Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Boswell Eventorama: Dean Robbins Tuesday, Gavriel Savit Wednesday, David Mulroy Thursday, Dave Reidy with Valerie Laken Friday, Grace Helbig ticketed signing Saturday.

Tuesday, February 2, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Dean Robbins, author of Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, get together for tea and conversation. They recount their similar stories fighting to win rights for women and African Americans. The premise of this particular exchange between the two is based on a statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, which shows the two friends having tea.

This is Madison writer Dean Robbins' first day of school visits, followed with a public event. We're hosting two more schools on February 16. If you're interested in getting on the distribution list for these school opportunities, please contact Todd.

From Kirkus: "The two were friends, and in his imagined scenario, Robbins deftly moves between her objectives and words to those of Douglass. He gives a basic introduction to what society expected of women and how African-Americans were denied rights."

Wednesday, February 3, 7 pm
Gavriel Savit, author of Anna and the Swallow Man.

Here's a write up from Boswellian Jen Steele: "Professor Lania and his daughter, Anna, lived a happy charming life. Professor Lania teaches linguistics and Anna has grown up speaking many languages. Her father had many friends from all over the world and she enjoyed (was proud of?) being able to talk to them in their native tongues. But in 1939 in Poland, when Anna was in her seventh year, she learned that 'War is a heavy word in every language.' When the Germans arrived, their first mission was to target all the intellectuals and academics of the city of Krakow. She knew her father had to go, but never guessed he would not be coming back. Anna was left alone with nowhere to go, until the day she met a mysterious man who, like her, could speak many languages. Together, they embarked on a journey across Poland. During their travels, the Swallow Man taught Anna many things; most importantly the language of 'Road' and how to survive this new life of theirs. Anna and the Swallow Man is a historical novel filled with magic and suspense!"

From Shelf Awareness, here's a write up from Karin Snelson: "Savit's novel, with its wise, philosophical narrator, has the classic feel and elegant, precise language of a book that's been around forever. Amidst a riveting survival story of brutal cold, hunger and chilling narrow escapes are musings on the power of words and the power of silence, the value of truth and the necessity of lies, the horrors of war, the resilience of people, love, death, the keen intuition of children, living with uncertainty. Alongside the purposeful detachment that comes with the storyteller's voice, though, is real, edge-of-seat suspense and powerful emotion. The details of Swallow Man's true identity - Is he the Polish bogeyman Boruta? Is he really a magical being? Is he a 'brilliant, beautiful deception?' - don't ultimately matter because, as the Swallow Man tells Anna, 'questions are far more valuable than answers.'"

Thursday, February 4, 7 pm, at Boswell:
David Mulroy, translator of Aeschylus's Agamemnon.

Agamemnon, King of Argos, returns to Greece a victor in the Trojan War. He has brought with him the seer Cassandra as his war-prize and concubine. Awaiting him is his vengeful wife Clytemnestra, who is angry at Agamemnon’s sacrifice of their daughter Iphigeneia to the gods, jealous of Cassandra, and guilty of taking a lover herself. The events that unfold catch everyone in a bloody net, including their absent son Orestes. Aeschylus (525–456 BC) was the first of the three great tragic dramatists of ancient Greece, a forerunner of Sophocles and Euripides. His early tragedies were largely choral pageants with minimal plots. In Agamemnon, choral songs still predominate, but Aeschylus infuses them with such dramatic feeling that the spectator or reader is constantly spellbound.

Translator David Mulroy, professor emeritus of classics at UWM, brings this ancient tragedy to life for modern readers and audiences. Using end rhyme and strict metrics, he combines the buoyant lyricism of the Greek text with a faithful rendering of its meaning in lucid English. You can here more about Mulroy, the book, and the translation process by listening to his interview with Bonnie North on WUWM's Lake Effect.

Friday, February 5, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Dave Reidy, author of The Voiceover Artist, in conversation with UWM's Valerie Laken.

Simon Davies suffers a crippling stutter inherited from his father. At the age of seven, he decides to stop speaking completely, eventually rendering his vocal cords useless from atrophy. Unable to speak, Simon finds solace in the voices piping through his bedside radio. Eighteen years later, Simon rebuilds his voice and learns to mostly manage his stutter with a series of subtle tics he s developed to loosen his vocal cords. He moves to Chicago and pursues his lifelong dream of becoming a voice on the radio voiceover artist. Meanwhile, his younger brother Connor, in every way more confident and charming than Simon, attempts to take his prodigious talent for improv comedy from the barroom stages of Chicago to the television studios of 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Coming out of his years of silence, Simon seeks to balance his relationship with his brother, forcing Connor to examine what brotherhood and success mean to him.

