Monday, April 30, 2012

What's Going on at Boswell This Week April 30-May 5, 2012

Tonight (Monday, April 30) at 6:30 pm, we're heading over to the Shorewood Public Library for Michael Buckley, author of the Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S. series. The 9th Sisters Grimm, The Council of Mirrors, has just been released. In it, Sabrina and Daphne face off against the Master, and the future of Ferryport Landing is at stake. Mr. Buckley will also talk about the N.E.R.D.S. series, and could even preview the 4th installment coming in September, The Villain Virus. It's all happening on 3920 North Murray Avenue, just south of Capitol Drive.

On Tuesday, May 1, 7 pm, we're back at Boswell for the launch of Kentucky Derby Dreams: The Making of Thoroughbred Champions. Author Susan Nusser, who teaches at Carroll University, offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at one of America's biggest breeding operations, Taylor Made Farms. Published to coincide with racing season, Nusser's book is already winning raves, and who better to judge a horse book than the Louisville Courier Journal. The reviewer notes "Susan Nusser writes of various foalings with all the tension of a John Grisham thriller, alternating heart-tugging reality with medical minutae. She is a gifted storyteller, and the human and animal players in these dramas become friends for whom the reader genuinely feels elation and concern." Join us tomorrow.

Zipping from Carroll to Marquette, we're hosting historian Andrew Kahrl on Wednesday, May 2, 7 pm, for his new book, The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South. Henry Louis Gates called this "a careful, rich, and provocative book that contributes significantly to our understanding of race in twentieth-century America." Kahrl discusses recent developments, such as the decision to start charging admission at Detroit's Belle Isle Park, on the Harvard University Press blog.

Baseball historian Paul Dickson appears at Boswell on Thursday, May 3, 7 pm, for his new biography, Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick. Veeck might be best known as the owner of the Chicago White Sox, but around these parts, it's important to note that his first team was a little minor league operation known as The Milwaukee Brewers. The Chicago Sun Times called Dickson's biography a "comprehensive, steady and spirited work." And of course interest in the biography is driving sales of the acclaimed memoir Veeck as in Wreck. I noticed the book had sold out at both our wholesalers.

Back in 2009, we hosted an evening that pitted the best of the undergraduates in the creative writing programs at UWM and Marquette in a read off. This year we've decided to increase the stakes. On Friday, May 4, 7 pm, undergraduates from UWM, Marquette, Cardinal Stritch, and Carroll will come together to read from their work. It's a mix of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and we're looking forward to a fun evening.

On Saturday, May 5, we're at the Milwaukee Public Market at 11 am, for a demo with Jenny Lewis for her book, Midwest Sweet Baking History: Delectable Classics Around Lake Michigan. This culinary history looks at the entrepreneurial stories that led to some of our most iconic foods. It includes what is thought to be the original brownie recipe, developed by the Palmer House. The Chicago publication Elm Leaves notes that "for foodies and those with no interest in the kitchen, the book presents an intriguing array of immigrant and entrepreneurial stories."

The Milwaukee Public Market is located at 400 North Water Street. Validated parking is available. Also note that while time limits are enforced, metered parking is free on Saturdays downtown and in the Third Ward. While you're there, pick up your own sweet treats at C. Adams Bakery. The Boswellians swear by the cake bites!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Not Just Bestsellers, but a Note that We Close Early Today, at 4 pm.

Boswell closes early at 4 pm today. We've got a short staff meeting, and then we're off to a rep night presentation in Oconomowoc. Once we're done, we'll be 7% more knowledgeable about the books coming out over the next few months.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen
2. The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live--And How You Can Change Them , by Richard J. Davidson
3. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
4. Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948, by Madeleine Albright
5. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson

With only two weeks to go until Mother's Day (yesterday's blog error corrected!), the high-profile targeted releases are ready for giving. Anna Quindlen's new memoir celebrates, on her 60th birthday, the journey of womanhood. Madeleine Albright's memoir looks at a more specific period, the turmoil of her childhood, beginning with the Nazi invasion of Czecheslovakia.

