Monday, December 5, 2016

Event forecast: Michael Lenehan on APT, Erika Janik at East Library, Tim Lapetino at 42 Lounge, Jason Diamond at Urban Harvest, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Theatre Gigante's "Santaland Diaries," Neal Shusterman at Shorewood Library, and Shauna Singh Baldwin's new collection of essays.

Monday, December 5, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Lenehan, author of Much Ado: A Summer with a Repertory Theatre Company

Michael Lenehan is an award-winning Chicago-based writer and editor, who for many years was the chief editorial executive at the Chicago Reader. He has written for the Atlantic Monthly, where he was a contributing editor in the 1980s and 90s, and for Chicago magazine and The New York Times, among others.

Lenehan chronicles the development of the legendary American Players Theatre production of Much Ado About Nothing, from casting to costumes.

From Mike Fischer in the Journal Sentinel: "I’ve experienced more such moments at APT than any theater in the country. It’s nice to see a good book make so much ado about the many magicians bringing those moments to life."

Tuesday, December 6, 6 pm, at East Library, 2320 N Cramer St at North Ave:
Erika Janik, author of Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction

Erika Janik is an award-winning writer, historian, and the executive producer of Wisconsin Life on Wisconsin Public Radio. She’s the author of five previous books, including Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine.

Her newest is Pistols and Petticoats, which tells the story of women’s very early place in crime fiction and their public crusade to transform policing. Whether real or fictional, investigating women were nearly always at odds with society. Most women refused to let that stop them, paving the way to a modern professional life for women on the force and in popular culture.

East Library is a beautifully designed branch of the Milwaukee Public Library. It's just across the street from Beans and Barley, giving you the perfect dinner option.

Tuesday, December 6, 7 pm, at 42 Lounge, 326 E Mason St in downtown Milwaukee
Tim Lapetino, author of Art of Atari

Tim Lapentino is the Executive Director of the Museum of Video Game Art. Lapentino teaches logo design, brand identity, and brand standards as Adjunct Faculty at Chicago Portfolio School, and serves on the non-profit AIGA Chicago's Board of Directors as Co-Development Chair.He also co-authored the design inspiration book Damn Good: Top Designers Discuss Their All-Time Favorite Projects and has written for HOW, Geek Monthly, RETRO, and other publications.

Atari is one of the most recognized names in the world. Since its formation in 1972, the company pioneered hundreds of iconic titles, including Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command. In addition to hundreds of games created for arcades, home video systems, and computers, original artwork was specially commissioned to enhance the Atari experience, further enticing children and adults to embrace and enjoy the new era of electronic entertainment. Art of Atari is the first official collection of such artwork.

42 Lounge is the perfect place to enjoy an event that celebrates the world of Atari. If you've never been, join us for an evening at a bar that celebrates the geek in all of us. As it's a bar, 21+ admission is required.

Wednesday, December 7, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Lucy Jane Bledsoe, author of A Thin Bright Line

Lucy Jane Bledsoe is an award-winning science writer and novelist for adults and children.Her many books include The Ice Cave: A Woman’s Adventures from the Mojave to the Antarctic, The Big Bang Symphony: A Novel of Antarctica, and This Wild Silence.

Here's a bit about the new novel. "At the height of the Cold War, Lucybelle Bledsoe is offered a job seemingly too good to pass up. However, there are risks. Her scientific knowledge and editorial skills are unparalleled, but her personal life might not withstand government scrutiny. Leaving behind the wreckage of a relationship, Lucybelle finds solace in working for the visionary scientist who is extracting the first-ever polar ice cores. The lucidity of ice is calming and beautiful. But the joyful pangs of a new love clash with the impossible compromises of queer life. If exposed, she could lose everything she holds dear."

Wednesday, December 7, 7 pm, at Urban Harvest Brewery, 1024 S Fifth St in Walker Point
Jason Diamond, author of Searching for John Hughes: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Watching ‘80s Movies

Jason Diamond is an Associate Editor at Men’s Journal, a columnist at Electric Literature, former Literary Editor at Flavorwire, and the founding editor of Vol. 1 Brooklyn. Diamond grew up in the Chicago area, where he had a tough childhood, but found inspiratio in the films of John Hughes, the acclaimed Chicago filmmaker responsible for the adolescent angst classics Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, to say nothing of a little crowd pleaser called Home Alone.

Here's the Wall Street Journal review of Searching for John Hughes.

Urban Harvest is a great brewery with a theater in the back of the tasting room. If you've never been before, this is a great opportunity to check it out. As it's a bar, 21+ admission is required.

Friday, December 9, 7 pm, at Boswell
Theatre Gigante presents Michael Stebbins reading “The Santaland Diaries” from David Sedaris’s Holidays on Ice

Theatre Gigante, headed by co-artistic directors Isabel Kralj and Mark Anderson, is a performing arts organization dedicated to the creation and presentation of performance work that integrates theater, dance, text, and music, through which the company fosters inter-disciplinary collaborations and original work. For the holiday season, Theatre Gigante is presenting a reading of "The Santaland Diaries," the famous essay turned radio monologue turned stage play. First heard on NPR in 1992, it's David Sedaris's story of being an elf at the Herald Square Macy's Santaland.

