Tuesday, November 30, 2010

After a Long Weekend, a Day to Restock, and Now for a Bit of Reading

I have to stop working sometimes, just so I can keep up with reading. After the big weekend, I spent part of the day receiving some product I ordered earlier in the month. We restocked some of the New Yorker magazine puzzles we had this spring, plus the hanging globes are back in stock too. And we also got some Spot and Eric Carle plush, but the sad thing about that order was that what we really wanted were the dish sets, and the vendor was out of those.

This morning I finished The Fates Will Find Their Way, a first novel by Hannah Pittard, who is getting a lot of buzz. We will be hosting Pittard when the book comes out, but it doesn't make sense to write about something now. You'll hear more from me closer to the publication.

I'm currently reading Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth about the "Real" America, by Dante Chinni and James Gimpel. It's an outgrowth of the Patchwork Nation Project, a collaboration among the Christian Science Monitor, the PBS Newshour, and PBS member stations, funded by the Knight Foundation. Chinni, a journalist, and Gimpel, a professor at the University of Maryland College Park, try to argue against a red and blue state America. Instead, they have 12 profiles that divide as small as county.

I like these sorts of sociological surveys. Years ago I read The Nine Nations of North America, and another of their jumping off points, The Rise of the Creative Class. Another book on their list, The Big Sort, is still on my to-be-read list. And there are others they haven't mentioned, like Bobos in Paradise.

I'm currently working my way through their profiles, from Boom Towns to Evangelical Epicenters to Military Bastions and Mormon Outposts. The only problem I can foresee is that sometimes the counties could be further split by type. I'll let you know what I think.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Releasing the Past, Memoir Style--On Reading Darin Strauss' Half a Life

Over the years, we hosted two events with Darin Strauss. Over the years, I have gotten to know him a bit, chatting with him on the floor of Book Expo, and once, even having lunch with him in Brooklyn. I read two of his three published novels, Chang and Eng and More Than it Hurts You. I didn't read The Real McCoy, but our buyer, Jason did, and liked it. I'm amused by when you look up his novel son our Ipage database, The Real McCoy is no longer an active title, but for some reason, Autentico McCoy from Planeta still is, even though there's no stock in any of the warehouses.

Of course I didn't know the events chronicled in Strauss's new memoir, Half a Life, but I'm sure there were people who were way closer than I was to Strauss who didn't know about the incidents either. When Strauss was a senior in high school, a classmate of his died after colliding with the car he was driving. I don't even know how to say this in the right way. But as you can imagine, this was an event that haunted him for many years, particularly as (and I'm not giving anything away here, as he chronicled it in "This American Life") the family sued him for millions of dollars.

Lightbulb. When Strauss would talk about his previous novel, More than it Hurts You, you would think he identified with Josh Goldin, the clueless father caught in a medial and legal crisis, but Strauss said he identified as much or more with Darlene Stokes, the African American doctor sued for malpractice, and that identification is much more clear after reading his memoir.

I'm sure that anyone reading this book will remember a buried memory of his or her own, a family secret that nobody talks about. I definitely have a few. Dani Shapiro reviewed Half a Life in The New York Times Book Review, and that makes sense, as she's another novelist who then wrote Slow Motion, a confessional memoir. I didn't read that, but read the sequel of sorts, Devotion, about which I recently blogged.

But here's the thing. There's nothing to confess. Strauss was exonerated of all blame after the accident, by numerous witnesses, as well as the police officer. It's one of those things, though. We want blame. It's somebody's fault. Strauss notes that driver's in blameless crashes suffer more stress afterwards than drivers who were at fault.

It's a spare story, beautifully told, and the McSweeney's package is just great. Wrap around band instead of dust jacket, a lovely burgundy cloth binding, and very nice paper indeed. It's such a pleasure to read a book where I can't read through the pages to the other side.

So do you give this book as a gift to someone, and how do they interpret it? Obviously there are many people struggling out there with these sorts of things. But as Pam Abrams points out in her Entertainment Weekly review (it can an A, by the way), it's a book that she and her two friends were able to read in short order on a trip, and they spent the rest of the trip talking about it. I can see a lot of people doing that.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's Going on This Week at Boswell? November 28th-December 5th

We've had a few folks looking at The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur over the weekend so I'm hoping we'll have a decent turnout this afternoon at 2 PM. And yes, Kelly Peloza will be bringing samples.

We're quiet on Monday and Tuesday, the better for you to shop in peace. But at the JCC, the final event of the Jewish Book and Culture Fair is on Tuesday, November 30th, at 7 PM. The J is hosting Thanassis Cambinis, author of A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel. Cambanis, who has contributed to the Boston Globe, The New York Times, Foreign Affairs and the Huffington Post, was the for several years the mideast bureau chief fo the Boston Globe, and currently is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and the New School. His premise is that Hezbollah is a much bigger threat to Israel than the more high-profile Hamas and Al Quaeda. The JCC is at 6255 North Santa Monica Boulevard. More about Cambanis on his combo blog/website.