Oh, and Richard Davidson is at the University of Wisconsin Madison. Here's an interview with him in the Journal Sentinel.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Villanelles, edited by Marie-Elizabeth Mali
2. Sacré Bleu, by Christopher Moore
3. The Wind Through the Keyhole, by Stephen King
4. HHHH, by Laurent Binet
5. Beastly Things, by Donna Leon

Stephen returns to the world of the Dark Tower with a new stand-alone novel. It's a timeless treasure for all ages!. And Donna Leon returns with her new Guido Brunetti mystery, this time about the murder of a local vet. Meanwhile, Mike Fischer's review of HHHH (I don't know whether these should be capitalized or not) indeed pops the novel onto our bestseller list. This week's Fischer review of Nell Fredenberger's The Newlyweds is not quite the rave, but no pity for Freudenberger, as she is also the front page of The New York Times Book Review.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Bond, by Wayne Pacelle (signed copies available)
2. The Freedom Writer's Diary, by Erin Gruwell
3. The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt
4. Bearing the Bruise, by Ethan Casey
5. Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams

We did pretty well with Mark Adams's comic travel narrative, recreating the historic expedition. Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post notes that it's harder than it looks.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. Steady, my Gaze, by Marie-Elizabeth Mali
3. Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James
4. Lesser Apocalypses, by Bayard Godsave
5. Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin

Jason noted that this epidode of Game of Thrones really seemed to drive customers into the store, more than the last few. Aside from that, we're still selling Mr. Godsave's collection of short stories and a lot of erotica. Oh, I get it! The male protagonist is named Grey.

Books for Kids:
1. Amelia Bedelia's First Vote, by Herman Parish
2. Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
3. Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School, by Herman Parish
4. Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia, by Herman Parish
5. Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm, by Herman Parish

I am still trying to figure out how Amelia thought that changing the towels meant cutting them up into other shapes. That said, I agree with her about dressing the chicken. It looked darling! Beyond all the Parish and Collins, our bestselling kids' book this week is The Art of Miss Chew, by Patricia Polacco. It's the story about an art teacher who recognizes the talent in a special student (yes, Ms. Polacco).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--Two Weeks Before Mother's Day and It's Raining. Discuss.

I can't believe it's two weeks (brain freeze--I don't know why I said one!) before Mother's Day. We increased our assortment of cards again this year, or at least I think we did. 32 seems like a lot of designs--that's 192 cards. I guess that's not really much at all. Sadly it all happens in the course of one week, so there's not much time to reorder. Here are a few of my favorite new designs. Yes, one of them features snakes. The greeting is "thanks for all the hugs."

Here's the rule of thumb on Mother's Day card selection. Shop this weekend and the selction is great. Shop next weekend and the selection is terrible. It's your choice.

I can finally invoke the rhyme, "April showers bring May flowers", and with that truism in mind, here is our spring assortment of our kids' umbrellas. We've got a fish, frog, bee, ladybug, and monkey. They are pretty cute, but remember, these at only $9.95, (the sock monkey is slightly higher), don't expect them to stand up to strong winds. I thought my far more expensive umbrella was going to break getting to Boswell this morning.

If things get really wet, you can have an impromptu bath in one of the large puddles that could collect outside. May I suggest something from our rubber duck collection? For those outsized personalities, we have a giant rubber duck which has been turning heads all week. For the bookish environmental sort, we have a particularly eco-friendly reading duck. And for travelers, we have rubber duck luggage tags. For travelers in the dark, we also have rubber duck key chain lights.

I thought that there'd be rubber duck books to accompany the display coming out of the woodwork, but aside from Eric Carle's Ten Rubber Ducks, the pickings are slim. And We also have several adult titles, most of which caution you against buying too many rubber ducks. At least when someone came in looking for Moby Duck this week, we knew where it was.

Friday, April 27, 2012

What's on Our Impulse Table?

1. Mamika: My Mighty Little Grandmother, by Sacha Goldberger.
Fashion photographer Sacha Goldberger engages his 93-year-old grandmother as his muse. She dresses as a jock, a ballerina, a chicken, and of course, as Super Mamika. Included are instructions are how to shrink a cape.

All I can think of is how long it took Mamika to dress in all those outfits.

2. Darth Vader and Son, by Jeffrey Brown. Before their fight to the finish, before being raised by Obi-Wan Kenobi , there was Darth Vader and his son, 4-year-old Luke Skywalker. Together they can rule the galaxy, and then Luke can have a treat!

Buyers have their own predilections, and coincidentally, but Amie and Jason are both fond of all things Star Wars, so there was no way we weren't going to feature this. That said, I were the buyer, I still might give this a try, mostly because I'm guessing our Chronicle rep has seen all six movies. Guess how many I've seen? The answer is neither zero nor six, by the way.