Here's a few lines from the very interesting Kirkus Review: "As a voice-over artist might say in a commercial: you get all this and more! With the story summarized, the novel’s busyness shows. Reidy is restless, moving from narrator to narrator; nearly all the major characters get his or her own section, all in first person (except, shrewdly, for a chapter about Simon before he found his voice, narrated in third). As a result, the novel often feels like it’s stopping and starting; halfway in, readers may think the main narrative hasn’t even begun. But the voices and characters themselves are rich and varied—a reminder that plot, slavishly tended to, can result in stuffy prose. Here, Reidy has fun, and isn’t that sometimes the raison d’être for clear, familiar premises? The more solid the outline, the more fun it is to color outside of it."

I should also note that Katie Jesse of the People's Books Story Hour will be taping the event for replay on Riverwest Radio. It's sort of like a Riverwest take on Chapter a Day. You can read more about this podcast here.

Saturday, February 6, 2 pm, at Boswell: A ticketed signing with Grace Helbig, author of Grace and Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It.

Grace Helbig doesn't want to tell anyone how they should dress, how they should do their hair or makeup, or even which dog poop bags to purchasebecause surprisingly, Target has numerous options for that too! While Grace doesn't claim to be stylish or polished, she is very self-aware and perceptive. Trendy? She'd rather have fun trying. She loves fashion as much as the next lady, man, or French bulldog, but telling others how they should look doesn't suit her. Instead, with Grace & Style, Grace takes us into her closet and shares her silly and practical approach to stylewhich obviously includes an entire chapter on sweatpants. One part parody, one part fashion fun, and one part personal experience, Grace's latest guide to life as a woman in America today is more H&M than Chanel. So tighten your Banana Republic belt a few notches and learn how to pretend and convince everyone around you that you've got style and grace!

Tickets are $21 and are available via phone (1-800-838-3006) or through the Brown Paper Tickets website, event #2487975: You can also call 800-838-3006. Each ticket includes all tax and fees, admission for one to the signing line, a photograph with the author, and one autographed copy of her new book, Grace & Style. Alas, no personalizations or inscriptions, and Ms. Helbig will not sign memorabilia. And while you can accompany the ticket holder on the signing line, only the ticketed attendee will meet the author.

You probably want to visit the Grace Helbig channel on Youtube now, don't you?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Boswell Bestsellers for the Week Ending January 30, 2016.

Here are the bestseller lists for the week ending Saturday, January 30, 2016. Oops, I hit create instead of save and wound up sending the uncompleted blog to our subscribers. I can't say it's been that sort of day because it hasn't. It's been fine! I'm at a gift show in New York with our gift buyer Jen and we found a lot of great things.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Noah's Wife, by Lindsay Starck
2. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
3. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
4. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Dictator, by Robert Harris
7. And Again, by Jessica Chiarella
8. Nox, by Anne Carson
9. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
10. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George

New to the list this week is Dictator, the concluding entry in Robert Harris's trilogy on the life of Cicero. Stephanie Merritt wrote in The Guradian after its UK publication last spring: "Harris’s style is a curious blend of contemporary idiom (Pompey and Crassus are said to stand for election “on a joint ticket”) with Latin vocabulary so precise it requires a separate glossary; while the modern language may jar with historical purists, the research underpinning it is so meticulous that the reader feels wholly absorbed into Cicero’s world, and this is Harris’s real achievement. Dictator is a fitting finale to a trilogy that is likely to stand alongside the works of Robert Graves and Mary Renault as an enduring imaginative vision of the ancient world." Tom Holland also had a good review in The New York Times Book Review.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Presence, by Amy Cuddy
2. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
3. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson
5. Milwaukee City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
6. Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo
7. Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
8. Gratitude, by Olicer Sacks
9. SPQR, by Mary Beard
10. The Lost Tudor Princess, by Alison Weir

Like Dictator, The Lost Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas came out on January 12, but had its best sales week two weeks later. The publisher calls her the beautiful, cunning niece of Henry VIII who influenced the succession after the death of Elizabeth I. I find it odd that though I can find Publishers Weekly and Kirkus reviews, and there are British reviews (here's the London Times, though you need to join to read it in full)I cannot locate a trade review from an American newspaper. Dare I say there might be a touch of sexism going on here? I cannot imagine this book completely snubbed were it to come from a man of Weir's stature.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Fathers We Find, by Charles P. Ries
2. Moonlight Over Paris, by Jennifer Robson
3. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
4. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
5. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
6. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
7. The Door, by Magda Szabo
8. At the Water's Edge, by Sara Gruen
9. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert
10. Agamemnon, by Aeschylus, translated by David Mulroy
11. The Three Body Problem, by Liu Cixin
12. God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison

