Sunday, October 22, 2017

Boswell bestsellers - our top tens for the week ending October 21, 2017

Here's what's selling at Boswell.

I guess it was the right move to put off the paperback release of A Gentleman in Moscow. I was selling books at a literary luncheon in Brookfield and the attendees were selling the book to each other. I didn't have to even be involved.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
2. Devotions, by Mary Oliver
3. Origin, by Dan Brown
4. Uncommon Type, by Tom Hanks
5. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (Man Booker Prize)
6. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
7. It Devours, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
8. Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee
9. The Trust, by Ronald H. Balson (event 10/24, 7 pm, at Boswell)
10. Complete Stories, by Kurt Vonnegut

A caveat on It Devours, the new Night Vale novel, which has a great recommendation from Olivia S. at Boswell. Officially the classification of the book is paper over board, so you might also see it on paperback bestseller lists. But our customers definitely see it as a cheap hardcover, and we generally don't have the time to explain the binding variation, nor do most of them care. But some do, which is why I'm mentioning it here.

Mary Oliver's Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, has a strong week at Boswell, as does every release of hers going back to the Schwartz days. From Danny Heitman in The Christian Science Monitor: "Like Henry David Thoreau, who famously did a lot of traveling in Concord, Oliver’s poems have mostly been inspired by her long walks within the woods and shoreline of Provincetown, Mass., a coastal community where she lived and worked for more than half a century before moving to Florida after the death of her longtime partner, photographer Molly Malone Cook. Oliver is perhaps the most peripatetic poet since William Wordsworth, whose rambles on foot around England’s Lake District deeply informed both the pastoral sensibility and rhythm of his verse."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Janesville, by Amy Goldstein
2. Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson
3. Grant, by Ron Chernow
4. Death of an Assassin, by Ann Marie Ackermann
5. We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Duck Season, by David McAninch
7. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
8. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
9. Illusion of Justice, by Jerome F. Buting
10. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

It felt like last holiday season I was scavenging around for a good biography to sell at the holiday season, but this year, between Ron Chernow's Grant and Walter Isaacson's Leonardo Da Vinci, I feel we are in good hands. Of Walter Isaacson's latest, Walter Della Cava writes in USA Today: "Calling all living geniuses. Your mission is to find a way to keep author Walter Isaacson alive for the next 100 years so that he can keep writing about dead geniuses. There's just something about the way that the onetime Time magazine editor-turned-Aspen Institute leader manages to bring historical giants into vivid, 3D life that makes it worth extending the man's lifespan by a century."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
2. How to Change a Life, by Stacey Ballis
3. The Hamilton Affair, by Elizabeth Cobbs
4. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
5. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
6. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
7. Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Nobel Prize winner)
8. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
9. It, by Stephen King
10. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie (now up to six award noms with one win, so far)

We had a lovely evening with Stacey Ballis, who was in conversation with Amy Reichert for the release of How to Change a Life. It was not just enjoyable but informative, as I learned the secret of the famous chocolate cream pie of Eloise, the private chef that is at the center of this romantic comedy. It turns out the recipe is that of Milwaukee's Honeypie. Ballis asked owner and recipe keeper Valerie Lucks if she could use it in the book and she gave her permission. Ballis, a Chicago-area writer, has a number of Milwaukee food obsessions. She brought another to the event for us to share - the mini crullers from Grebe's Bakery, which you can find at many area supermarkets (and after this recommendation, you might look a little more carefully). Here's an essay from Ballis on food and cooking from Signature Reads.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Little Book of Mindfulness, by Patricia Collard
2. Urban Preparation, by Chezare A. Warren
3. Really Important Stuff My Cat Has Taught Me, by Cynthia L. Copeland
4. Cry Rape, by Bill Lueders
5. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn M. Perry
6. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
7. Basketball and Other Things, by Shea Serrano
8. Tales of Two Americas, by John Freeman
9. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs
10. No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein

Where do you categorize anthologies that mix together both fiction and nonfiction? We've had recent appearances from The Driftless Reader, as well as John Freeman's Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation. Booklist's starred review noted that " Freeman believes that we need a new framework for writing about inequality, and construction is well underway in this anthology of masterful and affecting stories, essays, and poems by 36 writers profoundly attuned to the sources and implications of social rupture. These are sharply inquisitive and provocative works, from Richard Russo's working-class lament to Karen Russell's account of living above a homeless shelter to Manuel Munoz's portrait of his hardworking immigrant father to Rebecca Solnit's searing piece about gentrification, racism, and police shootings, and Claire Vaye Watkins' and Sandra Cisneros' looks back on very different impoverished childhoods."