Daniel aside: I have a friend (not Sedaris) who actually was an elf at Santaland in the late 1970s while I worked in the basement packing hard goods at Macy's Herald Square.

Saturday, December 10, 2 pm, at Shorewood Public Library, 3920 N Murray Ave, just south of Capitol Dr:
Neal Shusterman, author of Scythe, volume one of the Future Perfect series

Neal Shusterman is The New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including Unwind and its sequels, The Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows.

Here's the setup for the new book: "A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do."

Boswellian Kelli O'Malley gives two thumbs up to Scythe, praising the writing and the surprising places the plot goes. She's read a lot of YA novels so it takes a lot to surprise her.

Monday, December 12, 7 pm, at Boswell (corrected):
Shauna Singh Baldwin, author of Reluctant Rebellions: New and Selected Nonfiction

Baldwin’s fiction, poems, and essays have been published in literary and popular magazines, anthologies, and newspapers. Her work has been translated into fourteen languages. In fifteen speeches and essays written between 2001 and 2015, Shauna Singh Baldwin brings a new perspective and voice to Canadian public discourse. Offering examples from her personal journey as a writer and a South Asian woman who needs to “become as hyphenated as possible,” Baldwin transcends homogenized national identities.

Baldwin is a Canadian and Milwaukee treasure both whose work has been shortlisted for the Giller Prize.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Our bestsellers for the week ending December 3, 2016--the runaway holiday bestsellers are now pretty clear, unless a media firestorm explodes in the next week. And who doesn't mind that?

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
2. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
3. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
4. The Misletoe Murder, by P.D. James
5. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
6. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
7. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
8. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
9. Hag Seed, by Margaret Atwood
10. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

I have vowed to finish The Underground Railroad by the end of the year, and I have passed the point of no return, which is page 50. I do a variation on the Nancy Pearl theory of trying out books. She says 50 pages or your age minus 100 if you are over 50. I say age has nothing to do with it, and I am more concerned with how late I can give up than how many pages I have to give the book I'm trying. So I say you have 50 pages or 10% of the book to quit, whichever is longer.

I should also note that four of The Washington Post's top 5 fiction books of 2016 are represented here. The only holdout is Tana French's The Trespasser, but it's not like we're not trying. Boswellian Sharon Nagel called this "another fantastic tale from one of my favorite mystery writers."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Good Stock, by Sanford D'Amato
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. Atlas Obscura, by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton
4. Thank You for Being Late, by Thomas Friedman
5. Gunslinger, by Jeff Pearlman
6. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
7. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
8. Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
9. Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard
10. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
11. Absolutely on Music, by Haruki Murakami
12. Speaking American, by Josh Katz
13. Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks
14. Women in Science, by Rachel Ignotofsky
15. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

I am completey obsessed with Speaking American, by Josh Katz. As a New Yorker who moved to Wisconsin many years ago, it explains a lot of stuff. When do scallions turn into green onions? Why does Milwaukee say soda like New York but Chicago says pop? And what part of the country says flapjacks? Turns out that the answer is just about nobody. It's all told with infographic maps and I can't stop looking at them.

So interesting to see three of our lists having runaway bestsellers that are likely to dominate our charts through Christmas (Underground Railroad, Evicted, A Man Called Ove) while the others do not. But another reason for me to finish reading Railroad is so I can say I read the #1 book on all five lists this week.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild (book club discussion 12/5 at 7)
3. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
4. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
5. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
6. Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart
7. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
8. Afterward, by Edith Wharton/Seth
9. The Lake House, by Kate Morton
10. The Association of Small Bombs, by Karan Mahajan

The New York Times ten best books of 2016 is out and it's a little more offbeat than the Washington Post's, though still including Underground Railroad. It does include The Association of Small Bombs, which hit our top 10 this week. The book was a National Book Award finalist and also received hosannas from Sam Sacks at The Wall Street Journal: "The Association of Small Bombs is not the first novel about the aftermath of a terrorist attack, but it is the finest I’ve read at capturing the seduction and force of the murderous, annihilating illogic that increasingly consumes the globe."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Frozen Custard, by Kathleen McCann and Robert Tanzilo
2. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson
3. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
4. The Politics of Resentment, by Katherine Cramer
5. The English and Their History, by Robert Tombs
6. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
7. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
8. The Price of Inequality, by Joseph E. Stiglitz
9. Adventures in Human Being, by Gavin Francis
10. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein

You never know what's going to take off at Boswell, but between the Anglophiles and award-o-philes, Robert Tombs's The English and Their History was destined for some decent sales. It was named a best book of the year by The Daily Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, The Times, The Spectator, and The Economist. Christopher Silvester wrote in The Financial Times that the book "deserves to be widely read" while The Economist said it "deserves a place on every educated Englander's bedside table."

Books for Kids:
1. Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K. Rowling
3. Gingerbread Christmas, by Jan Brett
4. Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Beaty with illustrations by David Roberts
5. The Story Orchestra, by Jessica Courtney-Tickle
6. The Outsiders 50th anniversary, by S.E. Hinton
7. We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen
8. Cityblock, by Christopher Franceschelli with illustrations by Peskimo
9. Little Blue Truck's Christmas, by Alice Schertle with illustrations by Jill McElmurry
10. A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara

Since we end our sales on Saturday, our Sunday event with Jan Brett will not register till next week, though we had enough presales to get Gingerbread Christmas to #3. It's Brett's third Gingerbread book, with a cookie orchestra entertaining the town in this installment. Like our bookseller Olivia V. who worked the talk and signing at Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall, Ms. Brett is a clarinetist, while her husband Joe plays the bass.