If you saw any early notes about our event on Dececember 1st with Cynthia Kraack, it has been cancelled. Just in case, I'm letting you know again. That said, if you have family at St. John's on the Lake (heck, if you're at St. John's on the Lake), I'll be hosting a book fair there on Wednesday, December 1st, from 2-4 PM. If you're nosy like me, you probably want to see the floor plans for the new tower. Here they are.

Our Thursday, December 2nd with Ann Wertz Garvin, author of On Maggie's Watch, at 7 PM, is still 100% a go. Garvin teaches at UW Whitewater (not Parkside as I mentioned in the email newsletter--I confused her event with Jonathan Shailor's prison theater book talk, which is not until December 10th). Here's the writeup in the Journal Sentinel today.

Friday, December 3rd is our next holiday market. Saturday's first event was bustling. We heard wonderful feedback from our customers, and I expect the word of mouth to spread for market #2. It got crazy busy between 6 and 7 PM, so if you're planning to do some serious shopping, come early. It starts at 3 PM. And yes, B.J. (former Schwartz Shorewood bookseller) will be there selling jewelry. I'm glad to say that market #1 was the most successful event she's participated in to date.

On Saturday, December 4th, at 10 AM, we are providing space for Dasha Kelly's Still Waters writing workshop. This is one-on-one prep for the Scholastic Writing Awards. This is a free event but you must register. For more information, please visit the Still Waters Collective website.

At 2 PM on Saturday (also 12/4), we host our now semi-annual student readings from St. Robert's School. We had a number of customers sit in on the readings who didn't even know the kids last time. If you do know a family at St. Robert's, this is a great day to shop, as between 1 and 4 PM, a percentage of all designated* purchases go back to the school.

Sunday night (12/5) from 5 to 8 we have another shopping night, this time with long-time participator Maryland Avenue Montessori School. It's a pajama party, with refreshments, storytime, and the semi-annual student art exhibit. Yes, that evening, a percentage goes back to the school for designated purchases. It's wild.

I might be slightly late to the shindig, however, as we also have a booth at the Give Local, Buy Local Gift Fair, sponosored by Our Milwaukee, and held in conjunction with the Outpost Alternative Gift Fair. It's held between 12 and 4 PM at Lakefront Brewery. Who knew that Lakefront offer's the #4 brewery tour in America, as determined by Trip Advisor.

I'm tired already! But the good news is that you can pick and choose which things you attend. Hope to see you at something, and be sure to say hi.

*By designated, I mean you have to tell us. And this is instead of Boswell Benefits, though it's a larger percentage (10 instead of 5, and there's an even better option of you use the money raised to buy books from us).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Today is the First of Our Three Holiday Markets

Last year we hosted three markets in our store during the holidays, and they were popular enough that we are continuing the tradition. Angela, who puts together our small farm market in the summer, has coordinated a number of unique artisan vendors, selling jewelry, knits, clothing, pottery, and more.

The other markets are next Friday, December 3rd, from 3-8 PM, and Sunday, December 12th, from 11-5 PM. The December 3rd event is part of Festive Friday, where Downer Avenue will also have:
--carollers*
--a dog costume contest
--a Klements sausage race
--wine and beer tasting.
All this and Santa too, up and down Downer Avenue.

Meanwhile, the store is particularly festive today, what with our added vendors.

And tomorrow? Vegan cookie treats at 2 PM with Kelly Peloza, and the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur.

*Or if you prefer, carolers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Shopping at Boswell During the Holidays--An Added Table of Bargain Books

We've been gearing up for our holiday season, and I guess now is the time when you find out how your store is going to do for the year (Yes, for bookstores that are not in tourist areas or driven by textbook sales, it's all about December). I know Boswell looks great. First of all, because I think it does, and secondly, because of all your feedback and compliments. Much thanks!

We don't open at 3 AM and we've stayed away from doorbusters, as I don't want our doors broken. That said, Jason bought a whole bunch of new remainders and hurts at the Cirobe show in Chicago, and more since. In fact, we've got so much that we've added a bargain table to our front area, in between our two new paperback tables. I'm particularly excited about the new assortment of music, particularly Jazz for Peanuts.

Another great value option is our second-hand selection. Now I know that buying used books will not work for every recipient, but I can think of a number of people I know who would see it as a positive, for either environmental reasons, or because the book is no longer available as a new title. And because we're pretty picky about what we bring in, a lot of our selections look new. That said, we don't allow returns on our second-hand titles, so choose carefully. Also, be aware that we are not buying used books until January.

Speaking of returns, we have eased our returns policy through the holidays. You'll have through January 15th to return anything with a regular or gift receipt that was bought after November 1st. Not sure if they want it? Please ask us for a gift receipt.

All that, plus plenty of reasonably priced gift items, boxed cards, ornaments (I've been told that this bird with nest is a very good deal and it proves out, as we've been selling it quite well), calendars, and a nice assortment of Boswell's Best, at 20% off list price.

