight) seems to now be scheduled for early 2019.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter (event today 11/5, 3 pm, at Boswell)
3. The Village, by John Strausbaugh
4. The Story of the Jews, by Simon Schama
5. Thank You For Being Late, by Thomas L. Friedman
6. Blood in the Water, by Heather Ann Thompson (three events, including Zeidler Lecture at Turner Hall, 11/6, 7 pm)
7. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
9. See Me for Who I Am, by David Chrisinger (event 11/7, 7 pm, at Boswell)
10. Eleanor and Hick, by Susan Quinn

Now in paperback is The Story of the Jews, Volume One: Finding the Words 1000 BC-1492 AD, Simon Schama's book that was a tie-in to a PBS/BBC series. At the same time, the hardcover release of the follow-up, The Story of the Jews, Volume Two: Belonging: 1492-1900, has also been release. Here's a piece about the book in The Jewish News.

Books for Kids:
1. La La La, by Kate DiCamillo, with illustrations by Jaime Tan
2. Tales from a Not-So-Secret Crush Catastrophe V12 Dork Diaries, by Rachel Renee Russell
3. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
4. Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
5. Imagine, by John Lennon, with illustrations by Jean Jullien
6. The Mermaid, by Jan Brett
7. In the Middle of Fall, by Kevin Henkes
8. Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo
9. Out of Wonder, edited by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth
10. 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

Imagine is a picture book that takes the lyrics of John Lennon's song and pairs them with illustrations from Jean Jullien. Published in partnership with Amnesty International, with a foreword by Yoko Ono, Imagine has received some nice reviews, including this from Kirkus Reviews: "Executed in boldly brushed ink lines and digitally colored in an arresting palette of blues, grays, and whites with strong pops of red, orange, chartreuse, and purple, the strikingly simple illustrations reinforce the simple, powerful text. An inviting, relevant, and timely message of tolerance, inclusiveness, unity, and peace."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins profiles Michael Perry, whose new book of essays is Montaigne in Barn Boots. Higgins notes that Michael Perry and Michel de Montaigne is a great match. He writes: "Like Montaigne — the 16th-century writer and philosopher generally considered the Babe Ruth of personal essayists — Perry knows both the acute agony of passing a kidney stone and the chronic anxiety of living in a time of conflict. And if you're willing to stretch a definition, both might be considered gentlemen farmers (though Montaigne never had to sing for his supper on public radio). Perry's Montaigne in Barn Boots, which publishes Nov. 7, suggests another way two fellows separated by centuries and the Atlantic Ocean are alike. When it comes to writing, both are willing to follow their mind wherever it goes, and recount its path for us. The verb in the subtitle of Perry's book describes it well: 'An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy.'"

Additional reviews:
--John Green's Turtles All the Way Down, reviewed by Brian Truitt in USA Today
--David Jaffe's Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, reviewed by Maeve McDermott in USA Today
--Eileen Myles's Afterglow (a dog memoir), reviewed by Micole Brodeur in the Seattle Times

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Murder and Mayhem this Saturday, plus a preview event with Stephen Mack Jones and Danny Gardner Friday at Boswell

This Saturday, November 4, is the annual Murder and Mayhem conference at the Irish Cultural Center near the Marquette University campus downtown.The program features panels, interviews, and signings with these authors: James R Benn, Lou Berney, Chelsea Cain (pictured), Susanna Calkins, Reed Farrel Coleman (also pictured), Lori Rader-Day, Danny Gardner, Shaun Harris, Rob Hart, Matthew Fitzsimmons, Linda Joffe Hull, Stephen Mack Jones, Dave Krugler, SW Lauden, Kristen Lepionka, Bill Loehfelm, Nick Petrie, Thomas Pluck, Bryon Quertermous, Nathan Singer, F. Paul Wilson, and Lili Wright.

Who's out at the last minute: though on the guest list, we just learned we will not be seeing Sean Chercover. And one never really knows until the day of the event. Last year, one of our attendees had a flight cancellation.

Who's in, as of the latest update: Blake Crouch, Jamie Freveletti, Marcus Sakey

Here's the schedule of panels and interviews. Each panel tends to have four to six participants.
9 am: Violence in a Violent World
10 am: Worst. Panel. Ever.
11 am: Nick Petrie’s Mother is in the Audience
1 pm: F Paul Wilson interviewed by Nathan Singer
2 pm: What’s It All About?
3 pm: Chelsea Cain interviewed by Ruth Jordan
4 pm: Wondrous Woman of Crime Fiction

Register here! Tickets are $42.95 (including the ticketing fee) for a full day of thrills.

