Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Ten Favorite Books of 2015, plus runners up, plus a few other top-ten lists, plus don't forget we're open 10 am to 5 pm New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

For a bookseller, picking your favorite books can be a challenge. Your top ten should sort of be a reflection of you. What are the kinds of books you read and which were the best. I already fear that next year is going to be more difficult, as I've read seven books that are being published in 2016, some of which I really loved. For some reason, at the end of 2014 I found myself catching up with books published that year. I feel like 2015 got the short end of the stick.

I'm running out of time so I'll update this post with images and links later in the day.

1. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff. While publishers are always hyping first novels, there's something magical about an author who breaks out after publishing for a while. Last year we saw the explosion of Emily St. John Mandel, and this year it was Lauren Groff's turn. My enthusiasm was helped by reading Arcadia for our book club beforehand, which sort of gave me an entree into what made Groff tick as a writer. There was no question that this was my favorite book of 2015, and the negative reviews (most notably from Sam Sachs and James Wood) just fortified my resolve. It was grand and glorious, as one person said, "Greek tragedy writ large." The language is beautiful, and the theatrical elements reinforce this sort of theme of facade that runs through the story, most notably between husband and wife. Plus it's pretty easy to describe, the story of a marriage, first through the husband's perspective, then the wife's, and the ambition of the book is tempered by the page-turning nature of the second half. "Must keep reading!" your brain demands.

Unlike last year, when All My Puny Sorrows and Station Eleven were fighting it out for #1, there was not really a horse race this year. But there were plenty of books I loved (and loved selling) and it was not hard to come up with a top 10.

2. How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics, by Eugenia Cheng. One of the things I learned about this book is that many mathematicians who are not in category theory are not exactly the target market for this title, thought I think they would enjoy it. Cheng teaches math to artists at the Art Institute (she's the scientist in residence) and that's really the place you need to start from to understand this book. Cheng mixes cooking (lots of cooking), running, music, and transit maps into the study of math. I love seeing a music piece transformed into a mathematical diagram, and I love how making a recipe gluten free, allergen free, and vegan is akin to generalizing a mathematical formula. Here's a math blog post I wrote earlier this year. Note a preview of the jacket in paperback. They also went white on the jacket and I'm noting a great "pie" focus on the design. Honestly, I think that's the wrong way to go. Yes, I think food people would like this book, but this cover looks a bit too homespun for me.

3. A Kim Jong-Il Production, by Paul Fischer. Many of the nonfiction books I read are simply too niche to put in a top ten. But A Kim Jong-Il Production is the kind of book I think I could sell to someone who wants an exciting nonfiction narrative. It's been very amusing to see the way that publishers have reacted to The Boys in the Boat success by publishing more stories of mid-century champions, such as The Three Year Swim Club (swimming) and Speed Kings (skating) and I expect there are more to come. But I think excitement can come from anywhere and I really enjoyed this story of North Korea's attempts to build a film industry to rival the Soviet Union, which of course led them to kidnap a star director and actress from South Korea to improve the quality. After all, the kidnapping was a matter of course for the country for many years, whether to teach spies English or provide concubines. Film people would love this book, as would history fans. But this is also a story of survival, and I don't see why a fan of Unbroken wouldn't take to this too.

4. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain. As a bookseller, our enthusiasm is enforced by our ability to sell it. I worried about whether I would enjoy Laurain's follow-up to The President's Hat, but it turns out the worry was misplaced. It's such a charming story, of a man (a bookseller, of course) who finds said notebook (a Moleskine, of course) with no identifying marks but pages and pages of journal entries. And yes, he falls in love with the writer. Where The President's Hat had Francois de Mitterand as the public character whose presence drives the story (the Maypole, so to speak), The Red Notebook has Patrick Modiano, as the mystery woman's love for the author's work is really the only clue to her identity. And that was fun because we the reader knew that Modiano had not won the Nobel Prize for Literature when Laurain wrote the book. It's a book that is driven by emotion, for sure, but it's smart escapism, and the sure-footed translation by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce, preserves the French spirit.

5. The Book of Aron, by Jim Shepard
While I am of the fence that anyone can write about anything they want, and if someone starts screaming "cultural appropriation", I'll take a stand, I have to admit when I started reading Shepard's novel, I did think, "Is he Jewish and how does that affect my reading?" But there's something to be said for a novel that's not inspired by incidents in the life of the author's grandparents (or more likely of late, great grandparents), much the way some say a novel can capture truth more authentically than nonfiction. Shepard's story of an everykid whose family is sent to the Warsaw Ghetto, is beautiful in writing, character, and conception, the way he takes the life of Janucz Korczak, the Jewish-Polish educator, and makes him a side character in the story, yet central to the narrative. This is no young adult novel, but I can see a teen reading it. 

6. The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma. If you need any further proof that my reading is often connected to context, imagine this. A publisher calls, and says, we have this first novel we like. The author wants to do some events, and we know you'll do a good job, but we warned that he knows absolutely nobody in Milwaukee. Oh, and you're getting the event the second day of the book being on sale, so you have pretty much no time to hand-sell it to anybody. Now sometimes I read a book under these circumstances, and say, "I better stop because my reading isn't going to help." And sometimes, like for B.A. Shapiro's The Muralist, the reading helped me immensely, as I stopped thing so much art novel, and started thinking, "perfect for fans of Sarah's Key, a historical with a French twist, Jewish interest, and for fans of modern art and its development, so much the better." So when I read Obioma's tale of a family of boys whose lives were cursed by a soothsayer in 1990s Nigeria, my brain went into overdrive. I loved the way it was both a timeless folktale and a timely allegory. And there's nothing like validation to reinforce your thoughts; The Fishermen was shortlist for the Man Booker Prize.