Over in the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Michael Chabon's Moonglow, which like recent novels in our top 10 from Jane Hamilton and Ann Patchett, draws very closely on Chabon's family story, specifically that of his grandfather. Fischer wrote: "The existence of this beautiful, brave book confirms that we must nevertheless continue constructing narratives, no matter how ephemeral they are. We cannot fully recover what’s been lost. But we can tell stories like this one, remembering where we came from so that we might somehow keep going."

Reprinted from Newsday is Tom Beer's review of Born a Crime, the new memoir from Trevor Noah, who took over The Daily Show from Jon Stewart. The verdict: "Americans will know Trevor Noah much better after reading his terrific new memoir, “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.” Not that the book is in any way a promotional tool for the television show. Nor is it the conventionally thin gruel that constitutes a celebrity memoir these days. Noah has a real tale to tell, and he tells it well — the tale of a boyhood in South Africa during and after apartheid."

From the Charlotte News and Observer comes John Murawski's review of Words on the Move: Why English Won't - and Can't - Sit Still (Like Literally.) Murawski muses: "To professional linguists who obsess over the minutiae of language change, pedantic scorn for linguistic evolution reflects what might well be termed a creationist mindset. 'Indeed, the way we are taught to process language is as antique as our ancestors’ sense of how nature worked,' McWhorter writes. 'One of the hardest notions for a human being to shake is that a language is something that is, when it is actually something always becoming.'"

Friday, December 2, 2016

When the Holiday Season Gets Out of Control, it's Time for me to Read About Department Stores - a Review of Linda B. Forgosh's "Louis Bamberger."

As a bookseller for many years, I have always found it interesting to spot trends. This comes in handy at Boswell, of course. Even though I don't do the buying, I can certainly make some good predictions about what's going to work. Honestly, I can also make some bad predictions. It can sometimes make for good displays, and it often gives me something interesting to say when I am speaking to groups about books, such as at my Shorewood Public Library talk on December 3, at 11 am.*

This interest in trends is certainly not limited to books. I have followed retail stores for all of my adult life, which is one of the reasons Boswell has a display of private label bandage tins. They'd all be store brands if I could have found enough - alas, I had to fill it out with Curad and the like. And having just done a bit of retail browsing, in stores, catalogs, and websites, I have noticed, for example, three pushes in menswear.

1. Fancy flannel. The nicest casual shirts in retail seem to be flannel. I don't have the numbers, but there's clearly been a resurgence this season. But it's not just the percentage of shelf space - I have noticed more retailers and websites featuring less rugged, more streetsmart options. Some shirts seem ready to wear with a sports jacket or even a suit. I remember seeing this in a Dayton's in St. Paul a number of years ago, and still have a snazzy sample from the display.

2. Dull colors with doodads. This is something I noticed this season when trying to replace a ratty cardigan and a wool car coat with a broken zipper. "Sir, would you like that in black, charcoal, or a navy so dark it actually looks black? Nevermind, we actually don't have navy - it's just annother shade of black. But we have sweater inserts and tabs and contrasting knit patterns and fabrics and buttons on top of zippers." I spotted what I wanted in one catalog - a plain cut wool coat in an interesting but still dark color, but there was only a topcoat option, just a car coat. I know the sportier down and performance winterwear comes in lots of colors, but that's not what I want. So I may spend the $30 estimate and fix the zipper, even though the coat is not in great shape and came from a discount store with the original cost being not much more than the price of repair.

3. Pleats are sneaking back up on men like the Jaws theme. I've seen this in The New York Times and am now noticing "how to wear pleats" features in fashion catalogs. Of course they never went away for some, but once the pleatless look became dominant, something has to change. Sort of like tie width. It certainly hasn't gone widespread yet, but within a couple of seasons it should be ascendant again.

I guess I was in the mood to talk about fashion because I just finished reading Louis Bamberger: Department Store Innovator and Philanthropist, by Linda B. Forgosh. Bamberger's (or Bam's, I've now learned) was the leading department store of New Jersey, starting in 1892, with the nameplate disappearing in 1986. It was only independent until 1929, when Louis, having lost his business partner Felix Fuld, 74 and with no heirs, he sold to Macy's. But it was such a strong name that despite Macys rebranding their Kansas City and San Francisco operations almost immediately,** they kept the Bamberger name in tact for almost 50 years, using it for new suburban branches as well.

Here's how I know that Forgash, the Executive Director of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey, and Brandeis University Press, were more interested in his work as a philantropist - no list of branches! I'm sure there's a History or Arcadia Press book for that, or I could visit the Department Store Museum website.

Bamberger's really was an amazing feat. Newark grew to the 14th largest city in America, but Bamberger's was the sixth largest store in America, all in the shadow of New York City. If you grew up in New York, you know that New Jersey was another world. They read different newspapers - the Newark Star Ledger and the Jersey Journal. I once took the PATH to New Jersey, to visit Hahne's and the just-renamed-to-Macy's Bambergers, and remember paying an outrageous long distance charge for a phone call. Fortunately Louis B's restaurant was still open. I ate there of course.

