Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rats. We Took Out the Lights in the Old Biography Section and Now It's Really Dark.

The email newsletter went out this morning. (We'll have the link up and running as soon as Constant Contact can help me). When that happens, I seem to feel I have the right to coast for the rest of the day.

By the time it went out, Amie had been at Boswell for hours. She came in early so that our electrician could remove the light fixtures in the biography section.

And now the biography area is dark. Very dark.

Not to keep too idle, it's time to make sure all our March events are booked before our press release goes out. Once you get in booking mode, it's hard to get out, and so I wound up booking four events today. One was a new translation of Antigone by UWM prof David Mulroy (March 7), one was a first novel by Madisonian Dale Kushner, coming out from Grand Central (May 16), one was a journalistic look at schools in New Orleans post Katrina from ex Milwaukean Sarah Carr (March 19), and the last was a new book of photographs of a cross-country trip where Dale Humphreys took photos of his dog Maddie standing on things. It's called, surprisingly enough, Maddie on Things. We already have several booksellers following his blog. That event is not until July 23.

I don't consider that paragraph an event announcement. I'm just making sense of where my day went. And my month. Say goodbye to January.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ebook Fulfillment Change, Construction Project Starts, Dave Eggers Now Signs at 2 pm on Sunday.

I'm working on our next email newsletter, which will have a few important things to let folks know about, in addition to our upcoming events.

1. Our ebook program is switching from Google to Kobo on February 1st. If you've bought from us before, you'll still be able to access your existing books on a Google account. To buy new ebooks from us, you'll use the Kobo page on our website. A lot of booksellers already transitioned before the holidays, but I...put it off. And yes, we'll be selling some devices. I'm just not sure yet where we're going to put them.

2. Construction will be starting soon, as we are giving up a few hundred square feet of space to Starbucks. It's that area where the biographies and the art wall is. We will still have a door accessible to the coffee shop and the bathroom, which., by the way, is shared. They are expecting the project to take six weeks. We still do not know whether Starbucks will be closed for the duration, or if there might be a take out window. All I know now is that I have to make sure our carpenters and electrician remove the bookcases, wall fixtures, security equipment, and lights.

3. You might have spotted the change already, but I wanted to call your attention to a change of time for our Dave Eggers signing on Sunday. He's now going to start signing at 2 pm on Sunday, February 3rd, instead of the later, previously-announced time. Hope this makes it even easier for you to attend!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Boswell's Best--Fresh Off the Boat, Heat, The Inventor and the Tycoon, Invisible Armies

It's time to look at some new nonfiction titles hat are on the Boswell's Best for this week.

Max Boot's Invisible Armies: An Epic Histry of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (Liveright) was already featured on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. Reviewer Mark Mazower reports "Its tenor is moderately upbeat: Boot believes lessons can be learned if only we look at history the right way. The war in the shadows may be here to stay, but we should not despair, he insists, because even now the odds are against the insurgents, provided armies tackle the job with patience, good sense and a consciousness of the importance of winning over hearts and minds."

I find Max Boot to be a classic historian's name, and expected him to be 85, being that this is his third book and its almost 800 pages of research. He's not. He  is, however, theJeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. I like to start sentences with conjunctions, but when it comes to job titles, I follow the more traditional protocol and tend not to capitalize them, though it seems like common usage indicates otherwise. Rick Atkinson calls the book "sweeping, meticulous, and exceptionally thoughtful, while the unnamed copywriter calls Invisible Armies a 21st century version of On War. Atkinson has his own new book coming out later this spring (May 14th), The Guns at Last Night, which is the final book in his trilogy about the Allied forces during World War II.

A very different take on history (an Erike Larson meeets Simon Winchester-ish take, specifically) is Edward D. Ball's The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures (Doubleday).  Ball was awarded the National Book Award for Slaves in the Family. It's the story of Eadweard Muybridge, a developer of stop-motion photography and moving pictures, whose endeavors were bankrolled by railroad tycoon Leland Stanford.

But apparently Mubridge was also a "remorseless killer," a spree jumpstarted when he discovered the child recently borne by his young wife (apologies, I'm using some copy here) was not, in fact, his. The USA Today reviewer, Don Oldenburg, noted the writing was great but that folks might have a little with the shuffled storyline. That said, if you like seeing a disheveled and remorseless criminal hang, "there are enough diverse story lines here to hang the murderer Muybridge many times over."

Another book that's already getting a lot of attention is Eddie Huang's  Fresh Off the Boat.(Spiegel and Grau), which has already been getting reviews and feature stories all over the place. From Dwight Garner at The New York Times: "It’s a rowdy and, in its way, vital counterpoint to the many dignified and more self-consciously literary memoirs we have about immigration and assimilation. It’s a book about fitting in by not fitting in at all."

Eddie Huang is the propriator of Baohaus on 14th Street in New York (he'd laugh mockingly at me that I walked ten blocks out of my way to have lunch at Wao Bao on State Street in Chicago during the recent gift show, but what were my alternatives?) but is probably built his brand best by hosting a show called Fresh Off the Boat for ViceTV, Cheap Bites for the Cooking Channel, and co-stared with Anthony Bourdain for The Layover. He's also written for The New York Observer, Grantland, and his own blog, The Pop Chef.

This is such a Julie Grau book, isn't it? She loves her hip hop stylings.

