Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Annotated Boswell Bestseller List for the Week Ending August 1, 2015.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
2. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
3. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
4. The Girl on a Train, by Paula Hawkins
5. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
6. Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain
7. Brush Back, by Sara Paretsky
8. The Novel Habits of Happiness, by Alexander McCall Smith
9. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
10. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

The newest V.I. Warshawski mystery is as Chicago-y as it gets. Lloyd Sachs writes in the Chicago Tribune: "Let's be honest: It will take a reader with a certain kind of fortitude to stay on Paretsky's urban tour bus until all the secrets are spilled in her latest mystery, Brush Back — particularly since North Sider Warshawski herself is reluctant to get on board to return to her old haunts and grievances in the gritty South Chicago neighborhood in which she grew up. What keeps her, and you, from spending the day gardening instead is the unquenchable need to know whodunit, and why — particularly since the story hits so close to home."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nahisi Coates
2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
3. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
4. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
5. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
6. One Man Against the World, by Tim Weiner
7. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari
8. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
9. On the Move, by Oliver Sacks
10. Barbarian Days, by William Finnegan

One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, by Tim Weiner has been released into a sea of Richard Nixon books, but it does not plan to be the ultimate full-scale biography (per a group review in The New York Times) but a look at one point in his life. NPR reports" "'Nixon was consumed by fear, Weiner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. That fear 'turned into anger and that anger turned into self-destruction and every hour of these new tapes and these released transcripts adds to the record of a man committing political suicide day-by-day,' he says."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28 at Boswell)
2. Nora Webster, by Colm Toíbín
3. Euphoria, by Lily King
4. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
5. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henríquez
6. The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis
7. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
8. The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
9. The Pigeon and the Boy, by Meir Shalev
10. The Martian, by Andy Weir
11. The Mersault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud
12. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly
13. The Hundred-Year House, by Rebecca Makkai (event 8/20 with Aleksandar Hemon)
14. Delicious, by Ruth Reichl
15. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert

David Bezmozgis appeared at Boswell in paperback for the hardcover edition of The Betrayers, but since then, he's won the National Jewish Book Award. He's one of several books that had a pop this week that we recommended to one of our larger book clubs. David Ulin in the Los Angeles Times looks at the real-life underpinnings of the story: "The story of an Israeli politician who, on the losing side in a dispute over settlements, flees Tel Aviv with his young girlfriend for Yalta, in the Ukraine, where as a boy he spent a glorious summer with his parents. In the real world, of course, Israel exploded in conflict in recent months, as did the Ukraine. On the one hand, this means The Betrayers couldn't be more timely, but on the other, timeliness is not what fiction does. As Bezmozgis (a New Yorker '20 Under 40' writer who has written one previous novel, The Free World, as well as the collection Natasha) acknowledges, 'I felt frustrated that world events conspired to undermine my design for the book.'"

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect, by Jeffrey Gingold
2. Mozos, by Bill Hillmann
3. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. You are Doing a Freaking Great Job, from Workman Publishing
5. The Enchanted Forest, by Joanna Basford
6. Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
7. Mary Nohl: Inside and Out, by Barbara Manger and Janine Smith
8. Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain
9. The Pope and Mussolini, by David Kertzer
10. I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

Testament of Youth is already gone from the Downer Theatre, but the the sales pop often lingers a bit for folks who want to read the book afterwards. Here's what Stephen Holden said in The New York Times. "Testament of Youth, James Kent’s stately screen adaptation of the British author Vera Brittain’s 1933 World War I memoir, evokes the march of history with a balance and restraint exhibited by few movies with such grand ambitions. Most similar films strain at the seams with bombast and sentimentality. This one, with a screenplay by Juliette Towhidi (Calendar Girls), is consciously old-fashioned — or should I say traditional? — while maintaining a sober perspective." At the Downer now are Mr. Holmes and The Wolfpack.

Books for Kids:
1. What Pet Should I Get?, by Dr. Seuss
2. Where's Waldo: The Totally Essential Travel Collection, by Martin Handford
3. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss
4. Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss
5. The Squishy Turtle Cloth Book, by Roger Priddy
6. Fuzzy Bee and Friends, by Roger Priddy
7. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
8. Paper Towns, by John Green
9. Where's Waldo, by Martin Handford
10. Little Bear, by Else Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak

The big release this week was actually Dr. Seuss's What Pet Should I Get? It actually outsold Go Set a Watchman at Boswell. The New York Times's Michiko Kakutani used her review time to compose this poem. Pasha Malla in The Toronto Globe and Mail takes the book a bit more seriously. From Malla: "To those cynics who suggest that the publication of a dead (or dying) author’s bottom-drawer material is often nothing more than an unrepentant cash grab, I offer the following. Discovered shortly after Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) passed away in 1991, What Pet Should I Get? was likely written in the early-1950s and either purposefully shelved or forgotten. Though perhaps the world simply wasn’t ready for it – until now. Rarely are the essential ideologies of our time, including those of race, class, gender, animal rights, late capitalism and “ginger pride,” examined with such acuity and precision. Simply put, What Pet Should I Get? is the most important work of cultural criticism of the year."

