Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Club Summa! 24 Titles Recommended by Boswell Booksellers.

It's time for our summer book club recommendation list. While these books are good for anyone, we think they have a bit of extra discussability. Our rule of thumb is that for the most part, we also try to have at least one read on the book, which we can't say for other lists, like Boswell Best, Nowadays, it's almost impossible for us to have read the Boswell Best ahead of time, as we see advance copies for less than half the books that Jason has chosen.

We have a few carryover books from the last list, but only a few:
--The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
--Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
--Offshore, by Penelope Fitzgerald

As usual, we have six nonfiction titles:
--I am Malala, by Malala Moustafzai
--The Psychopath Whisperer, by Kent Kiehl
--How to Be a Heroine, by Samantha Ellis
--The Tastemakers, by David Sax
--The Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills
--Glitter and Glue, by Kelly Corrigan

Jane brought Corrigan and Ellis to the table, while Anne's pick is Mills. While even I know that The Psychopath Whisperer is going to be tough going (I always have one of these, but really, it will be quite rewarding and discussable), I really think that a book club could really have a great time with The Tastemakers. It's Sax's journey through the world of food trends, looking at every aspect of what takes something like kale from obscurity to testing on McDonald's menus (in Southern California only, for now). He follows Peruvian chefs, apple marketing boards (there's a variety that you've never heard of that completely dominates the shelves of Canadian stores, due to different marketing strategies), conventions, and the holy grail of most food merchants for trending - I'll leave you to guess what it is.

The superstars:
--Euphoria, by Lily King
--Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
--Nora Webster, by Colm Toíbín
--Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
--The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
--We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas

All these books were top ten bestsellers on The New York Times, either in hardcover or now in paperback. As we know, it's always a bit of a tougher push to get very long hardcovers* into the hands of book clubs, which is partly why I think that We Are Not Ourselves didn't have the same pop that some of the other shorter works did, despite a nice run on the hardcover list; so far, it's had a week at #20. But I love a long book or two on the list. Just about every group has either a summer or winter break and why not pick a long book for that period, to discuss when you reconvene?

The Contenders
--The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henríquez
--To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, by Joshua Ferris
--Almost Crimson, by Dasha Kelly
--The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
--Offshore, by Penelope Fitzgerald
--Dry Bones in the Valley, by Tom Bouman
--Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
--Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill
--Redeployment, by Phil Klay

This catch-all list has books that we are passionate about, many of which are selling elsewhere, but aren't necessarily at book club superstar status. We've certainly had books on this list before, like Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which went on to have huge book club success nationally.

In some cases, like with Almost Crimson and The Red Notebook, the hurdle is that the books are from independent publishers. Having read them both, I wouldn't say they have too much in common except that while not comedies, both authors have a good sense of humor. I guess Kelly's novel might have more in common with The Book of Unknown Americans, as both are coming-of-age stories, the first from an African American perspective, and the second from a Latino angle. Reading these books along with Everything I Never Told You (about a biracial Chinese-American family) would jump-start a book club that wants a little more diversity in the offerings.

I should also note that The Red Notebook is my pick for book clubs that just want to make sure that everyone reads the book. It's short, funny, romantic, and Parisian to boot. It's great for that month when everyone complains that they didn't have time enough to get to the selection, like in January.

It's always nice to have an older book in the lineup, and Jane is still plugging the work of Penelope Fitzgerald. I thought we might switch to The Bookshop on its release, but she has stuck with Offshore, a novel inspired by the author's own experiences living on a houseboat in the Thames. would love to see a year of book club selections where all the books use the trope of a

We also try to have at least one mystery on our recommendation list, but this can be tricky. It's hard to pick the middle of a series unless the book really stands alone, and many series improve and don't start coming into their own until, say, book three or four. Dry Bones in the Valley is an exception. Anne has been pushing Tom Bouman's book set in northeastern Pennnsylvania since its release, and now she's validated with its capturing of the Edgar Award for best first novel.

A few books on the list have hurdles that require a little extra convincing. It takes a special book club to tackle Joshua Ferris's To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. It's the kind of book many clubs will only gravitate to if it wins a major award, the way a good number of groups are reading Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North. It's dark and funny and discussable, but the lack of a plot (I'm pretty much quoting the author here) holds some groups back. But heck, it was one of the first two American novels to shortlist for the Man Booker (along with the aforementioned Karen Joy Fowler) and won the Dylan Thomas Prize, so I'll keep pushing it.

I don't know what the groups would think of Ferris, but I have test-marketed Dept. of Speculation and even though it's structure (stream of consciousness fragments) throws some people off, it actually has resonated well with groups and many have been glad to tackle something different. But that's part of the reason why, despite a pretty similar level of critical love, Euphoria, which is more of a straight-forward fictionalized historical, exploded while Dept. of Speculation simmered.

I started with Redployment in the superstar category, but then moved it to sleeper. While it won the National Book Award, (and had a bestseller pop) Phil Klay's Redeployment of course has the short story hurdle. I think it is wonderfully discussable, and while there are a few stories that are, for some reason, extra difficult for some folks to surmount (an unlikable narrator, a story filled with acronyms), together the stories come together nicely in a middle ground between disparate and novel-in-stories.

While the trend was definitely in the camp of historical novels with real people, I notice that at least for literary novels, the winds are pushing towards fictionalizing the characters' identities. This year alone I've read Euphoria, Jim Shepard's The Book of Aron, and Judith Claire Mitchell's A Reunion of Ghosts, all of home clearly did research on real people and events but in the end chose to change the names, allowing the authors to go where there novels needed to go, instead of being forced to hew close to history's storyline. The good news is that the history is still there, and we have had more than one book club participant read Coming of Age in Samoa in readiness for a Euphoria book club presentation.

If a blog post doesn't do the trick, we have very nice fliers recommending our 24 picks, as well as six more hardcovers that are coming out shortly, including three that will be fall events - Richard Ford, Marlon James, and Nina Revoyr. And of course if you're book club is picking books for the year, we'll do a presentation to five or more of you, as long as you promise to buy a good amount of books from us. Due to scheduling, we can generally only do these on weekday afternoons, but because we have less author events in the summer, July and August evenings are also possible.

That's one good reason to do a year at a time instead of month-by-month picking. But if you do month-by-month picking, here's a suggestion that will help both your participants and your local bookstore - pick two months ahead. Give us a month to get the book in, and give some of your group extra time to read the book. We find it makes for a happier book club that is more likely to have read the book.