7. The Jesus Cow, by Michael Perry. I was on the fence here. I almost picked Lauren Fox's Days of Awe as my fifth adult fiction title, but I thought that it tilted my picks too much into broken marriage and despair. And while Fox is insanely funny in her dark way, I needed more of a classic multi-character comedy to round out my list. These are really my favorite kinds of books, though they are often not billed as comedies, as that turns off reviewers. And I think the best of what I read this year was Michael Perry's first novel. I love that it was Wisconsny (so it hit that Shotgun Lovesongs slot of last year), and had a juggling balls in the air kind of quality about it. I know that Perry is too seasoned a writer of nonfiction to start out with a first-person memoiry novel, but it was so much fun for him to get in the heads of so many different kinds of people. And there's a grace about the story too which I like, not just because a lot of characters are dealing with faith (in a very different way from Marillynne Robinson, I might note), but because he tries to find the good in all his creations, even if they are kind of assholes. Runner up for this slot: Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox.

8. The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds. There's a bit of slottiness going on here; I'm not doing a separate kids' list so I wanted to include at least one book that was from a kids' publisher. And while I read some great books this year, including two from Jason Reynolds, I decided to pick his quieter second novel over the also great All American Boys. It's really the quietness I love about the story, a teen loses his mom and immerses himself in his after-school job at a funeral home to work through his grieving. Matt is such a great creation, a very distinct Black teen who yet is completely himself, authentic and yet confounding some of the stereotypes that writers unknowingly burden their creations with. I love the mentor relationship he has with the director, the person he needs when his dad can't come through. And I love the fact that there are a lot of different kinds of funerals in the world, for lots of different people. 

It's funny that I read a lot of short story collections this year, and I don't think I even hit even a fraction of the major ones. Daresay the category seemed fulsome? I think it's harder for stories sometimes, as I want the collections connected by some element. While I'm not advocating for connected stories by plot and character, which almost seem like and are often marketed by publishers as novels with clever structures, it's nice to have a recurring tone or philosophy running through the collection. Sometimes I want to say to an author, these seven stories work well together; these four others might work better in a different collection. So I do not have a short story collection in my top ten but I will say that Liam Callanan's "140 Characters," from Listen and Other Stories is the most memorable story I've read this year. Yes, it's a bit of a trick, but it's one that I'll bet you can't try at home.

9. The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusions and the Dark Side of Cute, by Zac Bissonnette. A the end of the year, Jason asks us for our favorite books to feature, but I had such difficult selling this book from my rec shelf that I went with another title that had more success (a runner up - Between You and Me, by Mary Norris). But in the end, I decided that I liked this more, though it was  a tough call. I can't believe that someone interested in business or marketing wouldn't enjoy this book. Or a someone interested in economic theory. Or someone interested in pop culture. Or someone in retail who lived through this. Ty did a lot of things right, but their success was also partly accidental. Bissonnette got some great first-person narratives from colllectors, and wasn't really hurt by Ty Warner's lack of interest in being interviewed for the story. The Beanie Babies haunt me to this day; after learning that their customer service people always fudged expected delivery dates, I never believe a vendor on a hot item, and was shocked to see us get our second shipment of Kid Made Modern pencils in short order. Note: we sold them all (about 100 sets) in about three weeks.

One of my quirks is that I list all the advance copies I read in the year they came out so seven books (that's very good, it's up from two in 2014) qualify for my 2016 year-end list. But the books I read in 2015 that were 2014 titles with 2015 paperback reprints generally don't qualify either. It feels funny to list books that everybody was talking about last year, and in fact, I've had more than one bookseller wonder why I was reading "old news." Two reasons actually -- the first is that we get a lot of book events on the paperback tour (like Matthew Thomas for We Are Not Ourselves) and the second is that I run the in-store lit group and like to focus on titles that I missed the first time around, with about three slots a year to tie into upcoming events. But I thought, there has to be a dedicated slot for my favorite book in 2015 that was written before that. So that's what I did.

10. Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton. This was also a close call. But what I loved about this book was a surprise. Hearing Jane talk about it all 2014, I thought "I don't think I'm going to like this." But I thought, let's put it on the book club program for the paperback, and then I thought, let's pick this for in-store. And what really sealed the deal was how much fun it is to sell. The truth is that for all of these books, the experience of the book is as important for me as the book itself, which is why so many event titles wind up making the list. I get all wrapped up in getting the word out, so when I like the book, so much more rides on it. As you might remember from my book club blog post, Florence Gordon is an obscure feminist academic in New York, who is quietly working on her memoirs, fearing at any moment she could lose her contract. She's estranged from her family (despite their best intentions), only things turn around when: 1) she gets a major piece of positive press 2) and a piece of bad news about her health and 3) her granddaughter offers to help out as her assistant. She tries so hard to be an off-putting character, but the reaction of many readers is to fall in love with her. And Morton really captures the various waves of feminism in the characters. To me, this is the classic book that has a huge market at indie bookstores if only other booksellers discovered it and started hand-selling it.

Here's Jason Kennedy's top ten, as chronicled in The Boswellians. He counts down, and I think his attention to detail and order encouraged me to think about ranking. Back in the days of me making top 100 music lists, putting a song at 10 had dramatic significance, compared to a ranking of #11. I apologize, but I listed it in list order rather than countdown. It's still exciting!