On to the Journal Sentinel book page. First up is Jim Higgins' review of Lauren Fox's Days of Awe. He writes: "Like that lethal dude Liam Neeson plays in the movies, Shorewood novelist Lauren Fox ("Still Life With Husband, Friends Like Us) has honed a very particular set of skills. She takes women who are falling apart and pulls wit, snark, pith, and occasional insight out of them. No contemporary novelist makes me stop as often to mark or admire one of her sentences. Plenty of people can write limpid or fancy prose, but Fox ladles out one flavorful reduction of human angst and misery after another."

Mike Fischer reviews Vu Tran's Dragonfish, a book that blends a Vietnam story with a hardboiled frame. His Journal Sentinel review begins: "Although we're never actually given the date, the time scheme within Dragonfish, Vu Tran's debut novel, places this story in the year 2000 — a portentous marker dividing yesterday from tomorrow. It's an apt choice, as we'll come to see once we've settled in with Tran's two narrators." Fischer wasn't exactly a fan, but others disagree; here's an excerpt from the starred review in Kirkus: "The Vietnam of the past and the Las Vegas of the present are vividly evoked in this debut novel in which hard-boiled noir is seamlessly blended with reminiscences of exile. A two-fisted policeman from Oakland, California, finds both his life and sense of certainty upended by Suzy, the Vietnamese wife who abandoned him with thwarted desires and unanswered questions. It turns out he’s not the only ex-husband looking for her."

Also in the print edition is a profile of Ta-Nahisi Coates from Mary Carole McCauley in the Baltimore Sun, discussing Between the World and Me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

What Did the Book Club Think of "We Are Not Ourselves"?

It's sometimes hard to write about a book club discussion after you've already written so much about a book. But based on the release schedule, I could do not host a meeting for Matthew Thomas's We Are Note Ourselves before the event, but I really thought that it would be a good discussion and I wanted to make sure I read the book. As much as I read many of our event books, I certainly can't read them all. Sometimes we're doing 25-30 things in a month and my average reading rate is five books per month. You do the math!

I can't imagine what it's like when authors appear at book club discussions, event by Skype. That's why when we do this, like on August 20 with Rebecca Makkai for The Hundred Year House (6 pm), we do most of the discussion without the author present, and bring him or her in at the end to ask questions. And that's true, event when most of the people liked the book, as in the case of We Are Not Ourselves.

So there was some discussion over the length of the book. It's unusual for a character-driven story to be over 600 pages, and considering that the majority of authors I've talked to have been asked to cut down their manuscripts, I wondered what the size of the story was originally. To my surprise, Thomas actually was asked to add additional material! Most of us felt that folks should not be intimidated by the book's size, as it beautifully written, but in a straightforward enough style that you're not tripped up in language or structure, which is what can make a long book harder to get through.

We discussed the secret twist. Like several other books out there, there was something that happened in the story that changed the way you read it. I noticed several initial reviewers did avoid revealing what happened, while others stated matter of factly, "This is what the book is about." Some folks in the book club knew about it, others did not, but many who did not could see it coming well before Eileen Leary. On the other hand, isn't that so true in real life.

In the case of Thomas's novel, our book club was divided as to whether revealing the twist affected the reading of the book. Eileen could have had any number of roadblocks in her race to the American dream that could have tripped her up. She'd still have to question her choices she'd made along the way, and she still would have had the chance to prove herself as a person. I have to decide here whether to spoiler this or not, and say that there are pros and cons of this. Had the twist been revealed, the book would have been connected to several other books that have treated the same issue, at least one of which has been very successful, but certainly others have not broken out the way it was hoped. But in paperback, this becomes the nonfiction hook for book club, which can be very important.

I thought "the great Queens novel" turned out to be a bit of hyping on the part of New York media. "Hipsters are moving in; it's time to celebrate Queens instead of making fun of it on sitcoms." Being that the family abandons the borough for suburban climes halfway through, to me it's hard to say and I'm not giving anything away that they don't exactly move back at the end of the book and say, "What a mistake! Queens is the greatest!"

I think I positioned the book to the book club, as well as our customers when talking up the event, as Alice McDermott on steroids. I said this without reading the book. Fortunately I think that particular hyperbole held up. I don't expect McDermott to publish at 600+ page book in the near future. It would be kind of funny if she were working on one.

We had an interesting conversation about character empathy. All in all, I think the attendees identified with Eileen more than I think even the author might have expected. She came through when it counted. The group was a little more divided on Connell, but I and some other attendees insisted that they needed to look at Connell's age and really wonder whether he should have dropped his just starting life to help his mother take care of their father.

Note how consistent the cover treatment has been internationally (and I should note that the US and UK versions are from different corporate entities). Every publisher picked a row of houses turned sideways. The only change has really been what color the sky is. With a little searching, I noticed the hardcover UK jacket was different, but the paperback is much closer to the other editions.

As indicated earlier, we have three in-store lit meetings coming up in August, two in addition to our regular first Monday discussion, which on August 3 is Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend.