Books for Kids:
1. My Book of Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg
2. Going Wild V1, by Lisa McMann
3. Beautiful Oops, by Barney Saltzberg
4. Predator Vs. Prey V2, by Lisa McMann
5. My Life as a Ninja, by Janet Tashjian
6. The Sidekicks, by Will Kostakis
7. Sticker Girl V1, by Janet Tashjian
8. Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
9. One of Us Is Lying, by Karen M. McManus
10. Sticker Girls Rule the School V2, by Janet Tashjian
11. Going Wild V1 (hardcover), by Lisa McMann
12. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage V1, by Philip Pullman

A downside of a kids book coming out in the midst of our school event madness is a lower showing in rank on our bestseller list. Between current appearances from Karen McManus, closed out events where we got final numbers from Barney Saltzberg, Lisa McMann, and Janet Tashjian, and advance sales from Will Kostakis (he's with Jen Lancaster at Grafton's River Room this Tuesday, October 24, 6:30 pm), it pushed Philip Pullman's new Book of Dust series opener, La Belle Sauvage, out of the top ten, while just a few weeks ago he might have been #1 on this list. This long-awaited release is part of a companion series to His Dark Materials. And yes, it had a special Thursday release. Here's Andrew Liptak in The Verge writing more about Pullman and his works.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins talked to Kate DiCamillo, the author of many books for kids, including two Newbery winners. She's turned her hand to a picture book collaboration with Jaime Kim, and I hope all of you know she'll be at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts next Sunday, October 29, 2 pm, for a ticketed talk. Detail on that here.

Read the conversation here, where DiCamillo explains how the story came about.

Also in TapBooks, Chris Foran reviews Justice for All: Selected Writings of Lloyd A. Barbee, edited by Daphne E. Barbee Wooten. He notes: "The message that rings through Justice for All is that Barbee never stops fighting. Barbee recounts his campaign over a half decade in the Legislature to toughen the state's anemic fair housing laws. 'This, among other matters, earned me the reputation as a person who stayed on the job until it was completed as planned.'"

Plus there's a roundup of new (sometimes in paperback) fall nonfiction picks from the Seattle Times's Moira Macdonald.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Events to watch out for: David McAninch and Kyle Cherek discuss Gascony, three YA thriller writers (Karen McManus, Tara Goedjen, Kara Thomas) at Oak Creek Library, Joan Marie Johnson on the roots of feminism, Chezare Warren on prepping Black men for college, Lil Rev's latest album, Stacey Ballis and Amy E. Reichert present foodie fiction Friday, and don't forget, astronaut Scott Kelly coming to UWM next Monday.

Monday, October 16, 7 pm, at Boswell:
David McAninch in Conversation with Kyle Cherek, author of Duck Season: Eating, Drinking and Other Misadventures in Gascony – France’s Last Best Place.

Chicago magazine features editor David McAninch, who was previously an editor at Saveur, joins us at Boswell for a conversation with Wisconsin Foodie host, Kyle Cherek, to discuss his new book that tackles the love of food in the south of France.

A delicious memoir about the eight months food writer David McAninch spent in Gascony - a deeply rural region of France virtually untouched by mass tourism - meeting extraordinary characters and eating the best meals of his life.

With wit and warmth, McAninch takes us deep into this enchanting world, a place almost frozen in time, where eating what makes you happy isn’t a sin but a commandment—and where, to the eternal surprise of outsiders, locals’ life expectancy is higher than in any other region of France. Featuring a dozen choice recipes and beautiful line drawings, Duck Season is an irresistible treat for Francophiles and gourmands alike.

Tuesday, October 17, 6:30 pm, at Oak Creek Library, 8040 S 6th St:
A YA Pizza Party with Karen M. McManus, author of One of Us Is Lying, Tara Goedjen, author of The Breathless, and Kara Thomas, author of Little Monsters.

The Oak Creek Library and Boswell present three YA thriller writers! Join us for a night of suspense and mystery as Karen McManus, Tara Goedjen, and Kara Thomas delight fans with their thrilling tales of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. Pizza Man pizza will be provided. This event is free, but registration is requested. Click on October 17 Teen Thriller Night to register.

Karen McManus's One of Us Is Lying is the first novel from Cambridge-based McManus, a graduate of Holy Cross (BA) and Northwestern (MA in journalism). One of Us is Lying is a YA thriller packed full of intrigue. When Simon, the creator of a high school gossip app, dies under mysterious circumstances, five students come under fire for his murder. Each had their own reason for wanting him dead, and someone is lying, but it will take everything they have in order to solve the crime.