But in the end, you're not going to shop us for price. I know that and you know that. It's about the store. I was so happy this week to have a customer tell me how much he enjoys coming back home over the holidays, so he can hang out (yes, and buy stuff) at his favorite bookstore. And he lives in a town with a wonderful independent, so that was a nice compliment indeed.

So after you've mobbed the malls, braved the big boxes, and clicked and clacked through your websites, maybe it's time to come in and have some relaxation time, in a store where you can browse to your heart's content, with a cup of coffee or tea, and find the perfect gift that you can feel good about. Oh, and maybe pick up something for yourself too.

Much thanks for your patronage, and enjoy the holiday weekend.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Non-Themed Thanksgiving Post--Lori Tharps (Appearing 11/26) Gives Me Book Recommendations

I was poking around the web, looking for more information about Lori Tharps' novel, Substitute Me. Tharps is reading at Boswell tomorrow night, and since this was my suggestion to appear, I better to everything I can to promote the book. Since I don't really have a Thanksgiving post handy (I try not to limit my gratefulness to Thanksgiving Day), I thought I'd offer a few more words.

One website I found amusing was Carleen Brice's
Welcome White Folks. In it, I learned that December is National Buy a Book By a Black Author and Give it To Somebody Not Black. It's interesting that Brice gravitates around the same writers that Tharps does (yes, there are recommendations). And yes, Brice did a very nice interview with Tharps at the time of Substitute Me's publication.

As Tharps and I were discussing the event, I indicated that, to use the framework of Brice, I am one of those white people that likes to read books written by black people. I do find it hard, however, to find good recommendations. The most recent book I've been recommending is Attica Locke's Black Water Rising, and I tend to fall
back on Nathan McCall's Them. Locke's novel was edited by the wonderful Dawn Davis, as was another novel I read several years ago that is worthy of a read, Bridgett Davis's Shifting through Neutral. Davis was recently made an executive editor at Ecco. Here's the press release.

So I mentioned to Tharps that I was looking for recommendations. I had mentioned I had gotten a copy of 32 Candles to read. I asked what she thought, and wondered if she had a few other suggestions. Here's her reply, annotated a bit. I put her comments in burgundy, as it's sometimes a little confusing, as I'm quoting other people.

"32 Candles is a MUST read. It is wonderful, and fresh and quirky. And the author, Ernessa Carter, and I both went to Smith. I graduated before she got there though. "
(Daniel's note: this is the story of Los Angeles lounge singer, whose difficult past growing up in Mississippi follows her west. And yes, the title is a reference to the John Hughes movie.)

"The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is another new book that I think deserves attention. Author Heidi Durrow won the Bellwhether prize for the book."
(Of all the books recommended, this got the most reads and recommendations among indie booksellers, due to the perseverance of Craig Poplears at Algonquin. It is about the daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. who wonders about her mother's mysterious suicide.)

"Bernice McFadden's Glorious, another great book by an amazing author. It's a tragic, yet enlightening read about a fictitious writer of the Harlem Renaissance."
It's through the eyes of fictional writer Easter Bartlett, who escapes a tough life in Georgia, only to find solace among the black New York intellectuals of the time...until. Well, it's a novel so you know something has to happen bad. McFadden mixes historical figures such as Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Fast Waller and Nancy Cunard into the story, Ragtime style.

Here's Toni Morrison's take: "Blending the truth of American history with the fruits of Bernice L. McFadden's rich imagination, this is the story of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty."

"Martha Southgate's, Third Girl from the Left. Anything Southgate writes is amazing."
Three generations of a family connected by movies--the youngest is a struggling filmmaker, her mom was in blaxploitation movies, and her mother, survivor of the Tulsa race riots, who found escape at the theater. Great reviews and a big
literary push in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin at the time (with extra enthusiasm from Carla Gray), the paperback was given a more genre treatment, similar to what happened with Shifting Through Neutral.

I don't think this jacket thing is limited to African American fiction--books of all kinds get a more erudite treatment in hardcover, and something more mass merchant in paperback. That's why I was so thrilled that Simon and Schuster kept the Little Bee hardcover jacket in paperback, instead of the more schmaltzy boy-on-the-beach scene of the British edition, and the book worked anyway.

Join the conversation. I mean, what author event doesn't have the question, "Who are some of your favorite writers?" Lori Tharps appears at Boswell Friday, November 26th, 7 PM.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Wish I'd Read The Cookbook Collector Earlier, But It's Never Too Late for These Kinds of Things

Back when I worked at Schwartz as a buyer, I was always thinking a season ahead. By the time a book came out, I was already onto something new. But now, everything I do (with the exception of event planning*), seems to be now, now, now.

This has led me to accept that it's never to read a book, except maybe it's no longer available. But that's hardly the case with Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector. It hasn't even had a holiday selling season.

