Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Bestsellers for the Week Ending March 30--And We're Open Today from 10 am to 5 pm.

 Stop by and say hi to Stacie, Halley or I on your way to or from your egg hunt.

Hardcover fiction.
1. The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore (at left, playing the cello at Boswell)
2. Leaving Everything Most Loved, by Jacqueline Winspear
3. Little Known Facts, by Christine Sneed
4. The Selector of Souls, by Shauna Singh Baldwin
5. The Burgess Boys, by Elizabeth Strout

Oh, remember that year when Elizabeth Strout was on our top three of paperback fiction every week? now here new novel is out, The Burgess Boys, and there's likely some pent-up demand for it. This Brock Clarke review in the Boston Globe says the theme of the book is that life is a mess and the structure reflects it, but that makes it his favorite of all her novels.

Jacqeline Winspear's tenth mystery featuring Maisie Dobbs, Leaving Everything Most Loved,  has her investigating the death of an Indian governess. Kirkus says that the newest "delves deeply into her complicated relationships and hints at a compelling future." If you're hoping to see Winspear, she'll be at Andersons in Naperville tomorrow, April 1, 7 pm.

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Bike Tribes, by Mike Magnuson
2. The Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart (event on April 10)
3. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
4. Lessons from the Heartland, by Barbara Miner
5. The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan

Regarding Amy Stewart's new book, The Drunken Botanist, has this enthusiastic write up from Lauren Viera in The Chicago Tribune. "There are plenty of interesting historical anecdotes (in some instances, such as the section on juniper, the base berry for gin, Stewart takes us all the way back to the second century). But The Drunken Botanist isn't a straightforward armchair read. It's organized as a light-reading reference book that's bound to be of equal interest to gardening nerds and boozehounds. It's an original concept executed well."

Don't forget that Amy Stewart is appearing at Great Lakes Distillery on Wednesday, April 10, 7 pm with doors opening 5:30. This event is co-sponsored by Boswell, The Great Lakes Distillery, and the Friends of the Boerner Botanical Gardens.

Paperback fiction:
1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
3. Wife 22, by Melanie Gideon
4. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
5. A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

Wife 22, just out in paperback, is the story of a woman who, finding problems in her career and marriage, turns to an online marriage survey with novel-plot-creating results. Meredith Maran in the San Francisco Chronicle notes "That Gideon can take all-too-familiar elements and craft them into something fresh and funny is a tribute to the humor and imagination she brings to the telling of the tale...Gideon weaves Facebook posts, e-mail exchanges, phone calls and potluck party dialogues through the narrative, which centers on an online marriage survey that Alice (under the pseudonym Wife 22) decides to take in secret, with remorse that morphs into rapidly escalating chagrin."

Paperback nonfiction:
1. More Than They Bargained for, by Jason Stein and Patrick Marley
2. Sherman Park, by Paul Geenen
3. How To be Interesting (in Ten Simple Steps), by Jessica Hagy (events 4/3 and 4/4)
4. Milwaukee Garage Bands, by Peter Roller
5. While America Sleeps, by Russ Feingold

Unless you are Barack Obama, it's rare for the paperback edition of a political work to have a strong paperback shelf life, but it's probably different when you are an ex-senator that made a national impact. We'll see what kind of legs Feingold's While America Sleeps has for us. As a reminder of what the Senator touched on, here's a link to his interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep.

I'll have more on Jessica Hagy's events in tomorrow's event write ups, but I should remind you that both of her appearances request registering. Her talk at the Lynden Sculpture Garden on Wednesday April 3, 7 pm is ticketed--$15 gets you admission to the grounds, refreshments, wine, and a copy of How to Be Interesting (such a deal). Her talk on Thursday, April 4, 7:30 am, at Open Mike on the 2nd floor of the Plankinton Arcade, co-sponsored by the Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee, is free, but registration is also requested.

Books for Kids:
1.Unwind, by Neal Shusterman
2. Full Tilt, by Neal Shusterman
3. Everlost, by Neal Shusterman
4. Everwild, by Neal Shusterman
5. Schwa was Here, by Neal Shusterman
6. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
7. Wildwood, by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis
8. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell (appearing April 4 at Greenfield Public Library)
9. Otis and the Puppy, by Loren Long
10. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

We hosted a school event for Mr. Shusterman!

The big book splash in the Journal Sentinel is Chris Foran's roundup of baseball tiles. Each book is not only described, but Foran tries to find a local angle whenever he can. His top pick looks to be The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych, by Doug Wilson. Foran savors that this book is "A reminder that there's still joy in the game, in playing and sharing the experience." And who doesn't want that?

Also in today's Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews 87-year-old James Salter's All That is. Fischer notes that the novel "Isn't ostensibly about flying at all, even if its protagonist does a brief stint in a plane toward the end of World War II. But the experience of reading this book is akin to one's panoramic view, when aloft and moving fast. You can see a lot, albeit briefly and often not very well."

