Sunday, October 25, 2020

Novellas, Instagram collections, MacArthur fellows, imaginary countries, stress relief, and more Boswell bestsellers for the week ending October 24, 2020

Here's what is selling at Boswell this week,

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar
2. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by VE Schwab
3. The Searcher, by Tana French
4. The Lost Shtetl, by Max Gross
5. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
6. Jack, by Marilynne Robinson
7. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
8. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig (Register for October 26, 3 pm CDT event here)
9. The Silence, by Don DeLillo
10. A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik

The only newly released book that hits our top ten for hardcover fiction is The Silence, by Don DeLillo, which Chris wrote in his rec is "a piercing novella that asks: what will we grasp for when we lose that which anchors us to modernity?" Link to our sales page for it in full. Over at Book Marks, critics are mixed, with some raves and some pans. But the weirdest thing to me was on Tom Breihan's #1 blog on Stereogum where the comments section for John Parr's "Man in Motion" became a conversation about Don DeLillo sparked by a post about White Noise, which came out in 1985 and continues to be the only DeLillo book I ever finished. I should I note here that I read more pages in Underworld than there actually are in The Silence. But my thought was, was this an organic conversation or was that post placed there in conjunction with The Silence's release?

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Greenlights, by Matthew McConaughey
2. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
3. Thinking Inside the Box, by Adrienne Raphel (Register for November 10, 7 pm CDT event here)
4. I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown (Register for November 17 book club event with ABHM here)
5. Accidentally Wes Anderson, by Wally Koval'
6. Home Style Cookery, by Matty Matheson
7. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
8. Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown, by John Lithgow
9. Is This Anything?, by Jerry Seinfeld
10. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson

The Instagram following for @accidentallywesanderson is 888,000, which definitely helped the first week sales for the book from Wally Koval. Accidentally Wes Anderson's comp is Cabin Porn, but I'm guessing we're going to beat our numbers. Louise Long talked to Koval in British Vogue. Among her questions: "Anderson himself says in the introduction to the book, 'I am still confused [about] what it means to be deliberately me.' Why did you land on the word “accidentally” for the name of the account?"

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Readers' Room, by Antoine Laurain
2. The Town Crazy, by Suzzy Roche
3. Wild Rose, by Louise Gluck
4. Disaster Tourist, by Yun Ko-Eun
5. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
6. Dune, by Frank Herbert
7. The World That We Knew, by Alice Hoffman
8. Circe, by Madeline Miller
9. Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
10. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain

Jacqueline Woodson, whose Red at the Bone hits our list in paperback this week, is one of three fiction writers to be 2020 MacArthur fellows. I assume several of the others have written fiction, but their descriptions did not indicate they are predeominantly fiction writers. NK Jemisin, who has made regular appearances on our bestseller lists, is another, and the third is Christina Rivera Garza, a writer who has won numerous prizes in Mexico, and teaches on both sides of the border, is the third. Her novels are pretty hard to get in English (the most recent is short discount and nonreturnable from our wholesaler - a shout out to bookstores not to stock it) but a nonfiction book, Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country, is available from Feminist Press.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
2. They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei
3. Our Malady, by Timothy Snyder
4. The Second Mountain, by David Brooks
5. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
6. Burnout, by Emily and Anna Nagoski
7. Welcome to the Unwelcome, by Pema Chodron
8. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
9. For the Love of Europe, by Rick Steves
10. People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn

We have a book club reading Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, but since the book is published in 2020, it's worthy of highlighting to me. Plus I would say current conditions are probably contributing to anxiety that probably exacerbates burnout, right? The Nagoski twins (yes, identical), one a sex educator (Come As You Are) and the other a music professor who together write about the importance of the stress cycle and how to complete it. Here's a video.

Books for Kids:
1. Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names, by Matthew and Steve Murrie
2. The Night Before Christmas, by Jan Brett
3. The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
4. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake/Jon Klassen
5. The Very Last Leaf, by Stef Wade/Jennifer Davidson
6. Mañanaland, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
7. A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade/Melanie Demmer
8. Dear Martin, by Nic Stone
9. Dear Justyce, by Nic Stone
10. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer

Pam Muñoz Ryan's Mañanaland is the latest from the Newbery Medalist (for Echo) and was part of a recent school purchase. For kids 8 and up, this novel may be set in the fictional country of Santa Maria, but as Publishers Weekly notes, the novel is "at its core, wrenchingly real." Booklist's starred review offers this praise: "This story, infused with magic, reminds children that humanity thrives when people embrace differences and construct bridges instead of borders. Another unforgettable work from a master storyteller."

Today's Journal Sentinel reviews are for Leave the World Behind, by Runaam Alam, and The Book of Two Ways, from Jodi Picoult.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Event update - Max Gross, Antoine Laurain, Suzzy Roche, Thomas Maltman and next week - Matt Haig and Jess Walter

Here's what's happening at virtual Boswell this week.

