Monday, August 31, 2015

What's Happening at Boswell This Week? Jennifer Posh on Milwaukee Tuesday, James Longhorst on Bike Battles at Ben's on Wednesday, Ellen Bravo's First Novel on Thursday, and Wisconsin Lutheran Freshman John Plaski on Saturday Evening.

I recently did a short spot on a book podcast where the host asked me what the bestselling fiction, nonfiction, and self-help/human potential books were in our store the previous week She asked me if I preferred Cream City or Brew City as a nickname. Not being from San Francisco, I do not look disparagingly upon nicknames, though I consider MKE an abbreviation, not a nickname*. So I said that I like Cream City**, but I noted it did not stand for the abundance of milk production in Wisconsin but for the distinctive color of the bricks that were used on buildings in the late 19th, early 20th century. I'm sure you're already guessing that this did not make it on the air

Which leads into Tuesday, September 1, 7 pm, at Boswell
Jennifer Posh, author of 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die.

Blogger, freelancer, lead copywriter at VISIT Milwaukee, and local author, Jennifer Posh, is coming to Boswell for an exciting evening talk and signing of her latest, 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die, an insider’s perspective on everything about the city’s most famous attractions, from brewery tours to lively lakefront festivals—there’s something for everyone to enjoy!

Jim Stingl in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote: "100 Things To Do In Milwaukee Before You Die doesn't stray too far from the done-that favorites — brewery tours, museums, frozen custard, local sports teams, the Safe House. But it does create urgency by reminding us that you have to remain alive to enjoy these attractions. Well, except for No. 76, spending time with notable Milwaukeeans at Forest Home Cemetery." He goes on to critique other bucket lists. I'm sad to hear that you can no longer haggle with the pepperoni-cannoli guy, as he passed away three years ago because I'm very curious to taste pepperoni-cannoli, though I'm suspecting it was two different things in the same booth or cart.

Here's Posh's VISIT Milwaukee blog. Her latest post is on State Fair. I haven't gone in a few years so I missed the 25-cent birthday cake milk.

Wednesday, September 2, 6:30 pm, at Ben's Cycle
James Longhurst,, author of Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road.

Ben's Cycle and Fitness on Lincoln Ave. has been around since 1928. Started by Ben Hanoski, it's now run by his grandson Vince. I'm always excited about a different place in Milwaukee to cosponsor a book event, and why not a bike shop?

 Boswellian Todd Wellman might bicycle to Ben's to sell books to this event if he didn't also have to bring the books. His recommendation: "Read Bike Battles to be enlightened about the flip-flopping importance of the bicycle in the US since the late 19th century. Longhurst carefully documents various 'battles' for the road and, by the end, claims that transportation in common spaces is the most important, not what people drive (sic): cars or bikes. What does he think about skateboarders, though?"

Want another take? Leave it to Grant Petersen (Just Ride) to bring in Mr. Toad in his review of Bike Battles in The Wall Street Journal: "In all of literature, there is no greater example of the spell cars cast than in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908). Toad’s giving Moley and Ratty a ride in his fancy new horse-drawn cart when a motorcar passes, scaring the horse and toppling the cart and passengers. Toad watches the car disappear down the road and exclaims: 'O what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way! What carts I shall fling carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!' Substitute bikes for carts and parked cars for ditches and you nicely explain why cyclists regard motorists as Toads."

Thursday, September 3, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Ellen Bravo, author of Again and Again.

Here's Ellen Bravo talking about the inspiration for her new novel, Again and Again: "My friend 'Carol,' a school principal, got the call at lunch time just as she was leaving for the hustle-bustle of the cafeteria. The caller identified himself as an investigative reporter who’d tracked Carol down because she’d been good friends in college with a woman raped by a fellow student. That guy had gotten off scot free and was now a candidate for the U.S. Congress. It was up to Carol to stop him, the reporter insisted. The reporter happened to be from a Republican news outlet; the candidate was a Democrat."

"None of that mattered to Carol. She cared only about what her friend wanted her to do. “No way am I reliving that,” the friend told her. End of story. No expose. The guy went on to win the Congressional seat."

"As Carol was telling me this story, I couldn’t help but think, what it if were a lot more complicated? What if the woman wasn’t a school principal but an activist against sexual assault and exposing rapists was a big part of what her organization did? What if the candidate was a pro-choice Republican supported by feminist groups because they badly needed bipartisan support on women’s issues? What if the woman who’d been raped by this guy was the activist’s roommate in college and she’d actually walked in on the assault? What if the then budding activist had pushed her roommate to file a complaint and the process had gone really badly? And what if this woman’s husband today was a political consultant in need of a boost to his career, who’d just been assigned the campaign of the conservative Democratic opponent in this Senate race?"