I thought that Heat: Adventures in the World's Fiery Places, (Little, Brown) Bill Streever, was also a foodie book, but my brain was still thinking of Bill Buford's old memoir, or perhaps I was thinking of Gail Simmons on Top Chef complaining about the lack of heat, or too much heat, or something. But Streevor's new book is a companion to his bestseller Cold, and is more like travel/adventure/history. Firewalking hot coals, sweating it out in Death Valley, tracing the invention of matches, and the chemistry of burning fuel, it's all there. 

The Huffington Post has a "why we're reading this book" feature organized akin to a questionnaire. And Streever talked to Rachel Martin at NPR about some of his experiences and discoveries. On walking on hot coals: ""Well, first of all, it wasn't that hot to actually walk on the coals. Where the heat comes in is when you're right up next to the fire, and the heat was really, absolutely present. But then you step onto the coals, and really what my feet were feeling was more of a sense of, almost like walking on popcorn — kind of a crunchy sense"

All these books are 20% off in store through February 4, and possibly longer. Hope you find something that takes your brain for a spin.

Monday, January 28, 2013

This Week's Events!--A Signing with Dave Eggers, Plus Ian Rankin, Polly Campbell, Alex Bledsoe, Melissa F. Olson.

Tuesday, January 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Melissa F. Olson, author of Dead Spots,
along with
Alex Bledsoe, author of Wake of the Bloody Angel and The Hum and the Shiver.

Melissa Olson is a recent graduate of the creative writing MA program at UWM (my apologies, as I recently said it was an MFA program--I'm so removed from academia that I didn't double check this hard enough). After graduating, she moved west of us to Madison, but when her new book got published by 47North (yes, we know who the parent company is), she looked to return back to Milwaukee for an event with Boswell. We had to postpone the launch until after she had a baby, however.

Dead Spots is contemporary urban fantasy, set in Los Angeles. Scarlett Bernard has the ability to null, or repel magic, and so she has become the official crime cleaner of the local underworld. But when an LAPD cop finds out about her supernatural powers, he blackmails her into helping him crack a case, one that finds Scarlett as the lead suspect.

I asked Olson if there was someone she'd like to read with and she immediately thought of asking Alex Bledsoe, whose written a number of different series, including the cross-genre based Eddie LaCrosse books. The newest release, Wake of the Bloody Angel, has LaCrosse tracking down the pirate Edward Tew, just in time for the Milwaukee Public Museum's Real Pirates exhibit, open now through May.

Mel gives a thumbs up to Bledsoe's Appalachian fantasy, The Hum and the Shiver. Coming this summer is the sequel, Wisp of a Thing. Here's what Kirkus said about the first in the Tufa series: "This powerful, character-driven drama, set forth in superbly lucid prose, occurs against an utterly convincing backdrop and owns complications enough to keep everybody compulsively turning the pages. A sheer delight."

More from Bledsoe in yesterday's interview with Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel. My apologies on the lack of an author photo. Bledsoe's image will not load to Blogger, either as a jpg or png!

Friday, February 1, 7 pm, at Outpost Natural Foods, 100 E. Capitol Drive, 53212:
Polly Campbell, author of Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People.

We love working with Viva Editions, home of Phil Cousineau, Arthur Plotnik, and John Duffy, all of whom have appeared at Boswell. So when they called offering an event with Polly Campbell, we jumped at it. The only problem? How to do two events in an evening.

I talked to our friend Margaret at Outpost. We've worked with them both in the store and at their community room. And based on the material in the Outpost Exchange, I remembered that spirituality is a topic that seems to resonate with many of their customers (and ours). And when Hannah gave me a thumbs up on Imperfect Spirituality, I was even more enthusiastic. Quoting Hannah:

"Polly Campbell gets that we're human and imperfect. She believes that we can all make progress to become better centered and spiritually healthy people and gives us the tools to do so. Imperfect Spirituality is one of the most accessible self-improvement books I've read." (Thanks, Hannah!)

You can listen to Campbell on Wisconsin Public Radio's "At Issue with Ben Merens," which aired last Friday. And Campbell will also be on "Morning Blend" this Friday morning. That's the other reason I love working with Viva. They don't, as I call it, "book and run."

Friday, February 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Ian Rankin, author of Standing in Another Man's Grave.

When my friend John told me that he was reading all the Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin in order, I knew that Rankin was not just any mystery writer. And America apparently feels the same way, as Rebus's return to action (he's no longer an inspector, but he's still driving everyone else around him crazy) just hit The New York Times bestseller list, the top ten no less.

The new novel has Rebus working on a cold case, where women are disappearing along the same stretch of road. Reviews have been great. Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal calls the newest, a "suspenseful, atmospheric, often droll novel."

And as Alison Flood notes in the UK Guardian, "Did anyone really believe Ian Rankin was going to stop writing about John Rebus, the cantankerous, alcoholic detective who was retired by his creator, to much mourning, in 2006? In retrospect, we should all have known better: Rankin was always going to find a way to keep Rebus on the page. He's just too good a character to let lie."

More in Carole E. Barrowman's announcement in the Journal Sentinel, which also lists Mystery One's event with Robert Crais on Tuesday, and Rankin's appearance on Friday at 5. Yes, that means you can actually see Rankin and Campbell.

Still not convinced. Here's Anne's take:

"If you had to live or work with John Rebus, he’d make you crazy. Reading about him, however, is sheer pleasure. Watching him weave his way through a series of possibly connected old and new crimes, irritating colleagues right and left along the way, is fascinating business. And just when you think he can’t possibly solve this cold case, he does. Loved it!" (Thanks, Anne.)