Monday, October 19, 7 pm
Max Gross, author of The Lost Shtetl
in Conversation with Andrew Silow-Carroll for a Virtual Event

Join us for a virtual event with Max Gross, debut author of a remarkable novel, written with the fearless imagination of Michael Chabon and the piercing humor of Gary Shteyngart, about a small Jewish village in the Polish forest that is so secluded no one knows it exists - until now. Cohosted by The Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center and the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center. Hell chat with his former mentor Silow-Carroll, editor of The New York Jewish Week. Click right here to register for this Zoom event.

Gross, formerly at the Forward and now Editor of the Commercial Observer, has written a novel with starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus. Boswell Book Company’s Chris Lee says, “It’s a myth, it’s a fable, it’s something like a newly discovered religious text. In a world with a seemingly endless supply of novels about the ends-of-the-earth reaching consequences of WWII and the Holocaust, The Lost Shtetl is a wondrous left turn. Gross has written a clever, affecting parable of the ways history, sooner or later, reaches us all.”

For decades, the tiny Jewish shtetl of Kreskol existed in happy isolation, virtually untouched and unchanged. Spared by the Holocaust and the Cold War, its residents enjoyed remarkable peace. It missed out on cars, and electricity, and the internet, and indoor plumbing. But when a marriage dispute spins out of control, the whole town comes crashing into the twenty-first century. Divided between those embracing change and those clinging to its old world ways, the people of Kreskol will have to find a way to come together or risk their village disappearing for good.

Tuesday, October 20, 2 pm
Antoine Laurain, author of The Readers’ Room
in Conversation with Anne Leplae and Daniel Goldin for a Virtual Event

Boswell Book Company hosts the virtual return of our in-house favorite French author, Antoine Laurain, author of beloved novels like Vintage 1954 and The Red Notebook (and The Red Notebook and French Rhapsody and Smoking Kills and The Portrait). He’ll chat about his latest, in which a Parisian editor is drawn into a murder investigation when an unknown thriller author is shortlisted for a prize. Laurain will chat with Anne Leplae, the Executive Director of Alliance Française de Milwaukee, and Daniel Goldin. Click right here to register for this virtual Zoom event

Publishers Weekly notes of The Readers’ Room, “A profound love of books and authors underpins this sprightly mystery,” and the European Literature Network calls it “another winner for Laurain.” And from Daniel Goldin’s recommendation: “Each character is brought to life with the quirky details Laurain does so well, a few literary figures make an appearance, and the book offers up connections to Laurain’s past works, including French Rhapsody and The Red Notebook, which was recently on the Duchess of Cornwall’s quarantine reading list.

When the manuscript of a debut crime novel arrives at a Parisian publishing house, everyone in the readers' room is convinced it's something special. And the committee for France's highest literary honour, the Prix Goncourt, agrees. But when the shortlist is announced, there's a problem for editor Violaine Lepage: she has no idea of the author's identity. Intrigue and charm combine in this dazzling novel of mystery, love and the power of books.

Wednesday, October 21 7 pm Suzzy Roche, author of The Town Crazy 
in Conversation with Jane Hamilton for a Virtual Event

Suzzy Roche, a founding member of the band The Roches (and author of Wayward Sints), will be in conversation with Jane Hamilton for a virtual Ink/Well event sponsored by Ink Link Books and Boswell Book Company. Roche’s latest is a novel of passion, absurdity, innocence, and sorrow. Click here to register for this virtual event.  

The Town Crazy is set in the sleepy town of Hanzloo, Pennsylvania. In 1961, a single father moves into town with his young son, which arouses suspicion from the husbands and the interest of the wives, but at the same time, one of the wives seems to be losing her mind, and no one knows what to do. A contemporary, often humorous take on a bygone era, The Town Crazy also delves into the terror and cruelty of childhood, the dangerous loneliness of failing marriages, sexual repression and desire, and the intersection of art and religion, all culminating in a tragedy for which everyone in the town bears some responsibility. 

Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion says, "The Town Crazy casts a strong spell, and I don't think I've shaken it off yet, nor do I want to. Suzzy Roche understands so much about other people’s lives; her fiction, just like her singing and songwriting, is thrilling, beautiful, and shattering. I will be thinking about this town, these people, this captivating novel, for a long time."

I made my own record chat between 1975 and 2002, meaning I would rate my favorite songs every week. For 23 of those years, I tabulated to 100. The Roches had numerous chartings, but alas, by the time Suzzy went solo, I had stopped. Their highest peak was #3 in 1992 for Troubled Love. How did I ever have so much time?

Thursday, October 22, 7 pm
Thomas Maltman, author of The Land
in Conversation with William Kent Krueger for a Virtual Event

Thrillwaukee heads northwest for an evening of criminal Minnesotan masterminds. Thomas Maltman chats about his follow up novel to his IndieNext pick Little Wolves, a story of violence set in the heart of a pastoral landscape, with William Kent Krueger, author of Ordinary Grace. Click here to register for this virtual event.