"That’s how Again and Again became the story of Deborah Borenstein, a woman whose decision could determine control of the Senate, the course of a friendship and the fate of a marriage." More on Bravo's website.

Join Bravo, former director of 9to5 and now executive director of Family Values @ Work, as she talks about and reads from her new novel.

Saturday, September 5, 7 pm, at Boswell:
James Plaski, author of Gods in Oslo.

Wisconsin Lutheran freshman John Plaski, is coming to Boswell to present, read from, and sign copies of his debut novel, Gods in Oslo. Filled with heroes, legends, and mystery, Gods in Oslo is a gripping and imaginative tale where secrets become reality and the main character’s world turns upside down.

In John Plaski’s debut, Gods in Oslo, people are dying in Europe. They were not ordinary people, though. They had secret lives and unbelievable abilities. The murderers had stronger, stranger powers. All of them, attackers and victims, belong to Olympus: an organization built with myths, heroes, and legends. Three agents stole a list of names and disappeared. Who are they? There’s FoxGemini, a faceless monster; HiberniaRex, an altered assassin; and PsycheSpecter, an icy truth-seeker. These three are killing their comrades. Now, after a full year of terror, the traitors have entered Oslo. Three agents are their next targets: Marc, a scarred veteran; Claire, a fiery warrior; and Kaitlin, a unique case shrouded in secret. The fight, from the anonymous streets to the frigid North, will unveil the past and darken the future for everybody involved.

Tuesday, September 8, 7 pm, at Boswell
Bradley Beaulieu, author of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai: The Song of Shattered Sands: Book One.

Bradley Beaulieu is the author of the Lays of Anuskaya Trilogy. His novels have garnered many accolades, including a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination and Debut of the Year by Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist. Now his first book is coming out from DAW, a new fantasy series that is inspired by The Arabian Nights.

In the city of Sharakhai, Çeda fights in the pits to scrape by a living. She, like so many in the city, pray for the downfall of the cruel, immortal Kings of Sharakhai. Then on the holy night when the powerful yet wretched creatures known as the Asirim wander the city and take tribute in order to protect the Kings, one of them tells Çeda the origin of their dark bargain. And this dangerous secret may be the very key she needs to throw off the iron grip the Kings have had over Sharakhai…

From fantasy giant Robin Hobb: “Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is the gateway to what promises to be an intricate and exotic tale. The characters are well defined and have lives and histories that extend past the boundaries of the plot. The culture is well fleshed out and traditional gender roles are exploded. Çeda and Emre share a relationship seldom explored in fantasy, one that will be tried to the utmost as similar ideals provoke them to explore different paths. I expect that this universe will continue to expand in Beaulieu’s skillful prose. Wise readers will hop on this train now, as the journey promises to be breathtaking.”

Hope to see you at one of our upcoming events. And don't forget, we're open special Labor Day hours of 10 am to 5 pm.

*See previous post, where I proclaim San Francisco the city with no acceptable nickname.

**The slightly exposed cream city brick chimney in our kittchen. Yes, that's a potholder for the book Kitchen Mysteries, by Hervé This.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Boswell's Annotated Bestseller List for the Week Ending August 29, 2015

What an exciting week! Yesterday I inadvertently sent out our staff newsletter to our entire mailing list. Perhaps it's not a good idea to work on both at the same time. Fortunately our staff newsletters don't tend to be chastise-y but information driven, so we had a long list of booked events that haven't been posted, plus a whole mess of staff recs, including many going into 2016. it turned out to be quite a conversation driver, and a lot of folks liked looking at, as my friend John says, "how the sausage is made."

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
2. Wind/Pinball, by Haruki Murakami
3. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox (event at Shorewood Public Library, 9/15, 6:30 pm)
4. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
5. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
6. Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal
7. X, by Sue Grafton
8. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore (ticketed event 9/9, 7 pm)
9. Girl on a Train, by Paula Hawkins
10. Among the Ten Thousand Things, by Julia Pierpont

August 25 was definitely a mystery red letter day for releases with not just Louise Penny's latest, The Nature of the Beast, which have great recommendations from regular readers Sharon and Anne, but Sue Grafton's X, which is just two letters away from the end of the alphabet. At one time she said the series would be done with 26 installments, and she confirms in an interview with Mark Rubinstein in The Huffington Post that this is still the case. She also discusses how the series, like many, has moved from closed mysteries to open ones. The latter category is when you know who the villain is. I've always thought of that genre more as a thriller because I felt the whodunit was intrinsic to the genre, but of course, that's just one reader's opinion. I love the terms though and plan to use them a lot!

