Monday, November 30, 2015

Event Forecast: Kevin Keefe November 30, B.A. Shapiro December 1, John Gurda December 2, "The Story of My Life December 3-5 and 10-13."

For train fans!
Monday, November 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Kevin Keefe, author of Railroad Vision: Steam Era Images from the Trains Magazine Archives

Join Kevin Keefe, former editor and publisher of Trains Magazine, as he discusses the legendary locomotives from famous railroads such as New York Central, Norfolk & Western, and Union Pacific and the lost world of the steam short line as well as the intimate details of railroading: gallant locomotive engineers, gritty roundhouse workers, elegantly uniformed conductors. For art and historical fiction fans!

Tuesday, December 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
B.A. Shapiro, author of The Muralist

Here's the Indie Next rec from Anderson McKean of Page and Palette in the Birmingham, Alabama area: “With the same level of intrigue and attention to detail that drew readers to The Art Forger, The Muralist focuses on the early days of WWII and the dawn of Abstract Expressionism. Shapiro brings to life New York City artists Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, who are both inspired by the novel's brave and talented protagonist, Alizée Benoit. As these struggling artists find traction within their trade, Benoit attempts to bring awareness to the plight of European refugees and to defuse anti-Semitic politics in the U.S. through her art. Moving from past to present, readers will cheer for Benoit's grandniece, Danielle, who is researching her family history to find the truth about Alizée's mysterious disappearance and shed light on the sacrifices and contributions she made through art. Shapiro delivers another fascinating and compelling story.”

From Charles Finch in USA Today: "My favorite parts of Shapiro’s novel are the ones where Alizée takes on Breckenridge Long, a powerful Roosevelt official doing everything he can to prevent the entry of European refugees. This is a group of people that includes her own family, which makes for tense, sharp, dramatic scenes, with an uncomfortably close relevance to our present political moment."

For Milwaukee fans!
Wednesday, December 2, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Gurda, author of Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods

There's no question that Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods is our book of the year. Though we might sell more of some event titles, this will be our bestselling book that was not connected to a multiple-copy sale or connected to ticket purchase. And what a book it is! Years in the making, this is a spectacular neighborhood-by-neighborhood history of Milwaukee.

The book may be pricey ($44.95) but it's actually a bargain, as you can see right away that foundations have helped pay for the coast of this book, which without that help, might have run $75-100.

Inspired by the Department of City Development posters of the 1980s, the book project inspired artist Jan Kotowicz to create 11 new posters to come out with the book, which are available at HMI. They've also gotten the rights to reproduce and sell the original posters from the city of Milwaukee.

We expect this to be a very large event, so come early. As always, we will close to the general public for the talk if we reach capacity, but we'll open again for the signing.

For Musical Theater Set in Bookstore Fans!
Seven performances of The Story of My Life at Boswell:
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, December 3, 4, and 5, 9 pm
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, December 10, 11, and 12, 9 pm
Sunday, December 13, 7 pm
Tickets are $25, $15 for students.
Please note that Boswell will close to the general public at 8 pm on these nights.

There's a chance we may be able to move up a few of the performances from 9 to 8 pm. If that's the case, the store will close at 7 pm.

We're pretty sure that nobody else has tried this one. Boswell is both the theater and the setting for a collaboration of the Milwaukee Opera Theatre and The Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. The Story of My Life is a two-person musical about friendship. Thomas and Alvin were close until one moved to the big city to be a writer while the other stayed behind to manage the family bookstore.

I don't really think people are understanding how magical this story is, how much it is about books, and how much it's also about Christmas (which is why were hosting this event now instead of February). And that's why I need to reprint the liner notes.

"For more than a century, musicals have told us all about love...but how many musicals have dealt with friendship?...Yet hasn't musical theatre given short shrift to platonic-but-full-of love friendship? (Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly don't count.) After all, this is a medium that has claimed that a girl's best friend is diamonds.

"Here's The Story of My Life to fill the void. It's about the unlikely friendship between a writer - one who tells stories - and a bookseller - one who lives among them: a conformist and a misfit, an artist and his muse. It's a bout the small moments - those seemingly insignificant moments that pass by unnoticed but have reverberations long and into the future. And in fact it's a love story of sorts, about two souls who meet by chance and forever change each other's lives.

"Brian Hill's book and Neil Bartram's score tell what happened to Thomas Weaver and Alvin Kelby, who met in first grade and became fast friends - which at that age, often means best friends. The catalyst for their friendship was Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, which each had already seen and adored before they met. Thomas and Alvin's contemporaries may have grown up refusing to watch any black-and-white movie, but HIll and Bartram offer us two old souls who could get past that barrier.

"In the days even before VCRs, let alone TiVo, Thomas and Alvin must wait for the film to air - which of course happens at Christmas. In the time between their annual tradition, they find they have much in common, in part because both are voracious raders (Old souls, indeed.). Alvin's the leader at this point, because his father ownsa bookstore, and Thomas is ripe for new material...While we don't meet Alvin's father in this two-character show, Hill makes him come alive for us through a fascinating detail: Dad was famous for taking a look at a customer and immediately guessing what book he'd like. Alvin endeavored to do the same, so he introduced Thomas to Tom Sawyer - which Thomas loved. When assigned a book report, Thomas chose as his subject Mark Twain's masterpiece that was originally published in 1876, writing that "Because that writer wrote this amazing story, 1876 was so much better than 1875."
--Peter Felichia

I'll speed things up and note that Thomas leaves Alvin behind, which of course seems a bit amusing for me, as writer friends always get back in touch when their book is coming out. But there was a period in the 80s and 90s when it was hard to get back in touch, and indie bookstores were taken for granted. How could one little bookstore help an author when there are so many reviewers to court, chains to conquer, and book clubs to be the main selection of? And well, Thomas is, as Mr. Felichia puts it, "a flawed friend." How the story plays out is the subject of this musical. (please note one of the several spotlights added to Boswell's ceiling at right.)

