Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Week in Photographs and Learning How to Pronounce Authors' Last Names, From Beaulieu (bowl-yer) to Orringer (hard g)

Here are some photos from a few of this week's events.  Bradley Beaulieu  had one of those cool stands with a blow up of his cover from The Winds of Khalakovo.  As a professional bookseller, this would come in handy.  Have I made one yet?  No.

This was a great crowd, partly because Mr. Beaulieu was gracious enough to make us the launch event, though I did recognize some regulars from our science fiction book club.  If you are a local author wanting to do an event at Bowell when your book is published (or when you publish your book), you might make a note of that. 

I found Beaulieu's use of Russian history and iconography to shape his world very interesting.  I learned in the Fantasy Book Critic blog that this is rather unusual.  Robert has some negative things to say, but I can tell he's a tough critic and he does say at the end that this is one of the better fantasy debuts of 2011.

Gary Vaynerchuk was a great evening.  He's a terrific speaker and seems to have boundless energy, considering he had already done a presentation and a tweet up and a meeting at 800ceoread before heading to the bookstore. 

I was intrigued that the author had the same co-writer for the two books, Crush It and The Thank You Economy.  The first book definitely had more of a manic edge, was a bit more confrontational, and talked more about his New York Jets obsession.  The new book is a bit softer, and definitely seemed more targeted to corporate buyers than individuals.   Though there is still definitely advice on how small businesses should think big, the focus is more on how large businesses should think small.

We still haven't done our tweeting and the crowd made me realize we need to start pushing ebooks; I think you can now harness Google editions from our site.  I've signed all the paperwork, but I haven't done any testing yet.
Wednesday was Blue Balliett day and with two school visits and another to the Shorewood Public Library, it was quite a full day. We hoped to get in a visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum, especially with its Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit (one of Balliett's novels is The Wright 3, after all), but alas, they close at 5 on Wednesdays.  We did park outside and peek in the windows.

I forgot my camera, but Tiffany at the Library was able to take some shots, and we have a nice one of Balliett signing copies of The Danger Box.

 And yesterday was a day with Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge.  By now you've figured out that I only have two good angles for photographs when we have a big crowd.  Close from the side and further back straight on.  We wound up hosting two nice events, one at the JCC and another at the store.  I may have gone on a bit too long with my book club talk (I wanted to keep to 15 minutes but I went a bit over 20) and I still feel that while we are giving out hundreds of our brochures, I don't think I'm yet at the point where I'm getting too many book clubs to come in with help to pick titles.  I did see some representatives though, though I would say most of the folks there were out to see Orringer. 
One of the sad things about events, is that when you do a great big window as we did for Orringer, you have to dismantle it before the author gets there.  We do always keep one of our smaller display windows up until the author arrives.  But if she or one of her friends do happen to find this blog, she'll see that it was really there.

The word-of-mouth on The Invisible Bridge continues to be wonderful and I'm hoping that her attendees (well over 100 in two events) were galvanized to keep the buzz going on the book.  And thanks to Bill Young, who not only takes around authors, but spots first editions.  I swapped out my fourth printing copy for a first that he spotted among our hardcovers. All the other copies we had were eighth printing.  That's a nice amount of printings!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Book Club Night Tonight, Plus Julie Orringer, plus Lunch with Darin Strauss

Oops, I just lost control of time and missed a day.  Apologies to all.  We've had a busy week, and and it continues to be busy through the weekend.  We had a hole in the schedule, but fortunately we booked an offsite for Saturday evening. Hooray!

Hearing Chris Bohjalian's wonderful interview on Lake Effect this week puts me in the mood to talk about book clubs, and that's a good thing, as my book club talk is tonight at 7, featuring Julie Orringer and her novel, The Invisible Bridge.  Now I know big, fat books are not always perfect for every book club, but this is a long novel that reads quickly, if you know what I mean.  None of you are shying away from Cutting for Stone, right?

That wonderful luncheon with Chris Bohjalian for Secrets of Eden seems so long ago, but it was only late February.  We had such a wonderful time that I'm setting up another one, this time for Darin Strauss*, the author of three novels and the memoir, Half a Life, which was recently award the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography.  Location is to be determined, but the date is Tuesday, June 21.

Half a Life is just one of five nonfiction books I am recommending on our new book club brochure, which made it back from the printer yesterday.  Of late, I tend to be a just-in-time sort of guy.  I did get some blowback from a customer on recommending Patti Smith's Just Kids, but then another customer said her book club had a wonderful discussion with it.  So go figure.  I suppose you don't need to be convinced to use The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, do you?

I didn't theme it out as much as I have done on past round ups, but I thought it would be nice to suggest some shorter books that are nonetheless have some meat in them and make for good discussions.  Half a Life fits that bill too--it's on sale May 31, by the way. Tinkers was that sort of book, but I think it had already been in the last two brochures, and when I looked at the hundreds of copies we sold, it seemed like it was time to move on.  I still recommend it, with a caveat that not everyone will like it, but you know what I'll have a better discussion when some of you don't like the book.  Just don't take it personally.

