Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Book in Focus: Furious Hours, by Casey Cep (event at Boswell Thu Aug 1, 2 pm)


Another week, another book that came to my attention at Winter Institute in Albuquerque. One evening I went to a party that was jointly put on by Penguin Random House and Grove Atlantic. It was quite the gathering.

We had just hosted Madhuri Vijay for her debut, The Far Afield, so it was nice running into her. We had just co-hosted a great event for her at the Shorewood Public Library, with the help of the Lawrence alumni group. I was still sort of thrilled for that.

Several booksellers were gathered around Ruth Reichl (at left, below), whose memoir Save Me the Plums, was coming out in April. I had already read it and loved it, but there was a lot of competition for her attention, and after my pilgrimage was done, I moved on - there was certainly no shortage of booksellers to take my place.

I got to speak to Ocean Vuong, who was being touted for On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Their touting paid off - the book has been one of our big books of the summer and I can only imagine how well it's going to do come awards-and-best-of-the-year season. Otherwise known as the fourth quarter.

One author I did not get to speak with was Casey Cep, though I really enjoyed hearing her talk about her new book. Smart true crime books are having a resurgence, partly due to the explosion of crime podcasts, and there's always interest in anything about Harper Lee. I left that dinner genuinely excited for Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee.

An aside: I was chatting about our true crime events (we're also hosting Billy Jensen on August 16 for Chase Darkness with Me) with someone at a meeting, and she told me that her daughter was one of those folks who have become obsessed with Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered. At their recent stop in Milwaukee, they talked about the Lawrencia Bembenek and her daughter texted her, excited that her mother had worked at Tracks, the bar that figures prominently in the story. How's that fact for jump-starting a mother-daughter relationship?

While Lee obsessives know some of this story, many of us do not. Here are the facts. After Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird but before it was published, Nelle accompanied childhood friend Truman Capote on his research trips to Kansas for what would become In Cold Blood. She wound up doing a lot of the organization for the book.

After To Kill a Mockingbird was published and became a huge hit, she struggled to follow it up. Perhaps the case of Reverend Willie Maxwell would be just the thing. While Maxwell was never convicted, he was curiously at the center of several deaths of family members and one neighbor. In all but the case of the neighbor, Maxwell had taken out multiple insurance policies on the victims. And then, at the funeral of one of the victims, he was shot dead by another relative. And on top of that, the lawyer who defended the victim went on to defend the killer - who shot him was never in doubt, as there were many witnesses.

The story becomes three profiles of three enigmatic personalities - Lee, Maxwell, and Big Tom Radney, a progressive lawyer (he was a huge fan of JFK) in a very conservative state. This was hardly an easy position to take in the Deep South - he was eased out of his earlier political career by death threats.

The story, then is a triptych - one might call it a triptych of failure, to pick up on Casey Cep's still resonating elevator pitch. Nobody in the story could exactly claim success: Willie Maxwell's deadly scam (if there was one) was cut short; Tom Radney might have one his cases, but they were hardly solved; and Harper Lee didn't write the book. Like David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon (he calls this book "a triumph on every level," by the way), Furious Hours also works as a work of history, whether Cep is chronicling life insurance, mid-century publishing, or the culture of Alabama. It's hard to remember that it wasn't that long ago that there were apartments in Manhattan without hot water. You wouldn't have the term "hot water flat" if the heat was standard, right?

When Lee's sister Alice died and her new attorney, Tonja Carter, discovered the heretofore unpublished manuscript in a safe deposit box and said it would be published with the author's blessing, many thought it might actually be this true crime book, and not what turned out to be Go Set a Watchman. But aside from some notes, there's nothing really to publish, just the story about the book that is Furious Hours. 

Critics have been very kind. Michael Lewis called Furious Hours "the sort of story that even Lee would be proud to write" in The New York Times Book Review. And here's Ilana Masad on NPR's website: "As a relatively recent convert to the true-crime genre, I was hopeful that the book would deal responsibly with its subjects, and I wasn't let down there either. But what I didn't see coming was the emotional response I would have as I blazed through the last 20 pages of the book - yet there I was, weeping."

While we did not get on the initial tour, Cep planned out a summer road that included a Wisconsin leg. She'll be appearing at Prairie Lights on July 30, Room of One's Own on the 31st, and Book Stall on August 1, all in the evening. We suggested she stop by August 1 in the afternoon - 2 pm, to be precise. Publishers are hesitant about these weekday afternoon events, but we have an awful lot of retirees and other customers who like to do things during the day. And this is only the beginning of the tour - Cep is going everywhere! Here's the full schedule.

I so enjoyed Cep's talk in New Mexico and I'm thrilled that many of you will get to hear more from this talented author. For those of you who take part in Osher programs, imagine this as a bonus session - you can learn a lot. And for all of you who ask for more daytime events, you'll give me the proof to ask for more if you come to the ones we have!

photo credit: Kathryn Schulz


Monday, July 15, 2019

This week: Historian Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, David Bell's airborn thriller, Linda Godfrey and Tea Krulos talk monsters, Chuck Klosterman and Doug Gordon talk pop culture, Sari Solden and Michelle Frank talk ADHD, South African sister story with Bianca Marais, Carson Vaughan and Larry Watson talk zoo story crisis.

It's time for the I can't seem to get things together to re-set the blog post of weekly events so I'm going to cut and paste the website. I try not to do this too often!

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, author of The Ideas that Made America: A Brief History
Monday, July 15, 7 pm, at Boswell
University of Wisconsin’s Merle Curti Professor of History, Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen shows how ideas have been major forces in American history, driving movements such as transcendentalism, Social Darwinism, conservatism, and postmodernism.
Long before the United States was a nation, it was a set of ideas, projected onto the New World by European explorers with centuries of belief and thought in tow. From this foundation of expectation and experience, America and American thought grew in turn, enriched by the bounties of the Enlightenment, the philosophies of liberty and individuality, the tenets of religion, and the doctrines of republicanism and democracy.
The Ideas That Made America traces how Americans have addressed the issues and events of their time and place, whether the Civil War, the Great Depression, or the culture wars of today. Spanning a variety of disciplines, from religion, philosophy, and political thought, to cultural criticism, social theory, and the arts, this introduction to American thought considers how notions about freedom and belonging, the market and morality, and even truth, have commanded generations of Americans and been the cause of fierce debate.
Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is the Merle Curti and Vilas-Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches US intellectual and cultural history. He holds a PhD from Brandeis University and a BA from University of Rochester.
Why you should come - It's summer school! Don't let your brain atrophy in the heat.