*That is not really affecting sales of The Goldfinch in paper, but that has really transcended size to be a must read.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Boswell Events! Matt Burriesci Tonight, Tina and Carson Kugler on Mary Nohl Wednesday at 3 pm at Shorewood Public Library, Jo Piazza's "Knockoff" on Thursday, Plus Daniel Silva in Conversation with Jody Hirsh Next Monday, July 6, 7 pm (ticketed).

Monday, June 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Matt Burriesci, author of Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter and the Great Books of the Western World.

Boswell welcomes Matt Burriesci, former executive director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, who also served in various capacities at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, known to bibliophiles as AWP.

Boswellian Jane Glaser says it best: "A devoted father rediscovers his love for the great works of western classics as he packs his 54 volume collection away to make room for a nursery for his newborn daughter. Excerpting thoughts from his favorite thinker Plato along with others as diverse as Plutarch, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Jefferson, Adam Smith, etc., the author partners their words of wisdom with love letters of life lessons to his daughter for her to read on her eighteenth birthday. Reminiscent of Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch and Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, this thought provoking book is perfect for readers who love the endlessly yielding power of the written word!"

Bookpage offers this recommendation: "Burriesci’s reading tour skews toward the ancients (the book is nearly half done before he gets to St. Augustine), with Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and Montaigne getting the lion’s share of consideration. Shakespeare is represented singly by Hamlet, and, by necessity, there are many other omissions: Thomas Aquinas, Chaucer, Dante, Cervantes, Kant and Freud, among them. Indeed, with the exception of Hamlet, the book steers away from fiction and drama entirely, focusing instead on philosophical and political works."

Wednesday, July 1, 3 pm, at Shorewood Public Library
Tina and Carson Kugler, author and illustrator of In Mary's Garden.

From the Shorewood Public Library: "Meet Tina and Carson Kugler, authors/illustrators of In Mary's Garden, the picture book about the life of Mary Nohl and her now famous garden. After the presentation, participants will have a chance to create their own unique artwork. Enter a drawing to win an autographed copy of the book. Books will be available for purchase and signing. This program is co-sponsored with Boswell Book Company."

From the Mary Louise Schumacher profile in the Journal Sentinel, from back in March: "The Kuglers met at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where Tina studied film and Carson art. They married and moved to L.A., where they both worked in animation. When they started a family, though, they moved back to Wisconsin for a time. It was when the couple started taking their own boys to see Mary Nohl's house that the idea of a children's book surfaced. They took their first son to see the place when he was still a baby."

And here's a bit more about the book, from Horn Book magazine: "The authors embellish their picture-book biography of artist Mary Nohl (1914-2001) with touches of whimsy -- her dogs Sassafras and Basil assist beyond the bounds of ordinary canine capacity, for example -- reflecting their subject's own outsized imagination. The illustrations -- digital collages of scratchy, affectionate paintings on an assortment of papers -- mirror this sense of wonder; careful readers will see a variety of friendly creatures swirling amid the clouds and hiding in tree trunks."

The Shorewood Public Library is at 3920 N. Murray Avenue, just south of Capitol Drive.

Thursday, July 2, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jo Piazza, co-author of The Knockoff.

One never knows how an author will wind up in Milwaukee. For Matt Burriesci, it was a family function in Lake Geneva. For Jo Piazza, it's the home of her future in-laws. This is why it's not just enough to have great authors and illustrators living in the Milwaukee area, it helps if people are family and friends of great authors, even if the authors themselves live elsewhere.

Publishers Weekly's take: " In this modernized All About Eve plotline, the maniacally driven Eve goes up against her too-kind boss in ways both large (stealing Imogen's ideas) and small (insulting her lack of tech knowledge), leaving Imogen feeling out of step. Throughout, readers are constantly reminded of the ubiquity of technology and its potential pitfalls. This breezy, behind-the-scenes tale offers a fresh, modern take on a classic tale of rivalry."

Liz Matthews in Town and Country calls The Knockoff the only beach read you should be reading. "Sykes and Piazza cleverly satirize this recent marriage of the fashion and tech industries, and have managed to craft a strong plot with a few unforeseen twists." Glamour also put it on the "best books of summer" list.

In Time magazine, Jo Piazza writes a little about what led to The Knockoff. "I’m almost 35, which means I straddle that weird line between Generation X and millennial. I recently wrote a novel with former-magazine-editor-turned-techie Lucy Sykes, who is 45, about this generational divide in the workplace." Her essay has a lot of good advice.

We've had a great read from Boswellian Scott Espinoza, who found it both enjoyable and engaging enough to have questions for the author at our event on Thursday evening, 7 pm.

Monday, July 6, 7 pm, at the JCC:
a ticketed event with Daniel Silva, author of The English Spy, in conversation with Jody Hirsh. Buy your tickets here. (Daniel Silva photo credit John Earle.)

From the Silva website: "He has been called his generation’s finest writer of international intrigue and one of the greatest American spy novelists ever. Compelling, passionate, haunting, brilliant: these are the words that have been used to describe the work of award-winning #1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva."

Silva knew from a very early age that he wanted to become a writer, but his first profession would be journalism. Born in Michigan, raised and educated in California, he was pursuing a master’s degree in international relations when he received a temporary job offer from United Press International to help cover the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. Later that year Silva abandoned his studies and joined UPI fulltime, working first in San Francisco, then on the foreign desk in Washington, and finally as Middle East correspondent in Cairo and the Persian Gulf. In 1987, while covering the Iran-Iraq war, he met NBC Today National Correspondent Jamie Gangel and they were married later that year. Silva returned to Washington and went to work for CNN and became Executive Producer of its talk show unit including shows like Crossfire, Capital Gang and Reliable Sources.