So here are some of the new books on my list.  You won't be too surprised by the choices.

Day for Night, by Frederick Reiken.  Ten narrators, one story that looks at the lines between coincidence and fate, good and evil, stories and secrets. Shocking, right, being that it was my favorite book of last year. I ran into my friend Kevin at Beans and Barley last night and he told me how much he loved it.  I wasn't shocked (he loves Lorrie Moore best of all, but shared my love of Peter Cameron too) but I was happy.  I'm practicing my shtick on this one for tonight, and since Julie Orringer reviewed the book for The Washington Post, I hope she'll chime in.

The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall.  Another fat book that is nonetheless a relatively quick read.  I compare it a lot to Middlesex, not because it reads like it, but because it is trying to tell a broad history within the context of a very personal story.  They are also both funny, and also normalize the other.  But I hope Eugenides doesn't get too mad at me about the comparison, just in case I run into him.

Father of the Rain, by Lily King.  We wound up doing very well with the previous two books in paperback, but despite the wonderful reviews and features about King's book, as well as an appearance at Boswell, we didn't really hit the market on this book in hardcover.  It's a lovely story that captures the father-daughter relationship over three periods of the protagonist's life.  It really captures that certain kind of town in New England, a weird combination of privilege and working class packed rather tightly together.  And like several novels I've read in the past few years, it really looks at the role of substance abuse and how it affects relationships. 

Publishers don't tend to play addiction and recovery up in novels, but it is clear that there are many great writers tackling the subject.  And it's not the same story over and over.  If I was going to theme a year, here are some books I would include:
Father of the Rain, by Lily King
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow
I Thought You Were Dead, by Pete Nelson
Blame, by Michelle Huneven

Don't forget that we are hosting Nelson on Thursday, June 2, with Josh Wilker (Cardboard Gods) and David Anthony (Something for Nothing) at Sugar Maple.  Neither Pete nor I will be drinking.  There may be a band.  Stacie's working on it. More on this later.

I was also going to include an "oopsy" page, meaning they were books I hadn't read yet. You know I can't read everything--I've got piles of unread books I'm meaning to get to just like you (figurative or literal, if you are an ebook reader, I guess).  The best of those wind up being our in-store lit book group selections.  We're discussing People of the Book this Monday and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet on June 6.  But I may convince the group to meet an hour earlier, as we just booked the amazing short story writer, Alan Heathcock, author of Volt, for the same slot, Monday June 6 at 7.  We can do both simultaneously, as the book club meets in the front and events are in the back, but honestly, I want to hear him!

Want to hear me or had enough?  I promise not to go on long, but don't forget I'll be speaking tonight (4/29, 7 pm) about book club  selections, just before Julie Orringer.  Hope to see you there.  Oh, and I had trouble with my title links in this post, so I had to take them out.  HTML and I do not always get along well.  Our website is great for ordering books. You're too smart to need links, aren't you?

*Darin Strauss is the author you'd most want to have lunch with.  You just don't know it yet.  He is just wonderful.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sigh...Blue Balliett and Julie Orringer

Today we took around author Blue Balliett, author of the classic trilogy of art-themed mystery novels for kids, Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, and The Calder Game.  I was hoping to promote the event with a little review of The Danger Box, but I was once again tricked by thinking that just because a book is for kids, I am going to read it very quickly.

What I am saying is that I didn't finish The Danger Box in time for the event. It's the story of Zoomy, a boy who was left with his grandparents in Three Oaks, Michigan. Dad is a ne'er do well, skirmishing regularly with the law.  Zoomy has some vison problems, and also functions with some sort of OCD (though one of the attendees said it had some similarities to autism).  He befriends another kid with a missing parent, Lorrol, and together, they try to determine the story behind a journal that his dad left behind.  I guess I'm not giving away anything by saying the journal might be Charles Darwin's. 

I was sad that the day was so packed that Balliett couldn't visit the Milwaukee Art Museum to see the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit.  We peaked in through the windows so she could get a taste of the Calatrava. All went well--we had a great event at the Shorewood Public Library.  So that's part one of our after school special.  Don't forget about Mo Willems next Thursday, May 5th, at Boswell.  Details on our events page.

If you missed the event, we have signed copies of all of Balliett's novels.

My reading is going terribly, so it's a good thing that my book club presentation this Friday (at 7 pm) is a reflection of books that are recently out in paperback. I can't say I've read everything on the list--I told Stacie that one of the pages was going to be called "Oopsy", reflecting books I meant to read but never go around to.

I better be well prepared.  We've been getting a lot of press for Julie Orringer, who is visiting the store on Friday for The Invisible Bridge.  She'll be doing an interview with Lake Effect, which will air sometime after the event--we'll let you know when.   Speaking of which, today's Lake Effect had an interview with Chris Bohjalian.  Brings back good times!  And who knew that both he and Bonnie North worked together at Vermont Public Radio?