David Bell, author of Layover, in conversation with Erica Ruth Neubauer
Tuesday, July 16, 7 pm, at Boswell
David Bell, the author of Somebody’s Daughter and the author Suspense Magazine calls “one of the brightest and best crime fiction writers of our time,” visits for a conversation about his latest with Milwaukee crime critic Erica Ruth Neubauer.
Bell’s Layover is a high-concept novel of psychological suspense about a chance meeting with a woman in an airport that sends a man on a pulse-pounding quest for the truth. Joshua takes the same flights every week, his life a series of departures and arrivals, hotels and airports. During a layover, he meets Morgan, a beautiful stranger who kisses him passionately, lamenting that they’ll never see each other again.
When Morgan disappears in the crowd, Joshua is shocked to see her face on a nearby TV. She is a missing person. What follows is a whirlwind, fast-paced journey filled with lies, secrets, and deceit that Riley Sager, bestselling author of The Last Time I Lied, calls, “a terrifically tense thriller with a femme fatale who will keep you guessing until the very end. The perfect airplane read!”
David Bell is the USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of thrillers like Somebody’s Daughter andCemetery Girl. He is Associate Professor of English at Western Kentucky University, where he directs the MFA program. Erica Ruth Neubauer is a Milwaukee-based writer and crime fiction critic whose writing has appeared inLos Angeles Review of BooksCrimespree Magazine, and other more.

Why you should come: We're doing a mystery galley giveaway. Everybody gets to pick a new-release advance reading copy from two shelves of mystery, thriller, and true crime selections. Buy a copy of Layover and you can pick a second book.

Linda S Godfrey, author of I Know What I Saw: Modern-Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore, in conversation with Tea Krulos
Wednesday, July 17, 7 pm, at Boswell
One of America’s foremost authorities on modern-day monsters, Linda S Godfrey haunts Boswell with her latest work, chatting with Milwaukee author Tea Krulos about ancient myths and indigenous legends that have informed modern sightings of walking wolves, dire dogs, deer people, and other strange beasts in rural America.
Wisconsin’s own Godfrey asks which came first, the myth or the monster? The monsters of ancient mythology, folklore, and more contemporary urban legend have long captured the popular imagination. Godfrey has interviewed countless eyewitnesses to strange phenomena and explores uncanny encounters with werewolves, goatmen, Bigfoot, and more.
Godfrey has found it often unclear whether sightings are simply mistaken animals, hoaxes, or coincidence. Are the creatures real, or are they entirely other-world? Godfrey’s search for answers will fascinate casual observers and enthusiasts alike as she discusses what Publishers Weekly calls, “a striking collection of cryptozoological creatures and fantastical folklore from North America.... This quirky, deeply researched guide will be a great resource for monster hunters.”
Linda S Godfrey is author of more than a dozen books, including The Beast of Bray Road: Tailing Wisconsin’s WerewolfMonsters Among Us, and Weird Wisconsin. She has appeared on MonsterQuestInside Edition, and Coast to Coast AM. Tea Krulos is the Milwaukee-based author of Monster Hunters: On the Trail With Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators and Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement.

Why you should come: Wisconsin is paranormal-central - you never know who or what will attend an event at Boswell.

New Venue! Chuck Klosterman, author of Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction, in conversation with Doug Gordon
Thursday, July 18, 7:00 pm, at The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee, 2211 N Prospect Ave
Klostermaniacs rejoice. Boswell Book Company presents special evening with beloved cultural critic Chuck Klosterman, author of But What If We’re Wrong? and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, with his latest, a razor-sharp, hilarious collection of “fictional nonfiction” - stories so true they had to be wrapped in fiction for our own protection. He’ll chat with Doug Gordon, host of WPR’s BETA. Cosponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio. Do note that this event has been moved from its previous location. All tickets already purchased will be honored at The Back Room  - you will not need to exchange your tickets.
Tickets cost $27, and include admission to the event and an autographed copy of Raised in Captivity. Available at pabsttheater.org/event/chuckklosterman2019.
Advance reviews of Klosterman’s latest have been raves. Kirkus calls it a “crisp collection of imaginative snippits,” and, “a colorful, somewhat wicked collection of stories that are touching as often as they are laugh-out-loud funny.” Publishers Weekly says, “No matter the topic, Klosterman’s gimlet eye and trenchant prose bedazzle.” And Boswell’s Chris Lee says, “A collection of bite sized stories with twist endings like O’Henry’s on acid, Raised in Captivity is the best book Klosterman has written yet.”
Raised in Captivity is ceaselessly inventive, hostile to corniness in all its forms, and mean only to the things that really deserve it. Klosterman’s wildly entertaining and mind-bending stories are microdoses of straight dope, a fever graph of our deepest unvoiced hopes, fears, and preoccupations. A man flying first class discovers a puma in the lavatory. A band wrestles with new-found fame when its song becomes a white supremacist anthem. A man sees a whale struck by lightning and knows that everything about his life has to change.
Funny, wise, and weird, these stories converge in one of the most original and exciting collections in recent memory, one that marks a cosmic leap forward for one of our most consistently interesting writers, the man The Los Angeles Times says, “has a knack for holding up a magical high-def mirror to American pop culture.”
Chuck Klosterman is author of eight nonfiction books, including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I Wear the Black Hat, and Killing Yourself to Live, and the novels Downtown Owl and The Visible Man. He has written for The New York TimesEsquire, and ESPN and served as the Ethicist for The New York Times Magazine. Klosterman appeared as himself in the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits and was a founder of Grantland.