Recovering from a terrible auto accident just before the turn of the millennium, college dropout and hobbyist computer-game programmer Lucien Swenson becomes the caretaker of a house in northern Minnesota. Shortly after moving in, Lucien sets out to find a woman with whom he had an affair, who vanished along with money stolen from the bank where they had worked together. At once a mystery and spiritual noir, The Land explores the dark side of belief, entrenched white supremacy in the Heartland, the uniquely American obsession with end times, and the sacrifices we make for those we love. 

Leif Enger, author of Virgil Wander and Peace Like a River says, “Maltman’s The Land is a gift to readers longing for a tale of lost love, fringe prophets, souls in cold suspension, and ravens that darken the skies of a Northern winter. Set against a looming apocalypse and the clicking of a projector showing classic films, The Land is generous, intricate, and propulsive.”

Monday, October 26, 3 pm
Matt Haig, author of The Midnight Library
A Readings from Oconomowaukee Virtual Event
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin

Presenting the latest event in the Readings from Oconomowaukee series from Books and Company and Boswell Books. Matt Haig, author of the novel How to Stop Time and the memoir Reasons to Stay Alive, joins us all the way from Brighton, England for this special afternoon event to chat about his latest, which draws on quantum wave theory to tell the charming story of an English woman with situational depression. Click here to register for this Zoom virtual event.  

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better? 

In Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place. 

So many people love Matt Haig's writing, but I can't think of a better quoter than Jameela Jamil, since this book would definitely be of interest to lovers of The Good Place. She wrote: "I can't describe how much his work means to me. So necessary...[Matt Haig is] the king of empathy."

Wednesday, October 28, 7 pm
A Ticketed Event with Jess Walter, author of The Cold Millions
in Conversation with Karen Russell for a Virtual Event

We are pleased to host a ticketed virtual with Jess Walter, the author of the beloved #1 bestseller Beautiful Ruins and Edar winner for Citizen Vince, for a conversation about his first new novel in eight years. Walter will chat with Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia and Sleep Donation, a haunting novella praised by Stephen King, now available in paperback. What a great pairing!

Tickets are available at for $23.19 (20% off the price of The Cold Millions), plus sales tax and ticket fee, and include "admission" on one device to the event. The first 60 folks to sign up will get a signed tip-in copy of The Cold Millions. Folks who sign up after that will either get tip-ins or a signed book with bookplate.

What better place to quote from for The Cold Millions event than the literary website The Millions? Matt Harvkey dives deep into Jess Walter's latest here. "...The Cold Millions has politics in its DNA. It raises questions about power’s corrupting influence, about the sides people take and fortify with rhetoric, and about brotherhood, both genetic and thematic. The book is intimate enough to tell a moving story about Rye and Gig, and expansive enough to tell other stories too - about labor, class, inequality, privilege, corruption, and migration. But above all, The Cold Millions is about Spokane." Read the rest!

A final note - all of Jess Walter's initial events are ticketed. If you're going to read the book anyway, why not buy it as part of the event and watch this great conversation? We've discounted the book so even with the ticket fee, it's under list price. We'll ship anywhere in the continental United States for $4. And don't forget about the signed bookplate. And can I just say, remember how much you loved Beautiful Ruins?

More on Boswell's upcoming events page. All start time are Central time (or Chicago time, if you'd prefer).

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Ready for the Boswell bestsellers for the week ending October 17, 2020? Of course you are.

Ready for the Boswell bestsellers for the week ending October 17, 2020? Of course you are.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. A Time for Mercy, by John Grisham (still have a few signed tip-in copies left)
2. The Searcher, by Tana French
3. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar (signed tip ins available of this too)
4. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig (register here for October 26 event here)
5. The Lost Shtetl, by Max Gross (register here for October 19 event here)
6. All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny
7. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
8. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
9. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
10. The Once and Future Witches, by Alix E. Harrow

Jessica Wick reviewed The Once and Future Witches on the NPR blog. She writes: "If spells (witch-ways in the novel) are truly hidden in stories, then I know what spell is in The Once and Future Witches. It's the spell to claim a heart and dwell there, ever after. I unabashedly, unreservedly adore The Once and Future Witches. I adore it with the kind of passion that prickles at my eyes and wavers my voice. I adore it in a way that requires purchase of a giving copy, for friends in need."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Forward, by David Jeremiah
2. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
3. The Well-Plated Cookbook, by Erin Clarke (signed copies available)
4. How to Write One Song, by Jeff Tweedy
5. I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown (register for November 17 event with America's Black Holocaust Museum here)
6. Modern Comfort Food, by Ina Garten
7. 99 Percent Invisible City, by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
8. Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh
9. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
10. Be More RBG, by Marilyn Easton