1. The Middle Ages, by Johannes Fried
2. The Dust that Falls from Dreams, by Louis de Bernieres
3. Archangel, by Marguerite Reed
4. Epitaph, by Mary Doria Russell
5. Bonaparte:1769-1802, by Patrice Gueniffey
6. Bream Gives Me Hiccups, by Jesse Eisenberg
7. Concussion, by Jeanne Marie Laskas
8. The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi
9. SevenEves, by Neal Stephenson
10. A Field Philosopher's Guide to Fracking, by Adam Briggle

And as a special bonus, here's Nancy Quinn's top ten, my long-time colleague who now works at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center (and with whom Boswell is now doing events, including the long-awaited appearance of Helen MacDonald, author of H is for Hawk and Shaler's Fish. Tickets are available now for this event on April 12.
Here's Nancy Quinn's Top Ten, not ranked.
All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

As you can see, we have overlapping tastes. All My Puny Sorrows was my favorite book of 2014, but many, many people have been discovering it in paperback, and the world of mouth is great.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the New American City, by Matthew Desmond (To be published in 2016)

So here is where we differ. Had I read Evicted in 2015, it would still go on my 2016 list. And in fact I do plan to read it, just after I finish the novel I brought on a family trip. And yes, Desmond will be coming to Milwaukee in March. Details to come.

Honorable Mentions:
Honeydew, by Edith Pearlman (I still have to read her)
Our Only World: Ten Essays, by Wendell Berry
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald (see above)

Don't forget, we have special hours for the holiday, but we are open!
December 31: 10 am to 5 pm
January 1: 10 am to 5 pm.

Monday, December 28, 2015

OK, there may be a storm a-coming but after it's over, come out for Meg Jones, author of "World War II Milwaukee" on Tuesday, December 29, 7 p;m, plus a January 2016 event preview!

Tuesday, December 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Meg Jones, author of World War II Milwaukee:

We've only got one event this week, but it's one you won't want to miss. Meg Jones is a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who reports on military and veterans issues. As per the Pulitzer Prize website, "she has traveled to Iraq four times and three times to Afghanistan as an embedded reporter with Wisconsin National Guard and reserves troops since 2003." Jones was a Pulitzer finalist too, for her reporting on chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin's deer population.

Her new book, World War II Milwaukee, channels her experience in war reporting to World War II, using archival research to retell war stories with a Cream City connection. As Bonnie North noted in Jones's interview on WUWM's Lake Effect: "For Jones, writing a book was new territory compared to her reporting on military and veterans issues. While the interest in the topic was strong, she only knew the bigger picture of Milwaukee in World War II. Jones framed the book based on her knowledge of a Milwaukee captain of the USS Arizona at the beginning of the war, and the role Douglas Macarthur played in commanding the USS Missouri and his signature on the Armistice with Wisconsin Made pens."

The Journal Sentinel features a podcast with Meg Jones. World War II Milwaukee is also the Book Preview title in the Shepherd Express this week. Yes, it's not the greatest weather today, but the storm will be over by tomorrow morning.

Let's keep it going! Here are our January events at and or-cosponsored by Boswell:

Wednesday, January 6, 7 pm, at Boswell;
Of Mice and Men preview with actor Jim Pickering.

From the Rep: "One of the most celebrated works in American literature, Of Mice and Men is a compelling tale of friendship and survival. George and Lennie are migrant workers who dream of settling down on a farm where the land stretches on forever and the soft rabbits need tending. This classic drama is a touching portrait of two underdogs in pursuit of the American dream. Mark Clements remounts his critically-acclaimed production using Milwaukee Rep favorites after a record-setting production in Philadelphia, where it won 8 Barrymore Awards (including Best Production)."

Buy your tickets to the Milwaukee Rep here.

My sister Merrill used to have a great time teaching Of Mice and Men in her high school AP class. I wish I could come invite her to see the show, but I just don't think she'll make the trek from Arizona in January.

Friday, January 8, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Rebecca Scherm, author of Unbecoming. 

I just finished this one for our Monday. What brainy fun! January 4 book club discussion (and yes, you're welcome to attend). Who would have guessed that we'd pick two novels (the other is Boy, Snow, Bird) that had Hitchcock references? We've actually had a great holiday sale with this book, a great choice for the reader who wants a more cerebral take on a heist novel.

Here's Kim Kankiewicz in the Star Tribune doing a better job of making this point: "Unbecoming documents the evolution of an antihero, but it also represents the heist novel’s coming of age. Grace argues that art is 'not there to look nice [but] to scratch at people’s brains.' Traditional caper stories 'look nice.' They entertain without provoking deep thought. By introducing complex themes and one of the most compelling characters in recent fiction, Scherm has elevated the heist novel beyond entertainment. Like a painting that becomes more intriguing the longer you study it, Unbecoming is a genuine work of art."

Tuesday, January 12, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Nicholas Petrie, author of The Drifter.

You're going to think that my New Year's resolution for 2016 was only to read thrillers, but that's not the case. When I heard that there was a local angle to a new thriller from Putnam, I jumped at the chance to read it early. Whether you like genre or not, there's something cool about reading a book set in Milwaukee; just ask readers of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. The setup is an Iraq war vet who, while helping a deceased buddy's widow fix up her house, finds a suitcase filled with cash. She knows nothing about it, but someone put it there, right?

You're going to hear lots more about Petrie's debut, and after the celebratory launch at Boswell, Petrie goes on tour around the country, then returns for two library events, on Wednesday, January 27, 6:30 pm, at Whitefish Bay, and Friday, January 29, 6:30 pm, at Greendale. The latter will be a conversation with director (and mystery fan) Gary Niebuhr.

Thursday, January 14, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mark Zimmermann, author of Impersonations.

Zimmermann teaches at MSOE and last read at Boswell with the Hartford Avenue Poets.  His publisher notes: "Each of the persona poems in this collection is written in the voice of a historical figure, contemporary cultural icon, or well-known literary character. The poems are written in the lipogram form, a constraint in which certain letters of the alphabet are deliberately omitted from the work. In Impersonations, Zimmermann has limited himself to the letters contained in the name of each persona; for instance, the poem "Sigmund Freud" uses only the letters s, i, g, m, u, n, d, f, r, and e."

