Monday, March 31, 2014

Event Post--Joel Greenberg at the Rverside Park Urban Ecology Center Tonight, Joe Ganzer at Boswell on Wednesday, Crystal Chan on Thursday, Rabih Alameddine at UWM Friday, Scott Jacobs at the central Milwaukee Public Library Saturday.

Monday, March 31, 7 pm, at the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Pl. 53211: Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction.

The Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center is located at 1500 E. Park Place in Milwaukee. This event was made possible by co-sponsors Christi and John Clancy. Admission is $10, or $5 for UEC members.

How could a species that numbered in the billions as late as 1860 completely disappear by 1914? What does that say about our current relationship with the natural world? With the centenary of the passenger pigeon’s extinction quickly approaching, Joel Greenberg wanted to mark the event, which led to the writing of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction and a broader hope that the anniversary could be a vehicle for informing the public about the bird and the importance that its story has to current conservation issues.

In fascinating detail, Greenberg explains that the pigeons’ propensity to nest, roost, and fly together in vast numbers made them vulnerable to unremitting market and recreational hunting. The expansion of railroads and telegraph lines created national markets that allowed the birds to be pursued relentlessly. Human beings destroyed passenger pigeons almost every time they encountered them, and they used every imaginable device in the process. Unrelenting carnage reduced the population to the point where it began its inexorable spiral to obliteration. Whether a concerted effort could have reversed the decline and altered the outcome was a question asked far too late for any attempt to have even been tried. A Feathered River Across the Sky paints a vivid picture of the passenger pigeon’s place in literature, art, and the hearts and minds of those who witnessed this epic bird, while providing a cautionary tale of what happens when species and natural resources are not harvested sustainably.

Joel Greenberg is a research associate of the Chicago Academy of Sciences Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Field Museum. Author of three books, including A Natural History of the Chicago Region, Greenberg has taught natural history courses for the Morton Arboretum, Brookfield Zoo, and Chicago Botanic Garden. He helped spearhead Project Passenger Pigeon to focus attention on human-caused extinctions.

Wednesday, April 2, 7 pm, at Boswell: Joe Ganzer, writing as J. Thomas Ganzer, author of Chicago Secrets.

Joe Haise is a bland, bow tie-wearing Assistant US Attorney in Chicago handling low-level fraud for the federal government. His stable job and stable marriage provide him a predictable—perhaps even boring—life. But one evening he scoops up his wife Tina's phone by mistake and reads a cryptic text from an unknown number. Joe's world descends into chaos when he pieces together several random events and discovers Tina is moonlighting as a high-priced escort for Chicago's jet set. In his fervor to uncover the seedy details of her secret life, Joe must confront a dark secret of his own. Can Joe use his knowledge of the law to manipulate those around him to do his bidding? And what could one do, a federal prosecutor no less, if one had no conscience?

Joe Ganzer, writing as “J. Thomas Ganzer,” is an attorney practicing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Armed with a diverse career, J. Thomas offers his readers a unique perspective on the traditional legal thriller, focusing on the odd characters and constant one-upmanship lawyers, clerks, and judges know all too well. He has tried cases in both civil and criminal matters in private practice and at the Wisconsin Department of Justice. He currently practices civil litigation for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Thursday, April 3, 7 pm, at Boswell: Crystal Chan, author of Bird.

It’s only natural to have silence and secrets in your family when you’re born on the same day that your brother died. At least, that’s sure what it seems like for twelve-year old Jewel. Add to that the fact that you’re the only mixed-race family in your rural Iowan town, and well, life can get kind of lonely sometimes. But when a boy named John moves into her town, his courage and charisma immediately stand out and the two kids instantly click. John’s presence, however, has an unsettling effect on her family. As the thick layers of silence in her family begin to unravel, Jewel finds that her life is not as stable nor her family’s expectations as certain as she once thought. Suddenly, Jewel needs to choose whether to stay loyal to the person her family wants her to be or to claim her own identity, no matter the cost.

“Crystal Chan has written an enthralling first novel about the darkness, light, and beauty that make up the human condition.” —Cynthia Kadohata, author of Newbery-winner Kira Kira

Crystal Chan grew up as a mixed-race kid in the middle of the Wisconsin cornfields (near Oshkosh) and has been trying to find her place in the world ever since (after graduating from Lawrence). Over time, she found that her heart lies in public speaking, performing, and ultimately, writing. She has published articles in several magazines, given talks and workshops across the country, facilitated discussion groups at national conferences, and been a professional storyteller for children and adults alike. In Chicago, where Crystal now lives, you will find her biking along the city streets and talking to her pet turtle.