Tara Goedjen, with an MFA from the University of Alabama, debuts The Breathless, a gothic tale of deceit and secrets. A year after the death of her older sister, Mae’s home life has been off. When she discovers that her sister’s boyfriend has turned up after disappearing the night her sister died, Mae is determined to uncover her sister’s secrets; what she finds there may cause more problems than she bargained for.

Kara Thomas is a seasoned writer and true-crime addict who lives on Long Island. In addition to her other novels The Darkest Corner and The Cheerleaders, she's also written for Warner Brothers television. Little Monsters tells the story of Kacey Young, a troubled young woman who has just moved cross country to live with her estranged father. After befriending two girls at school, life for Kacey seem to fall into place, that is until one of her friends goes missing

The legendary Pizza Man, a fixture on Oakland and North until 2010, has returned to greatness under the leadership of Zak and Sarah Baker. In addition to their location on Downer Avenue, down the block from Boswell, they have locations at the Mayfair Collection in Wauwatosa and at Drexel Town Center, across the street from the Oak Creek Public Library. My favorite is spinach and tomato with the bianca base. What's yours?

Wednesday. October 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Joan Marie Johnson, author of Funding Feminism: Monied Women, Philanthropy, and the Women’s Movement.

Joan Marie Johnson is a historian and faculty coordinator for the Office of the Provost at Northwestern University. In her new book, she examines an understudied dimension of women's history in the United States: how a group of affluent white women from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries advanced the status of all women through acts of philanthropy. This cadre of activists included Phoebe Hearst, the mother of William Randolph Hearst; Grace Dodge, granddaughter of Wall Street "Merchant Prince" William Earle Dodge; and Ava Belmont, who married into the Vanderbilt family fortune.

Motivated by their own experiences with sexism, and focusing on women's need for economic independence, these benefactors sought to expand women's access to higher education, promote suffrage, and champion reproductive rights, as well as to provide assistance to working-class women. In a time when women still wielded limited political power, philanthropy was perhaps the most potent tool they had. But even as these wealthy women exercised considerable influence, their activism had significant limits. As Johnson argues, restrictions tied to their giving engendered resentment and jeopardized efforts to establish coalitions across racial and class lines.

Thursday, October 19, 4:00 pm, at Boswell: Chezare A. Warren, author of Urban Preparation: Young Black Men Moving From Chicago’s South Side to Success in Higher Education.

In conjunction with the Black Male Achievement Summit, Boswell is proud to host Chezare A. Warren is assistant professor at Michigan State University and president of Critical Race Studies in Education Association. In Urban Preparation, Warren chronicles the transition of a cohort of young Black males from Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men to their early experiences in higher education. A rich and closely observed account of a mission-driven school and its students, Urban Preparation makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how young males of color can best be served in schools throughout the United States today.

A founding teacher at Urban Prep, Warren offers a detailed exploration of what this single-sex public high school on the South Side of Chicago has managed to accomplish amid profoundly challenging circumstances. He provides a rich portrait of the school - its leaders, teachers, and professional staff; its students; and the community that the school aims to serve - and highlights how preparation for higher education is central to its mission. Warren focuses on three main goals: to describe Urban Prep's plans and efforts to prepare young Black males for college; to understand how race, community, poverty, and the school contributed, in complex and interrelated ways, to the academic goals of these students; and to offer a wide-ranging set of conclusions about the school environments and conditions that might help young Black males throughout the country succeed in high school and college.

This special afternoon event is cosponsored by Council for Black Male Achievement and DeRute Consulting cooperative.

Thursday, October 19, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Lil Rev, celebrating the release of Sing Song Daddy.

Lil Rev was born and raised in Milwaukee, and now hangs his hat in Sheboygan, WI. Influenced heavily by the city’s industrial powerhouses, he has a strong appreciation for the working man, a theme that is prevalent in his music. Along with being an accomplished musician and educator, he is also the author of multiple instructional books for the harmonica and the ukulele.

Lil Rev’s brand-new album, Sing Song Daddy, “wrangles the best of American roots influences and runs ‘em thru a ukulele-playing, panhandler’s prism of originality. Turn it up and stake your claim. 15 new tunes, including “The Old Sheboygan Soft Shoe,” The Milwaukee Waltz,” and “The Night Dan Emmett Wrote Dixie” were all written by Lil Rev and recorded at SurroundinSoundStudio with Jonathan Leuber.