Sunday, February 3, 2 (note this is a new time!) pm, at Boswell, signing only:
Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King, Zeitoun, What is the What, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and other titles.

And publisher of McSweeneys.

And the man behind the 826 centers.

The great Mr. Eggers is on a whirlwind trip through the midwest and mountain states, covering three events in one day. As a result, our Super Bowl Sunday counter programming (not quite, our event is 3 pm, giving you plenty of time to root for, well, whomever you root for) is a signing only, though Eggers will be happy to chat with folks. But not forever, because he has to get on a plane to Denver after our event.

So what are we saying here. You should be here by 3 pm to make sure you get your book signed, because Eggers will leave when the line is finished. And if the line is crazy, we should note that we may have to cut the line off, though I suspect we should be fine. This is a new start time for this event. He'll need to leave earlier than first projected.

We've bought a good amount of A Hologram for the King in its beautiful hardcover, and an assortment of backlist. There are no signing restrictions for this event, but I will note that depending on the line size, there may be signing limit on books brought from home.

Still on the fence about Dave Eggers newest novel? Carmela Ciuraru in the San Francisco Chronicle calls A Hologram for the King "an outstanding achievement in Eggers' already impressive career, and an essential read."

Hope to see you at one of our events. And please say hi, though I admit up front I can't do both events on Friday evening. So if you're going to Polly Campbell, say hi to Hannah and Margaret instead.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Boswell's Sunday Bestsellers--Saunders Chugs Along, Events Perform Well, Ian Rankin's Advance Sales Strong.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini
2. Tenth of December, by George Saunders
3. Standing in Another Man's Grave, by Ian Rankin (event Feb 1, see below)
4. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
5. The River Swimmer, by Jim Harrison

It's not surprising that The River Swimmer, Jim Harrison's new book, a collection of two novellas, has been getting great reviews. If you haven't read Harrison, Ron Carlson sort of lays it out on the table in his review in The New York Times: "Harrison is a writer of the body, which he celebrates as the ordinary, essential and wondrous instrument by which we measure the world. Without it, there is no philosophy. And with it, of course, philosophy can be a rocky test."

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Lessons from the Heartland, by Barbara Miner
2. The World Until Yesterday, by Jared Diamond
3. My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
4. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo
5. Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright

No big nonfiction release pop this week, though like in fiction with Jennifer Chiaverini, the bestseller list was dominated by our event with Barbara Miner. I listened to an interesting piece on On the Media about how Scientology has responded to Lawrence Wright's book with paidb advertising. The Atlantic apparently didn't make the boundaries between editorial and advertising clear enough for some.  And the anthropology blog Savage Minds has Rex looking at why many anthropologists are not Jared Diamond fans. It links to several other interesting pieces.

Paperback fiction:
1. Rescue the Good Stuff, by Louisa Loveridge Gallas
2. Slow Lightning, by Eduardo Corral
3. Ginkgo Light, by Arthur Sze
4. Never Let me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain

While I often leave out bulk sales from our published bestsellers, it's harder to exclude our course sales, as each individual student comes into buy their books, much like an event. They certainly don't have to buy the books from us (except for some cases, when a certain web site doesn't have stock) and we're grateful for the traffic.

After The Paris Wife, you have to head past The Lanuguage of Flowers, City of Dark Magic, and State of Wonder, to get to a new release with a sales pop. The Expats, by Chris Pavone hit bestseller lists in hardcover, but I don't think I wrote it up for the blog or email newsletter.A CIA agent has traded in her badge for the life of a homemaker abroad in Luxembourg. But then another couple move into her orbit, hinting that her husband might also be what he appears to be, the first in a series of reversals in this, as Entertainment Weekly coined it, a "bombshell a minute" thriller.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Mo, by Kate Jurgens
2. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor
3. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, by Fiona Carnarvon
4. The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources, by Michael T. Klare
5. Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It, by Richard A. Clarke.

Jason and I were noting yesterday that our Downtown Abbey table has been selling a good amount of books, leaving us with even more regret that we didn't put one up for last season. It looks like the #1 title selling has still been Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, by Lady Fiona Carnarvon, which has been on bestseller lists since its release.  Here's an interview with the Countess on the PBS website.

Children's books:
1. Monster, by Walter Dean Myers
2. Goodnight Moon board book, by Margaret Wise Brown
3. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente
4. Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers
5. How Rocket Learned to Read, by Tad Hills

On our reported list, we included Vintage Valentines from Golden Books, but I normally remove these titles, as they really cross the line into product, and if we're going to do that, we should probably list the packaged Valentines from Peaceable Kingdom. By the way, fairies continue to be hot, but mermaids are ascendant.

One title that is selling and is clearly a book is The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making. I am so unused to mass market pricing, as very little besides George R. R. Martin  sells in adult mass market with us, but Valente's novel, at less than half the price of the hardcover, seems to be strippable rack size. Valente's novel has been compared to Alice and Wonderland and The Golden Compass and was a Publishers Weekly best children's book title of 2011.

In the Journal Sentinel, Alex Bledsoe takes the Reading List challenge from Jim Higgins. Bledsoe is reading with Melissa Olson this Tuesday, January 29, 7 pm. His most recent novel is Wake of the Bloody Angel, while the sequel to The Hum and the Shiver will be out in early summer. His classic that matters is Heart of Darkness and his writer who deserves to be rediscovered is Jesse Hill Ford, who wrote one bestseller in the 1960s and then fade. Ford apparently captures the flavor of small-town West Tennessee, Bledsoe's home state. He now lives in Mount Horeb. Read more here and perhaps we'll see you Tuesday.