Jim Higgins tackles the new C.S. Lewis biogaphy from Alister McGrath titled, of course, C.S. Lewis. Thought Higgins's eyes "Alister McGrath quickly piles up good reasons for a reader to like Lewis. The writer disliked denominational squabbling and literary theory; he stood in favor of animals, alcohol and reading old books." We missed this one on first pass, but we should have it in the store by Wednesday.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Gift Post--Open for Easter, Flowers, New Stuff from Kikkerland.

Did I mention we are once again open for Easter from 10 am to 5 pm? No. Did I forget to mention it in our last email newsletter? Yes. Why do I do this to myself? I'll be here with Stacie and Halley. There will probably be dancing.

I was working today too, in fact, and our friends Catherine and Doug brought us congratulatory flowers for the lovely story in Milwaukee Magazine (the April issue), which landed this week.  It's a really, really, really nice story and we're very grateful. The flowers also reminded me that I've been so busy with events his spring that I've been a bit remiss about bringing in spring seasonal gift items for sale.

First of course, I had to restock the basics--in the last week I ordered a half dozen card lines and Moleskine journals, which had a stock-up offer. Knowing that we had a good amount of kids' stuff in stock, including a new Melissa and Doug order that just came in featuring outdoor activities, I went with a few of the adult gift staples that we've done well with, like Streamline and Kikkerland. We also placed our first DCI order. Yes, I know this stuff is all pretty similar, and a lot of other retailers in Milwaukee carry them, but you can make it your own by being somewhat choosy

The Kikkerland came very quickly, and probably the most bookish items was what I call Bookmark Boy. His fat shoes stick out of the bottom of the book. We also got a new assortment of head scratchers. This time it's the "rainbow" variety. And while I was sorting things out, I realized I was planning to put out the grow-your-own potted herbs at the beginning of the month. Oopsy!

I forgot just how festive a weekend shift can be (I'm usually still here, but I'm not on the floor as much) with a visit from our friend Stu and his son Jonathan. Stu's an old rep friend of mine, who was a very closer friend of David Schwartz. The best thing about retail is that people know where to find you. I suppose that could be a really bad thing too, but I haven't had to deal with the downside of this dilemma too much, thank goodness.

Before tomorrow's shift, I must work on our weekly bestseller lists and write up Sunday's blog. I'm also hoping I'll be able to make headway into the 300+ pages of manuscripts and galleys I've agreed to read for an independent bookstore project. But wait, I also have to finish Jennifer Dubois's A Partial History of Lost Causes for Monday night's book club. The good news is that I am enjoying the book, which will make it go faster. The bad news is that there's a lot more to read.

Friday, March 29, 2013

More on Christina Schwarz's "The Edge of the Earth," Including Author Response and Tour Cities.

I should say up front here that I am not a journalist. I know this because 1) I didn’t go to journalism school and 2) a journalist doesn’t send a blog post to an author for feedback before it’s live. While I’m not saying that I always check in with the author, I will tell you that several years ago I wrote something offhand about a book that I thought was relatively mild, and the author sent a very angry note to me. You can imagine how he responded to an actual critic if he or she didn’t think his work was the bee’s knees. And here’s an aside—why are bee’s knees good? I’d have to take a time machine to the 1920s to find out.

But I did ask for reflection on yesterday’s post from Christina Schwarz, and she had a few interesting things to say about The Edge of the Earth, the writing process, research, and background, that I thought it would be interesting to reprint a bit of it here.

Regarding my reflection of The Edge of the Earth as one of women’s choices.

Schwarz: I think your idea of focusing on how choices determine particular paths is a good one. It's something everyone can connect to his or her own life, although, as you say, such choices were particularly irrevocable for women long ago--both because divorce was more difficult and because places were so much farther away then. I did think a lot about my own grandmother's family when I was writing this--her parents left Belgium in the early 1900s and never saw their own parents again. What must it have felt like to make such a break? As for Trudy's marriage--I did want to make clear that her attraction to Oskar was rooted in his promise to expand her world. I like that the expansion is not entirely positive (as in the train journey and her disillusionment in San Francisco), but that she still wouldn't choose the alternative (going back). And I really like the irony in the idea that at first her new world confines her even more than did her old world. Regarding my connecting the book to Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures.

I wasn't really aware of Chevalier's book until after I'd finished The Edge of the Earth and was trying to come up with a better title for my book and started key-word-searching some of its elements for ideas. I read a few pages, because I was terrified that there might be too much similarity. Of course, they're very different books, but certainly I think people who liked that book (or like Chevalier generally) would like The Edge of the Earth. Trudy and her work were influenced by a few interesting sources, however. One is Jeanne Villepreux-Power, whose story I stumbled on while researching early marine biology. Born in France in 1794, she was a shoemaker's daughter who apparently went to Paris to seek her fortune and became a dressmaker's apprentice. Somehow she ended up designing a wedding gown for a princess, which drew the attention of a successful English merchant, who married her and took her to live with him in Sicily. There, without any training, she became interested in natural history, described the flora and fauna of the island, began studying sea creatures, particularly some species of the nautilus, and made some serious contributions to science through her observations and speculation. She's credited with inventing the glass aquarium to further her work.

