Monday, October 14, 2019

Paul Tough, Rene Steinke, Jim Wallis, Timothy Faust, JF Riordan, Landis Blair, Paul Hendrickson - but alas, Dylan Thuras is at capacity

Alas, you waited until the last minute and now we're at capacity.But for which event? Read on and find out.

Tuesday, October 15, 7 pm, at University School of Milwaukee, 2100 W Fairy Chasm Rd:
Paul Tough, author of The Years that Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us

The University School of Milwaukee Speaker Series and Boswell Book Company present Tough, author of How Children Succeed and Helping Children Succeed, talking about his latest work, a mind-changing inquiry into higher education in the United States which asks, does college still work? Registration required for this free event on the University School of Milwaukee website.

With insight, humor, and passion, Paul Tough takes us on a journey from Ivy League seminar rooms to community college welding shops, from giant public flagship universities to tiny experimental storefront colleges. Whether you are facing your own decision about college or simply care about the American promise of social mobility, The Years That Matter Most will change the way you think, not just about higher education, but about the nation itself.

Online registration will likely be turned off sometime tomorrow morning. Last I heard, we had seats available for walk-up registration. For the latest info, check the ticketing website.

Tuesday, October 15, 7:30 pm, at UWM Hefter Center, 3271 N Lake Dr:
Rene Steinke, author of Friendswood

Please join us in celebrating 50 years of Creative Writing at UWM with a reading by UWM creative writing alum René Steinke, now Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Steinke was a 2016 Guggenheim fellow, and her nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, and Salon.

René Steinke’s most recent novel, Friendswood ,was named one of National Public Radio’s Great Reads of 2014, shortlisted for the St. Francis Literary Prize, and was an Amazon Book of the Month. Her previous novel, Holy Skirts, an imaginative retelling of the life of the artist and provocateur, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, was a Finalist for the National Book Award. Her first novel is The Fires. More information here.

At capacity - Wednesday, October 16, 6:30 pm, at American Geographical Society Library at UWM Golda Meir Library, 2311 E Hartford Ave:
Dylan Thuras, author of Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders

Dylan Thuras adventures back to Milwaukee for an event celebrating the brand new edition of his explorer’s guide that the New York Times calls “a wanderlust-whetting cabinet of curiosities on paper.” And what better place for this event than the AGSL, Milwaukee’s own geographer’s treasure trove?

The evening will feature Thuras’s slide show presentation and a trivia contest, plus the American Geographical Society Library will have a special mini-exhibit of maps connected to the book. More info at

Alas, this event is registered to capacity. Doors open at 5:30 pm, when we'll be giving out stand-by numbers.

Wednesday, October 16, 7 pm, at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1100 N Astor St:
Jim Wallis, author of Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus

Boswell presents an evening with Jim Wallis, Founder of Sojourners, a faith in action organization pursing racial justice, environmental stewardship, and peace, at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. Wallis will discuss his latest book, Christ in Crisis. Through his writing, Wallis offers a path to spiritual healing and solidarity, aimed to mend the divide separating Americans today.

With a practical and empathetic approach, Wallis addresses questions of power, truth, fear, and discipleship, applying lessons from the biblical stories to contemporary issues like race, immigration, and political discourse. As Wallis has done throughout his career, he offers comfort, compassion, and a constructive field guide for the modern era.

Registration will continue for this event at until Wednesday morning. We expect that walk-up registration will be available. Boswell will be selling copies of Christ in Crisis at the event, and attendees have the option to reserve a copy with registration - payment due at the event.

Thursday, October 17, 6:30 pm, at Frank L Weyenberg Library, 11345 N Cedarburg Rd:
JF Riordan, author of Reflections on a Life in Exile

JF Riordan studied voice at University of New Mexico, continued her music studies in Chicago and Milwaukee, and ultimately became a professional singer. Now she's the author of the Washington Island-set North of the Tension Line series, as well as this brand-new collection of essays.

Riordan’s essays are easy to pick up and hard to put down. By turns deeply spiritual and gently comic, these brief meditations range from the inconveniences of modern life to the shifting nature of grief. Whether it’s an unexpected revelation from a trip to the hardware store, a casual encounter with a tow-truck driver, the changing seasons, or a conversation with a store clerk grieving for a dog, Riordan captures and magnifies the passing beauty of the ordinary and the extraordinary that lingers near the surface of daily life.

Thursday, October 17, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Timothy Faust, author of Health Justice Now: Single Payer and What Comes Next

Wisconsin native Timothy Faust has traveled around the United States, talking to people about health inequality in their neighborhoods. With his new book, he offers a concise explanation of the benefits of single-payer health care and widening the definition of health care itself.