Friday, April 4, 3 pm, at UWM Curtin Hall, 3243 N. Downer Ave. 53211: The Arab and American reading, talk, and panel discussion, with Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman.

The celebrated author of five novels, Rabih Alameddine presents his latest as part of the UWM series “The Arab and American,” which includes a talk and panel discussion. An Unnecessary Woman is a coming-of-age story in reverse, celebrating the singular life of an obsessive and passionate introvert, revealing Beruit’s beauties and horrors along the way.

A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are, in An Unnecessary Woman, the prodigiously gifted Rabih Alameddine has delivered a nuanced rendering of one woman’s life in the Middle East. Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s “unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read—by anyone. In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colorful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.

“For years, I have been heralding the work of Rabih Alameddine, a Lebanese-American writer. His prose is gorgeous, his approach irreverent, and the ideas in his stories are sometimes comical or fantastical, but always deadly serious—very relevant to understanding the complex history behind multiple holy wars today.” —Amy Tan, in The New York Times Book Review

Saturday, April 5, 11 am, at the Mozart's Grove reading area (first floor) at the Milwaukee Public Library, 807 W. Wisconsin Ave. 53233: Scott Jacobs, author of Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin: (And Other Delusions of Grandeur)

Reporter, filmmaker, political consultant, community activist, and the author of several books, Scott Jacobs brings his unique brand of humor to the Milwaukee Public Library for a talk and signing that will convince you that Wisconsin is not a state—it’s a state of mind.

Just on the other side of Lake Wobegon lie the famous ski hills of Wisconsin, the jumping off point for Scott Jacobs’ funny and poignant stories about growing up in the Midwest. In this wide-ranging collection of humorous essays, Jacobs turns a wry eye on Wisconsin’s favorite pastimes, its plank road breweries, vacation resorts, and family reunions. Famous Ski Hills in Wisconsin is about the little things in life that matter—and some that don’t.

Bill Janz, a career columnist for The Milwaukee Journal Senitnel writes: “Jacobs shows us the evolution of a boy, a time, an era…He was a Wisconsin kid who typed his way into the future with great heart, adventure, and the gentleness of a dreamer.”

Scott Jacobs is a reporter, filmmaker, and author of five books. He has written for The Milwaukee Sentinel, Chicago Sun-Times, and Slate.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Bestellers: What's on Boswell's List for the Week Ending March 29, 2014?

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Bark, by Lorrie Moore
2. Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
3. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
4. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
5. The Accident, by Chris Pavone

Our top four books are past events (with Bark getting a particularly nice pop on March 26, when we had an unusual number of individual sales for the book) and #5 is Hannah's rec, The Accident, which is also an Indie Bound pick and has gotten some major reviews. This week I actually hand-sold two copies, helping it get on the list. I only mention that because aside from event stuff, it's a rare thing these days for me to recommend the same book twice in a week.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Thrive, by Arianna Huffington
2. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
3. Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow
4. Astoria, by Peter Stark
5. The Story of the Jews, by Simon Schama

As Arianna Huffington's new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder was landing this past week, Sharon told us that we were getting substantially more calls about it than we had copies. Fortunately Jason was able to restock us quickly, and that helped us get our #1 pop on the book. Her book, about redefining success, of course has several pieces in The Huffington Post, but it's also getting attention everywhere, including this interview on The Ellen Show.

Paperback Fiction:
1. A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
2. Over the River and Through the Wood, edited by Karen Kilcup and Angela Sorby
3. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer (event 4/24 at Boswell!)
4. Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
5. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

How exciting that The Interestings is finally out in paperback! We've been selling the book and event in hardcover, with the book even skirting the bottom of our bestseller lists, but now it means our event is really coming soon. Can we get you as excited as we are? Here's the Liesl Schillinger review in The New York Times Book Review. And here's Wolitzer's interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Superman, by Larry Tye
2. How Can it Be Gluten Free?, by America's Test Kitchen
3. Wrigley Field, by Stuart Shea
4. Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan
5. Merriam Webster Dictionary, 11th edition

Speaking of Fresh Air, Terry Gross had a nice sales pop with her piece on The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook: Revolutionary Techniques. Groundbreaking Recipes. Jack Bishop and Julia Collin Davidson of America's Test Kitchen talked with Gross about gluten free cupcakes and cookies and what things will never probably have a successful gf puff pastry.  I just looked at wholesalers and they are all cleaned out, awaiting a restocking.