The cast:
Doug Clemons as Alvin Kelby (the friend who stayed home)
Adam Estes as Thomas Weaver (the friend who moved away)

The creative team:
Stage Direction: C. Michael Wright
Music Direction: Anne Van Deusen
Costume Design: Jason Orlenko
Lighting Design: Antishadows LLC
Milwaukee Opera Theatre producting artistic director: Jill Anna Ponasik

Here's another link for tickets.

Links to the cast album
CD purchase. Alas, not through us! We don't have a relationship with a distributor who is carrying the album.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers for the Week Ending November 28, 2015

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma
2. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
3. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
4. Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
5. The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende
6. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
7. Slade House, by David Mitchell
8. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
9. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
10. The Muralist, by B.A. Shapiro (event 12/1 at Boswell)

Why is The Fishermen #1 at Boswell? Yes, it's a great book, but alas, I'm not that great a handseller. It turns out he is back in town for an event at Nicolet High School. One author we haven't been able to get to come to Boswell since we've been open is Isabel Allende. She's moved over to Atria for The Japanese Lover, which has a recommendation from Boswellian Scott. Julia M. Klein in The Boston Globe writes "Isabel Allende, whose best-selling novels include The House of the Spirits and Eva Luna, has a longstanding penchant for magical realism, as well as for family epics starring female protagonists. True to form, The Japanese Lover foregrounds two women in a skillfully constructed nonlinear narrative about families devastated by historical trauma."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda (event 12/2 at Boswell. Come early!)
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. SPQR, by Mary Beard
4. The Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe
5. MKE Beard Book, by Jessica Kaminski
6. Lights Out, by Ted Koppel
7. Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks
8. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
9. The Giveness of Things, by Marilynne Robinson
10. Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Jason's convinced me to become an evangelist for Randall Munroe's Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, and sure enough, we sold two copies at the Buy Local Gift Fair today. Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing called it "brilliant and wonderful in every way." And The New Yorker has Munroe's piece on Einstein. The book is said to explain concepts using the "ten hundred" most common words, phrased that way because "thousand" isn't one of those words.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Beasts of No Nation, by Uzodinma Iweala
2. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
3. Shady Hollow, by Juneau Black
4. Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger
5. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
6. Nora Webster, by Colm Tóibín
7. Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
8. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
9. Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey
10. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Now that I've read Shady Hollow, I've really gotten into selling it. It's good to have a mystery close at hand during the holidays. Did you read my blog post about Juneau Black's book, remembering that Juneau Black is Sharon Nagel and Jocelyn Koehler. Jocelyn noted that Marlon James was stiff competition, and so the next installment might be called A Brief History of Seven Woodland Killings, which might give it a competitive edge. You all heard about how Girl on a Train got a great sales pop from being confused with The Girl on the Train. And of course it helps that the author came, but A Brief History of Seven Killings (we are out of signed copies, alas) is far outpacing 2014's Man Booker winner, Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North, but one should also remember that Flanagan was a hardcover during its prize-winning run. Intersting enough, hardcover sales on Flanagan and James are very close to each other.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. First They Killed my Father, by Loung Ung
2. Milwaukee Food, by Lori Fredrich
3. Milwaukee Mayhem, by Matthew Prigge
4. Mindfulness Coloring Book, by Emma Farrarons
5. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
6. Mini Mandala Coloring Book, by Susanne Fincher
7. How to Relax, by Thich Nhat Hanh
8. Educating Milwaukee, by James K. Nelsen
9. Pogue's Basic Life, by David Pogue
10. The Beer Bible, by Jeff Alworth

Trend #1 is Milwaukee Books. We should soon start having a nice sales pop on World War II Milwaukee, from Meg Jones, as we've just booked her for an event on December 29. Trend #2 is coloring books. We brought colored pencils to the Buy Local Gift Fair because we knew that people would want them. And of course the toy store across from us had adult coloring books two. And trend #3 is Thich Nhat Hanh. We love our chair display for How to Relax and can't seem to take it down. Instead, we just keep moving it around the store. You have to understand that we've had this little chair in storage for years and its just great to be able to use it.

Books for Kids:
1. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
2. Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg
3. Old School, by Jeff Kinney
4. The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie, by Chris Van Allsburg
5. Zathura, by Chris Van Allsburg
6. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg
7. The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, by Chris Van Allsburg
8. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg
9. Queen of the Falls, by Chris Van Allsburg
10. Two Bad Ants, by Chris Van Allsburg
11. The Widow's Broom, by Chris Van Allsburg
12. The Sweetest Fig, by Chris Van Allsburg
13. Little Tree, by Loren Long
14. Bad Day at Riverbend, by Chris Van Allsburg
15. Celebration of the Seasons, by Margaret Wise Brown

I hear this Chris Van Allsburg book is quite popular--and yes, we have signed copies of Polar Express. Another writer/artist on our list this week is Loren Long. Publisher's Weekly gave a starred review to Little Tree: "It’s the kind of parable that could turn preachy and soggy very quickly, but Long makes it work; in fact, his willingness to take his time and even test the audience’s patience with his arboreal hero’s intransigence results in an ending that’s both a big relief and an authentic triumph. Childhood is full of big, difficult transitions; Long’s earnest-eloquent narrative voice and distilled, single-plane drawings, both reminiscent of an allegorical pageant, acknowledge the reality of the struggle while offering the promise of brighter days ahead."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, it's time for their holiday round up. 100 Books for Holiday Gift Giving includes a special section of kids books recommended by Boswell booksellers.

