Sunday, May 31, 2015

What's Selling at Boswell While I Was Trying to Find New Books to Sell at Book Expo, for the Week Ending May 30, 2015?

Happy Book Expo week. Here's what sold while we were trying to find books that would hit our bestseller lists for the next year.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
3. Citizens Creek, by Lalita Tademy
4. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
5. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (ticketed event Fri Jun 5, 7 pm)
6. Divine Punishment, by Sergio Ramirez
7. The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg
8. Radiant Angel, by Nelson Demille
9. Mislaid, by Nell Zink
10. The Green Road, by Anne Enright

One of the things I participated in at Book Expo was a morning where we got to listen to editors talk about their books, not just something coming out in the future, but some of their past successful acquisitions and how they came to be. Megan Lynch of Ecco talked about a working with Emma Straub on The Vacationers back at Riverhead and a book coming out next year called The Nest, but being that she said she was attracted to family dysfunction stories, I can see that she would also take to Nell Zink's Mislaid, an Ecco novel that's just come out (even if she wasn't the acquiring editor). It's about a couple who, despite many differences, wind up marrying and have kids, but when they split up, the mother and daughter live very, very different lives. From the Durham Herald-Sun, Cliff Bellamy writes "Misland also is rich in literary allusion, irony and humor. The novel is an entertaining romp that manages to make poets Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg distant minor characters, and is ultimately about reconciliation."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. How We Got to Now, by Steven Johnson
2. How to Raise a Wild Child, by Scott D. Sampson
3. Our Kids, by Robert B. Putnam
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
5. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
6. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
7. Between You and Me, by Mary Norris
8. Believer, by David Axelrod
9. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
10. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson

We've had interest before in books about connecting kids with nature and How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature looks like a book that fills this need. The author, at research and collections at the Denver Museum of Science, is also the host of PBS's Dinosaur Train. On NPR's Weekend Edition, he spoke to Rachel Martin: "One of the problems today is that kids don't have their sensory skills developed. We can walk outside and not hear the birds or smell the flowers or feel the air. And so the initial challenge is just to start noticing nature. Get kids taking pictures of it if they need to use technology. But just start to engage with it, become aware of it and at that point, you are actually doing nature connection for your kids."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Citizens Creek, by Lalita Tademy
2. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson
3. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly
4. Granta Book of the African Short Story, edited by Helon Habila
5. Cane River, by Lalita Tademy
6. Euphoria, by Lily King (authorless book club discussion at Boswell Mon Jun 1 7 pm)
7. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
8. Lovers at the Chameleon Club 1932, by Francine Prose
9. The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Cline
10. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain

Now in paperback, we're hoping to continue our nice sales run on Francine Prose's Lovers at the Chameleon Club, 1932. When it was in hardcover, Carolyn Kellogg noted in the Los Angeles Times that the story followed several women, but at the center was Louisianne "Lou" Villars. She writes: "The character was inspired by the real-life Violette Morris, a French athlete/driver/Nazi collaborator. Prose first saw her in a photograph, "Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932," taken by Brassai, a photographer best known for his shots of underground nighttime Paris. In the novel, Lou, dressed in a tuxedo, sits with her arm around Arlette, wearing a silk gown, and the photo is taken by Gabor."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
2. Salt Sugar Fat, by Michael Moss
3. Whistling Vivaldi, by Claude Steele
4. The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp
5. Excellent Sheep, by William Deresiewicz
6. The Book of My Lives, by Aleksandar Hemon
7. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
8. Dark Tide, by Stephen Puelo
9. Shorewood, Wisconsin, by the Shorewood Historical Society
10. The Lady in Gold, by Anne Marie O'Connor

Also new in paperback is William Deresiewicz's Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life. There were some really great reviews and also some very negative reactions, and so it also got some critical pieces analyzing the book's reception, like this piece from James McWilliams in Pacific Standard. He explains: "Deresiewicz takes elite higher education to the woodshed. He characterizes its smug beneficiaries as members of the Lucky Sperm Club, obedient automatons 'heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.' Predictably, the club—which includes not only students but also professors, administrators, and parents—has taken umbrage." And here's Dwight Garner's New York Times review, which is positive, but with some criticism.