1. Our September meeting generally falls on Labor Day. We've tried having the discussion on Labor Day afternoon, and another day that week, but the easiest thing to schedule turned out to be the previous Monday. So we've rescheduled to Monday, August 31, 7 pm. The book we are discussing is Richard Ford's Canada. And yes, Ford is coming to Boswell in October, for his ticketed appearance to discuss the paperback of Let Me Be Frank with You. Tickets should be up by August 15 for that one.

2. Plus we're hosting a bonus in-store lit group meeting. On Thursday, August 20, Rebecca Makkai is coming to Boswell to read from her new collection of short stories, Music for Wartime. She's appearing with Aleksandar Hemon, coming for his recent novel The Making of Zombie Wars. With that kind of schedule, how are we going to discuss The Hundred-Year House, let alone make sure folks don't give away the ending. So at 6 pm on August 20, we'll be having a book club discussion of The Hundred-Year House and Makkai will join us at the end to answer questions. And yes, this is The Spoiler Zone, so we ask that folks who come to that make sure they've completely read The Hundred-Year House.

3. And then we don't meet again until October! On Monday, October 5, we'll discuss Helen Oyeymi's Boy, Snow, Bird, which re-imagines Snow White in 1950s Massachusetts. The book was a notable book of the year from The New York Times Book Review and was also on The Washington Post best 50 works of fiction for 2014.

So to summarize:
Monday, August 3, 7 pm: Elena Ferrante's My Beautiful Friend
Thursday, August 20, 6 pm: Rebecca Makkai's The Hundred-Year House
Monday, August 31, 7 pm: Richard Ford's Canada
Monday, October 5, 7 pm: Helen Oyeyemi's Boy Snow Bird

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why We Now Know the Importance of Sadness and How Lauren Fox Captures That So Well in "Days of Awe," Out Tuesday, August 4 with the Celebratory Launch at 7 pm That Same Day at Boswell.

So I was visiting my mom and sister in Massachusetts for a few days, and I asked my sister, "Do you want me to bring you a book?" And she says, "Yes, but bring me something lighter this time. Everything you're reading is so sad." And I'm paraphrasing here of course, as I wasn't taping the conversation, and had no intention of using this to jump-start a blog post*.

But it's true, I thought. I really have been reading some sad stuff lately. Beautiful, yes. Inspiring, yes. But sad.

Can it be that I am influenced by Pixar's Inside Out, which while not getting the gross of Jurassic World, is still the movie of the summer, at least for me? While I love Amy Poehler's Joy, there's no question that Phyllis Smith's Sadness takes the story to another level. OK, well maybe Richard Kind's Bing Bong does too, but I'll save my imaginary friend thoughts for another day. (Really! Amie and I were discussing that imaginary friends are hot in the children's book world). Alan Sepinwall in Hitflix called Inside Out Pixar's "best movie ever" and Sadness is the reason.

I'm not talking about weepies here. I don't think you'll be crying hysterically. But these books do help a reader work through one's emotions and the result is a little more complicated that pure release all-out crying. And I should mention that one of the books I was thinking about, as was my sister, was Matthew Thomas's We are Not Ourselves, and I did hear from one reader that she bawled for the last 200 pages.

Many sad books simulate grieving, don't they? And it's not the death itself that brings us sadness, or we'd be crying a lot more reading murder mysteries. Yes, the death is sad, but the decline can be even harder, as we know from Thomas's story. And dealing with the loss, and trying to get life back on track afterwards can be mighty hard too. The new memoir from David Payne, Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother's Story, took fifteen years to write.

While each of Dean Bakopoulos's three novels had different tones (the first elegaic, the second manic, the third resigned), all of them had a sombre tone, even when the story is in fact quite funny, and there's no question that sadness is a big part of that. In Summerlong, some characters are struggling with the end of a marriage, while others are contemplating the passing of life.

I think all this sadness reading was meant to culminate in the release of Lauren Fox's third novel,  Days of Awe. Like David Payne, Fox has written a novel about carrying on in the face of the death of someone close to you, first idealizing that relationship, and then coming to terms with its imperfections. Like Bakopoulous, Fox has a wild sense of humor that is not just fun to read, but beautifully captures life's absurdities. And like Matthew Thomas, Fox is very good at everyday details, and while not a vivid celebration of place, the way at least the first half of We Are Not Ourselves is towards Queens, its distinctively Milwaukee, and that's something we do not get much of in novels from New York publishing (though Amy Reichert's The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is also recently out).

This is Fox's third novel with Knopf and it's feeling like a big moment. Of course Still Life with Husband was released when I was at Schwartz, and so while I read the book, I had no connection with the author. Pivotal scenes were set at White's Bookshop, and if you know that many of the local details were coined by the law of opposites, that was in fact the Schwartz ("black" in German) Bookshop in Shorewood.

When Friends Like Us was released, it was during Boswell's tenure, and we hosted the event. But a lot of us still didn't know Fox well, And we certainly didn't hear about the book as it was coming together. But this time Jason and I attended the Knopf party at Book Expo 2014 and chatted with Fox's editor Jenny Jackson. She mentioned that a draft of the novel had just arrived and how excited she was by it. She had also told us about a little book she was excited about called Station Eleven. Nice going!