Back to Orringer.  Mike Fischer's interview with Julie Orringer appeared in today's Journal Sentinel.  You can read it on the new Tap Milwaukee arts page.

And here's more of the interview in the Recommended Reading blog, where Orringer defends the big, fat novel.  Regular readers of our blog will know that we are totally in her camp on this one.  The big, fat novel rules!

And the Shepherd Express are fans too.  Here's Jenni Herrick's piece in the Book Preview feature

Tolstoy, yes, but also George Eliot.  I should be better versed in Eliot.  Jason, can we read The Mill on the Floss for our "classics book club?"

So don't forget about Friday night.  And if that doesn't work for you, Orringer is also speaking at the JCC on Friday at Noon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

John Eklund's Rep-of-the-Year Interview is Published in PW Online

Publishers Weekly published their article on John Eklund, rep of the year.  Claire Kirch conducted the interview at Boswell.  We interrupted a lot, but not so much as to be rude.  Here's a little excerpt:

"The son of two factory workers, Eklund describes his childhood home as "not a book-friendly environment," with a family totally uninterested in reading. He spent his youth hanging out after school at the East Side Library or browsing the book department at Schuster's Department Store. On his eighth birthday, his aunt took him shopping at Schuster's for his first books, a "beautiful" three-volume world encyclopedia set. He still owns it."

Now I was going to show a picture of some Schuster's memorabilia that John gave me for my birthday.  But I can't find it.  So check back later; I might find it and add it to this post.  Read the rest of the interview.
I'd write more but things have been crazy today.  Lots of event bookings, some last minute, and some for fall.  More later.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's Going on This Week? Vaynerchuk, Balliett, Orringer, and a Poetry Vending Machine. Just Writing it Makes Me Tired.

We've got another exciting week of stuff to share.  Tonight (April 25), Liam Callanan and I are taking our show on the road.  Callanan is the featured speaker at the Friends of the Lake Geneva Public Library meeting at 6 pm, discussing his two novels, All Saints and The Cloud Atlas. The library is located at 918 West Main Street in (surprise!) Lake Geneva.  For more info, call (262) 249-5299 or visit their website.

Feeling musical?  Our pal Stephanie Jacob stopped by, reminding us that the last Prometheus trio concert is tonight and tomorrow (April 25 and 26) at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music.  Starting time is 7:30.  The program includes:
Schumann: Fantasy Pieces, Op. 88

Beethoven: "Kakadu" Variations, Op. 121a
Boulanger: D'un soir triste
Ravel: TrioLalo: Trio No. 3 in A Minor.
More on their Facebook page

I've already written at length about Gary Vaynerchuk's appearance for The Thank You Economy.  My aha moment?  "Oh, I'm supposed to follow the people who follow me on Twitter or we can't DM (direct message) each other."  The event is Tuesday, April 26, 7 pm, at Boswell.  Register here.  And there's also a tweetup at Lakefront Brewery in the afternoon.  More on the 800ceoread website.

It's not too late see Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential, Wicked Plants, and the new Wicked Bugs, at the Boerner Botanical Gardens.  Tickets are $25, $20 for friends.  More on their Facebook page. And you can now get a signed copy of either of the "wicked" books from us.  Just request when you order. 

If you are in the Chicago area, Stewart will be at Anderson's Naperville store tonight (April 25, 7 pm).  Here's more info.

Stewart stopped by the store to sign stock Yes, she's going from Milwaukee to Chicago and back to Milwaukee.  We chatted about her books, and wherever it was she had her last Schwartz event.  By process of elimination, it was either Mequon or Brookfield. Stewart, as you know, co-owns the gorgeous Eureka Books, an antiquarian bookstore (mixed with some new books too) in downtown Eureka. Here's the website--don't you want to go there right now?

After a full day of school events, we'll be cohosting Blue Balliett, author of The Wright 3 and Chasing Vermeer, at the Shorewood Public Library (3920 North Murray) at 4 pm.  The author will be talking about her new novel, The Danger Box, which involves a young boy in Michigan who comes into possession of the lost notebook of a famous scientist.  More on the Milwaukee Moms website.  And don't forget--4 pm!

Love poetry?  Well we're hosting Verse Wisconsin and the Jawbreaker Poetry Project on Thursday, April 28, at 7 pm.  Come see the Verse-o-matic, where the poetry is even tastier than the sweet treats they are packaged with in the poetry vending machine.  This event includes a reading by Brenda Cardenas and is located at Boswell. More info at Poetry Jumps off the Shelf.

On Friday April 29, we've got two events with Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge. First up is at the JCC, 6255 North Santa Monica, at Noon.  Food is available.  For more info, contact Jody Hirsh or visit the Planit Jewish website.  Get it?

Then at 7 pm, Orringer is our featured speaker in conjunction with my semi-annual book club recommendation talk.  Hey, I need to finish the brochure.  This event is at Boswell. I'm sure you won't be surprised that The Invisible Bridge is one of my recommendations.