From Marilyn Taylor: "The artful manipulation of language is difficult enough for poets who have all 26 letters of the alphabet at their disposal, but here Mark Zimmermann has risen to that challenge under severe self-imposed restrictions.,.Much like the old-time magicians who could extricate themselves from locked barrels, Zimmermann's speakers manage, remarkably, to escape their impediments and speak, convincingly and eloquently, from their souls."

Thursday, January 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Hagedorn, author of The Insane Chicago Way: The Daring Plan by Chicago Gangs to Create a Spanish Mafia .

Wisconsin resident Hagedorn, who teaches in the department of criminology at University of Illinois Chicago, follows up his books People and Folks and A World of Gangs, with The Insane Chicago Way, which as the publisher notes, is "the daring plan by Chicago gangs in the 1990s to create a Spanish mafia, and why it failed. The book centers on the history of Spanish Growth and Development (SGD), an organization of Latino gangs founded in 1989 and modeled on the Mafia's nationwide Commission. "

"Hagedorn's tale is based on three years of interviews with an outfit solider, as well as access to SGD's constitution and other secret documents, which he supplements with interviews with key SGD leaders, court records, and newspaper accounts. The result is a stunning, heretofore unknown history of the grand ambitions of Chicago gang leaders that ultimately led to SGD's shocking collapse in a pool of blood on the steps of a gang-organized peace conference."

Thursday, January 21, 7 pm (reception), 7:30 (talk):
a ticketed event with Jennifer Robson, author of Moonlight Over Paris at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W. Brown Deer Road.

Margy Stratton, the producer of the Women's Speaker Series at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, has been working to bring over Jennifer Robson for close to a year. Robson, author of the historical novels After the War Is Over and Somewhere in France, is a historical novelist who focuses on Europe during and after World War I. I think that historical fiction is the sweet spot for this series, based on our terrific showings for Melanie Benjamin and Renée Rosen, and I'm thrilled to help welcome Robson to the United States (she's Canadian).

Jocelyn Kelley asked Robson about her subject in the Huffington Post blog: "I think I first became seriously interested in the Great War when I was in high school. In one of my English classes we were asked to choose a poem to study, and I picked Wilfred Owen's "Strange Meeting." I was so overcome by it that I read through all his other published poetry, then I began to read Siegfried Sassoon and then, probably when I was 17 or 18, my parents gave me a copy of Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth. I have re-read it countless times since and the moment when she learns of her fiancé's death still brings tears to my eyes."

As always, tickets for this event include admission, wine and refreshments, and a copy of Moonlight Over Paris. The cost is $25 or $20 for Lynden Sculpture Garden members. In addition to Milwaukee Reads, sponsors are Bronze Optical, with MKE Localicious providing food. And dare I say it? This event is perfect for perfect for Downton Abbey fans!

Tuesday, January 26, 5 pm (reception), 6 pm (talk), at the Central Library Reading Room, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave, 1st floor.
Lindsay Starck, author of Noah's Wife:

You're going to think all I do is read, and yes, one of the reasons I cut back on gift buying (congrats to Jen, who did a great job this year with boxed cards and ornaments), was to have a little more reading time, and that was successful, as my reading went up 20% over 2014 (66 books this year vs. 55 last year). And one thing I focused on were upcoming events with local ties. And the first thing that jumped out at me was Lindsay Starck's debut novel.

Yes, it's called Noah's Wife, but don't be fooled. It's not a historical novel, and while it's not religious per se, it does ponder questions of faith. The story is set in a town besieged by floods, so I'm guessing the author was reading maps and spotted the particularly brutal El Nino the country is dealing with. And yes, there are animals - the town's main attraction was a zoo, and when that flooded, the animals were moved to various homes and shops. And yes, there's Noah, a minister who comes to unite the town after the failure of his predecessor. But it turns out the challenge might be a bit too much for him. The story is told from a number of perspectives, and its heartfelt and a bit quirky too. Think early Anna Quindlen crossed with early Alice Hoffman, only there's no magic.

This event of course is sponsored by the Milwaukee Public Library, and how could it not be? As Starck notes in her first novel, she practically grew up there.

Wednesday, January 27, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jessica Chiarella, author of And Again.

Many of our first-time authors have local connections. Others have a very high-profile going into publication. Many times an author will have found some success, or at least solid reviews, and will tour for the paperback, such as Celeste Ng. But other times it just feels right to make a leap of faith and try our best to help break out a book and author. And that's the case with Jessica Chiarella, author of And Again. She's from Chicago (making it an easy trip that doesn't break the publisher's budget) and still in her MFA program at University of California Riverside.

I am always interested in books edited by Sally Kim. And Chiarella's premise is intriguing - what if you had a terminal illness, but then got the chance to swap out your bodies for a freshly minted clone? The story follows four people selected for this experimental program, and the complications (because you know there will be complications) that ensue.

And Again has been getting some very good advance reviews. Kirkus writes that "Chiarella's engaging writing creates so many haunting moments that readers will find themselves moving quickly through the story, as well as awaiting her next work. This is a novel about what it means to be human, with all the flaws and vulnerabilities that implies, and whether we can ever truly begin again." They are making the comparison to Station Eleven and it seems fair - both are books that have speculative elements that are not necessarily for folks who read genre. Instead, the challenge is to get folks to read outside their comfort zone. As a boookseller, the reward is that if a customer comes back and does like the book, it sticks with them longer than just recommending exactly what they'd like.

Thursday, January 28, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A ticketed event with Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, in conversation with Lake Effect's Bonnie North.
This event is co-sponsored by Milwaukee Public Radio, WUWM.