Jim Higgins profiles Maria Cunningham, the rare books librarian at the Milwaukee Public Library.

Friday, November 27, 2015

"The Art Forger's" B.A. Shapiro Combines Art History and Mystery to Create "The Muralist," a Compelling Story of a Jewish Abstract Expressionist Painter Gone Missing During World War II.

I often find it interesting when novelists use the other fine and performing arts in their writing. Fiction about music, fiction about theater, fiction about studio arts. The last subject is a particularly appealing subject, and it seems like we could have a continuous display table featuring new novels about art. What’s interesting to me is that the market for these books runs the gamut from accessible to a bit highbrow, and even downright commercial. After all, Daniel Silva’s series of thrillers is about an art restorer, Gabriel Allon, who also happens to be a spy.

We had a nice run with Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers. Jane and Sharon are currently recommending The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild. And coming next year is a buzz book from Molly Prentiss called Tuesday Nights in 1980, which follows an artist, a critic, and muse through the New York scene of the early 1980s. It’s terrific, and you’ll be hearing more about it from me closer to pub date. (Editor's note: Carly just read it too and completely agrees with me.)

But right now I’ve just finished B.A. Shapiro’s The Muralist, her follow up to the breakout novel, The Art Forger. Like Sara Gruen and Water for Elephants, Shapiro had written books prior to her breakout novel, but none approached the success of The Art Forger. It was a great mix of art history and thriller, inspired by the mysterious robbery at Boston’s Gardner Museum in the early 1990s. It wound up being that book that appealed to both book clubs audiences and mystery readers. While a crime element can prove quite popular for reading groups, they tend to shy away from books that appear to be too genre, though sometimes that’s simply because they don’t want to jump into the middle of a series. (Photo credit Lynn Wayne)

The Muralist also looks at an interesting moment in time, the rise of the abstract expressionists. Sharpiro adds a fictional artist into the mix, Alizée Benoit, who works with actual artists Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning on WPA projects. Alizée wants to paint an abstract piece, but the WPA only wants representational art. Through Alizée, you sort of see the country’s transformation and slow acceptance. That said, this is an argument that continues to this day, with naysayers giving the old "my child could do that" critique. My advice: if your child can paint like Rothko, enroll that kid in art school.

But there's another story going on here too. Alizée Benoit has had a hard life. Her parents, both scientists, are dead, and while she is a citizen, all her family is still in France, Germany, and Belgium, desperately trying to get out to escape the Nazis. But when several try to come to the United States through Cuba on the St. Louis, they are turned away. While Alizée is fighting with authorities to consider abstract over representational art for projects, she's also desperately trying to get visas, knowing that there are people in the state department who want to keep Jews out of the United Sates. The story winds up having real-life parallels that Shapiro probably didn't imagine when she wrote The Art Forger. Coincidentally, the JCC is hosting Martin Goldsmith on December 3, 7 pm, who writes about the real life tragedy of the St. Louis in Alex's Wake.

There''s a contemporary mystery at work here as well. At a present day auction house, Benoit's grand-niece, Danielle Abrams, ponders the fate of her aunt, who disappeared during the war. While working on some new pieces, she comes across a small square attached to the back of a well-known artist's work, and it seems eerily familiar to another small work that has been passed down to her that's been said to be one of Benoit's surviving paintings. Could this new work help unlock her aunt's story?

Like most historical fiction, there's been quite a bit of research that has gone into Shapiro's story. One also has to understand that there's been quite a bit of fictional tweaking to the narrative. It would have been amazing if there were a real-life Alizée Benoit, but the fictional character is the next best thing, and brings the period to vibrant life. The Muralist is an exciting page-turner with great historical detail - it reminded me quite a bit of Tatiana De Rósnay's Sarah's Key, another story that connects the present to the past and brings a personal element to the tragedy of the Holocaust.

And dare I say it? The story has a lot of parallels today regarding Syrian refugees. I'm sure Shapiro didn't expect The Muralist to be so timely.

Don't forget, B.A. Shapiro will be at Boswell discussing The Muralist on Tuesday, December 1, 7 pm. And you can read the rest of our just out email newsletter here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What Would Happen if You Crossed an Agatha Christie Mystery with "Watership Down?" The Story Behind "Shady Hollow?"

The story begins in the small village of Shady Hollow. Vera Vixen is the ace reporter at the paper; her boss is a just-the-facts kind of editor. The economic engine of the town is the sawmill, but the village center is bustling with spin-off activity – a coffee house, a bookstore, a hardware store, even a vegetarian restaurant. It turns out that just about all the inhabitants are vegetarians, as they wouldn’t likely survive otherwise. Because the inhabitants of Shady Hollow are all woodland creatures – Vera is a fox, the bookstore proprietor is a raven, the town doctor is a snake, a beaver owns the sawmill, and his chief accountant is a mouse.