In 1995 he confessed to Jamie that his true ambition was to be a novelist. With her support and encouragement he secretly began work on the manuscript that would eventually become the instant bestseller The Unlikely Spy. He left CNN in 1997 after the book’s successful publication and began writing full time. Since then all of Silva’s books have been New York Times and international bestsellers. His books have been translated in to more than 30 languages and are published around the world. He is currently at work on a new novel and warmly thanks all those friends and loyal readers who have helped to make his books such an amazing success. (Jody Hirsh photo credit Nathan Harimann)

We're excited to be co-sponsoring a very special ticketed event with Daniel Silva, whose latest novel is The English Spy, in conversation with Jody Hirsh, Judaic Education Director at the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center on 6255 N. Santa Monica Boulevard. Tickets are $30, and include admission and a copy of The English Spy. Due to the structure of this event, there is no gift card option, but if you love Daniel Silva's work as much as we know you do, you'll agree that a copy of his book also makes a great gift.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

What's Selling This Week at Boswell, Plus the Journal Sentinel Book Page.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
3. Festival of Insignificance. by Milan Kundera
4. In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume
5. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
6. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
7. Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie with illustrations by MinaLima
8. The Jesus Cow, by Michael Perry
9. The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi
10. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson

Isn't it funny how Hulu streaming Seinfeld has led to any number of media stories, even ones like Nathan Rabin's in the Los Angeles Times about how Seinfeld's comedy is not changing with the times (though I should note that it is not only old White guys who are making this statement; Chris Rock said it too)? Well, here's the strangest connection yet; Jason Sheehan at NPR compared Milan Kundera's new novel, Festival of Insignificance to Seinfeld, because it is also about nothing. And sort of like Seinfeld, he writes that"The Festival Of Insignificance is, in the best possible way, like perusing the operating instructions for a civil society."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. American Mojo, by Peter D. Kiernan
2. Pirate Hunters, by Robert Kurson
3. Strong Inside, by Andrew Maraniss
4. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari
5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
6. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
7. Hold Still, by Sally Mann
8. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
9. On the Move, by Oliver Sacks
10. Sick in the Head, by Judd Apatow

Speaking of comics and white books with little line drawings on them, Judd Apatow's Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy has also been getting a lot of attention. Jason Zinoman in The New York Times called the book "a love letter to stand-up comedy" (correction, that's Zinoman's headline writer) though Apatow hasn't performed stand-up in more than two decades (or because I was just reading an American history book, a score).  Steve Donoghue lays out the land of the book in The Washington Post, that some of these interviews were conducted back when Apatow was at Syosset High School on Long Island.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Euphoria, by Lily King
2. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
3. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
4. We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
5. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
6. The Martian, by Andy Weir
7. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
8. The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton
9. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
10. Grey, by E.L. James

E.L. James's newest, Grey, telling the Fifty Shades of Grey story Christian's perspective, has been quite the phenomenon, though it hasn't hit the momentum at Boswell that Fifty Shades of Grey had in its heyday, making me think that the book might not have legs. The Independent writes about the huge early success of the book, and the psychology behind it and other bestsellers. And let's not smirk at this as a quirk of the masses only? Who among you has bought and not read Capital in the Twenty-First Century? We have a customer who keeps coming in to buy a used copy because "surely someone who bought it is going to figure out that they don't really want it."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Find Momo Coast to Coast, by Andrew Knapp (event today at 3 pm)
2. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt (event MPL Central 7/13, 6:30 pm)
3. How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg
4. Dead White Guys, by Matt Burriesci (event Monday 6/29 at 7 pm)
5. Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson
6. The Grapes of Math, by Alex Bellos
7. The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan
8. Find Momo, by Andrew Knapp
9. The War That Ended Peace, by Margaret Macmillan
10. Loving Lardo, by Wendy R. Olsen (event July 16, 7 pm)

While its not unusual to have upcoming events on our bestseller list (we work hard to presell copies, and there is a lot of display surrounding the books), it might be a bit odd to have six of the top ten being future appearances. A run in the second half of the week left us a little short for Momo (today at 3) and Matt Burriesci (tomorrow at 7). But one author we're not having is Alex Bellos, whose new release is one of two math books in our top ten. The Grapes of Math: How Life Reflects Numbers and Numbers Reflect Life, touches on similar themes to How Not to Be Wrong, "turning the most complex math into an educating read." His last book was Here's Looking at Euclid. You gotta love it!

Books for Kids:
1. In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler (event 7/1 Shorewood Library, 3 pm)
2. The Thickety: A Path Begins, by J.A. White
3. The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
4. Where's Waldo Magnificent Mini Boxed Set, by Martin Handford
5. Saint Anything, by Sarah Dessen
6. One Family, by George Shannon
7. Tell Me What to Dream About, by Giselle Potter
8. Crown of Three, by J.D. Rinehart
9. I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
10. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

The younger sister wants a story before bedtime and the older sister obliges, only younger sister translates flights of fancy into gloom. That's the concept behind Tell Me What to Dream About, by Giselle Potter. Publishers Weekly writes: "While the pacing is a series of bumps and starts as fancies are proffered and dismissed, the sisters’ bickering will be instantly recognizable. And Potter’s dream worlds, a feast of beloved fantasy elements, will lure readers back for more."

In the Journal Sentinel, the newest from former Time magazine movie critic Richard Schickel is reviewed by Chris Foran. Keepers: The Greatest Films--And Personal Favorites--Of a Moviegoing Lifetime. From Foran: "There aren't a lot of surprises in Keepers: Schickel celebrates such inevitables as Casablanca and Citizen Kane, as well as generally accepted classics such as Children of Paradise, the French fantasy shot during the Nazi occupation" but he does dismiss The Seventh Seal and The Maltese Falcon.

From Carole E. Barrowman, her monthly roundup of mysteries and thrillers!

--The Evvidence Room, by Cameron Harvey, set on the Florida Bayou. "Among the cypress 'dripping with Spanish Moss' and the bayou's 'shoreline choked with pitcher plants,' the compelling characters in this atmospheric mystery eventually must confront their shadows in unexpected ways."

--New Yorked, by Rob Hart, a hard-boiled novel told from the perspective of the son of one of New York's finest who responded after 9-11. "I loved this novel. It may be the most quixotic hard-boiled I've read in ages. With clever nods to Chandler (including giving Ash a fedora) and lots of muscular metaphors ('The two of them looked at me like I'm calculus'), Hart has written an achingly lovely farewell to one man's past."

--Let Me Die in His Footsteps, an "impressive Southern gothic" from Lori Roy. "Roy's narrative moves with measured suspense between Annie's story (as a teen) in 1952 and Aunt Juna's in 1936. Roy is masterful at teasing out tension and dripping dread across this novel. Like Annie, we, too, know something bad is coming." I don't think this is the first time that Barrowman has recommended Roy and it probably won't be the last either.