I already wrote a post on this novel, tieing it into some Jane Austen merchandise we had. Though I'm a fan of Goodman's, I hadn't yet read the book, though I knew, from feedback from other readers, it was quite good. In fact, Dave from Next Chapter talked to me twice about the novel. He knew I was a big fan of Goodman (I've read all the published works for adults in book form, including the stories, but not the kids book) and had praised it as even better than Intuition, her previous novel.

After much pressure, I pronounced it as my favorite book I hadn't read in 2010, much like This is Where I Leave You was for 2009. As these things go, this is all quite arbitrary. I'm sure there was a book I would like even better in both years. But those who do massive research for making grand pronoucements don't have enough time to add the alien juicer to their international cooking table and add a cute little sign that says it's now 25% off, which it is. We have it in red and black.

The first thing I realized after finishing the book is that the title is a bit misleading; the story is not quite as much a foodie paradise as you'd think. Only one sister has a cookbook story arc, and it's not central to much of the story. Jess (short for Jessamine) is a philosophy student at Berkley, a vegan and would-be environmental activist, though her sister Emily would say she flits a bit from cause to cause. Yes, she does work at a second-hand bookstore, and yes, a collection of cookbooks does play into her transformation.

The second thing you need to know is that though the book is that while it plays off of Sense and Sensibilty, it is hardly a play-by-play reenactment (though I guess I should read the original again to make sure, the original that I probably haven't read in 25 years). Jessamine is the Marianne, while the Elinor character in the book is best represented by Emily, the older sister of the family, who is running a tech start-up in the Silicon Valley. She has a boyfriend, Jonathan, that runs a similar sort of business in Cambridge, and both operations are expecting (as this is the late 1990s) to cash in big on an upcoming IPO.

In this way, the story is much like Intuition, which uses a cancer lab as its setting, but at its core is a novel about relationships and honor and well, I could probably say this better if I had a month to put this post together. But both novels use social issues to play off of personal ones. I don't want to give anything away, but the pull of power in the relationships plays off competitive issues in the real world between the couples.

Not that Goodman leaves behind the Jewish themes she explored in her earlier fiction. Both sisters lives are affected by the Bialystocker Rabbis (and brothers-in-law) who have set up shop respectively in Berkley, and in their home town of Canaan. Coincidence yes, but if that bothers you, you should not be reading comedies. It's intrinsic to the plot, so just accept it.

I always thought that Kaaterskill Falls and Paradise Park were like bookends, which each heroine starting from the extremes (complete faith, no faith) and moving towards the center, and what I loved best, was the way that the storylines reflected those themes. I seem to remember Paradise Park was so rambling that I found myself a little dizzy by the end.

Perhaps I loved this book even more because it is more clearly a comedy. Yes, bad things happen, but it ends with a party of some sort, which is sort of in the playbook for these types of novels. It was just the kind of party I love, where you're happy and sad and happy that you read The Cookbook Collector, but sad to see it go. And I feel late about coming to the party, and oh, I so prided myself on being early. But at least I got there before they cut the cake.**

Oh, and now I have to come up with a different pick, for my favorite book of 2010 that I haven't read.

*Usually early, but not always. I've been known to add the right event on at the last minute, like Leah Dobkin's Soul of a Port, for which we're hosting an event on Monday, December 13th. The port involved is the Port of Milwaukee, and the book has an introduction by Mayor Barrett.

**Three cakes, to be exact.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coming Up with Chanukah Gift Suggestions 2010

So we have a little Chanukah table in the kids section, but it felt like we needed something a little more central. We also have some extra books leftover from a display we had at the JCC Book and Culture Fair (there's one event left in that, by the way, for Thanassis Cambanis's A Privilege to Die, on November 30th. Tickets are $5. Here's a link) so there were enough books for two displays.

So we move the books over, along with our small selection of boxed cards, but I realize several days later, it's still basically a display for kids, which actually seems to be a higher percentage of Chanukah giving than Christmas (though I haven't seen the stats).

I queried one Jewish friend on why we have a very nice market in Christmas cards (and stuff) compared to Chanukah, when we have a good amount of Jewish customers (and sadly, I have to ask, even though I'm Jewish), and she said that the main market for Chanukah cards (which are generally spelled "Hanukkah", by the way, ignoring the guttural start, paying homage to the silent "hey" at the end, and adding a "k" for who knows what reason), were Christians sending holiday cards to their Jewish friends.

So I don't want you to think I'm prying into all my customers' lives, but I happened to start chatting with the next person who asked me where the Chanukah cards were, and this was the case. (On another aside, I did have two customers look for Thanksgiving cards this year--we had some leftovers from last year, but I didn't know where I put them. I guess I will go back to bringing in a small selection next year, but the pickings are slim. Most of the lines I like simply don't do Thanksgiving cards.)