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Palm Springs Modern Living, by James Schnepf
2. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. The Grain Brain Cookbook, by David Perlmutter
4. The Last Love Song, by Tracy Daughterty
5. Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath
6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
7. Brain Maker, by David Perlmutter
8. We're Still Here, Ya Bastards, by Roberta Brandes Gratz
9. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng (event 9/19, 2 pm, at Boswell)
10. Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

Several folks were buzzing about the new biography of Joan Didion, The Last Love Song, including Dennis, our #1 store champion (if you've ever been a bookseller in Milwaukee, you know who he is). Ariel Gonzalez reviews the book for the Miami Herald: "Joseph Heller and Donald Barthelme, the subjects of Daugherty’s last two books, were no longer around when he dove into their pasts. Though she is getting on in years (she turns 81 in December), Didion still speaks — but not, alas, to Daugherty. She withheld her cooperation. Faced with a shut door, he instead exploited the accessibility of her printed words. Hence the problem. Heller and Barthelme rarely wrote about themselves; Didion did — quite a bit, in fact. Summary and quotes from those widely praised works saturate this biography. You may be tempted to bypass it and go straight to the primary sources, but then you will miss Daugherty’s exemplary criticism; his autopsying of the corpus is incisively professional, close reading done with enthusiasm." Carolyn Kellogg's review from the Los Angeles Times is reprinted in the Journal Sentinel this Sunday.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28 at Boswell, 7 pm)
2. Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum
3. Will's Music, by Obie Yadgar
4. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
5. The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
6. Euphoria, by Lily King
7. Nora Webster, by Colm Toíbín
8. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
9. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert (event 10/6 at East Library, 6:30 pm)
10. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler

It's not too common that a traditional publisher sets a book in Milwaukee, so it's nice to see not one, but two books with local settings. Lauren Fox's Days of Awe is a bit soft focus Milwaukee, but The Coincidence of Coconut Cake screams Cream City, and in this case that stands for cream sauce, cream puff, and creme bruleee. It's the story of a critic who gives a small restauranteur a bad review, but this awkward beginning leads to romance. I guess you would call the book genre, but it's more romantic comedy. When you dig for reviews, you mostly get bloggers, not traditional media write ups. One thing I've learned is that many bloggers don't use their last names, which sort of changes the relationship between reviewer and reviewed. "Kathy" calls the book "a charming love story of misunderstandings, mistaken identity, and the power of food to bring two people together" while "Staircase Wit" found the book a bit improbable for her taste, but noted that "Lou is a delightful heroine, if a bit too good to be true, and her determined efforts to reveal the charming side of Milwaukee are very endearing and made me wish she had been my guide on my long ago trip when I had only a copy of Betsy in Spite of Herself and the Gen Con attendees to keep me company.* Ah, Gen Con.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Sex Myth, by Rachel Hills
2. 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die, by Jennifer Posh (event at Boswell 9/1, 7 pm)
3. The Diary of a Teenage Girl, by Phoebe Glockner
4. Think Like a Freak, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
5. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
6. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
7. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
8. You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
9. The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
10. The Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin

Being that Just Mercy is also being aggressively featured at Starbucks next door, I thought that would sort of deflate our sales, but demand is strong enough for that not to be the case. Just out in paperback, with Bryan Stevenson's interview repeated on Fresh Air, Rob Warden in The Washington Post wrote that "Stevenson, the visionary founder and executive director of the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative, surely has done as much as any other living American to vindicate the innocent and temper justice with mercy for the guilty — efforts that have brought him, among myriad honors, a MacArthur genius grant and honorary degrees from Yale, Penn and Georgetown."

Books for Kids:
1. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt, with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
2. What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss
3. The Nutshell Library, by Maurice Sendak
4. Appleblossom the Possum, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
5. The Book of Dares for Lost Friends, by Jane Kelley
6. Bone Gap, by Laura Ruby
7. Malcollm Under the Stars, by W.H. Beck
8 Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, by Maggie Stiefvater and Pearce Jackson
9. Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories, by R.J. Palacio
10. Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead

People are wondering about what begat Auggie and Me when author R.J. Palacio has said there would likely not be a sequel. Well it turns out that these are three collected short ebooks published for the first time in print, each one about a kid featured in the book Wonder. Publishers Weekly describes the book but doesn't quite review it and most of what else I found were bloggers. Hey, I'm a blogger--I can't wait to be quoted in someone else's newsletter. Unfortunately I did not read Auggie and Me so it won't be for that. I have however read The Day the Crayons Come Home and proclaim it "a technicolor sequel that rivals the Fast and Furious Franchise for nonstop action."

So what's likely to hit our bestseller lists next week? We turn to the Journal Sentinel book page where Mike Fischer reviews Jonathan Franzen's Purity, a likely our #1 hardcover fiction title for next week. He begins "Purity Tyler — heroine of the latest novel confirming that Jonathan Franzen is among this country's best living writers — goes by the nickname Pip. It's a nod to the hero of Dickens' Great Expectations — a novel that, like Purity itself, explores how we project our childish fantasies onto our children, making it harder for anyone to ever mature."