One of the interesting things we pay attention to is how categories do at different times of the year. We see a big increase in cookbooks in the fourth quarter, but another gift category that works for us quite well are music bios and memoirs. Jeff Tweedy's How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back had a very nice first week of sale, mostly due to their being signed tip-in copies. We're getting more - some signed and some not. If you're requesting a signed copy, please put that info in the comments section of your order. From Will Leitch in GQ: "Jeff Tweedy has long been prolific, but the Wilco frontman is currently on a monumental run of Making Sh*t. In the past five years, Tweedy has made two Wilco albums, gone on several world tours, released three solo albums, appeared in multiple movies and television series, and written two books. Fittingly, the announcement of his second book - How to Write One Song, a smart, funny, relentlessly practical guide to discovering the secret songwriter within—was accompanied by an actual surprise album too. That one’s called Love Is the King, and it was written, produced, and performed, all during quarantine, by Tweedy and his sons, Spencer and Sammy."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Mirror Lake, by Juneau Black (register for October 29 event here)
2. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
3. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
4. Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion
5. Second Sleep, by Robert D. Harris
6. The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride
7. Where We Come From, by Oscar Cásares (register for December 8 author event here)
8. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
9. Shady Hollow, by Juneau Black
10. The Overstory, by Richard Powers

I have to get used to the fact that our MTI code for movie-tie-in should now say STI, for streaming, which is more likely to be the case. No Jason, I don't want to change the code! But The Good Lord Bird is the latest streaming series to pop onto our bestseller list. This Showtime series features Ethan Hawke as John Brown and has Daveed Diggs recurring as Frederick Douglass. From Mike Hale's review in The New York Times: "The Good Lord Bird has not received what you could call kid-glove treatment from Showtime. It was announced for Feb. 16 but pulled, then rescheduled for Aug. 9 and pulled again. It will finally premiere, without much fanfare, this Sunday. It’s curious treatment for a prestige mini-series based on a National Book Award-winning novel that was spearheaded by and stars one of America’s most accomplished actors. And it’s a shame, because The Good Lord Bird - a seven-episode adaptation of James McBride’s 2013 novel - is fine entertainment, capturing some measure of McBride’s jaunty, irreverent humor and featuring an absorbing performance by Ethan Hawke, who created the series (with the writer Mark Richard) and plays the central role of the messianic abolitionist John Brown."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Burnout, by Emily Nagosaki
2. Storied and Scandalous Wisconsin, by Anna Lardinois
3. My Grandmother's Hands, by Resmaa Menakem
4. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
5. Furious Hours, by Casey Cep
6. Tough Love, by Susan Rice
7. Chaos, by Tom O'Neil
8. Save Me the Plums, by Ruth Reichl
9. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
10. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

The numbers are still relatively small, but it's nice to see our long-delayed update to our book club checklist and brochure selling some books. One of my friends in publishing asked me what there was to talk about in Save Me the Plums. I told her that many book clubs just need books they are certain the members will finish. But then I thought back and thought about how I wound up talking about this book with several other readers. There's an Alice in Wonderland quality about the story, of an anonymous restaurant reviewer stepping into the world of food celebrity, only it's as if she has to go back to Kansas every night. I also really love book clubs where people share food from a book, and that reminded me of my sister's family's get-togethers where they cook food together virtually every Saturday. And then we could cry about the decline of magazines. I just received a copy of a magazine that I think is doing pretty well because online subscriptions have held up, and I think I saw only one ad outside of the back cover.

Books for Kids:
1. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
2. The Rock and the River, by Kekla Magoon
3. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake, illustrations by Jon Klassen (we may have some signed bookplates left - just ask)
4. The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor, by Amy Alznauer
5. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer (signed copies available)
6. The Time of Green Magic, by Hilary McKay
7. The Unadoptables, by Hana Tooke
8. Brave, by James Bird
9. The Girl and the Ghost, by Hanna Alkaf
10. Wink, by Rob Harrell

I am not usually driven to read kids books from The New York Times Book Review, but something about Hilary McKay's A Time of Green Magic spoke to me, especially because it also had a very nice quote from Katherine Rundell. From Sarah Harrison Smith's NYT review: "That moment propels an increasingly magical story, involving, like many of the best children’s books, a move to a more verdant abode, an absent mother and much-needed repair work - to a neglected house and an isolated young soul who lives to read. The Time of Green Magic is, in part, a book about loving books. McKay refers to Narnia and Hogwarts, and though she doesn’t mention Edwardian classics like Five Children and It or The Secret Garden, she nestles her story so snugly in the literary canon that you can imagine E. Nesbit and Frances Hodgson Burnett fluttering nearby like kindly, aging aunts." It reminded me a lot of Magic or Not from Edward Eager, whose work is indebted to E. Nesbit. Our buyer Amie is also a big fan.

Please check upcoming event page for event times. All are Central Time

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Shady Hollow is back! Juneau Black talks about Mirror Lake, the third book in the series.

Mirror Lake, the long-awaited third book in the Shady Hollow series is here! The follow-up to Cold Clay is another delightful cozy mystery that once again is set in a forest hamlet where enterprising animals have created a unique self-sufficient economy devoid of human interlopers.