Books for Kids:
1. Bird, by Crystal Chan (event Thursday, April 3, 7 pm)
2. Hollow Earth, by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
3. The Scraps Book, by Lois Ehler (event Saturday, April 19, 2 pm, at Boswell)
4. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
5. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

Nice to see some sales pop for Veronica Roth with both Divergent and Insurgent in our top five. As the trades have said, it isn't the phenomenon of The Hunger Games, but its a respectable showing that ensures not just a franchise, but the likely greenlighting of some more teen novels.We vote for The Testing.

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins profiles Joel Greenberg, who speaks on the topic of his book A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction. The Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center event starts at 7 pm. Admission is $10, $5 for UEC members. Observes Higgins, "The tragedy of their extinction is softened a bit by the knowledge that it, along with the plight of the buffalo, energized the nascent conservation movement and led  to the first laws protecting wildlife."

Also in the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Helen Dunmore's The Lie (Atlantic Monthly Press), another great novel for our World War I table. "That image of cracked time speaks to our own experience of how World War I changed everything, but we've had 100 years to grow used to it," notes Fischer. He praises Dunmore's poetic voice.

Jim Higgins also reviews Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor (Tor), calling this fantasy "also a satisfyingly psychological novel about a young man thrust into the most difficult job in the world, uncertain if he has either the shoulders or the stomach for it." If you are not familiar with Addison's work, Higgins notes this is the pen name of Sara Monette, fantasy and horror writer.

From Connie Ogle, originally in the Miami Herald, the subject is Siri Hustvedt's The Blazing World (Simon and Schuster), which, coincidentally is the featured title on the front page of The New York Times Book Review.

And finally (who says we don't have a great book section?), Chris Foran rounds up baseball books for opening day. His picks:
--Pete Rose: An American Dilemma (Time), by Kostya Kennedy
--1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever (DaCapo, May 6),by Bill Madden
--The Cubs Quotient: How the Chicago Cubs Changed the World (Sherpa), by Scott Rowan
--Babe Ruth's Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery of Baseball's Greatest Home Run (Lyons), by Ed Sherman
--Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave us the Best World Series of All Time (Da Capo, April 1), by Tim Wendel
--The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marchal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball's Ugliest Brawl Into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption (Lyons), by John Rosengren
--Brooks: The Biography of Brooks Robinson (Thomas Dunne), by Doug Wilson
--Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball (Doubleday), by John Feinstein
--I Don't Care if We Never Get Back: 50 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever (Grove Press), by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Gift Post--Caps and Gowns and Owls and Llamas? It's Time for Graduation Day.

While we've finally gotten to the point where we're not selling down to two Valentine's Day or Christmas cards when the holiday hit, I think last year still left us a little short when it came to graduation. This year I decided to be more organized about stocking up, to see how much we could sell if we had a decent selection through the last moment when the tassle was spun, or whatever the ritual is.

The things is, the cards are so repetitive. Can you have 40 cards with graduation caps being thrown into the air, with the caption "You made it!" on them? Yes, you can, but then what's the point of having an assortment? Just buy 12 good designs, 24 each, and you're set. Or you could dig a little deeper and find something better.

As you may have noticed, I like a good animal on my cards, and graduation has grabbed owls as their mascot. If you'll remember, I recently asked if their are any other holiday/animal matches that would work well for future cards, and one regular reader suggest St. Patrick's Day and snakes. I like it! That said, we are still left with owls for graduation. I asked Sharon to find the best owl card among our assortment (which is admittedly not as big as it could be, because so many looked the same), and came up with the newsprint design from The Found. I like it too.

Inspirational quotes run rampant in these days of future potential, and they are among our best sellers. The problem is that I've been bringing in the same cards for years, and while they often have pretty pictures of rivers and mountains, I don't know if they are interesting enough for this post. Next year, Artists to Watch could take ten lovely David Wroblewski (not the author, the painter) images and add a "Congratulations on your graduation" caption on all of them and see what happens.

So if I were to pick out one inspirational image card, I'd have to go with the Compendium Positively Green cards, as they use authors among their quotation sources, though admittedly, for many of them, I have know idea who the source is at all--I should try finding out. This rocket image has a quote from Michel de Cervantes: "Believe there are no limits but the sky." I guess "dreaming the impossible dream" is not a bad piece of advice for graduates, which is sadly what I think of when I think Don Quixote.

It's not just owls on cards, though. A MAC Classic card from Design Design features a peacock, which both inspired and confused me, as peacocks are also popular images on Mother's Day cards, the next spinner over. But I'll bet you can't find too many llama images, which is what illustrator Anni Betts used on her congratulations card for A Smyth Company.