In Health Justice Now, Faust explains what single payer is, why we don’t yet have it, and how it can be won. He identifies the actors that have misled us for profit and political gain, dispels the myth that healthcare needs to be personally expensive, shows how we can smoothly transition to a new model, and reveals the slate of humane and progressive reforms that we can only achieve with single payer as the springboard.

Single payer healthcare is not complicated: the government pays for all care for all people. It’s cheaper than our current model, and some say most Americans and their doctors already want it. So Faust asks, what’s the deal with our current healthcare system, and why don’t we have something better?

Saturday, October 19, Noon – 4 pm, on Historic Downer Ave:
Historic Downer Avenue’s Haunted Halloween

Historic Downer Avenue’s Haunted Halloween returns with fun for the whole family. Enjoy the amazing Halloween-themed artistry of our chalk artists, stroll along with our accordion player, and pick your pumpkin at St. Mark's Church! For more information, visit

Downer businesses will compete in a pumpkin carving contest voted on by attendees. For the kids, there will be trick-or-treating, face painting, and twisted balloon shapes. For the adults, a mini-pub crawl sponsored by MKE Brewing, featuring seasonal favorite brews, with beer sales proceeds going to benefit the Riverwest Pantry.

Sunday, October 20, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Landis Blair, author of The Envious Siblings: And Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes, in conversation with Caitlin Doughty

Boswell hosts a conversation with award-winning comics artist Landis Blair and mortician-turned-author Caitlin Doughty about Blair’s new book of gleefully macabre vignettes as delightful as they are deadly.

This event is free, but registration is requested at Upgrade to purchase-with-registration for a copy of The Envious Siblings. Please note that while Caitlin Doughty will not be part of the post-event signing, signed copies of her new book, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, will be available for sale at the event. See ticketing website for restrictions.

Inspired by the dark imagination of Edward Gorey, Envious Siblings is a twisted and hauntingly funny debut. Blair interweaves absurdist horror and humor into brief, rhyming vignettes at once transgressive and hilarious. In Blair’s surreal universe, a lost child watches as bewhiskered monsters gobble up her fellow train passengers; a band of kids merrily plays a gut-churning game with playground toys; and two sisters, grinning madly, tear each other apart.

Boswell’s Chris Lee says, “Landis creates a demented world of ghoulish delights at once sharply cynical and delightfully surprising. This book is even more fun and dangerous than a dinner party with a rhyming tiger and his cheery bear and gator friends.”

Monday, October 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Paul Hendrickson, author of Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright, in conversation with Catherine Boldt

Paul Hendrickson is author of Sons of Mississippi, which won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award, NBCC Award-finalist Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott, and the National Book Award finalist The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War. He'll be in conversation about his latest book with Catherine Boldt, an Education Outreach Docent at Taliesin known for the disability accessible tours she gives at Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring Green Estate.

In Plagued by Fire, Hendrickson offers an illuminating, pathbreaking biography that will change the way we understand the life, mind, and work of the premier American architect. Revealing Wright's facades along with their cracks, Hendrickson forms a fresh and more human understanding of the man with prodigious research, unique vision, and his ability to make sense of a life in ways at once unexpected, poetic, and undeniably brilliant.

Free registration is requested at Upgrade to a purchase-with-registration for 20% off the list price. This price applies to preorders only.

More event information at

photo credits:
--Paul Tough credit Paul Terefenko
--Dylan Thuras credit Michelle Enemark
--Jim Wallis credit Elliott O'Donovan
--Timothy Faust credit Laura Wing-Kamoosi
--Landis Blair credit Anid Linden Medres
--Paul Hendrickson credit Tim Samuelson

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Boswell bestsellers for week ending October 12, 2019

Here's what's selling at Boswell for the week ending October 12, 2019

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Christmas Boutique V21, by Jennifer Chiaverini (signed copies available)
2. Land of Wolves V15, by Craig Johnson (signed copies available)
3. The Other's Gold, by Elizabeth Ames (and so forth)
4. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
6. Driving in Cars with Homesless Men, by Kate Wisel
7. Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
8. Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
9. A Better Man V15, by Louise Penny
10. The Testaments V2, by Margaret Atwood

It's the second week on the top ten for Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House, but she's been on the list before her her YA works and in fact did a Fierce Reads group event at Boswell back in 2014 at the North Shore Library. Constance Grady at Vox calls Ninth House "a decadent holiday treat," offering this teaser: "Alex is a freshman at Yale, but she isn’t like the rest of her classmates: She doesn’t have the money or the grades or the social clout to fit in at such an elite institution. She’s a 20-year-old high school dropout from SoCal. She was recently the sole survivor of a horrific multiple homicide involving her drug dealer boyfriend. She’s not exactly a natural fit. But what Alex does have is the ability to see ghosts. And that was enough to get her in the door at Yale."