As Juneau Black states: "It is pointless to question too deeply the mechanics of this town. If a moose pours a mug of coffee for a sparrow sitting a the cozy counter of the local diner, why not focus on the friendliness of this gesture, rather than the logistics of dish size and seat height?"

We'll be hosting Juneau Black in conversation on October 29, 7 pm. Register here. But I thought it would be a great idea to ask a few questions in advance to the folks behind JB, Sharon Nagel and Jocelyn Cole (Koehler). It's a teaser!

Daniel: This is your third book in the Shady Hollow series. What was your initial impetus for the story.

Sharon: Jocelyn and I worked together at Boswell way back in 2010. On one very slow night, we assembled some adorable finger puppets in the children’s department and gave them names and occupations. Then we started telling stories about them. We decided to write the first book during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place every year in November. That story became Shady Hollow, the first book in the series.

Jocelyn: And fun fact, people can see one of the very first named characters, Howard Chitters, in an illustration by the wonderful Aaron Boyd that’s hanging up at Boswell (see below) 

Daniel: Who is your favorite new character in Mirror Lake?

Sharon: I am partial to Arabella Boatwright, the Mirror Lake librarian. It might have something to do with the fact that I recently graduated from Library School and am a librarian myself.

Jocelyn: For me, Bradley Marvel, the wolfish thriller author who’s in town for a book reading, was incredibly fun to write. He’s the worst kind of alpha male! (editor's note: I'm also a fan of Marvel, who is often distraught about the inability to find a good steak dinner in this godforsaken outpost of vegetarianism).

Daniel: What were some of your inspirations for the Shady Hollow series?

Sharon: Both Jocelyn and I enjoy reading mysteries. We get inspiration from reading the works of other authors that we admire. We also thought it was important to vary our crimes somewhat, so that Vera is not constantly tripping over dead bodies on the way to work in the morning.

Jocelyn: Yes, we much prefer our bodies to be discovered in odd places, sometimes years after the crime.

Mirror Lake is so much fun. The characters, whether rat or raven, are fully furred (or feathered) out, the story is compelling, and I really enjoyed many of the turns of phrase, such as when Vera the fox trotted over to her next clue. There was a lot of giggling. All three books are now available - Shady Hollow, Cold Clay, and Mirror Lake.

Event is Thursday, October 29, 7 pm CDT. Register here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The book club recommendation table is updated. It only took a year.

Well, I'm only a year late with my updated book club recommendation brochure. I had one due to come out in March, and I actually changed our website, but wound up never laying out or printing something, being that we didn't have anyone coming into the store, and hadn't had many book clubs asking for suggestions. And though I changed the website, I didn't update our inventory system, so the old books were still on display. Not that they weren't wonderful books, or anything.

Unlike all the big book clubs nowadays, we're still focusing on paperbacks, with at three paperback originals and the rest reprints. I've read all but two of the books - one is our December In-Store Lit Group selection that will be followed by an interview with the author the next day, while another is a Jane special. I'm hoping to one day read Becoming Mrs. Lewis because the book has been a pick of hers for several years - it was so successful that the paperback was delayed.

Speaking of delays, publishers are delaying paperbacks fairly aggressively, being that coronavirus has hurt bookstore browsing and paperbacks don't work as well in web orders. The trend mentioned above that almost all the high-profile book clubs pick hardcovers hasn't helped either. 

I tend to like picking books that have been vetted by the book club I run. I don't mind when a book is polarizing (Trust Exercise fit that bill) but I did leave out one recent selection where a lot of us seemed bored (title redacted). 

The recommendations (in alphabetical order)

Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan
Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey
, by Kathleen Rooney
An Elegant Defense, by Matt Richtel
Family Trust, by Kathy Wang
Furious Hours, by Casey Cep
Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo
Inheritance, by Dani Shapiro
The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim 
The Need, by Helen Phillips
The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
The Overstory, by Richard Powers
Red at the Bone
, by Jacqueline Woodson
Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
Save Me the Plums, by Ruth Reichl
Say Nothing, By Patrick Radden Keefe
The Story of a Goat, by Perumal Murugan
Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi
Virgil Wander, by Leif Enger
Where We Come From, by Oscar Cásares (event coming soon!)
The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom

Some nonfiction, some historical fiction, some challenging titles, and some where you just want the group to finish the book - I think we call that compelling. Here's a link to purchase the titles. I guess I'm hedging my bets - I only printed 10 copies. But I'm not just hoping to reprint - I'm also hoping to see better sales on these titles.

I guess my pick of all these is The Story of a Goat. It's sort of an offbeat story that is way more interesting than you expect. Even with it's recent longlist nod for the National Book Award Books in Translation longlist, I don't think it's found its potential. It might even make my best-of-the-year list. Yes, I know it released in December 2019, but in the old days, a December on-sale meant it was a January publication.

We're hosting Angie Kim for Miracle Creek this Friday, October 16, 2 pm. It's gonna have spoilers, but if you don't mind hearing a few, join us even if you haven't read it yet. Register here.