Did you know that L. Bamberger and Company had the first department store radio station, WOR, which still broadcasts to this day? Did you know that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade actually was a Bamberger's ritual from 1924, and moved to New York in 1929? And while their magazine that went to their better customers, Charm, folded in the depression, per Forgosh, it was actually folded into Glamour, which also continues to this day?

I'm not playing down the philanthropy. Bamberger contributed to and participated in all sorts of charitable endeavors. While not religious, he understood the plight of Jewish immigrants and funded Newark's YM-YWHA (the equivalent of Milwaukee's JCC). Jewish doctors couldn't practice so he helped with the Jewish hospital. Newark. Newark needed culture so Bamberger started the Newark Museum. The Bamberger Award for Scholarship went to deserviing high school students for many years after his death.

Perhaps his greatest non-retail achievement was the Institute for Advanced Study. While he hoped it might be situated in Newark, Bamberger was convinced to move it to somplace with a stronger university culture, which is how it wound up in Princeton. If you want to know more, including how Einstein became part of it, Forgosh tells you all about it.

As detailed as the book was, I wanted to know more. Louis grew up the child of Hutzlers, who had their own department store in Baltimore. Why was he left out of that, having to head to New York and then Newark to make his fortune? A bachelor who lived with his business partner and his sister (who married his partner after her first husband died!), I can only imagine the story Renee Rosen (What the Lady Wants, on Marshall Field) could find in the historical archives, had her literary interest not been focused on Chicago.

There is clearly another story in Mr. Bamberger's life, but alas, being that few people outside of New Jersey probably even know who he is, it might be written, but probably won't be published, unless Philip "Mr. Newark" Roth decides to write another book. But for retail junkies*** like myself, there's plenty to enjoy, such as Bamberger's annual poultry show!

*That's tomorrow, for folks reading this essay on the day of posting.

**In Kansas City they bought O'Connor Moffatt and Company, and in San Francisco, their acquisition was John Taylor Dry Goods.

***Because of my junkie nature, I have to point out that when listing stores with distinctive clocks, the author mentions Ayer's of Indianapolis. I know she meant Ayres (or formally, L.S. Ayres and Company). Lyman's last name ended in s, so were you to use the possessive, it would be Ayres' or Ayres's, depending on which style guide you used. But the store itself did not use an apostrophe, until the last sign was removed, circumventing this issue.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

The first week of the holiday season, as retold in the Boswell bestseller lists for week ending Nov 26, 2016

Here's what sold at Boswell this past week, including the two days of the holiday weekend, because for some reason, Sunday doesn't count.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
2. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith
3. A Lowcountry Christmas, by Mary Alice Monroe
4. Moonglow, by Michael Chabon
5. The Whistler, by John Grisham
6. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
7. The Mistletoe Murders, by P.D. James
8. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
9. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
10. Miss Jane, by Brad Watson

It feels rare for a literary novel to be released so late in November, but it doesn't seem to have hurt coverage of Moonglow, and perhaps it even helped, being after the election. Sam Sacks offered this praise in The Wall Street Journal: "Moonglow is not a memoir but a flamboyantly imaginative work of fiction dressed in the sheep’s clothing of autobiography. The year is 1989. Like Mr. Chabon, Mike is fresh off an acclaimed debut novel, and here he joins his memories of his grandfather’s last days with colorful retellings of the man’s stories."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Thank You for Being Late, by Thomas Friedman
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
4. Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
5. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
6. Women in Science, by Rachel Ignotofsky
7. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
8. Upstream, by Mary Oliver
9. Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders
10. Speaking American, by Josh Katz

I've always said Milwaukee is a "soda" town surrounded by "pop" country and Josh Katz's linguistic maps prove it. Business Insider offers just a few of the many examples in this book about pronounciation changes, that are not always specifically north/south or east/west, in Speaking America: How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide. But one thing that was odd was that "youse" wasn't on the "you guys" vs. "y'all" map.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
2. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
3. The Drifter, by Nick (formerly Nicholas) Petrie
4. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
5. The Vegetarian, by Han Kang
6. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
7. The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen
8. The President's Hat, by Antoine Laurain
9. The Story of a New Name V2, by Elena Ferrante
10. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay V3, by Elena Ferrante

I continue to be impressed by how effective our awards case is and I commend Jason for updating it so regularly. The Korean writer Han Kang has been selling well for The Vegetarian, which was awarded the Man Booker International Prize. Horatia Harrod profiled the author and book in The Financial Times, and discusses the South Korean's efforts to have more of their work translated into English. Of the work, she writes: "It's the story of a young woman, Yeong-hye, who is plagued by violent, bloody dreams, and decides as a result to give up meat. As she retreats into silence, and eventually starvation, her husband, brother-in-law, and sister recount their horrified, uncomprehending, and occasionally savage responses to her act of radical abnegation."

 Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Frozen Custard, by Kathleen McCann and Robert Tanzilo
2. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3. The Power of Kindness 10th Anniversary Edition, by Piero Ferrucci
4. WTF: What the French?, by Olivier Magny
5. Best American Infographics 2016, by Gareth Cook
6. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
7. Ocean of Insight, by Lyn Heather
8. Roughneck Grace, by Michael Perry
9. Cake Magic, by Caroline Wright
10. SPQR, by Mary Beard

A local connection probably helped pop Heather Lyn Mann's memoir about traveling the Atlantic in a small sloop, chronicled in Ocean of Insight: A Sailor's Voyage from Despair to Hope. She uses her voyage to ponder climate change,and comes at it from a Buddhist perspective. I wondered why the events were showing up in South Carolina, but figured out she decamped to Charleston. Sunflower Sangha called it " heart-pounding narrative and thoughtful inquiry of how to live in a suffering world."

Books for Kids:
1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a screenplay by J.K. Rowling
2. March V3, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
3. I Dissent, by Debbie Levy, with illustrations by Elizabeth Baddeley
4. A Is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara
5. Gingerbread Christmas, by Jan Brett (event next Sunday, Dec 4, 10 am, at Centennial Hall)
6. Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Beaty, with illustrations by David Roberts
7. Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White, by Melissa Sweet
8. Dog Man V1, by Dav Pilkey
9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone illustrated edtion, by J.K. Rowling with art from Jim Kay
10. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition, by J.K. Rowling with art from Jim Kay

It's not surprising to have 3 Harry Potter books in the top 10 with the screenplay at #1 and Cursed Child trailing at #11. He had a lot of folks trying to order the original Fantastic Beasts but it's currently not available. Since it was so small, it was a bit surprising to not find it included with the screenplay. Jason says there's a new edition, written by Newt Scamander himself, planned for next year. The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay is still selling best, but there's lot of other things out, including scrap books, art of the film giftbooks, and coloring books.

Over at the Journal Sentinel TapBooks page, it's time for 100 Books for Holiday Giving. Yes, there are 100 books altogether--here are the 10 editor's picks.
1. Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs, from Library of America
2. Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton
3. The Big Book of Science Fiction, Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
4. Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
5. Gunslinger: The Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre, by Jeff Pearlman
6. Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing, by Jennifer Weiner
7. Octavia E. Butler, by Gerry Canavan
8. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
9. As Good As Gone, by Larry Watson

There are lots of other categories of highlighted titles - fine fiction, compelling nonfiction, mysteries and thrillers, Wisconsin connections, visually interesting, unconventional books, musical subjects, Beatles books, sports, pop culture, and children and teens.

One last note on categorization. Adult vs. kids designations can sometimes be arbitrary, often due to which editor signed up a book and how the sales forces sell it in. This week I moved the March graphic novel from adult to kids only because it won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and was sold into us not specifically as a kids book. But Women in Science, which is also classified as a kids book, but was published by a designation of Penguin Random House (Ten Speed) which is not part of the kids division, is still classified with our adult books. And by the way, so is March, so you might one day see it here as paperback nonfiction. Go figure!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy Small Business Saturday: Five beautful kids books, selected by Amie

The holiday season is upon us. We had a very Black Friday. It's my guess that the flow is not unusual for independent bookstores and perhaps indie retail in general. We're not busy in the morning, because of all the door buster style deals elsewhere and not that busy in the evening, because there's no sense of urgency and the store vibe is more of a Saturday than a Friday. We're busier on Friday because people come after work, but less people work on Saturday. Does that make sense? So if you're paying attention, the busiest hours are 1 to 5 pm.

The vibe is different today, perhaps because of Small Business Saturday and perhaps because while the sales continue from Friday (and often Thursday), there aren't as many "look at me" deals. And Sunday? A surprising number of sales are Friday-Saturday only, and the industry assumes there's mostly goodbyes and travel. 

We don't have extra sales on the weekend, but we do have more titles on sale this time of year. Jason and Amie close to double the amount of titles on Boswell's Best, our 20% off program. And of course for these titles, you are still allowed to use your $5 Boswell Benefits coupons. Here are a few of our kids buyer Amie's picks for the season.

First up is Atlas of Animal Adventures: A Collection of Nature's Most Unmissable Events, Epic Migrations and Extraordinary Behaviors ($30.00), written by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins, and illustrated by Lucy Letherland, the folks who did the popular Atlas of Adventures.. Emily Hawkins has written Oceanology and other titles in the Ology series.These Wide Eyed titles are very cool. Publishers Weekly writess: "The text, including small sidebars and caption-style statements, emphasizes scientific details and trivia for readers to file away ("The narwhal can dive almost 6,000 feet deep to feed on halibut"), but Letherland isn't afraid to have fun in her artwork, showing a puffin fishing with a rod and reel, an orangutan wielding a magnifying glass, and a bowerbird tidying up the forest floor with a rake."

One thing that's amusing is that while the book jacket itself was Americanized (behaviour became behaviour), the bibliographic and marketing copy was not, the difference being most noticeable on our website, and by the way, we don't write the annotations for the hundreds of thousands of books you can search for. It's always a little odd when an author writes to us and asks us to correct the bibliographic information. I usually tell them they can write to the 350 or so stores that use our system or have their publisher contact the supplier that is feeding us the information, but only one option is really going to fix the problem.