Or maybe we'll see you Friday. Also in the Journal Sentinel, Carole E. Barrowman writes about the two "masters of the mystery universe" who are coming to town this week. Robert Crais will be at Mystery One this Tuesday for his novel Suspect, while Ian Rankin will be at Mystery One on Friday, February 1, at 5 pm, and at Boswell at 7 pm.  We've had two great reads on Standing in Another Man's Grave. More on that tomorrow.

In addition, Jeff Sharlet of the San Francisco Chronicle has a review of Lawrence Wright's Going Clear, which as noted previously, is currently on our bestseller list.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Gift Post--Rainbow Recycled Leather Journals, 3D Puzzles, and Monkeys.

I'm back from the Chicago gift show, now down another floor that was leased to Google. That said, there were still a lot of potentially good lines for Boswell. I tend not to purchase too much impulsively. One day I'll tell you about the fight I had with a vendor over the metal mice. We lost about $300 on that one.
I wound up ordering several lines that I'd been thinking about for a while, like this journal assortment from Paperthinks. The leather covers are recycled, and the assortment comes in 24 different colors. It's got me written all over it. Who knew the difference between tangerine and tangelo? Now I do--tangelo has more of pastel hue. Another interesting thing about this vendor is that it is warehoused on the northwest side of Milwaukee.
January is not just time for gift show; it's also when a lot of vendors release their catalog. Our jigsaw puzzle table was wiped out by the holidays, so we restocked with Ravensberger. We are trying out some 3D monument puzzles and as a bonus, we got a sample Eiffel Tower. It artistically is missing a few pieces.
I was particularly amused by the barnyard band puzzle for kids. I remembered that we have a new IPop (those are the magnets from various acontemporary artists) called Monkey Band from Matthew Porter. They really rock out together

Speaking of monkeys, we just received our now annual assortment of sock monkey stuff from Schylling. This year we brought in the coin purses and the baby sock monkeys (brown, not rainbow). And when winter ends, we'll have some umbrellas. And you can get them wrapped in our monkey paper. We will probably sell out of these quickly (I should have doubled the order) and then they'll be out of stock for months.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Short Post--Jennifer Chiaverini in Racine/Miss Cupcake Visits

Hannah and I visited the Racine Public Library yesterday for Jennifer Chiaverini's event for Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker (signed copies available). We learned from Hazel of the Friends of the Racine Public Library that Mary Todd Lincoln actually had an extended stay in Racine, and there's a statue of her in town.

Congrats to Chiaverini, for her highest ranking to date on The New York Times bestseller list. We've been selling the book (outside the event) better than the books in the Elm Creek Quilts series. Who doesn't love a good presidential-themed novel?

We got a little lost trying to find the library parking lot, which gave us the chance to detour a few blocks and see how the old Schwartz space was doing. I think I got the building correct. Havahart Pets was there. On the way back I bought a turtle kringle for the Friday morning booksellers from O&H bakery.

Speaking of sweets, Miss Cupcake visited us with some treats this afternoon. Included were vanilla/vanilla, chocolate/vanilla, cherry chip, chocolate orange, and orange cream. I first heard about this shop at an Iron Cupcake competition.

Since it's opened, I've dropped by several times, as have several other Boswellians. Jannis and Jason follow the shop on Facebook, and both have raved about their scones.  I asked Ashley if there's a book she particularly likes that perhaps inspired her, and she noted that she is a big fan of Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Baked, which grew out of a Brooklyn bakery. Actually I'm not sure I got the right Baked book, as she referred to it only by title, but I think it's correct.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Kids' Next List is Out. Two Boswellians Offer Recs, but That's Nothing Compared to Some Other Bookstores.

Did you ever look at your desk and think, "Maybe this is why I'm having trouble getting things done." So I took a look at my desk and thought, "Perhaps is time for my irregularly scheduled cleanup."

Many things popped up. Our friend John's list of all the retailers on Downer, listed every ten years from 1927, when Harry W. Schwartz opened his bookstore here, through 1997, when Schwartz reopened in our current space, more or less.

I found many trade magazines, Indie Next listfliers, and many things I printed out that seemed urgent, but now I forget why. The Kids' Next recommendations flier has recommendations from both Halley and Hannah. 

Peanut, by Ayun Halliday, with illustrations by Paul Hoppe (Schwartz & Wade)
“This graphic novel follows Sadie, a 10th grader, who has just transferred to a new school. To make herself appear more interesting, Sadie fakes a peanut allergy, which ends up landing her a boyfriend and a group of interested friends in spite of her duplicity. Peanut is incredibly accurate in its depiction of teenage life, including language and emotions, but it also remarkably portrays the ignorance of food allergies to non-sufferers. An important book on many levels.” —Halley Pucker

Falling Kingdoms, by Morgan Rhodes (Razorbill)
“What's the difference between those who are raised to be great and those who need to become great? Falling Kingdoms follows four teenagers, some royal, on their paths towards becoming legends in their own lands. Subterfuge, magic, battles, and politics collide as their disconnected lives begin to intertwine in ways that the reader cannot predict. I can't wait to read the next one!”
—Hannah Johnson-Breimeier

Yes, we know that Hannah's rec still says Next Chapter on the website. We're hoping it's corrected soon

The #1 book for the season is:

Colin Fischer, by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz
“Colin Fischer has Asperger’s syndrome and struggles to connect with his fellow high school students and to understand the world around him. However, his observational skills make him the ideal person to figure out how a loaded gun ended up on the floor of the school cafeteria. Colin Fischer is told from the unique perspective of a character who sees things differently and whose observations offer a humorous view on high school culture.” —Rebecca Olson, Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI

Hannah wants to know why all the Asperger and Autism books are about boys. If you have good picks about girls on the spectrum, please let us know.