View the list with purchase links here. It also has our staff recommendations for each title. Now I just have to do some virtual talks about them.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Events! Amy Timberlake with Jim Higgins, John Grisham with Nick Petrie, Angie Kim with Daniel, plus Max Gross next Monday

It's a light week, especially in the evenings. Maybe I can make dinner. I miss Outpost's balsamic beets and have been trying to reproduce the recipe.

Monday, October 12, 5:30 pm
Amy Timberlake, author of Skunk and Badger
in Conversation with Jim Higgins for a Virtual Event

When someone gets a Newbery honor and receives the Edgar Award for a historical novel (set in Wisconsin, no less), as Amy Timberlake did for One Came Home, you expect their next project will be another historical novel. Well, that's not what happened.

Here's my take on Timberlake's latest, Skunk and Badger: "Badger is enjoying living in Aunt Lula’s Brownstone, doing his Very Important Rock Work, when there’s a knock on the door. It’s Skunk, who has also been invited by Aunt Lula to live there. Badger can’t offer him a bedroom because it’s filled with boxes, so he gives him the closet. This is one badger set in his ways. Skunk cooks delicious food, but he doesn’t clean. And weirdest of all, he is friends with chickens – who knew there were so many chickens in town? With Skunk seemingly taking over, how is Badger to do his Very Important Rock Work? The early chapter book is so wonderful, this take on the odd couple it feels like a classic, but with a contemporary sensibility. The drawings are klassic Klassen (sorry, can’t resist!) and the details about rocks and chickens and skunks might intrigue kids to learn more about these subjects. It’s hard to say goodbye to these two, but the good news is, this is not the last think we’ll read about Skunk and Badger. Hooray!"

Jim Higgins talked to Amy Timberlake for the Journal Sentinel, where he wrote: "Timberlake modeled the gentler Skunk and Badger after A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books. In particular, she wanted to make a book that would be fun for teachers and parents to read aloud with children. Jon Klassen's full-color plates and spot black-and-white illustrations give Skunk and Badger an old-fashioned appearance in the right kind of way." And later: "If you're a Badger kind of person who thinks books should be Important Reading where you Learn Things, be at ease. You will learn a little about rocks and chickens while reading this book. More importantly, you will learn about the delicate art of working things out with the people you live with, a timely lesson for many of us cooped up together during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The conversation continues tonight when Jim Higgins talks to Amy Timberlake via Zoom. Register here for this event. And don’t forget to purchase your copy of Skunk and Badger for 20% off list price. We're hoping to keep Timberlake's book well-stocked for the holidays, but with several virtual school events coming up, we might have issues. You know someone who needs this book for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 14, 1 pm
John Grisham, author of A Time For Mercy
in Conversation with Nick Petrie for a Virtual Event

I'm not exactly going to say we've got an exclusive here. After years of John Grisham limiting his visits to the stores that supported him for his A Time to Kill tour so many years ago, Grisham started doing bookstore tours again for Camino Island, and continued the tradition with a virtual tour for Casino Winds. I think he's doing at least two events a day, which is why our event is at 1 pm (not that we're averse to weekday afternoon events - they actually do pretty well - see Friday.) But we have the only John Grisham event where he's in conversation with Milwaukee's own Nick Petrie, author of the Peter Ash series, starting with The Drifter and gearing up for The Breaker, on sale January 12, 2021. (And can I say here that Peter Ash is back in Milwaukee!!??)

Here's a little more about the book. Clanton, Mississippi. 1990. Jake Brigance (the hero of A Time to Kill) finds himself embroiled in a deeply divisive trial when the court appoints him attorney for Drew Gamble, a timid sixteen-year-old boy accused of murdering a local deputy. Many in Clanton want a swift trial and the death penalty, but Brigance digs in and discovers that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Jake’s fierce commitment to saving Drew from the gas chamber puts his career, his financial security, and the safety of his family on the line. The result is a richly rewarding novel that is both timely and timeless, full of wit, drama, and most of all, heart.

John Grisham is author of thirty-five novels, including books like The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Client which have cemented his reputation as the master of the legal thriller, and nine of his novels have been adapted into films. Nick Petrie is author of five Peter Ash novels, including The Drifter, which won the ITW Thriller and Barry Awards, and The Breaker, which will be published January 2021.

Register here for our event on October 14 at 1 pm CDT. And purchase a copy of A Time for Mercy here for 20% off. We have a limited number of signed tip-in copies. Ask for your signed copy when you order your book.

Friday, October 16, 2 pm
Angie Kim, author of Miracle Creek
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin for a Virtual Event

Edgar Award winning writer and former trial lawyer Angie Kim joins us for a chat with Daniel Goldin about her Edgar Award-winning novel that is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author's own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life "submarine" patient. We had a great time with Helen Phillips for our first spoilers-allowed paperback event. I loved how Phillips had never really talked about several of the twists and it took sort of a running leap to get into that territory. We'll see if Kim will go there. I've promised the authors that if we post these videos, we'll have warnings on them.