--The Convictions of John Delahunt, by Andrew Hughes. Set in 19th century Dublin and based on a true story, this is told by a killer on death row, who "is forced to have his head examined. Literally. A phrenologist examines the shape of John's scalp to determine the psychological motives for his crimes." It's hard to take a snippet of these recommendations, so my apologies for over-quoting: " I was enthralled with this historical thriller. Gallows humor and Dickensian details permeate its twisty narrative, one that takes readers to the dark heart of a series of real crimes in Victorian Dublin where shadows loom everywhere."

--and finally, Marry, Kiss, Kill, by Anne Flett-Giordano. This funny mystery is written by a writer from Cheers, "set in Santa Barbara during a film festival awash in A-list celebs and the hoity-toity of town." It's zingy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Midsummer Mishaps! Andrew Knapp and Momo Rescheduled for Sunday, June 28, 3 pm, While Mary Alice Monroe is Cancelled.

While authors and publishers fret about touring in winter, it turns out that every season has its own mishaps. Last year we lost a good chunk of our audience for Jonathan Lethem's Dissident Gardens appearance due to bad storms about an hour before start time. One couple told me that they were on their way, but had to turn around when a tree was blocking the road.

Last night we worried about similar storms for Andrew Maraniss and Strong Inside, but the second round wound up going south of Milwaukee. Even with some overly cautious folks staying away, we had a nice showing of folks coming out to hear about Perry Wallace, the African American college student who integrated the SEC basketball conference while playing for Vanderbilt, a school that itself had only been integrated for two years. In an amusing aside, two attendees arrived thinking that David Maraniss was speaking. I'm glad they stayed for the talk anyway, partly because it was so good, and partly because they got to meet the elder Maraniss anyway, who came out to see his son. Signed copies available, of course.

No such luck for Mary Alice Monroe, who had to cancel her Illinois and Wisconsin dates for The Summer's End, the concluding volume of her Lowcountry Summer trilogy. Alas, doctor's orders as she broke her wrist. She'll probably be back in the area for a future book, so keep up with our schedule. 

Better news for Andrew Knapp and Momo, who are touring the country by car for Find Momo Coast to Coast. Car trouble forced them to delay some events, and so our Wednesday appearance has now been rescheduled for Sunday, June 28, 3 pm. In a way, that's great, a little more family friendly. And what with our gearing up for the Find Waldo Local program in July, the Find Momo books will get you up to speed for the eye coordination to spot Waldo at 30 local retailers. 

Momo, a six-year-old Border collie first came to fame on Instagram. As he told Buzzfeed, he was inspired by “having a handsome dog, a phone in my pocket, and social media.”

And as Laurie Hertzel wrote in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Momo’s passion is playing hide and seek, something his owner, Andrew Knapp, discovered one day during a game of fetch. Knapp’s book, Find Momois a Where’s Waldo? of photographs — sweeping vistas, urban landscapes, factories, playgrounds — and in each one, Momo is hiding, peering out of something or from behind something, just his intense eyes and the white blaze of his snout visible. Sometimes you can find him only by the bright red collar around his neck. Sometimes you can’t find him at all, and then the key in the back of the book comes in handy."

How can you not love Momo? As one executive director of a major animal welfare nonprofit said to me, "I have such a crush on this book!" So say hi to Momo and his human companion Andrew Knapp on Sunday, June 28, 3 pm.

Yes, I know this is pretty similar to yesterday's event post, but like a good novel, it has a lot more obstacles to overcome. Plus I'm worried about folks showing up on Wednesday in error. Help us spread the news. Sunday is now Momoday.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Boswell Events This Week: Andrew Maraniss Tonight, Robert Kurson at Whitefish Library Thursday, Andrew Knapp and Momo Sunday, Matt Burriesci Next Monday.

Monday, June 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Andrew Maraniss, author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South.

"(Perry) Wallace entered kindergarten the year that Brown v. Board of Education upended 'separate but equal.' As a 12-year old, he snuck downtown to watch the sit-ins at Nashville’s lunch counters. In 1963, he entered high school a week after Martin Luther King’s 'I Have a Dream' speech. While in high school, he saw the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, and his Pearl High basketball team won Tennessee’s first integrated state tournament. The world seemed to be opening at just the right time, and when Vanderbilt recruited him, Wallace courageously accepted the assignment to desegregate the SEC. His experiences on campus and in the hostile gymnasiums of the Deep South turned out to be nothing like he ever imagined."

"On campus, he encountered the leading civil rights figures of the day, including Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Robert Kennedy – and he led Vanderbilt’s small group of black students to a meeting with the university chancellor to push for better treatment. On the basketball court, he experienced an Ole Miss boycott and the rabid hate of the Mississippi State fans in Starkville. Following his freshman year, the NCAA instituted 'the Lew Alcindor rule,' which deprived Wallace of his signature move, the slam dunk."

"Despite this attempt to limit the influence of a rising tide of black stars, the final basket of Wallace’s college career was a cathartic and defiant dunk, and the story Wallace told to the Vanderbilt Human Relations Committee and later The Tennessean was not the simple story of a triumphant trailblazer that many people wanted to hear. Yes, he had gone from hearing racial epithets when he appeared in his dormitory to being voted as the university’s most popular student, but, at the risk of being labeled 'ungrateful,' he spoke truth to power in describing the daily slights and abuses he had overcome and what Martin Luther King had called 'the agonizing loneliness of a pioneer.'"

Formerly at the Vanderbilty University athletic department as associated director of media relations, Andrew Maraniss now works for the firm Piggott and Fox Public Relations in Nashville. Strong Inside recently received "special recognition" from the Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards. Maraniss grew up in Madison, the son of acclaimed biographer David Maraniss.

Thursday, June 25, 6:30 pm, at the Whitefish Bay Library:
Robert Kurson, author of Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship.

Two men, John Chatterton and John Mattera, are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. At large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the seventeenth century, Bannister should have been immortalized in the lore of the sea - his exploits more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s. But his story, and his ship, have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents, face down dangerous rivals, battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates—like Bannister—that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

Fast-paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, Pirate Hunters is an unputdownable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost.