The strong showing for Ann Patchett's The Dutch House is even more impressive because we are hosting an event that includes a book. But being the event is in Waukesha County and during the everything-is-happening month of October (such as the Milwaukee Film Festival), there are some folks that are skipping the event and jumping right to the book. And of course if I were attending the Sharon Lynne Wilson appearance as a reader instead of a bookseller, I'd buy one now to read and get my second book on the night of the event as a special holiday gift.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Unspeakable Mind, by Shaili Jain
2. The Years That Matter Most, by Paul Tough (event October 15 at USM - register here)
3. Freedom Farmers, by Monica White
4. The Book of Gutsy Women, by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
5. The People's Team, by Mark beech (signed copies available)
6. Blowout, by Rachel Maddow
7. When Life Gives You Pears, by Jeannie Gaffigan
8. Christ in Crisis, by Jim Wallis (event October 16 and Immanuel Presbyterian Church - register here)
9. Educated, by Tara Westover
10. Year of the Monkey, by Patti Smith

We don't always mention sales at conferences here but the SDC Poverty Conference hosted four dynamic authors and many of the topics were of interest to Boswell customers. Medical doctor Shaili Jain's book The Unspeakable Mind: Stories of Trauma and Healing from the Frontlines of PTSD Science, just came out from Harper this spring and has received nice words from Irwin Yalom and Edward Hallowell, who noted that "Jain has written a wonderfully creative mixture of handbook on trauma, research report, personal memoir, and cultural commentary."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
2. Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
3. The Sea, by John Banville
4. Gilgamesh, by Herbert Mason
5. Call Me by Your Name, by André Aciman (event November 7 - tickets here)
6. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
7. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
8. The Power, by Naomi Alderman
9. The Seven and Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton
10. Bluebird Bluebird, by Attica Locke

Aside from two older titles that probably popped due to book club or classroom sale, I've talked about every book in our top 10 more than once. So let's return to Milwaukee Noir, which has been the unexpected regional hit of the year. Before they came out, I spoke to a friend in another mid-sized city that had already seen both a Noir book from Akashic and an Anthology from Belt - I'm referring her to Milwaukee Anthology. His sales for the Anthology were several times over what they were for Noir, but we've had the reverse experience, and that's with only one event for Milwaukee Noir. Hey, we like mysteries and local stuff too - it's the peanut butter cup of publishing.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Nobody, by Marc Lamont Hill
2. Revive Us Again, by William J Barber
3. The Third Reconstruction, by William J Barber
4. Forward Together, by William J Barber
5. 111 Places in Milwaukee You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden
6. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean (In-Store Lit Group discussion title Monday, December 2)
7. Health Justice Now, by Timothy Faust (event at Boswell Thursday, October 17)
8. When Bad Lands, by Alan Kent Anderson (event at Boswell Friday, October 25)
9. I Beat the Odds, by Michael Oher
10. Move On Up, by Aaron Cohen (event at Boswell Saturday, November 2, 6 pm - all three are free, no registration)

The big hit from the SDC conference was Marc Lamont Hill's Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, which on publication, was a Kirkus best book of 2016 and a New York Times Editor's Choice. We sold out and took more orders for when the books came back into stock. Hill, who is Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College, also hosted VH1 Live in 2016. Here's The New York Times review from Stephen Bijan if you have not hit your quota yet for viewing NYT articles.

Books for Kids:
1. The Unwanteds Quests V4: Dragon Curse, by Lisa McMann
2. The World Ends in April, by Stacy McAnulty
3. How to Win the Science Fair When You're Dead, by Paul Noth
4. From Malena with Love, by Courtney Kotloski with illustrations by Natalie Sorrentino
5. Unwanteds Quests V1: Dragon Captives, by Lisa McMann
6. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty
7. Dasher, by Matt Tavares
8. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Illustrated Edition, by JK Rowling
9. Guts, by Raina Telegmeier
10. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse with illustrations by Renée Graef

What is this Unwanteds Quest series I read of on the Boswell bestseller lists? Truth be told, were I too list them all, there would be several other appearances but since Lisa McMann's visit was a bit ago and we're just now funneling sales, I thought two representative titles would be plenty. To think that we've been bringing McMann to schools since the very first Unwanteds book (in fact, that was me driving her around). There are now seven books in the original series and five books in the spin-off series. And schools are still loving her dynamic appearances where she inspires kids to be creative.