Kim’s thrilling debut novel is perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, which will appeal to John Grisham fans (see above) as the book is structured as a court trial, a book that examines how far we'll go to protect our families and our deepest secrets. Writing for The New York Times, Krys Lee calls the novel "a fascinating study of the malleability of truth in the courtroom… Miracle Creek is a brave novel that challenges assumptions of reality." When I read books late, I sometimes forget to write staff recs, but this would definitely go on my staff rec shelf and I've just added it to our book club recommendations page.

In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine - a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic "dives" with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos' small community. Both a compelling page-turner and an excavation of identity and the desire for connection, Miracle Creek is a brilliant, empathetic debut from an exciting new voice.

Register for this Zoom event here. Purchase your copy of Miracle Creek for 10% off list price. Reminder - this paperback event is spoiler-friendly, so questions about about the book's ending may be discussed. Though it’s not necessary, we might suggest reading the book before this evening.

A look ahead!
Monday, October 19, 7 pm
Max Gross, author of The Lost Shtetl
in Conversation with Andrew Silow-Carroll for a Virtual Event

Join us for a virtual event with Max Gross, Editor in Chief of the Commercial Observer and debut author of a remarkable novel, written with the fearless imagination of Michael Chabon and the piercing humor of Gary Shteyngart, about a small Jewish village in the Polish forest that is so secluded no one knows it exists - until now. Cohosted by The Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center and the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center. Hell chat with his former mentor Andrew Silow-Carroll, editor of The New York Jewish Week. Read Silow-Carroll's piece about the book here.

When Paul at HarperVia asked us if we'd be interested in hosting Gross, we had already had a great read from Chris Lee, which is always important but even moreso with virtual events. Here's what Chris thinks: "It’s a myth, it’s a fable, it’s something like a newly discovered religious text. In a world with a seemingly endless supply of novels about the ends-of-the-earth-reaching consequences of WWII and the Holocaust, The Lost Shtetl is a wondrous left turn – the story of one tiny Jewish village in Poland that the Nazis missed and time forgot. Learn along with the villagers of the past horrors they escaped and the present horrors (television, tourists, inflation, and postal codes, yech!) of the world that’s discovered them. With the village itself as a sly, sighing narrator, Gross has written a clever, affecting parable of the ways history, sooner or later, reaches us all."

Chris got me to read it too. Here are my thoughts: "In The Lost Shtetl, Kreskol, a Jewish settlement in present-day Poland, is discovered when, after a matrimonial fallout, the wife leaves town, the husband follows suit, and the town sends out a search party of one, a mamzer baker’s apprentice whom nobody will miss. When Yankel (the baker) is admitted to a hospital in nearby Smolskie, the cat’s out of the bag, or at least it will be if the medical staff don’t decide he’s either delusional or scamming them. On top of the circuitous paths of Yankel, Pesha, and Ishmael (the estranged couple), the newly discovered town must contend with greed, a tourism boom, an ideological rabbinical battle, and a good dollop of antisemitism. Meanwhile, the runaways must contend with what kind of people (and Jews) they are going to be, now that their reality rug has been pulled out from beneath them. When the copy for a novel name checks Gary Shteyngart, Michael Chabon, and Nathan Englander, what jazzy comparison is left for me? Would it be too much for me to call this philosophical and often hilarious novel the bastard child of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Cynthia Ozick?" (Daniel Goldin)

We were able to get copies to our friends at HERC and the JCC. Maybe by next week I'll get a take from them! Click right here to register for this Zoom event. And purchase a copy of The Lost Shtetl for 20% off list price at least through October 26. The book goes on sale tomorrow, October 13.

More on Boswell's upcoming events page

Photo credits!
Amy Timberlake by Phil Timberlake
John Grisham by Michael Lionstar
Angie Kim by Tim Coburn

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Here's what sold at Boswell for the week ending October 10, 2020.

Here's what sold at Boswell for the week ending October 10, 2020

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Searcher, by Tana French
2. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
3. Crooked Hallelujah, by Kelli Jo Ford
4. Saving Ruby King, by Catherine Adel West
5. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by VE Schwab
6. All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny
7. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar (see below)
8. Snow, by John Banville
9. Jack, by Marilynne Robinson
10. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig (register for our October 26 event here)

Janet Maslin comes out of retirement to do what she loves best - review books she loves from authors she loves. From her New York Times review of The Searcher: "French has said that she didn’t care this time about hooks or plotting. Instead, she’s interested in stripping away the police authority that Cal once took for granted and seeing how an ex-cop without power can operate on his own. She’s also interested in Cal’s fundamental sense of right and wrong, and how badly he thinks it has been distorted by the culture wars in America. That’s less a matter of politics than of one man’s effort to retrieve his moral compass after decades of following orders."