What? No event on Saturday?  I've got to talk to our scheduler.  More on our event calendar.  Alas, just got word that Christopher Howard had to cancel.  No worries!  We already had another event waiting in the wings.  Should have it updated by tomorrow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Getting Social Networking Tips from Gary Vaynerchuk and Joe Sorge, Plus This Week's Bestsellers

After a wonderful event on Saturday with Bradley Beaulieu (pronounced "bowl-yer", I learned), I went home to finish reading The Thank You Economy.  Having learned that I had stopped just before the section on Joe Sorge and A.J. Bombers, I now understood why there is a tweet up on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 with Sorge, before Tuesday's (4/26) event at 7 pm. And of course you know that you need to register for this event. Keep track of our upcoming events here.

After finishing Vaynerchuk's book, where small businesses are taught to think big and big corporations learn to act small, I dug right into Sorge's #TwitterWorks, which he wrote with Streetza Pizza's Scott Baitinger and local social media expert Phil Gerbyshak.  Alas, I still get the feeling that I have been handed a scroll written in ancient Greek whenever I get near Twitter, but one day perhaps...

I've learned a lot, such as that important detail that when someone follows you, you're supposed to follow them back in order to communicate by DM (direct message).  And the interesting thing is, no matter how you feel about Twitter, you will find my combination of interest and incompetence rather sad.

So let's switch gears and look at this week's bestsellers, starting with hardcover fiction:
1. The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace
2. The Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell
3. The Land of Painted Caves, by Jean Auel
4. A Lesson in Secrets, by Jacqueline Winspear
5. Room, by Emma Donoghue
Has Winspear been going top five on the New York Times bestseller list for a long time?  Decades ago, I contemplated tracking book bestsellers so you could access success in book form, a la the old Joel Whitburn music books.  I wonder if someone is doing this on a website?  It just seems like yesterday that we were handselling Maisie Dobbs from little Soho Press.

Nonfiction hardcovers:
1. Salad as a Meal, by Patricia Wells
2. Grant Wood, by Tripp Evans
3. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
4. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
5. Malcolm X, by Manning Marable
To give you a handle on our Tina Fey sales, they are more than double our #1 hardcover title, and this should go at least another two weeks as hip mamas get Bossypants instead of flowers and candy.

Paperback fiction:
1. The Winds of Khalakovo, by Bradley Beaulieu
2. A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer winner
3. The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
4. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
5. The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano
This week I had a nice email conversation with Giordano's American editor, Pamela Dorman. It's going on our spring book club brochure.

1. Children's Books, exlucing sales that are solely bulk school orders
1. Little White Rabbit, by Kevin Henkes
2. Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine
3. Moon over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool
4. The Hunger Games, by Suzane Collins
5. Home for a Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown

It's always nice to see that bunnies really own Easter.  We tried giving chicks their due this year, with mixed success.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Schlei in the Shepherd on Outstanding Obreht, Event Wrap Ups, New Postcards, and More on the Tee Shirts

How's this for a rave for The Tiger's Wife?

"It is with a strong mastery of storytelling that Obreht has truly earned her stripes. The Tiger's Wife is richly textured with intersecting themes: the Balkan wars and their effects on new generations in Eastern Europe, the ways myth can displace reason, sense of duty in family and occupation, and the tradition of using allegory to impart life lessons."

Speaking of Earth Day, how many of you are chiding me for not tieing in our event with Chasing Chiles author Kurt Michael Friese to Earth Day celebrations (which was yesterday)?  We had a nice turnout, partly due to the help of Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast, but with Friese's strong message, we could have done better than our 24 attendees (26 if you include the author and myself, as some bookstores do). We discussed how bookstore attendance can be all over the map.  (Other bookstores are now exclaiming, "he's complaining about 25 people?  Is he nuts?")

Just to continue our wrap up theme, we had a wonderful event with Tripp Evans, the Grant Wood historian, on Thursday.  We had 50 folks*, thanks to the effors of Joseph Pabst, Will Fellows, and the Cream City Foundation and sales were good.  No surprise, the book is not cheap ($37.50) but it is a spectacular piece of production.  Congrats to Knopf.

And congrats to Evans, who last week was awarded the Marfield Prize for writing about the arts.  Marfield will be reading at the Arts Club of Washington DC on May 11.  Let me tell you, based on the wonderful feedback we had on his talk, I declare attendance mandatory to all book and art lovers within 50 miles.  And just so I continue my "why didn't I think of that?" moments, I could have called this Iowa Week, as both Grant Wood and Kurt Michael Friese are grounded in the Hawkeye State.

Hey, isn't this supposed to be the gift post?  Well, the big news was the arrival of our new tee shirts.  We sold an unprecedented six tee shirts in one day yesterday, four of our artist tee and two of Heather Maroon Boswell.  I know six doesn't seem like a lot to you, but if you're a bookstore (or a retailer not working a tourist strip or a festival), you'll know otherwise.