You may have seen Amy Cuddy's TED talk. No, you had to have seen it - it's the second most watched talk of all of them. And the book just came out, on December 22. It's after Christmas and it's all about you and how to be more confident. Cuddy, is an associate professor at Harvard Business School. I'll let them excplain her work: "Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge and influence each other and themselves. Her research suggests that judgments along two critical trait dimensions – warmth/trustworthiness and competence/power – shape social interactions, determining such outcomes as who gets hired and who doesn’t, when we are more or less likely to take risks, why we admire, envy, or disparage certain people, elect politicians, or even target minority groups for genocide."

Among Cuddy's influences are her colleague William Ury, co-author of Getting to Yes. His take: "What could be more important in life than being yourself? In this wonderfully engaging, intelligent, and practical book, Amy Cuddy unpacks the cutting-edge psychology of presence when we most need it. I recommend it highly!" Another work referenced is Susan Cain's Quiet. Cain offers this praise: "Amy Cuddy is the high priestess of self-confidence for the self-doubting. In Presence, she uses her warmth, empathy, and laser-sharp intelligence to decode the mysteries of presence under social pressure. A must-read for--well, for everyone."

Tickets are $30 and include admission and a copy of Presence.

Friday, January 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Charles Ries, author of The Fathers We Find: The Making of a Pleasant, Humble Boy.

You may know Charles Ries as Marquette University's senior director of development design and innovation in university advancement. But he's also known for his poetry, having already read at Boswell. Now his coming-of-age novel is out, based loosely on his own story of growing up on a mink farm in Southeastern Wisconsin. On the Marquette website, the author refers to his work as “a mash-up of the secular and the spiritual, the ordinary and the mystical.” His growing up in a "devout Catholic family. Of his six siblings, five entered the convent or seminary" has influenced the story of Chuck, who "stumbles to enlightenment" while navigating the nuns, priests, and hardworking churchgoers in his life.


Our holiday hours:
Thursday, December 31: 10 am to 5 pm
Friday, January 1: 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday, January 9: We'll open at 11 am after inventory

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The annotated Boswell bestseller lists for the week ending December 26, 2015, plus the Journal Sentinel reviews, including the Alice and Wonderland roundup.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
3. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
4. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
5. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
6. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
7. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
8. Avenue of Mysteries, by John Irving
9. The Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham
10. The Lake House, by Kate Morton
11. A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin
12. A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
13. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
14. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
15. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
16. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore
17. Outline, by Rachel Cusk
18. City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
19. Career of Evil, by Robert Galbraith
20. The Crossing, by Michael Connelly

When I heard that Amy Stewart's next book was a novel, I didn't expect her sales would equal her works of nonfiction, but just with hardcover sales of Girl Waits with Gun through Christmas, she's already beaten sales of all previous books at Boswell with the except of The Drunken Botanist (which we had an event for) and Wicked Plants. Steve Inskeep talked to Stewart about her book on NPR, explaining how a 1914 traffic accident led to her story.

Here's a little comping for author titles. John Irving's newest hardcover, Avenue of Mysteries, is now decently ahead of his last, In One Person (well, 5 copies) and that's life of book (and there will likely be more sales in 2016). One more copy and we'll also beat our sales for 2009's Last Night in Twisted River (for hardcover).

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. The Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe
4. The Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
5. SPQR, by Mary Beard
6. M Train, by Patti Smith
7. Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks
8. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
9. The Givenness of Things, by Marilynne Robinson
10. The Food Lab, by J. Kendi Lopez-Alt
11. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
12. The Witches, by Stacy Schiff
13. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald (ticketed event 4/12)
14. Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton
15. Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl, by Carrie Brownstein
16. The Bassoon King, by Rainn Wilson
17. 100 Documents that Changed the World, by Scott Christianson
18. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
19. Gone with the Gin, by Tim Federle
20. Destiny and Power, by Jon Meacham
21. The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf
22. Boys in the Trees, by Carly Simon
23. My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem
24. Rosemary, by Kate Clifford Larson
25. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson

What categories seemed to work well for us this fall? Well, a quick glance that regional titles were king. Our sales of Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods dwarfed the rest, but their dominance was mostly in nonfiction. There are lots of memoirs in hardcover, with a strong showing from women (six), with three being music themed - Patti Smith's M Train, Carrie Brownstein's Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, and Carly Simon's Boys in the Trees. SPQR and The Witches dominated the history category while one nontraditional biography (Notorious RBG, on Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and two more standard bios - Destiny and Power (George H.W. Bush) and Rosemary (Kennedy) - took home the gold, silver, and bronze.

Paperback Fiction:
1. My Brilliant Friend V1, by Elena Ferrante
2. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
3. Shady Hollow, by Juneau Black
4. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
5. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay V3, by Elena Ferrante
6. Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
7. Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm (event 1/8)
8. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
9. Best American Short Stories 2015, edited by T.C. Boyle
10. The Story of a New Name V2, by Elena Ferrante
11. Florence Gordon, by Brian Morton
12. The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
13. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
14. Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman
15. The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman
16. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
17. Somewhere in France, by Jennifer Robson (ticketed event 1/21 at Lynden)
18 Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
19. A Child's Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas
20. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

Publishers have hot streaks for sure, but it's unusual for the Penguin division of Penguin Random House to have 9 of the top 20 paperback fiction titles. Of course that comes with a caveat - I'm including the sold-and-distributed-but-not-owned-by Europa Books, which has three Elena Ferrante titles. The rest of the breakout? Two titles from Riverhead (Marlon James and Sarah Waters), two from Penguin-via-Viking (Rebecca Scherm and Sue Monk Kidd) , and two from Penguin-via-Penguin Press (Celeste Ng and Carlos Ruiz Zafon). And cheers to Rebecca Scherm, whose upcoming book club discussion and event has really popped Unbecoming. Publishers Weekly wrote: "Scherm mixes a character study with a caper novel full of double-crosses, lies, and betrayals."