And of course on Friday, November 3, we're hosting a Murder and Mayhem preview event with Stephen Mack Jones, author of August Snow and Danny Gardner, author of A Negro and an Ofay.

Stephen Mack Jones is a published poet, an award-winning playwright, and a recipient of the prestigious Kresge Arts in Detroit Literary Fellowship. He was born in Lansing, Michigan, and currently lives in Farmington Hills, outside of Detroit. He worked in advertising and marketing communications for a number of years before turning to fiction.

In his debut, August Snow, the son of an African-American father and a Mexican-American mother grows up in the city's Mexicantown and joins the police force only to be forced out by corrupt officials and officers. It's not long before he's summoned to the palatial Grosse Pointe Estate, home of business magnate Eleanor Paget. Powerful and manipulative, Paget wants August to investigate the increasingly unusual happenings at her private wealth management bank, which he declines. A day later, Paget is dead of an apparent suicide – dragging Snow into a rat’s nest of deception and danger.

Joining him will be debut author Danny Gardner. From his beginnings as a young stand-up comedian, Gardner has enjoyed careers as an actor, director, and screenwriter. He is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee for his creative non-fiction piece Forever. His first short fiction piece, Labor Day, appeared in Beat to a Pulp, and his flash fiction has been featured in Out of the Gutter and on Noir On The Air. Gardner is a proud member of the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers.

The novel A Negro and an Ofay takes place in 1952. After a year on the run, disgraced Chicago Police Officer Elliot Caprice wakes up in a jailhouse in St. Louis. Friends from his hometown secure his release and he returns to find the family farm in foreclosure and the man who raised him dying in a flophouse. Desperate for money, he accepts a straight job as a process server and eventually crosses paths with a powerful family from Chicago's North Shore. A captain of industry is dead, the key to his estate disappeared with the chauffeur, and soon Elliot is in up to his neck. The mixed-race son of Illinois farm country must return to the Windy City with the Chicago Police on his heels and the Syndicate at his throat. Good thing he's had a lifetime of playing both sides against the middle.

It's been a good year for mysteries, especially in Milwaukee, the setting for Nick Petrie's debut novel, The Drifter, which has now been a finalist for six prizes, and is the winner of the International Thriller Writers Best Debut Novel. We'll have copies of The Drifter and Burning Bright at the show, and you'll probably hear a little about his next novel, Light It Up, which releases next January. I feel like this could be the one that breaks him big!

Hope to see you on Friday or Saturday.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Annotated Boswell bestsellers, week ending October 28, 2017

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

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
2. The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham

3. Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks
4. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
5. Sleeping Beauties, by Stephen King and Owen King
6. Strange Weather, by Joe Hill
7. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
8. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
9. The Name of the Wind deluxe anniversary edition, by Patrick Rothfuss
10. The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman

The prolific Mr. Grisham produces a traditional thriller, following his summer blockbuster Camino Island. Like some of Grisham's previous bestsellers, The Rooster Bar hits on a timely topic, the duplicitous dealings of many for-profit education companies. Janet Maslin (wasn't she supposed to retire?) raves in The New York Times: "Earlier this year, John Grisham announced that his next legal thriller would be about the scams behind many for-profit law schools. But it’s a long leap from subject matter to story, and Grisham’s newly reanimated storytelling skills are what make The Rooster Bar such a treat."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Endurance, by Scott Kelly
2. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
3. Devotion, by Patti Smith
4. Grant, by Ron Chernow
5. We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Going into Town, by Roz Chast
7. College in Prison, by Daniel Karpowitz
8. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton (at the Riverside November 9 - it's not our event but we've been brought in to sell books in the lobby)
9. American Wolfe, by Nate Blakeslee
10. The Storm Before the Storm, by Mike Duncan (at Boswell on November 9 - this one's ours!)