Up next is Jungle ($25.95), the new Photicular book created by Dan Kainen, with this volume written by Kathy Woolard. The publisher notes: "Using unique Photicular technology, Jungle parts the mysterious veil of this sun-dappled land and reveals—in fluid 3-D motion—the living exuberance within. Watch a tarantula scuttle across the forest floor. A dancing whipsnake flick its tongue. A Bengal tiger on the prowl, and a brilliant green and red macaw soar above the canopy."

Kathy Woolard writes the "How Come?" column for Newsday. I'm not sure who did the photography (Kainen I guess, though details might be on the copyright page) and I'm particularly amused by the marketing materials, which included photos from the book, but not Photicular photos. These are fun and the technology doesn't seem to get old (I still play with each one as it is published). We've had huge successes (and not so huge successes) with these in the past. You know what they say - kids like animals.

The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons in One Day ($22.99), is a project of Jessica Courtney-Tickle. Of the project, the publishers write: "Discover what it would be like to travel through the four seasons in one day, following a little girl called Isabelle and her dog, Pickle, as they take on the adventure of a lifetime. As a sign of the changing seasons, Isabelle carries a little apple tree with her, and we see it bud, blossom and lose its leaves. Each spread features a musical note to press and a 10 second sound clip from the original score of Vivaldi's Four Seasons."

There's a lot to like in the book, from the package to the illustrations (I could cards from this illustrator doing very well - that always seems to be my perspective nowadays) to the introduction to classical music. A friend in college had The Four Seasons in regular rotation in college. Apparently it is just the thing to listen to while reading The Lord of the Rings series over and over.

ThinkTouchLearn ABC ($24.99) is the title from this list featured in our handout gift guide. It's created by Xavier Deneux, a Paris-based designer who has created over 100 books. We have had huge success with French packages in the past, most notably Before After, which I had a fun time championing. Every designer eventually has to do an ABC book when they are designing for early childhood, right?

Here's the publisher's explanation: "Raised die-cut pieces nestled in mirroring indented cut-outs engage readers on both visual and tactile levels." You really have to see this to get it, much like the Photicular books. So the vines make the J in jungle, for example and they are indented. There's an indented E in the elephant. Kids this age like to do a lot of touching and indentations and raised images are just the thing for them.

From France, we go to Poland, where Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts grads Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski have created Under Water, Under Earth ($35.00), from the creators of Maps. Hundreds of fascinating await! As School Library Journal writes: "labels, cross sections, cutaways, and sequenced processes." The title in Polish is "Pod ziemina, pod wodna," but no, we don't have the Polish edition.

Under Water, Under Earth is two books in one. The first is everything you wanted to know about the deep sea and when you flip it over, it's everything you wanted to know about below ground.

I love the Maps book, and was pleased to see that the Mizielisnskis were nominated for the BolognaRagazzi Award. But what is that? It's given out at the Bologna Children's Book Fair and the first thing I learned is that there is not space between Bologna and Ragazzi, contrary to the publisher's and wholesaler's copy. It "acknowledges and celebrates publishing excellence in terms of graphic layout, format innovation and general ability to capture a young reader's attention." Under Water, Under Earth was not a 2016 winner, but I assume the book won in a previous year and took some time to come Stateside.

So here's what you need to know. All five books are discounted on Boswell's Best through December 31. All five are discounted on our website, so you can actually order the titles for pickup in store or delivery and you will get the discount if you pay by credit card. We do have a delivery charge, but if you bought all five, you would go above our threshold for us paying the freight for you (what we call in the business "free freight" but don't forget, somebody's paying for it.)

Secondly, I have selected these titles because in each case, online descriptions  and images (like mine) do not do justice to the books. You have to come in and see them to really appreciate them.

But most of all, remember that all these books are probably printed overseas and may have limiited distribution, meaning we will surely run out of stock of at least one of them, if not all, before Christmas. So for books like this, don't wait till the lat minute. I warned you.

Enjoy Small Business Saturday and the rest of your holiday shopping.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Custard fans rejoice! "Milwauke Frozen Custard" is now available.

I moved to Milwaukee many years ago to be a bookseller, but before I came here for keeps, I visited for a week. It turns out that I knew several folks with connections here, and just about everyone had one piece of advice for me in common - I had to try some custard.

Now like many people who had not been to Milwaukee, I didn't exactly know what they were talking about. We had frozen custard stands in New York. There was Carvel of course, home of Fudgie the Whale and Cookie Puss. And there was the independent stand that my dad and I visited regularly, when he filled up for gas. The store was Frozen Cup and it was a fixture of Bellerose Queens for decades.

But there was something different about the custard here. It was thicker and it scooped like ice cream, instead of funneling right into the cone or cup like Mister Softee. I thought, this is a completely different thing. But after reading Milwaukee Frozen Custard, the delightful new book from Kathleen McCann and Robert (Bobby) Tanzilo, I now know it wasn't as different as I thought.

Most of the iconic stands in Milwaukee use the continuous flow method, where the custard goes into a bin and is scooped out. And yes, East Coast stands, including Kohr Brothers*, which invented custard, use soft serve. But Bartolotta's uses soft serve method their North Point and Osgood restaurants.

And that does not determine custard. It's apparently the higher butter fat content and even more importantly the egg yolk solids. The minimum 1.4% but most local custards are closer to 5%. And that's the thing that makes the custard taste different though some would insist that Wisconsin companies use a higher percentage of butter fat than those New York ones.