Reviewed by Jim Higgins is Kathleen Ernst's A Settler's Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons. Higgins notes that "In a time when the word immigrant is flung about in political discourse like a swear word, A Settler's Year is a gentle, visually engaging reminder that just a few generations ago, nearly all the people living in Wisconsin came from somewhere else — and made a new life here through hard work and the support of their neighbors."

September 1 is a huge release week, and the beginning of fall. And that's why Jim Higgins did a round up authors coming to the Milwaukee, area, including several Boswell-sponsored events. Perhaps the biggest might be John Gurda's Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, launching September 24 at the Grain Exchange. Gurda will be doing plenty of events around the metro area all fall to promote the book, including one at Boswell later in the season. Read all the highlights here.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Field Guide to Boswell's Ticketed Events for Fall 2015.

We have no events this weekend, but tickets went on sale publicly for Rainn Wilson, which is being held at the Pabst Theater, the biggest venue we've ever worked with (or for sticklers, with which we've ever worked).

Here's the lay of the land, to quote Richard Ford, one of our featured titles.

Christopher Moore at Boswell on Wednesday, September 9, 7 pm, for Secondhand Souls. $29 includes all taxes and fees and the new book. The store is closed to the general public at 5:30 pm.

Brian Selznick at Alverno College's Pitman Theatre on Monday, October 12, 7 pm for The Marvels. This event is co-sponsored by Scholastic Book Fairs. $35 ticket includes taxes and all fees and the new book. Selznick is the acclaimed author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Richard Ford at Boswell on Thursday, October 15, 7 pm, for the paperback of Let Me Be Frank with You. Tickets are $16 and include all taxes and fees and the new paperback. The event is cosponsored by UWM's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Osher members can buy a specially priced ticket on their website. Boswell will close to the general public at 5:30 pm.

Graham Elliot at Bacchus on Friday, October 30, 6 pm, for Cooking Like a Master Chef: 100 Recipes to Make the Everyday Extraordinary. Tickets will include a copy of the book, a special dinner using recipes from the book, and wine. Call Bacchus to reserve your space, 414-765-1166.

Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor in conversation at Turner Hall Ballroom on Tuesday, November 10, 7 pm, for Welcome to Night Vale, the novel based on their acclaimed podcast. $22 is the base price for open seating, which includes the book. Taxes and fees are extra.

Rainn Wilson at the Pabst Theater on Thursday, November 12, 7 pm, for The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy. $26.50 is the base price for a reserved seat, which includes the book. Taxes and fees are extra.

We have at least one more ticketed signing that will be announced in September. Plus we are cosponsors of two ticketed events at the Lynden Sculpture Garden for the Women's Speaker Series, produced by Milwaukee Reads.
--P.S. Duffy for The Cartography of No Man's Land on Tuesday, September 29, 7 pm. $25 includes a copy for book, $20 for Lynden members.
--Renée Rosen for White Collar Girl on Monday, November 16, 7 pm. This event will feature a book club presentation from Jane Glaser and myself. Price to come.

In addition, we have several events with an admission charge that do not include a copy of the book.
--Jerry Apps at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center on Sunday, October 25, 2 pm, for Whispers and Shadows: A Naturalist's Memoir. $8 admission to the grounds includes the event. Free to Schlitz members.
--Timothy Whealon at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum on Thursday, November 19, 5 pm reception, 6 pm talk, for In Pursuit of Beauty: The Interiors of Timothy Whealon. Admission is $20, $15 for FOVT members.

This is in addition to our three ticketed events with Preorder Signing Priority:
--Katherine Applegate for Crenshaw at Boswell on Friday, September 25, 6:30 pm
--Jenny Lawson for Furiously Happy at Boswell on Tuesday, October 27, 6:30 pm
--Sarah Vowell for Lafayette in the Somewhat United States at the Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall on Saturday, October 31, 7 pm.

These three events are free, but preordered copies of the featured title will get you line letter in advance of the event date. Line letters will be given out in the order that special orders are taken. Folks who've been to Boswell events (or event Schwartz events) are well familiar with this concept. In particular, Lawson spends a lot of quality time with each attendee so a low line letter makes a big difference.

I know you're wondering whether all Boswell events are going to become ticketed. Absolutely not! We have an amazing lineup of free events where we rely on your kind and generous spirits to support the author, publisher, and Boswell with a book purchase. Among those folks coming to either Boswell or one of our partner venues is Adam Johnson, Chris Van Allsburg, Celeste Ng, Stuart Neville, Lincoln Purse, Jason Reynolds with Brendan Kiely, Gary Schmidt, Sarah Thornton, plus of course many of your favorite local and regional authors. Exciting, right?