If you are so inclined, there is a nice selection of gift ideas that might be considered more Chanukah friendly (of course, like in Christmas, you can get anything you want. I'm really not involved in the decision making). Joseph Telushkin's Hillel: If Not Now, When? is the newest volume in Schocken's Jewish Literacy series, and it's notable that Telushkin is one of the top names in Jewish scholarship. And Joan Nathan has Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France. Apparently I have some cousins in France, on my mother's side. I only met them once, when I was very young.

There are some very nice biographies and memoirs out there of Jewish figures, such as Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat or from Yale's new Jewish biography sereis, Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt, by Robert Gottlieb. Needless to say, these books can also go on your must-buy-books-for-my-theater-buff-friend list, regardless of holiday.

I'd recommend Bob Dylan in America, by Sean Wilentz, but didn't he do a Christmas album? Does that take you off the list? But then you have to eliminate Barbra Streisand, who also has a new book, My Passion for Design. Perhaps that's cancelled by her unforgettable turn in "Yentl"?

Oh, and the Huffington Post had this list from last year. I will probably see a good list on some website the day of Chanukah itself, when it's pretty much too late to put anything together.

I put together the eight novels of Chanukah list, but as soon as I displayed, I realized I left off Cynthia Ozick's acclaimed Foreign Bodies. And about 25 other books. Then we had an event, and then I got tired and had to go home. Plus the store was closing. But here's the list:

1. The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman
2. The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
3. Day for Night, by Frederick Reiken (probably one more post to go on this*)
4. Great House, by Nicole Krauss
5. Nemesis, by Philip Roth
6. To the End of the Land, by David Grossman
7. Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak (the new translation for Pevear and Volokhonsky, of course)
8. The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson (I was only including books published this year, which is why they are all hardcovers except for Jacobson. If I was including reprints, I would include Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You, of course. Unless you think the recipient might think the book was sexist. Which I did not. And I'm happy to continue arguing this out.)

I read four of the eight, which is not a bad track record. And all of the ones that I read (the first four) make good Christmas gifts too. More on The Cookbook Collector tomorrow.

*Being that it was my favorite book of the year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What's Happening at Boswell During Turkey Week?

We have a nice collection of events this week at Boswell, starting with Douglas Armstrong tonight (Monday, 11/22) at 7 PM. His first novel, Even Sunflowers Cast Shadows, is set in depression-era Kansas and follows the adventures of young Emma Starkey and her friend Margaret Drummond.

Armstrong has been getting some guidance from his friend Paul Salsini, who has authored three books (The Cielo, et al) and had several successful events at Boswell. Salsini worked with Armstrong at The Milwaukee Journal, where Armstrong was the longtime film critic.

On Tuesday (11/23, 7 PM), we're hosting Robert Tanzilo, who at one time wrote for the Milwaukee Sentinel, and has currently penned The Milwaukee Police Station Bomb of 1917. One of my customers who is an expert on Wisconsin History told me the book was excellent, and he's the kind of guy who finds every tiny incorrect fact. He missed his calling as a copy editor.

This incident, while centered in Bay View, was not what probably first comes to mind, the 1886 labor dispute that has a little ceremony by the now-vanished steel plant each year. Instead, it was a different riot, centered on the schism between an Italian protestant pastor and a group of anarchists.

First published in Italy, I'm excited that we're finally carrying a Tanzilo book in English. Yes, we also carry one in Italian.

Nothing on Wednesday and nothing on Thursday, when we're not even open. Our customer Amy asked me how our turkey puppets were doing, concerned that we still had one. I assured her this was the last and we'd sold three.

Friday (11/26, 7 PM) we welcome back anther Milwaukee-bred writer, Lori Tharps, author of the memoir Kinky Gazpacho and her first novel, Substitute Me. It's the story of a woman and her nanny and well, the man that comes between them. As the Journal Sentinel said in their writeup yesterday (thank you), "complications ensue for all.)

Saturday (11/27) is our first of three Holiday Artisan Markets. Now that Discovery World is using the same name for their markets, we probably have to call ours "Holiday Artisan Market that is Not at Discovery World." I'll work on that. It starts at 11 AM and we have about a dozen vendors, offering jewelry, knits, cheese, and of course Angela's wonderful plantings and maple syrup.

Yes, another event Sunday (11/28), at 2 PM. It's Kelly Peloza's presentation for The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, a great baking book that was put together by artist-photographer-blogger- Kelly Peloza, whose work has been lauded at Chicago Vegan Mania and featured in Vegetarian Tmes. More on her blog.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What's Selling at Boswell--Bestsellers for Week Ending November 20th, 2010

Hardcover Fiction
1. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin (an event)
2. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris
3. Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
4. Moonlight Mile, by Dennis Lehane
5. Room, by Emma Donoghue
6. Great House, by Nicole Krauss
7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson
8. Christmas Carol Pop Up, by Dickens with pops by Eric Fischer
9. Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King
10. Nemesis, by Philip Roth
(with Lord of Misrule at #11--we have one left)