What I didn't know is that the Carvel of my childhood is not the Carvel of today. After Tom died, the company was sold and they no longer serve what legally qualifies as custard. The Frozen Cup was torn down to build a motel.**

Milwaukee Frozen Custard does a great job trying to delve into why Wisconsin adopted this East Coast product and never let go. Interestingly enough, it's much like the Supper Club phenomenon, another East Cost food fad that wound up camping out here on its way west, surviving here after it pretty much died out everywhere else. And you have to read about the mix and the machines - fascinating!

Milwaukee Frozen Custard profiles not just the big three, but every stand that in the metro area, and some as far as Madison, Sheboygan, and Kenosha, even many that no longer exist, like Lixx, the stand that was on Downer Avenue for many years.*** If McCann and Tanzilo could find information about a stand, they documented it. This book is definitely going to make you want to organize a custard crawl. Just writing this up inspired me to have a scoop of tiramisu at Kopps on Friday.

Yes, I'm a flavor person, and I like the doodads that get mixed in. Perhaps you are a vanilla purist, or perhaps you go for that seemingly most popular of secondary flavors, butter pecan. My father liked a good fruit flavor, and when they visited me, I'd keep an eye out for things like raspberry. I don't think there was a cherry vanilla in rotation (which is odd, considering Door County cherries and all that) because if there was, I think my parents would have moved here.

Or maybe they would have opened a Culver's franchise, which is spreading all over the country. My sister just got one near her home in Phoenix. I should note that Shake Shack, a similar popular concept, is more inspired by the Ted Drewes custard stands in St. Louis than the Wisconsin stands. I visited one of the Drewes stands and if my memory serves, they don't do a flavor of the day. How purist!

Tanzilo and McCann (pictured here with Karl Kopp at our recent event) will surely be doing a number of events in conjunction with the book and we'd be remiss if we didn't tell you about ours, on Tuesday, November 22, 7 pm, at Boswell. Will there be slides? Yes. Will there be custard? Alas, not at this one, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's served at others.

*Originating in Brooklyn, just like one of the authors.

**Another thing the area around the custard stand had in common with Milwaukee was that it was city on one side, suburb on the other. Unlike 27th Street (which is a Greenfield/Milwaukee border), the street had different names, but I learned they renamed Jamaica Avenue to Jericho Turnpike above 225th St. More on the Forgotten New York site. The things you learn while you are preparing for book events!

***It replaced a Baskin-Robbins, by the way.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Boswell's Annotated Bestseller Lists, for the week ending November 19, featuring the National Book Awards sales pop and more.

Here's what sold at Boswell last week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
2. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
3. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
4. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
5. Death in Cold Water V3, by Patricia Skalka
6. The Whistler, by John Grisham
7. Precious and Grace V17, by Alexander McCall Smith
8. No Man's Land V4, by David Baldacci
9. Chaos V24, by Patricia Cornwell
10. Night School V21, by Lee Child

Apparantly November brings out the series buyer at Boswell, with fully half the top ten fiction titles featuring a recurring protagonist. But at the top are four stand-alones, with the top three all being shortlisted for the National Book Award. In the end, The Underground Railroad took home the prize but his top ranking at Boswell was eclipsed by News of the World due to some hand-selling and a gift order from one of our regulars.

From The New York Times, Janet Maslin writes of Jiles's latest: "News of the World is a narrow but exquisite book about the joys of freedom (experienced even by a raging river threatening to overrun its banks); the discovery of unexpected, proprietary love between two people who have never experienced anything like it; pure adventure in the wilds of an untamed Texas; and the reconciling of vastly different cultures (as when Kidd has to explain to Johanna, who is all set to collect a white man’s scalp, that this 'is considered very impolite' and simply isn’t done). That’s a lot to pack into a short (213 pages), vigorous volume, but Ms. Jiles is capable of saying a lot in few words."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Torn in Two, by Michael Schumacher
3. Much Ado, by Michael Lenehan (event 12/5, 7 pm, at Boswell)
4. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
5. Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard
6. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
7. Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders
8. Lithium Jesus, by Charles Monroe-Kane
9. Appetites, by Anthonny Bourdain
10. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

In the wake of the election, I suspect that sales for Bernie Sanders's Our Revolution are higher than had Hillary Clinton won the Electoral College, but I guess we'll see this coming week when the Bookscan and New York Times numbers come out. The Chicago Tribune covered a Sanders appearance at North Central College: "Sanders was ostensibly at North Central College to plug his new book, Our Revolution, but he gave a postelection version of his populist anti-Wall Street stump speech that the audience of liberal arts students and other fellow travelers seemed desperate to hear. Less boisterously received, however, were some of Sanders' comments about Donald Trump, who he said "did something the Democrats do not do often enough and that is speak about the pain and despair" felt by people "all over this country who are working two and three jobs. ... They are struggling and nobody is paying attention to them."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox
2. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
3. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. The Drifter V1, by Nick Petrie
6. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
7. Death Stalks Door County V1, by Patricia Skalka
8. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
9. Selected Stories, by Anton Chekhov
10. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

Our book club night with Lauren Fox for Days of Awe edged out Paul Beatty's sales surge for The Sellout post Man Booker win. Does this definitively determine that the Man Booker has more domestic oomph than does the National Book Critic Circle Awards? It certainly has proven so in this case. And the book with the most oomph at our book club night? It was Miriam Toews's All My Puny Sorrows. And while we're doing just fine with the book, there's said to be a store out west that is on its way to selling 1000 copies of this book. Now that's passion.

