Monday, August 22, 2016

Boswell Happenings: Michael Bowen, Michail Takach, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and Lisa Moser

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

Tuesday, August 23, 7:00 pm, at Boswell
Michael Bowen, author of Damage Control

Milwaukee's Michael Bowen may no longer be a full-time lawyer, but he's got many years of lawyerly stories that will inspire many mysteries to come. A graduate of Harvard Law with a passion for politics going back to his teens, Bowen penned an earlier D.C.based series that began with 1990's Washington Deceased and continued through Collateral Damage, focused on retired Foreign Service Officer Richard Michaelson. His new anti-heroine, Josie Kendall, is as different from Michaelson as contemporary Washington is from the capital as it was 25 years ago.

Here's a little more about Damage Control. When shadowy gray market hustler and aspiring crony capitalist Jerzy Schroeder is murdered while Josie Kendall is hitting him up for a million dollars to help him cash in on alternative energy funding, the police suspect her of adultery and her husband, Rafe, of homicide. Josie, who works for Majority Values Coalition, an activist fundraising organization, is a new but passionate DC player. Suave Rafe, long a Washington insider, also long a widower, is passionate about Josie. He’s on a new track as a literary agent and supporting Josie’s how-Washington-works learning curve. For Josie and Rafe, this isn't a murder investigation but a political damage-control problem. They attack the issue with an array of finely tuned skills: strategic leaks, manipulation of the media, judicious use of inside information, and a flexible attitude toward the truth - plus the assistance of Josie's Uncle Darius, a veteran spin doctor with surprising connections, who - luckily - is out on parole.

They'll need a full arsenal, since, as one capital insider points out, "A damage control strategy that hasn't succeeded within thirty days has failed." Along the way, Josie, juggling plot lines, will have to decide whether there are ethical lines that even she won't cross. A proposal from Schroeder's ex-wife, Ann DeHoin, known as “The Gray Lady,” thanks to her wardrobe, shows Josie that she was (and probably still is) being gamed. To what end? The priority here is to figure out what the game is before the body count rises, while staying on mission at MVC, which gets money from people committed to a cause, spends part of it promoting that cause through channels like running ads, and keeps the rest. In this contemporary House of Cards scenario, determining who actually murdered Schroeder is a low-priority problem but Josie manages to do that as well. It's all in a day's (well, thirty days') work.

As he did for his previous visit, Michael Bowen will be donating his proceeds from this event to Literacy Services of Wisconsin.

Thursday, August 25, 7:00 pm, at Boswell
Michail Takach, author of LGBT Milwaukee

This event is cosponsored by Milwaukee Pride and Outwords Books, Gifts, and Coffee

As a lifelong Milwaukeean, Michail Takach became fascinated with its nightlife culture, venues, and neighborhoods at a young age and has committed himself to researching and documenting those stories not told in history books. Now with the help of Don Schamb, who has worked with the Milwaukee AIDS Project (now ARCW), Milwaukee Gamma, the Cream City Foundation, and now the LGBT History project, Milwaukee Pride Communications Director Takach has put together LGBT Milwaukee, the newest release from Arcadia's Images of America.

For a medium-size Rust Belt city with German Protestant roots, Milwaukee was an unlikely place for gay and lesbian culture to bloom before the Stonewall Riots. It is said there were 36 gay bars already open in Milwaukee before Stonewall, a number matched only by New York and San Francisco. However, Milwaukee eventually had as many--if not more--known LGBTQ gathering places as Minneapolis or Chicago, ranging from the back rooms of the 1960s to the video bars of the 1980s to the guerrilla gay bars of today.

Over the past 75 years, people in the LGBT community have experienced tremendous social change in America. Gay and lesbian culture, once considered a twilight world that could not be spoken of in daylight, has become today’s rainbow families, marriage equality victories, and popular pride celebrations.

All author proceeds from LGBT Milwaukee will benefit Milwaukee Pride, a 501c3 nonproft dedicated to year-round local LGBTQ history education programs.

Saturday, August 27, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, author of Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide: A Memoir
We're grateful to help from Cope Services and Community Advocates for helping get the word out about this event.

Darryl McDaniels “DMC” made his start in the music business with the groundbreaking rap group Run-D.M.C., which he founded with Joseph (Rev. Run) Simmons and the late, great Jason (Jam Master Jay) Mizell. The multi-platinum music group has sold more than thirty million singles and albums worldwide, and has had a major influence on popular culture, transforming Rap and Hip Hop into the most popular music in the world and building a fan base that rivals the biggest acts in Rock ’n’ Roll.

As one third of the legendary rap group Run-D.M.C., Darryl “DMC” McDaniels—aka Legendary MC, The Devastating Mic Controller, and the King of Rock—had it all: talent, money, fame, prestige. While hitting #1 on the Billboard charts was exhilarating, the group’s success soon became overwhelming. A creative guy who enjoyed being at home alone or with his family, DMC turned to alcohol to numb himself, a retreat that became an addiction. For years, he went through the motions. But in 1997, when intoxication could no longer keep the pain at bay, he plunged into severe depression and became suicidal. But he wasn’t alone. During the same period, suicide became the number three leading cause of death among black people - a health crisis that continues to this day.