Books for Kids:
1. American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
2. Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli
3. Legend, by Marie Lu
4. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
5. The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
6. Short Seller, by Elissa Brent Weissman
7. Game Over, Pete Watson, by Joe Schreiber, with illustrations by Andy Rash
8. In Mary's Garden, by Tina Kugler, with illustrations by Carson Kugler
9. Superhero School, by Aaron Reynolds
10. The Penderwicks in Spring, by Jeanne Bridsall

Joe Schreiber's Game Over, Pete Watson has been out for a while in hardcover and is scheduled for paperback in July. It's illustrated by area-artist Andy Rash, who was recently doing a school visit, so you'll see more Rash titles in the coming weeks. We're also looking forward to his next picture book, Archie the Daredevil Penguin, coming from Viking this fall.  Here's some background from Publishers Weekly on Schreiber's book: "Pete Watson certainly doesn't have any reservations about selling his father's ancient CommandRoid 85 at an impromptu garage sale, not if it means he can afford a hot new game, Brawl-a-Thon 3000 XL, the day it's released. Unfortunately for Pete, selling the CommandRoid is the first link in a wild chain of events that involves his father being kidnapped, an evil exterminator, and a destructive computer virus."

At the Journal Sentinel, it's the annual summer reading issue, featuring 100 choice selections to go with your hammock and lemonade.

Here's just one of the many lists, the all-important editor's  choice:
1. Abe & Fido: Lincoln's Love of Animals and the Touching Story of His Favorite Canine Companion, by Matthew Algeo.
2. Act of God, by Jill Ciment
3. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly
4. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski
5. Joan of Arc: A History, by Helen Castor
6. The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Dauoud (see review below)
7. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
8. The Players, by Jill Bialosky
9. Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, by Rosemary Sullivan
10. The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father, One Day at a Time, by Jonathan Kozol
11. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua
12. The Whites, by Richard Price, writing as Harry Brandt

From guest critic Laurie Loewenstein is Saint Mazie, the second novel from Jami Attenberg. Here's a little taste from the Journal Sentinel review: "The real-life Mazie first appeared in a 1940 New Yorker profile by Joseph Mitchell and later again in his seminal collection, Up in the Old Hotel. Now Mazie's latest, and perhaps more powerful incarnation, is in the novel Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg. Here Mazie continues to grab the lapels and hearts of readers — and we are all the more glad for the shake-up she gives us." I should note that Boswellian Jen is also a fan.

And now to Algeria, where Jim Higgins reviews Kamel Daoud's The Meursault Investigation, a retelling of The Stranger from the point of view of the dead man's brother. Higgins observes: "To approximate the affect of Daoud's novel, imagine a retelling of To Kill a Mockingbird in the voice of Tom Robinson's brother - with acid commentary on the quality of justice available in Maycomb." The novel is from Other Press, so even though I don't have a rec from Boswellian Conrad, I'll be he's read it and liked it as well. Daoud's novel was translated by John Cullen.

From Mike Fischer, a review in the Journal Sentinel of Loving Day, the new novel from Mat Johnson, featuring Warren Duffy, whom like Johnson, is biracial, and leaves Cardiff after the death of his father to return to a ramshackle home in a mostly African American section of Philadelphia (which reminds me a bit of Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell from the Sky). His life and assumptions are unrooted by an affair with a mixed-race woman and the discovery that he fathered a child with a Jewish woman as a teenager.

This should keep you busy reading!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Open Memorial Day 10 am to 5 pm. Lalita Tademy Event Preview for this Wednesday at 5 pm. And Just for You, The Following Week's Events as Well.

We're open Memorial Day, 10 am to 5 pm.

Wednesday, May 27, 5 pm (note time):
Lalita Tademy, author of Citizens Creek and Cane River.

Join us at Boswell when The New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club Pick Cane River brings us the now-released-in-paperback Citizens Creek*, the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.

Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, and Native Americans, settlers, and Blacks came into constant contact, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money--but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward?

Cow Tom's legacy lives on--especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather's indelible mark of courage inspires her--in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.

Clyde Edgerton, writing in Garden and Gun: “Tademy knows when to analyze, dissect, back off, go deep, or skirt without comment. The well-paced suspenseful narrative excludes white hat-black hat-happy myth cycle that is sometimes found in our fiction (and nonfiction). She has not only given us a feel for the grit of our nation’s 1800s—misery, war, disease, and displacement—but she also rendered the drama inside a single family, those tales of ordinary folk caught up in war, cultural confusion, and hostility.”

And from this starred Booklist review, published by the American Library Association: “Each of the novel's characters speaks in a compelling voice, especially Amy, the steadfast matriarch, and her granddaughter, Rose, to whom Tademy devotes the final third of her completely engrossing and historically accurate family saga, which in many ways mirrors her own family history.”

And here's a preview of the following week:

Tuesday, June 2, signing at 1:15 pm at Marquette Law School's Eckstein Hall, 1215 W. Michigan Ave., following a sold-out conversation with Mike Gousha:
David Axelrod, author of Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.
Books will be for sale, courtesy of Boswell. For those waiting for the signing, the conversation will be piped into the Marquette Law School atrium.