We've had several great reads on Leave the World Behind, which was just announced as a National Book Award finalist. Hillary Kelly in The New Yorker observes that Rumaan Alam's latest is a contemporary take on a disaster novel: "In most literature of this ilk, the disaster, whether rising seas or a virus, is a force of narrative tension: the reader is keen to learn how humans move from a time of upheaval to one of stability. Alam never gets there; upheaval is all his characters have. His achievement is to see that his genre’s traditional arc, which relies on the idea of aftermath, no longer makes sense. Today, disaster novels call for something different, a recognition that we won’t find a new normal, even if we’ve hoarded our Duracells and tucked ourselves behind sturdy walls in forested hideaways. The catastrophe came long ago, before Amanda went grocery shopping and the Washingtons left Manhattan, and before Clay submitted his latest piece to the Times Book Review."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Unapologetically Ambitious, by Shellye Archambeau
2. Forward, by David Jeremiah
3. The Well-Plated Cookbook, by Erin Clarke (signed copies still available)
4. 99% Invisible City, by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
5. Modern Comfort Food, by Ina Garten
6. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
7. Is This Anything, by Jerry Seinfeld
8. Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh
9. Trust, by Pete Buttigieg
10. Humans, by Brandon Stanton

October 6 was one of the biggest release dates of fall and we saw that in lots of new appearances on this week's bestseller list. One new arrival is The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design, by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt, adapted from their very popular podcast, one of thousands that I'd probably listen to if I were paying attention. From Kenneth T. Jackson's New York Times review: "A brief review cannot do justice to such a diverse and enlightening book. The authors have sections on oil derricks, cell towers, the Postal Service, water fountains, the transcontinental telegraph, cisterns, telephone poles, emergency exits, cycling lanes, archaeological sites in Britain, national roads, zero markers, the Oklahoma land rush, cemeteries, public lighting, pigeons, raccoons and half a hundred other eccentric topics."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Every Now and Then, by Lesley Kagen
2. The Readers' Room, by Antoine Laurain (register for October 20 event here)
3. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman
4. Where We Come From, by Oscar Cásares (join our authorless book club discussion on December 7)
5. Mirror Lake, by Juneau Black (register for our October 29 event here)
6. Poems 1962-2012, by Louise Gluck
7. Dhalgren, by Samuel Delany
8. A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (register for our authorless book club discussion on October 12)
9. The Witch Elm, by Tana French
10. Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim (register for our October 16 event here)

So excited to see a nice pop in sales for The Readers' Room, the newest from Antoine Laurain. We actually were organizing an in-person event for Vintage 1954, being that it had a Milwaukee connection, but family issues prevented it from happening. When coronavirus is getting me down, I always try to remember that we're able to host authors who'd likely not appear in person. Laurain's newest is about a publishing house that discovers a writer, only to find that the murders in the book are repeating in real life. I thought I'd be clever and link to a French review, but it's too much work, so I'll just note that Publishers Weekly wrote that " The tendency of characters to wax philosophical adds to the charm of this witty and perceptive novel."

Paperback Nonfiction
1. Storied and Scandalous Wisconsin, by Anna Lardinois (more signed copies soon ask for one!)
2. Wise Aging, by Rachel Cowan
3. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
4. Pushout, by Monique W. Morris
5. March V1, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
6. Higher Call, by Adam Makos
7. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
8. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
9. Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix
10. Underland, by Robert MacFarlane

Needless to say, the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has led to interest in her work. My Own Words, a collection of essays (with the help of Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams) came out in 2016 and was praised by Harper's Bazaar as "a comprehensive look inside her brilliantly analytical, entertainingly wry mind, revealing the fascinating life of one of our generation's most influential voices in both law and public opinion.”

Books for Kids:
1. The Very Last Leaf, by Stef Wade, illustrated by Jennifer Davidson
2. You Matter, by Christian Robinson
3. A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade, illustrated by Melanie Demmer
4. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer
5. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen (register for October 12 event here)
6. How We Got to the Moon, by John Rocco
7. Bunheads, by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey
8. Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird Wild Names, by Matthew Murrie
9. The Misadventures of Toni Macaroni in The Mad Scientist, by Cetonia Weston-Roy
10. The Tower of Nero V5, by Rick Riordan

At last, the breathtaking, action-packed finale of the #1 bestselling Trials of Apollo series is here, says the publisher. My problem with kid series is that I never quite know when they are ending. It's a stand-alone. No, it's a trilogy. Now it's a septet. Wait, there's also a spin-off series. At least with adult mystery series, it's clearer - expect this to keep going until nobody wants to buy it. Or I die. But wait, it might keep going anyway. In The Tower of Nero, the Greek God, sent down to earth in the form of teenage Lester Papadopoulos, tries to regain his place in Mount Olympus.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reports on news about a ex-Milwaukee writer making literary news: "Ayad Akhtar, who's made his bones writing fiery speeches for characters on stage and in his novels, may have to make a few speeches himself in the coming year. On Dec. 2, the Brookfield Central High School graduate will become president of the advocacy group PEN America, with the mission of standing up for writers and journalists punished for speaking truth to power." His latest book is Homeland Elegies, #7 on our bestseller list. Ask for a signed tip-in copy. Limited supply available.