3. Zombies Hate Stuff, by Greg Stones. Among other things, zombies hate nudity, Martians, kittens and mimes. Here's a website with Greg Stones's paintings. It makes me think there is an impulse book in Stackmatic.

 I recently complained to a card vendor that there were not enough good zombie cards. But we are carrying the "If you were a zombie, I would totally let you eat my brains" card from Ghost Academy, so I am less complainy about the void.

4. On Ambivalence: The Problems and Pleasures of Having it Both Ways, by Kenneth Weisbrode. Ambivalence has been an issue since Eve and the apples. Eat it? Don't eat it? The author lives in Turkey, which has its good points and bad points. This book is published by MIT, which thinks in terms of impulse more than most university presses.

Case in point regarding MIT--they had that long-standing impulse staple, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, and after losing the package to Hachette, they did their own 100 Things to Learn in Art School, and it wound up doing better than all the official spinoffs, at least at Boswell.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Old School Print Ads.

A lot of my friends at other bookstores have pretty much completely cut out print ads. And there's a lot to be said for that. I remember writing a particularly funny ad last fall where I didn't get any feedback, and I thought, if that were a blog or Facebook post, it would have been a very different story.

Lack of measurement, inability to give cost per page view (I guess the equivalent of click through), there's a whole bucket of reasons not to advertise in print. And there's also the fact that we get more free press than the bars that are normally alongside us, at least in the Shepherd.

All that is countered by one stubborn bookseller. I like print. I also want to support the media that support us. I appreciate the reviews, the interviews, and the shout outs. Though most media, certainly the larger ones, have a divide between advertising and editorial, most print media does determine editorial space via ad sales, hence, the crumbling of home and travel sections in most Sunday papers. I panic every time I see a very thin New York Times Book Review section. When is it going to be cut? Or perhaps it will one day be 16 pages of bestseller lists.

This week we have an ad running in the Shepherd Express, last month we were in the Journal Sentinel and Milwaukee Magazine, and we've got upcoming group event ads in the The Gazette (LGBT) and The Courier (African American). And all the ads are event driven, so that sort of self-selects where we advertise.

It's funny how these things come in waves. Here are the featured titles in the Wisconsin Gazette:
Alison Bechdel, author of Are You My Mother?, Monday, May 7
Catherine Tuerk, author of Mom Knows, Thursday, June 21 (co-sponsored by Bronze Optical)
Sapphire, author of The Kid, Wednesday, June 27
and here are our Milwaukee Courier selections:
Will Allen, author of The Good Food Revolution, Saturday, May 12 ($5 ticket)
Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow, Wednesday, May 23
Sapphire, once again.

Our Shepherd Express ad features Alison Bechdel, as well as Paul Dickson for his Bill Veeck biography (Thursday, May 3) and John T. Edge for the Truck Food Cookbook (Tuesday, May 15).

Last year, on the other hand, we had three events that were appropriate for The Italian Times. So that's where we were.

All events are at 7 pm. All events are free, with the exception of Will Allen's, which is a fundraiser for Growing Power. All ticket proceeds go to them, plus we're offering $5 off a copy of the book for ticket holders.

This is not an invitation for every print ad rep to chase me. I don't like being pestered. And I'm still posting plenty on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Post--Conrad Recommends New Fiction from Godsave, Fauth, and Karunatiklaka

This winter I felt like we were slowing down on reading advance copies and recommending them. I made a plea, and several booksellers got down to business and started, if not reading more, then reporting on what they read when they liked it. I am suggesting to the Boswellians to post collections of their new recs as a post on The Boswellians. I got permission from Conrad, who has found a number of gems this spring, to get the ball rolling here on Boswell and Books.

Lesser Apocalypses, by Bayard Godsave, Queen’s Ferry Press.
Strung together like pearls on a golden chain, these vignettes into lives both horrid and comical will keep you cruising along with the speed of an intercontinental missle. Bayard Godsave's stories are bleak narratives of lives blasted and charred, sometimes redeemed, sometimes not so much. Bayard's writing is both Spartan and florid (is this possible? well, yes) and he spins out his yarns with an accomplished style that you would expect from a more grizzled writer. We may expect more to come. And, yeah, I'm biased. Bayard is a former Boswell bookseller (Schwartz too) and earned his doctorate from our own UWM. But, whoever said that great things can't come out of Milwaukee?! I mean, other than Harvard Lampoon.