Wednesday, June 3, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Margaret Lazarus Dean, author of Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight.
This event is co-sponsored by Spaceport Sheboygan.
Winner of the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, Leaving Orbit is an “eloquent farewell to NASA’s space shuttle program” (Lynn Sherr) that will leave you with a serious “case of space brain” (Ander Monson).

Please note the event with James Longhurst, author of Bike Battles, at Ben's Cycle, has been rescheduled for September.

Thursday, June 4, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Alexandra Petri, author of A Field Guide to Awkward Silences, in conversation with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich.
"If John Hodgman and Amy Sedaris had a baby…they would never let Petri babysit it." Here's Petri in The Washington Post, ruminating on various fonts, after reading that you should never print your resume using Times New roman.

Friday, June 5, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A Ticketed event with Neal Stephenson, author of Seveneves and Cryptonomicon.
Per Jim Higgins in the Journal Sentinel, "Stephenson imagines, in realistic detail, the on-the-fly construction of an ad-hoc space ark with a diverse population of human beings — as well as overlapping chaos and turmoil back on Earth. With a large, highly differentiated cast of female characters, from a resourceful nanotech engineer to a cunning president of the United States."

Saturday, June 6, 2 pm, at Boswell:
Maggie Messitt, author of The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa.
Messitt opens a window into the complicated reality of daily life in South Africa through the remote Bushveld community.

also on Saturday, June 6, 2 pm, at Washington Park Library, 2121 N Sherman Blvd.:
Jennifer Morales, author of Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories.
Meet me Halfway has been picked as the 2015 Common Read for UWM incoming freshmen.

*The official on sale date of Citizens Creek is June 2, but they were able to get us books early for this special event. Sometimes this can be done and sometimes it can't. It depends on the publisher, the production schedule, and whether it is really a scheduled on sale or a more firm laydown date.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Boswell's Bright-Eyed Bestsellers for the Week Ending May 23, 2015: Here's What Our Customers Are Reading with Bonus Journal Sentinel Book Review Links.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. I Regret Nothing, by Jen Lancaster (signed copies available)
2. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
5. The Horror of it All, by Adam Rockoff
6. Earth, 2nd edition, from DK Publishing
7. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
8. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
9. Milwaukee Wisconsin: A Photographic Portrait, by Anne Bingham
10. Small Victories, by Anne Lamott

Sally Mann continues to wow with her memoir, Hold Still. This profile from Maria Browning in the Knoxville News Sentinel offers lots of insight: "Hold Still is structured around a literal excavation of the past in the form of ancient boxes of family photographs and keepsakes. These artifacts serve to anchor the narrative, which covers the lives of Mann's parents and a couple of generations of their antecedents, as well as Mann's own story from infancy onward. Many of the photos and letters are reproduced and embedded in the text, accounting for a sizeable number of the 400-plus images in Hold Still."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. There's a Man with a Gun Over There, by R.M. Ryan
2. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
3. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson (ticket link for Fri Jun 5)
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
6. Death at Gill's Rock, by Patricia Skalka (Event with James DeVita on Sun Jun 14, 3 pm)
7 The Green Road, by Anne Enright
8. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard (event Thu Jun 18, 7 pm)
9. The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles
10. The Scarlet Gospels, by Clive Barker

We were just having a conversation about the storied tradition of popular horror writing (may have been inspired by our visit from Adam Rockoff, author of The Horror of It All) and how publishers see the genre name as a dirty word. Much like mystery writers are rebranded as fiction so that mass merchants will buy the book, and romance writers, when they break out, shed their genre origins, horror is likewise de-genred, or sometimes renamed dark fantasy. And then I see the quote from Quentin Tarantino, for Clive Barker's The Scarlet Gospels which reads "To call Clive Barker a 'horror novelist' would be like calling the Beatles a 'garage band'" and I understand the effort to push the qualifier away. But whatever you call it, Barker has a dark vision of the world that seems in accordance with the traditions. For those who love Barker, or should, here's a very revealing interview with him by Sean T. Collins in Grantland.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. Essential, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
3. The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
4. Elephant Company, by Vicki Croke
5. A Spy Among Friends, by Ben Macintyre
6. The Art of War Visualized, by Jessica Hagy
7. At the Table, by Elizabeth Crawford
8. David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
9. So We Read On, by Maureen Corrigan
10. Sundown, by Judith Harway

So were just thinking we needed to order more books from the Minimalists, having had a wonderful event with them last year, and with their books continuing to sell after the event, and when contacted, they said, hey, you need to carry our new book too, which is why Essential is #2 on our bestseller list this week. Alas, the title is wrong on our website (I've asked Ingram to update the feed) but the basic idea is that it's their best essays collected.