For some reason, it's harder for the ABA to get booksellers to quote kids books, or maybe there are just so many more titles on the list, being seasonal, that folks repeat. I like to check who got the most quotes. It helps if your names starts with a J or M.

Counting down to the most:
Meaghan Beasely of Island Bookstore in North Carolina, three recs,
Melissa Oates of Fiction Addiction in South Carolina, three recs,
Janice Hunsche of Kaleidosaurus Books in Indiana, three recs,
Julie Baker of Eight Cousins in Massachusetts, four rec,
Marika McCoola of Odyssey Bookshop in Massachusetts, five recs!

Would you want one of these folks as your personal bookseller? They are reading like crazy. Pick up a flier a Boswell or visit the website here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Pym-iest of Pym Posts, as Boswell Has Three Barbara Pym Selctions in our Staff Rec Case.

When I refer to Pyms, I am not referring to that delicious English cookie, which are in fact Pims. No, I am referring to something else English and delicious, and that would be the writer Barbara Pym (I did the drawing at right because I couldn't determine if any of the photos had promotional use available).

I looked at our staff rec shelves, and saw that not one, not two, but three of us have Barbara Pym on our shelves, and if Beverly were still alive, I think we'd make it four. Anne still recalls when she first discovered the author, after reading a newspaper article and walking into the Book Nook on Silver Spring Drive, where Beverly was eager to talk about the author.

I got Pym fever when I still lived in New York. Her comeback started when several British intellectuals (notably David Cecil and Philip Larkin) called Pym the most under-rated writer of the 20th century. And then the old books started being re-released and the new ones started getting published, for all Pymians know that she was rejected by her publisher in the early 1960s, and instead of finding another publisher, she didn't publish for 16 years. And when Quartet in Autumn was published, it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

But I know exactly what did it for me. It was when Anne Tyler, who at the time was probably my favorite writer (I scoured bookstores for her entire backlist in mass market, which was extraordinarily hard to find, as the reprints were scattered about several different publishers, even though the hardcovers always came from Knopf. One was from Playboy Books!) reviewed No Fond Return of Love. Now, through the magic of computers, I know the day I fell in love--February 13, 1983. I was late to the game, but heck, I was also only 22.

I also know my friend Billy was obsessed with Pym, but I can't remember if I discovered this before or after the review. And Jane's off, so I don't know where she discovered Pym, but I'll bet it's also a good story.

I'd walk into the B. Dalton on Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, in the same building where I worked, and there was a huge display of her books, both in hardcover from Dutton and in paperback from Harper. All the editions matched, and I had never seen such a thing. One wishes that publishers would release backlist in uniform hardcover editions more often, but it's so rare that one publisher has all the rights.

It turns out that Penguin (which had bought Dutton) took the paperback rights back from Harper, and issued their own editions in Plume. But now the only Penguin edition in print is a Penguin classic of Excellent Women, which is her second novel and probably her most well known. Most of the rest of the titles were issued by Moyer Bell, which has always had a bit of trouble keeping the books printed.

Our recs are for her first three published novels, but Jane and Prudence was actually my second choice. My first, A Glass of Blessings, from 1958, is one of those titles that's out of stock. I checked with Midpoint, Moyer Bell's current distributor, who said there are also rights issues involved. Sigh.  But I'll go with second best! Here are our recs

Some Tame Gazelle (1950)
"If you like Jane Austen, you will love the books by Barbara Pym, set in 1950s England. She's a wonderful observer of her world, and the British humor is wonderful."

Exellent Women (1952)
"Witty plotting--eccentric yet subtly strong personalities set against mid 20th centur London. Escape bleakness of winter with this engaging compedy of manners. Pour a cuppa...and enjoy!"

Jane and Prudence (1953)
"Two friends gossiping about village life, in search of a mate for Prudence. Dreamy, Austen-esque without trying, I sigh just thinking about beloved Pym."

Needless to say, the art of writing recs on cards does not always translate to recs on blogs, where you have more room to spread out.

Here's a link to another post about Pym. It includes the Barbara Pym Cookbook, which I must say passed me by.

Later that day...

I was checking my email and got this note from Laura at Open Road Media. Who knew my blog post was timed so well?

"I work at Open Road Media, a small NYC-based publishing company. I read your post today about Barbara Pym, and I'm delighted to connect with you.

"It's a great coincidence that you happened to write about Pym today: this week marked the release of our U.S. ebook editions of her works, with paperback editions to follow on March 5. Our editions include A Glass of Blessings, Jane and Prudence, Less Than Angels, No Fond Return of Love, and Some Tame Gazelle—as well as The Barbara Pym Cookbook. I'm particularly pleased to tell you that A Glass of Blessings is on our list, as I know that was your top recommendation for new-to-Pym readers.

"Anyhow, I just wanted to connect and let you know about the forthcoming availability. We'll be distributing through Ingram when the time comes. Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for the great post. I really enjoyed it!"

Warm regards,


Laura noted we sell via Google ebooks. I guess it's time to start noting that we are switching to the Kobo program on February 1. There'll be more blogging about that, as soon as I can wrap my head around it.