Bill Streever writes in the Dallas Morning News: "Everyone ever bitten by the treasure bug — that is to say, most of us — will relish Robert Kurson’s new book, Pirate Hunters. It is nonfiction, like his earlier best-seller Shadow Divers. But also like Shadow Divers, it is nonfiction with the trademarks of a novel: the plots and subplots, the tension and suspense, the dialogue and character development, and the all-important tempo that keeps readers reading. Like a good novel, it tells more than one story."

And Howard Schneider at The Wall Street Journal likes the book, but is not too hot on celebrating pirates. They were, after all, pirates. The Whitefish Bay Library is located at 5420 N. Marlborough, just south of Silver Spring Drive.Their phone number is (414) 964-4380.

Our event with Mary Alice Monroe, scheduled for Friday, June 26, has been cancelled, due to a broken wrist. Offer your get well wishes on Monroe's guest book.

Saturday, June 27, all day, at Boswell:
The Downer Classic Bicycle Races. We're not having any additional events, but I wanted you to be aware that if you like bicycles, it's a good day to visit, but if you are afraid of them perhaps, or need to park very, very close to the bookstore, it might not be the right day to come. Downer Avenue, and east is close for most of the day. The best place to park is along Lake Drive two blocks (and further) south of the store, but that does also fill up. The gold line bus (formerly the Downer 30) is also slightly rerouted.

Sunday, June 28, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Andrew Knapp and Momo, photographer and subject of Find Momo Coast to Coast.

Originally scheduled for Wednesday, Knapp and Momo ran into some car trouble and had to reschedule a leg of their tour. But that's ok, because I bet they found more places for Momo to hide int he meantime.

From the Chicago Tribune: "Knapp takes his photos of Momo posed inconspicuously among landmarks, in gorgeous landscapes, or in shops or roadside stops. The focus is on the big picture; but look closely, and, yes, there’s Momo peeking out from behind a tree in Union Springs, Ala., or relaxing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or lurking among fishermen’s nets on a dock in Montauk, N.Y. An absolutely charming book."

From the Guiltless Reading blog: "With the success of the Where's Waldo concept of the first book, it's no surprise that the second capitalizes on this formula. Momo and Andrew continue their road trip in their yellow van throughout North America and the book's format is exactly the same -- short snippets and musings of the duo's stops followed by full photo bleeds where Momo is cleverly hidden at these stops."

"I enjoyed the coast to coast virtual trip through US and Canada with some amazing landscapes, picturesque neighborhoods, interesting architecture, iconic landmarks, and some seriously mundane spots! And - dare I say it - some of the most bizarre places (do you know where there are ginormous 36-foot tall The Beatles statues? Tallest filing cabinets? And it gets weirder!). Come sun or snow, Momo and Andrew just had to snap a photo!"

The British press loves Momo. Here's a piece from The Daily Mail.

Monday, June 29 (Summerfest Break Day), 7 pm, at Boswell:
Matt Burriesci, author of Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter and the Great Books of the Western World.

Matt Burriesci began his career at the Tony Award-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, and later served as Executive Director for both the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. During his tenure at AWP, he helped build the largest literary conference in North America, and he served as a national advocate for literature and the humanities. In his work as a consultant, he has interviewed dozens of global leaders in healthcare, scientific research, and higher education, and his stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines.

After his daughter was born prematurely in 2010, Burriesci set out to write a book about 26 Great Books, from Plato to Karl Marx, and how their lessons have applied to his life. As someone who has spent a long and successful career advocating for great literature, Burriesci defends the great books in this series of tender and candid letters, rich in personal experience and full of humor.

You never know what is going to bring an author to within reading distance of Boswell. In the case of Matt Burriesci, it turned out to be a family gathering in Lake Geneva. But the nice thing is that booking this event got the book on the radar of Boswellian Jane, who is always interested in books about reading, as you may have noticed from all our talking up of How to Be a Heroine: Or What I've Learned from Reading Too Much.

Here's her take on Dead White Guys: "A devoted father rediscovers his love for the great works of western classics as he packs his 54 volume collection away to make room for a nursery for his newborn daughter. Excerpting thoughts from his favorite thinker Plato along with others as diverse as Plutarch, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Jefferson, Adam Smith, etc., the author partners their words of wisdom with love letters of life lessons to his daughter for her to read on her eighteenth birthday. Reminiscent of Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch and Anna Quindlen's How Reading Changed My Life, this thought provoking book is perfect for readers who love the endlessly yielding power of the written word!" (Jane Glaser)

Here's Matt Burriesci in the Book Brahmin column of Shelf Awareness. He sure likes Plato's Republic!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Boswell Bestsellers for The Week Ending June 20, 2015--A Very Tight Race for Hardcover Fiction, More Book Club Sales, Film Tie-Ins and a Journal Sentinel Book Review, Even Without a Book Page.

The first thing I should note is that of our top 5 hardcover fiction would in most non-December weeks be our #1 book. We simply had three strong events (with four strong books) in the same category. But of course that only matters if you care about rank.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Jesus Cow, by Michael Perry
2. Summerlong, by Dean Bakopoulos
3. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard
4. A Winsome Murder, by James DeVita
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale, by Pam Federbar
7. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson
8. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
9. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
10. Dream Lover, by Elizabeth Berg
11. Death at Gill's Rock, by Patricia Skalka
12. The Love Object, by Edna O'Brien
13. In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume
14. A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson
15. Radiant Angel, by Nelson DeMille

Edna O'Brien's latest collection of stories, The Love Object was published in the UK in 2014; you don't usually expect to see such a delay in these times on an author of this caliber but of course we don't know the behind-the-scenes machinations. And this continues, as O'Brien's next novel, The Little Red Chairs, will be published by Faber this fall in London, but has an  end-of-March street date for the Little, Brown edition.