And that brings me to generic graduation cards, which are, of course, the congratulations card. They are to graduation what love and friendship cards are for Valentine's Day. Both card studios and retail stores love this option, as the cards sell year round, though as Anne will say, graduation cards have more of a year-round sale than Valentine's Day.

When it comes to generic cards, I'm a big fan of the "mad props" card from Black and White and Red All Over (alas, unshown). I'd carry all their cards, but a good number of them are not appropriate for a card section in a bookstore. Inappropriate for kids and touchy parents, alas, but hilarious for the rest of us, in that meta humor way that Bob Mankoff talks about in How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons.

And finally, it's back to the cap and gown.  I understand that this is a very important occasion and humor isn't always called for, but for the right recipient, this is my favorite graduation card for 2014. Good Paper does indeed have very smart copywriters.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Travel Day to Orlando.

I am off on a very quick visit to see my aunt for her 80th birthday party. How many books did I pack? The correct answer is four, and it is a good thing, because after 40 pages through one, I decided not to continue (and no, I will not tell you what it was). I did finish reading the aptly titled The Vacationers, the new novel from Straub, after getting an early recommendation from Sharon.

The destination is Orlando and as there's not a rented car among my two siblings and I, we're pretty much stuck at the hotel. I looked up bookstores on a mapping function and found a few independent second hand stores, several Barnes and Nobles, an interesting sounding comic book store, and a chain of outlet stores called Book Warehouse.

I used the Indie Bound app to locate the closest indie store to where we're staying and it turned out to be Fairvilla Megastore, which is an adult bookstore whose sidelines cannot be described here. No comment.

So really, the most interesting bookish thing on the trip, besides the reading part, was seeing the Harry Potter store at the airport, promoting the Universal Studios attraction. They had mugs, scraves, and even formal attire for each of the Houses at Hogwarts.I didn't even complete the entire series, but I started imagining which house would be appropriate for me, based on personality and skin tone.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When Did Snapper Become a Novel, and Other Conundrums, in Leading Up to Our Event/WBN Reception, on Wednesday, April 16.

It was probably important for me to read Snapper, as I had this hardcover burning a hole on my reading shelf, and by also, not reading it, I was overplaying the bird identification hand. I actually started outreaching to ornithological orgs, and after reading it, I realized that while Nathan Lochmueller is definitely tied up with birds, only about half the stories are in the field, and about three fourths of the way through the collection, he loses his gig when someone pushes him down a flight of stairs. Long story. The important thing is that a year later, whenever I mention Snapper, some bookseller or publishing type writes back and says, “Snapper, sigh.” It may be a relatively quiet story, but it’s quite endearing.

But what is it anyway? Everyone always described it to me as a collection of connected stories, but when I looked closely, Pantheon, called it nothing at all, not even just “fiction.” Vintage, however, has slapped a “novel” label on Snapper, which is the second time I’ve noticed this in the past year; it was also spotted on Three Strong Women, and boy, did that label confuse the heck out of our in-store lit group.

It’s really misleading. Many of us all agreed it’s a mighty fine collection of stories, however connected, but Three Strong Women is kind of lacking as a novel. Perhaps Barnes and Noble said they wouldn’t buy a reprint collection of stories, but as a novel, they would. Who knows about these things? (Photo credit at left is from Benedict Brain.)

I’m trying to decide whether Snapper does work as a novel or not. Do you know much about the book yet? Nathan has a mess of a job, searching for birds and nests in the forests. He’s trying to stay tight with his old friends, but the relationships are sort of splintering, either because they are growing up or well, going crazy. And he’s got this slow burning love for Lola, whom he knew from high school, but started dating in college. The problem is that she’s almost always got another boyfriend somewhere. It’s not going to end great with her, you just know it, but it might end ok. Haven't we all had a more-than-friend-less-than-spousal-equivalent whom we dallied with for just a little too long, not seeing the signs on the wall that the other party just wasn't going to commit?

So Nathan’s got some adventures. There’s the time he winds up in maximum security prison because the drunk tank is full—he’s in there because his friend was beating a parking meter. There’s that time he took in the old friend of his who was shot by his roommate, only to slowly understand why this other guy shot him, what with the drug dealing he sets up in the house. There’s his Texas aunt and uncle, who move to rural Indiana only to find that conservatives in Texas are no match for the merry band of KKK. And yes, the story returns several times to the field. One of the guys from the KKK, by the way, intimidates Nathan by stalking him and killing songbirds, and almost too late, a bald eagle.