But the truth is that the story really began in a small bookstore called Boswell. There, several years ago, most likely on a winter evening where there was no author event to keep them busy, and few customers to brave the cold, Jocelyn Koehler and Sharon Nagel began to play with the finger puppets. And Sharon turned to Jocelyn and said, “I think this mouse’s name is Howard Chitters. And my goodness, he is a hardworking mouse indeed.” And over the very dead evenings ahead, the little finger puppets began to get names and personalities. The idea for the novel that became Shady Hollow was in place.

Now Sharon and Jocelyn both had been writing in their spare time; it’s a rare bookseller who does not dabble, being that we’re all surrounded by books all day. Sharon had taken part in several National Novel Writing Month projects. And Jocelyn? Well she soon moved east to Philadelphia, and started writing historical romance ebooks, which proved to be quite successful. And then NaNoWriMo came around again, and they decided to take the characters they had created and make a story. But what kind of story would that be? The answer was clear – it must be a mystery! And so Shady Hollow was born.*

With Jocelyn and her husband Nick already publishing their work under the Hammer and Birch imprint, it made sense for them to bypass the long and often fruitless process of finding an agent and a publisher, not when they’d seen the kind of success they could get by using digital publishing tools. They were savvy enough to not settle for the typical jacket treatments that make most contract-published works stick out like a sore thumb. And another breath of fresh air is how well edited the book is. If there was a typo or any other sort of gaffe, I didn’t spot it. See? It is good experience to proofread the Boswell email newsletter.

Shady Hollow was published in early November and we celebrated with a lovely launch, with very respectable attendance and sales. But of course I didn’t need to read the book for launch; when you know a lot of people like Jocelyn and Sharon do, the success of the event is pretty much assured, and my reading pile was high enough to be labeled “teetering.”

Something kept nagging at me, though. I knew that if I read the book and liked it, it really would make a big difference. If I didn’t like it, I could just put it aside and pretend I never read it. I wouldn’t be lying even – when someone asks me whether I’ve read a book, I consider a truthful answer to refer to completion, not process. While many people say they’ve read a book when they’ve read some of a book, I consider the only acceptable truthful response to be “I read some of it.”

And so I began. And dagnab it if I wasn’t pulled into a murder mystery featuring animals. From Lenore Lee, the bookseller raven, to Otto Sumpf, the cantankerous toad, Sharon and Jocelyn gave life to these characters and made them engaging and memorable. The story is a classic cozy trope – murder, yes, but not too bloody, with a little humor mixed in too. The friendship between Lenore and Vera is heartfelt, and there’s even a budding romance. I asked Sharon if she had named Lenore Lee after one of our customers, and she replied that no, of course her name came from two Edgar Allan Poe heroines, one of whom had some relationship to a raven.**

It’s a very good mystery, and honestly, you’ve probably never read anything like it, despite the occasional success of anthropomorphic animal novels like Watership Down and Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. Because of the animals, a lot of folks ask us if the books are appropriate for kids. It’s our feeling that if the child in question is reading Agatha Christie, they are ready for Shady Hollow. I remember reading Murder on the Links when I was a pre-teen, and while I didn’t quite understand some of the adult relationships, I enjoyed trying to solve the murder before Hercule Poirot did. I generally did not.

Pardon me for a little trade talk here, but the truth is that the blog has a decent bookseller readership, or at least it did when I wrote it more regularly. One of the nice things about Shady Hollow is that while it’s print-on-demand from Ingram, it’s available at full trade discount and returnable to bookstores, meaning there’s little risk in stocking it, except for the returns penalty. But really, with its attractive cover that really delivers on a clever and charming mystery, Shady Hollow is the perfect addition to a woodland creatures table, as these animals have been all the rage in the gift world over the last few years. Or heck, display them next to your Folkmanis finger puppet rack. Perhaps one of your young readers will come up with a book too.

Bravo for Shady Hollow, a charming and just a little frightening mystery. It's nice to know that Jocelyn and Sharon are working on a sequel.**

*I am not a journalist. There’s a bit of creative license with this retelling.

**My rule of thumb is that I use full or last names when referring to authors. But I feel silly writing Nagel and Koehler. But if you don’t know them, you should refer to authors by their last names.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lori Fredrich with Sanford D'Amato on Tuesday, November 24, Plus Mark Your Calendars for Buy Local Gift Fair and Kevin O'Keefe on "Railroad Visions."

Tuesday, November 24, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Lori Fredrich, author of Milwaukee Food: A History of Cream City Cuisine, in conversation with Sanford D'Amato.

There's just one author event this week, what with the holiday hubbub. Lori Fredridch will be discussing her new book from the American Palate series, Milwaukee Food: A History of Cream City Cuisine. As a dining writer for and with her blog Burp, Fredrich's has been exploring the food scene for years. And who better to discuss it with than Sandy D'Amato, James-Beard-Award-winning chef and former proprietor of Sanford.

Here's a link to her interview with Fox6. She's in the Studio A kitchen with Circa 1880's Thomas Hauck, who shows you how to take end-of-season tomatoes and squeeze out some tomato water to take your cooking to a higher level.

And here's Fredrich on Central Time, talking to Rob Ferrett and Veronica Rueckert on Wisconsin Public Radio.

Saturday, November 28, all day at Boswell:
Small Business Saturday and Indies First.

We're happy to be helping celebrate small business in Milwaukee. We've been such a busy little small business for the past few months that I decided to just sell books and not fill the day with programming.