From Lil Rev: “Thank you for investing in the time-honored tradition of the troubadour. For over thirty years now, I have been collecting, interpreting, and writing songs for anyone and everyone who’ll listen. This endeavor has become like a rite of passage. As the years roll and the seasons change, so too, does the pen and palette. I hope you enjoy this collection of roots-based originals.”

Boswell’s event will feature many of the musicians featured on the sessions: Guy Florentini, Jason Klagstad, John Sieger, Robin Pluer, Jim Liban, Peter Roller, and James Eannelli. And we wouldn’t be surprised if some special guests joined at the last minute.

Friday, October 20, 7:00 pm, at Boswell: Stacey Ballis, author of How to Change a Life, in conversation with Amy Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and other novels.

A dare between friends leads to startling revelations and simmering tensions in the latest novel from the author of Wedding Girl. Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world's most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is.

Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again. Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn't seem so lonely, until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?

Stacey Ballis is the author of ten foodie novels, including Off the Menu, Out to Lunch, and Recipe for Disaster. She is a contributing author to three nonfiction anthologies, including Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume and Living Jewishly.

Monday, October 23, 7 pm, at UWM Union Wisconsin Room, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd:
A ticketed event with Scott Kelly, author of Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.

Boswell, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union, and the Manfred Olson Planetarium present an evening with Scott Kelly, the astronaut who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station, in conversation with Bonnie North of WUWM’s Lake Effect.

Scott Kelly is a former military fighter pilot and test pilot, an engineer, a retired astronaut, and a retired U.S. Navy captain. A veteran of four space flights, Kelly commanded the International Space Station (ISS) on three expeditions and was a member of the yearlong mission to the ISS. In October 2015, he set the record for the total accumulated number of days spent in space, the single longest space mission by an American astronaut.

Tickets are $32 and include admission to the event, all taxes and ticket fees, and a signed copy of Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery. Tickets are available at or you can order by phone at 800-838-3006. Tickets are also available to the UWM campus community at a special discounted price of $26 for students and $29 for faculty and staff, only at the UWM Student Union Information Desk.

The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, astronaut Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have: How does it feel to be launched in a rocket? What happens to your body in zero gravity? What do you do when you get a toothache 250 miles above the Earth?

Jim Higgins talked to Scott Kelly in the Journal Sentinel. From the interview: "During his final space station mission, he called the writer who launched him on his life's journey. 'It was a great conversation,' Kelly said of his chat with Tom Wolfe, 'talking about how much he inspired me and how important it was to where I ended up.'" Read more here. And here's one last ticket link.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What's selling on the Boswell bestseller list, week ending October 14, 2017 edition?

Here's the Boswell bestsellers for the week ending October 14.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Origin, by Dan Brown
2. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
3. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
4. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
5. My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent
6. A Legacy of Spies, by John Le Carre
7. Complete Stories, by Kurt Vonnegut
8. Thalia, by Larry McMurtry
9. The Golden House, by Salman Rushdie
10. Paris in the Present Tense, by Mark Helprin

It's the second week of sales for Origin, and without a major hardcover fiction event, Dan Brown was able to take the top slot. Here's Peter Conrad's take in The Guardian: "I used to think Dan Brown was merely a crackpot. Now I wonder if he might not be a prophet. What once seemed to be his deranged fantasy increasingly looks like our daily reality. In our myth-maddened world, we are befuddled by bloggers peddling conspiracy theories and menaced by transactions on the dark web; we can’t cross a road without dreading some runaway act of messianic terror, and we experience an implosion of identity if we lose our smartphones or forget our passwords. In listing those perils I have summed up the plot of Brown’s new novel Origin: whether or not we read his apocalyptic thrillers, we are living inside them." Read more here.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2. Grant, by Ron Chernow
3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
4. Devotion, by Patti Smith
5. Sweet, by Yotam Ottolenghi
6. What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
7. The World Broke in Two, by Bill Goldstein
8. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
9. Braving the Wilderness, by Brene Brown
10. The Driftless Reader, edited by Curt Meine and Keeley Keefe