I’ve come to a conclusion. While I don’t think Snapper works as well as a narrative as it does connected stories, I will admit that there is a bit of a narrative arc to the collection, and at least two plotlines, of sorts, are resolved. So Vintage, if you need to get that collection in Barnes and Noble or on a book club recommendation list, or wherever it was that needed this label to make the purchase, you make it work, and we’ll support you. Whatever it takes!

I’ve been thinking about my recent roundup of Indiana writers, which includes Snapper of course. If I were to compare Brian Kimberling’s writing to anyone on that list, it would almost be Jean Shepherd’s. It’s funny and smart and nostalgic about childhood, only there’s also a lot of illicit substances involved. So maybe that’s the Indiana literary voice after all. I guess I have to read Booth Tarkington and find out.

Brian Kimberling is back at Boswell for the paperback release of Snapper on Wednesday, April 16, 7 pm. It’s in conjunction with our World Book Night reception, where folks can pick up the books they’ll be giving away on April 23. Note that this is not a reception only for folks participating in World Book Night, but a great place to cheer the volunteers on, and learn more about participating in WBN 2015. As a result, we’ll have some refreshments for either set of attendees, and hopefully some will overlap. Maybe some of the folks who come for Kimberling will get the idea to volunteer for 2015’s World Book Night.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Announcing Two Ticketed Events, With Christopher Moore (May 1) and Garrison Keillor (May 5). Is That Enough Funny for You?

We've got two ticketed events coming up and now that they've been posted on Brown Paper Tickets, we're ready to announce them to you.

On Thursday, May 1, we're hosting a ticketed event at Boswell with Christopher Moore, author of The Serpent of Venice. This event is co-sponsored by Theatre Gigante, and if I find another media sponsor, I will insert them "here."

Tickets are $28, includes admission and a signed copy of The Serpent of Venice, all taxes and fees, and are available on Brown Paper Tickets. For all of you who want to know these kinds of things, it's event #614923. For this event, there is a $20 gift card option, in lieu of the book, on the night of the event only.

Get ready for a night of raucous hilarity with one of the most entertaining authors you’ll ever meet: Christopher Moore returns to Milwaukee to present The Serpent of Venice, the sequel to Fool and another satirical take on the Bard of Avon starring everybody’s favorite fool, Pocket of Dog Snogging, in a glorious and farcical mash–up of William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe.

The setting is Venice, a long time ago. And three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy from the Queen of Britain: the rascal–Fool Pocket. This trio of cunning plotters—the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago—have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio’s beautiful daughter, Portia. But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn’t even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool…and he’s got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve. Greed, revenge, deception, lust, and a giant (but lovable) sea monster combine to create another hilarious and bawdy tale from modern comic genius, Christopher Moore.

Our buyer Jason gives the book a whole bunch of thumbs up: "The foul-mouthed, funny, and acrobatic Pocket from Fool is back, and now, he's running around and scheming in Venice trying to stop a Crusade, of all things. It is greed that lines the pockets of Pocket's enemies, and they also just hate his friendly standing with the doge and Othello, whose ears he can influence. Christopher Moore takes us on another Shakespearean romp that involves a deadly sea creature, a pound of flesh, double dealings, stolen money, three locked chests, Marco Polo, and a lot of people dying who don't stay dead. It was marvelous, and had me laughing out loud the entire time."

Other things you should know: the Boswellians claim Fool is in the running for best Christopher Moore novel ever. It's fighting it out with Lamb. Details on the cage match battle to come.

Christopher Moore is the author of twelve previous novels: Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Lamb, Fluke, The Stupidest Angel, A Dirty Job, You Suck, Fool, Bite Me, and Sacré Bleu. He divides his time between Hawaii and San Francisco, California.

This is our first ticketed event with Mr. Moore. Based on the last two, we're worried about hitting capacity. Now you can make sure you get in! Here's the rest of the tour.

For those who don't have enough funny in their bones, we're also announcing a ticketed event at the UWM Union Ballroom with Garrison Keillor, author of The Keillor Reader, on Monday, May 5, 7 pm. The UWM Union Ballroom is located at 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd. There is a parking lot underneath the Union and street parking is also available.