John Casey gives a pitch for this collection in The New York Times Book Review: "Some friends of mine, eager and literate, don’t like story collections. They don’t like reading 20 pages or so and having to start all over again with what comes next. Others, reaching for a loftier aesthetic, say they want a book to be a coherent whole; they want to get to the end and have a sense of the whole in a wordless afterglow. Yes. Certainly yes. And yet these selected stories gave me that pleasure. I noticed, for example, that an old favorite, 'Sister Imelda,' is a close cousin to'Old Wounds,' the last story in the collection. There is a harmony among all these stories that makes a whole."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Man Who Painted the Universe, by Ron Legro and Avi Lank
2. Power Score, by Geoff Smart
3. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough
4. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
5. A Lucky Life Interrupted, by Tom Brokaw
6. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
7. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
8. Peru, by Gaston Acurio
9. Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari
10. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
11. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
12. One Man Against the World, by Tim Weiner
13. Seven Good Years, by Etgar Keret
14. Gumption, by Nick Offerman
15. Stalin's Daughter, by Rosemary Sullivan

Those who took my advice and read The Tastemakers, by David Sax are probably seeing the way the food trends discussed in the book play out, from Sriracha to salted caramel, but perhaps the rise of Peruvian cooking is the trend that has the most people shaking their heads and saying, "how did this happen?" But it is happening, and Gaston Acurio's beautiful Peru cookbook from Phaidon is probably helping things along, as was this interview on Morning Edition, where they discuss cerviche.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Euphoria, by Lily King
2. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
3. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
4. The Martian, by Andy Weir
5. We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
6. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan
7. The Monogram Murders, by Sophie Hannah, continuing the legacy of Agatha Christie
8. Meet Me Halfway, by Jennifer Morales
9. The Magician's Land, by Lev Grossman
10. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng

When Sophie Hannah visited Schwartz, she had already won prizes for her poetry and was making her name with a series of a psychological suspense mysteries, which Anne, Sharon, and I had all read and enjoyed. While continuing that, she is also responsible for the new Hercule Poirot mystery, The Monogram Murders, which, as is the trend, breathers new life into an old hero, in this case, from Agatha Christie. Alexander McCall Smith discusses this at length in his New York Times Book Review review for the hardcover, and after some background, the fateful moment: "So at last we come to the crucial question: Does Sophie Hannah’s Poirot live up to our expectations? Yes, he does, and markedly so. Set in London in the winter of 1929, The Monogram Murders is both faithful to the character and an entirely worthy addition to the canon."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Cabin Lessons, by Spike Carlsen
2. Land of Milk and Uncle Honey, by Alan Guebert with Mary Grace Foxwell
3. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt (event 7/13 at Central Library, 6:30pm)
5. 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimers, by Jean Carper
6. Dead White Guys, by Matt Burriesci (event 6/29 at Boswell, 7pm)
7. The Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills
8. Waking Up, by Sam Harris
9. Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
10. Carsick, by John Waters

We're gearing up for the moment when Go Set a Watchman comes, on July 14. We just put out a table of what to read until then, including not just To Kill a Mockingbird, but Mockingbird (a biography), Scout, Atticus, and Boo, and doing double duty, as it's also on our book club table, The Mockingbird Next Door. Since Lee shows up in In Cold Blood and Capote is a character in TKAM, we included a few of his books as well.

Books for Kids:
1. Tales from a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen, by Rachel Renee Russell
2. Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
3. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell
4. Good Morning to Me, by Lita Judge
5. Because You'll Never Meet Me, by Leah Thomas
6. In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler (event 7/1 at Shorewood Library, 3pm)
7. Skink: No Surrender, by Carl Hiaasen
8. We Are All Made of Molecules, by Susin Neilsen
9. Paper Towns, by John Green
10. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews

Movie tie-ins drive a lot of the young adult business of late, and the two that are on our list seem to be dominating Bookscan lists nationally as well, notably Paper Towns, which opens July 24, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which is out and getting some very good reviews. Here's the trailer for Paper Towns. Here's the in-short review from The Hollywood Reporter: "A smart-ass charmer, merciless tearjerker and sincere celebration of teenage creativity, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl got a standing ovation at its Eccles premiere today and deserved it. The tragicomic story of the friendship between a misfit teen, his pal Earl, and — uh, you get the idea — is an illness pic without the guilt-inducing mawkishness or carpe diem platitudes. Film-geek friendly but thoroughly accessible and very funny, it has the makings of a mainstream hit. What's more, the girl lives. Maybe."

It's Summerfest Week and that means the book page transforms to a music focus for the day, but when a book like Death and Mr. Pickwick comes around, I guess you find space! Mike Fischer's review of Stephen Jarvis's novel Here's his pitch: "How can I convince you to lose yourself in first-time novelist Stephen Jarvis' magnificent, 816-page Death and Mr. Pickwick? Perhaps by reminding you that "The Pickwick Papers" — the greatest phenomenon in literary history and, during its first century, the world's best known book after the Bible — was an equally big book by another rookie novelist named Charles Dickens?"

Need more convincing? Here's the Guardian review from D.J. Taylor.

One last thing, I should note that Jim Higgins has a piece about Andrew Maraniss's Strong Inside, on the Journal Sentinel website. One nugget: "Incredibly, the gauntlet of racism Wallace would run over the next four years, Maraniss reports, began in a church near the Vanderbilt campus, whose white elders told him, we're not prejudiced, but some members will write the church out of their wills if you keep attending." Our event is Monday, June 22, 7 pm.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Event Blog! Ron Legro and Avi Lank Tonight on the Kovac Planetarium, Pam Federbar's Feng Shui Novel Tuesday, Spike Carlsen at the Elm Grove Library Wednesday while Mystery Novelists Michael Harvey and Josh Stephens are at Boswell, Jim Shepard Thursday, Michael Perry and Dean Bakopoulos Friday, Alan Guebert and His Farm Stories Saturday.

Monday, June 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Ron Legro and Avi Lank, authors of The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods.

Here's a case where there's been so much press on the book before our event that we can let others speak for us as to why you should join us for tonight's event.

From the WUWM Lake Effect broadcast on Friday: "In the tiny town of Monico there’s a unique planetarium created by a unique man. It’s the Kovac Planetarium and it is the creation of Frank Kovac, Junior. Kovac and his planetarium are the subject of a new book by Sentinel writers Avi Lank and Ron Legro. Legro and Lank have written The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the North Woods. Lank describes the Kovac Planetarium as truly one of a kind, built so that when you walk inside "it rotates around you, with the stars painted on it and glowing at you in the dark. It's one of only four of it's type in the world and it's by far the largest," says Lank.

From Allison Garcia's profile/review in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "How did the planetarium end up in northern Wisconsin? Kovac wanted to live somewhere he could see the stars without the distortion of light pollution. Before building the planetarium, Kovac constructed an observatory in honor of his father. The clear skies of the Northwoods were invaluable to him. Legro and Lank also show the impact Kovac had on the community. At one point the city of Crandon next door was considering a new lighting scheme that would have diminished viewers' ability to see the stars. When Kovac asked the chamber of commerce to reconsider, it did, realizing that the unobstructed night sky is a valuable resource to the area.