Why you should come - all attendees will get a coupon for $5 off a $10 or more purchase at Boswell on their next visit. You know you're going to have a good time with Chuck Klosterman.

Thursday, July 18, 7 pm, at Boswell
Psychotherapist Solden and Wisconsin native Frank, a clinical psychologist, offer this radical guide to cultivating individual strengths, honoring neurodiversity, and learning to communicate with confidence and clarity for any woman with ADHD who wants to live boldly.
Solden and Frank offer the first guided workbook for women with ADHD designed to break the cycle of negative self-talk and shame-based narratives that stem from the common and limiting belief that brain differences are character flaws. Their groundbreaking approach blends traditional treatment with contemporary treatment methods like acceptance and commitment therapy to help you untangle the beliefs that keep women from reaching their potential in life.
Edward Hallowell, coauthor of Driven to Distraction, says, “Solden, for years the great pioneer in working with women and ADHD, has now teamed up with Michelle Frank to create this dynamic, valuable workbook that will help women embolden themselves to break out of whatever self-imposed exiles they may have lived in and soar to the heights they deserve and will love.”
Psychotherapist Sari Solden is author of Women with Attention Deficit Disorder and Journeys Through ADDulthood. She serves on the professional advisory board of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association and is a past recipient of their award for outstanding service by a helping professional. Michelle Frank is a clinical psychologist from Wisconsin and serves as Vice President of the board of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. She speaks nationally on issues related to ADHD, neurodiversity, and women’s empowerment.

Why you should come: You've had breaking the cycle of negative self-talk on your to-do list for a long time.

Bianca Marais, author of If You Want To Make God Laugh
Friday, July 19, 2 pm, at Boswell
Author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words visits with her new novel, an unforgettable story of women in post-Apartheid South Africa. Please register for this free event at maraismke.bpt.me.
In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, a seventeen-year-old pregnant girl lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Across the country, a wealthy socialite is suffering a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. Their stories converge, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.
As the three complicated lives become inextricably linked, what follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves? Boswellian Jenny Chou says, “Set in South Africa during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, there’s no question that If You Want to Make God Laugh tells a heart wrenching story, but it’s also exactly the kind of thought-provoking book that stays with me long after turning the last page. The writing is so lovely I could blanket the sky with the stars this book deserves. Don’t miss this one!”
As a bonus for this event, we'll be giving out $5 gift cards to ten lucky attendees. No purchase necessary, but you must register in advance and then attend the event to qualify for this drawing.
South Africa native Bianca Marais is author of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and teaches creative writing at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. Before writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans.

Why you should come: Marais is a delight!

Carson Vaughan, author of Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream, in conversation with Larry Waston
Monday, July 22, 7 pm, at Boswell
Journalist Carson Vaughan, a native Nebraskan, chats about his book with former Marquette Professor Larry Watson. Zoo Nebraska is the true story of small-town politics and community perseverance and of decent people and questionable choices.
Royal, Nebraska, population eighty-one. The church, high school, and post office stand abandoned. But for nearly twenty years, there was a zoo, seven acres that rose from local peculiarity to key tourist attraction to devastating tragedy, which all began with one man.
When Dick Haskin’s plans to assist primatologist Dian Fossey in Rwanda were cut short by her murder, Haskin returned to his hometown with Reuben, an adolescent chimp, and transformed a trailer home into the Midwest Primate Center. As the tourist trade multiplied, so did the inhabitants of what would become Zoo Nebraska, the unlikeliest boon to Royal’s economy in generations and, eventually, the source of a power struggle that would lead to the tragic implosion of Dick Haskin’s dream.
Carson Vaughan is a freelance journalist from Nebraska whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, theNew York Times, the Atlantic, and many other publications. Larry Watson is author of Montana 1948As Good as Gone, and several other books. He taught writing and literature at UW-Stevens Point and Marquette University.

Why you should come: Show your cornhusker pride!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Summer paperback fiction rules - unless it's about crawdads* - Boswell bestsellers for the week ending July 13, 2019

I know this is why so many fall titles are released the following May and June, but it's been a few years since I noticed such a jump in paperback fiction as a category. I haven't looked at the whole category's increase, but the sales you need to hit our bestseller list have been up substantially this summer. Maybe it's just a particularly good crop of titles! So this week I extended this category to 15 and decided to lead with it.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Collector's Apprentice, by BA Shapiro (signed copies available)
2. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
3. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
4. The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai
5. Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain
6. Severance, by Ling Ma (Books and Beer Book Club selection, Monday, August 19, at Cafe Hollander)
7. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
8. Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
9. Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan (In-Store Lit Group selection, Monday, August 5, at Boswell)
10. Layover, by David Bell (Event at Boswell, Tuesday, July 16, 7 pm)
11. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
12. We're All in This Together, by Amy Jones
13. The Muralist, by BA Shapiro
14. Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan
15. Good Omens, by Neil Gailman and Terry Pratchett (We also have decided to stop producing episodes of this show)

Sometimes it can be a tough row to hoe - I really try to push backlist titles at our author events, but the sales can be disappointing. Not so for BA Shapiro - we actually sold out of The Art Forger the weekend before the event and had a lot of interest in The Muralist, too. The books play off each other well, and Shapiro has taken to calling those books, along with The Collector's Apprentice, the Art Trilogy. She said no art history in the next one, but the book, which is still being edited, does now involve the art world but in a contemporary way. And of course you never know for the future - it wouldn't be the first trilogy to become a quartet. And I guess I should note that her newly released paperback is one of three Paris-themed books in our top ten (the other two being Vintage 1954 and The Great Believers), with Paris by the Book coming in at #11.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
2. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
3. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
4. The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See
5. The Most Fun We've Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo (event at Boswell Tue Aug 6, with a book club talk from Jason Gobble)
6. Big Sky V5, by Kate Atkinson
7. Fall: or Dodge in Hell, by Neal Stephenson
8. The Flight Portfolio, by Julie Orringer (event at Jewish Museum on July 16 - details here)
9. Knife V12, by Jo Nesbo
10. Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini

If you've been paying attention, three novels are dominating our hardcover fiction list and they are all from the Penguin division of Penguin Random House. But the Knopf/Doubleday division has three books in our top ten too, including Knife, the latest mystery from Jo Nesbo featuring Harry Hole. Lloyd Sachs wrote in the Chicago Tribune: “Perhaps the most surprising development in this first-rate installment in the [Harry Hole] series is the tender emotion that wafts through Hole’s tortured self-reckonings. He’s the exception that makes the rule about there being no tears allowed on the crime beat.” OK, I'm having trouble finding this review on the Chicago Tribune site, but it's posted with the official Penguin Random House info. And I should also note that Sachs did like Nesbo's last in a column. So there it is. Plus it's now almost impossible to link to most newspaper sites for book reviews - they've all been paywalled. Completely understood!


Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. For the Good of the Game, by Bud Selig
2. Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
3. Special Brew, by Tom Haudricourt (who interviewed Selig at our Wilson Center event)
4. Educated, by Tara Westover
5. Vegetables Unleashed, by Jose Andres
6. The Pioneers, by David McCullough
7. Bastard Brigade, by Sam Kean
8. The British Are Coming, by Rick Atkinson
9. The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane
10. The Guarded Gate, by Daniel Okrent

We don't have a written rec, but oral history says that our buyer Jason really enjoyed Three Women, joining the booksellers who helped make this book #1 on the Indie Next List for July. In addition, Elizabeth Gilbert, who has her own spot on the list, offered this: "I can't remember the last time a book affected me as profoundly as Three Women. Lisa Taddeo is a tireless reporter, a brilliant writer, and a storyteller possessed of almost supernatural humanity. As far as I'm concerned, this is a nonfiction literary masterpiece at the same level as In Cold Blood - and just as suspenseful, bone-chilling, and harrowing, in its own way." And Dave Eggers also weighs in, calling Three Women "one of the most riveting, assured, and scorchingly original debuts I've ever read." Entertainment Weekly (which is now not weekly) posted a video about the author's writing process.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Frank Lloyd Wright's Penwern, by Mark Hertzberg
2. Jon Hassler, by Ed Block
3. The Fall of Wisconsin, by Dan Kaufman
4. How to Read the Constitution and Why, by Kim Wehle
5. Damn the Old Tinderbox by Matthew J Prigge
6. Riverwest, by Tom Tolan
7. North Point Historic Districts, by Shirley du Fresne McArthur
8. Midnight Rising, by Tony Horwitz
9. The Poet Who Would Be King, by David I Kertzer
10. From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City, by Carl Baehr

Regional books always have a strong place on our paperback nonfiction list, but I think they dominate even more in summer, as we have a lot of folks in from out of town, and they make their way to other lists as well. I would say 7 of this week's top 10 are Wisconsin focused, and six are really about Milwaukee. But one that is just selling off our new paperback table is How to Read the Constitution and Why, by Kim Wehle, Professor of Law at University of Baltimore and known for her legal expertise on CBS News and other shows. Wehle appeared on NPR's Morning Edition to talk about the book. More here.

Books for Kids:
1. Doodle Love, by Anne Emerson
2. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse, with illustrations by Renee Graef
3. Pigeon Has to Go to School, by Mo Willems
4. Share Your Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
5. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls V1, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
6. Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
7. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
8. Celebrate You, by Sherri Duskey Rinker, with illustrations by An Kang
9. Over the Moon, by Natalie Lloyd
10. Click, by Kayla Miller

From the publisher, on Pigeon Has to Go to School: "Why does the Pigeon have to go to school? He already knows everything... Ask not for whom the school bell rings; it rings for the Pigeon!" Wow, I'll bet this was a popular storytime. And I'd like to second Pigeon's complaint - why do alphabets have to have so many letters?

There are four reviews on the Journal Sentinel Book Page this week.

Patron Saints of Nothing is a YA book by Randy Ribay that was reviewed by Delfino Barbiero in USA Today: "When Jay learns that his beloved cousin, Jun, was killed in the drug war, he sets out on a journey to a country he barely remembers to find out exactly what happened to his cousin. Jay believes his cousin did not die in the drug war because of drugs — but possibly for shedding light on police abuse."

Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II is the latest book to be translated from the works of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich. Douglass K Daniel wrote this for the Associated Press: "Readers of the late American writer Studs Terkel, the most celebrated oral historian in the U.S., will recognize the simple but powerful prose that comes from recording ordinary people’s memories."

Oline H Cogdill reviews Allison Gaylin's eleventh novel for the Associated Press. Her take: "The popularity of true crime podcasts bleeds into the tightly plotted Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin. Her fictional hero Quentin Garrison uses his position as the interviewer for the L.A.-based podcast “Closure” to chronicle how violence affects families for decades in various ways." Publisher compares to Laura Lippman.

Cogdill also has something to say about latest mystery from SJ Rozan: "Rozan's affinity for little known facts about Chinese culture has fueled exciting thrillers featuring private detectives Lydia Chin and Bill Smith. In the outstanding new Paper Son, Rozan uses the history of Chinese immigrants who established regular grocery stores serving predominantly black neighborhoods in the Mississippi Delta during the early 20th century to sculpt a story about family, culture, prejudice and community.

*Crawdads is an exaggeration. But it is the bestselling book this year in this country, according to recent reports.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

New release: If You Want to Make God Laugh, by Bianca Marais, on sale July 16

Our buyer Jason first told me about Bianca Marais's novel, Hum If You Don't Know the Words. He was on the Indies Introduce judging panel, where a number of booksellers had taken to this story of two lost souls finding each other during the Soweto Uprising in South Africa. We wound up having six booksellers at Boswell read and recommend the title. Marais spoke at a lovely Lynden Sculpture Garden event, and we went on to sell many more copies in hardcover and paperback.

Aside: This month's Lynden event, produced by Milwaukee Reads, is Beatriz Williams, whose new novel is The Golden Hour, a story featuring the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, set in Nassau. It's this Sunday, July 14, 2 pm and they are still taking phone reservations at (414) 446-8794. Sorry, the online registration is closed. Signed copy requests also available. At this point, you should call Boswell (414) 332-1181 for that.