I think we already noted that Conrad is a big fan of our ex-Boswellian's first collection of stories on our bestseller recap. But I don't think I listed the rec, so now that is rectified.

Kino, by Jürgen Fauth, Atticus Books.
Nosferatu, think Metropolis, think The Blue Angel. Kino's films have an uncanny ability to manifest themselves into and influence reality, a fact not lost on Joseph Goebels and the Nazi propagandists. When the Nazis take power, they end up destroying all of Kino's films because they are not able to use them to their purposes. Disillusioned and discredited as a Nazi-collaborator, Kino goes into exile to America and Hollywood, where he is able to make one last film. But this film is not as he intended it, having been thoroughly butchered by Hollywood producers, and lacks the power of his earlier films. Then two canisters containing Kino's first film mysteriously appear on his granddaughter's doorstep...

Atticus is a Maryland-based indie press that has been stepping up their communication with indie bookstores. I'm glad to see that their efforts have borne fruit here.

The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, by Shehan Karunatiklaka, Graywolf.
The debut novel by the Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka, The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, is to the sport of cricket as The Art of Fielding is to that of baseball. Cricket suffuses every page, but it's about much more than that. This is a book about friendships, rivalries, old age, marital relations, nationhood, genius... Narrated by a grumpy, alcoholic, retired sports writer named W. G. Karunasena (Wijie to his friends) who is slowly drinking himself to death and is obsessed with getting on to paper the history of the otherwise overlooked Sri Lankan bowler Pradeep Mathew because "unlike life, sport matters". It was originally published in Great Britain last year under the dubious title "Chinaman" (a cricket term for a left-handed bowler with an unorthodox delivery), a title wisely dropped in favor of its subtitle by the American publisher. You will find yourself racing to Wikipedia to find out just what "bowled by an angling googly" or "yorked by a darter" just might actually mean.*

* a googly is a type of pitch with an odd spin to it, and while I couldn't find what "yorked" might mean, one assumes that a "darter" is another type of pitch.

We were all very excited to see "Conrad Silverberg" on a book mailing for The Legend of Pradeep Mathew that recently went out to the field. Following Stacie's appearance on the galley mailing for Boleto, it feels like we won the Daily Double, staff rec division.
Yes, it's fun to get your name out, but mostly it's just nice to call attention to new books and writers, and when the books are all from small presses , it's like winning on a dark horse.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What's Going on This Week at Boswell, April 22-28, 2012?

Tonight is World Book Night. We didn't schedule events because we figured that many of our good customers would be off placing books in the hands of reluctant readers.

About World Book Night, Sherman Alexie, author of the World Book Night U.S. 2012 pick The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, said: “This is a celebration of the individual book and the individual reader. I am honored to take part.” And, also a World Book Night U.S. author, for her book Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo added: “It makes perfect sense to me that World Book Night will take place in spring. Extending your hand to give someone a book, a story, is a gesture of hope and joy. It is a chance for all of us, givers and receivers, to break into blossom.” Michael Pink, artistic director of

Tuesday, April 24, 7 pm
Milwaukee Ballet, presents Dialogue for Dance: Peter Pan

Join us in a free talk with Michael Pink, artistic director of Milwaukee Ballet, about his most recently acclaimed work. Peter Pan took five years to create through the collaboration of a renowned production team, resulting in an adventure beyond our wildest dreams. In addition to Pink’s brilliant choreography on stage and in the air, this production includes Judanna Lynn’s illuminating costumes, David Grill’s magical lighting tricks, Philip Feeney’s lively score, and enchanting scenic design by Rick Graham from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Ballet's production of Peter Pan runs May 10-13.

Wednesday, April 25, 7 pm
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, and author of The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them.

In America, we have more than 170 million dogs and cats in our homes, and there are 70 million wildlife watchers. Together these animal lovers spend more than $100 billion a year on pets and wildlife. The Bond looks at the the biological, social, and political underpinnings of the human–animal bond, and examines our newfound understanding of animals and their emotional and cognitive capacities.

Thursday, April 26, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Ethan Casey, author of Bearing the Bruise: A Life Graced by Haiti.