In this memoir, DMC speaks openly about his emotional and psychological struggles and the impact on his life, and addresses the many reasons that led him—and thousands of others—to consider suicide. Some of the factors include not being true to who you are, feelings of loneliness, isolation, and alienation, and a lack of understanding and support from friends and family when it’s needed most. He also provides essential information on resources for getting help. Revealing how even the most successful people can suffer from depression, DMC offers inspiration for everyone in pain—information and insight that he hopes can help save other lives.

Here's a Boswell and Books blog post that talks more about Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide.

Sunday, August 28, 2:00 pm, at Boswell:
Stories and activities with Lisa Moser, author of Stories from Bug Garden

Grafton's Lisa Moser is the author of the early readers The Monster in the Backpack and Squirrel’s Fun Day as well as many picture books, including Kisses on the Wind, and the sadly now out-of-print Railroad Hank. Come to Boswell for a bug-tastic afternoon. We'll make bookworms and have other activities, as well as a storytime.

What may appear to be an abandoned garden is actually home to an unusual array of insects. Meet a ladybug who prefers making mud angels to acting like a lady, a roly-poly bug who loves to roll (“wa-hoo!”), a cricket who dreams of grand adventures, and a whole neighborhood of bugs gazing up at a fireworks show of flowers bursting into bloom. These inviting vignettes are sure to have readers seeing bugs in a whole new light.

Join us for an afternoon of bug related poetry and activities with Wisconsin’s own Lisa Moser. We’ve been having so much fun selling this book since spring, and decided we absolutely had to do more to let you know about it. It’s summer now when you take bugs for granted, but in January, you’ll be thinking about dragonflies and crickets and grasshoppers and Stories from Bug Garden can be your memory book.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What's on the Boswell bestseller list for the week ending August 20, 2016? (plus the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page)

Here's what's selling at Boswell.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Humane Economy, by Wayne Pacelle
2. Wisconsin on the Air, by Jack Mitchell
3. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer
4. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
5. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
6. The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward
7. John Bascom and the Origins of the Wisconsin Idea, by J. David Hoeveler (event 9/7, 7 pm, at Boswell)
8. The Hapsburg Empire, by Pieter M. Judson
9. Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, by Ron Faiola
10. Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, by Darryl McDaniels (event 8/27, 7 pm, at Boswell)

Several weeks ago we linked to the Journal Sentinel's review of The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, where Jim Higgins noted that "contributors articulate the distress of being unvalued, diminished and continually on guard because of their blackness." The anthology has received much attention, including this Vogue piece from Rachel Benegal that looks at the collection's origin: "When news of the killing of Trayvon Martin broke in February 2012, for Jesmyn Ward it deepened a wound both personal and shared, and confirmed, with grotesque prescience, the necessity of the book she was then writing. Four months prior she’d won the National Book Award for her tough and extraordinary novel Salvage the Bones, about a Mississippi Gulf Coast family who survives Hurricane Katrina. That winter, Ward, pregnant with her first child, was in the midst of revising her memoir Men We Reaped, a requiem that chronicles and connects the deaths of five young black men in her own life - her brother, her cousin, her friends - who died between 2000 and 2004."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
2. LaRose, by Louise Erdrich
3. The Girls, by Emma Cline
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
6. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
7. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
8. Truly Madly Guilty, by Linae Moriarty
9. Barkskins, by Annie Proulx
10. First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin

Not a big week for releases, so most readers are familiar with this week's top ten. When I was in Nashville this week (more about this on a future post), I heard that Louise Erdrich had a wonderful event with Jane Hamilton. Coming soon is our event with Ann Patchett and Jane Hamilton (tickets available here). And somewhere out there was probably an amazing event with Erdrich and Patchett, completing the triangle. I just don't know where it was and when, or perhaps it's coming up in October. From the Los Angeles Times, Thomas Curwen wrote about Erdrich's newest: "The rewards of LaRose lie in the quick unraveling and the slow reconstruction of these lives to a moment when animosities resolve, like shards of glass in a kaleidoscope, into clarity and understanding. While the ending may seem formulaic — a gathering of the young and old, the living and the dead — it is a benediction on the searing forces that preceded it. Told with constraint and conviction, the conclusion of LaRose is its own balm, a peace not easily won but won nonetheless.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. One Bead at a Time, by Beverly Little Thunder
2. Known and Strange Things, by Teju Cole
3. Application for Release from the Dream, by Tony Hoagland
4. My Grandfather Would have Shot Me, by Jennifer Teege with Nikola Sellmair
5. LGBT Milwaukee, by Michail Takach (event 8/25, 7 pm)
6. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
7. The Bond, by Wayne Pacelle
8. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
9. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
10. Happiness Is..., by Lisa Swerling

After two novels, Open City, which won the PEN/Hemingway award, and Every Day is for the Thief, which was published by Random House second, but was actually released internationally earlier, Teju Cole now offers his first collection of essays, Known and Strange Things. There's been lots of write-ups about this book, which was published as a paperback original, which led to me asking our buyer Jason about whether our Random House discussed why the book was not done as a hardcover first. Hey, it worked, as the book popped onto our bestseller list this week. Rebecca Foster in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Cole "collects 55 short pieces — drawn from the author’s prolific output during eight years of near-constant travel and writing — under three headings: literature, the visual arts and travel."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
2. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
3. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart
6. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
7. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
8. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
9. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
10. My Sunshine Away, by Mo Walsh

Sharon's got a staff rec on Mo Walsh's My Sunshine Away, the story of the sexual assault on a teenager in 1980s Baton Rouge, a city that is now in the news for the devastating flooding. Nagel writes that though the story is about a neighbor boy's search for the attacker, it's about so much more: "A parent’s hopes and fears for her child, high school survival, first love, lost innocence, and the often difficult passage into adulthood. A fantastic offering by an author that remembers what it is like to be a teenager, and allows the reader to do so as well." And Meredith Maran in the Chicago Tribune called My Sunshine Away "a rich, unexpected, exceptional book."