Here are the authors listed, along with photo credits, when requested:
Rainn Wilson (Matt Hoyle)
Brian Selznick
Richard Ford
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Kyle Makrauer)
Renée Rosen
Katherine Applegate
Jason Reynolds

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I'm Reading My Way Through San Francisco, in Honor of Upcoming Christopher Moore Visit for Secondhand Souls.

We’ve been lucky enough to host Christopher Moore several times since we’ve been open and while I’m certainly not able to read every author’s book who visits (we’ll sometimes have more than 30 events a month, and I’m more of a five-book-per-month reader), I have been able to sneak at least one Moore book onto my pile per visit. And now he's coming back for Secondhand Souls on September 9 for a ticketed event. Ticket info here, book info here.

The problem of course has been that four three of our four events, the featured title has been a sequel, and that has left me with the dilemma, knowing it is almost impossible for me to read two books by an author in advance of an event, of whether to read the original title or jump right into the sequel. Fortunately my Moore reading started with Sacre Bleu, which was a stand-alone. I should offer a caveat—my Moore reading actually started with Coyote Blue years ago, but that was not in conjunction with an event.

For The Serpent of Venice, I decided to jump right in and read the sequel to Fool, much like I will often read the newest mystery by an author instead of starting from the beginning. Very Shakespearean and a lot of fun, but I did feel like I was missing something. And that’s why for our upcoming event for Secondhand Souls, I decided to go back and read A Dirty Job, especially because a customer recently told me it was her very favorite Christopher Moore title. I also believe it was also the book tour of Moore’s first visit to Milwaukee, back in 2006.

Do you know the setup? Charlie Asher runs his family’s second-hand store in San Francisco. His wife Rachel is pregnant with their first child. After a visit, Charlie happens to come back to the hospital room to bring her a CD and spots this mysterious and very tall African man dressed in green in the room, and when Charlie asks what he’s doing there, the guy is in shock because he’s not supposed to be visible. And well, Rachel has died due to childbirth complications.

And after that, things start to get weird, because Charlie slowly figures out that he is a death merchant, charged with taking the soul vessels of the dying and passing them on to their next recipients. And if that isn’t enough to contend with, he gets caught up in this plot by some Celtic death demons who want to take over the world. Oh, and his new daughter seems to be able to kill people by saying Kitty.

There’s about ten other twists and I don’t want to give anything away. Like all Christopher Moore novels, it’s one part quest, one part philosophical treatise and the rest is just nuts. One can say that there is sort of a Moore-esque hero. Certainly Lucien Lessard of Sacre Bleu and Charlie Asher have a lot in common—well meaning, a bit awkward, romantic, horny, and generally up for the challenge of what life may throw at them, even if that happens to be fighting evil. And the books are truly laugh out loud funny.

But there’s something else that makes A Dirty Job special; it’s a true love letter to Christopher Moore’s adopted home of San Francisco. Charlie Asher and his posse, his sister Jane, his daughter Sophie, employees Ray and Lily, fellow death merchant Minty Fresh, and so on, seem to find themselves all over the city, from the Mission to the Tenderloin, to the Castro and The Haight. And it turns out that the story is interconnected with Moore’s vampire novels, particularly You Suck and Bite Me.

Reading A Dirty Job got me thinking about great San Francisco novels – if someone was visiting the Bay Area, I’d definitely suggest reading this. But of course San Francisco is one of the most literary cities out there. Of course people have been reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series for over thirty years. And more recently, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore had a long run on the paperback bestseller lists. But what else is out there?

I wrote to Pete Mulvihill at Green Apple Books and asked him what they recommend, since I figure they get a lot of tourists, and he showed me this list from Buzzfeed. Of course! Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Dave Eggers are on the list, as is one of my favorite books of all time, Vikram Seth’s The Golden Gate. What a coincidence that two of the folks with books on the list, Michelle Tea and Ali Liebegott, actually appeared at Boswell some years ago.

One novel that Pete recommended that was not on the list was The Dead do not Improve, by Jay Caspian King. "Quirky and Fun," he told me. The Boston Globe called it "loopy, hilarious, neo-noir" while Milwaukee's own Crimespree Magazine praised it as "tragically hilarious and darkly uplifting."

I was wondering if there were other books out there. The Guardian list has The Golden Gate listed at #1, plus a few titles not on the other list.

And here’s another list that includes Amy Tan’s classic, The Joy Luck Club, plus another book that I read, Carter Beats the Devil. I didn’t remember the setting!

In The Wall Street Journal, Armistead Maupin recommended Andrew Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli. I am also a big fan of the also very Sf-y The Story of a Marriage. Did you know that his last novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, was meant to take place in San Francisco, but he changed the locale after getting a residency in New York. 