Another is the Pacific Biological Laboratories in Steinbeck's Cannery Row. I'd already had the idea for Trudy's business before I read it, but I was thrilled to see that a real version of what I'd been imagining existed and I learned some things from Steinbeck's account about what the specimens might be and how they'd be gathered and preserved and stored. Finally--for the local angle--I also sort of had my great aunt in mind. She was long after Trudy's time, of course, but she taught biology at Milwaukee Girls Trade and Technical High School. She was very much a naturalist and I remember her showing me how to draw plants (I think her degree was in botany.) By the way, Trudy's recognition that species exist in ecosystems isn't only useful thematically, it's also plausible historically. I do my best not to be anachronistic, especially regarding the way people think.

Regarding the philosophical question of upsetting ecosystems (natural or cultural) in the interest of studying them.

Schwarz: Obviously, Oskar is a villain in the end, but I did consider making more ambiguous the issue of when it's acceptable to intrude in order to learn. As you say, Trudy also takes creatures from their home and kills them. Most of my research for Helen centered on Juana Maria (the woman who inspired Island of the Blue Dolphins), who died in 1853, seven weeks after she was brought to the mainland (probably of dysentery); and Ishi, the last "wild Indian," who emerged in 1911 and died in 1916 of tuberculosis; and on the extinct Esselen tribe who painted a wall in a cave in Big Sur with white hands. Robertson Jeffers wrote a poem about the painting.

I have read Madwoman in the Attic, but very long ago. I was aware that at the turn of the century women were beginning to see that they might have lives not entirely dependent on men and that they might seek fulfillment in ways other than having children. This was the period when Kate Chopin wrote The Awakening and when Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper. I guess I thought of the lighthouse and the cave more as places outside of the conventional world, in which women could set up their environment and run their lives much as they pleased--in other words, "rooms of their own."

Don't forgot, The Edge of the Earth goes on sale next Tuesday, April 2, and our launch event is Tuesday, April 9, 7 pm. Our friends at Books & Company are also hosting an event on Wednesday, April 10, also at 7 pm.

And here are more stops on the tour:

Friday, April 5, 7 pm
Newtonville Books, 10 Langley Road in Newton, Massachusetts

Monday, April 8, 12 noon:
Fairfield Public Library, 1080 Old Post Road in Fairfield, Connecticut

Monday, April 8, 7 pm:
R.J. Julia, 768 Post Road in Madison, Connecticut

Thursday, April 11, 12 noon:
The Book Stall, 811 Elm Street in Winnetka, Illinois

Thursday, April 11, 7 pm:
Lake Villa Public Library, 1001 E. Grand Ave. in Lake Villa, Illinois
sponsored by Lake Forest Bookshop

Monday, April 15, 7 pm:
Unity Temple, 707 W. 47th St in Kansas City, Missouri

sponsored by Rainy Day Books Wednesday, April 17, 1 pm:
Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way NE in Lake Forest Park, Washington

Wednesday, April 17, 7 pm:
University Bookstore, 4326 University Way NE in Seattle, Washington

Thursday, April 18 7 pm:
Books Inc., 855 El Camino Real #74 at Town and Country Village in Palo Alto, California

There's more coming after that on Schwarz's home turf of Southern California. Visit the website for details.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Christina Schwarz, Lighthouses, Specimens, and Stories--"The Edge of the Ocean" on Sale April 2, Our Event is April 9, 7 pm.

Christina Schwarz is a writer whose written three novels, most notably Drowning Ruth. Her fourth, and her first with Atria, The Edge of the Earth, releases this coming Tuesday, April 2. She's coming to town for two events, first on Tuesday, April 9, 7 pm, at Boswell, and then on Wednesday, April 10, at Books and Company in Oconomowoc. But my story begins elsewhere.

While I’m reading her new book, The Edge of the Earth, I’m sitting with my Mom at her assisted living apartment in Worcester, and she decides to tell me some stories about her young adulthood. Her family didn’t have very much money and she set off to get an office job after high school. Her first job opening came to her when a neighbor at her apartment--her family moved just about every year, to take advantage of the month’s free rent that came with a year’s lease.

It just seemed that every story involved complicated choices and avoiding the bad alternatives. There was always a bit of serendipity, of course, and in the end, she met my father on a blind date with someone else, got married, and after her third kid (me), went back to school, go her degree, and started teaching.

There's no doubt that my mom's stories played into my reading of the book. I thought about how many choices my mom made, and what might have happened if someone had taken her under her wing and sent her in a totally different direction. She knew she wanted stability, but what if she’d taken up with an adventurer instead.