Hardcover Nonfiction. Whereas we normally have more fiction than nonfiction bestsellers, it tends to flip closer to Christmas
1. Sleepwalk with Me, by Mike Birbiglia (appeared at the Pabst)
2. Wisconsin's Own, by Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman (Shorewood Library event)
3. Gay Bar, by Will Fellows (event)
4. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (just plain hot)
5. Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That, by Ina Garten
6. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff (back in stock)
7. Life, by Keith Richards
8. The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, by Eliza Griswold (one of those books I hadn't paid attention to)
9. Decision Points, by George W. Bush
10. Cake Boss, by Buddy Valastro
11. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
12. My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy
13. I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron
14. The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (yes, we still have a couple)
15. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
Too tired to link! Today we sold books at Plymouth United Church of Christ at their gift sale, and tomorrow I bring books to the Katie Gingrass Gallery for fill the shelves. They are having a reception tomorrow night.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday Gift Post--Things Just Look Better When they Hang from the Ceiling

Boswellian (well, sort of ex-Boswellian, but she might be working a bit at the holidays, though she doesn't know our new computer system) Rebecca came in this week to do a little shopping, as she was in the neighborhood. We had a great time catching up, and of course I got to give her a little tour of what gift items came in.

She gave me a heads up that Anthropologie sure had a lot of matryoshka-themed items this fall. They are always at the forefront of these design trends, and I was glad to hear we were keeping up, at least with the ones I like.I wound up ordering more matryoshkas (pictured), which are selling pretty well, although amusingly enough, not quite as fast as things with matryoshkas pictured on them, especially if they in some way nest. I won't mention the glasses, as we're out of them (oops), but we still have the measuring cups and spoons.

One other thing Anthropologie seems to do quite well is displays. While I don't have the budget for some of their grand projects, I have learned one lesson--everything seems more interesting when it's hanging. This week we sold almost all our black and cream hanging globes (yes, I think I was able to confirm another order) and sales of our wooden bird ornaments picked up after we hung some over the Christmas cards.

Jocelyn has been decorating the store for Christmas, and has already hung our snowflakes. And we still have our autumn leaves up through Thanksgiving in the kids area. Jocelyn hung puzzle pieces over our jigsaw display (fortunately, one of our cartons came bashed and we were able to get credit and use the pieces). And yes, I have a very Daniel-like idea for our front window, which deserves it's own post. May I just say it involves hanging?

I've been doing a lot of restocking, as I tend not to buy in large quantities. That doesn't work for some of our vendors, but we did just get more Plip Clips in. They went fast the first time, perhaps due to our clever makeshift display, which used to involve fairies. We brought in more Gobblet Gobblers, the tic tac toe variation that has been doing well, as well as another wooden game from our mobile called Zimbbos. It's a balancing toy, involving circus animals and clowns.

More stuffed bears, more sock monkeys, more Folkmanis puppets, and a great deal from a very good vendor of boxed cards, with a new assortment we're selling for 25% off list price. I like it because it adds a nice multi-cultural touch, with African American, Mexican, Brazilian, and Jewish-themed illustrations.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Not Hard to Pick a Gift for Certain Customers This Holiday

It's funny that sometimes you look at the season and there our lots of solid picks in one area, say science, but there isn't a good biography for women to speak of. This year there seems to be a lot of everything. You like baseball? There's Jane Leavy's The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood. More of a music fan? Are you more Sinatra (Frank: The Voice, by James Kaplan) or Rolling Stones (Life, by Keith Richards).

Are you a history fan? Well, John Adams is represented in Joseph Ellis's The First Family, while Edmund Morris has Colonel Roosevelt. And this doesn't include some of the books I talked about at the Woman's Club luncheon, such as Ron Chernow's Washington and Barnet Schecter's George Washington's America.

Of course one might say this is a great choice indeed, for my great uncle Vanderbilt Carruthers. But these are categories that we need to know about at Christmas (and a bit, though just a fraction as much, for Father's Day). So of course that made me wonder, what's the most in-demand golf book on Ingram's database right now. Even when golf was hot, this store wasn't golf central, but as I say, at Christmas, can be a bit different.
It turned out to be Don't Choke, by Gary Player. "Who's Gary Player?", one of my booksellers ask me. Being that I knew who this was and had no interest in golf, the whole thing made me feel old.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Short Post Before Lanora and I talk at the Woman's Club of Wisconsin--General Panic, One Cancellation.

Today at Noon Lanora Hurley of Next Chapter Bookshop are doing our now-annual presentation of holiday gift ideas at the Woman's Club of Wisconsin luncheon. I was very smart and put together a very nice list, all printed up and folded. Then I pulled a bunch of different books. Then I realized one of my books (Cleopatra) was currently out of stock, though we expect more any day.

Then I realized we had an event booked for the National Book Award winner, Lord of Misrule, for January (January 17th, to be exact). Our five books disappeared in an instant. No, I hadn't placed our event order. Panic ensued. How will McPherson be able to get the books out? Will our event stand? Vintage has paperback rights. Will they help with the hardcover reprinting? Will the paperback be pushed up?