Here is a photo of Jocelyn and Stacie wearing the new "The book was better" tee.  This is one in a series of shots--I call this pose "I can't believe we're wearing the same tee shirt."  The series also includes "disturbingly happy" and "photo shoot for a mid-priced department store chain."  That one disappeared from the camera, so maybe Stacie didn't like it.  I'm sad to tell her that I kept a copy on my laptop and it's carefully hidden.  Before I use it, I'll find out if she deleted it on purpose.

Yesterday both Stacie and I were wearing our new Kpolly "The Book was Better Tees" and yes, a customer came up to me at the end of the evening and said, "Is that a Kristopher Pollard?" I have never before felt at the cutting edge of anything.

We've gotten a lot of good stuff in recently, but I guess I should limit my shout out to our new Milwaukee postcards.  I never quite located the supplier for tourist postcards, and I'm sort of glad about it, since my memories about them are not spectacular.  Instead, we sourced some classic vintage postcards, including landmarks existing (the Central Library, the Gas building, the Riverside Theater, City Hall) and legendary (County Stadium, the Chicago Northwestern train depot, a functional Pabst brewery).  #1 in sales so far is "Greetings from Milwaukee."  I expect we'll be reordering that one soon.

*In the grand dreams of Mr. Pabst and myself, we imagined 75-100 attendees, but while I applaud thinking big, I know that our attendance was above the expectations of the publisher and author and everybody was very happy.  And for sales, we are now officially #1 for the book on Above the Treeline.  And some of you know what that means!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The New Collection in Our Curio Case is Ready for Takeoff. Cool Space Stuff from Our Friend Ed!

Hooray for collections!  One day when I was changing out the collection in our curio case, our friend/customer Ed offered to display his wonderful collection of space race-iana.  Needless to say, I said yes.  I'll let Ed take it from there:

"During the 1960s, my father worked for a company who supplied parts for NASA’s Apollo project. This limited family connection served as my inspiration for collecting space autographs and memorabilia. I recall flipping through a tragically outdated World Book Encyclopedia and reading about the “current” Apollo missions as a child in the early 1980s. Typical, I dreamed of becoming an astronaut and flying to the moon (little did I know that the United States had already ended the moon missions). I sent a few letters to astronauts during these early years, however my aspirations quickly shifted elsewhere, and I forgot all about the dreams of youth.

"I renewed my interest in NASA and space exploration through watching the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. I began asking my father about his role in the space race, and reading anything I could get my hands on. With all the NASA information filling my head, I decided to solve my hobby problem with (surprise, surprise) the introduction of a new hobby: collecting astronaut autographs. Unlike previous collections, I had a specific goal in mind; an autographed photo from every NASA astronaut, past and present. Following the advice of other collectors, I began by sending letters to current astronauts requesting an autographed photo. After waiting only a few weeks, my mailbox quickly began filling with the distinct brown envelopes from the Johnson Space Center; each containing signed photos.

"Over the past decade, my collection increased in scope to include memorabilia, ephemera, toys, books, and films. The subject matter has also altered slightly, as is now includes items from astronomy, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and private spaceflight. The original goal remains elusive, although it is roughly 75% complete. The remaining astronauts present significant difficulties, as many living retired astronauts no longer respond to autograph requests, and others charge extremely high signing fees. While I could simply purchase autographed photos from auctions or E-bay, I prefer to receive them from the source. This, of course, is not possible for several astronauts who passed away. Despite its difficulties, I continue to collect. At present, the complete collection contains over 600 unique items. The items on display offer a sampling of my collection. I hope you enjoy viewing the items as much as I have enjoyed collecting them."

-Ed Benoit, III

We usually keep our collections up for at least three months.  So if you're reading this post anytime before July 21 (and possibly after that), come in and see some cool stuff. -DCG

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This Blog Post Links to an Email that References Past Blog Posts

How about that for circular reasoning.  But I'd feel remiss if I didn't include it so here's the link.  And don't forget about Tripp Evans tonight, author of the acclaimed Grant Wood biography.

New Tee Shirt from artist Kpolly/Kristopher Pollard, Plus a New Everyday Tee

Being that a substantial number of my booksellers have worked with Kristopher Pollard (Beverly, Amie, Anne, at the minimum) and another portion (Jocelyn and Stacie) have been models for him for his recent show at the Luckystar Studio gallery, it seemed only a question of time before we would be able to wear Kpolly down to the point that he would agree to do a tee shirt for us.

Need to get on the Kpolly train?  Here's his stop on Facebook.  Though as a purist, I like to call it The Facebook.

Not that I thought that this tee shirt thing would necessarily come to fruition.  Kristopher had warned me that he is relatively slow at execution, particularly in this go-go internet age.  I know, you're expecting me to say that his work is the cat's pajamas.  Well it is, with Pollard most recently featured in Bitch Magazine.

The whole process was relatively painless.  And voila!  We're selling our spring 2011 tee, "The Book was Better" for a very nice price of $19.95 (2XL is $22.50).  Many thanks to Matt and George at Brew City Promotions, for their great work as always.