Trudy Schroeder was a bit more complacent about her life than my mom. Her German-born parents had established themselves in Milwaukee well enough to send her to college. She was likely to marry Ernst Dettweiler, as steady fellow if there ever was one. At the most, she might do a little teaching before settling down, at the suggestion of Miss Dodson. But then she became reacquainted with Oskar Swann, Ernst’s cousin, a serious and impulsive fellow who promised her great adventure. He was off to a lighthouse, after all.

Trudy marries and goes off with her husband, and I don’t want to say there are some clues to her husband’s personality in the voyage. And one of the amusing things about choices is that sometimes you don’t have much of a choice at all, particularly if you’re a woman in the 1890s. Trudy meets the Crawleys, Henry and Euphemia, and their four children, plus Euphemia’s rather unstable brother Archie. And what do you know if they’re soon talking about Trudy teaching the children (the lighthouse is too far from formal schooling) with hints about Trudy’s someday child. Teaching, kids, boring—it’s all the same except in a more exotic locale. And I am reminded of the feminist treatise in The Madwoman in the Attic, where Trudy sort has become the locked up woman by Oskar, her jailer.

Only that locale offers a few other options. The tidal pools are filled with interesting specimens, and that leads to a unique line of teaching. And then there is the mysterious mermaid girl that the younger Crawley Jane talks about, leaving gifts in the tidal pool, which the others have left in the Swann apartment. Another mad woman? Another attic (cave)?

It turns out there are a few secrets among the Crawley family, and Trudy’s likely to find them out. But worse than the deceptions is Oskar’s newest line of scientific inquiry. See the problem for Trudy is that while spending time with Oskar in Milwaukee, she sees him doing something heroic, and judges that to be his true character. And in a way he is, only a bit more complicated than that and possibly misguided.

I love how Oskar bears his villainous (or crazy, you decide) face, but if you look back historically, folks like Oskar were the genius explorers and scientists of the era, and were certainly not considered plunderers. I think Schwartz was aware of this and gave a wink. At one point, the novel became an argument about anthropological inquiry—do you change a people when you study them?

The Edge of the Earth is most certainly about women’s choices. I am reminded a bit of Tracy Chevalier’s recent novel, Remarkable Creatures, which though set on the English coast, also looks at a woman’s role in scientific inquiry. We don’t think of cataloguing as women’s work when we’re talking about breakthroughs, but it did seem like it was something that the women naturally understood and I’m not sure whether the men did or not.

I am also reminded of M.L. Steadman’s The Light Between Oceans, which while I didn’t read, was certainly a major bestseller at mini indie bookstores in 2012, and coincidentally, arrives in paperback on the same date as Schwarz’s hardcover release, April 2nd. This novel is set in Australia, but it’s at a similar time period (20 years later) and takes place at a lighthouse and there are some surprisingly similar turns of plot.

Hey, if you want to start collecting novels about lighthouses, while I haven’t read P.D.James’s lighthouse-set mystery (The Lighthouse, of course) I did read Jeanette Winterson’s Lighthousekeeping, which, while a very different style of writing, reflects in the first part of her novel that remoteness that seems to permeate all books about folks in remote parts of the world trying to prevent disastrous crashes. And as I remember, there was a lot of storytelling in that book, and why not, as what else are you supposed to do when you’re stuck at a lighthouse.

So now I’ve been pondering storytelling, choices, women’s roles, and scientific inquiry. And it was all inspired by listening to my not-going-to-give-her-age mom tell me stories about what she wanted to do when she was 19. And of course by reading The Edge of the Earth.

Tomorrow I ask Schwarz a few questions, and she has a few answers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Visit to Wisconsin Public Radio and Kathleen Dunn, an Email Newsletter Goes Out, a New Shepherd Ad.

1. Books mentioned on the March 27 Wisconsin Public Radio Kathleen Dunn show. Listen to the complete show here.

More Than They Bargained For, by Jason Stein and Patrick Marley

The Supremes at Earl’s All You Can Eat, by Edward Kelsey Moore
“I meant he’s a cellist not a celloist.”

Little Known Facts, by Christine Sneed

Bike Tribes, by Mike Magnuson

Cooked, by Michael Pollan

The Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart

Bunker Hill, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Mom and Me and Mom, by Maya Angelou

The Little Paris Kitchen, by Rachel Khoo

Storm Kings, by Lee Sandlin

A Dog’s Journey, by Bruce Cameron

Maddie on Things, by Theron Humphrey

*The Hot Rock, and other Dortmunder novels by Donald Westlake (print-on-demand, nonreturnable terms, meaning we're not likely to be able to stock this on our shelves, alas)

Worse Than the Devil, by Dean Strang

*A recommendation of Lake Forest Bookshop

The Absolutist, by John Boyne

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker

Reboot, by Amy Tintera

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

*Peshtigo fire books. Most popular Firestorm at Peshtigo, by Denise Gess and William Lutz

Some Assembly Required, by Anne Lamott
also Help, Thanks, Wow

Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon

How to be Interesting, by Jessica Hagy

*A Man of Parts, by David Lodge

Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie

The View from Penthouse B, by Elinor Lipman

*A Recommendation for Pearl Street Books.