Filling massive demand from small presses can be a challenge. I don't know how Bellevue Literary Press did it with Tinkers. We have an event with him too, on February 17th. Wow! Thank you to Mary and Molly who helped set these up.

One event that won't be happening is for Debi Tibbles, author of All Aboard: How Ollie Tibbles Became a Train. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she will not be able to make the trip from Michigan. I totally understand how these things can be. If I ever write a book (undoubtedly self published, the tour will be a mess.)

To my knowledge, she will still be appearing on "At Issue by Ben Merens" on Friday, only by phone.

Now off to the lunch.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rep Night the Fourth, 2010--Selections from Macmillan and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

There is nothing like discussing corporate name changes, and our final reps of the season had sold lines under several different umbrella names (as did many of our other reps--the corporate lineage for the current Random House, at least in terms of ownership, is Bantam, which was the first major acquistion by Bertelsman in the U.S. Now it's just an imprint of one of its three trade publishing groups).

Ellen came from Minnesota, still a regional headquarters for sales reps, though certainly not with as many as their used to be. They have a book club. I don't know what they are reading. Several of the titles were familiar to us, including Art and Max, the new David Wiesner picture book, which came with a display contest that involved coloring the promotional piece. Here is our entry, as well as several others.

There's a Little Prince graphic novel (who else thinks he looks like Stewie on Family Guy?) and a revision of David Macaulay's older work in the brand new, colorized, Built to Last (made up of Cathedral, Castle, and Mosque). We almost put Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night on our owl table, but the actual book has artwork and poetry about other nocturnal creatues too, such as raccoons and snails. Perhaps displayed with the snail bank? Lots of great reviews on this one.

One novel that seemed particularly compelling to me is Annexed, a novel that explores the Anne Frank story from the vantage point of 16-year-old Peter. Author Sharon Dogar fleshes out the lives of the other people trapped with the Franks. There has been some starred advance reviews, but the Anne Frank Trust is not happy with the whole thing. I'm a little confused about these trusts that own dead people like Anne Frank and Martin Luther King.

On the adult side, Maripsoa Road, by Robert Michael Pyle, is a quest for a butterfly year, the way several books of the past few years chased bird breeds. According to my tip sheet, the author is coming to Next Chapter on December 11th. Should be a nice event.

There were also some great cookbooks on the list. Dorie Greenspan's Around my French Table is out of stock with the publisher (we still have at least one) but is supposedly coming back in early December. Who didn't start salivating when Michele Norris cooked pumpkin stuffed with everything good with Greenspan on All Things Considered? Here's the segment.

Another great cookbook is the Gourmet Cookie Book, with their favorite cookie recipe for every year of over seven decades. Sara Moulton was on Wisconsin Public Radio's Here on Earth discussing the book, how they picked the recipes, and why cookies with lard (yes, there's at least one recipe in the book) are so darn flakey. And since I heard the program, I know that Moulton would like folks to know she was not executive editor of Gourmet, but executive chef. The former honor, as we all know, went to Ruth Reichl. Listen to the interview here.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of Carl's favorite novels of the year, Bruce Machart's The Wake of Forgiveness, with echoes of Faulkner, and a great rec for Cormac McCarthy fans.

Anne sells Macmillan trade, but as folks know, they don't really have a Macmillan imprint, even though that was an esteemed old imprint, but their main lines are St. Martin's Press, Henry Holt, and Farrar Straus Giroux. Plus a whole mess of other ones, like Minotaur for mysteries and Tor for science fiction and fantasy. And kids books, lots of kids books.

Why not talk about kids book's first? I'm drawn to Miss Lina's Ballerinas, as they are part of the little girl trinity, along with princesses and kittens*. Grace Maccarone's book is said to be an homage to Madeline, the story of eight young ballerinas, Christina, Edwina, Sabrina, Justina, Katrina, Bettina, Marina, and Nina, whose dance moves are thrown off by the addition of the new girl, Regina.
A young boy might be drawn to The Book of Bad Things: A Sinister Guide to History's Dark Side, by Count Droffig, also known as Clive Gifford. Now this author has done books on soccer skills and the like, so the question is whether this stuff is real or not. We had an argument in the store today as to whether it was or not. The kitten died!

Jason's favorite (the buyer, not the rep) loves Ernest, the Moose Who Wouldn't Fit, by Catherine Rayner. What he doesn't fit in is the book itself. A mouse helps him try to adjust, and some paper folding trickery gives the story a happy ending.

Like many reps (and booksellers), Anne uses her family to gauge interest in her new titles. One book that both her nieces are hot for is Lady Gaga: Critical Mass Fashion. It's not a bio (what bio?) but a picture book of her outrageus outfits.