“In Bearing the Bruise, Ethan Casey offers up a heartfelt account of his travels in Haiti. As an eyewitness, Casey gives readers an informed perspective on many of the political and social complexities that vex those who seek to make common cause with Haiti, our oldest neighbor, as it seeks to emerge from decades of strife and one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history.” —Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health.

Friday, April 27, 7:00 pm
Marie-Elizabeth Mali, author of Steady, My Gaze, and co-editor of the Everyman’s Library anthology, Villanelles, appearing with Paul Scot August, and Villanelles contributors Kate Sontag, Marilyn L. Taylor, and Lisa Vihos

Celebrate Poetry Month with a flock of poets from far and near as Marie-Elizabeth Mali and friends appear at Boswell to read from various collections.Mali is doing double duty here--Steady, My Gaze is a collection of her own work, while Villanelles is a new anthology from the Pocket Everyman's Library. It features a comprehensive collection of the best of the villanelle, a delightful poetic form whose popularity ranks only behind that of the sonnet and the haiku.

'Wholehearted' is an undervalued word; to my mind it means not blind enthusiasm or unthinking embrace but something more like the full consent of the self to experience, to be present in the glorious and wounding matrix of the here and now. I can't think of a better word for Marie-Elizabeth Mali's poems" —Mark Doty About Steady, My Gaze

Several of these books are not in the Ingram database. You can always email us if you want to get a copy signed. And my apologies for copying a lot of press material this week. The new version of Blogger is behaving in a very wonk-like fashion.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Adventure and Gerbils Drive Boswell Bestsellers, Week of April 15-21.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Sacré Bleu, by Christopher Moore
2. The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan
3. The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
4. The Innocent, by David Baldacci
5. Prague Fatale, by Philip Kerr

Signed copies and no competing events in the category help Christopher Moore maintain the top spot. This is also the first appearance of David Baldacci with a Will Robie novel, The Innocent. Mr. Baldacci originally wrote stand-alone novels, but now he's rotating through a series of series, and this is apparently a new one, which is why the copy made it sound like it should sound familiar, but it wasn't.

On the other hand, Prague Fatale is the eighth Bernie Gunther novel from Philip Kerr, but the first to hit our bestseller lists. Gunther is a World-War-II-era German private detective who is asked to solve the mystery of a murdered Nazi bodyguard. Jason went down to Chicago to meet Mr. Kerr, which was apparently just one of a many-pronged marketing program to finally break out this series with a strong core following.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed (signed copies available)
2. Imagine, by Jonah Lehrer
3. Blue Notes in Black and White, by Benjamin Cawthra
4. Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson
5. Sic, by Joshua Cody

Everybody's talking about the striking gerbil-tastic for the new Jenny Lawson book, known to many as The Bloggress. Let's Pretend This Never Happened is a funny/sarcastic memoir of growing up in rural Texas. Jen Lancaster raves, "There's something wrong with Jenny Lawson--magnificently wrong. I defy you to read her work and not hurt yourself laughing."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. Swamplandia, by Karen Russell
3. The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson
4. Power Ballads, by Will Boast
5. Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James

So much for the bookseller who told me last week that sales would cool off for Fifty Shades of Grey after the first pop of curiosity. The sequel also charts. Also on the list is Wilson's Family Fang, a Stacie rec, now in paperback that was also on the shortlist of Anne Patchett's novels that she thought could have won the Pulitzer in her New York Times column.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. 50 Jobs in 50 States, by Daniel Seddiqui
2. Tasting Beer, by Randy Mosher
3. Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask, by Anton Treuer
4. 100 Voices: Americans Talk About Change, by Mary A. Clare
5. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff

Louise Erdrich on the new book by Anton Treuer: “This book marks Anton Treuer’s shift from an expert on Ojibwe history and language to one of the most powerful tribal voices on most things Indian. Informed, compassionate, funny, and provocative, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask is a truly needed and compelling read.”

Hardcover Books for Kids:
1. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, by Trenton Lee Stewart (signed copies available)
2. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
3. Mr. Benedict's Book of Perplexing Puzzles, by Trenton Lee Stewart
4. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
5. Amelia Bedelia's First Vote, by Herman Parish

The hardcover/paperback split never quite feels as authentic with kids' books. It's mostly the board books--what are they anyway. I've always classified them as hardcovers in inventory, but their price point is more like a paperback, as is their binding. And more than that, many of them have taken on the traditional role as secondary publication format of choice after the hardcover picture book is published. That said, I made the switch back this week to best represent this week's sales.