Nonfiction Paperback:
1. Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton
2. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
3. The Clothing of Books, by Jhumpa Lahiri (originally a speech that Lahiri gave in Italy)
4. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
5. Magna Carta, by Dan Jones
6. Hope in the Dark, by Rebecca Solnit
7. November's Fury, by Michael Schumacher
8. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
9. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
10. A Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes

If I had the energy, I'd figure out why it took four years to do a paperback on Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography (see above) and got very nice reviews, like this from Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Was it selling too steadily in its hardcover edition? Was it not selling enough? Was it selling just enough to slowly sell down the hardcovers and the demand was mostly academic so price point didn't matter? Our sales are classroom purchases (yes, college students still very occasionally come into a trade bookstore to buy their textbook, if the indie-bookstore-fan instructor pushes students in that direction) so that might be the case. But I don't have the energy.

Books for Kids:
1. Sophie's Squash Go to School, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf
2. Because of Thursday, by Patricia Polacco
3. Sharing the Bread, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Jill McElmurry
4. Sophies Squash, by Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Anne Wilsdorf
5. Double Down V11, by Jeff Kinney
6. Magic School Bus and the Climate Change, by Joanna Cole
7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a screenplay by J.K. Rowling
8. Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin
9. Dog Man V1, by Dav Pilkey
10. Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin

We shorthand all the Harry Potter books with author J.K. Rowling so they will be placed together, but like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I thought that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would have other writers. But no, I checked Ingram's database and Amazon's IMDb and both only list Rowling. I know with films there can be multiple writers that do not get writing credits, but for my purposes, it's Rowling all the way. Chris Nashawaty gave Beasts a B- in Entertainment Weekly: "The film, directed by seasoned Potter pro David Yates, unspools like a kiddie version of the X-Men flicks. The xenophobic Muggle population (or No-Majs, as they’re called Stateside) live in rabid suspicion of the hidden world of hocus-pocus. And like those films, its phantasmagorical special effects are easy on the eyes. So why does Fantastic Beasts feel so oddly lifeless? Why doesn’t it cast more of a spell? First, there are the performances, which aside from Redmayne’s are surprisingly flat. And second, the thinness of the source material gives the whole film a slightly padded feeling." Well, it is based on a textbook.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement. He writes: "What makes They Can’t Kill Us All more than a ripped-from-the-headlines chronicle is Lowery’s combination of solid reporting, emotional commitment to his story as a black man and a reflective turn of mind."

For another take, here's Joy-Ann Reid in The New York Times: "Lowery is unflinchingly honest about the journalistic temptation to seek false balance. He describes grasping at a story of positive policing that turns out to be less than what it seemed. He questions the media’s tendency to put the dead on trial, noting that 'a journalist’s portrait of the deceased is often used by the casual reader to decide if the tragic outcome that befell him or her could have happened to us,' or if it was 'reserved for someone innately criminal who behaved in a way we never would.'”

Carole E. Barrowman has three recommendations in her "Paging Through Mysteries" column.

Of Phoef Sutton's Heart Attack and Vine, which features a Los Angeles bodyguard and bouncer, Barrowman writes: "In my world any novel that alludes to a Tom Waits song with its title gets a closer look. When that reference also characterizes the sly tone, the slick characters, and the twisty plot, then I’m singing, too...every chapter was steeped in snark, wit and movie references. There’s magic in this book."

A Timely recommendation follows. From Barrowman: "Stefanie Pintoff’s City on Edge takes the thriller motif of the ticking clock and inflates it with helium, setting the search for a kidnapped teenager against the time it takes for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to march through the streets of New York." This New York writer has previously won an Edgar Award for her first novel, In the Shadows of Gotham.

And finally, Charles Finch has a new book in The Inheritance, set in 19th century London and featuring Charles Lenox, the Victorian-era gentleman sleuth who investigates the death of his old friend's mum. Barrowman writers: "Significantly more measured in its pacing than my first two recommendations, this novel is no less entertaining and evocative, a sense of time and place heightened by Finch’s elegant prose and characters this Dorothy Sayers fan adores."

And finally, from the man who knows a thing or two about chipped ham and sandwiches with french fries on them (and salads too, Pittsburgh is quite the city), Jim Higgins, Journal Sentinel Assistant Entertainment/Features Editor, reviews Chuck Noll: His Life's Work, from Michael MacCambridge. As Higgins notes: "Is any great National Football League coach so little discussed, outside of western Pennsylvania, as Chuck Noll? His Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls in six seasons in the 1970s, a stretch of dominance surpassed only by the Green Bay Packers' run of championships in the 1960s. Perhaps Noll's luster has dimmed because he appeared to have the demeanor of Bob Newhart without the shtick: a low-key, almost stoic professional who saw himself as a teacher. His teams weren't gimmicky; in fact, Noll had to be prodded into using the shotgun formation. His teams just won, baby."

Now that he mentions it, What are Mike McCarthy's hobbies? And why don't I have a good hobby? Reading really makes you think.