What an absolutely international list this in! In addition to having two authors in the top five from Sweden, with Katarina Bivald joined by national bestseller Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove, we have Lin Cixin from China, Jennifer Robson from Canada, Elena Ferrante, who we assume is Italian, and Magda Szabo from Hungary. I should also note that Charles Ries told me he has duel citizenship with Luxembourg. Backman's book in particular has been a huge hit nationally, and we're excited to announce that the author will be at Boswell on Saturday, May 14, 2 pm. You'll likely see another pop next week, as I'm announcing the book will be our April in-store lit group selection.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson (in store lit group selection 3/7, at MATC 3/9)
2. Mindset, by Carol Dweck
3. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
4. Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich
5. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
6. The Machete Season, by Jean Hatzfield
7. The Enchanted Forest, by Johanna Basford
8. Art Therapy Coloring Kit, by Sam Loman

Because we were a little short of paperback nonfiction that made the three copy cutoff for bestsellers in paperback, I extended paperback a little, being that these titles had sold the cutoff. I break ties by price point. I figure we've sold "more" of an expensive book than a less expensive book. That gets amusingly intricate when publishers are playing with even, 99, and 95 cent price points. We're all ready to discuss Voices From Chernobyl at the Monday, February 1 book club. I'll include the discussion in an upcoming blog. This week's bestseller lists include a few course adoptions. The Machete Season is being used by a university class, while The Glass Castle is on a high school reading list.

Books for Kids:
1. Hello, by Liza Wiemer
2. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom with illustrations by Richard Scarry
3. Shabanu, by Suzanne Fischer Staples
4. Hedgehugs, by Steve Wilson and Lucy Tapper
5. Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
6. Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
7. Dill and Bizzy, by Nora Ericson
8. How to Dress a Dragon, by Thelma Lynne Godin
9. Green Bay Packers ABC, by Brad Epstein
10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book, by Eric Carle

Anna and the Swallow Man debuted this week, with Gavriel Savit debuting at Boswell this Wednesday, January 3. The London Daily Mail's Sally Morris writes of this novel about a young girl who survives by walking the Russian and Polish woods with the mysterious Swallow Man, "This wonderfully original concept, enigmatic in style yet grounded in brutal reality, is written with deceptive power and grace. Although it leaves questions hanging long after you turn the last page, this is a debut that promises great books from Savit."

From Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel, a review of The Yid, from Paul Goldberg, a book he calls "remarkable." He notes: "Disclaimer: If swear words in Yiddish, Russian or English hurt your ears, if the occasional succinct gory description of the murder of a state-sponsored thug upsets your tummy, if putting a black man in whiteface or vice versa offends your conscience, "The Yid" may not be for you. But if you've always been fascinated by Yiddish theater, this is your novel. Goldberg draws on Levinson's past involvement in a production of King Lear to cast Stalin himself as a degraded Lear; there's even a thug improbably named Kent." I think it's interesting that Gariel Savit coincidentally has a background in Yiddish theater.

Higgins also highlights Madison writer Dean Robbins, whose new book, Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, will be featured at a February 2 event at Boswell. The talk begins at 7 pm.

And Mike Fischer reviews Darryl Pinckney's Black Deutschland, also in the Journal Sentinel. I read and enjoyed Mr. Pinckney's High Cotton years ago and enjoyed it; I wish I had enough time to keep up with so many great writers. Of the newest, Mr. Fischer wrote: "Jed makes clear that even when one is a privileged member of the Talented Tenth, race in America always gets in the way of one becoming oneself. It's no accident that this book invokes ex-pats including W.E.B. DuBois, Nina Simone and Josephine Baker — although not Richard Wright, another onetime Chicagoan who'd sought refuge in Europe, writing a novel there featuring a similarly isolated intellectual. Pinckney's writing is much cooler; Black Deutschland not only channels Isherwood, but also suggests Ellison's Invisible Man and Teju Cole's more recent Open City — each one the tale of an outsider whose sharp observations and sometimes sardonic humor are partly made possible because all three are more comfortable watching than participating."

Monday, January 25, 2016

This Week's Events: Lindsay Starck, Amy Cuddy, Jessica Chiarella, Charles P. Ries, and Nicholas Petrie (twice).

Here are the bookish events going on around town that Boswell is cosponsoring.

when: Tuesday, January 26, 5:30 reception, 6 pm talk/reading
where: Milwaukee Public Library Reading Room (1st floor)
who: Lindsay Starck
featured title: Noah's Wife, a novel.

Jane Glaser's recommendation: "This is a beautifully written story of a town whose existence is threatened by endlessly drenching rain and for whom the townspeople appear to have lost all hope. The arrival of the newly assigned minister, Noah, cannot seem to break through their despair as he begins to have his own crisis of faith. As the waters rise and threaten the viability of the town's zoo, its main tourist attraction, it is Noah's wife who leads a small band of townspeople into rescuing the animals and relocating them in the town's abandoned shops and people's houses, lending a bit of gentle humor to the story. Yet, when that effort and sandbagging can no longer hold back the advancing flood risk, the citizens, along with the animals, move to the highest point in the town, the church. Readers will fall in love with an unpredictable cast of characters who truly realize what it takes to rely on each other and ultimately come to share a renewed sense of hope as an unsinkable community!"