The numbers are great, but for us, the first week of sales for Grant are still eclipsed by We Were Eight Years in Power. Chernow's first biography since Hamilton is getting great news, such as this from Clayton Butler in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Reading Ron Chernow's new biography, a truly mammoth examination of the life of Ulysses S. Grant, one is struck by the humanity - both the pitiful frailty and the incredible strength - of its subject. Grant, the 18th president of the United States and one of the greatest soldiers of all time, emerges in Chernow's telling as a man of remarkable contradictions. He was a man of firm moral beliefs, steadfast loyalty to friends and family, and fundamental honesty. Yet he also suffered from an incurable naïveté when it came to business and certainly met, in the author's estimation, the clinical criteria for alcoholism." More here.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Bone, by Yrsa Daley-Ward
2. The Sun and her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur
3. The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. Karolina's Twins, by Ronald H. Balson (two events on 10/24, 3 pm at Chai Point and 7 pm at Boswell)
5. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
6. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
7. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
8. The Terranauts, by T.C. Boyle
9. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
10. The Obelisk Gate, by N.K. Jemisin (Hugo Award winner)

It's a Nobel Prize party for Kazuo Ishiguro, with two books in the top ten, The Buried Giant at #3 and Never Let Me Go at #9. Carolyn Kellogg writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The Nobel Prize in literature went to Kazuo Ishiguro. Among literary handicappers Ishiguro wasn’t even on the radar (people placing bets in England had Ngugi-wa Thiong’o and Margaret Atwood as favorites). Perhaps that’s because he’s been a persistent bestseller in America and England, where he was raised, ever since the publication of his first book set there, The Remains of the Day." And here's Nicole Kobie discussing in Wired whether Ishiguro is a genre writer.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Through It All, by Heddy Keith
2. My Grandmother's Hands, by Resmaa Menakem
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
5. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
6. Really Important Stuff My Cat Has Taught Me, by Cynthia L. Copeland
7. Absolutely on Music, by Haruki Murakami
8. Bad Feminist Olive Edition, by Roxane Gay
9. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
10. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson

HarperCollins has a limited edition rack size (mass market) paperback line that has got some big fans on the Boswell staff. This week one, Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist, hit our bestseller list. Other new releases in this series include The Known World, by Edward P. Jones; The Round House, by Louise Erdrich; and Wench, by Dolen Valdez-Perkins. All are priced at 10.00 even, which is interesting, because most other Harper titles are at the 99 price point and traditionally with publishers, the first class of books to go to 99 cents are mass markets. But this line is a very un-mass market line of mass markets, as you can see both from title selection and cover treatment.

Books for Kids:
1. The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase #3), by Rick Riordan
2. Cosmic Commandos, by Christopher Eliopoulos
3. La La La, by Kate DiCamillo (ticketed event 10/29 at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts)
4. Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
5. Percy Jackson Mad Libs, by Leigh Olsen
6. For Magnus Chase: The Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse World, by Rick Riordan
7. The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase #1), by Rick Riordan
8. Percy Jackson and the Olympians Coloring Book, by Rick Riordan
9. I Am Gandhi, by Brad Meltzer, with illustrations by Chris Eliopoulos
10. I Am Amelia Earhart, by Brad Meltzer, with illustrations by Chris Eliopoulos

We had several authors visiting schools this week, but we were only able to fully process one of the visits before week's end. Kids loved Chris Eliopoulos, who visited to talk about Brad Meltzer's "I Am" series, the newest being I Am Gandhi and I Am Sacagawea. It's completely a coincidence that series writer Meltzer was in town last week working with Oconomowoc's Books and Company. You can here him talk about the books on WUWM's Lake Effect. Here's a video interview with Elio (that's his nickname) on Geek Speak.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins profiles Scott Kelly, who is appearing at a ticketed event at the UWM Student Union for Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery. On Mars: "Kelly's near-year in space put him in the middle of research on the effects of long-duration space travel on human bodies. 'I'd volunteer for a mission to Mars right now,' he said. He believes the physiological challenges of such a trip can be solved. 'When we do send a crew to Mars, I bet you it will be a crew of old people,' Kelly said, citing differences in permissible levels of radiation for older people, with fewer years of lifespan ahead." More here.

Tickets to this event are $32 here. The UWM Union has discounted tickets for UWM students, faculty, and staff.

Carole E. Barrowman is back from summer break with a fresh crop of mystery picks.
--Bluebird, Bluebird, by Attica Locke
--Old Scores, by Will Thomas
--The Last Mrs. Parrish, by Liv Constantine
--The Man in the Crooked Hat, by Harry Dolan
--The Woman From Prague, by Rob Hart

Note that The Man in the Crooked Hat doesn't come out until November 28. Why not hold a copy at Boswell and we'll call you when it comes in.