Another paperback pop is Ben Macintyre's A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal. The book did very well in hardcover, thanks in part to great reviews, like this Washington Post review from David Ignatius. The columnist writes "Philby emerges from “A Spy Among Friends” as a supremely perverse antihero, remarkable for his sheer guts and tenacity in concealing for more than 30 years his treason against his country and class. He was arguably the most gifted liar in intelligence history, a man who, despite what sounds like almost constant drunkenness, never really cracked, even as the evidence against him became overwhelming."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly (signed copies available)
2. Euphoria, by Lily King (open book club discussion at Boswell, Mon Jun 1, 7 pm)
3. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
4. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
5. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
6. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
7. Delicious, by Ruth Reichl
8. Lydia's Party, by Margaret Hawkins
9. Shotbun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
10. Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman

It never gets old pointing out how many of our bestsellers are former event authors. In the case of this week's fiction, we're at 6 of the top ten (and I should note, the same was the case for the nonfiction list above). The holdouts are Donna Tartt, Celeste Ng, Ruth Reichl, and Tom Bouman. Of course several authors came for previous books--Lily King was at Boswell for Father of the Rain, a wonderful novel that also won the New England Book Award for Fiction.

Speaking of awards, Dry Bones in the Valley won the Best First Novel Edgar but it's sustained sales at Boswell are much do to Anne McMahon's enthusiasm: "The sense of place is strong and wonderful. Bouman's characters are like people we might know--at once simple and complicated--as they struggle to cope without side influences that are changing a rural way of life which has existed for generations in northeastern Pennsylvania. "

Books for Kids:
1. Nerd Camp, by Elissa Brent Weissman
2. Nerd Camp 2.0, by Elissa Brent Weissman
3. Short Seller, by Elissa Brent Weissman
4. Standing for Socks, by Elissa Brent Weissman
5. Pete the Cat's Groovy Guide to Life, by James Dean
6. Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway, by Max Brallier
7. Oh, the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss
8. I don't Like Koala, by Sean Ferrell
9. Listen, Slowly, by Thanhhà Lai
10. Ms. Rapscott's Girls, by Elise Primavera

Did you catch from our bestseller list that Elissa Brent Weissman was in Milwaukee, appearing at a local school? And while Elisa Primavera wasn't in town, Amie was showing me her beautiful note after meeting the author of Ms. Rapscott's Girls. The book is on the Kids' Indie Next list for Spring 2015. Here's Jessica Sweedler DeHart's recommendation from Bookpeople of Moscow, Idaho: "Finally, a book that pokes hilarious fun at the results of busy parents everywhere! Nestled inside a lighthouse, Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents is the perfect destination for readers who adore Amelia Bedelia, Mary Poppins, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Roald Dahl, and Pippi Longstocking. All will appreciate the irresistibly feisty spirit evident throughout this book which is sure to charm.”

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Michael Perry's first novel for adults, The Jesus Cow, a frenetic tale about a small town in Wisconsin where a cow is born with the image of Christ noticeably depicted on the animal's skin. He writes: In the midst of this comedy, Perry does at least two serious things very well: He chronicles daily life in rural Wisconsin communities, and he writes knowledgeably and respectfully about the ways ordinary people experience, practice and question religious faith. The latter is not always easy to find in mainstream American fiction." The Journal Sentinel notes that Perry will be at Books and Company in Oconomoowoc on Thursday, June 11 (solo) and at Boswell along with Dean Bakopoulos, author of Summerlong, on Friday, June 19.

Mike Fischer reviews Kent Haruf's last novel, Our Souls at Night. He begins: "Set in 2014 in Holt — the small, fictional town on the eastern Colorado plains where most of Haruf's stories unfold — Our Souls at Night reads like a coda to Benediction, which revolves around...the dying owner of a hardware store looking back over his life." The theme, per Fischer, is "no matter how old we are, we always have the chance to begin anew." We have several fans on staff for this one; Jannis Mindel writes "This is a beautiful meditation on companionship, love, death and family. What a gift Kent Haruf has left us in this final posthumous novel! "

And finally, here's Gina Barton, criminal justice reporter at the Journal Sentinel, who won a Polk award for her coverage of Derek Williams. She reviews Jill Leovy's Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. Here's a taste of her review: "Jill Leovy's Ghettoside is about homicide in the inner city of Los Angeles, but it could just as easily be about Milwaukee or any number of other American cities. Leovy, a police reporter at the Los Angeles Times, embedded with homicide detectives in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods and got to know the people whose lives are affected by murders there. In the vein of David Simon, longtime Baltimore police reporter and creator of The Wire, Leovy paints nuanced portraits of cops and victims, witnesses and perpetrators."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What Did the Book Club Think of Phil Klay's "Redeployment"?