Speaking of shirts, we've sold down on our basic shirt to the point that several sizes are down to one color (sometimes black, other times brown, occasionally turquoise). 

It seemed time to order in something new.  I had my heart set on maroon, but a lack of availability in women's sizes (we've been getting requests) and a miscommunication somewhere along the way let to the inadvertently glorious arrival of Heather Maroon Boswell, born 4/21/11.  This one's cotton-poly blend (The New York Times has reassured me that many people are okay with this) and sells for $14.95 (2XL is $16.95).

So just in time for warm weather (really, even though there is still bits of snow on my lawn), you've got something new to wear.  And if you don't like being a shameless huckster for a bookstore, you can also shill for classic fiction in our Out of Print tees, now including The Great Gatsby and The Old Man and the Sea.  I think I already wrote about this once before on the blog.  I'm sure it shocks you that I don't have a plan-o-gram.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And Now for Something Completely Wonderful--Demetri Martin's This is a Book

As you know, we seem to like the smartypants comics.  We often get to the gig of selling books at Pabst and Riverside events and I find myself, more often than not, reading the books. Whether it's Sarah Silverman* or Mike Birbiglia, they seem to get really intelligent comics.  Now I know you're wondering when Tina Fey is appearing, but alas, she's not on the schedule.  Patton Oswalt is, at the Pabst Theater on May 6, and though we aren't signed up, I can't resist sending you to the Pabst Riverside box office for tix, as I know it's going to be a great show.  His new book is Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, as regular visitors to this blog are well aware.

But I think my dream event right now is not selling Bossypants for Tina Fey (I don't dream that big, you've got to think baby steps when you're a bookseller, at least when you're one in Milwaukee) but Demetri Martin, whose new book, This is a Book, arrived yesterday.  He's actually been to town prior to the book's release, and it seems like something the they'd book into the Pabst or Riverside.

I've been enchanted by Martin since I ran into him, strumming his guitar and drawing doodles that are a combination of existentialism and silly puns.  And the new book is just great--it really captures Martin's zeitgeist.  One day I'll do a post on the three books a comedian can write:
a. memoir
b. bits
c. novel

Many write all three. If they are successful at it, all three get published.  The novel usually bombs.  Sorry, but it's true.  The bits do the best, and This is a book is bits. I had a wonderful time with This is a Book, filled with essays like “What I imagine my personal checks that have dolphins on them, do for me” and “Protagonists Hospital, where all patients have minor wounds or amnesia.”

I think I love the short pieces best, and found myself laughing out loud and quoting a lot.  I love to read funny things out loud. First the people I'm reading to laugh (especially if they work for me), then they are a bit irritated with me (especially if they work for me).

And then I laugh out loud when I'm not reading aloud and strangers on the bus look askance. But I didn't ask them for a cigarette in the middle of a cell phone call, like the woman at my bus stop a few days ago. 

That said, I’d actually suggest reading it a bit at a time or you might overdose, like eating a box of sampler chocolates.  It says “sample” for a reason.  And it’s a good thing I am bad at remembering punchlines.  This encourages other people to buy the book, because they sort of laugh and yet realize that I’m not doing a good job with the material.

(Addendum: Martin is coming to the Pabst on June 18.  Tickets available here.)

*Do we have signed copies of Sarah Silverman's The Bedwetter?  You bet your slightly damp sheets we do!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

After School Specials! Three Kids Events at 4 PM--Blue Balliett, Mo Willems, and Mark Kurlansky

We love getting kids authors.  Our school events have been very successful, and it has been great to work with various school districts.  We have Gail Carson Levine doing two schools for her new book A Tale of Two Castles.  Sorry, that one is not open to the public.  However, if your school is interested in being in our event rotation (there are requirements involved, including how you promote the event and how you sell the books, and we have audience size and sales expectations to fulfill from the publishers), contact Pam.

That said, sometimes we get to bundle the school events with a public event, and sometimes someone else will do the school events and we'll be asked to host a public event.  The thing is, these kids events can be tricky. 

7 pm can be too late.
2 pm on a weekend can be prime activity time, or for young kids, it might be naptime.

So we're experimenting with 4 pm, sort of a series of after school specials.  We know that many parents work, but somebody is picking up the kids from school, so hoping this will be a great group activity.  Here is our upcoming schedule.  Note that each event is at a different location.

April 27, 4 pm
Blue Balliett, author of The Danger Box
Appearing at the Shorewood Public Library
3920 North Murray Avenue

Balliett's novels (Chasing Vermeer, The Calder Game, The Wright 3) are mysteries inspired by historical events, and The Danger Box is no different.  A young boy, Zoomy by name, is given a notebook that may or may not be Charles Darwin's, and it may or may not have been stolen.  The story is inspired by Darwin's actual lost notebook (though the book being Darwin's is only hinted at).  Balliett's other books have been inspired by artists and architects, which is Balliett's area of academic expertise.  What made her detour to a scientist?  Fortunately someone else asked.  I reprint here...