I share Barrowman's enthusiasm for Locke's latest. She writes: I’ve never bought the notion of the Great American Novel. I think when literary historians look back, they’ll realize this time had many, but if Attica Locke’s Bluebird Bluebird isn’t on the list, I’m coming back to haunt them." More here.

The print edition also has a review from Mary Ann Gwinn of The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, by cultural critic Masha Gessen. The book is a finalist for the National Book Award. Here's a link to the review, which first appeared in Newsday.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What did the book club think of Population 485 - an excuse to write about Michael Perry and his new Montaigne in Barn Boots (on sale November 7)

I make decisions on what books we read for our In-Store Lit Group in all sorts of ways. Sometimes we have an event coming up with that author. Sometimes it's a book that I feel is missing from my literary vocabulary, and often that is because so many people have told me to read it. It could be spotted on the new paperback table or the awards case. And of course some books are suggested by our regulars. Our October selection was a combination of reasons, but a stray comment from an author/critic sealed the deal. 

I hadn't started reading Michael Perry until we opened Boswell. Before that, whatever advance reading copies we'd get would be enthusiastically scooped up by his fans on staff. And because we generally were hosting him at one of our stores, a spare extra would go to that store, in the hopes that we'd pick up another read or two from a bookseller who could then help sell the book and the event.

And once Boswell opened, one of those booksellers became me. Our first event with Perry was for Coop, which came out in 2009, only weeks after we opened. Perry appeared at Boswell as well as Next Chapter and Oconomowoc's Books & Company. Because Schwartz had never placed Perry at an "urban" store (I hate air quotes, but here they feel appropriate, because any New Yorker would look at Downer Avenue and laugh at the notion of urban. It looks more suburban than most towns half an hour outside city limits), we set up 35 chairs with the hopes that we'd have 50 attendees.

When we wound up with 165 people, we learned several things:
--People will drive pretty far to see Michael Perry
--We can add a lot of chairs very quickly
--Urban schmurban.

I have a rule. While I can't read every book for every event, if an author's event is successful and returns to Boswell, I will do everything I can to read their book as long as my reading it actually helps sell the event. In other words, if it's clear I'm not liking it, it's better off for me to stop and say I haven't read it.

So it was in 2012 that I read Visiting Tom. At that time, we still had an art wall and the acclaimed photographers J. Shimon and the late J. Lindemann, who had worked with Perry in the past, curated a selection of photographs to make a mini gallery space. I read Visiting Tom and fell in love with Perry's storytelling voice, love of language, and sense of humor.

Then I read The Jesus Cow and it became one of my favorite novels of the year. We had a particularly wonderful event that had Perry in conversation with fellow writer Dean Bakopoulos. And there've been other events too, like bringing Perry into schools for his kids book, The Scavenger, and selling books at several area libraries that hosted Perry.

As I grew to become a Perry-phile, something nagged at me. We hosted Jim Higgins for his spring book, Wisconsin Literary Luminaries and Perry was one of his chosen writers to feature. And Higgins noted that while Perry has created a great Wisconsin-packed body of work, Population 485 was still his book that stood above the others.

With Higgins words ringing through my ears, it was easy - the In-Store Lit Group would read Population 485. Like many, no, most of Perry's works, it's a memoir divided into a series of essays. In this case, Perry discusses his early work as an EMT and later as a volunteer fire fighter. Each chapter has a through line of one incident, jumping off in a hundred different ways to both complete the narrative and tickle us with delightful asides. Think of it as a tree - the branches can't' survive without the trunk, but it's the branches that give the tree its character.

I would say the group split bell curve style, with a more pronounced hump on the positive side. Most of us liked it. Some were lukewarm, while others would say they really, really liked it. Su., who couldn't attend, wrote me a note saying this was the second time she read the book and she couldn't imagine there was a person who wouldn't like it. So of course A. didn't, and wrote out many pages of notes explaining why. And then there was M., who knew she'd love the book as soon as she heard A. was having problems with it (and they are good friends, and wouldn't the world be a better place if more people who disagreed went to book club together and talked it out).

We had two folks who brought personal experiences to the reading. G's father was a fireman while J. has been an EMT. They said the stories were quite realistic and brought back a lot of memories. D. was reminded of growing up in Nebraska and compared Perry's writing to Ben Logan's The Land Remembers. I haven't thought about that book in a long time, since we used to get the books from Northword Press (anybody remember Loon Magic?)

And then there was Sa. I had no idea what she'd say when she started speaking. And then she said she wouldn't have read Perry, but she did for the Group, and completely fell in love with his voice and after we met, she went on to buy more of his books. And that's all I needed.