Books for Kids:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, by J.K. Rowling
2. Sophie's Squash Goes to School, by Pat Zietlow Miller
3. Sophie's Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller
4. Sharing the Bread, by Pat Zietlow Miller
5. Dark Days V3, by James Ponti
6. Thank You Book, by Mo Willems
7. Dead City V1, by James Ponti
8. Blue Moon V2, by James Ponti
9. The Blackthorn Key V1, by Kevin Sands
10. Julia's House for Lost Creatures, by Ben Hatke

You're beginning to see our fall school events getting advance sales. James Ponti is visiting schools with Kevin Sands for his new release, Framed, which comes out on Tuesday. Of the Dead City series, Suzanne Collins called it "a tween takes on undead New Yorkers in this paranormal action-adventure that breathes new life into the zombie genre." Pat Zietlow Miller is also visiting schools for Sophie's Squash Goes to School. These three authors don't have public events with Boswell. If you're an educator learning more about our authors-in-schools program, contact us.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews The Underground Railroad on the TapBooks page. As Jason and I discussed, Doubleday moving up the pub date for the Oprah's Book Club has probably played havoc with reviewers' schedules. Higgins writes: "Like everyone else living in the Oprahsphere, I'd heard the cool concept of Whitehead's novel: The Underground Railroad as an actual railroad. Whitehead threads this alternative reality ingeniously through this otherwise realistic and often harrowing novel." His conclusion?: "Whitehead's book is a novel, not an op-ed. But I can't help feeling that it also communicates a message for today: The Underground Railroad is still under construction. Keep swinging your pickax."

Mike Fischer writes about our continuing fascination with Alaska as a setting, which might explain why we currently have an Alaska table at Boswell: He writes in the Journal Sentinel: This month, Alaskan Eowyn Ivey has returned to the setting of her The Snow Child with a second novel set in Alaska before statehood: To the Bright Edge of the World. Inspired by an actual 1885 expedition into unmapped Alaskan territory, it continues a long line of American fiction in which the wilderness tests our rationalist assumptions involving how the world works and what it contains."

And finally, the Journal Sentinel reprints Heidi Stevens' take on Amy Schumer's new memoir, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, which has already hit our bestseller list. She writes in this review, originally appearing in the Chicago Tribune: "After some initial throat-clearing in the first 30 pages (the book's weakest), Schumer weaves a brave, vulnerable tale without falling into the usual celebrity traps of neediness and defense. She writes about her dad's multiple sclerosis, a sexual assault she endured as a teenager, her experience living with an abusive boyfriend, her parents' multiple failed marriages and her own reckoning with an entertainment industry that prizes appearance over substance. In so doing, she subtly offers a rationale for all this self-revealing: It strengthens you."

Friday, August 19, 2016

A librarian detective in 18th century China - on Elsa Hart's "Jade Dragon Mountain"

Mysteries! I was looking back at my old reading lists and noticed that when I discovered someone I liked, like Elmore Leonard, for example, I would read everything I could get my hands on. In his case, I even read the westerns. Eventually I'd burn out and let the author go but it could take years. If you are an Elmore Leonard fan, by the way, I would suggest you try Nicholas Petrie's The Drifter, just out in paperback. It's like Leonard on steroids. Todd and I have just read the next Petrie, Burning Bright, and it's a more straightforward thriller, but the reads are great and we're very excited for it's release next January. Let us reserve a copy for you.

Usually just one book in a series does it for me, even when I really like the book. I think about Case Histories, the classic Kate Atkinson novel. This book, which I didn't even know would be a series, was a hybrid, a literary-mystery mashup that was doing ten interesting things at once. It was a amazing and lots of other folks thought so too - back at Schwartz, we sold over 1000 copies the first year in paperback. I liked it so much I read the second Jackson Brodie too, and One Good Turn was excellent too, but to me, it was more of the genre than smashing the genre.

We host a lot of mystery authors, and that keeps me reading in the genre. But lately I've been reading mysteries even when we're not hosting the author. And the main reason for that is that mystery readers take suggestions, perhaps at a greater rate than any other kind of book that I read. If they read noir, that doesn't mean they'll take your advice on a cozy, and vice versa. But if you describe it right and find a book that overlaps with your taste, they'll try it. It was certainly the case for Shady Hollow, the mystery co-written by former bookseller Jocelyn and current bookseller Sharon, under the pseudonym Juneau Black. We've sold over 100 copies of the book after our event pop, and many of them have been to folks who didn't know either Jocelyn or Sharon.