7x7 recently posted a list of 75 books about San Francisco. They obviously drew on the Buzzfeed list (or vice versa) as there is a lot of overlap in their top ten. But I was thrilled to see A Dirty Job finally listed, at #34. Was Oh, the Glory of it All on the list? Yes it was, but I'm focusing on fiction here. Telegraph Avenue? Check, though I might say that was more of an Oakland book. But what was Anne Tyler doing there with The Amateur Marriage? She set a book in a city besides Baltimore? I went back and looked at my copy and I would say that Haight-Ashbury is a bit player.

Instead, why didn’t they pick a novel or story collection by Alice Adams, whose novels were almost unanimously distinctively SF, with a small detour to the South, where Adams wrote several autobiographical novels. They are a very different kind of San Francisco that doesn’t generally get into these lists-Portrero Hill and the like. I was trying to come up with her most San Francisco-ish book, and I came up with Rich Rewards, the story of a New Yorker who flees to the Bay area to decorate a friends home and finds herself drawn into the lives of the friend’s friends. Oh, those Alex Katz jackets on the Penguin editions! And I can’t wait for Carol Sklenicka’s biography!

But all this is gravy. We’re talking about Christopher Moore’s San Francisco, where demons live in the sewers and Franken-squirrels are given orders from the Zen Center. Where used book and record, and cloth store owners are actually doing vital work collecting souls and redistributing them. And how dated is A Dirty Job? The dead show up in Charlie Asher’s notebook as if like magic. Now they’d show up on his phone or tablet, and it wouldn’t seem like magic at all.

One more thing about A Dirty Job. Underneath the craziness, it’s a heartfelt book about dealing with death. Through it all, characters are confronting the end of the lives of themselves and those around them, and it’s actually got some beautiful and yes, zenlike meditations on the subject. And if your dream is to inhabit a Franken-squirrel, that’s also an option.

Oh, and want to know if the new book, Secondhand Souls(just out on August 25), lives up to its predecessor? We’ve gotten a great read from Boswellian Conrad Silverberg, who writes: “You wake up in the wee hours of the night with the last few chapters you read still rolling around in your head. Compelled, you leave the comforts of your bed and seek a comfortable spot to read just a little bit more. Upon finishing, you kill the lights, and make your way back to bed in total darkness. You've done this before. You know the way. But, what's this? In your hand the book is glowing! The title and the silly little deathshead toddler are shining in the dark! More macabre DayGlo humor from Moore!”

You can't see all the skeletons in the display window, due to the glare. As we were putting this together, I customer complained, "Isn't it too early for a Halloween display?" but we assured him that we just had all the skeletons because the featured book was about a death merchant.  "Oh, OK, was his reply."

Got a San Francisco book suggestion? Comment here! And see you at our event for Christopher Moore on Wednesday, September 9, 7 pm. $29 ticket gets you admission and a signed copy of the book. There’s a gift card option on the day of the event. And you can buy your tickets on the Brown Paper Tickets site.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Event Post: Obie Yadgar on Tuesday, Rachel Hills Wednesday, James Schnepf Thursday, plus Jennifer Posh next Tuesday.

Here's what's going on at Boswell this week.

Tuesday, August 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Obie Yadgar author of Will's Music.

In his junior year and barely able to speak English, Obie Yadgar told himself he would become a novelist. After a tour of duty in Vietnam as a U.S. Army combat correspondent, he drifted into radio, starting as a jazz program host in San Diego, before moving into adult contemporary in upstate New York, then onto St. Louis for jazz, big bands and classical, and finally settling in Milwaukee for his classical music career.

Obie Yadgar's second novel, Will's Music, is the story of Will Baskin, a 34-year-old deejay trying to make sense of his life. Recently divorced and playing classical music on his radio program, Will is a magnet for extraordinary characters who call him at the studio. The eccentric personalities he encounters on and off the air provide him with laughs, as well as deep insights, as he meanders day by day. That is, until the enchanting and fiery Mariette drifts into his life, sending his world into an emotional spin. Mariette has baggage of her own, but perhaps she can reignite the passion that Will has ignored. Find out if these two lost souls can overcome each other’s struggles and rediscover love.

David Luhrssen, Arts and Entertainment Editor of the Shepherd Express calls Will’s Music “A story of crossroads and transformation,” saying “Obie Yadgar has written a knowing, insider’s story of the business of radio and the dizzying spin of romance.”

Wednesday, August 26, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Rachel Hills, author of The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Realities and Fantasy.

Rachel Hills is an Australian journalist living in New York City whose work has been published widely both in print and online, in publications including Vogue,, Cosmopolitan and The Atlantic. Her blog, Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, has more than 100,000 subscribers.

In her new book, The Sex Myth, Hills mixes equal parts social commentary, pop culture, and powerful personal anecdotes from people across the English-speaking world, The Sex Myth exposes the invisible norms and unspoken assumptions that shape the way we think about sex today.