Wingshooters, by Nina Revoyr

Carry the One, by Carol Anshaw

2. If you missed this week's email newsletter, you can read it here.

3. And finally, we have another Shepherd Express ad that came out today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What's Wrong with Liking a Novel Where the Laughs are Broad, The Emotions are Strong, and The Good Folks Win? Enjoying Edward Kelsey Moore's "The Supremes at Earl's All You Can Eat", and Looking Forward to His Talk, Reading on March 27,and Maybe a Little Cello Music.

I’d like to say that every book from every author we host is a winner, but we all know that this can’t be the case. For one thing, we often wind up booking the events before a bookseller can read them. It’s also true that folks have different taste; one reader’s winner might be another’s loser. And every so often, I get the strange suspicion that the publisher decided to tour a novel aggressively because they thought the reviews would be bad. Last year a high-profile novel got a really bad review in The New York Times, and just about a week later, we received not one, but two finished reading copies. I guess the idea was that handselling would save the book that was previously going to be made by critical acclaim.

But Edward Kelsey Moore's first novel is no handoff. Ever since we starting hearing about The Surpremes at Earl’s All You Can Eat, you could tell how sincerely each person we were in contact with felt about the book—the sales rep, the publicist, the agent. They absolutely loved it. And I've fully embraced that love, in a hallelujah sort of way.

It’s the story of three women in a small town outside Louisville, Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. Friends since high school, they’ve always been there for each other, though they do have their differences—each attends a different Baptist Church in town, for example. Now in their late fifties, a rough year looks like it's coming, whether it be death, disease, or cheating. Like any juicy novel, there are a lot of secrets being withheld that have to come out. And yes, there’s going to have to be some comeuppance.

I thought to myself, “I’m not sure I’m the right reader for this book. I don’t read Fannie Flagg or Terry McMillan*, the two very different authors whom I thought of as I contemplated the novel. I’m not an older woman. I’m not Black. I don’t go to church. I don’t live in a small town.” (Yes, you now know all my secrets). But when I started reading The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, I couldn’t stop. The characters were so good, the set ups so funny, the heartbreak so poignant. I'm trying to think of the phrase that would make you feel like you're part of a story that you really haven't been before--culturally inclusive?

This is a commercial novel, if commercial means heavy on plot and emotion (and of course to be commercial, it also needs to be successful, and this just hit the New York Times bestseller list, so that box is checked off). And yes, it’s cinematic, as you can certainly visualize the movie as you’re reading the story, with Tyler Perry the likely player of Odette’s ghostly mother Dora. I did think, however, that the producers were likely to lop ten years off the ages of the Supremes. Not that they should; just that they probably would. (UK jacket at right)

And now, a note from Stacie M. Williams:

“When we host author events, we sometimes know the works being presented are fantastic but don’t always know if the author is someone who presents well. But, sometimes we get to meet an author and get a taste of what our audience will be in for when he or she comes to the store.

“Last October, I had the immense pleasure of meeting Edward Kelsey Moore at a bookseller conference in Minneapolis. Attending an author reception, we listened as each guest author stood up to tell us a little about their books. One of the two shining stars of the night was Edward. He percolated with energy, but without overflowing. He told us a heartwarming, yet laugh-out-loud hilarious story about his family, and was so warm and effusive with his getting to be a part of the evening alongside other, more well-known writers. In short, he charmed us all, especially me, into a swooning trance.

“I have no doubt that anyone who comes to hear him read and speak will be as bowled off their feet by his endearing and entrancing personality. Plus, we hear that he’s bringing his cello with him and we’ll be granted a little bit of beautiful music, too. It will be a real treat.”

Moore will be reading at Boswell on Wednesday, March 27, at 7 pm. Yes, I know that’s tomorrow. As Stacie noted, he is a professional cellist, and we have convinced him to bring his instrument up to Milwaukee for some music to go with the reading. When you read The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, you’ll notice a love of classical music that pervades the pages, especially in Clarice, a pianist who gave up a performing career to stay with her football-player-turned-scout husband, but also in an appreciation for classical music you don’t always find in a novel like this.

But that’s the thing about Moore and his writing. He upends some expectations about what a novel like this would be. Like the fact that Odette can see ghosts, just like her mom. It’s not a secret; you learn about it in the first chapter. But there’s clearly no mention of it on any of the jacket copy; someone must have thought that a paranormal twist would simply throw off the likely reader. But while I think this book could have a wide audience, I’m also thrilled to find a book that will appeal to a lot of African Americans who want a good read, but are looking for more than a romance or an urban playa novel.