So this led me to Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart. It's a first novel that had strong reviews from Oline Cogdill at the Associated Press, who called it "a compelling look at Chinese politics, culture and religion, delivering the complexities of each with a character-rich story" and Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal wrote that "in addition to being a satisfying mystery, Jade Dragon Mountain also powerfully evokes the aesthetics of the time and place it describes." Our mystery reader Anne was a fan. And I was even more intrigued that Pam (who just recently retired) was also a big fan. Plus it was an Anne pick from our spring-summer book club flier. And it had a lot more going for it:
1. According to reviews, the novel also worked as a historical, increasing the market.
2. The protagonist was a librarian, which is always a bonus
3. It's set in China, so I could send my copy to my sister Claudia after I was finished.

Here's the setup. Li Du was a librarian in the Forbidden City, but he was exiled after it turned out that he had befriended some people who turned out to be traitors. He's shown up in Dayan, a remote city by the Tibetan border, where his cousin Talishen is the magistrate, and preparing for a visit from the Emperor. This is a time when the Jesuits were favored by the court, and yes, there are a few Jesuits in attendance, including Brother Pieter, who speaks fluent Chinese (another reason to pay attention to the book--Milwaukee's Marquette is a Jesuit school). There's also someone from the East India Company, who is trying to jumpstart trade, and another younger Jesuit who is studying the plant life. Li Du befriends Hamza, a traveling storyteller, and Mu Gao, the old librarian, as well his cousin's assistant and his main consort, who is running the house, being that he left his wives back in Beijing.

So yes, there's a murder and while Li Du is no detective, he pays a lot of attention to details, and Talishen is worried that the murder will throw off the festivities. If Li Du solves the murder, he'll plead his case to the Emperor to let him come back to Beijing. So this is not an easy task - there are lots of motives floating about and just about everyone involved is hiding something.

So I was talking about the book to another bookseller friend who said that they liked neither mysteries, nor historicals, and weren't too keen regarding books with Chinese settings either. But rule number one for a bookseller is "Give me a book and no matter how good, we can find someone who hates it." And while I thought the book had a bit of a slow setup, by the second half, I was completely into it. The resolution didn't feel like a cheat, and there was actually a double twist. Plus I wound up really liking the friendship between Li Du and Hamza.

I think I can help sell this in paperback, but we'll see how it goes. We already had a great running start in hardcover, having sold 24 copies, which is pretty good for a non-local, non-event, non-bestseller first novel.

Oh, and that's the other thing about why it's fun to recommend mysteries. If your rec turns out to be a hit, many of the readers will wind up continuing to read subsequent books, to a much larger extent than happens with non-series fiction.

So think of it as a cross between Qiu Xiaoling's Death of a Red Heroine and the historical novels of Lisa See or Gail Tsukiyama (though most folks know her Japanese novels, she also writes about novels set in China). Meanwhile, Elsa Hart's second novel featuring Li Du, The White Mirror, comes out September 6. We'll see what Anne says about it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

More on Darryl McDaniels, coming to Boswell on Saturday, August 27, 7 pm, for "Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide."

I can't stop thinking about Darryl McDaniels and his book, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide. I picked up the book because he's coming to Boswell on Saturday, August 27, 7 pm (the event is free, but you must purchase a book to get in the signing line) but the book resonated with me in a number of different ways.

For one thing, Mr. McDaniels grew up only about five miles from me, in Hollis Queens. When I would very occasionally walk home from the subway train, would walk down Hillside Avenue, not really too far from his house. Some of the Black kids I went to school with lived in Hollis and nearby St. Albans. So while McDaniels himself went to Catholic school, I probably had classes with some of his neighbors - I'm a bit older than him, but not by much.

As a New Yorker who was still living in New York, when Run-D.M.C. broke out, songs like "Sucker M.C.'s" and "It's Like That" were ubiquitous on the radio, even if you weren't particularly focused on hip hop. I tended to listen all over the dial. You probably won't be surprised to find out in the early 1980s, I would continuously move the radio dial and count how many times I heard each song, and then tabulate the numbers each week, sitting at a folding card table in a studio apartment in Queens with a very good few of the famous Elmhurst tanks. I would call this the New York Radio Frequency Chart. I do wish I could find that folder with all the little charts I compiled. See, there were plenty of time sucks before the internet.

I've been trying to do some outreach to help the event along. Our friends at Cope Services has agreed to spread the word. Their helpline in Ozaukee County helps folks all over the Southeast Wisconsin area. I've lost folks to suicide over the years (including at least one coworker and more than one customer) and I know how important these hotlines can be.We also know that our friends at Community Advocates are on the case. Please check out the work of both these fine organizations.

After reading Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide, I understood that adoption is also a cause near and dear to McDaniels' heart. His story about how he learned he was adopted and came to love both his his adopted and birth family is quite touching, almost as much as how he came to fall in love with Sarah McLachlan's Angel. I literally teared up, and I had to dig out my CD of Surfacing so I could play the song. My favorite Sarah McLachlan song continues to be "Possession."

Alas, I was more of a wimpy DC fan instead of Marvel, and even my Batman reading focused on the less dark stories of the late sixties and early seventies. I particularly liked the Legion of Super Heroes and the weirder the power, the better. Rest in peace, Ferro Lad, the boy who could sort of do nothing! And thank you Wikipedia for the story behind Ferro Lad, who was meant to be the first Black Legionnaire.