No book page in the Journal Sentinel, but here's Chris Foran's films you can't miss at the Milwaukee Film Festival, which opens October 17.

Friday, October 11, 2019

October reading log: Morris Day's memoir, Charles L Marohn, Jr's plea for public project financing reform, Deborah Levy's third Booker nom in a row

While I’ve read books with ghosts and books with ghostwriters, I don’t think I’ve ever before read both. Morris Day’s memoir, On Time: A Princely Life in Funk, was written with David Ritz and features the voice of Prince interrupting the narrative, complete with unique spellings. I understand why U would do this, as the Prince market is a good deal larger than the Morris Day market, but Day’s life sometimes seems a bit glossed over – a few hits, drugs, several marriages, affairs, six kids - I think I counted that correctly. Day lays out the straight, and I mean straight, scoop on Prince – he might be playing with sexuality but he only, only, only liked the ladies. He took sole credit for songs he didn’t fully write, and his record company noted that he played all the instruments on some tracks where he didn’t. He was a creative genius and an amazing guitar player, but he was also controlling. When it came 2 music, Day could handle the occasional missive to fire Jam and Lewis because they missed a concert while secretly producing the SOS Band, but once Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness (Thank Larry Graham for that), sessions led to a lot of boring lectures. Day notes that Prince was writing partly about him in "Pop Life," but I'm not sure that's a compliment. While I enjoyed it, whether you are the audience or not for On Time is etched in your own heart.


New Urbanism was once the hot thing in planning, but eventually was co-opted by developers who took the “village look” while leaving behind the actual tenets of small scale and incremental development that was pedestrian friendly. Charles Marohn Jr, in his new book Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, offers a return to this philosophy, with added elements of social justice and a good amount of libertarianism. His argument is that government bodies have been building projects that send taxes and other costs forward to the next generation, and those projects actually rarely pay out the way they are supposed to. Just look at the many attempts to jump-start Grand Avenue or the acknowledged lack of success at Bayshore Town Center. Or just to include something we look at as a success, Miller Park, which we’re still paying taxes on eighteen years after its completion.

One of the byproducts of starting with infrastructure instead of building it up with revenues is that it leads to rampant NIMBY-ism. Because so many projects start off with below capacity projections and there’s rarely money for maintenance that there is for building, public works are always at their best when they first are opened. Whether you’re talking about a highway or a library, the experience is always better with less usage. So the solution is for existing residents to demand less building and that of course leads to lower tax base and that means that the projects are economic failures. Marohn also has the perspective that you should invest in places that bring the most economic return, and that often means unassuming city blocks over suburban megaprojects and distributor warehouses, which often employ far few people per acre. I’m just a bookseller; you can argue this out. More on Marohn's visit to the Wauwatosa Library on October 23 here. Note that Little Read Book will be selling books at this event.


I was talking with my friend Marcy, a longtime publishing friend who I worked with many years and of course, the conversation turned to books. I always think of her when Barbara Trapido’s Brother of the More Famous Jack comes up in conversation, and it does, about every ten years, which is actually good for a book like that. It got rediscovered and everything. She told me she liked Deborah Levy, whose books had been on the Booker Shortlist fairly consistently, and I remembered we had a couple of reader’s copies on our shelf of her forthcoming novel The Man Who Saw Everything, and the books were still there after several months on the galley shelf. I decided to share – one for her and one for me. Honestly, who’s a better advance read for a publisher than an avid reader who calls a lot of independent bookstores?

The story focuses on Saul Adler, who at the story’s opening is having an affair with a budding photographer. He’s what you’d call a dandy, very David Bowie. They decide to shoot on Abbey Road (Happy 50th anniversary to the Beatles album), where Saul is hit by a car. He is okay, but his girlfriend dumps him. Off he goes to East Germany, where he is doing historical research on Nazi resistance, but he’s a suspicious character – his mom was Jewish while his dad was a communist sympathizer, and he’s suspected on all sides. In fact, his handler is probably a spy. He has some sexual contact with this guy, and they betray each other, and I won’t say how.

The story starts up again thirty years later, he’s hit by a car again in the same spot and this time he’s in the hospital, falling in and out of consciousness, possibly dying. His ex-girlfriend is now a famous photographer, he’s now with a man but the relationship isn’t very good, and he gets frequent visits from his father, who I should say is dead. The key here is that Saul and Saul’s perception of himself do not link up very well. I think that’s pretty common for all of us, but his is rather extreme. I found the book interesting and funny, but it was one of those books where I didn’t think I quite got all the themes and nuances, so I’ve been reading a lot of reviews (like this one from Rachel Donadio in The Atlantic) to better understand what I just read. And if you're wondering, Marcy liked it as well.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Events this week - Craig Johnson, Jennifer Chiaverini, Courtney Kotlloski and Natalie Sorrentino, Mark Beech, Elizabeth Ames and Kate Wisel, Aarti Namdev Shahani in conversation with Joy Powers

Monday, October 7, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Craig Johnson, author of Land of Wolves

Boswell Book Company hosts Craig Johnson, author of the beloved book-series-turned-hit-TV-show, Longmire, for his brand new novel, in which the titular Sheriff returns to Wyoming to try once again to maintain justice in a place with grudges that go back generations.