The advance copies came just about a year later  and committed to making Days of Awe one of my books to talk about at the 2015 Book Expo. I think it's important to have a book to talk up when you're interacting with other booksellers. Let that be a lesson to all of you who do not prepare in this way! (Fox's photo credit is Amanda Schlicher).

The enthusiasm at Boswell has been very strong. There are at least four big fans of Fox's work on staff, and three sent in recommendations.

Sharon Nagel: "Isabel Moore seems to have it all – a happy marriage, a loving daughter, and a close friendship with Josie, a fellow teacher. Things certainly can change on a dime. As Lauren Fox’s latest novel opens, Isabel’s husband has moved out, her daughter is barely speaking to her, and her best friend is dead, disastrously killed in an automobile accident. Days of Awe is an attempt to make sense of tragedy and loss, while still finding humor and grace in everyday life. A reminder to appreciate what you have, and how quickly you can lose it."

Jannis Mindel: "Isabel Moore's life is in the midst of chaos. Her best friend and fellow teacher has died in a tragic car accident. Her once happy marriage has fallen apart in the wake of her grief and her daughter has begun her moody journey through adolescence. Lauren Fox has written a wickedly funny, heartbreaking and tender portrayal of motherhood, marriage, and relationships."

Me (Daniel Goldin): "Lauren Fox captures that moment in life when the world seems like it’s falling apart, and to be fair, it sort of is. Isabel Moore is a distinctively Lauren Fox heroine, observant and funny and painfully self-conscious, and Days of Awe might be her best book yet, all the better for striking some raw nerves is it mines for the truth mother lode."

It's so early that we just don't know what the trade reviews will be. How will it connect with critics? The advance reviews are strong. Publishers Weekly wrote: "Filled with insecurities and anxieties, Isabela's nuanced character is relatablea her struggles are universal and the reader will root for her to succeed. Raw and darkly humorous at times, Fox's novel is a winner. "

And here's a great excerpt from Kirkus Reviews: "What makes the book so special is Isabel's smart, acerbic voice and her way of seeing everything from a sharp angle. Fox studs Izzy's narration with surprising metaphors, turning ordinary domestic items into dangerous beasts ('the herd of wild minivans') and Josie's fatal accident into something almost domestic ('Her rusty 11-year-old Toyota skidded off the slick road like a can of soup rolling across a supermarket aisle'). Isabel (and Fox) has such an offbeat way of looking at things that you'll eagerly keep reading just to see what she's going to say next. Read it for the magnetic voice and Fox's ever interesting perspective on work, love, friendship, and parenthood-because, really, what else is there?"

Shelf Awareness is a bookseller newsletter that offers longer reviews of upcoming books. Kathleen Gerard wrote about Days of Awe recently and was quite enthusiastic: "Humor brings levity to Fox's frank, thought-provoking story that adds surprising depth and meaning, layer upon layer, page by page. As in Fox's other novels, Still Life with Husband and Friends Like Us, she presents scenes of seemingly mundane life that resonate with much larger and deeper dramatic implications. By employing a wry, likable narrator to chronicle the aching, pull-and-tug of grief and the joys and perils of domestic life, Fox once again explores, with a smart and refreshing perspective, the underside of friendships, marriage, love and loss--and the range of emotions that can plague and liberate the human heart."

I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention this, but Fox's publisher tried to move away from the relationship drama covers of her first two novel, but there were accounts that would commit to the book in a bigger way if the cover became more distinctly female. Being a painting, it still has an artsy-literary twist to it, but I also like the pointillist bent of the earlier incarnation, which was also a woman's face, only you couldn't exactly tell on first looking at it. It's sort of Seurat meets pixel. Speaking of jackets, that German edition of Friends Like Us is pretty racy, no?

There are so many books out there, but it's clear that if reviewers (and readers) find this book, a whole bunch of them will fall in love with it. No, there's not a murder, and the only zombies and aliens are us, all too human, and yes, as a woman, the story will be categorized as women's fiction, as opposed to if a man told basically the same story, but these are all things we have to live with. There was a little panic as the book was not showing up on the best novels of summer, but Jason and I thought that most summer round ups want the books out by July, if not June, and August 4, the book's release date, already seems like a fall preview. And the story is nothing if not autumnal, with much of it taking place at the school where Isabel and Josie taught together.

I can't help but end by returning to Inside Out. Now when I read Days of Awe, "I keep thinking about Phyllis Smith's Sadness knocking aside Amy Poehler's Joy and taking control of Isabel, knowing that they probably have to work together to survive. But some of the asides have a touch of  Mindy Kaling's Disgust in them, don't they?  And since I do enjoy these clever profiles, here is Fear and Anger.

Days of Awe publication is Tuesday, August 4, and it begins with an event at Boswell. You can reserve your copy right now. At right is Fox participating in our Independent Bookstore Day quiz show, along with other FOBs (friends of Boswell) Larry Watson, Carole E. Barrowman, and Mike Fischer. She wound up raising money for Pathfinders. And it was a lot of fun, so keep an eye out to see when we do it again.