So thanks to Darryl McDaniels for writing this and appearing. And thanks to Darrell Dawsey, who helped McDaniels get the book written. And thanks to Amistad Press, who let us host a public event in conjunction with a private fundraiser Mr. McDaniels is doing in town. Thank you to Cope Services and Community Advocates to getting the word out. And if you come to our event on Saturday, August 27, 7 pm, I'll thank you too.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Events this week: Beverly Little Thunder, Jack Mitchell in conversation with Kathleen Dunn, Wayne Pacelle

Here's what's going on at Boswell this week:

Wednesday, August 17, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Wayne Pacelle, author of The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals. Pacelle will be introduced by Anne Reed, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Humane Society.

During his more than twenty years with The Humane Society of the United States, including a decade as president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle has played a leading role in transforming the organization, the nation’s largest animal protection charity, into a dynamic public force and voice for all animals. He was named an Executive of the Year by NonProfit Times in 2005 for his leadership in responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis. A graduate of Yale University, he is also author of The Bond.

Here are some recommendations for Pacelle's The Humane Economy.

"Essential reading for anyone interested in animal welfare. This fabulous book reveals the inside story of how the fight against human cruelty to animals is gradually being won. A fascinating, highly readable, and remarkably comprehensive book." --Jane Goodall

"A critically important read for anyone who cares about business succes or animals -- or, like so many of us, both." --Jack Welch, founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute"

"The Humane Economy is a brilliant book that celebrates the truth: our economic wellbeing is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of animals. This book is an important moral and pragmatic blueprint for humane, enlightened prosperity for all." --U.S. Senator Cory Booker

Here's Caroline Abels profiling Wayne Pacelle in Civil Eats.

Thursday, August 18, 7.00 pm, at Boswell:
Jack Mitchell, author of Wisconsin on the Air: 100 Years of Public Broadcasting in the State That Invented It, in conversation with Kathleen Dunn of Wisconsin Public RadioThis event is cosponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio.

Jack Mitchell, PhD, led Wisconsin Public Radio from 1976 till 1997, initiating the transition from educational radio to WPR. Mitchell was the first employee of National Public Radio, where he was instrumental in developing the groundbreaking newsmagazine All Things Considered. He received the two highest honors in public radio: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Edward R. Murrow Award and the Edward Elson National Public Radio Distinguished Service Award. Mitchell joined the faculty of the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1998. He is the author of Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio.

Mitchell will be in conversation with Kathleen Dunn for this event, cosponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio. Dunn’s first job in radio was at a small station in North Carolina. Then after 18 years at Milwaukee’s WTMJ, she came to Wisconsin Public Radio in 1993. Dunn has a deep interest in the news of the day, world affairs, arts and culture.

From Isthmus, here's a review of the book From Bill Lueders: "Mitchell, a still-active UW-Madison journalism professor emeritus, headed WPR from 1976 to 1997. He brings an insider’s knowledge and true believer’s passion to the tale of how public broadcasting in Wisconsin has struggled to provide quality programming within a maelstrom of reactive public officials, alternatively devoted and volatile audiences and an alphabet soup (WHA, WPR, WPT, PBS, etc.) of interconnected but not always cooperative entities."

Friday, August 19, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Beverly Little Thunder, author of One Bead at a Time

Beverly Little Thunder, Lakota Elder, and women's activist, is a member of the Standing Rock Lakota Band from North Dakota. When she was forced to leave her Spiritual community because she was a lesbian, Beverly founded the Women's Sundance over 20 years ago to continue teaching the traditions and ceremonies of her heritage, including sweat lodge, talking circles, vision quests, and spiritual counseling.

From Sarya Pinto, author of Vatolandia and Pinol: Poems: "One Bead at a Time is a timely testimonial of the indomitable character and expansive vision necessary to break deeply set patterns of intergenerational intersectional oppression in one's personal and communal life. The capacity to transform tragedy into possibility, sadness into joy, and social exclusion into an invitation for belonging is perhaps the most powerful tool humanity has at its disposal during these critical times. Let this groundbreaking contribution inspire all of us to work together to reconstitute the circle of life."

Here's Paul Masterson's "My LGBT POV" column in the recent Shepherd Express, where he discusses Beverly Little Thunder's journey to create a Women's-only Sundance.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

What's showing up on the Boswell annotated bestseller lists for the week ending August 13, 2016?