Rebecca Traistor, author of Big Girls Don't Cry, writes that  “Rachel Hills has written a bracing and brave interrogation of contemporary assumptions about sex—how and with whom and why we have it, and what it means if we don’t. Here is a fresh voice and a welcome perspective, cutting through attitudes that are supposed to be progressive and liberating, but can too often oppress and stifle us just as effectively as older taboos.”

In addition to our event, Rachel Hills will be in conversation with a representative from NARAL Wisconson at People's Books on Friday, August 28, 6 pm. People's Books is located at 804 E. Center St.

Thursday, August 27, 7 pm, at Boswell
James Schnepf, author of Palm Springs Modern Living.
This event is cosponsored by the Friends of the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.

James Schnepf is a location photographer with an emphasis on people. He has photographed for a long list of America’s leading corporations and publications, and these assignments have taken him to all parts of the world. He's based in Cedarburg, Wisconsin and California's Coachella Valley.

In his new book, Palm Springs Modern Living, Schnepf offers captivating photos and stories, that showcases the unparalleled collection of Midcentury Modern architecture found in the iconic resort city of Palm Springs, California.

More than fifty modernists, artists, builders, and architects were interviewed, including such luminaries as Donald Wexler, William Krisel, and Hugh Kaptur, and their stories and anecdotes provide a perfect complement to Schnepf’s vivid photography. Together, they manage to bring Palm Springs to life in a way that most volumes of architectural photos could never hope to achieve.

Next week:
Tuesday, September 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jennifer Posh, author of 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die.

Blogger, freelancer, lead copywriter at VISIT Milwaukee, and local author, Jennifer Posh, is coming to Boswell for an exciting evening talk and signing of her latest, 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die, an insider’s perspective on everything about the city’s most famous attractions, from brewery tours to lively lakefront festivals—there’s something for everyone to enjoy!

Brew City, Cream City, the City of Festivals...whatever name you know it by, Milwaukee is a vibrant city where warm Midwestern charm meets a hearty industrial spirit. Posh gives you the insider’s perspective on everything from the city’s most famous attractions to favorite hangouts that only the locals know about. From iconic local fun like brewery tours to a rapidly expanding fine dining scene locavores will love, and from family-friendly museums and lively lakefront festivals to the world’s most secret bar and fabulous fine arts, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So bring your family, your friends, or just yourself to enjoy this city on the lake.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Boswell Annotated Bestsellers for the Week Ending August 22, 2015.

It is indeed the summer of fiction. Based on my normal cutoffs, hardcover fiction is the strongest of the five bestseller areas this week.

Hardcover Fiction:
1 Music for Wartime, by Rebecca Makkai
2. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
3. Killing Pretty, by Richard Kadrey
4. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox
5. Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
6. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
7. The Making of Zombie Wars, by Aleksandar Hemon
8. Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain
9. Barbara the Slut and Other People, by Lauren Holmes
10. Bream Gives me Hiccups, by Jesse Eisenberg
11. Armada, by Ernie Cline
12. Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal
13. The Fishbowl, by Bradley Somer
14. The Dust that Falls from Dreams, by Louis De Bernieres
15. The Cartel, by Don Winslow

While it's got a pub date of September 8, hence the lack of mainstream reviews, Bream Gives me Hiccups, the new collection from Jesse Eisenberg, rolled into our store this week, and unlike the larger distribution channels, there's no timeline on when we should put the books out. The title comes from a series of stories Eisenberg wrote for McSweeneys, about a nine-year-old restaurant reviewer that reminds me a bit of Steven Millhauser's Edwin Mullhouse or perhaps a more even-keeled Simon Rich. But this is just one part of the new collection. Expect to see some strong reviews, being that the author is a well-known actor with not one but two major film projects out. Publishers Weekly calls the stories "charming, deftly written, and laugh-out-loud funny."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
2. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. Brain Maker, by David Perlmutter
5. Let Me Tell You, by Shirley Jackson
6. The Road to Character, by David Brooks
7. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng (Event at Boswell Sat Sep 19, 2 pm)
8. H is for Hawk, by Helen MacDonald
9. In Defense of a Liberal Education, by Fareed Zakaria
10. Milwaukee Then and Now, by Sandra Ackerman

This is how much fiction was on the list. When I saw that Shirley Jackson's previously uncollected works, Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings, was shelved in fiction but also included essays, I moved it to nonfiction for this week's besteller list. Don't worry Jason; I didn't change it in our inventory system. On the work of Jackson, who died at the age of 48, Paul Theroux writes in The New York Times: "Jackson remains one of the great practitioners of the literature of the darker impulses and (in a term she uses in Hill House) 'the underside of life.' The texture of her two major novels tends to lushness and formality, more verbal foliage, while her stories are plain-spoken and persuasive for their apparent ­directness."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Martian, by Andy Weir
2. Perfidia, by James Ellroy
3. The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, by Amy E. Reichert (event Tue Oct 6, 6:30, at East Library)
4. Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler
5. The Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood
6. Crooked River, by Valerie Geary
7. Euphoria, by Lily King
8. The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant
9. Boy Snow Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi (in-store lit group Mon Oct 5, 7 pm)
10. Talk, by Linda Rosenkrantz