Boswell Book Company and the UWM Bookstore are proud to present the multi-talented master storyteller, Garrison Keillor, with media sponsors WUWM 89.7 Milwaukee Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Best known as the founder and host of A Prairie Home Companion, Keillor will present and discuss his latest book, The Keillor Reader, a stunning collection of his many, varied pursuits. Tickets for this event are available on the Brown Paper Tickets Ticket cost is $30, and includes admission for one person and an autographed copy of The Keillor Reader. There is no gift card option for this event, but don't forget that a signed Garrison Keillor book makes a great gift. With Mother's Day, Father's Day, and graduation coming up, you've got a lot of options, and don't forget that Christmas is only seven months away. It's event #615178.

When, at thirteen, he caught on as a sportswriter for the Anoka Herald, Garrison Keillor set out to become a professional writer, and so he has done, recognized today as one of America’s best loved storytellers as well as an occasional comedian, essayist, editor, newspaper columnist, screenwriter, and poet. The Keillor Reader is a remarkable single volume that brings together the full range of his work including monologues from A Prairie Home Companion, stories from The New Yorker and The Atlantic, excerpts from novels, and newspaper columns. With an extensive introduction and headnotes, photographs, and memorabilia, The Keillor Reader also presents pieces never before published, including the essays “Cheerfulness” and “What We Have Learned So Far.”

Other things you should know: The Keillor Reader is the closest thing we will get to a memoir from Keillor...until he writes one.

Garrison Keillor was born in Anoka, Minnesota, he began his radio career as a freshman at the University of Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1966. He went to work for Minnesota Public Radio in 1969, and on July 6, 1974, he hosted the first broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion in St. Paul, which is now celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Boswell's Best Focus--Nonfiction Hardcovers from Bob Mankoff, Michael Gibney, John Feinstein, Andrew Pettefree, and Simon Schama.

I was listening to Bob Mankoff's very amusing and meta-cartoonish interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air yeterday, and right then, I knew that whatever else we did, I had to focus on How About Never--Is Never Good for You?: My Life in Cartoons (Henry Holt). It's not just a memoir, but a history of humor. Mankoff is not just the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, he's also a cartoonist himself. Most importantly, he judges the caption contest. Oh, and Janet Maslin in The New York Times calls the book "fizzy." I think that's good, unless you get the hiccups. Or maybe it's good when you have the hiccups. Or maybe that's the hiccoughs. Moving on...

I think I mentioned previously that Little Random House (in this case Ballantine) has become the go-to publisher for cooking lit, with the latest release being Michael Gibney's Sous Chef, which has a nice quote from one of their more successful authors,Gabrielle Hamilton ("excellent"). Gibney thanks "Pamela" in his acknowledgments and she seems to be his editor. Doesn't he know you are supposed to use your editor's full name, especially as just about everyone except his agent got first and last shoutouts? I'm assuming the person in question is Pamela Cannon. All Things Considered had a piece on the book, calling this "the high adrenaline dance behind your dinner."

While the first two titles are New York centric, John Feinstein's Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball (Little, Brown) is set in the vast reaches of America, and yes, the Dominican Republic. But wait, with the Brooklyn Cyclones, even Minor League Baseball (abbreaviated MILB, by the way) can be New York centric. But no, this is focused on Triple A teams only, so the closest we can get is the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs. I went to a Kenosha Twins game with my friend Michael once. Alas, they are gone. Jeff Greenfield reviewed the book for The Washington Post, which he calls "a welcome pre-game companion." I guess a DC MILB fan would venture to see The Norfolk Tides, right? Oh, and did I miss that Feinstein moved to Doubleday, after many years at Little, Brown?

Speaking of newspapers, and we always are, Yale has a new book out called The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself, by Andrew Pettefree. The age of news followed the age of print, giving us pamphlets, edicts, journals, and news sheets, expanding the news community from local to a worldwide audience, as they tell it. The author teaches at University of St. Andrews, and has a a fan in Jeremy Paxson, who in the Guardian (UK) favorably compares the book to Alain De Botton's The News: A User's Manual. I don't often reprint minces (I've coined that term for a petty criticism), but I am so amused by De Bottons' labeling as "a sleek, metropolitan, know it all" that I had to reprint it and note that I could only aspire to that.

Is it bad to be labeled a know it all if you in fact know it all? Simon Schama could be classified as that, and he gives us another reason in his newest book, The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words (Ecco), 1000 BC-1492 AD.  My first thought in fact was, "Now when is this PBS series airing?" and sure enough, it's a coming...tonight! Please tape it and come to our Brigid Pasulka event instead, ok? But if you do like your history rich and "magnificently illustrated", you will likely enjoy this book that tracks "their experience across three millenia, from their beginnings as an ancient tribal people to the opening of the new world in 1492." Schama was on Diane Rehm last week and in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd explains more about the series and Schama's role in it.