Tuesday, June 16, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Pam Federbar, author of Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale.

It's always a tricky thing trying to determine a launch date. In the case of The Man Who Painted the Universe, we had the books for close to a month. In the case of Pam Federbar's launch for Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale, we probably won't have them until the event itself. Fortunately we asked for jackets for the book and we created a window display to help promote it.

Here's a little more about the story. Charlotte Nightingale has the worst luck in the world. Her cluttered apartment is the poster child for “shar chi” – poison luck in the realm of feng shui. Her boyfriend’s a jerk, her job sucks, she’s broke and her own family seems to hate her. Every day is a bad hair day. Kwan, a handsome Chinese food delivery man and aspiring feng shui practitioner, takes pity on Charlotte. While Charlotte searches for the money to pay for the Emperor’s cashew chicken Kwan has delivered, he surreptitiously begins to move things around in Charlotte’s apartment in accordance with the ancient art of placement – hoping to improve her life. Charlotte’s luck subsequently appears to change in a big way. It goes from bad to worse – or so it seems.

Pam moved back to Wisconsin after 20 years in Los Angeles where in addition to working as a photographer she directed tv commercials, freelanced as a producer on the advertising agency side, and wrote numerous screenplays, short stories and a novel. While there, she sold the film rights to the novella that became this novel to New Line Cinema. More on her Facebook page.

Oh, and one last thing. Apologies for a format error. We formerly billed this as a paperback original, but Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale is being released in hardcover.

Wednesday, June 17, 6:30 pm, at the Elm Grove Library:
Author of Cabin Lessons: A Nail-By-Nail Tale: Building Our Dream Cottage from 2x4s, Blisters, and Love.

Carpenter Spike Carlsen, his wife, and their recently blended family of five kids set out to build a cabin on the north shore of Lake Superior. Part building guide and part memoir, Cabin Lessons tells the funny, wry, and heartwarming story of their eventful journey -- from buying land on an eroding cliff to (finally) enjoying the hideaway of their dreams. Learning as they go, and learning about themselves and each other along the way, they find in the end that they've built a strong family as well as a sturdy cabin.

It's hard to not return to the Minneapolis Star Tribune review/profile from Tori J. McCormick. Here's a taste: "'Writing ‘Cabin Lessons’ pulled together all the things I love: Writing, building, my wife, our kids and the North Shore (of Lake Superior),' he said. Asked if building a cabin from scratch was more like poetry or prose, he said: 'Designing it was closer to poetry — free verse at that. We stayed fluid during construction to accommodate materials and whims encountered. But looking back you could almost see it as a collection of short stories, each with its own little plot.'"

'Using a smudged piece of graph paper as a blueprint, Carlsen and company finished the 600-square-foot cabin in 2005. Construction took two years, but he’s still 'picking away at it,' he said. However, the book took far longer. It came together in fits and starts over roughly 10 years before it was finally published. 'We didn’t have a set schedule, so that eliminated the pressure lots of people encounter when building or remodeling,' he said of the cabin. 'And doing most of the work ourselves removed a lot of the financial angst. I think we defrayed roughly 50 percent of the cost.'"

My goodness, it can be a bit confusing to lay out quotes within quotes. The Elm Grove Library is located at 13600 Juneau Boulevard, just a few blocks off the center of town. Elm Grove is just north of Bluemound Road and just east of Brookfield. And here's the Trip Advisor list of best Elm Grove restaurants, but note you can also eat in Brookfield or Wauwatosa.

Wednesday, June 17, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Harvey, author of The Governor's Wife
Josh K. Stephens, author of Scratch the Surface.

Michael Harvey returns to the Michael Kelly series, who is Chicago's favorite Ovid-reading, gun-toting private investigator. This time he takes on Illinois’s first family in a blistering thriller that charts the border where ambition ends and evil begins.

Michael Tedesco reviews the book for the San Antonio Express-News: "The latest case begins with a strange email sent to Harvey’s hero in the series, investigator Michael Kelly. An anonymous client offers Kelly $200,000 to find disgraced Illinois governor Raymond Perry, who disappeared just minutes after he was sentenced to 37 years in federal prison for wire fraud and racketeering. The last known sighting of the governor was from security camera footage that showed him entering a courthouse elevator. The elevator descended to the parking garage where his wife was waiting. It was empty."

Appearing with Harvey is Josh K. Stephens is a first-time mystery writer and former bookseller at Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, Illinois.

On Scratch the Surface: "Deuce Walsh is a former gangster trying to keep his past hidden in the middle of nowhere Midwest. Seven years ago, his colleagues-The Chianti Brothers-made a power play and left him for dead. He survived, but had to leave everything behind and start from scratch with a new identity. But when his brother-in-law Colm, a degenerate gambler and wannabe wiseguy, gets himself into trouble, Deuce is brought back into the life of crime and finds himself helping Colm pay off a debt to the very people who tried to have him killed in the first place."

Thursday, June 18, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jim Shepard, author of The Book of Aron. Photo credit Barry Goldstein.
This event is co-sponsored by the UWM Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies.

We've had some good advance sales on The Book of Aron! Here's my rec: "When one family is moved from the Polish countryside into the city of Warsaw, they have no idea of the fate that awaits them and Poland’s Jewish population as Hitler rises to power. Their son Aron, however, is one scrappy boy and is able to avoid any number of gruesome ends. Shepard’s novel is both plain-spoken and poetic, documenting not just the big tragedies, but the mean-spirited pettiness that the Jews faced. Sometimes it’s almost funny, but underlying the humor is always heartbreak. The story itself is apparently inspired by a real-life beloved Polish-Jewish educator and child advocate who refused to abandon the charges in his orphanage. For those who feel they’ve read enough about the Holocaust, let them just try to get through The Book of Aron without the shell around their heart cracking."

Michael Upchurch calls The Book of Aron "a remarkable novel" in The Seattle Times.

Robert Wiersema proclaims Jim Shepard's novel "stunning" in Canada's National Post.

And while I don't normally post negative reviews, this essay from David Herman in the UK's Jewish Chronicle raises the issue of whether we are allowed to have fiction about the Holocaust at all. He has indicated that the only written chronicles should be that of survivors. It's an odd take, considering the breadth and majesty of already published works, to say nothing of all the fiction that has been written of other world tragedies, but if nothing else, it will certainly make a discussion of The Book of Aron a bit more spirited.