Can't make our event? Maybe you're near one of these venues.
Thursday, August 6, 7 pm, at the Highland Park (Illinois) Library.
Tuesday, August 11th, 7 pm, Brilliant Books in Traverse City
Wednesday, August 12th, 7pm: Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor
Thursday, August 13th, 7 pm: Magers and Quinn in Minneapolis
Tuesday, August 18th, 7 pm: Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati
Wednesday, Wednesday, August 19th, Round Lake Library in Round Lake (Illinois)
Wednesday, August 20th, 7 pm: Books and Company in Oconomowoc.

There are probably more out there, but this is what I found.

*To circle back to my opening, I'm probably going to send Days of Awe to both sister, even though one of them asked me to parcel out the sadness. But don't worry, I upped the joy quotient too, too, by sending as a gift Fredrik Backman's A Man Called Ove. And just one sad novel update - one of my favorite books of 2014, All My Puny Sorrows, is now out in paperback.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Events This Week: Bill Hillmann Tonight (at 5:30), Jeffrey Gingold Thursday, July 30, 7 pm, and Where's Waldo at 3 pm (activities), 4 pm (prize drawing)

While it's not October, we have a lot going on at a bookstore for late July. Here's our updated event info for Boswell.

Monday, July 27, 5:30 pm, at Boswell:
Bill Hillmann, author of Mozos: A Decade Running with the Bulls of Spain.

You may have met Bill Hillmann at Boswell for The Old Neighborhood, his novel based on growing up on the mean streets of Chicago. You may know that he is a Golden Glove championship. And if you know about the documentary Chasing Red, you may know that he found his place running with the bulls of Pamplona. While he is profiled in Chasing Red, he tells the story his way in the new memoir Mozos.  Publishers Weekly called Mozos "gritty" and "tough-talking."

In the Chicago Tribune, John Keilman reviewed Mozos along with Bulls Before Breakfast, by Peter Milligan. Keilman writes that "The book is crammed with two-fisted tales of boozing, brawling and the pursuit of literature, as Hillmann tries to get a Hemingway-inspired writing career off the ground. He travels to Pamplona in homage to the author, and soon falls in with a crew who regard running with the bulls as an art form in itself, with the highest esteem reserved for those who sprint right in front of the animal's horns."

Now you may remember that we originally billed this as a possibly talk followed by a screening of Chasing Red at the Oriental, but that was contingent on unlocking the agreement at Tugg by selling enough tickets. Alas, we were not able to make the minimum and the screening cancelled, and that was after Tugg also changed our screening time, pushing us to move back the talk from 4 to 5:30. In the end, that was an interesting experiment which, with the right partners, we'd try again.

Here is Bill Hillmann's soundtrack to Mozos, as recounted on the Large-Hearted Boy blog.

Thursday, July 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jeffrey Gingold, author of Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect: A Holocaust Boy.

This event is cosponsored by the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Research Center.

Back in June, we had Jim Shepard for his novel about the Warsaw Ghetto called The Book of Aron. It was very well received, with some massively great reviews. Who, for example, can forget this review from Ron Charles in The Washington Post? Based on this it's a shoo-in for their top ten of 2015, right? But at least one reviewer complained about Holocaust novels in general, that the true stories were the only things we should chronicle.

Well it turns out that we have another story of the Warsaw ghetto on the schedule and this one is true. Jeffrey Gingold's Tunnel, Smuggle, Collect. Jeffrey's father, Sam Gingold helped his family survive by smuggling food and medicines, and as the war continues, labored under Nazi rule in the walled city within a city. The family eventually made a underground escape, but was then pursued by the Gestapo across the Polish countryside.

We're honored to welcome back Jeffrey Gingold to Boswell, an MS educator inducted into the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Hall of Fame for his Advocacy,  whose work includes Mental Sharpening Stones and Facing the Cognitive Challenges of Multiple Sclerosis. In addition to his writing, he's also been a practicing attorney. And now, this labor of love which took many years to come to fruition. Come celebrate with us at Boswell.

Friday, July 31, 3 pm (activities) and 4 pm (drawing), at Boswell:
Where's Waldo Celebration.

I hope you've had a great time looking for Waldo on the East Side, Shorewoood, Whitefish Bay, Glendale, Riverwest, The Third Ward/Walker's Point, and Wauwatosa. That's a lot of searching!

Well for those of you who found at least 15 Waldo's, it's time for you to come back to Boswell. Fill out your drawing ticket (no purchase required, though you must be 12 or under to win), have some refreshments, enjoy a little Waldo fun, and get $2 off on a Waldo book.  You do not have to be present for the party to win, but some prizes will require attendance.

