Monday, November 23, 2020

Boswell events - two graphic memoirs and a book about Thanksgiving - Merrill Markoe, Denise Kiernan, Jim Terry

Tuesday, November 24, 7 pm
Merrill Markoe, author of We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe
in conversation with Mimi Pond for a virtual event

Merrill Markoe, the multiple Emmy-winning writer of Late Show with David Letterman joins us for a conversation with fellow graphic memoirist Mimi Pond about We Saw Scenery. Markoe also won a Writer's Guild award for her writing/performing work on HBO's Not Necessarily the News. In addition to her other books, her cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker. Register here for this event. Ask for your signed bookplate.

Markoe unearths her treasured diaries, long kept under lock and key, to illustrate the hilarious story of her preteen and teen years and how she came to realize that her secret power was her humor. Wielding her layered and comically absurd style, Markoe takes readers back through her time as a Girl Scout, where she learned that “scouting” was really more about learning housewifery skills, to her earliest crushes on uniquely awful boys and her growing obsession with television.

Perfect for fans of Roz Chast, Allie Brosh, and Lynda Barry, We Saw Scenery is a laugh-out-loud story of a girl growing up, told from the perspective of the woman she became, and it will speak to all who wanted to understand themselves in the midst of their own maturing. The Washington Post writes that Markoe "taps into not only the challenges of a girl growing up in the 1960s, but also Markoe’s special ability to use traditions and American consumerist culture as fuel for her absurdist humor."

Wednesday, November 25, 2 pm
Denise Kiernan, author of We Gather Together: A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign to Embrace Gratitude and Grace 
In conversation with Joseph D'Agnese for a virtual event

Join us for a special pre-Thanksgiving Holiday event featuring Denise Kiernan, the author of The Girls of Atomic City and The Last Castle, which was the subject of a sold-out event at the Pabst Mansion. She'll be in conversation with her sometimes collaborator and always husband Joseph D'Agnese for a chat about her brand new book, which offers a new way to look at and understand American history through the story of giving thanks. Register for the event here. Ask for your signed bookplate. 

From Ancient Rome through 21st-century America, Kiernan brings us a biography of an idea: gratitude, as a compelling human instinct and a global concept, more than just a mere holiday. Spanning centuries, We Gather Together is anchored amid the strife of the Civil War, and driven by the fascinating story of Sarah Josepha Hale, a widowed mother with no formal schooling who became one of the 19th century’s most influential tastemakers and who campaigned for decades to make real an annual day of thanks. Check out the custom Zoomsgiving Zoom backgrounds over on Kiernan's website page, a Guide to Zoomsgiving

From Brenda Wineapple in her Wall Street Journal review: "Sarah Hale had died in 1879 at 90; she didn’t live to see her dream of a national holiday enshrined in law. Doubtless, though, she’d have been thrilled by Ms. Kiernan’s tribute to her and thanksgivings, great and small, religious and secular, civic and personal. For she would understand that whether this year’s Thanksgiving takes place in person with family or in front of a computer, gratitude can surely bring grace, even in troubled times."

Monday, November 30, 7 pm
Jim Terry, author of Come Home, Indio: A Memoir
a virtual event

Boswell Book Company and Lion’s Tooth present an evening with graphic memoirist Jim Terry for a conversation about his honest book which chronicles his attempts to fit in with the Ho-Chunk community of his Native American family in Wisconsin and his schoolmates in the Chicago suburbs. Terry's comic book work has been seen in The Crow: Skinning the Wolves, Sundowners, and Vampriella. Register here for this event. Ask for your signed bookplate, while supplies last. Copies also available at Lion's Tooth.

Jim Terry grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. His mother was a Native American from the Ho-Chunk nation of Wisconsin, and his father was an Irish American jazz musician from Chicago. In his memoir, we are invited to walk through his life as he struggles to find security and comfort in an often hostile environment. Terry tries in vain to fit in and eventually turns to alcohol to provide an escape from increasing loneliness and alienation. Terry also shares with the reader in exquisite detail the process by which he finds hope and gets sober, as well as the powerful experience of finding something to believe in and to belong to at the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance at Standing Rock.

From Booklist's starred review: "The art serves the story incredibly well; nuanced and skillfully drawn, the expressive illustrations are very high contrast and so heavily inked they can feel oppressive at times, effectively heightening the deep emotional current throughout. While the panels are frequently tight and cramped early in the story, the final chapters are far more expansive and imbued with possibility. An exceptionally well-told story with no easy answers but an ending that will inspire." Listen to Jim Terry to talk to Alison Stewart on WNYC's All of It show.

More on the Boswell Books upcoming event page

Photo credit of Denise Kiernan is Mallory Cash.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Boswell bestsellers, week ending November 21, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for week ending November 21, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Rhythm of War: Stormlight Archive V4, by Brandon Sanderson
2. The Sun Collective, by Charles Baxter (ask for your signed bookplate)
3. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar
4. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
5. The Cold Millions, by Jess Walter
6. The Searcher, by Tana French
7. The Second Home, by Christina Clancy
8. Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
9. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
10. Dearly, by Margaret Atwood
11. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
12. Crooked Hallelujah, by Kelli Jo Ford
13. All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny
14. Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
15. The Paris Hours, by Alex George

It's been three long years for Boswellian Ogi, since that was when Oathbringer, the last book in the Stormlight Archive, was released. More preorders and heightened in-house enthusiasm seemed to help first-week momentum for Rhythm of War - our sales are triple the first week of 2017's release, and other indies have posted some staggering numbers. In short, the two sides are still fighting, and apparently there's an arms race brewing.  