Paperback Books for Kids:
1. The Magician's Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo
2. Bink and Gollie, by Kate DiCamillo (signed copies available)
3. The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
4. Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
5. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, by Trenton Lee Stewart

I know you're thinking that Trenton Lee Stewart was last week, but when we do schools, the sales come in two bumps. We can record the in-store and library sales right away, but when we funnel sell to kids at schools, there's a little delay as we figure out exactly how many were sold.

This week in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Hhhh, by Laurent Binet, "a stirring reminder that the stories we live depend on depend on the choices we make. And Carole E. Barrowman notes of The Shoemaker's Wife, "Trigiani's writing is opulent, and this novel worth savoring." Don't forget that Ms. Trigiani will be at Next Chapter on Tuesday, April 24, 7 pm.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday Gift Post and A Shout Out to Our Event with Wayne Pacelle on Wednesday, April 25, at Boswell.

We've Got William Pacelle, author of The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them coming on Wednesday, April 25, 7 pm. He's the executive director of The Humane Society of the United States. And animal lovers have been pretty excited about Pacelle's book.

"Majestic in sweep and beautifully written, The Bond is a monumental achievement. I can’t think of any other book that is so valuable. It is truly wonderful!”
-Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

“If the animals knew about this book, they would, without doubt, confer on Wayne Pacelle, their highest honor.”
-Jane Goodall

"The Bond is at once heart-breaking and heart-warming. No animal escapes Wayne Pacelle’s attention; nor should his book escape any human animal’s attention.”
-Alexandra Horowitz

"I love the book and not just because I'm in it."
-Ellen Degeneres (and you can watch her interview with Pacelle here).

And that somehow inspired me to go a little dog crazy on our gift buying, with a few cat things thrown in. And of course you always have the same issues, most notably between breed-specific canino-bilia and generic stuff. If you have generic, folks say, "What kind of dog is this?" but if you focus on the former, they say, "Why don't you have any Portugese Milk Hounds?"

And the answer is that I do not.

The magnets seem to be breed specific, and that got the approval of Sharon. The mugs and flashlights, however, are totally generic. They are simply practical(ish) and a bit cute, and you need to go from there when you make your decision on what you like best.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A New Window, A Case of Mistaken Identity.

We had pretty nice success with our window stickers last year, so I brought in a new batch. I let the vendor choose which sample they'd want in the window, and they went with giraffes and monkeys. We brought back the birdcages and fishbowls from last year, plus begonias, various kinds of foliage, and a realistic cat and bird.


We had another offsite today, this time at the Pfister. Daniel Seddiqui spoke to a regional meeting of Rotary Clubs for 50 Jobs in 50 States: One Man's Journey of Discovery Across America. A man came up to me and said, "Daniel? I heard you have information about a cross country hike."  And I thought he might be talking about the Cheryl Strayed book, Wild.

And then a woman spoke to me, noting that she really liked my talk at Park Ridge. I figured out what was going on. People thought I was Daniel Seddiqui, and it was all the more confusing, because of course we have the same first name. In all, a half dozen people made the error. At least one attendee made the mistake while Seddiqui was speaking. I took it as the compliment it was.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blogger Has New Look, So Does Amelia Bedelia. I Guess I'm Supposed to Learn Something Out of This.

Is there no piece of technology we work with that has to be continually redesigned. Our email newsletter, our Facebook page, and now blogger, are subject to frequent updates. When you change technology, why does that often seem to involve changing typefaces and tool location? Why did the compose/html tab need to move from the right side of the page to the left.

A commission rep once told me that a new sales manager is trouble. Why? Because he or she wants to show action, and how do you do that? By replacing the rep groups. Or moving to telemarketing.  Good thing that there's always another sales manager somewhere else who is showing action by replacing telemarketing departments with commission reps.

And I suppose you could say the same for Google, which paired with indie bookstores not too long ago, but now is dumping them to sell books exclusively on Google Play. A new sales manager, perhaps?

But today is not supposed to be an advocacy post, but one of those posts where I talk about how I'm too busy to write a blog post. I just came back from a very nice event at the Greenfield Public Library with Herman Parish for Amelia Bedelia's First Vote. Boy did Peggy look a lot like the original Amelia Bedelia. And she carrued a purse everywhere too.