At the time, Marais told us she might work on a sequel to Hum If You Don't Know the Words because lots of people who read the book wanted to know what happened next. But those can be tough to sell, so I'm glad her second novel, If You Want to Make God Laugh, is a completely new story, still set in South Africa, but this time during the election of Nelson Mandela. It's about two sisters, somewhat estranged but forced together again, who find a black baby on their doorstep, as well as the woman who comes to take care of the child. Delilah and Ruth are very different, but have both been through traumas, with Ruth having had at least one abusive husband and Delilah having given up her child long ago when she was preparing to be a nun.

Actually, all three women have had to deal with sexual abuse and they all have scars. But now they are also fighting folks involved in the Afrikaner resistance movement, specifically their neighbors who want to buy up their family farm for their own operation, and will do anything to get them to leave. I think it's now time for Boswellian Jenny's recommendation.

"Set in South Africa during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, there’s no question that If You Want to Make God Laugh tells a heart wrenching story, but it’s also exactly the kind of thought-provoking book that stays with me long after turning the last page. Two of the main characters are white, sisters who haven’t seen each other in decades, and the third is their black teenage maid, Zodwa. Over the course of the novel, all of them confront what motherhood means in their very different lives. Ruth and Delilah arrive back at the abandoned house they grew up in within hours of each other, both for reasons they’d rather keep secret. Delilah is an aid worker who almost became a nun, while Ruth, known to the tabloids as South Africa’s wild child, has just attempted to fake her own suicide in a misguided bid to save her failing (third) marriage.

"Tension between the sisters is fraught enough, and when an abandoned black newborn appears on the doorstep the sisters’ opposite but equally intense reactions further divide them. Ruth would like the baby to stay, and Delilah knows she can’t possibly endure sharing her home with a child. Delilah’s story of betrayal is perhaps the most poignant, and I blinked back tears for the loss she endured, but Zodwa and even the seemingly self-centered Ruth are richly developed characters. The writing is so lovely I could blanket the sky with the stars If You Want to Make God Laugh deserves. Don’t miss this one!" --Jenny Chou

We've used The Help and The Secret Life of Bees as comparison for Marais's first novel and it might even be more apt for If You Want to Make God Laugh. Concerned about making sure she is not writing white savior novels, Marais has been careful to get sensitivity readings on her books. Photo at left is from her last event at the Lynden.

Here's a nice recommendation from Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter: “You will absolutely love this book. You will. Why? Because Bianca Marais’s heart is immense and full of love. With unsparing insight into the human condition, she unspools a tale that is at once heartbreaking as it is merciful, validating our frailty while eulogizing our endless capacity for generosity and love. We all need the deep refuge of Bianca Marais’s exceptional voice.”

Maris does a great job of setting the time and place and completely hooks you with the life-or-death stakes for many of the characters. It's also hard not to fall in love with Ruth, Delilah, and Zodwa, despite Ruth's best efforts to make you think ill of her. And yes, there's a lot of drama in the story, but that's what helps keep you hooked.

We're doing this event on a Friday afternoon (Friday, July 19, 2 pm, to be exact), being that there is so much going on Friday evening in Milwaukee, from Festa Italiana to Gallery Night. The event is free, but we're requesting registration, and we'll be giving out ten $5 Boswell gift cards in a drawing to folks who both register and attend the event. The link is maraismke.bpt.me.  If you'd like a signed copy, Marais's latest goes on sales July 16 and we'll have signed copies after the event.

Photo credit: Jory Nash

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

New Releases: "The Need," by Helen Phillips

I am many things, but there are two things I am not - a mother and a regular reader of horror fiction. But The Need, the new novel by Helen Phillips, is psychological horror novel about motherhood and I read it anyway. That's why I'm a fan of don't-stay-in-your-lane reading. For it turns out that The Need is psychological horror perhaps the way Kate Atkinson might tell it, and that's why it's getting so much love on its July 9 release date. '

I really was a hard sell, though that cover was definitely intoxicating. It's part of the floral-on-black trend reminds me of another cover I loved, The Immortalists, without aping it. But you generally have to comfort me a bit before you start scaring me when I'm reading and The Need is creepy from the first page. So I'll admit, I started the book, and then I put it down.

I must interrupt this post to ask the vocabulary buffs - is there a word to describe the person, the one you've never really met before, that you keep running into at a conference? It's one of those games of statistics, like the fact that if you're in a room with not that many people, the odds are good that two will have the same birthday. At every bookseller conference I go to, this happens. I will start seeing someone everywhere. Sometimes that person pretends that it is not happening, while other times, we bond, like I did with Carrie at Skylark Bookshop, a relatively new store in Columbia, Missouri that I have plans to visit on my westward road trip through the Midwest and Plains.

At this conference, that person was Helen Phillips. We kept running into each other everywhere, exacerbated by both of us groupy-ishly standing in a lot of lines to get books signed by other authors. But really, we saw each other everywhere - at another party, in the hallway, on the street.

But first we met at a Simon and Schuster dinner, and we had a wonderful conversation about reading and writing and teaching and life in New York, specifically Brooklyn, where writers have these running into each other experiences all the time, but for me, I'm excited when I say hi to a customer in Menomonee Falls or Oak Creek. It happens, they always ask why I'm not at the bookstore, and I'm always grateful that another person traveled farther than you'd expect to shop at Boswell.

When was time to get a copy of The Need signed, I asked if she'd inscribe one to Kay, my philosophy being that if someone gets a book personalized to you, you have to read it. I am well aware that it doesn't work in the slightest, but isn't that true with so many belief systems - you keep believing even though there are clearly holes in the theory?

But first I had to ask Kay, are you at the point in your life where you can read a scary book about motherhood? And she said yes, but I should note that I asked the same to my friend Rebecca, who has two young children, and she said no.