Advance registration has closed out for this event, but walk-up admission is available for $29. This includes a copy of the book.

In Land of Wolves, the latest in Johnson's New York Times bestselling series, Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire is neck deep in the investigation of what could or could not be the suicidal hanging of a shepherd. With unsettling connections to a Basque family with a reputation for removing the legs of Absaroka County sheriffs, matters are further complicated with the appearance of an oversize wolf in the Big Horn Mountains.

As Walt searches for information about the shepherd, he comes across strange messages from his spiritual guide, Virgil White Buffalo. Virgil usually reaches out if a child is in danger. So when a young boy with ties to the Extapare clan arrives in town, the stakes become even higher. To complicate matters, a renegade wolf has been haunting the Bighorn Mountains, and the townspeople are out for blood. But Walt knows the mysterious animal is not the predator that needs tracking. With both a wolf and a killer on the loose, Longmire follows a twisting trail of evidence, leading to dark and shocking conclusions.

Tuesday, October 8, 6:30 pm , at Elm Grove Library, 13600 Juneau Blvd:
Sold out! - Jennifer Chiaverini, author of The Christmas Boutique

We are at capacity for our event with Jennifer Chiaverini at the Elm Grove Library. Space may still be available at Chiaverini's Books & Company event in Oconomowoc on November 14. More details here.

Wednesday, October 9, 6 pm, at Boswell:
Courtney Kotloski and Natalie Sorrentino, author and illustrator of From Malena With Love

Celebrate the release of the latest book from Kotloski and Sorrentino with them at Boswell! This installment of the Gnat and Corky series honors kids by bringing forth their stories with whimsical illustrations.

A boy from the Philippines who started the Happy Animals Club. A girl who loves to paint the dreams in her head. A big sister who catches light for her brother with special needs. The stories of these kids and more are told through interviews and brought to life with paint in the hope of bringing light, laughter, understanding, beauty, and joy to the world. From Malena with Love is a story about remembering the lonely, being kind to all creatures, and using the simple power of being thoughtful to fill the world with good and wonderful things.

Courtney Kotloski is a playwright and author and a cofounder of Serendipity Theater (now 2nd Story, Chicago). Her plays have been performed at the New York Fringe Festival, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, and Second City LA. She has voiced radio and television spots and teaches acting and improve. Natalie Sorrentino is an illustrator who has collaborated with Kotloski on the Gnat and Corky series and illustrated many greeting cards and other media. She is a graduate of Alverno College.

Thursday, October 10, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mark Beech, author of The People’s Team: An Illustrated History of the Green Bay Packers

Senior Editor of The Players’ Tribune and longtime reporter for Sports Illustrated, Mark Beech commemorates the Packers’s 100th anniversary at Boswell with his definitive and lavishly illustrated history of Green Bay’s NFL team. The People's Team goes on sale Tuesday, October 8.

Not only are the Packers the only fan-owned team in any of North America’s major pro sports leagues, but Green Bay, pop. 104,057, is the smallest city with a big-time franchise. The Packers are, in other words, unlikely candidates to be pro football's preeminent team. And yet nobody in the NFL has won more championships.

Through extensive archival research and unmatched insider access to players and team officials, past and present, Beech tells the complete rags-to-riches history of the Green Bay Packers. The People’s Team paints compelling pictures of a franchise, a town, and a fan base. No other team in pro sports is so bound to the place that gave birth to it. Here is the story of the Packers and of Green Bay, from the days of the French fur traders who settled on the shores of La Baie in the seventeenth century, to the team’s pursuit of its fourteenth NFL championship.

Friday, October 11, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Elizabeth Ames, author of The Other’s Gold, in conversation with Kate Wisel, author of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men

University of Michigan MFA graduate Elizabeth Ames chats about her sparkling debut novel that Vogue named one of its 10 New Books to Read This Summer. She’ll be in conversation with Kate Wisel, author of Driving in Cars with Homeless Men, this year's winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize.