New, Jews, or Sous, this week's book are all Boswell's Best, meaning they are 20% off through March 31.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Brigid Pasulka at Boswell on Tuesday, Angela Sorby on Wednesday, and a Preview for Joel Greenfield at the Urban Ecology Center on Monday 3/31.

We only have two events this week, partly because I am attending my aunt's 80th birthday party in Orlando, but each one of them had a nice publicity hit over the weekend.

Tuesday, March 25, 7:30  pm, at Boswell:
Brigid Pasulka, author of The Sun and Other Stars

Pasulka won the PEN/Hemingway award for A Long, Long, Time Ago and Essentially True, and it was a book I enjoyed handselling in paperback. It's the story of a family legacy in Poland, through two lovers on the eve of World War II, and their granddaughter fifty years later who returns to the homeland. Sales of the previous book have picked up in advance of this event.

Her new novel, The Sun and Other Stars, trades Poland for Italy. It's the story of Etto, a young man in mourning for the deaths of his mother and brother, and estranged from his father. A famous but currently disgraced Ukrainian soccer star comes to town in hiding, with his beautiful sister in tow, and that leads to some awakening of spirit in Etto and when the town figures out what's happening, some craziness.

For all of you who said you liked Beautiful Ruins, but not the Hollywood parts, this is your story. And if you like soccer, it's a truly football obsessed novel, but I should really call it "calcio" in this case. Publishers Weekly wrote "The resulting complications could easily have been cloyingly "heartwarming, " but Pasulka avoids cliche with some lovely writing (Etto, falling for Zhuki, decides her name sounds like "the waves foaming up on the beach in the winter"), well-placed low humor, and specificity of place. Readers will be crossing their fingers for Etto to find some well-deserved happiness."

But it's The New York Times review this weekend that was a breath of fresh air, after a rather mean-spirited, almost vindictive writeup from the Chicago Tribune*. I wonder what the backstory on that. Yes, it's an old fashioned tale, free from, as Mike Peed, genre mashing and excel spreadsheets. But "the sincerity of this tale of psychological recovery gratifies. As it hums to its conclusion, the reader is pleased by the realization that San Benedetto’s most aggrieved native is, at last, learning how to, 'you know, live.'"

Wednesday, March 26, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Angela Sorby, author of Over the River and Through the Wood: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century American Children's Poetry

Angela Sorby and I started talking together about this presentation just after the new year. It's a great collection of children's verse, and I think there are a lot of our customers who would like to hear more about it. At Boswell, Jannis has lauded it as a wonderful find. That said, it's published as an academic work, so it might not wind up in every parent's nursery, even though it should!

So as we were playing around with dates, we missed the February deadline (it was a busy month for winter) and Over the River and Through the Wood's event wound up in March. So what's wrong with that? At this point, it might not even snow (though an inch is scheduled for this evening)? The problem is that the event now mashed up against Sorby's next book! Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review came out and highlighted the talented Sorby's newest book of poetry, The Sleeve Waves (University of Wisconsin Press). But we are no the launch for that--I think that is with fellow poet Joanne Diaz at the Sugar Maple on Wednesday, April 16, 7 pm, complete with a reception and black turtlenecks galore.

So back to Jim Higgins' terrific review in the Journal Sentinel. All I'm saying is that we may have a few copies of Sorby's The Sleeve Waves on sale, but you are not to celebrate too much, as we are pre-pub date. The true toasts come on April 16 in Bay View. Instead, you are to spend an evening being delighted by classic children's poetry. Do you understand or am I going to have to make you go to your room without your tablet?

Preview of Monday, March 31, 7 pm, at the Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place: Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction. This event has a $5 admission for members, $10 for nonmembers.

From the UEC: naturalist Joel Greenberg wanted to mark the centenary of the passenger pigeon's extinction by writing a book with a broader hope that the anniversary could be a vehicle for informint the public about the bird and the importance that its story has to current conservation issues. How could a species that numbered in the billions as late as 1860 completely disappear by 1914? What does that say about our current relationship with the natural world?

More about A Feathered River Across the Sky on Joel Greenberg's website.

*I would normally not link to a review like this but I was sort of shocked by how disparaging it was to a Chicagoan like Pasulka.  Looking at Jollimore's body of work (poetry and philosophy), he's incredibly accredited and equally talented, but he seems like the wrong match for a book like this. But as I started to think about whether things would be different if the review had been in the Los Angeles Times or the Miami Herald, I realized how the most difficult job is theater critic (which amusingly enough, our book critics share) because outside of New York, the productions are almost always local that you're reviewing and they can't all be amazing. So honestly, I'm not sure what I would have done if I were in the editor's shoes.  Do you run a really bad review of a local author's book, do you nuance it, or do you kill it and suggest it be submitted elsewhere? Let the replies pour forth.