Thanks to the following stores for participating in Waldo 2015: Beans and Barley, Board Game Barrister, Broadway Paper, Downer Hardware, Fischberger's Variety, Holey Moley Donuts, Hot PopIndulgence Chocolatiers, La Coppa GelatoLittle Monsters, The Little Red Book, Miss Cupcake bakery, Nehring's Sendiks, Outpost Natural Foods, Purple Door Ice Cream, Red Cap Luggage, Red Elephant Chocolate Cafe, Rocket Baby Bakery, Rushmor Records, Soaps and Scents, Studio Ric Rak, Tuesday's Child, Village Boutique, The Waxwing, Winkie's, and Yo Mama Frozen Yogurt

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers for Week Ending July 25, 2015. "Watchman" is Still on Top But the Numbers are More Human.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
2. The Bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson
3. Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
6. A Winsome Murder, by James DeVita
7. Among the Ten Thousand Things, by Julia Pierpont
8. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
9. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
10. The Cartel, by Don Winslow

Just about every independent bookseller sees a pop in sales when Terry Gross talks to an author on Fresh Air. Maureen Corrigan's reviews can also have a significant effect, and that's the case for Julia Pierpoint's Among the Ten Thousand Things This Week. She loved the opening (a young girl is asked to deliver a package, only to open it and find some damning contents) and especially the telling: "The chapters that follow that dramatic opening make it clear that there are going to be as many ingenious twists and turns in this literary novel as there are in a top-notch work of suspense like Gone Girl. The effect is dizzying: as a reader you feel, as the Shanley's do, that the earth keeps shifting beneath your feet."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Conservative Heart, by Arthur Brooks
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. The Little French Bakery Cookbook, by Susan Holding
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
5. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
6. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
7. Barbarian Days, by William Finnegan
8. The Art of the Con, by Anthony M. Amore
9. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
10. How to Tie a Scarf, from Potter Style

You may not have expected a surfing memoir from William Finnegan, best known for his journalism in The New Yorker, but Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, is out and getting some nice attention. Dwight Garner wrote in The New York Times: "The star is the surfing, and the waves, which the author studies all over the world, from a hundred different angles. If this is your thing, this will be your thing. He becomes a walking database of oceanographic information." He cannot fault the book on any level, but seems to make the point that you have to be interested in surfing to love the book, at least from his perspective. The Dallas Morning News's Michael E. Young says the work is "beautifully told" and is enthusiastic without caveats.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Listen and Other Stories, by Liam Callanan
2. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
3. The Mersault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly
6. The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay, by Andrea Gillies
7. Euphoria, by Lily King
8. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
9. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
10. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
The Enlightenment of Nina Findlay, by Andrea Gillies, is one of two Other Press titles in our top ten, the other being The Mersault Investigation, which is being read alongside The Stranger for a large book club. Gillies book screams summer, doesn't it, and has a great rec from Boswellian Sarah Lange, who writes: "Nina grew up with two handsome brothers next door; she was best friends with one and wound up marrying the other. Now, 25 years later, she's separated from her husband and recovering from an injury on a beautiful Greek island, and she's involved in another love triangle--this time with her charming doctor. This is a perfect summer read, whether you take it to the beach, on a plane or just into your backyard."

Paperback Nonfiction
1. Renewable, by Eileen Flanagan
2. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
3. The Milwaukee Bucket List, by Barbara Ali
4. Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain
5. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt
6. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
7. Clearing Clutter, by Alexandra Chauron
8. The Enchanted Forest, by Johanna Basford
9. The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan
10. We Should All be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie

With the phenomenon that is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I suspect the organization category in general is getting a boost, and Boswellian Mel Morrow is recommending a great follow up called Clearing Clutter: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual, by Alexandra Chauron. Her take: "This book is an accessible starting point for those interested in simplification, and is the perfect follow-up for KonMari fans. Yes, it is a wonderful practice to inventory, downsize, and organize your physical possessions--but then what? Alexandra Chauran's Clearing Clutter explains the benefits of nixing all kinds of clutter, from that stack of papers you've been meaning to sort through, to the millions of conflicting voices telling you what you should and shouldn't do, to the thoughts and feelings that hinder you from enjoying all the good that life has to offer. There's so much more to clearing a space than physically removing objects from it and giving it a thorough scrubbing: Clearing Clutter compassionately addresses how to get started with the process, where to go next, and how to make clutter-busting a rewarding part of your everyday life."

Books for Kids:
1. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, with illustrations by Richard Scarry
2. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
3. The Last Ever After, by Soman Chainani
4. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate (event 9/25 for Crenshaw)
5. Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, by Charlotte Zolotow with illustrations by Maurice Sendak
6. Paper Towns, by John Green
7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
8. The Name of This Book is Secret, by Pseudonymoous Bosch
9. The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
10. My Brother's Book, by Maurice Sendak

More Sendak and a few movie tie-ins dominate the list, but it's nice to see a good first-week pop for Soman Chainani's third book in The School for Good and Evil, The Last Ever After. Kirkus wrote that the newest is "well-stocked with big themes, inventively spun fairy-tale tropes, and flashes of hilarity." Fine, there's a little context to that quote, but I didn't use a single ellipsis or parenthesis. And hey kids, we've got a trailer!