From Jim Higgins's profile in the Journal Sentinel, with Starck discussing her favorite childhood books: "'I had my favorite books. I was a reader who found a book I love and I would just read it over and over and over again,' said Lindsay, citing The Indian in the Cupboard as one of those favorites. She also devoured the Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley Kids books repeatedly, to the point that a children's librarian noticed and tried recommending other books to her. 'I felt a little embarrassed, and afterward I'd read Sweet Valley High in secret,' she said."

Central Library is located at 814 W. Wisconsin Ave. At this time of evening, there is usually a good amount of street parking and there is also a lot on the south side of Wisconsin. The Reading Room is on the 1st floor.

when: Wednesday, January 27, 6:30 pm
where: Whitefish Bay Library
who: Nicholas Petrie
featured title: The Drifter (part one)

Anne McMahon's recommendation for The Drifter: "This is such a great novel. The characters are unforgettable, the story is compelling, and the setting is local - an added bonus. Not to be missed!"

From Bobby Tanzilo's OnMilwaukee.com column, before he asks Petrie some questions: "Has a book as gripping and engaging as Nicholas Petrie's crime novel, "The Drifter," ever been written about Milwaukee? Interweaving terrorism, homelessness, veterans and Riverwest, the book is a compelling page-turner. I'm not going to recount the story here because I don't want to spoil a second of it for you, but rest assured, when you switch off your phone and pick up the book, you'll recognize the places Petrie describes in his debut novel, published by big-time publishing house, G.P. Putnam's Sons." Read the interview here.

The Whitefish Bay Public Library is located at 5420 N Marlborough Dr. in Whitefish Bay, just south of Silver Spring Drive.

when: Wednesday, January 27, 7 pm
where: Boswell
who: Jessica Chiarella
featured title: And Again

Sharon K. Nagel's recommendation for And Again: How much of a role does your body play in determining who you are? Do memories live in your skin and your nerves or just in your brain? These are the questions raised in this excellent debut novel by Jessica Chiarella. Four people with terminal illnesses are chosen for a secret and experimental procedure in which their brains and memories are transplanted into healthy bodies. Hannah is an artist with cancer, David, a congressman with a brain tumor. Connie, an actress with AIDS, and Linda, a wife and mother who has been paralyzed after a car accident. The new bodies are not only without disease, they are perfect, completely without freckles, wrinkles, tattoos, or scars. It sounds like a miracle, but all types of change require an adjustment, and all of the patients find that the transplant may not be the dream come true that they signed up for."

Here's Jessica Chiarella's profile in the Chicago Tribune. (Photo credit Shane Collins.) On how she was inspired for the idea: "Chiarella drew inspiration for the story from a variety of places — a growing interest in holistic nutrition, the search for the so-called magic pill and contemporary novels such as Never Let Me Go and Look at Me - but found a conversation with an acquaintance who had undergone gastric bypass surgery to be one spark. 'She had a very interesting perspective on it because she was getting a lot of attention that she had never gotten before,' Chiarella said. 'Her response to it was very much like, "I don't understand, am I more interesting now than before or is it because people perceive me differently?" That fed into me this idea that your body is tied into society's impression of you.'"

when: Thursday, January 28, 7 pm
where: Boswell
who: a ticketed event with Amy Cuddy, in conversation with Bonnie North.
featured title: Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
This event is cosponsored by WUWM.

Daniel gives you the lowdown on Presence: "Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and associate professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, has won renown for her popular TED talk on how changing your body language can make a big difference in your ability to accomplish goals and lead. In her new book, she shows the steps leading to this breakthrough, starting with creating engagement and channeling anxiety into energy. She looks at the body language of power and submission, and shows there’s a tendency for women to ape the body language of passivity, generally starting sometime in middle school. The impostor syndrome plays a role into ceding positive energy, and while women are quite willing to admit to this, it turns out that in anonymous surveys, it affects men in large numbers as well. But just like smiling can make you happier (thank William James for that revelation) and yoga poses can lead to health and vitality, these power poses can lead to confidence and success. Just ask the All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand…or Wonder Woman."