Nonfiction Paperbacks:
1. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones (event 1/29, more stock on 1/28!)
2. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
3. The Enchanted Forest, by Johanna Basford
4. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
5. The Mindfulness Coloring Book, by Emma Farrarons
6. Milwaukee Mayhem, by Matthew J. Prigge
7. When Books Went to War, by Molly Guptill Manning
8. Essential Strums and Strokes, by Lil' Rev
9. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
10. You are Badass, by Jen Sincero
11. The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner
12. The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
13. Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin
14. Educating Milwaukee, by James K. Nelsen
15. Milwaukee Food, by Lori Fredrich
16. Pogue's Basics: Life, by David Pogue
17. Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
18. The Birth of the Pill, by Jonathan Eig
19. Milwaukee Mafia, by Gavin Schmitt
20. Concussion, by Jill Marie Laskas
21. Silver Screen Fiend, by Patton Oswalt
22. Girl in a Band, by Kim Gordon
23. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
24. How to Sit, by Thich Nhat Hanh (we should loan out our chair display to other stores)
25. How to Relax, by Thich Nhat Hanh

It's paperback nonfiction where regional books really shine - they have five of the top 25 this week, with Milwaukee Mayhem and Milwaukee Mafia splitting the bad boy market. We've got two film tie-ins with The Big Short and Concussion. I did a last-minute peek at the books at Urban Outfitters, and unlike other years, our books didn't overlap much, but they had a very solid pile of You are a Badass. Hey, if we were their buyers, we would have bought it for them too. As for the rest, a week before Christmas, it's possible they were out of the books they were selling well. Kudos to Jason and Amie, as we were hardly out of anything this holiday.

Here's Diane Patrick's profile of Chris Jackson in Publishers Weekly, who acquired two of the most popular books of this fall, Between the World and Me and Just Mercy. Read both and want to explore race and social justice? Jackson recommends:
--Ghettoside, by Jill Levoy
--The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
--The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabelle Wilkerson

Books for Kids:
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, illustrated edition, by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay
2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid V10: Old School, by Jeff Kinney
3. Peekaboo, by Giuliano Ferri
4. The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski
5. Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
6. Pierre the Maze Detective, by Hiro Kamigaki
7. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
8. Waiting, by Kevin Henkes
9. Zen Socks, by Jon J. Muth
10. Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins
11. Dinoblock, by Christopher Franceschelli
12. Harry Potter Coloring Book, by J.K. Rowling
13. Ms. Rapscott's Girls, by Elise Primavera
14. North Woods Girl, by Aimee Bissonette with illustrations by Cluade McGehee
15. 50 States, by Gabrielle Balkan with illustrations by Sol Linero
16. Picturepedia, from DK Publishing
17. The Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan
18. The Doldrums, by Nicholas Gannon
19. Dumplin', by Julie Murphy
20. I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
21. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick
22. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross Sections, by Jason Fry
23. The Polar Express, by Chriss Van Allsburg
24. The Little Tree, by Loren Long
25. The Imaginary, by A.F. Harrold

One of our big breakouts of the holiday is an import from Italy. Peekaboo, from Giuliano Ferri's Peekaboo is a charming board book where your tot can play the peekaboo game with a book. According to Above the Treeline, we're the #1 store for sales listed in the country. To my fellow bookstores, you'll find that folks will buy this if you display it. And don't be sad that it's after Christmas - it's likely that you will still be introducing it to your customers, and it's an all-year treat to young ones. Publishers Weekly writes "The concept couldn’t be simpler, but the warmth and personality that exude from Ferri’s wonderfully furry and fuzzy portraits give the sense that readers have just made half a dozen new animal friends, while a mirror insert ends the book with a playful surprise."

Last minute sales skew a bit younger than earlier in the season, as there are very few young adult or teen titles on our top 20. One book we had fun selling was Kevin Henkes' Waiting We had a nice display of the book put in our kids' window by Carly, and the book had a nice pop from our holiday catalog. While we were a relatively low-ranking #14 on Above the Treeline (of about 280 stores), one has to remember that 5 to 10 of these stores probably had event and/or school visits and we did on a combination of a built-in fan base and bookseller enthusiasm. I love this description from Dan Saltzstein in The New York Times Book Review, observing that Henkes "creates an appealing cast of toys to get at the concept of waiting — a tough one to convey to a child. (The best I could do during a recent attempt with my 3-year-old daughter: 'It’s when you stay in one place until something happens.' She was not impressed.)"

Over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Jon M. Gilbertson reviews Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll. He writes: "Less than five pages into his Sam Phillips biography, Peter Guralnick allows that his subject 'would have both claimed and disclaimed' the subtitle. Rock 'n' roll was more a discovery than an invention, and Phillips told Guralnick he just 'spotted the possum.'" Dwight Garner at The New York Times is also the fan, noting that Guralnick is "the perfect man to tell this story."

Jim Higgins rounds up the books being published for the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland. We're not always on top of these commemorative displays but Jen came to me with the suggestion, based on noticing what was being published in the gift world.
--The Story of Alice, by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
--The Annotated Alice: 150th Anniversary Edition, written by Martin Gardner and updated by Mark Burstein
--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Decoded , by David Day (Doubleday Canada but distributed here!)
--Alice Adventures in Wonderland: 150th Anniversary Edition, with illustrations by Salvador Dali
--Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Panorama Pops
--After Alice: A Novel, by Gregory Maguire.

Well, that's it for the long bestseller lists for a while. We'll be back to 10 from each category after this, and at least for some weeks in the winter, five if it gets completely uninteresting after that.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Big One: Boswell's Annotated Bestsellers for Perhaps Our Busiest Week of the Year (or Maybe It's Next Week).