The Other’s Gold follows the four friends as each makes a terrible mistake, from their wild college days to their days as new parents. With one part devoted to each mistake, this debut interrogates the way that growing up forces our friendships to evolve as the women discover what they and their loved ones are capable of, and capable of forgiving. A joyful, big-hearted book that perfectly evokes the bittersweet experience of falling in love with friendship, the experiences are at once achingly familiar and yet shine with a brilliance and depth all their own.

National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward calls The Other’s Gold, “a gorgeous book, compulsively readable, so full of texture and heartache, so bruised and beautiful.” And Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere, says, “a sharply drawn portrait of lifelong friendship, Elizabeth Ames illuminates the ways our closest friends sustain us over the course of our lives.”

Sunday, October 13, 2 pm, at Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall, 733 N Eighth St:
Aarti Namdev Shahani, author of Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares

NPR correspondent Shahani talks about her memoir, a heartfelt rendering of the immigrant experience, written as a love letter from an outspoken modern daughter to her soft-spoken Old World father. She’ll be in conversation with Joy Powers, Producer of WUWM’s Lake Effect. Register for this event on the Milwaukee Public Library website.

Who really belongs in America? That question has chased every newcomer and many native-born since the founding of the republic. In this heart-wrenching, vulnerable, and witty memoir, journalist Aarti Shahani digs deep inside her family for an answer she finds in an unlikely place.

The Shahanis came to Flushing, Queens (one of the most diverse zip codes in the country) from India, by way of Casablanca, in the 1980s. They were undocumented for a few years and then, with the arrival of their green cards, they thought they'd made it. Shahani reflects upon how they did and didn't. Here We Are follows the lives of Aarti, the precocious scholarship kid at an elite Manhattan prep school, and her dad, the shopkeeper who mistakenly sells watches and calculators to the notorious Cali drug cartel. Together, the two represent the extremes that coexist in our country and the truths about immigrants that get lost in the headlines.

More on our the Boswell Upcoming Events page.

photo credits!
Craig Johnson credit Judith Johnson
Mark Beech credit Guillermo Hernandez Martinez
Elizabeth Ames credit Adrienne Mathiowetz
Aarti Namdev Shahani credit Nikolai Hammar

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Boswell bestsellers - week ending October 5, 2019

Here are our bestselling books for the week ending October 5, 2019

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Full Throttle, by Joe Hill  (signed copies available)
2. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
3. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
4. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
6. The Institute, by Stephen King
7. A Milwaukee Inheritance, by David Milofsky
8. Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
9. The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner
10. Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson (signed copies available)

Chris has been touting The Topeka School for months (congrats on his first Indie Next Pick quote) and the reviews have followed, including a front-page New York Times Book Review from Garth Risk Hallberg: "I could say more — about trauma, sex, paradox, magic — but only at the cost of further reducing this irreducible novel, which seeks instead to spread its readers beyond their borders with its fertile intelligence and its even more abundant heart. I’m probably too much a citizen of my time to predict it will “change lives,” but I’m confident in calling it a high-water mark in recent American fiction"

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. When Life Gives You Pears, by Jeannie Gaffigan (signed copies available)
2. Bitcoin Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich
3. Everything You Need, by David Jeremiah
4. How to Be a Family, by Dan Kois
5. Blowout, by Rachel Maddow
6. Book of Gusty Women, by Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
7. Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell
8. Hail to the Chin (hardcover), by Bruce Campbell
9. How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X Kendi
10. The Year of the Monkey, by Patti Smith

I am kind of fascinated by Book Marks, the new tool on Ingram's Ipage that takes reviews and sort of rates the review - rave, positive, mixed pan. For Rachel Maddow's Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, the consumer reviews from NPR and Washington Post were mixed to positive, but three of the four trade reviews - Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal - were raves. The PW was positive but their excerpt was "scattershot," which sounds anything but. Was this an editing error because the conclusion, "Maddow's absorbing but inconsistent exposé demonizes more than it analyzes." sounds more mixed than positive. Let's end on a rave for my review of the review aggregator - Kirkus's starred review calls it a worthy update to Daniel Yergin's The Prize.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Tinsmith 1865, by Sara Dahmen
2. Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, by Bruce Campbell
3. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
4. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
5. NOS4A2, by Joe Hill
6. Outline V1, by Rachel Cusk
7. Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
8. The Fireman, by Joe Hill
9. Strange Weather, by Joe Hill
10. Widow 1881, by Sara Dahmen

The littlest details tend to overpower me sometimes. Getting ready for the Bruce Campbell event at the Pabst, I could not for the life of me figure out which books were fiction and which were nonfiction. I think I have it right now - it turns out that while they all read like memoir, Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way is, well, autofiction. And for Joe Hill's appearance on Friday, Hill was convinced that he'd been to Milwaukee once before for Heart-Shaped Box. I was buying at the time and couldn't remember, but that he should ask the audience. The audience said no, but at the same time, I texted Nancy (the marketing director of Harry W Schwartz) and she said most likely yes. And that is how the tenets of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire are disproved - but maybe this was more like question #11.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Hail to the Chin, by Bruce Campbell
2. If Chins Could Kill, by Bruce Campbell
3. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
4. These Truths, by Jill Leppore
5. 111 Places in Milwaukee That You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden

Hail to the Chin's paperback edition was the featured title Campbell appeared for. He's much happier with the paperback jacket. Signed copies available.