It turns out that Kay loved the book as much as I hoped, and she wrote this recommendation: "The stresses of caring for two very young children while working have kept Molly from taking the occasional misinterpreted sound or sight too seriously. But since David was suddenly called out of town for a week, the odd hallucination has transformed into a very real, um, problem. Perfect pacing, exquisite portrayal of the relentless demands of young children balanced by rare moments of perfect joy, coupled with Molly’s wavering interactions with her antagonist make The Need a beguiling read." (Kay Wosewick)

Kay calls attention to the pacing, which I would also like to mention. The story goes back and forth as Molly and her children are faced with an intruder, and Molly at a fateful day at work. She is a paleobotanist and has unearthed some unusual finds, and one of them has made her a target of hate. The story could be a what-if in Molly's head, or it could be a real speculative head-exploder.

There's a great profile of Helen Phillips in The New York Times, as well as a review from Harriet Lane, who said "Like parenthood itself, The Need is frightening and maddening and full of dark comedy." I should also note there's a wonderful recommendation by Rebecca Makkai, who wrote: "Phillips is, as always, doing something at once wildly her own and utterly primal. Maybe it doesn't surprise me that the strangest book I've read about motherhood is also the best, but it does thrill me." Can I mention here that while Phillips isn't coming to Boswell, Makkai has also been touting Claire Lombardo's The Most Fun We Ever Had and she is visiting, on Tuesday, August 6, 7 pm. Visit our upcoming events page.

I should also mention that when I was at Wisconsin Comic Con selling books with Carole E. Barrowman, we both had a nice conversation about The Need, and Carole reminded me it was in her summer reading roundup in the Journal Sentinel.  She calls it the mother of all domestic thrillers. That's a good one - I wish I thought of that. Barrowman would also like to give an extra shout-out to Kalisha Buckhanon Speaking of Summer, coming at the end of July. Can I also mention how excited I am about Barrowman's next work in progress, set during the Civil War?

But I digress. We're talking about The Need here, and how it just came out, and how I think a number of you are going to want to read it. If you buy it from us, it's Boswell Best (20% off) through at least July 22.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

New Releases: Bud Selig's "For the Good of the Game"

One of the legends of Milwaukee regards baseball - we somehow were able to get the Boston Braves to come to Milwaukee, attendance was phenomenal for a few years, the team won the World Series, and then, after several years of decline, left for Atlanta. Having read Home of the Braves: The Battle for Baseball in Milwaukee last year, I am well aware that the story is more complicated than legend generally dictates. But the happy ending remains the same - Bud Selig and friends brought baseball back to Milwaukee, by securing the Seattle Pilots. And don't feel badly for Seattle - just about every city that loses baseball eventually gets it back. Here's looking at you, Montreal.

But Bud Selig wasn't just a Brewers owner - he was eventually tapped to be the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, at first in an acting capacity, and then in full capacity. In a way, it reminded me of our experience at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, with Avin Domnitz moving from co-owner to Executive Director of the American Booksellers Association. Not only can that transition be complicated, but so can negotiations, particularly when you are dealing with the Players Union.

Selig's new book, For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball, is not a full memoir. One caller asked me, "Is there much about Washington High School in the book?" And I had to answer that there was not, to his dismay. Most of the focus of the book is on his years as Commissioner, dealing with three main issues - player negotiations, the imbalance between large and small-market teams, and the steroid issue. All were related, as was the stadium-building  boom, which as we know from the recently opened Fiserv Forum, pretty much never ends. Along the way, Selig warmly recalls his friends, such as Hank Aaron, who he's known for sixty years, and Herb Kohl, his college roommate at UW-Madison. Other folks don't get such fond reminiscences. And others get left out of the narrative altogether.

I've heard that not everyone likes the book - I don't really have to listen to talk stations or follow social media to find out - customers have been letting us know what they've heard - but as a person on the outside, just wondering when that extra sales tax will ever end (I'm guessing never), it's an fascinating story, thanks in part to writer Phil Rogers. The only time I zone out is when Selig actually starts describing games in detail - it's a long way from when I used to sit with David Schwartz at County Field and score games - I thought of the complicating coding as the equivalent of giving a child one of those activity books for long road trips. I'm guessing at least sometimes the tickets came from David's Cousin Sue. I'm well aware that I am more interested in the business of baseball (or any sport), rather than the sport itself. I'm the same wimp I was at 12.

Boswellian Tim McCarthy wrote a nice rec for the book so I'm not even going to try. Here it is. "Bud Selig loves the game of baseball. That's very clear throughout the book, and nobody seems more qualified to tell an insider's story about how the game has changed over the last 50 years. From his childhood ballpark excursions across the country with his mother to his time after leaving the Commissioner's job and entering the Hall of Fame, Selig has seen it all. He's effusive in praising the people he loves, both inside and outside the game, but the most compelling aspect of this memoir is how honest he's willing to be about his frustrations and the people who caused them. One perfect example of this is Selig's expression of deep friendship with Henry Aaron and the irritation he felt with representing baseball as Commissioner to witness Aaron's iconic home run record being broken by Barry Bonds, a man he obviously does not like. This book is genuine and fast moving, and I was fascinated by it. I admit to a bias. I was lucky to have lived across the street from the first field manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, Dave Bristol, for the three summers his family stayed in Milwaukee. I went to lots of games with his kids and played in the County Stadium clubhouse and bullpen. They even let us kids shag batting practice in those days. That all happened because of Bud Selig! He brought us baseball again after the Braves left. With a warm forward by baseball fan and master historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, this book is a one of a kind look at America's Pastime from a proud man who has always called Milwaukee his home."

Registration is still open for Bud Selig's talk with Tom Haudricourt on Thursday, July 11, 7 pm, at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts. It's free, but you must upgrade to a book to get in the signing line. Tax and fees included. Visit seligmke.bpt.me. This program sponsored by Boswell, Books & Company, and the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center. You can also get a book signed through Boswell Order the book with your request (personalizations must be prepaid), email us, or call (414) 332-1181.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Boswell events this week - BA Shapiro (two events!), Mark Hertzberg on Frank Lloyd Wright, Ed Block on Jon Hassler, Bud Selig with Tom Haudricourt, Anne Emerson's Doodle Art and Poetry, Live Through This Tour with Mary Miller, Juliet Escoria, Elizabeth Ellen, Amanda McNeil, Beatriz Williams at the Lynden, Summer School with Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

Summerfest is over and that means a busy week of programming!