Here's what sold at Boswell this week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
2. Heroes of the Frontier, by Dave Eggers
3. Black Widow, by Daniel Silva
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Devils of Cardona, by Matthew Carr
6. Night of the Animals, by Bill Broun
7. War and Turpentine, by Stefan Hertmans
8. Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley
9. Miss Jane, by Brad Watson
10. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

Connie Ogle writes in the Miami Herald that "The calendar year hasn’t even slipped into September, and Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad is already being talked about as the book of the year (and that’s with a slew of big books heading our way in the fall, including works from Ann Patchett, Zadie Smith and Jonathan Safran Foer..." She went on to note that Mr. Foer will be appearing in Miami for his new novel, Here I Am which Boswellian Chris has read and several other booksellers are in the middle's long.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Fail U, by Charles J. Sykes
2. Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, by Ron Faiola
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond (appearing at Mercy Housing fundraiser 11/2)
4. Good Stock, by Sanford D'Amato (appearing at WWIBC lunch 12/2)
5. America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook (Jack Bishop at Boswell Thu 11/20, 7 pm)
6. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
7. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
8. Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
9. John Bascom and the Origins of the Wisconsin Idea, by J. David Hoeveler (event Wed 9/7, 7 pm)

The hardcover bestseller list is driven by both today and tomorrow's events, I guess. Here's more information on the WWIBC lunch with Sanford D'Amato on December 2. Tickets are $65 for this event. And for Matthew Desmond's talk at the Live in Hope Reception on November 2, visit the Mercy Housing website. Tickets for that fundraiser are $50. Desmond will also be appearing in Madison. We'll be at both events, selling Good Stock and Evicted, respectively.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. The Only Ones, by Carola Dibbell (the next SF group book club selection)
5. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
6. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
7. Sister Carrie Penguin Classic edition, by Theodore Dreiser (in store lit group Florentine presentation, October 3, 7 pm)
8. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
9. She Weeps Each Time You're Born, by Quan Barry (in store lit group, Tues 9/6, 7 pm)
10. The Marriage of Opposites, by Alice Hoffman

I think we'll be adding Alice Hoffman's The Marriage of Opposites to our fall book club presentations. It's a historical novel about Camille Pissarro's mother. After a number of historicals, From Wendy Smith in The Washington Post: "Like her most recent novels, this story is grounded in historical events and assiduous research, but Hoffman goes a step beyond The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things by taking real-life figures as her protagonists. Staying close to the known facts about the artist Camille Pissarro and his parents, she forcefully imagines their interior lives and surrounds them with a full-bodied supporting cast of characters." I read that Hoffman's next novel, Faithful, out November 1, is a throwback contemporary.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Going for Wisconsin Gold, by Jessie Garcia
2. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
3. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
4. One Bead at a Time, by Beverly Little Thunder (Event Fri 8/19, 7 pm)
5. Fast and Easy Five Ingredient Recipes, by Philia Kelnhofer
6. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
7. America's Test Kitchen Kitchen Hacks
8. Rebel Yell, by S.C. Gwynne
9. My Life with the Green and Gold, by Jessie Garcia
10. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda

After a sleeper hit turned monster breakout from Running Press, Jen Sincero has moved to Viking, following up You Are a Badass with You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth. Yes, you can preorder it. Per the publisher, Sincero looks at "how powerful thoughts shape our income potential and the ways in which our bank accounts are mirrors for our bugaboos about money." It's slightly different positioning for this former rock drummer and sex advice columnist, as you can see in this Carolyn Kellogg profile in the Los Angeles Times.

Books for Kids:
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
2. The Hollow Earth V1, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
3. The Bone Quill V2, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
4. The Book of Beasts V3, by John and Carole E. Barrowman
5. Stories from Bug Garden, by Lisa Moser with illustrations by Gwen Millward (event Sun 8/28, 2 pm, at Boswell)
6. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
7. Julia's House for Lost Creatures, by Ben Hatke (event at Cudahy Library, Tuesday 10/4, 6:30 pm)
8. The School for Good and Evil Ever Never Handbook, by Soman Chainani
9. Alan's Big Scary Teeth, by Peter Jarvis
10. The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown

Several of Boswellian Barb's favorites got hand-sold onto this week's bestseller list. Adam Rubin, whose Dragons Love Tacos has been a huge hit, reviewed The Wild Robot in The New York Times Book Review. He wrote: "These are just a few purely hypothetical examples, but the sad truth for ­picture-book authors is, if we want the word people to accept us as one of their own, we eventually have to write a book that doesn’t need pictures. So congratulations to Peter Brown, who, with his middle-grade debut, a novel called The Wild Robot, has firmly planted his flag in the middle of the word person/­picture person Venn diagram. We’re all very happy for him and not jealous at all."

Featured in the Tap Books page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is a review of Ghost Talkers, the new novel from Mary Robinette Kowal that has been passing from bookseller to bookseller - so far both Anne McMahon and I have read it. She's coming with Ada Palmer on Wednesday, August 31, 7 pm, for a mini SF con.

Higgins has a lot to say about the Ghost Talkers: "Just as Connie Willis salutes the resilience of Brits in her fiction about England during World War II, Kowal pays similar tribute in this novel through her depiction of grandmotherly Mrs. Richardson and invalided Lt. Plumber, 'unsighted' normal humans who serve as grounds to anchor the Spirit Corps mediums to this world.

"Through Stuyvesant, Kowal also takes on, at times pugnaciously, the classism, sexism and racism of the British Army brass of that time period. The commanding officer won't acknowledge Helen Jackson's leadership of the mediums because she is black. Stuyvesant herself is discounted because she is a woman. A brave soldier is relegated to transportation duty because he is Indian. Each of these will play a vital role in facing the German treachery."

Also in the print edition are Connie Ogle's review of Truly Madly Guilty, originally in the Miami Herald, and a profile of Amber Tozer, author of Sober Stick Figure, by Mary Ann Gwinn, originally appearing in the Seattle Times.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What did the book club think of "The Sympathizer"?