Several of the novels that Anne touted have already been gettin a lot of play in the store, what with Jason's favorite Skippy Dies and Louise Penny's Bury Your Dead, which got a rave from Anne and should be ready to break out into general bestsellerdom. One fiction book that did surprisingly well in cloth (as it hit just about every best-of) is The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, now in paperback.

The book I took home with me was America the Edible, by Adam Richman. He's the host of Man Vs. Food, a popular cable show. This book, however, moves in a slightly different direction, tracing the origin of things like Southern Fried Chicken (Scotland) and the bagel was some tribute to a stirrup or something. Hey, I have to read the book.

*Or you could substitute ponies. Amie says I am forgotting fairies. She also reminds me that of course this is a blanket genalization and should not be used to make assumptions about any individual little girl. But remember, even Lisa Simpson loves ponies.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last of the Rep Nights (for 2010 at Last), #4 in Mequon, Part One, the Random House Folk

One of the nice things about renting a car is that I can get to Next Chapter on Sundays. Alas, the two ways to get there by bus (one of which involves walking three miles) simply don't work. Of course I could have hitched a ride with Jason or Carl, but then they'd have to drive me home. Hey, Carl doesn't live that far from me. Notice the way even temporarily owning a car makes you use gasoline extravagantly. Next thing you know I'll be driving to Indiana because it's the only place I can find my favorite brand of toilet tissue.

It's the last rep night of 2010, and we put together a nice lineup for the booksellers from Boswell and Next Chapter. I felt bad for the folks who did not attend, as the reps were quite generous. Unlike the other rep nights, where I left with a handful of books, this time I had an honest-to-goodness pile. I promise to make the most of them, starting with this blog.

The food was from Panera, and Dave was particularly nice by asking them to leave off the mayo and mustard on premade sandwiches. Isn't he great?

First up was Tim of Random House kids. I wondered what dystopian novel he'd be pushing. It turned out to be Museum of Thieves, by Lian Tanner. It's a series set in the City of Jewel, a repressive society that protects young people for their own good, using a silver chain to imprison them in the Museum of Dunt. The chain is usually cut during Separation Day, but then something goes wrong, and Goldie must cut hers herself. It's set for a slightly younger age group and doesn't look quite as violent. The series might be called "Keepers."

Tim's favorite novel was Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt, the story of a school seen through the eyes of several students, and the teacher that changes their lives...only to be stricken by a terrible accident caused by one of them. The book was brought to Random House by John Irving, and seems to have that sort of feel about it, at least in Tim's description.

Tim had a lot of nice picture books, but I was immediately drawn to Snowbots, a story by Aaron Reynolds about how robot children got to play on snow day. The kid-bots make snowballs with their chainsaw hands and drink cocoa with axle grease.

And the book I took was Melissa Duke Mooney's The ABCs of Rock, an alphabet book of rock posters. Hey, with everyone buying Keith Richard's Life, it seems like a perfect companion for their kids, or a collectible for adults. It goes AC/DC, David Bowie, Clash, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello...yes, the book sometimes uses first names and sometimes last.

Our new Random House Green rep (covering the Knopf Doubleday group and assorted distribution lines) just moved to Minneapolis from Nashville so this was sort of our first time officially working with him, but since he won rep of the year (at Penguin) the same year Schwartz won bookstore of the year, he should have been pretty familiar, at least by reputation. And of course, he has a great selection of books.

There were a lot of picks that were quite familiar, and yet great suggestions for customers, like The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise (known inhouse as TZT), One Day, and the new translatoin of Doctor Zhivago*. There was the Ephron (I Remember Nothing) and the Conroy (My Reading Life) and the Bryson (At Home). But I still got some good ideas for new reads.

Jason (rep, not buyer) was strong on Dogfight, a Love Story, by Matt Burgess, a first novel set in Queens about a drug dealer trying to go straight. As it was set in Jackson Heights, where I caught the 7 line while I lived in Elmhurst in the 1980s, I thought it would be fun to spot local color, though I personally never went to any dogfights (Honest, PETA).

I thought Lee Sandlin's Wicked River, a historical adventure about the Mississippi River of the 19th century, might be good for that adventure reader. It was surprising to learn that the author lived in Chicago, as it would have been a cheap date for him to read at one of the Milwaukee stores. Maybe they thought we were too far from the Mississippi. After all, we're on the side of Wisconsin that flows into Lake Michigan.

I immediately thought of a couple of customers who would enjoy Grant Wood, the story of the iconic artist of the Great Plains, who camouflaged his homosexuality with a folksy persona, who only found some personal peace on his trips to Paris. But I thought Cedar Rapids was the Paris of Iowa. R. Tripp Evans is an art historian at Wheaton College, just outside Chicago. Oh, don't tell me these things!

Nice job, particularly for a newbie. Oh, I know he's not a newbie. There's my tunnel vision acting up again. Next up: our last two reps of the year, and daresay I say we saved the best for last?

*For some reason, the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation does not come up easily on our website's search engine. This is the second time I had this problem. Use the link.