Books for Kids:
1. Dasher, by Matt Tavares
2. Lawrence in the Fall, by Matthew Farina, with illustrations by Doug Salati
3. Throwback, by Peter Lerangis
4. Mudball, by Matt Tavares
5. The End and Other Beginnings, by Veronica Roth
6. Red and Lulu, by Matt Tavares
7. The Great Shelby Holmes V1, by Elizabeth Eulberg
8. Lalani of the Distant Sea, by Erin Entrada Kelly
9. Cape, by Kate Hannigan
10. Hello Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly

This list is schools, schools, schools, plus Veronica Roth for The End and Other Beginnings (signed copies available). One author that did schools only is Peter Lerangis, whose bio says he's written 160 books for kids! He also was an actor at the Melody Top Theater and he and Jenny realized that she saw him in one of his productions! His latest is Throwback (also signed copies available), a kids time travel novel where our hero Corey learns he is the rare traveller who can actually change the future. It's the first of a series. How about this booklist?: "While the story weaves through three time periods, the plot centers around 9/11 and its impact on Corey's family, and despite the sf trappings, this is an emotional journey, full of heart, about family and wanting to change the past. It's the kind of story that stays with you long after reading, and it will resonate with many."

Now to the Journal Sentinel Book Page. Jim Higgins profiles Tim O'Brien for Dad's Maybe Book. O'Brien is visiting on October 23 for a ticketed event (info here) and now will be in conversation with Liam Callanan. From Higgins: "One morning, teenage Timmy asked his father, novelist Tim O’Brien, what he was writing about. 'I told him I was writing about coming home from war. My son laughed and said, "Except you never came home." “The boy has a point. Some essential part of me remains in Quang Ngai Province, still young and scared, still astonished by my own moral diminishment. Getting old hasn’t helped.'" Read the rest of the piece here.

Ed Masley at the Arizona Republic reviews the new book from Debbie Harry, of Blondie and beyond: "In her newly published memoir, Face It, Harry reflects on her role in demanding a seat at the punkrock table for uncompromising women. 'I was playing up the idea of being a very feminine woman while fronting a male rock band in a highly macho game,” she writes. “I was saying things in the songs that female singers really didn’t say back then. I wasn’t submissive or begging him to come back. … My Blondie character was an inflatable doll but with a dark, provocative, aggressive side.'”

At Associated Press, Rob Merrill takes on The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehesi Coates's debut novel: "Suffice it to say that Harriet Tubman shows up and the Underground Railroad figures prominently, if not exactly as you read about it in history class. But this is a book that needs to be experienced. Readers need to find a quiet place and lose themselves in it, letting Coates’ words work their magic as he tells a tale about 'the awesome power of memory … how it can open a blue door from one world to another.' It’s a remarkable debut novel that reminds us in a fresh way why it’s so important we remember all of humanity’s stories – from the depraved to the glorious. Or as Coates puts it in the voice of Tubman: 'To forget is to truly slave. To forget is to die.'"

Also at Ann Levin reviews The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution from Eric Foner: "Foner, a Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor emeritus at Columbia University, has written many books about the Civil War, Reconstruction and slavery, but this one seems particularly attuned to the current political moment."

Donna Liquori at Associate Press (also also) writes about The Dutch House, the latest from Ann Patchett, who visits the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on October 22 (tickets here): "Patchett’s storytelling abilities shine in this gratifying novel, particularly as she moves toward the surprising and delightful conclusion. It’s important to note, though, that architectural history fans may feel a little slighted if they were drawn to the title looking for a story about an old vernacular Dutch house. The mansion is a hodgepodge of styles named for its inhabitants’ lineage with a few blue delft mantels 'pried out of a castle in Utrecht.'"

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Canadian Reading Log - Every Little Piece of Me, by Amy Jones

There’s something exciting and nostalgic about reading a book that’s not available in the United States. It brings me back to trips to Toronto, where I would buy books from Pages and This Ain’t The Rosedale Library and The World’s Biggest Bookstore. I was reading a lot of Canadian authors then – Robertson Davies and Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro before she caught fire stateside. But there was Bonnie Burnard and David Adams Richards, who later had books published in the United States, and Audrey Thomas, who I don’t think ever did. I was also intent on reading Patrick Gale’s books, who was published here intermittently. I found a whole bunch of them at Glad Day on one visit.