It is nice to see that a staff rec can really make a difference. Without any local connection or an author visit, our sales of Valerie Geary's Crooked River ties for sales at indie bookstores on the Above the Treeline inventory program. Boswellian Conrad Silverberg writes "Every few years, some pompous windbag comes along and informs us that the novel is dead; that there are no new things to say and no new ways to say them. They fail to remember that novels are simply storytelling. They fail to remember that the true test of the novel's worth is not the originality of its form or the uniqueness of its expression, but the strength, beauty and compelling attraction of its tale. Crooked River delivers. Valerie Geary is the real deal." The story is of two young girls in rural Oregon who find a dead body in a nearby river.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Our Final Melody, by Marian L. Freund
2. Equal Before the Law, by Tom Witosky and Marc Hansen
3. The Secret Lives of the Supreme Court, by Robert Schrakenberg
4. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
5. The Enchanted Forest, by Johanna Basford
6. One Man's Wilderness, by Sam Keith
7. The Book of My Lives, by Aleksandar Hemon
8. Teacher Wars, by Dana Goldstein
9. North Point Historic Districts, by Shirley du Fresne McArthur
10. The War That Ended Peace, by Margaret Macmillan

Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession is out in paperback and being that this is a hot-button topic for a lot of our customers, we had a nice sales pop. Claudia Wallis noted in The New York Times Book Review: "Dana Goldstein traces the numerous trends that have shaped “the most controversial profession in America.” Along the way, she demonstrates that almost every idea for reforming education over the past 25 years has been tried before — and failed to make a meaningful difference."

Books for Kids:
1. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
2. What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss
3. Go to School, Little Monster, by Hellen Ketterman, with illustrations by Bonnie Leick
4. The Nutshell Library, by Maurice Sendak
5. Appleblossom the Possum, by Holly Goldberg Sloan
6. Auggie and Me: Three Wonder Stories, by R.J. Palacio
7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
8. The Last Ever After: Volume 3 of the School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani
9. Bumble Ardy, by Maurice Sendak
10. Imaginary, by A.F. Harrold

The sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit has just come back and most agree that it is a worthy follow up. Boswellian Jen Steele writes: "One day Duncan receives a stack of postcards. It seems Duncan has neglected some of his crayons and they've sent him postcards from all kinds of surprising places. These forgotten crayons have wound up under a couch, left by a swimming pool, down in the basement or in the clutches of Duncan's younger brother. Read The Day the Crayons Came Home to find out if Maroon Crayon, Neon Red Crayon, Esteban and the rest of the pack ever get rescued. Another awesome book from Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers!"

So what's on the docket for next week's bestsellers? Perhaps the Journal Sentinel book section will have some influence. Jim Higgins reviews new books from John Scalzi and Ian Rankin. The End of All Things, Higgins writes: "Scalzi extends his Old Man's War series with a compulsively readable four-part novel that ought to appeal to fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and other space operas.

For Ian Rankin's The Beat Goes on: The Complete Rebus Stories, Higgins writes "Rankin has fun with Detective Inspector John Rebus of Edinburgh, one of the great literary crime solvers of our time. The brooding Rebus of the dark novels never completely disappears — the character study 'Sunday' shows us the veteran detective wrestling with his conscience over killing a cornered drug dealer. But Rankin exposes other facets of this music-loving, pint-imbibing crazy diamond. One criminal is undone by Rebus' recognition of a Hockney print on the wall. In The Dean Curse, the DI scoffs at Dashiell Hammett's novel The Dain Curse, but soon finds himself in a confusing tangle of his own. In 'Trip Trap,' Rebus uses an incorrect crossword puzzle answer to prove a nasty old fellow was pushed down the stairs."

Mike Fischer reviews The Automobile Club of Egypt. He writes "Automobile Club unfolds in the post-World War II years preceding another upheaval: the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 that overthrew King Farouk and ended Britain's occupation. The Club of Al Aswany's title — part DMV and part exclusive preserve for the foreigners owning most of the country's cars — embodies everything that made Gamal Abdel Nasser's revolution necessary." He's not crazy about the characterizations, but notes that "what's ultimately most interesting about the 1940s Egypt presented in this novel is its insights regarding Egypt today"

On the retirement of Sonia Monzano, who played Maria on Sesame Street for 44 years, Erin Kogler reviews Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. She writes that "Manzano's book is a sincere, thought-provoking coming-of-age story about a girl growing up in turbulent times and in a home filled with chaos, violence, poverty, but also love."