Spirited! Here's a reader responding to Geraldine Brooks' assertion in The New York Times Book Review that The Book of Aron should have been written through the eyes of the Janusz Korczak rather than through a young boy. You can also link to the original review that is linked to the piece.

Friday, June 19, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Perry, author of The Jesus Cow
in conversation with
Dean Bakopoulos, author of Summerland.

As I've mentioned before, Dean Bakopoulos may have grown up in Michigan and he may now live in Iowa, but he'll always be an honorary Wisconsinite. Why here's our own Jane Hamilton on Dean's work: "“There is no better guide through a hot summer in the heartland than Dean Bakopoulos.”

Bakopoulos also got a starred review from Booklist, and might I remind you that it is the only one of the advance review organs based in the Midwest, as it is published by the American Library Association. "Tennessee Williams has nothing on Bakopoulos (My American Unhappiness, 2011) when it comes to marital and moral dissipation fueled by the summer's rising temperatures. Yet into this emotional abyss Bakopoulos injects a high degree of coy humor and wry self-deprecation to deliver a heartbreaking and wise novel of false starts and new beginnings. A sure hit with fans of the three Jonathans: Dee, Franzen, and Tropper."

And here's the Kirkus, which I'll say up front is a bit mixed. But the anonymous reviewer offers: "To its credit, the novel stays light on its feet; its breezy chapters are laced with sex and humor, the latter most often in the form of Ruth Manetti, the pot-smoking owner of the manse that becomes the hub for the various machinations. Indeed, between the louche vibe and matriarchal presence, the novel often feels like Armistead Maupin’s San Francisco teleported to the Midwest." Well, I am all for Armistead Maupin in Wisconsin, aren't you?

Just the perfect tone, really, to match Michael Perry's The Jesus Cow, which came out a few weeks ago. Here's Jim Higgins's review in the Journal Sentinel: "Wisconsin essayist-humorist Michael Perry's first novel for adults, The Jesus Cow, is a comedy — and a gentle one at that, with its heavy being a failed, lovelorn developer who listens to overcaffeinated business motivational recordings and sleeps with a CPAP mask on. But 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."

Christine Brunkhorst reviewed The Jesus Cow for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She writes: "After successful memoirs such as Population: 485 and Truck: A Love Story, this is Michael Perry’s first novel for adults, and it’s a good one. The tale, set in the small town of Swivel, Wis., is laugh-out-loud funny and propelled by plot lines that come together in an explosive climax."

So put together these two funny people and I think you've got something special on your hands It's not the first time we've hosted either Bakopoulos or Perry, and I find myself sometimes fretting to play, "can you top this?" I also knew that it would be really great if Perry could do both Boswell and Books and Company, which he's not always able to do. Here was a case where he could do his traditional Milwaukee launch in Oconomowoc and have something equally special later in Milwaukee. It's a win-win for everyone.

I have mentioned before that our old sales rep and dear friend Mark Gates was immortalized in Dean's second novel, My American Unhappiness (as Mack Fences, of course). But you may not know that Mark was the inspiration for the character Harvey Rhodes in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. He's the sales rep whose shoes Amelia Loman has to fill int he opening chapter. But here's another way Dean Bakopoulos is connected to Michael Perry, through Mark. It turns out that Mark, who was already sick when Boswell opened, was only able to attend one of our author events before he passed away, and that was our first Michael Perry event, for the hardcover of Coop.

Saturday, June 20, 12 Noon, at Boelter Superstore:
Stacey Ballis, author of Recipe for Disaster.

Stacey Ballis cooks up a delicious broth of a novel about a woman whose perfect life falls apart in spectacular fashion–leaving her with a house to restore, an antique cookbook (but no cooking talent), and one very unhappy schnauzer. Boelter will have delicious broth or something even more delicious at Ballis's event.

Saturday, June 20, 2 pm, at Boswell:
Alan Guebert and Mary Grace Foxwell: Author and co-author/editor of The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey: Memories from the Farm of My Youth.

From the author, as written in AGWeek: "My great Uncle Honey wasn’t just a paradox; Honey was the perfect paradox. Seated on a tractor, there wasn’t an implement, animal or telephone pole Honey couldn’t bend, bind or break. Machinery dealers loved him; cows and cats feared him. Off a tractor, however, Honey was as peaceful as a June sunrise. He nodded more than talked, smiled more than frowned, and always wore a broad-brimmed hat, never a cap. He was an important, albeit dangerous, part of my wide-eyed youth."

Guebert's heartfelt and humorous reminiscences depict the hard labor and simple pleasures to be found in ennobling work, and show that in life, as in farming, Uncle Honey had it right with his succinct philosophy for overcoming adversity: "the secret's not to stop."

And don't forget Monday, June 22, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Andrew Maraniss, author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South.

Madison-bred Maraniss (writing runs in the family, as he is David's son) has chronicled the breaking of the color line by Perry Wallace, the first African American player in the SEC, the conference for Southern colleges and universities.

Bob Minzesheimer writes in The Washington Post: "Maraniss’s biography is a long-overdue tribute to this little-known player. Although Wallace was not the first black athlete to play on a major college basketball team — among his many predecessors was Jackie Robinson of UCLA — his experience demonstrates the difficulties faced by black athletes, even as the civil rights movement was unfolding. Drawing on interviews with Wallace, his former teammates and others, Maraniss offers a portrait of an ugly time: 'He was spit on and pelted with Cokes, ice and coins. At LSU, some Vanderbilt players claimed, a dagger was thrown on the court in Wallace’s direction. . . . In Knoxville, teammates remember, fans dangled a noose near the Vanderbilt bench.'”

And here's a profile from Laura Philpott for the Nashville Tennessean. Philpott also edits the online magazine for Parnassus Books, and this piece was in conjunction with Maraniss's appearance there. From Philpott: "The book takes readers on an enthralling trip back in time and place to the South as it was 50 years ago. Nashville readers will be drawn to the book’s regional subject matter; readers everywhere will appreciate its combination of literary ingredients — humanity, tension, brutally honest reporting, thoughtful storytelling and, yes, sports."

And I should note that Strong Inside was just honored with an RFK Special Recognition Award for Journalism.