Sunday, November 29, 9 am to 4 pm, at the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (The Domes)

--$7 admission
--free parking
--many of your favorite local shops, with a particular focus on foodstuffs

Monday, November 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Kevin Keefe, contributor to Railroad Vision: Steam Era Images from the Trains Magazine Archives.

From the publisher: "Seen here are legendary locomotives from famous railroads such as New York Central, Norfolk & Western, and Union Pacific and the lost world of the steam short line as well as the intimate details of railroading: gallant locomotive engineers, gritty roundhouse workers, elegantly uniformed conductors. Each photograph is accompanied by an extended caption by Kevin P. Keefe, whose long association with Trains includes stints as editor-in-chief and publisher. Keefe also has written an introductory essay about the history of the magazine and its founder, A. C. Kalmbach, and legendary editor David P. Morgan, and their impact on the field of railroad photography."

Some of you eagle-eyed observers may have noticed we switched the date on this event. This was scheduled months ago for the following Thursday, but as we got closer to the event, not one but two train-related happenings popped up in the same slot. One of them was the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train, which coincidentally is scheduled to stop in Milwaukee exactly when our event was supposed to take place. There's actually another train event in Fox Point going on. Let them battle it out--we moved out of the way!

Kevin Keefe is former editor and publisher of Trains Magazine and is now a director of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers for Week Ending November 21, 2015

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Lake House, by Kate Morton
2. The Improbability of Love, by Hannah Rothschild
3. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
4. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Muralist, by B.A. Shapiro
6. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
7. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
8. Fortune Smiles, by Adam Johnson (yes, we still have signed copies)
9. Six Poets, edited by Alan Bennett
10. The Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham

You can tell that Jane and I did some presentations this week, as two of her picks are our top two hardcover bestsellers for the week. Hannah Rothschild's The Improbability of Love is recommended by both Jane and Sharon, who called the novel "a joyful romp through the world of high-end art dealing, obsessive collectors, and family secrets." Amanda Craig in the UK Independent notes that "Part of the novel's charm is that its characters, rich or poor, are all a mixture of frailties. Like a Rococo painting, this clever, funny, beguiling and wholly humane romance is a treat worthy of its subject." It's giving The Muralist a run for its money as the art novel of fall 2015.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. In Pursuit of Beauty, by Timothy Whealon
2. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda (event 12/2)
3. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. The Bassoon King, by Rainn Wilson (signed copies available)
5. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, by Sarah Vowell (a few signed copies left)
6. Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations, by Greil Marcus
7. Real Life Rock, by Greil Marcus (a few signed copies available)
8. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
9. M Train, by Patti Smith
10. My Kitchen Year, by Ruth Reichl

This is our 4th design event at the Villa Terrace, this time for Timothy Whealon's In Pursuit of Beauty, and every speaker comments on how lucky we are to have this beautiful David Adler building open to the public in our neighborhood. Speaking of beautiful buildings, the Woman's Club, which is the oldest private club in the city and the oldest woman's club in the country, according to their materials, was designed by the architectural firm of Ferry and Clas.

One of the books that Jane was recommending at our Woman's Club lunch is Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year, a memoir with recipes that was inspired by Reichl's life after the closing of Gourmet magazine. Who knew that the magazine at eight test kitchens and 12 full-time cooks. More from this Morning Edition piece.

Paperback Fiction:
1. White Collar Girl, by Renée Rosen
2. Washing the Dead, by Michelle Brafman
3. What the Lady Wants, by Renée Rosen
4. Lila, by Marilynne Robinson
5. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
6. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
7. The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens
8. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
9. Best American Short Stories 2015, edited by T.C. Boyle
10. Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher

To continue on this theme, the grounds of the Lynden Sculpture Garden where Renée Rosen spoke about White Collar Girl were designed by William Langford and Theodore Moreau. The current home of the JCC, where Michelle Brafman spoke about Washing the Dead, was the former home of University School, and is on the list of historic buildings in the Village of Whitefish Bay. I'm glad to see that my enthusiasm for both All My Puny Sorrows and Dear Committee Members are popping sales a bit. In addition to our two offsites together, we both chatted with a book club for about 15 minutes in the store on our way to the Woman's Club, but then we left them with Sharon, who convinced them to read The Paying Guests.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs, by Greil Marcus
2. Educating Milwaukee, by James K. Nelsen
3. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
4. Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus
5. Milwaukee Food, by Lori Fredrich (event 11/24, 7 pm)
6. The Beer Bible, by Jeff Alworth
7. Lost Ocean, by Johanna Basford
8. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor
9. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
10. Milwaukee Mayhem, by Matthew J. Prigge

Seven of our top ten bestsellers are current or former featued event titles this week. It turns out that it was touch and go whether we'd have Educating Milwaukee in time for our event. After we scheduled our talk with Mr. Nelen, the pub date moved a bit, requiring books to be drop-shipped from the printer. Fortunately all worked out in the end, and while the snow scare probably depressed attendance a bit (our club is that after the event, the store was pretty much empty), we had a nice crowd listening to the how various educational policies have fared over Miwaukee's history. Signed copies are available.