It had been a while since we'd read a collection of short stories for the In-store Lit Group, so when Phil Klay's Redeployment won the National Book Award, I immediately put the collection on our shortlist. The collection, Klay's first, is inspired by the author's tour of duty in the Iraq War, where he was a public affairs officer. We've actually read war fiction before, and even the Iraq War, in Ben Fountain's book, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, but we all agreed this was a very different story.

Klay (photo credit Hannah Dunphy) looks at being on the ground from lots of different perspectives. Some stories are from soldiers on ground patrols. One narrator works in the morgue. There's someone who is a chaplain and another who is a foreign service officer. There's a tension between the Marine code to protect their own and the outside demands to keep the area safe from insurgents without hurting civilians. That message turns out to be a bit muddy.

And the other tension is between these soldiers on duty in Iraq and how they adjust or don't adjust to being off duty, especially when they are back home. Some wounds are physical, others are psychological; there's a fair number of suicides. When one veteran moves to New York to be a lawyer, he finds himself surrounded by people who can't comprehend his experience. A number of these soldiers are mystified by the pallative response "Thank you for your service" thrown at them. It's probably a better option than the anger thrown at Vietnam War vets but it still seems to miss the mark.

Many people have seen Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, as a reference point for Redeployment. As Rob Kunzig said in the New Republic after Klay's award: "Both wars were fought over ideas masquerading as existential threats; both ended in something much less than victory." Klay captures the war experience from a number of perspectives of the fighters, though he probably doesn't give the most gung ho of the soldiers a voice to understanding. One gets the idea that this aggression just gets the troops into more trouble, particularly in the story  "Prayer in the Furnace", where the chaplain recounts Charlie Company's attempts to get their battle numbers up by attracting attention with doing jumping jacks naked on the rooftop. Yikes. 

I think that was one of my favorite stories. I also really liked "Money as a Weapons System," about the foreign service officer trying to get a water treatment plant up, while pooh poohing the other options of a women's health clinic and the ever popular bee-keeping-for-widows option, and out of left field, is given a mission to teach Iraqis baseball. I think this was the one reviewers were calling Joseph Heller-y. 

Just for a change of pace, it was nice to have a story like "Psychological Operations," of a vet in college confronted by a Muslim student reported for offensive talk. If I had a least favorite, it would probably be "OIF," which is the story told mostly in acronyms and soldier lingo. But when we were discussing the stories, L. called this one out as one she really liked, so see, effective is in the eye of the beholder.

So that's me, but the truth is, it was hard to participate in our book club conversation because I hadn't finished the collection by discussion time. This happened once before, and I was chided aggressively, but that person is no longer attending, and I happened to be meeting with an understanding bunch, plus I'd done my regular research of finding reviews and interviews and profiles we could draw from. But it's still a wee bit embarrassing. 

We already knew that at least one attendee did not like the book at all, as she'd read it the previous month and came to the discussion prepared to discuss it. I suppose that is the one drawback. One interesting thing to note is that several folks mentioned they were confused that the stories were not really connected. It took about three to four stories before they realized that it was not going be the same character or company; this was a traditional connection of unrelated tale, except of course they were connected setting and theme. But we are so used to so many collections being almost fragmented novels, and we've even discussed connected stories and novellas being marketed as novels, that there was a bit of surprise that this lauded and popular collection was just that, a collection.

J. liked it and thought it was well written. D. disliked the title story (which I keep remembering as"Operation Scooby", as it gets to the heart of the plotline) but found himself getting into it more after a few stories. He did feel that had very different styles and felt that Klay was still trying to find his voice. His critique recalls Edward Docx's in The Guardian: "I can't stand the clear-as-a-mountain-creek regular-guy style so beloved of faux-masculine, tough-but-vulnerable narrative. And for a page or two, Redeployment read to me as if it was written by a rogue Jack Daniels copywriter." But Docx changed his mind as he read on, and decided that the first voice was more an indication of the author's range.