Despite our ever-more-porous cultural borders, there's are still clear differences. I will never forget reading this Canadian novel called The Secret Fruit of Peter Paddington. Not only did they change the title from Fruit, they decided that American readers wouldn't understand all the Canadian candy bars so they replaced them with American ones. And yet they kept Sam the Record Man, a popular Canadian record store of the time. Huh?

I don’t really get the chance to go to Toronto anymore*, but Canada came to me when our sales rep Jason told me about We’re All in This Together, a raucous family dysfunction novel from, 2016 written by Torontonian Amy Jones, but mostly set in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It never quite got published here, but McClelland & Stewart decided to do American distribution because no American imprint picked her up. They are owned by Penguin Random House and have an import agreement. PRH Canada books are distributed through the Maryland warehouse but you can only get them if rights are aligned in the sky. We used to have to jump through several hoops to get Shauna Singh Baldwin’s most recent novels, but that’s now a bit easier.

Our rep Jason convinced Chris to read We’re All in This Together and he convinced me, and both of us have convinced a whole bunch of other people. And then I led a discussion for our In-Store Lit Group, which you can read more about here. Around that time, McClelland & Stewart released Every Little Piece of Me, her follow-up novel which is about not one, but two pairs of feuding sisters, which is sort of my unofficial theme of 2019. But it’s really a friendship novel, despite the two protagonists meeting for more than a chance interaction until towards the end of the book. Ava is a reluctant reality show star, a manufactured setup - her two actor dads and her two adopted siblings leave New York to run a bed and breakfast in Nova Scotia, which is actually owned by the production company – for a manufactured family. Slowly it becomes clear that Ava’s sister Eden is destined to become the star of Where the Hart Is, while Ava and her brother Val will be footnotes.

Mags has been abandoned by her family – father missing, mom dad, sister Frankie tossed her out – and winds up living in the basement of a wealthy high school friend Sam. Sam’s in a band, but they need a singer, and maybe they need to stop writing their lyrics in Klingon, and they found the missing element in Mags. When the story opens, we know that Align Above is doing well, but we also know that Sam, pretty much Mags’s only rock in this whole business, has died very young of bone cancer.

The story alternates between the two, and while it does that contemporary thing where social media is woven into the story, it’s really the old-fashioned narrative voices that swept me in. I’ve read a lot of music books over the years, both fiction and nonfiction, and I love the way that Mags’s old-school journey to unwanted not-really success contrasts with the newer reality show route to notoriety. I’d like to say one is the cracked mirror version of the other, but they are both pretty cracked. By the way, I still think the most music memoir I ever read was by someone who didn’t quite make it, Jen Trynin’s Everything I’m Cracked Up to Be. It’s out of print, but that’s par for the course when you’re writing about a book that officially isn’t available.

Like so many international books, they are available with the tap of a button, which is the difference between then, when I drove ten hours to pick out a Canadian author, and now. I’m not sure why I have to follow territory rights laws, but consumers do not, and I will not solve that dilemma here. Fortunately, many Canadian writers do get published here. Miriam Toews's All My Puny Sorrows is still on my rec shelf (the new Bloomsbury edition comes out later this month) and in addition to Jones, our In-Store Book Club also read Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black. We also hosted Torontonians Karma Brown (new book in January) and Bianca Marais. For a while, we were going through a phase where American publishers would tour Canadian authors through the Northern tier – Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee – but that trend has died down.

The Giller Prize finalists have been announced, which gives me six more books to put on my reading list. Jones did not make it, but she did get some nice reviews, including Sue Carter's write up in The Star and a review in the Globe and Mail that called the novel "addictive," only I can't tell you more because it's behind a paywall.

I'm hoping one day Amy Jones's latest will be officially available in America (but please keep the Aero bars), and I'm hoping, despite my attempt to sell you on it, that you hold off until then. For now, if you haven't read We're All in This Together, I'd love for you to pick one up, if not from us then from you're local indie. And if they don't have it, consider ordering it from them. I continue to hear back from folks I recommended it to who loved it. My favorite was when I was giving a book club talk to around a dozen readers. I mentioned it and half of them had already read it. How? It turns out that I'd hand-sold it to one of them and she talked it up to everyone else.

*Being that my niece and one of our former booksellers are both living in Vancouver, that seems a bit more likely. So I can still get a Nanaimo Bar, right?