Hardcover Nonfiction:

1. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
2. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. SPQR, by Mary Beard
4. The Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe
5. Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton
6. The Witches, by Stacy Schiff
7. Rosemary, by Kate Clifford Larson
8. Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
9. Beloved Dog, by Maira Kalman
10. Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks
11. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald (ticketed event at Schlitz Audubon 4/12)
12. M Train, by Patti Smith
13. Miller: Inside the High Life, by Paul Bialas
14. The Middle Ages, by Johannes Fried
15. The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf
16. The Givenness of Things, by Marilynne Robinson
17. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng
18. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
19. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
20. Lobster is the Best Medicine, by Liz Climo (Could have gone in fiction. Who knows?)

Some holidays are fiction years, but in 2015, nonfiction wins hands down. Between our runaway regional bestseller, Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods (yes, we have stock!), and the national runaway, Between the World and Me, nothing in the fiction aisle comes close. We've got the two great history books to choose from in SPQR and The Witches, plus Jason's pick, The Middle Ages. Biography is a little weaker--Rosemary, with its Wisconsin connections, a great read, and Jane's interest in the Special Olympics, is propelling Larson's book, while a further lower, while Jon Meacham's Destiny and Power is just bubbling below this week's cutoff. I'm always fascinated by how a president's story in office is political, but once out of office, it becomes less polarizing and more historical. But of course that depends who writes it. I'm just saying that I think the second volume of the Obama book from Maraniss will do much better when there's a new person running the country, whoever it is. That said, I thought we'd do a bit better with Meacham's book on Bush. There's a lot to compete with it on the right (O'Reilly, Kilmeade, et al), and I still don't know if the left would buy it, but in the center, I thought it might go.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff (we sold copy #100 on Saturday)
3. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
4. The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
5. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
6. Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart
7. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox
8. The Muralist, by B.A. Shapiro
9. Slade House, by David Mitchell
10. The Rogue Lawyer, by John Grisham
11. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
12. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
13. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
14. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
15. City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg

The best-of lists continue to come out, and fiction is still all over the place. I was picking up my mother's eyeglasses in Worcester and caught the Time magazine list, which was definitely Jason's favorite to date. I'm at the point that if a list doesn't have Fates and Furies, I write it off. For Jason, it was a benchmark that his favorite novel of this year, Louis de Berniers The Dust that Falls from Dreams, as well as SevenEves, was in their top ten, and it didn't hurt that several books he wanted to read, from Paul Murray, Patrick DeWitt, and Kelly Link, were included. Want to see Jason's top ten? He published it in The Boswellians this week.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. World War II Milwaukee, by Meg Jones
2. Mindfulness Coloring Book, by Emma Farrarons
3. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
4. When Books Went to War, by Molly Guptill Manning
5. Essential Strums and Strokes for Ukulele, by Lil Rev
6. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
7. Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin
8. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stephenson
9. Mindfulness Coloring Book Volume 2, by Emma Farrarons
10. Pogue's Basics Life, by David Pogue
11. Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela
12. How to Eat, by Thich Nhat Hanh
13. Rebel Yell, by S.C. Gwynne
14. Milwaukee Mayhem, by Matthew J. Prigge
15. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

Number of regional books on the list: 4 We have stock of World War II Milwaukee, or at least we do today!
Number of coloring books on the list: 3
Number of impulse books (meaning they are small and you wouldn't exactly call the experience reading): 2.5, as I'm on the fence about Holidays on Ice at this point.
Number of music instruction books (and yes, Lil Rev will reschedule his Essential Strums and Stokes event for February): 1
So congrats to When Books Went to War, Just Mercy, Rebel Yell, and The Boys in the Boat - the odds were stacked against you!

I should note that a very unusual book is at #17, and that's not a bulk sale. It's Wendell Berry's Our Only World, and I watched several people buy it as I worked the register on Saturday (so I didn't have to look it up to see if someone purchased a pile to give away). And yes, it's a collection of essays, first published in Christian Century, on environmental problems. Kevin Begos in The Miami Herald writes: "In one sense Berry is the voice of a rural agrarian tradition that stretches from rural Kentucky back to the origins of human civilization. But his insights are universal because Our Only World is filled with beautiful, compassionate writing and careful, profound thinking."

Paperback Fiction:
1. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
2. A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James
3. Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman
4. At the Water's Edge, by Sara Gruen
5. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
6. Shady Hollow, by Juneau Black
7. The Door, by Magda Szabo
8. Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
9. The Story of a Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante
10. Nora Webster, by Colm Toibin
11. Tales of Accidental Genius, by Simon Van Booy
12. The Story of a New Name, by Elena Ferrante
13. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews
14. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
15. The Martian, by Andy Weir

And under that is more Ferrante, more Simon Van Booy, and more Antoine Laurain! The truth is that the true fiction phenom is Elena Ferrante's quartet, and it was published as paperback originals. The Story of a Lost Child showed up at #1 on the Time list and it's also on The New York Times Book Review best-of the year but how can you not start with My Brilliant Friend? So far our customers are understanding that this is not a series where you can jump into volume four, though I'd love to read a review to see if it stands on its own. Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning has its best pop in paperback so far. This collection of short fiction came out earlier this year in hardcover. Another book that finally had its moment in the sun is Sarah Gruen's At the Water's Edge. Like about half the books on the top 15, it's featured on our book club table. It's not that everything works here (and much of what is is duplicated on our new release paperback tables up front and various staff rec shelves), but as long as we keep it fresh, we can generate some nice sales to both book clubs and casual paperback readers. The next round of paperback releases come right after the new year...we'll see if there's some updating to be done.