To me, having finally finished the book, there really is a through line--focus on the characters and their immediate actions. There's very little description, very little bigger picture (something that's really out of bounds for Klay's narrators), and always from one perspective. Yes, it would have been fascinating to get inside the head of The Professor of "Money as a Weapon Systems," but I think that probably would have been a fail, and Klay made the right choice to understand him second hand. I am pretty sure that every story is a first person narrative, and while it might have given the collection more range to vary the story structures, I actually think it does bring the collection cohesion. I was curious whether Klay left out or adjusted some of his war-related stories (you've got to figure he's writing about other things too) when they didn't have that personal narrative format.

M. also liked Redeployment a lot. She thought Klay captured so much of the war in minuitiae, like the soldier who gets the request to take off his wedding band and put it on his dog tags in "Ten Kliks South." So much easier for the attendants when he comes back in a body bag. I found it interesting for the soldier who, despite his major burns, including a missing ear, he'd still had a system for picking up women.

As A. read the book, she kept thinking, "these guys are so young, while more than one time reading the stories, L thought, "are these people sane?"And C.'s perspective? "I felt despair; war is a tragedy."

We had some discussion about Klay's job in the military and why he didn't write a story from his own perspective as a public relations officer. In retrospect, I think he did this to keep a little distance from himself and the characters in the book. There was some talk about whether any of these stories could become a novel, and which character probably was most from Klay's perspective, but he always tried to give each character a twist so they were a bit like Klay, but also absolutlely not like him. I suppose that's the sort of thing authors have to do so their relatives don't complain that they were unfairly portrayed in a book.

The nice thing about a book winning the National Book Award is that there are lots of resources available. Of course you must read The New York Times Book Review piece from Dexter Filkins, if only because Filkins has such great credentials as a war reporter.  He brings home the feeling of isolation that characters feel in stories like "Unless It's a Sucking Chest Wound." Of the Iraq war, Filkins observes"Nearly all its burderns were endured by a tiny percentage of the population. There was no draft, no higher taxes. If you were in the military, you served - which meant you deployed, again and a again - while the rest of your countrymen carried on as though the nation were at peace."

And here's an interview with Klay by Matt Gallagher in the Paris Review. Klay talks about "the disconnect between the military and civilian America" which comes to the fore in his own homecoming. I thought it was a very good discussion and might have been even better had I finished the book on time. But in my opionion, how you can you not be part on top of our book culture and not have read Redeployment? By this logic, does this mean I have to read The Goldfinch? I think there's an exception for books longer than 800 pages. Speaking of long books...

On Monday, June 1, we'll be discussing Lily King's Euphoria. Our July meeting is moved on day, to Tuesday, July 7, so that I can help run our co-sponsored event with Daniel Silva at the JCC. The In-store Lit Group will meet Tuesday, July 7, and talk about Matthew Thomas's We Are Not Ourselves. And yes, Thomas is coming to Boswell on Monday, June 8. Get a feel for the book then, and then come discuss it with us in July!

Oh, and just because we know it already, the August discussion book is Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, not because it's new, not because we're having the author, but just because everyone has been telling me I should read it and this is the only way it's going to get done.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Events this Week at Boswell: Jen Lancaster Tonight, R.N. (Rick) Ryan Tomorrow, Adam Rockoff Wednesday.

Monday, May 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jen Lancaster, author of I Regret Nothing: A Memoir
with an Introduction to Self-Defense by Local Martial Artist, Personal Trainer, and Special Guest Paul Boyajian

According to Lancaster, several cities in the I Regret Nothing tour had to be rescheduled, but Milwaukee is on track. But Jen, being in a cast, she might not be able to fend off attackers for our self-defense bucket list challenge. On the other hand, the fact that Lancaster can get to Milwaukee without flying was our saving grace. As you know, Lancaster is the author of ten previous memoirs and novels, from The Tao of Martha to Jeneration X. Here's a little more about her newest, I Regret Nothing.

Mistakes are one thing; regrets are another. After a girls’ weekend in Savannah makes Jen Lancaster realize that she is—yikes!—middle-aged (binge watching is so the new binge drinking), Jen decides to make a bucket list and seize the day, even if that means having her tattoo removed at one hundred times the cost of putting it on. From attempting a juice cleanse to studying Italian, from learning to ride a bike to starting a new business, and from sampling pasta in Rome to training for a 5K, in I Regret Nothing, Jen turns a mid-life crisis into a mid-life opportunity, sharing her sometimes bumpy—but always hilarious—attempts to better her life...again.