The print component will probably be print on demand. Hope they made the margin and returnability good enough that bookstores like ours can carry the titles for stock.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Releases on Boswell's Best--Fiction from John Kenney, Robert Crais, Melanie Benjamin, Eleanor Morse, and Maryka Biaggio.

Jason noted to me that with the move to on sale dates, most publishers crowd releases to the first and last Tuesdays of the month. In the days when distribution was a little fuzzier, a lot of books that had publication dates for a particular month would come the third week of the previous month. In short, what I am saying is that what was once a crowded week for releases (the next-to-last week of the month) is now pretty thin, at least in January.

That's fine, because there are plenty of Boswell's Best fiction titles who still haven't gotten their moment in the sun. Honestly, there are plenty that never get their writeup, due to the fact that I only have so many hands. My apologies to every author whose prose I haven't yet called "breathtaking."

To me, the most interesting release this week is John Kenney's Truth in Advertising (Touchstone), mostly because I'd been hearing about it for months--the folks at Touchstone (which recently moved from the Free Press to Scribner divisions) are very hot on it. I feel terrible that I haven't read it yet, especially since it seems like a cross between Augusten Burroughs' Sellevision, and Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You, both of which I liked, but heck, I just can't keep up, and that's with me feeling pretty good about my reading speed right now. I am taking time out several times a week for reading, and just finished Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and started Christina Sneed's Little Known Facts. Yes, we're hosting both authors (May 1 and March 28 repectively). What else is new?

Oh, have I lost my train of thought here? Finbar Dolan is an ad exec in New York (probably looking much like the striking Mr. Kenney, at left), who has to choose between putting together a Super Bowl campaign and caring for his ill father. I know that the new thing is to not believe quotes, or even imagine that they finished the book (thanks to the Gary Shteyngart video) but Andy Borowitz (who was once at Boswell when we hosted an event for his wife) had a nice quote that I reprint here:

"No one makes me laugh like John Kenney (editor's note--he writes for The New Yorker). So I expected Truth in Advertising to be very funny, and it is But I was unprepared for how deeply felt and richly observed it would be This is a beautiful novel and a dazzling debut."

Alas, Truth in Advertising rubbed the USA Today's David Daley the wrong way (really wrong, I have not really seen something quite so bitter of late that was not on the Amazon one-star because the author snubbed me when he didn't give me a blurb but in a real newspaper, which is why I link to it here), but the Kirkus reviewer was quite a bit more upbeat: "With wry humor, always on point, Kenney guides us through the maze of work, family, love (elusive) and friendship (a lifesaver). This is an outstanding debut."

Back to USA Today, I'm actually a bit stunned with the vitriol of this first write up, particularly in a middle-of-the-road paper like USA Today. Do you really blame the author when Mean Joe Greene is misspelled? Did you notice that James Deen (the actor) was misspelled half the time as James Dean in a recent New York Times magazine piece (it's corrected on the website, but you should have seen the print edition)? Was that the author's fault?

I have been put in the place where I'm defending a book I haven't read. Now I really feel like I have to read Truth in Advertising!

But it turns out that this is not the only book coming out this week. Robert Crais has a new novel, Suspect (Putnam), coming out, and he's signing at Mystery One on Tuesday, January 29, at 7 pm. The new book is about an LAPD cop who loses his partner to a nighttime assault. His new partner is a dog, a survivor of Iraq duty who has lost her handler. Together they take on a big case.

I've heard that detective-plus-dog mysteries are ascendant, and it sounds like Crais has taken this to another level. Robert Taub in The Huffington Post says "Suspect is a rare hybrid -- a first class crime thriller and a story about love between two friends." Go see this guy, and tell Richard we sent you.

Still on Boswell's Best this week is The Aviator's Wife (Delacorte), by Melanie Benjamin, who has done a number of events in the Chicago area, but hasn't been up to Milwaukee for several books now. We had several good reads for Alice I Have Been, and she followed that with a stock signing for The Autobiography of Tom Thumb, when she read at Next Chapter.

Benjamin's newest is a historical novel about Anne Morrow Lindburgh, which reminds me a bit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, in that both were historical novels that hewed closely to the facts, through the eyes of the companion of the more famous person. And of course Benjamin's book borrows off the latter in terms of title phrasing too. I can imagine a whole series of wife books. Perhaps if Loving Frank hadn't done so well, the book might have been rereleased as The Architect's Wife..

I'm down to two books. Do I mention White Dog Fell from the Sky (Viking), by Eleanor Morse, or Parlor Games (Doubleday) by Maryka Biaggio? I'll just do some links for both.

The first is a novel of three folks in Botswana. This is fascinating. Here is the link to the book on the Curtis Brown literary agency site. I learned from this that the editor is Kathryn Court. I am usually drawn to books that she edits. And I also like the drawing on the jacket.

Entertainment Weekly gave the book a B+, with special props for the lyrical and beautiful writing.

The Publishers Weekly review offers that "Morse’s unflinching portrayals of extremes of loyalty and cruelty make for an especially memorable novel."

Jason noted that Parlor Games has a Rules of Civility-like cover (and yet it somehow has enough slight changes to move its genre needle a bit--see below) and a quote from Daisy Goodwin, author of The American Heiress, both popular books at Boswell. Goodwin cheered that "Parlor Games is a captivating tale narrated by the irresistible and deliciously unreliable con woman, May Dugas.

What I mean above is that there are these weird cover cues that say "this is not a book for men" which I did not see in Rules of Civility. And perhaps this goes back to Meg and Chris renaming their protagonist Magnus Flyte to get male readers. But it also calls to mind a Downton Abbey audience. Is it that there are only women on the cover? is it the pastel coloring? Jason noticed this too. Are we being sexist? Apologies to David Daley in advance.