From her All Things Considered interview with Lisa Mullins: "I’m more concerned that we have a lot of people in the world feeling powerless, not powerful. Recently I heard from a teacher who works with students with disabilities. He was working with a fourth grader who has selective mutism, which is an anxiety disorder that makes it very difficult for children to speak when they’re in social situations. The social threat is intense for them. So he taught [the boy] about power posing, taught him that lots of people feel like impostors, and lots of people feel scared, and slowly nudged him to speak a little bit more each day in class. He now has that student leading discussions. That’s a story that I think is amazing."

when: Friday, January 29, 6:30 pm
where: Greendale Public Library
who: Nicholas Petrie
featured title: The Drifter (part two)

Daniel's recomendation for The Drifter "When Peter Ash finds out that his former Marine buddy committed suicide, he shows up at his widow’s house to help with some home repairs. Under the crawl space, he finds a mangy dog and a mysterious suitcase filled with cash. Needless to say, the contents are much desired by another party, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nicholas Petrie has written a compelling thriller that knows all the right moves, from the loner character to the family in peril to the multiple plot turns, but infuses a fresh twist with Peter Ash, a vet with PTSD manifested in acute claustrophobia. There’s a bit of an Elmore Leonard vibe going on here, only with everyone playing at more contemporary higher stakes. And as a bonus for locals, the Milwaukee setting is distinct, but not so over-detailed to get in the way of the nail-biting plot."

For a change of program, this event is Petrie in conversation with library director Gary Niebuhr. The Greendale Library is located just south of Grange and west of Loomis, sort of in the backyard of Southridge Mall.

when: Friday, January 29, 7 pm
where: Boswell
who: Charles P. Ries
featured title: The Fathers We Find: The Making of a Pleasant, Humble Boy

From Allison Thompson in the Sheboygan Press, discussing what the author calls a fictional memoir.: "Growing up on a mink farm on Sheboygan’s south side as one seven children gave Ries much fodder for the book. 'Five of the seven went to the convent or seminary,' he said. 'I like to say I grew up in the most Catholic family in America.'The Fathers We Find is a coming-of-age story that takes place in Sheboygan between 1950 and 1971. The narrator, Chuck, is influenced by many who cross his path while growing up. 'We don’t get to pick our fathers, but sometimes we are lucky enough to get our fathers to find us,'” he said.

From the Charles P. Ries collection at Marquette: "Ries often refers to his work as “a mash-up of the secular and the spiritual, the ordinary and the mystical.' He readily admits his early life experiences had a strong influence on his creative writing and what he hoped to accomplish through it. Ries grew up in a very devout Catholic family. Of his six siblings, five entered the convent or seminary. It was this early and deep immersion into Catholicism that would later fuel his own search for God. After college he lived in London and North Africa where he studied the mystical teachings of Islam called Sufism. In 1989 he worked with the Dalai Lama on a program that brought American religious leaders and psychotherapists together for a weeklong dialogue. It was during this same week that the Dalai Lama was awarded his Nobel Peace Prize. Ries has done extensive work with men’s groups and worked with a Jungian psychotherapist for over five years during which time he recorded five hundred dreams and learned to find the meanings in small things. He is a third degree Reiki healer, and has received advanced yoga training."

Hope to see you at one of this week's events.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

It's the annotated Boswell bestseller list for the week ending January 23, 2016.

Here are our bestsellers for the week ending January 23, 2016.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Drifter, by Nicholas Petrie
2. My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
5. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, by Sunil Yapa
6. The Guest Room, by Chris Bohjalian
7. A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin
8. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
9. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
10. Two Years, Eight Months, and 28 Nights, by Salman Rushdie

Hey, we had a nice pop in sales on Sunil Yapa's Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. At least a couple sold off my staff rec shelf, so I'm happy about that. Alas, Mike Fischer didn't like it so much (see below). Benjamin Rybeck in The Houston Chronicle wrote: "Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist captures sustained energy - the sense of a situation whirling out of control. The protest becomes more violent, the book becomes noisier (cacophonous almost, with chants, grunts and shouts), and each character watches somebody get beaten. In these moments, Yapa keys into the physiological effects of witnessing violence. Victor in particular wants to witness, and by witnessing make (the violence) real, unable to be forgotten.' But on the next page, Yapa drops all literary pretension and provides a line of blunt power: 'Oh God, Victor was scared.'"

It's a second very strong week for My Name is Lucy Barton, which exploded at #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists. That gave the Random House division of Random House #1 on the fiction and the nonfiction lists, with When Breath Becomes Air also taking the top spot. And yes, we had a great week with The Drifter without any events. There are two more next week, on January 27 and 29. Details in tomorrow's blog.


Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Sustainable Edge, by Ron Carson
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
3. Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
4. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
5. The Road to Little Dribbling, by Bill Bryson
6. And Yet, by Christopher Hitchens
7. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald (link to our April 12 event here)
8. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehithi Coates
9. Why the Right Went Wrong, by E.J. Dionne
10. Excellent Daughters, by Katherine Zoepf

Several books of note should have strong showings on the New York Times next week, most likely led by Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer. The story behind the story of Dark Money is as interesting as the story itself. Here are pieces about the book in The National Review and Mother Jones. Because the book skews left, it will not duplicate our sales at mass merchants, most likely tempering its position on national lists. But it really depends what the competition is. I was amused to see though we've been selling lots of Star Wars stuff, particularly in kids, we have yet to sell a single copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which has been at #1 and then #2 on national lists. We had some space so I moved it up to "new and noteworthy." Let's see if I can fire sales into the single digits with this placement.