And here's a little more about Paul Boyajian. With over 30 years of martial arts experience, personal trainer and founder of Anthro EX Corrective Exercise & Functional Training Programs Paul Boyajian is skilled in Tae Kwon Do, Thai Boxing, Savate, Jeet Kune Do, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, to name a few. He is an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and fitness nutritionist and a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified Corrective Exercise Specialist, and has taught and trained clients of all ages locally for many years in various disciplines, including a popular class on self-defense for women that he co-developed in the late 1980s. In the 90s, as a group-home manager, he designed and implemented new restraint and defense programs to reinforce the safety of residents and workers. For more information and to schedule your training session, visit Anthro EX on Facebook.

While Jen has previously appeared at Barnes and Noble and the now-gone Borders (where she had capacity crowds), this is her first time at Boswell. This event is not ticketed, though as always, we will close temporarily if we reach capacity.

Tuesday, May 19, 7 pm, at Boswell:
R.M. (Rick Ryan), author of There's a Man with a Gun Over There.

Former Milwaukeean Rick Ryan has been in the Bay area for many years, but he's back in conjunction with his novel, There's a Man with a Gun Over There. Based on Ryan’s military experiences as an antiwar activist and grad student turned translator and Military Police officer for the US Army, his new novel, per Publishers Weekly, "offers a side to Vietnam that most people don’t see."

Pop culture aficionados will recall Ryan's titular reference is from Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth." While Stephen Sills' classic did find life as a antiwar protest song, it was originally inspired by an anti-noise curfew at a well-known Los Angeles music club, per this piece in the Los Angeles Times.

But you will not mistake Ryan's book for anything but the antiwar statement that it is. Per Publishers Weekly, "The book’s message is clear and repeated throughout the book: the Army is not a game, and no matter what you tell yourself to get through it, you are still a trained killer. Ryan offers a side to Vietnam that most people don’t see. He drives his points home about the dangers of the military and how it affects people."

Wednesday, May 20, 7 pm, at Boswell: Adam Rockoff, author of The Horror of It All: One Moviegoer’s Love Affair with Masked Maniacs, Frightened Virgins, and the Living Dead.

Pop culture history meets blood-soaked memoir as a horror film aficionado and screenwriter recalls a life spent watching blockbuster slasher films, cult classics, and everything in between. Horror films have simultaneously captivated and terrified audiences for generations, racking up billions of dollars at the box office and infusing our nightmares with unrelenting zombies, chainsaw-wielding madmen, and myriad incarnations of ghosts, ghouls, and the devil himself. Despite evolving modes of storytelling and the fluctuating popularity of other genres, horror endures. In The Horror of It All author Adam Rockoff traces the highs and lows of the horror genre through the lens of his own obsessive fandom, born in the aisles of his local video store and nurtured with a steady diet of cable.

Rockoff is the screenwriter of Wicked Lake, a film so depraved it caused Ron Jeremy to storm out of the theater in anger. However, his 2010 adaptation of the classic exploitation film, I Spit on Your Grave, received nearly unanimous praise from horror critics. Brent R. Oliver writes in Buzzy Magazine: "This book is for people who outright, wholeheartedly, unabashedly, freaking love horror movies. It’s an intelligent and heartfelt look at something that too often seems dumb and heartless. Scary movies are art, whether they’re seriously great or seriously terrible. Rockoff sees this and he’ll make you see it, too."

And as for next Monday, happy Memorial Day! Don't forget, we are open 10 am to 5 pm. I'll be working, so stop by and say hi.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Straight form Milwaukee, it's Boswell's Bestsellers for the Week Ending May 16, 2015, Featuring the Journal Sentinel Book Reviews.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg
2. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
3. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
4. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
5. Church of Marvels, by Leslie Parry
6. Pleasantville, by Attica Locke
7. The Green Road, by Anne Enright
8. My Struggle Volume 4, by Karl Ove Knausgaard
9. The Daylight Marriage, by Heidi Pitlor
10. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard (event Jun 18 at Boswell)