Books for Kids:
1. Need, by Joelle Charbonneau
2. Hello, by Liza Wiemer
3. Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
4. Old School V10, by Jeff Kinney
5. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
6. Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson
7. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
8. The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau
9. I Really Like Slop, by Mo Willems
10. The 50 States, by Gabrielle Balkan with illustrations by Sol Linero

As one of those kids who counted the number of states visited, which by the way, I consider one of the reasons why I wound up in Wisconsin, The 50 States is the perfect book for me to hand-sell for the holidays. You can see the touch of Rachel Williams, who was most recently running the Big Picture Books imprint for Candlewick, in the packaging. Author Gabrielle Balkan and Argentina-based artist Sol Linero have created a picture book that doubles as both an atlas and an almanac. More on Wide Eyed Editions here from Publishers Weekly.

Please note: our sales for Chris Van Allsburg's blockbuster event at the Milwaukee Public Library will be in next week's list.

I am remiss in running down the Journal Sentinel book reviews, so here goes two weeks of links!

1. Mike Fischer reviews The Mare, Mary Gaitskill's first novel in ten years. Her last, Veronica, was shortlist for the National Book Award. Velvet is a Dominican girl who gets the chance to live in the country with Ginger and Paul and Fugly, their horse. Fischer writes: "Ginger falls for Velvet the way the girl falls for Fugly, setting up parallel explorations of all that's good but also fraught in any attempt to connect with another, no matter how loving such efforts might be. Particularly when, in Ginger's case, one adds race and class to the mix." Fisher calls Gaitskill "remorselessly honest and clear-eyed."

2. Jim Higgins reviews Concussion, by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Her book chronicles Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist, who discovered the links between brain injury and playing professional football. The book grew out of a story Laskas wrote for GQ, and is scheduled to be a film starring Will Smith this Christmas. The story is quite shocking, as Higgins notes: "Doctors paid by the NFL attacked the quality of Omalu's science, even though none of them practiced his specialty. When NFL resistance to the subject began eroding and the league convened gatherings of relevant researchers, Omalu was pointedly excluded. The NFL hired an independent researcher to go over Omalu's work. When that doctor confirmed Omalu's findings, the NFL buried his report."

3. Carole E. Barrowman pages through mysteries.

a. Barrowman's take on Barry Maitland's Crucifixion Creek, the first book featuring Sydney detective Harry Belltree: "Harry is booted off an investigation into a series of murders (a shooting, a suicide and a stabbing) because his brother-in-law is one of the victims. He ignores orders and teams up with a journalist working a land development story that may connect to the murders." Maitland has won the Ned Kelly award and his been a finalist for several others.

b. Dark Reservations, by John Fortunato is next, a special agent with the FBI who also has an MFA from Seton Hall. Barrowman calls it "a distinguished debut rooted in a southwestern landscape akin to late Tony Hillerman's books and populated with a similarly diverse cast of men and women." The investigators are Bureau of Indian Affairs Specal Agent Joe Evers and Navajo Tribal Officer Randall Bluehorse, who uncover a conspiracy after a congressman's car turns up years after his disappearance.

c. Erica Wright's second novel featuring Kathleen Stone, The Granite Moth, is up next. This time the private investigator tries to figure out who is menacing the drag queens in New York's Halloween parade. Barrowman: "All of this makes for a lively read as Kathleen tries to bring down a drug cartel while searching for the person behind a series of hate crimes."

d. Plus a shout-out to the new Sherlock Holmes novel omnibus in a deluxe edition.

4. Patrick McGilligan's newest is Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane, and it is reviewed by Chris Foran. The author will be at Boswell on Tuesday, December 8, 7 pm. Foran writes: "You'd be hard-pressed to find a figure in American arts around whom more stories swirl with varying degrees of truthfulness — in part fueled by the Kenosha native's own love of tale-telling. So in Young Orson, Milwaukee film historian Patrick McGilligan takes a different approach: Trust (sort of), but verify. The result is a richly detailed, often nuanced study of Welles' life and work from childhood through the first day of shooting of his 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane. It's a welcome addition to the burgeoning shelf of books on one of America's most distinctive talents."

5. Also reviewed by Jim Higgins is Robert Norrell's biography, Alex Haley: And the Books that Changed a Nation. Notes Higgins: "Alex Haley was a "working freelance writer, not an ideologue. Yet he wrot"e two of the 20th century's chief texts of African-American consciousness: The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the saa Roots. The latter was adapted for a blockbuster TV miniseries watched by a reported 130 million viewers. In Alex Haley: And the Books That Changed a Nation, Robert J. Norrell describes the making, often messy, of these seminal books and their powerful impact on American culture."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Event Forecast for Our First Significant Snowfall of the Season: Chris Van Allsburg is a Go, but Allen Eskens is Cancelled.

According to weather service reports, we are projected to have our first major November snowfall in Milwaukee in twenty years. Of course major is in the eye of the beholder - projections vary between three and ten inches.

Our Friday evening events are all regularly scheduled and perhaps are happening while you read this. Our public events are James K. Nelsen at Boswell for Educating Milwaukee,  and Greil Marcus at Alverno College's Wehr Hall for a ticketed event for The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs, with John Langford and Sally Timms.

For tomorrow, the forecast is split. Our event with Chris Van Allsburg at the Milwaukee Public Library is still scheduled to happen at 2 pm. Activities, including a model train area, a craft area, and a Jumanji-style game, start at 1 pm. Van Allsburg is scheduled to speak on the 1st floor at 2.

Alas, our event with Allen Eskens is cancelled. The author of The Guise of Another and The Life We Bury was scheduled to drive from Madison to Milwaukee during the storm. It just seemed safer to drive in the other direction, away from the front, and back to Mankato, Minnesota. But don't worry, I'm sure Eskens will come to Milwaukee for his third novel, due out fall 2016.