When the in-store lit group tackles a book like Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer, it's a little harder to write about whether the book is good or not. It's already received what is said to be the most important literary prize in the United States, the Pulitzer Prize, as well as the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. If you don't know this award, this is the adult equivalent of the Caldecott and Newbery, awarded to adult works. It is only a bit more confusing because there is also a British Carnegie Medal for children's books from the British Library Association.

The story? The unnamed narrator, whom you can refer to as Captain, or do as I do, and call every unnamed narrator in books that I read "N", is in South Vietnam before the country is to fall to the North. His two closest friends are Man and Bo. Man plans to stay behind, but Bo is leaving with his wife and child. The United States has done very little to prepare the country, and instead is planning to airlift out Americans and a some South Vietnamese allies. The problem? Most of the South Vietnamese are not going to make it. And let's just say the airlift doesn't go well.

The Vietnamese are resettled in the United States, and from there the novel becomes an immigrant story, of restaurants and liquor stores, and failed expectations of what life would be like in the States. With the General, the Captain is continuing the fight of the South, defending the immigrant community against traitors and with vague plans to go back and fight. But there's a twist - the Captain is a also Viet Cong spy sending information back to Vietnam.

The Captain himself works at a university, having lived in the United States previously. He is more educated, and thus more aware of the slights against Asians he witnesses. He particularly notes this when he gets a gig being the Vietnamese consultant for a film being shot called The Hamlet by The Auteur, who has effectively rewritten the war narrative to make America the victor. To me, this subplot of the book seemed like a major digression, but I get why it's there - it's got some of the best satire in the book.

After that interlude, life for the Captain gets more complicate when he's sent back on mission by the General. And I'm not giving anything away by saying that the story is told as a confession. Many reviewers have noted that very few works speak to the Vietnamese participation and experience in the Vietnam War but Nguyen (as an aside, here's a discussion on the name's pronunciation) has said that what he meant to do was talk about the Vietnamese war and aftermath to a fellow Vietnamese person.

So what did the book club think? Everyone agreed it was an important a book, with a few folks really loving it, and others finding it difficult, but still saying they were glad they read it. Or in many cases, still reading it. I probably should have flipped our July and August selections around. Because we delayed our July meeting by a week, due to the July 4th holiday, we had five weeks to read A Spool of Blue Thread and only three to read The Sympathizer (UK version at right). A number of attendees mentioned they felt like they were reading nonfiction rather than a novel, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it slowed them down. All in all, it turned out to be a very good discussion and I would highly recommend that book clubs include The Sympathizer in their schedule. And hey, even mystery book clubs can read this - The Sympathizer won the Edgar award for best first novel.

One suggestion I would make to book clubs taking this on is a little contrary to my usual advice, which is read the book, and then do the research. If you are a club that generally does adventurous and challenging reads, by all means go into The Sympathizer blind. And in fact, if you do adventurous, challenging reads, you probably have a lot of the background you need to tackle the book. But if your club tends towards the tame, if you read for plot, or if your club often doesn't finish, I highly recommend reading the background material first, such as this profile in The New York Times with David Streitfeld, or perhaps his Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross.

Reading The Sympathizer also made me want to read the author's nonfiction book, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Doing a casual search, it seems like the book didn't get as much review attention as I would have expected, but it had this nice write up in The New Yorker: "In thematically arranged chapters—on remembrance, forgetting, and spectacle—he produces close readings of the novels, films, monuments, and prisons that form 'the identity of war' in Vietnam, 'a face with carefully drawn features, familiar at a glance to the nation’s people.'"

If you continue to be interested in the Vietnam War legacy, as we are, you might want to pick up Quan Barry's She Weeps Each Time You're Born. We'll be discussing that on Tuesday, September 6, 7 pm, a day late due to the Labor Day holiday. And you also might want to read Robert Olen Butler's Perfume River, just out from Atlantic Monthly Press. Butler won the Pulitzer in 1993 for A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. His new novel is from Viet Thanh Nguyen's editor at Grove Atlantic, Peter Blackstock. Butler will be at Boswell on Tuesday, October 4, 7 pm, in conversation with Cardinal Stritch's David Riordan.

Two other books I have read that might be of interest are The Book of Salt, by Monique Truong, and Catfish and Mandala, by Andrew X. Pham.

Our October book club selection is Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, which we are carrying in both Penguin Classic and Signet Classic editons. On Monday, October 3, 7 pm, we'll be meeting along with some of the Florentine crew, which is world-premiering a new Sister Carrie Opera on October 7 and 9.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Events this week: Ron Faiola with Kyle Cherek, Jessie Garcia at Shorewood Public Library, Charles J. Sykes, MPTV Sound Safari Activity Time

Here's what's going on at Boswell this week:

Monday, August 8, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Ron Faiola, author of Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, in conversation with Kyle Cherek, host of Wisconsin Foodie

As you page through Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round, your first inclination is to take a few days off and visit some. As you keep reading, those days turn to weeks. From Gib's on the Lake in Kewaunee, which makes its own pasta and uses locally sourced cheese curds for its poutine, to the Edgewater in Jefferson, which has its own organic produce and chicken, and yes, you can buy their eggs if you bring in your own egg carton. Now not all of you might take to the 80 ounce prime rib at Carlson's Rustic Ridge at Castle Rock Lake, but it's good to know that the salad bar is so popular, it's a popular item to order all by itself.