That's the thing about Michael Perry. Make assumptions about who he is and he will confound you. And Perry takes that to the next level on his newest book, Montaigne in Barn Boots, which comes out November 7. The book is a meditation on Michel de Montaigne's work, with each chapter being an exploration of a different aspect of Montaigne's writings, spun through the lens of Perry. Much like Montaigne, he takes the philosophical and makes it personal. Perry has never been afraid to talk about mortality, reaching back to Population 485. You can't be an EMT or volunteer fire fighter without being aware of the fragility of life.

It's such a great work, reminding me a lot of perhaps my favorite essayist, Phillip Lopate. When I first read Lopate as part of my "I love everything that Ann Patty at Poseidon Press publishes" phase of my life, I had the same reaction as Sa. I dropped everything I read one Lopate after another, whether he was writing about being a new York public school teacher, feeling lost in Houston, or shaving. That's from memory - did he really write about shaving? Lopate is probably best known for editing The Art of the Essay, but if you want to know the book that turned me on to Lopate, it was Against Joie de Vivre.

Montaigne in Barn Boots gave me that same exhilaration, much as Montaigne's essays have done for generations of readers. You're already primed to love Montaigne, because his work is an important part of Amor Towles's runaway bestseller, A Gentleman in Moscow. Now that I've read Population 485, I don't know whether to tackle the essays themselves (800 pages of Penguin Classic, can I handle this?) or Sarah Bakewell's How to Live. We'll see how this goes. I also expect to one day catch up on several more of Michael Perry's books. I keep my reading list (only the books I finish) on the blog, so you can keep track.*

Important dates to know!

Tuesday, November 14, 7 pm, at Boswell: Michael Perry discusses Montaigne in Barn Boots. He'll also be at Books & Company on Wednesday, November 15. I really can't say enough about how good this book is and I shouldn't have to convince you that Michael Perry is a joy in person.

Monday, November 6, 7 pm, at Boswell: The In-Store Lit Group discusses The Atomic Weight of Love, by Elizabeth J. Church. This selection was suggested to me by our friend and voracious reader Nancy at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

Monday, December 4, 7 pm, at Boswell: The In-Store Lit Group discusses Zadie Smith's Swing Time. I seem to be on an every other book cycle with Smith for reading purposes.

 *I should note that Mr. Perry has spoken highly of Boswell in the past, most notably in Milwaukee Magazine, so you may consider this logrolling.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Event alert: Heddy Keith with a healing memoir, Resmaa Menekam on racialized trauma, Eric Ehrke on peace and wellness, Yrsa Daley-Ward's insightful poetry, and Anne Marie Ackermann at the Wauwatosa Public Library

Here's what's happening at Boswell!

Monday, October 9, 7 pm, at Boswell: Heddy Keith, author of Through It All: A Memoir of Love and Loss, cosponsored by Milwaukee Writer's Circle.

Heddy Keith is a retired Milwaukee Public Schools language arts teacher and a Certified Hypnotherapist and instructor for the National Guild of Hypnotists. She's also the founder and president of the Milwaukee Writer’s Circle.

Now she presents her new memoir, Through it All. As a young girl, Keith found love but lost it unexpectedly. 37 years later, inspired by her heart attack and her daughter’s question: “Mama, Louise Hays says heart trouble is a result of holding onto longstanding emotional hurt. What emotional hurt are you holding onto?”, the divorced school teacher set out to unearth what happened to her lost love. Consumed by her desire to find out what happened, she stopped at nothing to reveal the truth and in the process, found herself.

By weaving music, memory, and words together, not only found her true self, but healed the wounds she still possessed.

Tuesday, October 10, 7 pm, at Boswell: Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, cosponsored by the Asha Project.

Resmaa Menakem is a therapist with decades of experience currently in private practice in Minneapolis, specializing in trauma, body-centered psychotherapy, and violence prevention. Now in his new book, Menakem offers a call to action for each of us to recognize that racism is not just about the head, but also about the body, and introduces an alternative view of what we can do to grow beyond our entrenched racial divide.

According to Menakem, the body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. Menakem examines the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of body-centered psychology. He argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn't just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans, our police.

The Asha Project, reborn from the ashes of Asha Family Services, works to combat gender-based violence and exploitation in our African American community. Visit their website to read more about their work.

Thursday, October 12, 7 pm, at Boswell: Eric Ehrke, author of Henosis: The Psychological Wisdom and Eternal Principles that Lead to Lasting Peace and Wellness.