You can guess it's a presidential election year by seeing more political books in our top 10. But maybe we can detour to Great Britain, where Bill Bryson's newest book is a return to what broke him out internationally in Notes from a Small Island. Here's Griff Witte in the Denver Post writing about Bryson's newest curmudgeonly UK travelogue, The Road to Little Dribbling: "Bryson seems to go out of his way to avoid actually interacting with the British. And when that fails, the result is typically a contest to determine who can be crankier. He spars epically with a McDonald's cashier who scrambles his order, and he fantasizes about clubbing to death a dog-walker who refuses to clean up a freshly befouled trail."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (are you shocked?)
2. Impersonations, by Mark Zimmermann
3. My Brilliant Friend V1, by Elena Ferrante
4. Agamemnon, by Aeschylus, translated by David Mulroy (event 2/4, 7 pm)
5. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert
6. The Story of a New Name V2, by Elena Ferrante
7. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
8. Nora Webster, Colm Tóibín
9. Brooklyn (both trade editions), Colm Tóibín
10. Carol/The Price of Salt (both trade editions), by Patricia Highsmith

I noticed that all the national lists were combining film and non film tie in editions for all the movies out, but it really adds another step to our process and I generally hope that one of the editions (generally the non tie-in, which will generally do better in our store) will pop alone. That said, with the number of books I'm scanning down from December (dramatically), I thought the list was small enough to match up sales and that affected three titles, including Brooklyn and Carol/The Price of Salt. Since the editions really are identical, aside from the jacket and in one case, the title of the book, it seemed fair. It's just that I can't say I can consistently do this, so enjoy it this time.

The Oscar nominees seem to have an unusually large number of book origins this year. Even Spotlight has Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The Findings of the Investigation That Inspired the Major Motion Picture Spotlight. Since the film has been down the block for weeks, we're hoping that featuring this Boston Globe book, originally published in 2002 with a slightly different title, will get a sales pop in the coming weeks.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
2. Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
3. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. The Magic of Awareness, by Anam Thuben
5. Physics in Minutes, by Giles Sparrow (selling off our impulse table)
6. Riverwest, by Tom Tolan
7. Graphesis, by Johanna Drucker
8. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
9. Leaving Before the Rains Come, by Alexandra Fuller
10. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer

Another book that benefitted from me researching various editions is The Big Short, by Michael Lewis. I did a lot of research on tie ins coming back in September and for some reason, this did not come up on my radar, as I realized that I left it off our film table sign. That is remedied, with us taking off some of the titles that have come and gone, like The 33. Maybe Deep, Down, Dark would have also been a perfectly acceptable film name, and then you would have had all the awareness from the book. More and more you are seeing that a successful book is a leg up, right? I'm excited to see The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison, is finished and debuting at film festivals. It features Selena Gomez, who was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live last night.

Books for Kids:
1. Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick, with illustrations by Sophie Blackall
2. Ollie's Valentine, by Olivier Dunrea
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, by Pablo Hidalgo
4. Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
5. Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
6. Silly Wonderful You, by Sherri Rinker Duskey, with illustrations by Patrick McDonnell
7. Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
8. Be a Friend, by Selena Yoon
9. Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics, by Chris Grabelstein
10. Augie and Me, by R.J. Palacio

As our trade buyer Jason recently said to me, Valentine's Day is a kids book and gift (nonbook) holiday but it's tough to have adult titles that work for gift giving. Aside from Roger Rosenblatt's The Book of Love: Improvisations on a Crazy Little Thing, which we recently added to or display, indeed it is the children's books that drive the holiday sales at Boswell. One title on our bestseller list this week is Olivier Dunrea's Ollie's Valentine, a new board book in Dunrea's Gossie and Friends series. I looked for a roundup of new Valetine's Day books, but the one I found was clearly from an aggregator and was filled with previously released licenesed-character driven titles with Valentine in the tile. Alas, not really helpful, and it would miss a book like Sherri Rinker Duskey and Patrick McDonnell's Silly Wonderful You, a book with no Valentine heart on the cover, but is definitely about love.

I mentioned that Mike Fischer reviewed Sunil Yapa's Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. He was dismayed by the clumsy metaphors and bad writing. He's not necessarily alone, though Jenny Hendrix's New York Times Book Review was a bit more nuanced. I guess that sort of didn't bother me, as I was much more interested in the relationships between the characters, particularly the father and son on opposite sides of the skirmish.