At one point, Mr. Parish asked, "what kind of pie did Amelia Bedelia bake that saved her job? and immediately a kid called out "lemon meringue." Another teenage boy had drove down from Mequon to hear Mr. Parish talk. "Amelia Bedelia was the first book I owned," he told the librarian. Now there's an icon for you.

We learned that Amelia Bedelia could have been called Amelia Dedelia, among other variations. But that made her sound dumb, and she's not dumb, just literal. And a good baker.

Amelia Bedelia also has a new look. In particular, she's now in first grade. We learned a lot about Amelia Bedelia's First Apple Pie, which is being used in an iPad commercial. Who would have guessed she's so cutting edge? And coming soon are Amelia Bedelia chapter books, where she is in third grade, or maybe fourth.

I think this is a lesson in reinvention.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On Pulitzer Prizes, or Lack Thereof, Heck to be Raised, and Secret Conspiracies.

Like all readers, I've been in a daze over the lack of a Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year. Was there nothing good enough?

Here's my conspiracy theory.

Train Dreams, by Denis Johnson = novella published in print from ten years ago.
The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace  = unfinished novel.
Swamplandia, by Karen Russell  = mixed reviews, but folks who love it, really love it.

So we're told that the nominations went to the committee and they couldn't come to consensus. But what if the problem were with the nominations? What if the committee (all respectable folks whom I admire greatly) thought, "let's put up two nominees that probably can't win, as one was already in print and the other was unfinished, so that we make sure that Swamplandia claims the trophy."

But to counter that argument, I list these three experts who each pick a different winner. Most folks in the know would say this was a real horse race.

Alexander Nazaryan at The Daily News claims that David Foster Wallace should have won the prize for The Pale King. His thoughts that a Karen Russell reader would take more guidance from a blog than the Pulitzer board seems particularly over the top. Do you really think nobody over 30 can read Swamplandia?

Laurie Muchnik at Bloomberg Business Week thinks that of the finalists, the prize should have gone to Swamplandia. And then mentions Open City, The Art of Fielding, State of Wonder, Binocular Vision, and The Marriage Plot, all books that have come up several times in discussion. And hey, The Tiger's Wife won the Orange Prize and was also on many best-of lists. And what about Salvage the Bones, which won the National Book Award. Wouldn't that have done?

Anne Patchett of course sums up what many of us are thinking in her New York Times editorial. It's probably due to some sort of deadlock, but to the wider world, it says that all the fiction that came out last year, well, sucked. She says that of the three, she would have picked Denis Johnson's Train Dreams.

Here are some alternatives for the jury.
1. Somebody in charge says, "Pick a winner, or else."
2. Call it a hung jury and start over.
3. Make it a tie. I hate 'em but it's certainly happened in the world of prizes.

Of course the interesting after-effect is something that has never happened before. All the nominees are selling. Because the Pulitzer is the one major prize that doesn't announce the runners up until after the prize, there's usually little pop in sales for the finalists.

Case in point, last year Jennifer Egan won the fiction prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad. The two other finalists were The Privileges, by Jonathan Dee and The Surrendered, by Chang-Rae Lee. I don't recall either one hitting paperback bestseller lists. I bet in this year, all three will. So maybe I've uncovered the real conspiracy--an attempt by 21 people to help three books rise to a higher level of success instead of just one.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Day in Chicago Visiting The Book Table and The Book Cellar.

Last week I got to take a busman's holiday and spend the day in Chicago. The nice things about leaving the car in Milwaukee is that I didn't have to find a place to park, and I didn't get caught in traffic jams. In addition, I could brag about taking four different forms of transportation, starting with a Milwaukee County Bus and an Amtrak train.

Some Metra trains leave from Union Station, but the Elburn Line (also known as Union Pacific West, my brother-in-law Les wanted to know this) leaves from the 2nd floor of the Citibank building, which I guess is known as the Northwestern Transportation Center. A Hudson Booksellers replaced the Waldenbooks that was once located on the first floor of this building. I wonder if these stores, staples at airports, will expand into malls one day. They certainly look a lot like Walden and Daltons of old. But exploring this non airport store is an exciting task for another day, perhaps when I come back for the gift show in July.