Monday, July 8, 2 pm, at Boswell:
6:30 pm at Elm Grove Library, 13600 Juneau Blvd Book Club Presentations, featuring BA Shapiro, author of The Collector’s Apprentice, with recommendations from Daniel Goldin

Boswell presents two presentations featuring book club recommendations from Boswell’s proprietor Daniel Goldin and a fascinating talk by BA Shapiro, author of The Art Forger and The Muralist. At the 6:30 program, Daniel will be joined by Elm Grove Library’s Noah Weckwerth. We'll both be presenting some great options, either for your book club or to read on your own.

Shapiro will talk about her latest, The Collector’s Apprentice, a clever, complex tale of art fraud, scandal, and revenge that opens a window into the mystery and glamour of the art world of Paris in the 1920s. The story is based on the creation of the Barnes Collection, with Edwin Bradley being a fictionalization of Barnes and Pauline Mertens inspired by his assistant, Violette de Mazia. To add to the tension, Shapiro added a flim-flamming art collector - he's already destroyed the reputation of Pauline (now going by the name of Vivienne) - can he con the art world once again under a new identity?

Here's our recommendation from Boswellian Kay Wosewick: "Dive into the rapidly evolving art world of the 1920s with BA Shapiro’s latest book. The Paris art scene is vividly drawn with the likes of Henri Matisse and Gertrude Stein. Better yet, complex ideas about influences and confluences within the remarkable Post-Impressionist art world are folded seamlessly into the dialogue. You’ll be swept into a quiet tale of intrigue starring a rather traumatized young lady from Europe, a savvy con artist from America, and a wealthy American amassing a huge collection of contemporary European art. The story will take you for a couple of unexpected spins before letting you go well satisfied."

Tuesday, July 9, 6 pm, Central Library Krug Rare Books Room, 814 W Wisconsin Ave Mark Hertzberg, author of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Penwern: A Summer Estate

Hertzberg, former Director of Photography of Racine Journal Times, documents one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s lesser known but no less beautiful summer estates. This noted photojournalist also serves on the board of directors of the Frank Lloyd Wright Wisconsin Tourism Heritage Program.

Frank Lloyd Wright is best known for his urban and suburban houses. Lesser known are the more than 40 summer ‘cottages’ he designed in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario, many with a rustic feel and are not as easily recognized as Wright’s prolific year-round domestic designs. Among them is a stunning estate on Delavan Lake in southern Wisconsin called Penwern.

Commissioned by Chicago capitalist Fred B. Jones around 1900, Penwern has received both national and state recognition. The home’s current stewards have dedicated themselves to restoring the estate to Wright’s vision, ensuring its future. With beautiful color photographs, plus vintage black and white pictures and original Wright drawings, Hertzberg transports readers back to the glory days of gracious living and entertaining on the lake.

Listen to Hertzberg discuss Frank Lloyd Wright's Penwern on Wisconsin Public Radio's Central Time.

Wednesday, July 10, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Ed Block, author of Jon Hassler: Voice of the Heartland: A Critical Appraisal of his Work

Wisconsin native and Marquette Professor Emeritus discusses the first book-length study of the life and work of Jon Hassler, author of Staggerford and North of Hope, considered one Minnesota’s most beloved writers in the twentieth century.

Block offers a biographical sketch that recounts Jon Hassler's Catholic education and career as a teacher in a succession of towns in central Minnesota. He also focuses on the novels and short stories Hassler crafted from experiences and his own fertile imagination as well as stories based on the personal relationships he nurtured, sustained, and sometimes lost over time.

Hassler’s small-town roots and the sensitivity he developed as a teacher to the aspirations and frustrations of youth both contribute to his gently satiric but deeply humane renderings of middle American life. Block invited Hassler to read at Marquette, and the two corresponded for years.

Thursday, July 11, 7 pm, at Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts at 19805 W Capitol Dr:
Bud Selig, author of For the Good of the Game: The Inside Story of the Surprising and Dramatic Transformation of Major League Baseball, in conversation with Tom Haudricourt

Boswell Book Company, Oconomowoc’s Books and Company, and the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts present Bud Selig, longtime Commissioner of Major League Baseball, to discuss his new book, which provides an unprecedented look inside professional baseball today.

Registration is free at seligwilson.bpt.me. VIP tickets, which include a copy of For the Good of the Game and entry to the signing line after the talk, cost $28.99 plus tax and ticket fee are also available.

From Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel: "Die-hard Milwaukee baseball fans already know the shape of Selig's life. Born in Milwaukee, he became a passionate Milwaukee Braves fan, fought unsuccessfully to keep that team in town before ownership moved it to Atlanta, then led the campaign that brought baseball back to Milwaukee in the form of the Brewers. After the owners pushed Fay Vincent out, Selig became the de facto king of baseball in the hours between Robin Yount's 2,999th and 3,000th hits. He was in charge of MLB for 8,174 days, 'and very few of them were smooth days,' he points out."

We are getting fascinating questions about this event. Is it the same talk he would have given before the book came out? No, it's a conversation with Tom Haudricourt, acclaimed Journal Sentinel sportswriter. Is there much about Washington High School in the book? No, I guess that's for another memoir. He really focuses on his time in baseball.

Also on Thursday, July 11, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Anne Emerson, author of Doodle Love

Milwaukee native and Edgewood Orchard Galleries founder Anne Emerson comes to Boswell to celebrate the joy and love that dogs can bring into our lives with her debut picture book. We should note that Emerson didn't just grow up in Milwaukee, but just blocks away from the store. She went on to open Edgewood Orchard Galleries in 1969 with her mother, and it is now one of the most acclaimed galleries in the state. She also runs a very popular literary program, Write On, in Door County. Anne received the Wisconsin Governor’s Award for her work promoting the arts in education.