And hey, Ron Charles at The Washington Post is a fan. He writes: "What is so enthralling about this novel is its syncopated riff of empathy as the perspective jumps around these participants — some peaceful, some violent, some determined, some incredulous. Constantly moving to “one more story among a thousand such stories,” Yapa creates a fluid sense of the riot as it washes over the city. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist ultimately does for the WTO protests what Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night”did for the 1967 March on the Pentagon, gathering that confrontation in competing visions of what happened and what it meant."

It's time for Carole E. Barrowman's monthly mystery roundup:

--The Ex, by Alafair Burke is the newest novel to feature criminal defense attorney Olivia Randall. Barrowman writes that "with her pacey plot and fascinating characters, Burke proves she's at the top of hers as a writer."

--Medusa's Web, by Tim Powers channels old Hollywood in its present-day Los Angeles setting. Barrowman calls this an "ingenious supernatural mystery that snagged my imagination from its opening pages."

--False Positive, by Andrew Grant is a terrific new mystery featuring "Alabama detective Cooper Deveraux, driven, dedicated, but deeply flawed with a hair-trigger conscience and a history of violence." He gets "a new partner and a troubling new case with a kidnapped foster child at its center."

Also in the print edition is a review of The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and Miracles in the Modern Age from Peter Smith in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. From Smith: Veteran Catholic journalist John Thavis explores their world of Marian apparitions, relics, exorcisms, doomsday visions, and other purported encounters with the supernatural."

And finally I'm glad I got a heads up on Jim Higgins' profile of Lindsay Starck, author of Tuesday's debut, Noah's Wife, as it was in page 2 of the news section of the Journal Sentinel and I might have missed it. "I had my favorite books. I was a reader who found a book I love and I would just read it over and over and over again," she told Higgins. Starck attended University School and Yale, and then decided to make writing her career, detouring from a life in law. Join Starck at the Milwaukee Public Library reading room for a launch of her novel, Noah's Wife on Tuesday, January 26, 5:30 reception, 6 pm reading.

if you'd like a review, check out Kim Kankiewicz's take in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune on this "impressive debut": "Although Noah's wife eventually comes into her own as a protagonist, her story is but one of many in the novel. Starck devotes entire chapters to several supporting characters, including eccentric townspeople and inhabitants of the city Noah and his wife have left behind. Starck's talent is on display in her vivid portrayals of these characters. We learn about their fears and foibles and greatest desires. We see where their allegiances lie and how they respond when their fidelity is tested."

Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Book Club Brochure: Bettyville and 12 other new titles featured, Jennifer Morales offers Skype meetings, Jane has an official "Readers of Broken Wheel" recommendation.

My goal is to update the book club display three times a year, in January, May, and September. If we have late editions, or schedule paperback events that would make a good book club discussion, the idea is to do an insert. But when I updated the list just now, a clever bookseller asked, didn't you just update this in November. The answer is yes, to the second practical answer is that when we run out of fliers, sometimes it makes more sense to add fresh titles and take away the things that aren't working instead of waiting. But we had so many good books featire that we decided to create an insert of six title right away, giving us an assortment of thirty books. The idea is that the insert titles come out in March.

I also wanted to update the selection because I wanted to start spreading the word about Bettyville, the beloved memoir by George Hodgman that comes out in paperback on February 2. He's visiting Boswell on February 10 (7 pm), and while I knew much about the book, all the great reviews, and that it was a New York Times bestseller, I really didn't know how passionate folks were about Bettyville until I read the book and started bringing the book and event up in conversation. I am always looking for a nonfiction book that is both readable and discussable and I'm thinking that book clubs will really gravitate to this, particularly ones where folks of the age where they are caring for their parents.

One book that is not so new that we've added to our book club table is Meet Me Halfway, by Jennifer Morales. This story collection has been out since last spring and while we generally do not feature more than one collection of stories, I think these tales have enough of a through line and interconnection that folks will appreciate them as a continuous narrative. Racial understanding and misunderstanding is at the heart of her stories, and the book would be an interesting book to read in a series with say, Between the World and Me, Ghettoside, or our featured Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson's book about his attempt to exonerate a black man on death row.

Please note that Jennifer Morales can meet with your club via Skype, Google, or Face Time. Our in-store lit group has found this very enjoyable. We had a particularly enlightening visit with Rebecca Makkai. The key is to schedule time without the author to hash things out first, and it's always important to be polite and not criticize. That's for your alone time. To schedule your virtual visit from Jennifer Morales, please email info@moraleswrites.com by January 31.