Eric Ehrke received his Masters in clinical social work at Ohio State University. Since joining Therapies East Associates thirty years ago he’s taught relationship skills courses and offered Mind/Body/Spirit healing seminars. A graduate of the Family Institute of Northwestern University he embraces traditional psychotherapy and systems theory but also can merge complimentary/spiritual approaches to everyday problems.

In Eric Ehrke’s new Henosis, he combines modern psychology with ancient philosophy and traditional mind/ body/ spirit wisdom to provide readers with insights into our human experience. Original teachings, which include the Primary Love Template, the Victim/ Perpetrator paradigm and Somatic Empathy Theory addresses our infantile, childish, adolescent and mature stress responses.

Ehrke gives readers many additional strategies to embody the enduring power of love in the midst of challenging circumstances.

Friday, October 13, 7 pm, at Boswell: Yrsa Daley-Ward, author of bone.

Yrsa Daley-Ward is a writer and poet of mixed West Indian and West African heritage. Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Yrsa was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the North of England.

As if mining the marrow of her own bones, Daley-Ward has condensed her journey from preadolescence to womanhood in beautifully haunting pieces. Born of Nigerian and Jamaican heritage, the poet was raised by her grandparents in the north of England, growing up exquisitely attuned to compassion and isolation in a hardscrabble world rich with leavings. In bone she grapples with epic subjects such as desire, religion, depression, abuse, and loss; navigates the raw experiences of being a first-generation black British woman; and explores the vulnerability and redemption in falling in love.

From Eve Barlow in The Observer: "Daley-Ward’s debut collection of poetry, bone, is anything but introverted. Aptly titled, it’s a visceral read candidly documenting her religious upbringing, sexuality and mental-health battles. It flew out of her in three months, as she chronicled her bad love affairs, sense of isolation and feelings of inadequacy – an uncomfortable, uninhibited read. Daley-Ward is a self-confessed firestarter and has a colorful past. She doesn’t watch TV and prefers to go to the pub to drink Guinness and 'chat to old men about their lives.' When asked to give her age, she refuses. 'Men don’t get asked,' she barks."

Saturday, October 14, 3 pm, at Wauwatosa Public Library, 7635 W. North Ave: Ann Marie Ackermann author of Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee, sponsored Goethe House Milwaukee.

Ann Marie Ackermann is a former attorney with focuses on criminal and medical law. 18 years ago she moved to Bonnigheim, Germany, the town in which the assassination occurred, and is a member of its historical society. Ackermann's intimate knowledge of the town and of the German language enabled her to bring the German and American sides of this story together.

Relying primarily on German sources, Death of an Assassin tracks the never-before-told story of this German company of Pennsylvania volunteers. It follows both Lee's and the assassin's lives until their dramatic encounter in Veracruz and picks up again with the surprising case resolution decades later.

The roles the volunteer soldier/assassin and Robert E. Lee played at the Siege of Veracruz are part of American history, and the record-breaking, 19th-century cold case is part of German history. For the first time, Death of an Assassin brings the two stories together.

Monday, October 16, 7 pm, at Boswell: David McAninch author of Duck Season: Eating, Drinking and Other Misadventures in Gascony – France’s Last Best Place, in conversation with Kyle Cherek of Wisconsin Foodie.

David McAninch is the features editor at Chicago magazine and was an editor at Saveur for nine years. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, and Rodale's Organic Life. McAninch joins us for a conversation with Wisconsin Foodie host, Kyle Cherek, to discuss his new book that tackles the love of food in the south of France.

Duck Season is a delicious memoir about the eight months food writer David McAninch spent in Gascony, a deeply rural region of France virtually untouched by mass tourism, meeting extraordinary characters and eating the best meals of his life.

With wit and warmth, McAninch takes us deep into this enchanting world, a place almost frozen in time, where eating what makes you happy isn’t a sin but a commandment—and where, to the eternal surprise of outsiders, locals’ life expectancy is higher than in any other region of France. Featuring a dozen choice recipes and beautiful line drawings, Duck Season is an irresistible treat for Francophiles and gourmands alike. From Publishers Weekly: "Through McAninch’s warm and fluid delivery, readers come away with a taste and respect for a regional commodity, a handful of enticing recipes, and a new appreciation for friendships unfettered by origin or boundary."

Kyle Cherek is host of the Emmy-nominated television show Wisconsin Foodie, beginning its seventh season on PBS and broadcast primetime to over 8.2 million households.