Well here's something interesting I learned about Endurance (alas, no signed copies--we had a surge of last-minute ticket sales) at our event with Mr. Kelly this past Monday. I hadn't noticed as I didn't look at the inside full title page, but the book was written with the help of Margaret Lazarus Dean, who won the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize for her book Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight. Dean actually came to Boswell to talk about the book. OK, I hope this is ok to note: Mr. Kelly called Ms. Dean to collaborate...from space. How could she refuse? Their collaboration has borne fruit - Kirkus wrote that Endurance was "One of those books you can't put down, don't want to finish, and won't soon forget."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
2. Karolina's Twins, by Ronald H. Balson
3. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
4. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
6. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
7. The Atomic Weight of Love, by Elizabeth J Church
8. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
9. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
10. O Henry Prize Stories 2017, edited by Laura Furman

I don't know about you, but it's still crushing me that The New York Times has cut the number of trade paperback bestsellers to 10 and because it's not tracking mass markets, it's made the trade list more commercial. I looked at our list and wondered what we're missing, but honestly, I looked at the paperback fiction list and I didn't find a heretofore overlooked sleeper. I am a little shocked that Kazuo Ishiguro isn't present there. We're obviously doing quite well with several of his novels, and should do even better - I'm on the cusp of picking one of them for our January In-Store Lit Group selection, probably When We Were Orphans. You heard it here first. (Addendum: or maybe we're doing Never Let Me Go.)

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. I Am Not Your Negro, by James Baldwin, companion edition to the documentary film edited by Raoul Peck
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. A Northern Front, by John Hildebrand
4. Justice for All, by Lloyd Barbee, edited by Daphne Barbee-Wooten
5. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
6. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
7. Saving Sadie, by Joal Derse Dauer
8. How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh
9. Pigeon Tunnel, by John LeCarre
10. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren

Several speakers were in town highlighting the works of other writers. Raoul Peck appeared for several events at UWM around his documentary I Am Not Your Negro, which focused on the work of James Baldwin. And then there was Justice for All: Selected Writings of Lloyd A Barbee, whose book was recently reviewed in the Journal Sentinel. His daughter, Daphne Barbee-Wooten, appeared at the Milwaukee Public Library to discusses this book of collected essays from a Wisconsin Civil Rights icon.

Books for Kids:
1. Sail Away Dragon, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Randy Cecil
2. The Sidekicks, by Will Kostakis
3. My Journey to the Stars, by Scott Kelly, with illustrations by Andre Ceolin
4. Lovabye Dragon, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Randy Cecil
5. Evermore Dragon, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Randy Cecil
6. The Gatekeepers, by Jen Lancaster
7. Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
8. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
9. Room on the Broom (paperback), by Julia Donaldson, with illustrations by Axel Sheffler
10. Bruce's Big Move, by Ryan T Higgins

We've been friends with author Barbara Joosse for a long time, having recently had a great public event with her and Anneke Lisberg for Better Together. For the first time, we partnered up for a day of school visits, making our way to Mequon, Waukesha, and even Lake Geneva. A great time was had by all. The new book, Sail Away Dragon, is the third adventure of Girl and Dragon, who this time fly off on an adventure. Kirkus Reviews saw the references to The Owl and the Pussycat, and noted: "As in many famous stories, one must leave home to find home, which is the same for these two loving friends...Fans of the series will delight in seeing these favorites again, and Girl and Dragon should win some new ones." We're doing it again in February. Contact Jenny if you'd like to be considered for a school visit.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews The King Is Always Above the People, the new collection of stories from Daniel Alarcón, which has already been longlisted for the National Book Award. Fischer writes: "These stories — many set in an unnamed Latin American country resembling Alarcón’s native Peru, with a few unfolding in the United States where he’s lived most of his life — are filled with young men who’ve lost their innocence and their way. Many of them would be right at home in the 1930s world of John Steinbeck."

The TapBooks page also features a roundup from Jim Higgins of several books on Martin Luther. Higgins writes: "As Lutherans in Milwaukee and around the world celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, they can turn to several new biographies and studies of Martin Luther, whose 95 theses challenging the sale of indulgences launched Christian religious reform — and sometimes deadly conflict. While these new books dig into the content of the theses and the development of the reformer's religious thought, in general, they don't support the popular image of a defiant Luther nailing them on a church door in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517."

The books are:
--A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation, by Craig Harline
--Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, by Eric Metaxas
--The Making of Martin Luther, by Richard Rex
--Renegade: Martin Luther, the graphic biography, by Dacia Palmerino, with illustrations by Andrea Ciponte.

And just for good measure, check out The Ninety-Five Theses and Other Writings, a new collection of Luther's work from Penguin Classics.

Jim Higgins profiles the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books in Waukesha. The headliner is Nickolas Butler, author of The Hearts of Men.

Reprinted from other papers:
--Jenna Ross reviews Where the Past Begins, by Amy Tan (Star Tribune)
--Agatha French covers Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix (Los Angeles Times)