All the new selections:
--Bettyville, by George Hodgman
--The Daylight Marriage, by Heidi Pitlor
--Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
--Meet Me Halfway, by Jennifer Morales
--The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald
--A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
--Jam on the Vine, by LaShonda Katrice Barnett

Out in March:
--H is For Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
--Paris, He Said, by Christine Sneed
--Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell
--The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, by Rachel Joyce
--The Residence by Kate Anderson Brower
--A Reunion of Ghosts, by Judith Claire Mitchell

Carried over from the previous collection:
--All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
--At the Water's Edge, by Sara Gruen
--A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
--Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
--Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
--Euphoria, by Lily King
--Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
--Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton
--A Kim Jong-Il Production, by Paul Fischer
--Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
--My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
--Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín
--The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
--The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
--Shady Hollow, by Juneau Black
--Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
--When Books Went to War, by Molly Guptill Manning

I should also note we have our third printed recommendation on The Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend. Jane has been spearheading our promotion of this book, and is a core member of Team Broken Wheel. I have passed my copy on to Sharon, who will then give it to Anne. We'll see how this continues.

Jane Glaser's recommendation: "I love books about books and this beautiful story is about how a small dying Midwestern town is regenerated with the arrival of Swedish bookseller, Sara Lindqvist, who has come to meet her bookloving pen pal, Amy Harris, only to find out that she has died. The townspeople of Broken Wheel, Iowa, in mourning for their beloved Amy, invite Sara to live in Amy's house. Rewarding this hospitality and honoring Amy's memory, Sara opens a bookshop, inventoried with Amy's vast collection of books. As Sara is determined that everyone who lives in Broken Wheel will be matched with just the right book, this community of diverse and engaging characters come to know the transformative power of living between the pages of books...and beyond! This is an inspiringly perceptive and heartwarming ode to reading that booklovers and book clubs will want to add to their list of favorites."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Readers of the Broken Wheel displays--two of them with a third to come--plus info about the contest.

We are so excited about The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend that we have put together a special display and promotion. Featured are some of our favorite novels and story collections set in bookstores. Yes, we did this display last year too, but we came up with some new ones.

But after brainstorming with Jane and Jen, also known as Team Broken Wheel, we came up with a twist. We're putting together a Readers of Boswell Book Company Recommend. Customers can submit a recommendation of their favorite book on one of our entry forms. We will select the best recommendations, based on the book and the rec itself. Please note that we are not taking any email or Facebook or Twitter recs. You have to come in the store and fill it out. And based on how many of you have wanted to have a rec shelf talker in the past, we know we'll get plenty!

Here are a few titles we're featuring:
--The Bookseller, by Mark Pryor
--Death by Coffee, b y Alex Erickson
--The Love Letter, by Cathleen Schine
--Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley
--The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, by Tom Rachman

These join some of our previous favorites:
--The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
--Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
--The Novel Bookstore, by Laurence Cosse
--The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
--The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
--The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
--The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

And I assure you, there are more where those came from!

At the same time, we were setting up a mini-display called Iowa Book Caucus, featuring books set in Iowa, and lo and behold, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend fit that bill too.

Included are the novels of Marilynne Robinson, Heather Gudenkauf, and several of Jane Smiley's works, most notably A Thousand Acres and her current trilogy of Some Luck, Early Warning, and The Golden Age. We've got nonfiction books like The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid and Dewey and kids books like Steve Arntson's The Trap and Jacqueline Woodson's Beneath a Meth Moon.

Of course the perfect book for this display is Corn Poll: A Novel of the Iowa Caucus, by Zachary Michael Jack, published by Ice Cube Books.

Back to Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Here are my two cents: "Sara the unemployed bookseller from Sweden arrives in the dying farm town of Broken Wheel to visit her beloved pen pal Amy, bonding with this woman, despite their difference in ages, over the love of books. There’s only one problem: when Sara arrives, Amy has died. The town suggests she stay in Amy’s old house anyway, and what’s a bookseller to do with time on her hands and a house full of books? I love the way Bivald plays with stock storytelling characters and plot twists in a clever way, drawing on the writerly sages of Jane Austen, Terry Pratchett, Stieg Larsson and others to move the plot along. May-December romances, misunderstood characters, separated families - the characters continue to surprise, at the same time knowing their role in the plotline. At one point Sara worries that she might be a minor character in her own story, but there’s no worrying about that. You like epistolary novels? That’s there too, in Amy’s letters to Sara. We’ve already figured out that Amy is a bibliophile’s bibliophile, but that’s the beauty of Readers of the Broken Wheel: books change the lives of everyone in the story, and that’s a moral that a bookseller can get behind." (Daniel Goldin)

Now get to Boswell, take a look at the book, and start thinking about what book you'd submit! Oh, and of course you can also vote for us as your favorite bookstore. We're excited that for the first year since we've been open, we've won Best Bookstore in Milwaukee in the Shepherd Express Reader's Poll. We won once before but that year they separated out chains, so we didn't compete with Half Price (the usual winner) and Barnes and Noble. So I guess we're getting cocky enough to think we'd have a remote chance of winning this. Oh, who cares? We like the book and if it gets more folks talking about Bivald's novel, so much the better. Here's another link to voting.