Though we are still basking in the glow of an absolutely lovely lunch with Elizabeth Berg (and yes, we're now #1 for The Dream Lover on Above the Treeline), It's time to move on, right? But not before noting that we even got one of George Sand's books, the story collection, What Flowers Say, into our top ten paperbacks. But there's lots of other interesting things going on this week, like a first week pop into the top ten for Jim Shepard's The Book of Aron, coming to Milwaukee on June 18, co-sponsored by the UWM Stahl Center for Jewish Studies, which Ron Charles called "a masterpiece" in the Washington Post. And Sharon's pick, Heidi Pitlor's The Daylight Marriage, which got a nice review by Nick Romeo on The Boston Globe, who praises its "taut suspense and subtle characterization." And look, there's Attica Locke's Pleasantville, her follow-up to the terrific Black Water Rising. Isabel Berwick in The Financial Times uses the adverb "brilliantly" to describe what Locke takes on. Read this review for context; you won't be disappointed.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Children of the Stone, by Sandy Tolan
2. Elsie De Wolfe's Paris, by Charlie Scheips
3. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
4. A Lucky Life Interrupted, by Tom Brokaw
5. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Condo
7. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
8. The Art of Forgery, by Noah Charney
9. Believer, by David Axelrod (signing at Marquette Jun 2, 1:15 pm following sold out talk)
10. It's a Long Story, by Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson's back! I thought he said it all in Roll Me Up and Smoke me Till I Die, but It's a Long Story is, per Nathan Whitlock in The Globe and Mail, "a piece of work that is soulful, goofy, profane, heartfelt, tossed off, a little sloppy around the edges and deeply idiosyncratic." The big pop for the week, though, was Sally Mann's Hold Still. Lots of advance holds on this one, and that was before her featured turn on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Oh, and Tom Brokaw was featured on Fresh Air too for his memoir, A Lucky life Interrupted.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly
2. Rise from the River, by Kathie Giorgio
3. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
4. Euphoria, by Lily King
5. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
6. Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
7. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
8. Colorless Tuskuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami
9. What Flowers Say, by George Sand
10. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

After a strong hardcover run nationally, Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You pops into our top ten on its paperback run. Here's The New York Times review from Alexander Chee. And yes, Far From the Madding Crowd opened at the Downer Theater on Friday. It's playing at 4, 7, and 9:50. How can one not link to a review (the New Orleans Advocate) that calls it "masterpiece cinema" Amusingly enough, basic searches still bring up the 1968 version.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
2. At the Table: by Elizabeth Crawford
3. Mindset, by Carol Dweck
4. Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson
5. Escaping Into the Open, by Elizabeth Berg
6. How to Be Interesting, by Jessica Hagy
7. Growing in the Midwest, by Edward Lyon
8. Abominable Science, by Daniel Loxton
9. Strength for the Struggle, by Joseph Ellwanger
10. The Third Plate, by Dan Barber

Congratulations to The Third Plate's Dan Barber, who just received the James Beard award for food writing. Many books received honors, but cookbook of the year came from University of Texas Press, which published David Sterling's Yucatan. And of course our local food writer, Elizabeth Crawford, continues to sell at Boswell. Here's Nancy Stoh's story on At the Table in the Journal Sentinel.

Books for Kids:
1. Galactic Hot Dogs V1: Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway, by Max Brallier
2. Nightsiders V1 The Orphan Army, by Jonathan Maberry
3. Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens V1, by Julie Mata
4. Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man v2, by Julie Mata
5. Pieces and Players, by Blue Balliett
6. Oh, the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss
7. An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir
8. Home, by Carson Ellis
9. Rot and Ruin V1, by Jonathan Maberry
10. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom with illustrations by Richard Scarr

It's almost the last of our school visits (Andy Rash and Elissa Brent Weissman should still have sales pops in the coming week) and we celebrate with no less than 7 of the top 10 being from authors who did events with Boswell. Max Brallier celebrated the release of his middle grade series Galactic Hot Dogs: Cosmoe's Wiener Getaway with mini dogs from Dr. Dawg at the North Shore Library. I wanted to serve something for Jonathan Maberry's The Nightsiders: The Orphan Army but what? Candy guts? It can be hard to do public events for first-timers, and while both Brallier and Maberry are seasoned authors, this was their first time targeting the 8-12 crowd. Come to think of it, we had a lot of first-time middle grade authors in school year 2014-2015. It appears to be the sweet spot for school tours.

Wow! Neal Stephenson is profiled by Jim Higgins in the Journal Sentinel for his new novel, Seveneves. We're hosting a ticketed event with Stephenson on Friday, June 5, 7 pm. $36 includes admission and the book. On the origin of the story: "Going way back, there's a subgenre of science-fiction books about the end of the world, people getting on an ark and going into space. I read some of those when I was a kid. On some level, I always thought it would be cool to write one of those. But I didn't really act on it until recently."

And here's Carole Barrowman's round up of her mystery picks for May.
--Ripped from the Pages, by Kate Carlisle, is "a charming story highlighting Brooklyn's passions as a book restorer and bibliophile"
--On the Wales-set Slated for Death, by Elizabeth Duncan: " this charming mystery is as tasty as a slice of Bara brith (a cake bread with raisins or currants)"
--Charlotte Chanter's The Well is "speculative, suspenseful and deliberately unsettling (think Margaret Atwood in style and tone)"
--The "completely unnerving and wickedly perverse" Luckiest Girl Alive from Jessica Knoll is "the book you insist all your friends read this summer."