Doodle Love tells a tale in rhyme about Stella and Tiller, two Australian Labradoodles who are best friends. Emerson explores the many breeds of dogs most commonly bred with poodles to get doodles. Her book explores the joy and love dogs can bring into our lives, portraying them in rich watercolor paintings. Note that this is positioned as a kids book, and while we do expect to have some kids at the event, this talk is targeted to adults, notably Doodle Lovers.

Sharon Auberle, former Door County Poet Laureate, says “Emerson’s happy-go-lucky text combines brilliantly with Molly Johnson’s endearing paintings in this delightful tale. Stella and Tiller will capture your heart as they dance through their day, and the pure joy of life with these Doodles will have you smiling on every page. And, quite possibly, long after!”

Updated info: Mary Miller has had to bow out of Saturday's group reading.

Saturday, July 13, 6 pm, at Boswell:
Mary Miller, author of Biloxi, Juliet Escoria, author of Juliet the Maniac, Elizabeth Ellen, author of Saul Stories, and Amanda McNeil

For this event, I think of Amanda McNeil as our cohost, a Milwaukee-based writer whose work has appeared in The Fix, Hobart, and Witch Craft Magazine. While the Live Through This tour is making several stops, McNeil is only joining the gang for this leg.

Mary Miller, also the author of The Last Days of California and two story collections, is a former James A Michener Fellow in Fiction and John and RenĂ©e Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her latest is Biloxi, which transports readers to this delightfully wry, unapologetic corner of the south - Biloxi, Mississippi - to tell a tender, gritty tale of middle age and the unexpected turns a life can take. Earning starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and with, as Joyce Carol Oates writes for New York Review of Books, her “sociologist’s eye for the mundane and revealing,” Biloxi confirms Miller’s position as one of our most gifted, perceptive writers.

Juliet Escoria is the author of the poetry collection Witch Hunt and the story collection Black Cloud. Juliet the Maniac, voted by Bustle and Nylon as a most anticipated novel of 2019, is a portrait of a young teenager’s fight toward understanding and recovering from mental illness. Escoria’s work is shockingly honest, funny, and heartfelt as it brilliantly captures the intimate triumph of a girl’s struggle to become the woman she knows she can be. She's definitely featured in Chris's corner.

Elizabeth Ellen’s Saul Stories is the collection which includes her Pushcart Prize-winning story “Teen Culture,” first published in American Short Fiction. It’s a linked collection that explores the relationships between a forty-year-old female artist, her teenaged daughter, and her daughter's friends that wonders what it means to be a woman, an artist, and a mother, all at once. As Scott McClanahan, author of Crapalachia, says, Elizabeth Ellen is, “simply one of the best writers alive.” McClanahan is also a fan of Escoria, by the way.

Saturday evenings in summer? Seems like a tricky time to schedule a reading. But when we were told that there was some slight flexibility but it would then not include Mary Miller, this seemed the only way to schedule. I so enjoyed Biloxi, which reminded me of classic Algonquin writers like Jill McCorkle and Clyde Edgerton.

Sunday, July 14, 2 pm reception, 2:30 pm talk, at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W Brown Deer Rd:
Beatriz Williams, author of The Golden Hour

The Lynden Sculpture Garden’s Women’s Speakers Series presents an afternoon with Beatriz Williams, author of nine historical novels such as The Summer Wives and A Hundred Summers, with her latest, an epic of espionage, love, and sacrifice, set against a shocking true crime and the rise and fall of a legendary royal couple. The Women's Speaker Series loves to feature writers with an interesting backstory - did you know that Williams received an MBA from Columbia University and spent several years as a corporate consultant?

Tickets cost $31, $26 members and include an autographed copy of The Golden Hour, light refreshments, and admission to the sculpture garden; come early to stroll the grounds! Purchase online, at lyndensculpturegarden.org/beatrizwilliams, or by phone, at (414) 446-8794. Please note that after Friday, you can only register by phone. This event produced by Milwaukee Reads.

Williams's latest novel is about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and like many historical novels, she uses an everyday woman (fictional) to offer perspective. The result is a top-notch historical, with romance and thrills to boot.

From the starred Booklist: "When journalist Lulu Randolph arrives in Nassau in 1941 and gains the favor of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, she quickly learns that beneath the surface of the Windsors' court in this tropical paradise - where the duke is serving as governor - lies a quagmire of espionage, scurrilous financial dealings, and possible treason. Lulu also finds herself swept into a romance with the charming Benedict Thorpe, a British scientist who she realizes is involved in dealings considerably more serious than botany, which lead to his mysterious disappearance...Williams' latest is moving, well-researched, and compulsively readable to the very last page."

We've been working on trying to host Beatriz Williams for a year and a half, after several of us heard her speak at a bookseller conference. She also did a Skype conversation with a Lynden-affiliated book club and everyone was delighted. I think you too will be delighted by this event.

Preview - Monday, July 15, 7 pm, at Boswell: Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, author of The Ideas that Made America: A Brief History

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is the Merle Curti and Vilas-Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she teaches US intellectual and cultural history. In her talk, based on her new book, Ratner-Rosenhagen will show how ideas have been major forces in American history, driving movements such as transcendentalism, Social Darwinism, conservatism, and postmodernism.

Long before the United States was a nation, it was a set of ideas, projected onto the New World by European explorers with centuries of belief and thought in tow. From this foundation of expectation and experience, America and American thought grew in turn, enriched by the bounties of the Enlightenment, the philosophies of liberty and individuality, the tenets of religion, and the doctrines of republicanism and democracy. Spanning a variety of disciplines, from religion, philosophy, and political thought, to cultural criticism, social theory, and the arts, this introduction to American thought considers how notions about freedom and belonging, the market and morality, and even truth, have commanded generations of Americans and been the cause of fierce debate.

I call this our summer school series. Hope you'll come out for a little Osher-style educating in the evening. Please note, however, that I have not gotten permission from Osher to make this comparison. But you know what I mean.

More event into here.

Photo credits:
--BA Shapiro credit Lynn Wayne
--Bud Selig credit Scott Paulus
--Juliet Escoria credit Saja Montague
--Mary Miller credit Tanya Sazanski