Here's a link to the email newsletter we sent out today, which also includes several staff recs.

Here's a link to our book club email newsletter sent out earlier this week, before Eskens was cancelled. It also includes info on our event with B.A. Shapiro.

Here's a link to our kids' newsletter. In addition to the Van Allsburg info, it also has a lot of staff recs for kids books.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Boswell Event Post: Renée Rosen, Joelle Charbonneau, Timothy Whealon, Greil Marcus, James K. Nelsen, Allen Eskens, and Chris Van Allsburg!

Monday, November 16, 7 pm (reception), 7:30 (talk), at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W. Brown Deer Road in River Hills:
Renée Rosen, author of What the Lady Wants and now White Collar Girl, with a book club presentation from Daniel Goldin and Jane Glaser.

After our wonderful event with Renee Rosen last year at Boswell, we thought it would be a great idea to switch it up and suggested her as a featured author for the Women's Speaker Series at the Lynden Sculpture Garden. Produced by Milwaukee Reads, the series offers a reception beforehand, featuring wine and refreshments from MKE Localicious, with a chance for attendees to meet the author informally.

Rosen's newest features another Chicago icon, the Chicago Tribune. Beth Golay of Books and Whatnot reviewed the book. She writes: "It begins in 1955 Chicago as Jordan Walsh arrives for her first day as a society writer at the Chicago Tribune. Walsh is replacing the latest in a long line of society writers who had aspirations of becoming the next Nellie Bly, only to realize their false disillusion in a man’s world, and leave to marry said men of the world." But Walsh, from a long line of editors, is not to be dissuaded, and finds a source at Mayor Daley's office willing to feed her tips. On a troubling note, her brother at the Chicago Sun-Times is killed while working on a story. Was he murdered?" In conclusion, Golay notes that "At 419 pages, White Collar Girl is not a quick read. In fact, it’s perfect for those who like to dive into period pieces like The Chaperone and The Paris Wife. It has enough grit to keep a reader engaged and turning those pages to the bittersweet end."

As part of our book club evening, we'll start things off with a presentation from Jane Glaser and myself, discussing some of the great new paperback reads for fall. You can register at the Lynden Sculpture Garden site, or by calling (414) 446-8794. Admission is $22, or $18 for Lynden members, and includes a copy of White Collar Girl.

Wednesday, November 18, 6:30 pm, at East Library, 2320 N. Cramer St., across from Beans and Barley:
Joelle Charbonneau, author of The Testing Trilogy and the just-released Need.

We're pleased to welcome back Joelle Charbonneau to Milwaukee for her latest book, a speculative YA thriller called Need. Charbonneau's Testing trilogy proved to be quite popular, and this event caps a day of school visits. As a teacher of theater and voice, Charbonneau does wonderful presentations - if you are an educator interested in hosting the author for a future visit, why not come see this presentation with some of your students and see how good she is.

 Here's a little more about the book. One by one, the teens in Nottawa, Wisconsin join the newest, hottest networking site and answer one question: What do you need? A new iPhone? Backstage tickets to a concert? In exchange for a seemingly minor task, the NEED site will fulfill your request. Everyone is doing it. So why shouldn't you?

Kaylee Dunham knows what she needs --a kidney for her sick brother. She doesn’t believe a social networking site can help, but it couldn’t hurt to try. Or could it? After making her request, Kaylee starts to realize the price that will have to be paid for her need to be met. The demands the site makes on users in exchange for their desires are escalating and so is the body count. Will Kaylee be able to unravel the mystery of who created the NEED network—and pull the plug before it destroys them all?

 More reason to read it first. You'll be in the know, as Bill Block's Merced Media is developing the book into a film. More in Variety. And here's the book trailer, featured in Entertainment Weekly.

Thursday, November 19, 5 pm (reception), 6 pm (talk) at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, 2220 N. Terrace Ave.:
Timothy Whealon, author of In Pursuit of Beauty: The Interiors of Timothy Whealon.

The friends of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum cordially invite you an evening with Timothy Whealon, Mr. Whealon's design philosophy finds its roots in classicism; however, he approaches each project with a fresh, 21st Century eye that makes them both modern and timeless. He layers items from different periods and cultures, artfully mixing the pristine and the patinated. Each interior is unique, often incorporating custom pieces specific to the client and the environment. His work is enhanced by both his extensive knowledge of the international art and antiques market and by his team of skilled artists and craftsmen who adhere to Mr. Whealon's commitment to quality and attention to detail.

Here's a profile of Timothy Whealon in Hadley Court, featuring some of his beautiful interiors.

Admission to this event is $20, or $15 for Friends of Villa Terrace members. It includes the reception and program. Copies of In Pursuit of Beauty will be available for sale at the talk.

Friday, November 20, 7 pm, at Boswell:
James K. Nelsen, author of Educating Milwaukee:  How One City's History of Segregation and Struggle Shaped Its Schools.

Here's my take on Educating Milwaukee: "Over the last fifty years, Milwaukee has seen great change. Per Nelsen, it’s lost 80% of its manufacturing jobs while absorbing many poor African Americans into its population, at one point having the second largest increase among major cities. How does one keep a public education system stable, holding onto middle class students (mostly white, but also black) in the face of changes in educational theory, the increased costs of special education, and the rise of charter schools and vouchers, in the midst of a very segregated urban area.