Sometimes customers will tell me what they like and be a little embarrassed, like I’m going to judge them. I don’t know where this comes from. I’m not against commercial success and I’m certainly not against escapism. I like emotion as much as the next person. If sometimes I obsess over structure and language and don’t worry about novels that don’t really have plots, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good roller coaster ride of a thriller. I just want the author who writes that crowd pleaser to do a good job. I can’t abide sloppiness, and I hate when I feel like the author thinks I’m too stupid to know that he or she is coasting.  Edward Kelsey Moore is not sloppy and he's definitely not coasting. He's soaring! (Over the top ending is chosen to match the novel's drama).

*I actually am the kind of person who might read Terry McMillan, and was actually a fan of Mama, one of her early novels. But once she became popular, I felt like she didn’t need me anymore and moved onto other, more obscure authors.

Postscript--The jacket above left was the one I originally saw on the galley. The interesting thing about type jackets is that they leave the market more open. I tend to like them because they open up a book to different readers. But it's clear that other booksellers like a jacket like the finished product, which more clearly defines who the reader is supposed to be. I'll probably get back to this in another post.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Three Great Events This Week at Boswell--Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, Edward Kelsey Moore, and Christine Sneed and Mike Magnuson. That's a Lot of Conjunctions.

Tuesday, March 26, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, authors of More Than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions, and the Fight for Wisconsin.

"When Wisconsin became the first state in the nation in 1959 to let public employees bargain with their employers, the legislation catalyzed changes to labor laws across the country. In March 2011, when newly elected Governor Scott Walker repealed most of that labor law and subsequent ones--and then became the first governor in the nation to survive a recall election fifteen months later--it sent a different message. Both times, Wisconsin took the lead, first empowering public unions and then weakening them. The book recounts the battle between the Republican governor and the unions.

"Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, award-winning journalists for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, covered the fight firsthand. They center their account on the frantic efforts of state officals meeting openly and in the Capitol's elegant backrooms as protesters demonstrated outside. Conducting new in-depth interviews with elected officials, labor leaders, cops, protestors and other key figures and drawing on new documents and thier own years of experience as statehouse reporters, Stein and Marley have written a gripping account of hte wildest sixteen months in Wisconsin politics since the era of Joe McCarthy."

Want to now more? Stein and Marley sat down with Bill Glauber to talk more about More Than They Bargained For.

Wednesday, March 27, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Edward Kelsey Moore, author of The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat.

First time novelist Moore comes to Boswell to talk about his New York Times bestselling novel about three longtime friends , Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean, in small-town Plainview, Indiana. "Dubbed 'the Supremes' by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they weather life's storms together for the next four decades. Now during their most challenging year yet, dutiful, proud, and talented Clarice must struggle to keep up appearance as she deals with her husband's humiliating infidelities. Beautiful, fragile Barbara Jean is rocked by the tragic reverberations of a youthful love affair. And fearless Odette engages in the most terrifying battle of her life while contending with the idea that she has inherited more than her broad frame from her notorious pot-smoking mother, Dora."

You see, Dora can see ghosts. Since you find that out pretty early on, I suspect that Knopf was a little concerned that some folks who'd get into a book like this might be thrown off by that detail. But it adds another fun dimension to a story that is a mashup of Fannie Flagg and Tyler Perry, "Steel Magnolias" and "Soul Food."

From Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Widower's Tale: "What a delight and privilege it is to be among the earliest readers of this breathtaking debut. The supremely (editor's note: get it?) gifted, supremely entertaining, and supremely big-hearted Edward Kelsey Moore has conjured up the story of an entire community, and at its sparkling center, a trio of memorable heroines. How I long to have Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean on speed dial."

Moore lives in Chicago, where he's enjoyed a long career as a cellist. His short fiction has appeared in the Indiana Review, African American Review, and Inkwell. He'll be appearing at Boswell on Wednesday, March 27, 7 pm, bringing along not just his speaking voice but his cello too.

I throughly enjoyed this novel and will be writing more about it tomorrow!

Thursday, March 28, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Christine Sneed, author of Little Known Facts, along with Mike Magnuson, author of Bike Tribes and The Right Man for the Job.

"The debut novel from award-winning writer Christine sneed: a many-layered story of fame, family, and identity.

"The people who orbit around Renn Ivins, an actor of Harrison-Ford-like stature--his girlfriends, his children, his ex-wives, and those on the periphery--long to experience the glow of his fame. Anna and WIll are Renn's grown children, struggling to be authentic versions of themselves in a world where they are seen as less-important extensions of their father. They are both drawn to and repelled by the man who overshadows every part of them."

From Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins (Walter is appearing at Boswell on May 6): "I grabbed Christine Sneed's novel, Little Known Facts, on my way out the door this weekend and ate it up. It's a great, canny read: wry, observant, inventive in style, rich in character. Christine Sneed knows her Hollywood, but more than that, she knows her people."

From Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Once Upon a River: "The gravitational pull of fame in a celebrity-obsessed culture informs this smart, fresh debut novel about a family living in the shadow cast by its larger than life patriarch."

From Curtis Sittenfeld's front-page rave in The New York Times Book Review: "Sneed is an intelligent and graceful writer, and the elegance of her prose, coupled with her sure-handed observations about human folly, tends to obscure the fact that not all that much happens in most chapters. Major plot developments — breakups, movie premieres — are likelier to occur between chapters than in them. Much of the novel is summary as opposed to real action, but it’s a testament to Sneed’s gifts that it rarely feels stagnant; on the contrary, her sentences are strangely hypnotic, casting a spell that makes it hard to put the book down"

 Yes, it's not a Hollywood novel but it's not a caper novel!

From my blog post on Sneed and her appearance: "We are very, very, very fortunate that Christine Sneed lives in Chicago (Evanston, even closer) and was not just amenable but enthusiastic about coming up to appear at Boswell. We asked if she would like to read with someone else, and she immediately suggested Mike Magnuson, a Wisconsin writer whose Bike Tribes had a nice sale at Boswell. He's going to probably read from his fiction, trying to keep more in the spirit of the evening, but I told him that we're up for anything. I've been told that Southern California has bike lanes too. Sneed and Magnuson are appearing on Thursday, March 28, 7 pm."

And for more on Mike Magnuson and Bike Tribes, here's an interview with him in The Wisconsin State Journal when he talks about the various bicycle tribes, how he did the research, and which tribe is the most hated? Could it be because of their outfits? Note that Magnuson will probably be focusing on his fiction at this event.

Aside from that, Happy Passover, Good Friday, and Easter!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Bestellers--Pagels, Hemon, Stein and Marley Preview, On the Oates Jacket, the B&N Award Pop.

I didn't like my Saturday post, so we're redoing it. It means it's going to post on Sunday, after this one.

Hardcover fiction:
1. The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates
2. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
3. Benediction, by Kent Haruf
4. Mary Coin, by Marisa Silver
5. The Dinner, by Herman Koch

You know that spring is here when a bunch of literary books pop from their reviews. The front-page New York Times Book Review from Stephen King for The Accursed (Ecco) must have had a national impact not unlike ours. I'm sort of sad as we did not see that kind of pop with Christine's wonderful and well-deserved review for Little Known Facts, even with her coming this Thursday, March 28, with Mike Magnuson. That said, folks have been noticing the event and book as we talk it up; it's just something about split cover reviews that greatly diminish the impact of either.

I had just been talking about Oates with my brother-in-law, who met her some years ago and had a very pleasant dinner conversation about boxing when she visited his university. And I was thinking she would have also enjoyed Stacie and Paul's conversation about masculinity and violence.  Here's a Ron Charles Washington Post article about the difference between the US and UK jackets--I know a lot of my customers go on about how much better the British jackets can be, but here's one where they clearly fell short.

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Hope Against Hope, by Sarah Carr
2. Lessons from the Heartland, by Barbara Miner
3. The Book of My Lives, by Aleksandar Hemon
4. Revelations, by Elaine Pagels
5. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

You would think we're all about education nonfiction, by the looks of our list, but we just happened to sell books at events for the authors of the new works by Carr and Miner, which made Hannah very happy. I've already written at length about both Hemon and Pagels's events--you'll see backlist sales from both below.  But in my attempt to continue to write about The Book of My Lives (FSG), I quote from Steven Galloway of The (Toronto) Globe and Mail, who gets at what I've tried to say in a less eloquent fashion:

"Fortunately for us, The Book of Lives follows no such pattern. It is best described as a memoir in essays, all of which have been previously published, and it would be easy to view this as an attempt to monetize existing work, as writers try to do from time to time. That would be a mistake, however, and a failure to recognize the precision and understated beauty of the book. The sense of adventure and quiet humour that makes Hemon’s fiction stand out among his contemporaries is on display here, along with prose that is crisp and clear while still retaining his distinctive voice."

Paperback fiction:
1. Lesser Apocalypses, by Bayard Godsave
2. Donnybrook, by Frank Bill
3. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, by Nathan Englander
4. The Lazarus Project, by Aleksandar Hemon
5. The Orchardist, by Amanda Coplin

I've been complaining that it's becoming much rarer to see literary books on the national paperback fiction bestseller lists since the demise of Borders, so it's refreshing to see Amanda Coplin's The Orchardist (Harper Perennial) crack the top twenty. It's no doubt that the Barnes and Noble Discover Great Writer award is what made this pop, so congrats for making this work. Usually the chain tries to make waves with hardcovers--I know that the appearance of The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat had particularly strong sales in that channel, and we've heard that their April push is for Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. Here's a nice post in The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune blog about fiction and nonfiction winners, both of whom graduated from the University of Minnesota.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Revelations, by Elaine Pagels
2. Anatolian Days and Nights, by Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner
3. Milwaukee Garage Bands, by Peter Roller
4. The Gnostic Gospels, by Elaine Pagels
5. More Than They Bargained For, by Jason Stein and Patrick Marley (event on March 26)