We figured that Ron Faiola closed the book on supper clubs when he created his popular documentary and previous tie-in book, but his new release covers 50 additional clubs from across the Badger State, documenting some of the most exceptional and long-lived restaurants that embrace the decades-old supper club tradition. These are largely family-owned establishments that believe in old-fashioned hospitality, slow-paced dining, and good scratch cooking.

Milwaukee-based Ron Faiola is an author and filmmaker who has produced and directed numerous critically acclaimed documentaries. He is the president and founder of Push Button Gadget Inc., which has been specializing in audio visual and business theater production for nearly 20 years.

Kyle Cherek is host of the Emmy-nominated television show Wisconsin Foodie, currently filming its ninth season on PBS and broadcasting primetime to over 8.2 million households. He sees the Midwest as a font of history, craftsmanship, and artisanal dispositions; all of which are continually pushing national culinary and sustainability trends forward. Kyle has made regular appearances on The Travel Channel and Food Network, and is a frequent media contributor to NPR, CBS, and NBC. His video web series, Chef Talk with Kyle Cherek, features candid, forthright, and often amusing conversations with some of America’s most engaging chefs.0

Wednesday, August 10, 6:30 pm, at the Shorewood Public Library, 3920 N Murray Ave:
Jessie Garcia, author of Going for Wisconsin Gold: Stories of Our State Olympians

The Olympics are in full swing and while its hard to turn away from your screen, why not take a couple of hours from your schedule to hear author and sportscaster Jessie Garcia talk about Wisconsin's Olympic heritage? Since pioneering hurdler Alvin Kraenzlein got his start here in the 1890s, the Badger State has nurtured, trained, or schooled more than 400 Olympic athletes in a vast array of sports. Wisconsin’s varied landscape and climate accommodate serious athletes whether they compete on ice, on snow, in the water, or land. No matter how an athlete comes to Wisconsin, the state becomes part of his or her Olympic story.

Jim Higgins writes about Going for Wisconsin Gold in the Journal Sentinel: "Garcia said she tried to tell each athlete's story in three parts: their childhood and development, their Olympic competition and experience in detail, and their life post-Olympics. While she writes with an amiable voice, Garcia keeps it real here: Not everyone wins a gold medal, and many athletes face painful struggles on or off the field."

Award winning sportscaster Jessie Garcia has been covering Wisconsin athletes and Olympians since 1992, first at WISCTV in Madison and then at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee. Garcia was one of the first women in the country to host an NFL coach’s show and served as the Green Bay Packers’ sideline reporter. Garcia’s work has also appeared on Milwaukee Public Radio and in several newspapers and magazines. A Madison native, she teaches journalism at two universities in Milwaukee, and is the author of two previous books, My Life with the Green and Gold and No Stone Unturned.

Boswell will be at the Shorewood Public Library selling Jessie Garcia's books.

Thursday, August 11, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Charles J. Sykes, author of Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education

This is the first in our series of events highlighting higher ed and the Wisconsin Idea. Upcoming programs include Jack Mitchell in conversation with Kathleen Dunn for Wisconsin on the Air on August 17, 7 pm, J. David Hoeveler talking about John Bascom and the Origins of the Wisconsin Idea on Wednesday, September 7, 7 pm, both at Boswell, and Sara Goldrick-Rab, author of Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, cosponsored by Wisconsin Hope Lab, at Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall, 733 N Eight St, Thursday, September 22, 6:30 pm.

The cost of a college degree has increased by 1,125% since 1978 - four times the rate of inflation. Total student debt is $1.3 trillion. Many private universities charge tuitions ranging from $60-70,000 per year. Nearly 2/3 of all college students must borrow to study, and the average student graduates with more than $30,000 in debt. 53% of college graduates under 25 years old are unemployed or underemployed (working part-time or in low-paying jobs that do not require college degrees). Professors - remember them? - rarely teach undergraduates at many major universities. 76% of all university classes are taught by part-time, untenured faculty. Sykes's new book Fail U. looks at these trends, as well as his take on current trends in university culture, and asks, "Is it worth it?"

About the Author: Charles J. Sykes is senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and a talk show host at WTMJ radio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today and is a contributor to MSNBC. He is the author of seven previous books including A Nation of Victims, Dumbing Down Our Kids, and Profscam.

Sunday, August 14, 2:00 pm, at Boswell:
Journey on a Sound Safari, a kids activity time with Milwaukee Public Television

Help the children in your life bridge the summer learning gap. Join MPTV and Boswell Books on a Sound Safari Adventure on August 14, 2 pm at Boswell Books. Pick up your summer reading chart at Boswell Books,  keep track of your summer reading, and then celebrate your success with an afternoon of adventure. The event is free and open to the public. Best for ages 4 to 8. The highlight of this program will be a Sound Safari. MPTV’s Julie will play a series of sound effects and kids guess what the sounds are. We’ll talk about places and the sounds we hear there and how sound is different in different places. The forest doesn’t sound like a swimming pool! Together we'll make a sound-effect rainstorm, and then we’ll discuss how when you read, you have to imagine the sounds in the books. And that’s how reading inspires our imagination!