It was only a 16 minute train ride to Oak Park (I wasn't comfortable enough with the trip to take the green line) and once I got there, I walked around before heading into the Book Table. Though Oak Park hasn't had as much growth as Evanston, its twin on the North Shore, it has still lost a lot of its old retail on Lake Street to chainy restaurants, and a Whole Foods strip center was an oddly jarring site for a town that values its architecture. I'm surprised they didn't force them to at least put the store in front and the parking in back, but what do I know.

I entered the Book Table to find Jason and Rachel working the front desk; they had noted to me that they are pretty much there all the time. The store was originally conceived to be heavily bargain books, but with the loss of Barbara's and Borders in the area, they are the de facto new bookstore for a town that seems like they would value something like that.

The store was fairly busy on a Saturday and I didn't get to chat as much as I wanted. One thing that's interesting to me is that they integrate new books and bargarin books everywhere, including their display tables. There are several of these book tables, which I guess is connected to the name of the store. And one way in which the store has gone its own way is that the new books are all discounted. One day I'll have to learn how he can make that work--we have a loyalty program that offers a small discount, but theirs was substantial.

I bought a copy of the new Anne Tyler, The Beginner's Goodbye, and a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but John Green and David Levithan, mostly because all the teen librarians I work with love it so much. One forgets that I read every Anne Tyler as it came out for years, only missing the last one.

I'm always interested in looking at cards and gift items in a bookstore. I was particularly envious of their overflowing display of Pomegranate book plates. I tried to order them in March and were told that they were no longer available. Really? All of them? So I asked when theirs had come in, and it turned out to be February. If only I hadn't putzed around so long on that order! They really are lovely. I taunt myself with a photo of the spinner, which was in the January 2012 catalog.

One of the specialties of the store is art and architecture, taking up a substantially larger percentage of space than at Boswell. They do have the clientele for this area (Oak Park is architect central) but even then, a lot of their books are value priced (if not bargains and hurts, then Taschen).

The Book Table doesn't have a dedicated event space (being that both Borders and Barbara's did) so they do their events at the Oak Park Library and the Unity Temple. Coming on April 18 is Jeffrey Gusfield, the charming author of Deadly Valentines who just visited Boswell.

I later found out that our Wiley rep Tom was there with his daughter just minutes after I left. It would have been fun to run into him, but sometimes coincidence just doesn't work out that way.

After stopping in a few other shops, one of which seemed to represent the entire Accoutrements catalog, I took the Union Pacific West line back downtown and switched out to the brown line el to Western and the Lincoln Square area. I made a quick call to our rep Anne who met me for coffee and walked over to the Book Cellar. It's my second trip to store, but it's been several years since my last visit, and I wondered if they'd made any changes.

The store was bustling (hey, we better be on a Saturday afternoon), but not so busy that we couldn't chat with a few booksellers. We asked about the new spinner of collectible glass animals. Yes, they are selling! Suzi the owner is respectful of the toy store across the street and tries not to overlap the core lines too much. But with the store configured the way it is, she also probably doesn't have too much square footage to play with either.

As we browsed the tables, Anne made a shout out for a book selling well called The Inquisitor, by Mark Allen Smith. It's a thriller, whose twist is that the protagonist is a professional torturers. Hey, it's like a contemporary Hangman's Daughter. From Kirkus: "Geiger, a strange, dispassionate genius at torture who hires himself out to clients in need of high-level "information retrieval," must confront deeply repressed memories of his traumatic upbringing when a duplicitous client uses a young boy as a pawn."

Book Cellar and Boswell sometimes share authors, as they also seem amenable to hosting events from small press authors. As Stacie noted, on Tuesday, April 18 (tomorrow for those reading the blog post in a timely manner), the store will host two of our upcoming authors together, Will Boast, author of Power Ballads, who is reading with Joe Means this Friday, April 20, 7 pm at Boswell, and Mary M. Clare, author of 100 Voices, who is at Boswell on Saturday, April 21, 2 pm. Mark your calendars for May 5, when Chicago author Laura Caldwell is joined by fave Sara Paretsky.  More on their event program here.

It was a short visit, as between my morning excursion and Anne's plans, our overlap was pretty slim. And I had to decide whether to take the 5:08 train home or wait for the one at 8. I decided to run for the early one, and made it with minutes to spare. I came back with a few ideas, and a reminder for a nice card line I should be carrying, but forgot to follow through last time.