Blogger Isaac Morris also spotted the sames issues (though he didn't call out the jacket), when he noted "It is not what I thought it would be, just a 'chick' book" and went on to say is an entertaining romp, in the classic style of picaresque.

Kirkus also had a nice write up, and called attention to the book's local interest. Dugas was born in Wisconsin and her exploits covered the midwest, including Illinois and Michigan. The reviewer states: "Based on a true story, Biaggio’s narrative provides an engaging glimpse into a character who categorically eludes our attempts to define her."

Sure you can find something here to read. And Jason says the releases heat up next week. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Boswell Events--Kate Jurgens and Barbara Miner at Boswell, Plus Jennifer Chiaverini at the Racine Public Library.

Tuesday, January 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Kate Jurgens, author of Mo: A Loeys Dietz Memoir.

Maureen “Mo” Jurgens was born in 1995 with a rare disease as yet undiagnosed at that time. Mo’s mother, Kate, a neonatal intensive care nurse, recognized the signs of birth defects right from the start: turned feet, closed fists, and a cleft palate. It wouldn’t be until over nine years and seventeen surgeries later that a key discovery would lead to the diagnosis of Loeys Dietz Syndrome, a rare connective tissue disease that allows aneurysms to grow throughout the entire body as well as wreak havoc on the joints and soft tissue.

Kate’s journey became one of discovering how to mother a child with special needs while also raising three other children, expand her nursing knowledge, strengthen her own marriage, and deepen her Catholic faith. Compiled mostly from Kate’s journal entries over the course of Mo’s first thirteen years, Mo: A Loeys Dietz Syndrome Memoir is both a medical mystery and story of triumphant spirits.

You probably want to know more about Loeys Dietz syndrome. Who is Loeys Dietz? Does it describe the illness or is it a person?

It is actually two people, Bart Loeys and Hal Dietz. They were the first observers and describers of this disorder, while at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. More on this website for the foundation. And here's more from the department at Johns Hopkins.

Mo's Mom, Kate H. Jurgens, graduated from Marquette University, and is a prenatal care coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Come join her at Boswell for this talk on Tuesday at 7 pm.

Thursday, January 24, 6:30 pm, at the Racine Public Library, 75 Seventh Street, 53403:
Jennifer Chiaverini, author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.

This event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Racine Public Library. Reservations are highly recommended, as this event is limited to 200 people. Call (262) 636-9217.

In March 1861, Mrs. Lincoln chose Elizabeth "Lizzie" Keckley, a former slave, from among a number of applicants to be her personal "modiste." Keckley would be responsible not only for creating the First Lady's gowns, but also for dressing Mrs. Lincoln. The relationship between the two women evolved into something more intimate, as Keckley was drawn closely into the life of the Lincoln family, offering close support to Mary Todd Lincoln through the loss of her son, and then her husband.

Keckley saved scraps from the dozens of gowns she made for Mrs. Lincoln, eventually piecing together a tribute known as the Mary Todd Lincoln Quilt. She also saved memories, which she fashioned into a book, Behind the Scenes: Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House. Upon its publication, Keckley's memoir created a scandal that compelled Mary Todd Lincoln to sever all ties with her, but in the decades since, Keckley's story has languished in the archives. In this impeccably researched, engrossing novel, Chiaverini brings history to life in rich, moving style. 

As Jim Higgins notes in Sunday's profile in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "While Keckley's relationship with Mrs. Lincoln is central to the novel, it wasn't her entire life. Chiaverini also portrays Keckley as part of the free black community in Washington, giving readers a feel for both the joys and fears of people living in the capital of the Union but so close to the Confederacy. As a free black man, Keckley's son, George, wasn't allowed to join the Union army, but he was light-skinned enough to pass for white, so he enlisted anyway, to his mother's anxiety."

Our friends at Patched Works will be there with Jennifer Chiaverini's branded fabrics. And the Friends promise me that the space will remain open until every last person can get their book signed. This is Chiaverini's only event east of Madison for this book, so we're expecting a big crowd.

Friday, January 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Barbara Miner, author of Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City.

This event is co-sponsored by Rethinking Schools.

Barbara Miner has been a reporter, writer, and editor for almost forty years, writing for publications ranging from the The New York Times to The Milwaukee Journal. The former managing editor of Rethinking Schools, she has co-edited numerous books on education, including Rethinking Columbus.

In Lessons from the Heartland, Miner weaves together the racially fraught history of public education in Milwaukee with the broader story of hyper-segregation in the rust belt, telling of an iconic city's fall from grace—and of its chance for redemption in the twenty-first century. A symbol of middle American working-class values and pride, Wisconsin—and in particular urban Milwaukee—has been at the forefront of a half-century of public education experiments, from desegregation and "school choice," to vouchers and charter schools.

Picking up where J. Anthony Lukas's Pulitzer Prize-winning Common Ground left off, Lessons from the Heartland offers a sweeping narrative portrait of an All-American city at the epicenter of American public education reform, and an exploration of larger issues of race and class in our democracy. Miner brings a journalist's eye and a parent's heart to exploring the intricate ways that jobs, housing, and schools intersect, underscoring the intrinsic link between the future of public schools and the dreams and hopes of democracy in a multicultural society. 