Top Picture Books and Board Books:
1. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
2. Peekaboo by Giuliamo Ferri
3. Pierre the Maze Detective, by Hiro Kamigaki
4. Harry Potter Coloring Book, by J.K. Rowling
5. The Polar Express 30th Anniversary Edition, by Chris Van Allsburg
6. The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski
7. Celebration of the Seasons, by Margaret Wise Brown
8. Dinoblock, by Christopher Franceschelli
9. Counting Lions, by Katie Cotton
10. Waiting, by Kevin Henkes
11. Archie the Daredevil Penguin, by Andy Rash
12. Dream Snow, by Eric Carle
13. The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
14. The Little Tree, by Loren Long
15. Zen Socks, by Jon J. Muth

I'm glad I don't sort out kids' bestsellers much because there's always a dilemma. Are Pierre the Maze Detective and Harry Potter Coloring Book picture books (because they don't really have words) or middle grade (because they are probably targeted to 8 and up)? Are books that are 10 and up middle grade or young adult? I use however Amie divided them. But what if they are nonfiction? Aside from The Day the Crayons Came Home, which like its predecessor, is dominating the list, our next traditional picture book bestseller is, like in adult fiction, an old book. But when you have signed copies of The Polar Express, it helps! Oh, and we're hoping that on Sunday, Archie the Daredevil Penguin crosses the 100 mark in the store. I'll be trying!

Don't forget The Whisper. It's got staff recs from both Barbara and Todd. It's Barb's other Caldecott pick, besides Home.

Top Chapter and Intermediate Books:
1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #10: Old School, by Jeff Kinney
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone illustrated, by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay
3. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick
4. Appleblossom the Possum, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
5. Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes, by Rick Riordan
6. I Really Like Slop, by Mo Willems
7. Princess in Black, by Shannon Hale
8. The Doldrums, by Nicholas Gannon
9. Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
10. Wolf Wilder, by Katherine Rundell

Yes, I Really Like Slop is outpacing last fall's entry, Waiting is not Easy. We've already sold more of the former than the latter did through 2014, and there are still some strong sales day to go. Next May's entry is The Thank You Book, by the way. Amie's recommendation of The Doldrums, from Nicholas Gannon, has been showing regularly on our bestseller list. It's the story of a boy who sets out to rescue his grandparents, and the starred Publishers Weekly review offers this recommendation: "Newcomer Gannon reveals himself as a skilled storyteller, both in his writing and artwork. His quippy quotes, whimsically meandering exposition, and penchant for the gently absurd breathe life into his three main characters, while his full-color illustrations—precise, elegant, and haunting—are a delightful means of seeing into his mind’s eye."

Top YA and Teen books:
1. Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Grandis
2. Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby
3. The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin
4. Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell
5. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
6. Apothecary, by Maile Meloy
7. An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir
8. Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman
9. Fans of the Impossible Life, by Kate Scelsa
10. Dumplin, by Julie Murphy

What's a YA list like when there's not a John Green, Veronica Roth, or Suzanne Collins to drive teens into the store. It's a list that doesn't overlap much with the national indie bookstores list (link here) and is filled with staff recs, mostly from Phoebe (though Nimona, which is an Olivia rec, was on our list last week). Carry On and Illuminae also appear in both top tens , and Six of Crows has also been on our list for several weeks. Of course you all should know that we hosted both Rainbow Rowell and Leigh Bardugo at area libraries before they exploded onto the bestsellers lists. That's why it's a good idea to keep abreast of our author schedule. Carry On is one of Olivia's picks, and you really do have to read it with Fangirl. And yes, Illuminae is a a Phoebe pick.

One of our bestsellers is reviewed this week in the Journal Sentinel. It's Shady Hollow, written by our own Sharon Nagel and (formerly our own) Jocelyn Koehler. I've been comping Miss Marple for the series, but I think Jim Higgins is possibly more spot on with Jessica Fletcher and the old Murder She Wrote series. Higgins writes "With touches of sly humor in the narration and a number of literary allusions, Shady Hollow is a divertissement for bookish people, especially mystery lovers. Lenore Lee, a raven, runs the Nevermore bookstore. Sherlock Holmes gets a nod, as does Stieg Larsson." And he offers special praise for the packaging. Here's a contract-published book where the authors (and I'm just going to note that Sharon will admit that credit on this goes to Jocelyn and her husband Nick on this) knew how to make a professional looking book, from the terrific cover design to the expert layout. There's a good reason that Jocelyn used to be one of our ace proofreaders.
The column also features Sterling North and The Story of Rascal, which, like Shady Hollow, has been featured on our woodland creatures display. And yes, we just sold copy #100 while I was proofing this.

Other articles this week in the print editions include profiles of Eric Carle and Lauren Groff. Having just discussed the male/female companion books in book club, it makes sense that Groff was inspired by Jane Gardam's Old FILTH and The Man in the Wooden Hat, as well as Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge. Connie Ogle (whose interview was first printed in the Miami Herald), thank you for asking the right questions! Obviously to that you can add Gilead an. but of course when Lila came out, Fates and Furies had already been written. Another great one is Happenstance, by Carol Shields. That book flips, by the way. Hey, if we come up with a few more, I smell a display!

Please note that you can check stock through our website, but quantities on hand may not be completely accurate. The book could already be on hold for someone else. And you can also hold a book for pickup, and you can do this without even logging in under your account name. Try it!

Our hours for this week:
Today: we close at 6 pm
Monday: 10 am to 9 pm
Tuesday: 9 am to 9 pm
Wednesday: 9 am to 9 pm
Thursday: 9 am to 5 pm
Friday: closed
Sunday through Wednesday; regular hours
Thursday, December 31: 10 am to 5 pm
Friday, January 1: 10 am to 5 pm (yes, we're open!)