Over at the Journal Sentinel books section, Jim Higgins reviews The Last Pilot, by Benjamin Johncock. A Teaser from the review: "In The Last Pilot, debut novelist Benjamin Johncock evokes the years of America's ramp-up to the space program so skillfully, a reader can almost feel the sandblasted landing strips. But he also probes the struggles of a couple who face the most painful crisis parents could imagine. Deftly, Johncock threads fictional protagonists Jim Harrison, a top-notch test pilot, and his wife, Grace, through a milieu with many familiar historical characters, such as famed test pilot Chuck Yeager, legendary Happy Bottom Riding Club bar-and-restaurant owner Pancho Barnes and multiple Gemini astronauts, without awkward traces of literary Photoshopping."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Maurice Sendak Exhibit "50 Years Works Reasons" at Milwaukee Public Library Through August 22, 2015

As you all know, Boswell is hosting a Rumpus Room retail store for the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Library. It's going on now through August 22, Hours are:
--12 Noon through  5 pm Monday
--10 am to 5 pm on Tuesday through Friday
--10 am to 4 pm on Saturday.

From the curators themselves, a little more about the exhibition: "The Maurice Sendak Memorial Exhibition is a retrospective of original works by Maurice Sendak. The collection will tour numerous museums and sites in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the publication of Where the Wild Things Are. Presidents, illustrators, friends and celebrities will share a quote about the renowned author; how he inspired them, influenced their careers and touched their lives. The quotes will be presented together with the artwork, offering viewers food for thought as well as a feast for their eyes."

There have been various special programs throughout the run, both at Central Library and the branches. At right is a gallery exhibit of how to draw a monster.

If you come by to see this wonderful exhibition, Boswellians Jannis, Carly, and Phoebe are there to help you. The Where the Wild Things Are tee shirts and Onesies have been particularly popular, and we have another order coming in for them. Alas, the In the Night Kitchen tee shirts have been discontinued, and what we have is it.

We also have Where the Wild Things Are totes and zippered pouches for sale. And of course, plenty of books, including many titles you don't normally see in bookstores.

In addition to the exhibit of Sendak's artwork, there are some playful displays such as standups where you can become a Wild Thing or Really Rosie. While we don't have the video or audio soundracks of the classic "Really Rosie" television show, we are selling Maurice Sendak's Really Rosie, the tie-in book to the Carole King special, as well as The Sign on Rosie's Door.

One of the most fun events was the kickoff, where among other things, Boswell helped get a Wild Thing to visit the Milwaukee Public Library. Somewhere there's an image of me line dancing with librarian Joan and the Wild Thing. Despite the inherent scariness of the situation, even junior Wild Things didn't seem to be afraid.

Alas, the Wild Thing sleepover at Central Library is completely full.

If you live in the Milwaukee area, the exhibit is open for another month. Here's the next six stops on the tour:
--St. Louis Public Library Sept 4 to Oct 18, 2015
--Boulder CO Public Library Oct 30 to Dec. 6, 2015
--Toronto Public Library Dec 18 to Jan. 31 (2016)
--Bloomington, Ind. Public Library Feb. 12 to March 27, 2016
--Grand Rapids Art Museum April 9 to May 21, 2016
--Phoenix Public Library June 4 to July 17, 2016

Monday, July 20, 2015

What to Do Bookish in Milwaukee This Week: Cynthia Swanson's "The Bookseller" Tonight, Science Fiction Writer Wesley Chu Tomorrow (Tuesday), Eileen Flanagan on Thursday, Susan Holding at Boelter Saturday, and Bill Hillmann at Boswell Next Monday.

Welcome to this week's lineup of events!

Monday, July 20, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Cynthia Swanson, author of The Bookseller.

What a year for bookseller heroes! On the national bestseller lists is The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George, following a nice run for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, and the year before that, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. At Boswell, it's rare to see a top ten without The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain, and Penelope Fitzgerald's The Bookshop also hit our top ten last week, due to a reissue and a solid recommendation from Jane.

Add to that list Cynthia Swanson's The Bookseller. Earlier this year it was an Indie Next Pick for March, accompanied by a recommendation from Susan Tunis of Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco, who noted that "Swanson’s enjoyable debut really gets interesting when the lines between waking and dreaming, fantasy and reality, begin to blur."

And what a blur it is! Allow Boswellian Sharon Nagel to say a bit more about The Bookseller: "Kitty Miller is enjoying her life as a single woman, co-owner of a bookstore with her best friend Frieda, and able to do whatever she wants whenever she wants. That's kind of a big deal for a woman in 1962. One day, she starts to have extremely vivid dreams of a different life. She is married and has three children. She lives in a beautiful home and spends most of her time caring for her family. The dreams are quite detailed - she is known as Katharyn, which is her real name, and the year is 1963. As the story goes on, Kitty's two lives become blurred, and she becomes confused. Which life is real, and which one is a fantasy? The Bookseller is a fascinating read for anyone who has wondered about the road not taken."

While Cynthia Swanson (photo credit Glenda Cebrian), who has previously published short fiction in 13th Moon, Kalliope, Sojourner, and other periodical, lists her home as Denver, she is most definitely originally from Milwaukee. We're thrilled to welcome her back to town for the publication of her first novel.

Tuesday, July 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Wesley Chu, author of Time Salvager and The Lives of Tao.