Hope to see you at one of this week's events.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Bestseller Post, Including Sonia Sotomayor, Captain Underpants, and a February Event Preview.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Little Wolves, by Thomas Maltman
2. Tenth of December, by George Saunders
3. Standing in Another Man's Grave, by Ian Rankin (event Feb 1)
4. River Swimmer, by Jim Harrison
5. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Maltman comes out on top this week, with a lovely event filled with mystery fans, a book club, high school students, folks who loved Carole E. Barrowman's review in the Journal Sentinel, and of course, folks who come out for anything Stacie suggests. It's still early for other reviews, but the fellow who puts together the Book Chase blog writes:

"Thomas Maltman has written a complicated novel, one that can be read and enjoyed on several levels. The novel has the kind of action that most pleases thriller fans, and the mystery at its core is an intriguing one. Even better, it is filled with well-developed characters (of the hard-to-like, but easy-to-understand variety) and a complicated set of dual plots (filled with literary references) that tie together beautifully at the end."

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Lessons from the Heartland, by Barbara Miner (event 1/25)
2. Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright
3. The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver
4. I Could Pee on This, by Francesco Marculiano
5. My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

In a lot of respects, I consider The Signal and the Noise our #1 nonfiction book of the fall, mostly because it wracked up so many sales without ever going on the Boswell's Best. One of the quirks of playing with the discounted list (and I rememember this from being a buyer) is that once you choose to not discount something, it's sort of tricky to then get it on the list once it's selling, whereas once it is selling (say, in Gillian Flynn), it's hard to take it off.

Emily Bazelon review's Sonia Sotomayor's new memoir in The New York Times Book Review is impressed with the telling of this future supreme court justice's growing up with diabetes in a Puerto Rican family. She notes that My Beloved World is not gossipy, and discusses neither her early marriage and divorce, nor the shaping of her legal views in law school.

"...This book delivers on its promise of intimacy in its depictions of Sotomayor’s family, the corner of Puerto Rican immigrant New York where she was raised and the link she feels to the island where she spent childhood summers eating her fill of mangoes (always keeping an eye on her blood sugar level). This is a woman who knows where she comes from and has the force to bring you there."

Paperback fiction:
1. City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte
2. Chasing Sylvia Beach, by Cynthia Morris
3. The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker (event 2/12)
4. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain
5. Driftless, by David Rhodes

Karen Thompson Walker's debut novel is out, and we've had a nice pop in sale, in part because of our scheduled school event at Homestead High School, but the book also had staff recs from both Jason and Jannis, and don't forget about Michiko Kakutani's rave review in The New York Times:

The Age of Miracles has made headlines for reportedly earning its first-time author a seven-figure deal. What sets the story apart from more run-of-the-mill high-concept novels is Ms. Walker’s decision to recount the unfolding catastrophe from the perspective of Julia, who is on the verge of turning 12. Her voice turns what might have been just a clever mash-up of disaster epic with sensitive young-adult, coming-of-age story into a genuinely moving tale that mixes the real and surreal, the ordinary and the extraordinary with impressive fluency and flair"

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Memoir of the Sunday Brunch, by Julia Pandl
2. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
3. Imperfect Spirituality, by Polly Campbell (event 2/1 at Outpost Capitol--editor's note: I fixed the date on this)
4. Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
5. The Emotional Life of your Brain, by Richard Davidson (now at 48 copies sold)

I went into my local Outpost Natural Foods and they had fliers for our co-sponsored Polly Campbell event for Imperfect Spirituality at the community room at the Capitol Drive location on Friday, February 1, 7 pm. Hannah has been reading through the book and gives it a thumbs up. And Publishers Weekly's reviewer adds a thumb:

"Compelling anecdotes from ordinary spiritual seekers and informative research help to illuminate this path of imperfect spirituality, which begins when we stop trying to hide our flaws and instead “pay attention to what’s going on: to what’s working and what’s not.” Practical tips for turning ordinary moments into opportunities for spiritual growth, many of which can be squeezed in while brushing your teeth or waiting for the bus, punctuate this clear and affable spiritual guide for the rest of u."

Children's books:
1. The Travelers: Present in the Past, by Elaine Schmidt
2. Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers, by Dav Pilkey
3. A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip and Erin Stead
4. Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz
5. Penny and Her Doll, by Kevin Henkes (event Mar 2, 2 pm)

As NPR cried, "Hold on to your tighty whities, Captain Underpants is back." Here's an excerpt from their piece about Dav Pilkey's much loved series:

"Pilkey says there's a lot of him in the Captain Underpants series. He says he remembers what it was like to be a kid who got in trouble for his pranks. He also remembers what it was like to be a struggling reader. 'I remember every kid in the class would have to stand up and read a chapter from our history book or something. And whenever it was my turn, everyone would just kind of groan, like 'Ugh, Pilkey's reading again.' And it just took me so long to get through it. I had all these really negative associations with reading. I just hated it,' he says"

I'm not sure how to handle a quote within a quote within a quote. 

In the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Tenth of December.

"While Saunders is often compared with Vonnegut, this magnificent collection reminds me of Joyce's "Dubliners" - which also combines hard-hitting satire with unabashed feeling - in stories that collectively trace the same arc, from childhood's lost innocence to a final, hard-won redemption in the snow."

And also in the Journal Sentinel, Carole E. Barrowman, in her "Paging through Mysteries column", shouts out three fine works:

John Connolly's The Wrath of Angels is exquisite,

Peter Robinson's Watching the Dark is gripping,

and Lori Armstrong's Merciless is filled with sharp dialog and twisting loyalties.