Q: You’re widely known for writing books about famous artists and visionaries – Johannes Vermeer in Chasing Vermeer, Frank Lloyd Wright in The Wright 3, Alexander Calder in The Calder Game, what made you decide to write a new mystery focusing on a world-renowned scientist?

Balliett: Science is filled with as much controversy and as many questions as art—especially the scientific ideas of this particular thinker. But the ideas that made this man’s name a household word also hid who he was as a person. My hope in writing this book was to give kids more access to this inspiring, humble and often-misunderstood guy.

I'm sure you've got lots more questions to ask.  See you at the library. And more science later. But first...

May 5, 4 pm
Mo Willems at Boswell,

The author of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny, Cat the Cat, and many, many other books*, is coming to Boswell.  I'd been writing all sorts of proposals since we opened the store.  At one point, I was going to form a rock band to sing songs like:

Let's say hi to friends who fly,
Let's say hi to friends who fly,
Let's say hi to friends who fly,
Let's say hi to friends who fly.

Can you fly, Bee the Bee?
Can you, fly, Bee the Bee?
Watch Me, Watch me
Go Bee the Bee!

I've got the melody all worked out in my head. It does sound similar to a Ramones tune with ramming guitars over the chorus and very loud drumming over the verse ending with some solo that recalls the animal in question, and then into the chorus again.  As you may know, both the seminal punk band and I share the same New York borough of origin.  I'm still trying to decide what a rhino sounds like.

But I digress.  It turns out we are hosting the great and powerful Mr. Willems and it's a free event at Boswell, no less.  There are some rules, which I will spell out in a later post.  But first, a little more about Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator.  It turns out that having a stuffed alligator for a best friend can be very exciting and Willems tells us about their wonderful lives in six-and-a-half stories.  The book goes on sale April 26--how exciting.  I can hardly wait to start singing along.

Oh, did I mention that Mo Willems is also one of my favorite children's book illustrators ever? I'm sure you're shocked.

And finally...
Tuesday, May 10, 4 pm
Mark Kurlansky at the Urban Ecology Center
1500 E. Park Place

It's a riveting new book from the author of Cod and Salt.  Kurlansky explains what's happening to fish, the oceans, and our environment, and what kids can do about it. The book includes a full-color graphic novel.

We're coordinating the event as part of the UEC's young scientist program.  This is a great opportunity for your own young scientist (your own little Darwin, perhaps?)  Registration is requested for this event.  Please call the UEC at (414) 964-8505.

This is a free event, though donations to the wonderful Urban Ecology Center are welcomed.

So how cool is that?  Three really great kids authors, all wonderful and all free, and all at 4 pm.   But don't forget, no Gail Carson Levine this go around, unless you are a lucky Shorewood student.  But you can still order a signed copy of A Tale of Two Castles from us.

*Stacie reminded me of another Mo Willems favorite, City Dog, Country Frog. What a great book.  Willems wrote this one, but Jon Muth illustrated it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Opera, Painting, Chile Peppers, Fantasy, Plus a Birthday Surprise--What a Week!

After a few days of break, we've got a solid lineup of events for the rest of the week, starting with our final Florentine Opera Insight for the 2010-2011 season on Wednesday, April 20 at 7 pm.  It's a lush double bill, featuring two of the most important baroque works, John Blow's Venus and Adonis paired with Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.

I can't emphasize how wonderful these performances are. Corliss Phillabaum's talks are humorous and insightful, the Studio performances are both grand and accessible, and if your thinking this will take as long as a Ring cycle, you're wrong.  It's packed into an hour of opera goodness. While the performances attract a lot of opera fans, I'd also recommend the Florentine Opera Insights for folks who think they are culturally well-rounded, but in fact have a hole in their resume. The opera will be performed May 13 through 22. More on their website.

Our commitment to the fine and performing arts continues on Thursday, April 21 with an appearance from R. Tripp Evans, acclaimed author of Grant Wood, the recent biography that sheds new light on the artist known for American Gothic. Behind his carefully cultivated facade was a very different persona, a gay man struggling with his identity.  Art Winslow in the Chicago Tribune gave the biography five stars.  And look, even The Onion's AV Club is a fan.  This is a big deal, so let's get out and show our support.  And thanks to the Cream City Foundation and the Joseph Pabst infrastructure fund and also Will Fellows for making this possible.

On Friday, we're teaming up with Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast to welcome Kurt Michael Friese, chef/owner of Iowa City's Devotay, who together with Gary Paul Nabhan and Kraig Kraft, collaborated on Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail.  This environmental and culinary travelogue explores the regional wonderfulness and numerous varieties of chile peppers, and what environmental change is doing to their diversity and distribution.  

Want to read more?  The New York Times profiled Gary Paul Nabhan in their April 7 issue.  And Aram Bakshian, Jr. reviewed Chasing Chiles in the Wall Street Journal.