"Nelsen chronicles the various solutions of busing, school choice, magnet schools, charter schools, and vouchers, noting that even among African Americans, there has been a split between integrationists and nationalists. Do you make a school better in a bad neighborhood by making it competitive, or do you focus on serving the neighborhood? In some ways, it’s as much about economic segregation as racial segregation, with the middle classes voting with their feet if their child’s school experience isn’t the equal of the best suburbs. And some of our policies have clearly led to a lose-lose situation: kids traveling long distances to go to bad schools. It’s easy to be a critic, but Nelsen shows how one reformer after another has struggled with success. For what might be a dry topic, Nelsen does a great job keeping it interesting, and aside from his clear unhappiness with private vouchers, stays about as impartial as you can get, considering how polarizing education policy can be."

James K. Nelsen is a high school social studies teacher at Golda Meir School.

 Friday, November 20, 8 pm, at Alverno College's Wehr Hall:
Greil Marcus, author of The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs, with Jon Langford and Sally Timms of The Mekons,

Greil Marcus’ The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs omits almost every iconic performer and ignores the over-explained and the obvious. Instead, in a daring stroke, Greil selects ten songs recorded between 1956 and 2008, and then proceeds to dramatize how each embodies rock ’n’ roll as the animating force of our lives. Greil Marcus is at the forefront of the first generation of rock critics, the baby boomers who around 1965 invented the genre from scratch, but none of his peers can rival his imposing body of work, including his four major books, Mystery Train, Lipstick Traces, Invisible Republic, and The Shape of Things to Come. Rock legends Jon Langford and Sally Timms (the Mekons) join Greil in the conversation and perform each of the Ten Songs (including "To Know Him Is to Love Him," "Money (That’s What I Want)," and "In The Still of The Night."  Tickets for this event are $30, and are available here.

 The History of Rock and Roll in Ten Songs, and the just released Real Life Rock: The Complete Top Ten Columns, 1986-2014. And yes, Marcus will sign books.
Boswell will be selling Greil Marcus's books at this event, including

 Central Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Milwaukee:
Saturday, November 21, 1 pm (activities), 2 pm (talk), at
Chris Van Allsburg, author of The Polar Express 30th Anniversary Edition.

All Aboard! Celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Polar Express with a visit from the author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. Before and after the author presentation, take part in Van Allsburg-inspired art stations including an art activity led by Artists Working in Education (A.W.E.) and model trains presented by the Lionel Railroad Club of Milwaukee.

Who doesn't know the story of The Polar Express? But for three if you out there who missed it, here's the scoop: "Onee Christmas Eve many years ago, a boy lies in bed, listening hard for the bells of Santa’s sleigh, which he has been told by a friend do not exist. Later that night he hears not bells but a very different sound. He looks out his window and is astounded to see a steam engine parked in front of his house! The conductor invites him to board the Polar Express, a train filled with children on their way to the North Pole.

"The train takes the children to the center of the city, where Santa and the elves have gathered for the giving of the first gift of Christmas. The boy is chosen to receive this first gift. Knowing that he can choose anything in the world, he decides on a simple gift: one silver bell from Santa’s sleigh. Santa cuts a bell from a reindeer’s harness and the delighted boy slips it into his bathrobe pocket as the clock strikes midnight and the reindeer pull the sleigh into the sky.

"When the children return to the train, the boy realizes the bell has fallen through a hole in his pocket. Heartbroken, he is returned to his home. In the morning, his little sister finds one small box with the boy’s name on it among the presents. Inside is the silver bell! The boy and his sister are enchanted by its beautiful sound, but their parents cannot hear it. The boy continues to believe in the spirit of Christmas and is able to hear the sweet ringing of the bell even as an adult."

Please be aware of signing restrictions on this event. You may bring up to two books from home to be signed, with purchase of a new book, with a limit of four books signed per person. Mr. Van Allsburg will personalize, but there are no inscriptions (messages), posed photos, or signing of memorabilia.

Saturday, November 22, 2 pm, at Boswell:
Allen Eksens, author of The Life We Bury and The Guise of Another.

Last year it was particularly exciting to have hosted two nominees for the Giller Prize. This year the award we hit the mark on was the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. First Ashley Weaver, nominated for Murder at the Brightwell, came to Milwaukee, and now it's Allen Eskens turn. The Life We Bury was not only a finalist for the Edgar as best debut, but also was shortlisted for the Barry Award for best paperback original, as well as the Minnesota Book Award.

In its starred review, Publishers Weekly called The Guise of Another "equally compelling." Here's the setup: "Toiling away in the fraud unit while a grand jury investigates charges that he stole drug money, Rupert happens upon a case that he believes could return him to the department's good graces: a man who faked his death 15 years earlier in a boat accident off Coney Island has just died for real in a Minnesota car crash. Rupert wants to know who James Putnam really was and why he staged the coverup.

How does he do it? Well Eskens been a criminal defense attorney for twenty years. He honed his creative writing skills through the MFA program at Minnesota State University as well as classes at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

 Boswellian Anne McMahon is a fan of The Life We Bury, having hand-sold over 50 copies of that book to grateful readers. The mystery book club is reading The Guise of Another the following Monday. Please note the author will not be at the Monday event!

 Edgar winner William Kent Krueger writes that "Allen Eskens (photo credit David Dinsmore) has conjured up a marvelously black spirit of a novel. It s a taut, intelligent, heart-ripping story that explores the darkest places in the human psyche. After each unexpected twist, you ll tell yourself things can t get any worse. And then they do."