I think the best thing to do here is hand the floor over to our buyer Jason Kennedy: "Wesley Chu has been on my radar for a couple of years. I had heard that The Lives of Tao was roller coaster ride of a read. Being in the book business, occasionally you let authors earlier works slip by, and in sci-fi it makes it hard to go back and pick them up as the one book becomes a series. When I learned of Wesley Chu coming for an event on July 21st, I decided this was my time to make up some ground. To find out that the book was the beginning of a new series made it so much easier to jump in feet first."

"In Time Salvager, Wesley Chu has built a pretty bleak existence in the 26th Century. There was a golden age at some point between where we are and where Time Salvager goes, and something went horrible wrong. Humanity is running out of resources, energy, food--the Earth's oceans have a solid layer of dead brown muck on top of it and most cities are vast wastelands of abandoned and crumbling buildings. At times, this book reminded me of some of the best of the dreariest sci-fi ever, something akin to a Philip K. Dick or Paola Bacigalupi story. Having a lack of resources and with the world tumbling ever downward, the only hope humanity has is to look to the past."

"Enter James Griffin-Mars, a chronman. His job is to pillage the past and bring back resources for the present. It is not an easy job. There are laws governing time travel and what can be taken from out of the past. ChronoCom controls all time jumps and sets up where and when a chronman will go and take his target. The target can be an energy source, a valuable item that was destroyed, or something else that is about to leave existence as to ensure that the time line does not become compromised. This reminded me a bit of the sci-fi b-movie Millennium, where the time travelers would replace airplane passengers with dead bodies just before a plane crash was to happen."

Jason goes on to discuss some of the classic science fiction dilemmas that Chu tackles. And he notes that he read two Chus in the month, calling The Lives of Tao "a brilliant amount of kick butt fun." Read the rest of The Boswellians post here and then, if you've been chomping at the bit for a brand new sf writer to fall in love with, come meet Chu on Tuesday.

Wednesday, July 22, 7 pm. We regret to announce that our event with Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Of Noble Family and other Glamourist Histories, had to be cancelled, due to family medical issues. We hope to have the author back for a future appearance.

Thursday, July 23, 7 pm, at Boswell: Eileen Flanagan, author of Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope.

This is Eileen Flanagan's Second visit to Boswell, her first being back in 2009 for The Wisdom to Know the Difference. Can you believe we can say that we hosted an author six years ago? I can't.

At age forty-nine, Eileen Flanagan had an aching feeling that she wasn’t living up to her potential - or her youthful ideals. A former Peace Corps volunteer who’d once loved the simplicity of living in a mud hut in Botswana, she now had too many e-mails in her inbox and a basement full of stuff she didn’t need. Increasingly worried about her children’s future, she felt unable to make a difference - until she joined a band of singing Quaker activists who helped her find her voice and her power. Renewable the story of a spiritual writer and mother of two who, while trying to change the world, unexpectedly finds the courage to change her life. With wit and wisdom, Eileen Flanagan shares the engaging journey that brings her from midlife spiritual crisis to fulfillment and hope—and, briefly, to jail.

There are some strong recommendations here. From Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and Deep Economy: "Drawing on her Irish family history, Eileen Flanagan shares a poignant, human story that illustrates the courage we need to create a more just future for our children and children everywhere."

And from Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace and author of The Story of Stuff: "If you’ve ever felt despair about the state of the world or wondered, ‘What can I do?’ I recommend reading Renewable. Eileen Flanagan’s insightful memoir shows a deep understanding of complex global problems while showing us how one person can change their life while working to change the world we all share."

Saturday, July 25, 12 Noon, at Boelter SuperStore:
Susan Holding, author of The Little French Bakery Cookbook: Sweet and Savory Recipes and Tales from a Pastry Chef and Her Cooking School.

Straight from her bakery in North Freedom, Wisconsin, Susan Holding offers stories and sweets at Boelter SuperStore, 4200 N. Port Washington Road, between Capitol Drive and Hampton Avenue.

And don't forget about: Monday, July 27, 5:30 pm (note time), at Boswell:
Bill Hillmann, author of Mozos: A Decade of Running with the Bulls of Spain.

It looks like we will not make the numbers for the screening of Chasing Red, the film that features Bill Hillmann running with the bulls - we'll know for sure tomorrow. The deadline is today, so if a whole bunch of you were putting off buying tickets until the last minute, please commit to purchasing them now on Tugg. But that said, we're still excited to be hosting Mr. Hillmann for a talk/reading for his latest memoir, Mozos. 

In Mozos: A Decade of Running with the Bulls of Spain, “Buffalo” Bill Hillmann narrates his decade-long journey of self-discovery. From wasted ex-Golden Gloves champ to one of the elite mozos, or masters in the art of running with the bulls, his first-hand account culminates in an infamous goring by a bull named “Bravito” last summer.

Bill Hillmann's first novel The Old Neighborhood was declared best novel of 2014 by Chicago Sun-Times and and selected by Library Journal as one of the top indie fiction titles for spring 2014. The book also received rave reviews from Booklist, and the Chicago Tribune. Hillmann’s journalism has appeared in The Washington Post,The Globe and Mail, and He's been running with the bulls in Spain for a decade now, covering the event for Esquire and Outside magazine.

And remember, our Bill Hillmann event for Mozos takes place even without the screening.