Addendum: My first reply was from Ann at Lake Forest Bookshop, who wrote an essay about this topic for the Books on the Table blog. It also is a beautiful recommendation for Brigid Pasulka's novel. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bestseller Recap: Discworld Adventures and Bosnia Discoveries, No Drama Prom-as and a Heroic Battle Between Shannon Hale and Brandon Sanderson for Bestseller Domination.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
2. Blackberry Pie Murder, by Joanne Fluke
3. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
4. Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett
5. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

I am still recovering from our late night with Brandon Sanderson (in a good way) and have noticed as I've been compiling bestseller lists that many of his favorite authors also had sales pops. One fellow he mentioned more than once is Terry Pratchett, whose new Discworld novel, Raising Steam, just came out this week. Yes, after 40 novels, steam engines have finally come to Discworld. Ben Aaronovitch in The Guardian (UK) calls Pratchett "one of the most consistently funny writers around; a master of the stealth simile, the time-delay pun and the deflationary three-part list."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Astoria, by Peter Stark
2. Jesus, by James Martin
3. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
4. Command and Control, by Eric Schlosser
5. The Future of the Mind, by Michio Kaku

I looked at the bestseller lists and saw Sheryl Sandberg back in ascendance and also saw Peter Stark pop onto the Indie Bound bestseller list and wondered where our pop was, considering Stark is appearing for Astoria at Boswell on Tuesday, April 8 and Sandberg is being heavily touted by the panelists at the Women's Leadership Conference on April 4 (though I should emphasize here that she's not coming--Vernice Armour and Dara Torres are, however). So here they are, both on our top five this week. Here's The Wall Street Journal review, where Gerald Helferich writes that Stark "recounts the colony's history as a fast-paced, enjoyable adventure tale."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
2. The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson
3. Life after Life, by Kate Atkinson
4. Dear Life, by Alice Munro
5. The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

Harper muscles another breakout novel to the #1 slot of The New York Times bestseller list with Orphan Train. There's no particular media hit to my knowledge, just good word of mouth and strong placement at retailers. For all the book clubs reading this book, hope you have this NPR interview from last year. I'm sure it will be very helpful.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Detroit: An American Autopsy, by Charlie LeDuff
2. Monkey Mind, by Daniel Smith
3. The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan
4. The Bosnia List, by Kenan Trebincevic
5. The Unwinding, by George Packer

New to our bestseller list is Kenan Trebincevic's The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return, where a displaced Muslim tells of returning to his homeland to visit the scene of the carnage that tore apart his country. Ian Frazier wrote "“Kenan Trebincevic’s story of survival and remembrance is moving, well-told, and important for all of us to hear. He makes a powerful case for courage and human decency as the only way through the divisive madness of modern life.” And Laura Eggertson reviews this "powerful memoir" in The Toronto Star.

Books for Kids:
1. Ask Again Later, by Liz Czukas
2. Dangerous, by Shannon Hale
3. Hollow Earth, by John Barrowman and Carole E. Barrowman
4. Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
5. Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson
6. The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
7. Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
8. The Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale
9. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
10. The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers

Friends Shannon Hale and Brandon Sanderson battled it out for domination on our bestseller lists but local Liz Czukas squeeked in a victory with her launch event at the Manpower headquarters for her new paperback original, Ask Again Later. This prom-like party, a fundraiser for the Cinderella Project, played off the prom theme in the novel, where a teenage girl decides to not do a traditional prom (no drama prom-a), only to have two offers. Booklist wrote "Czukas' debut is pure fun; at times, readers will feel as if in a John Hughes movie, and that's a good thing."

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins talks up Angela Sorby's new collection of poetry, The Sleeve Waves, while also noting her editorship of the children's poetry anthology, Over the River and Through the Wood. Our event is Wednesday, March 26, 7 pm.

Mike Fischer reviews Teju Cole's novel, Every Day is for the Thief, finally published in the USA. Fischer notes "The Lagos presented here teems with stories; the question confronting Cole's unnamed narrator is whether he'll be able to tell them without falling apart."

And reprinted from the Los Angeles Times is Carolyn Kellogg's profile of Ayelet Waldman, whose new novel, Love and Treasure, is out on April 1.