Saturday April 23 at 2 pm, we're honored to be the launch event for Bradley Beaulieu's epic fantasy series, The Winds of Khalakovo.  Civil war breaks out in a society that is part Cyrillic, part shaman.  Publishers Weekly praised it's poetic prose while Library Journal lauded its strong characters and tense plot.  Our buyer Jason read The Winds of Khalakovo and loved it.  I'm hoping we'll have a post devoted to the book up on The Boswellians this week.  I can't say it's there yet.

Alas, I can't tell you about our Patricia Wells event today as it sold out.  And yesterday?  I was lured out to a surprise party at Sugar Maple in Bay View.  People asked if I suspected and I did not, until the last minute when I was on the phone with my sister Claudia and she was not finished telling me something and I said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I have to go.  I think I'm heading to a surprise party.  There was disagreement as to whether I should have walked into the room while I was on the phone, but in the end, I thought it was better to not be distracted.  Thanks to everyone at Boswell (rumor has it, particularly Stacie) who helped put it together.  And we were particularly impressed with Anne's delicious card though it was also interesting that Kay (a customer) told me that the wine they brought had been developed by Bob (another customer and coincidentally, her husband) while at Gallo. 

And the good thing was, I got to scope out space for out our event on Thursday, June 2nd for Algonquin authors David Anthony (Something for Nothing), Josh Wilker (Cardboard Gods) and Pete Nelson (I thought You Were Dead).  Details to come!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bestsellers List from Last Week, Annotated, and What's Reviewed in the Journal Sentinel. Plus a Little Extra on Lori Roy.

Here's what we sold this week.  First up, hardcover fiction:
1. The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace
2. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson
3. Say Her Name, by Francisco Goldman
4. Horoscopes for the Dead, by Billy Collins
5. The Fifth Witness, by Michael Connelly
Say Her Name is the #1 Indie Next book for April and last week was the front page of The New York Times Book Review. And here's a wonderful interview with Billy Collins on Fresh Air, which probably was one of the things that led to our sales pop.

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
2. Wicked River, by Lee Sandlin (signed copies available)
3. Malcolm X, by Manning Marable
4. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
5. Life, on the Line, by Grant Achatz
Mr. Sandlin's talk was as good as I hoped for.  I was admittedly a little disappointed with the crowd turnout, but very enthusiastic with the sales.    And with another list comes another Fresh Air interview, this one with Tina Fey.
Paperback fiction:
1. Imperfect Birds, by Anne Lamott
2. Separate Kingdoms, by Valerie Laken
3. The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
4. Pearl of China, by Anchee Min
5. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
This was the week for amazing events, apparently. In addition to compliments about Lee Sandlin's appearance, Lamott's return (lots of enthusiasm and signups for our newsletters from folks who discovered us with this event), and Laken's home town triumph (there were giveaways), I had several people come up to me and tell me that Anchee Min's talk was the best event they'd ever been to.  And Invisible Bridge?  I'm hoping word of mouth is spreading on this wonderful book--we had a very strong sales week, leading up to our dual events on April 29th.
Paperback nonfiction:
1. Eat Smart in France, by Ronnie Hess
2. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
3. Heaven is for Real, by Todd Burpo
4. Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott
5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Both Anchee Min and Anne Lamott had strong backlist sales at their events.  It was nice to see them sell--we had an event a few weeks ago where the new book did very well but the backlist bombed, which was partly my fault.  I just brought in too much.
Children's Books:
1. Little White Rabbit, by Kevin Kenkes
2. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
3. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
4. Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad, by Jacky Davis
5. Owen's Marshmallow Chick, by Kevin Henkes
Happy Easter, apparently.  Also Happy Passover.  Our Hagaddah, by Cokie and Steven Roberts, was #10 on our nonfiction hardcover list.

Today's Journal Sentinel features Mike Fisher reviewing Toxicology, by Jessica Hagedorn.  He's mixed--perhaps too many stylized gestures.  Carole E. Barrowman talks up Margaret George's new novel, Elizabeth I, an uncommon portrait of an uncommon woman.  She's going to be at B&N Mayfair on Tuesday, 7 pm.  For a good laugh, by the book from us and bring it in one of our plastic bags.  It's sure happened to us enough over the years. It's Boswell's best this week.  If you do buy it there, it wouldn't be terrible to mention you heard about her appearance on our blog!
Barrowman also has her new mysteries column.  She's particularly mesmerized by Lori Roy's Bent Road, a drama that is initially triggered by the Detroit riots of 1967, when Arthur Scott packs up and returns home to Kansas, only to be caught up in the case of a missing young girl. 
And since I seem to be in the mood to link to NPR pieces, here's Sarah Weinman's review of the book, also a rave.  An excerpt below:
"Where Bent Road excels the most is in juxtaposing a seemingly encapsulated world of rural routine and slow pace against the rushing onslaught of violence. Arthur may wish to protect his family against the rising tide of civil rights, but only opens deeper wounds within his own family by bringing them home. But his choices seem both right and inevitable, and the Scotts as an entire family are real, flawed people, rich with Roy's natural empathy and understanding that worlds may seem real but are, in fact, a cornucopia of inventions, half-truths and outright lies."