I'm used to seeing back-of-catalog books from university presses formatted like paperbacks but priced like hardcovers, but at least two front-of-catalog trade titles, both of which we're hosting events for, are using this newfound formula for books that likely won't need a second life in paper, and will likely to eventually convert to short. Jason Stein and Patrick Marley's More Than They Bargained for: Scott Walker, Unions, and the Fight for Wisconsin, (University of Wisconsin Press) covers the state conflict over state workers' right to bargain in a journalistic way. The author will appear at Boswell on Tuesday, March 26, 7 pm.

Books for kids:
1. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell (event April 4 at Greenfield Public Library)
2. Hold Tight, by Blue Balliett
3. Otis and the Puppy, by Loren Long
4. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
5. Little White Rabbit, by Kevin Henkes

After our event with Kevin Henkes, Amie said, "Get everything signed of Little White Rabbit" and it will sell for Easter. She was correct, by the way.  I feel remiss that I didn't tell you that Loren Long appeared at Oconomowoc's Books and Company on March 22. I hope you all found out about it from other sources. Kirkus reviewed the new book, exclaiming "Fans of Otis will not be disappointed with the satisfying ending that results in a creative solution and a most happy reunion"

We've got some great kids' events coming up too, including Rainbow Rowell, appearing with two other authors for her Eleanor and Park, at the Greenfield Public Library on April 4.  In addition to that amazing John Green rave in The New York Times Book Review, there've been raves over this title, including this pre-pub shout out in Linda Holmes' NPR column entitled "50 Wonderful Things From The Year In Pop Culture." It made the cut because it came out in the UK in 2012.

And now for a preview of next week's bestsellers. From the Journal Sentinel, Carole E. Barrowman reviews Danielle Trussoni's Angelopolis (Viking). We're hosting an event with Ms. Trussoni on Wednesday, April 3, 7 pm. Barrowman likes it--a quote below or you can read the entire review here. The novel, the follow up to Angelology, goes on sale this Tuesday, March 26.

"I found the world of this novel fascinating, especially the alternative history of Russia and the Romanovs woven into the plot, including the secret symbolism of Faberge eggs; motivations of Rasputin, the "holy man" who had a demonic "influence on the tsar"; and apocalyptic prints of Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer. But most of all I loved Trussoni's more subtle theme that to create a city of angels, a heaven on earth, depends on "the Nephilim descended from angels and women." I'm not sure how Milton would have felt about that, but I'm fine with it.

In addition, there's a preview story for Paul McComas's Steinbeck Plus 75, a free event at Marquete on Monday, March 25.  You can also hear McComas talk about the event on Lake Effect. And of course McComas will be appearing at Boswell on Tuesday, May 7, 7 pm for his upcoming novel, Fit for a Frankenstein, in a joint presentation with David Luhrssen, talking about his new Mamoulian biography. The event has just been christened "Forties Film Night."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Halley and Daniel Talk About Last-Minute Easter Gifts

D: As we are a bookstore first, we should talk about Easter books first.
H: We have plenty of rabbit-friendly titles, this being my favorite.

D: Who doesn't love David Kirk?  And the Oh So Tiny Bunny  (Feiwel and Friends) is very cute.

H. The rabbit's big eyes stare into your soul.

H: I think it is important to note that there are only four styles of Easter card left.

D: And look? There's one for every taste. I should note, however, that we don't start with that many more than four styles. I will say, to the defense of holidays that are not the big four for cardgiving (Mother's and Father's Day, Christmas, Valentine's) that we brought in St. Patrick's Day cards for the first time this year and sold out of all three designs.

H: We sold out of my favorite, the one with a lot of grass on it.

D: Marijuana? I don't remember buying that.

H: Silly, the card was for not for potheads.

D: We have a good amount of plush, rabbits and chicks and lambs.

H: And Folkmanis puppets! And bunny and chick finger puppets too. And don't forget the pig puppet.

D: Oh yes, in the tradition of the Easter ham.

H: In this photo, a wind-up bunny is riding a chirping chick.

D: We are almost out of the chicks. One bookseller told me that several customers couldn't figure out how they worked.

H: You're just completing a circuit to make it work.

D: Oh, Miss Physics.

H: Little Baby! Just right for your Easter basket.

D: And you can always give them an Easter kitty. It's a regional thing, I'm told.

 H: Basket stuffers! Can you think of a wittier way to say that?

D: Basket blasters?

H: Basket buddies!

D: This is clearly the big dramatic close.

H: Me being attacked by rabbits.

D: Brought to you by Gund and Melissa and Doug. The end.

H: Happy Easter. Get your rabbit on!

D: And we actually have some Passover books too.