Much media buzz about Dearly, Margaret Atwood's first book of poetry in some time. Good second week in sales. Mary Louise Kelly talks to Atwood about steamy bug sex on All things Considered

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Promised Land, by Barack Obama
2. A Wealth of Pigeons, by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss
3. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
4. What It's Like to Be a Bird, by David Allen Sibley
5. Love Is the Way, by Bishop Michael Curry
6. Modern Comfort Food, by Ina Garten
7. His Truth Is Marching on, by Jon Meacham
8. We Keep the Dead Close, by Becky Cooper
9. Accidentally Wes Anderson, by Wally Koval
10. The Best of Me, by David Sedaris
11. The King of Confidence, by Miles Harvey
12. Thinking Inside the Box, by Adrienne Raphel
13. Quick and Simple, by Jacques Pepin
14. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
15. American Utopia, by David Byrne

Speaking of triple, The Promised Land, despite worries that the price was too high, had much higher sales for us than the first week of Becoming in 2018. My guess is that web orders are front-loading our sales, plus I know lots of folks are worried that come December, who knows what will be opened and closed and whether we'll even be able to get books. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes in The New York Times: "Barack Obama is as fine a writer as they come. It is not merely that this book avoids being ponderous, as might be expected, even forgiven, of a hefty memoir, but that it is nearly always pleasurable to read, sentence by sentence, the prose gorgeous in places, the detail granular and vivid."

On any week, we'd be blown away by first week sales of A Wealth of Pigeons, the cartoon collaboration between Steve Martin and Harry Bliss. Once again, a hard call as to whether to make this fiction or nonfiction - I'm not a fan of miscellaneous, and anyone knows that advice is nonfiction. I decided that several of the cartoons are about Martin and Bliss, and they would qualify as nonfiction. We almost had Classical Mythology from A to Z on our fiction list, but when I looked closer, it's not the myths, but a reference of mythological characters, and that seemed clearly to fall into nonfiction - it did not make the top 15 cut.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Home Body, by Rupi Kaur
2. Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stewart (Booker Prize winner)
3. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu (National Book Award winner)
4. Devotions, by Mary Oliver
5. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal
7. Where We Come From, by Oscar Cásares (Register for December 8 event here)
8. Get a Life, Chloe Brown, by Talia Hibbert
9. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
10. By a Lake Near a Moon, by DeWitt Clinton

The big fiction prizes are both paperback reprints, seemingly the only two fiction books left that came out in paperback in less than a year - so many others had publication delayed. Interior Chinatown won the National Book Award and Shuggie Bain the Booker. The In-Store Lit Group (I'm renaming it Daniel's Lit Group because it ain't in store for a while) was already reading Shuggie Bain in January; now we're reading Interior Chinatown in March. For February, we're doing Myla Goldberg's Feast Your Eyes, which recently was the subject of a JCC event. It was a NBA finalist last year.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, by Kiese Laymon
2. No One Asked for This by Cazzie David
3. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
4. ABA Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Charles Hagner
5. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
6. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
7. A Woman of No Importance, by Sonia Purnell
8. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
9. Wow, No Thank You, by Samantha Irby
10. Love's Executioner, by Irvin Yalom

Cazzie David, the author of No One Asked for This, is the creator of the web series Eighty Sixed and as noted quite often, the daughter of Larry David. Did you know that the father of Lisa Kudrow treated Peter Frampton's IBM? It's all in Do You Feel Like I Do, which I just finished yesterday. As long as we are dropping celebrity relatives. in any case, she's got nice quotes from Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, and Diablo Cody, who wrote or maybe dictated, "Cazzie David is the delicious antidote to the poison of basic influencer culture. This book will make all misanthropes feel seen and loved - well, seen and tolerated."

Books for Kids:
1. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake/Jon Klassen
2. No Reading Allowed, by Raj Haldar/Chris Carpenter/Bryce Gladfelter
3. Sun Flower Lion, by Kevin Henkes
4. The True Definition of Neva Beane, by Christine Kendall (watch our interview here)
5. Everybody's Tree, by Barbara Joosse/Renee Graef (Register for December 3 event here)
6. P Is for Pterodactyl, by Raj Haldar/Chris Carpenter/Maria Tina Beddia
7. The Other Boy, by M.G. Hennessy
8. Snow Birds, by Kirsten Hall/Jenni Desmond
9. This Is Your Time, by Ruby Bridges
11. Christmas Trolls, by Jan Brett
12. Couch Potato, by Jory John/Pete Oswald
13. Cozy, by Jan Brett
14. If You Come to Earth, by Sophie Blackall
15. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer 

Raj Haldar has been doing virtual school visits for No Reading Allowed, his follow up to P Is for Pterodactyl. From Publishers Weekly: "The book began with Haldar and Carpenter devising sentences that could simultaneously teach readers about the world around them, near and far, while exploring the strangeness of homophones. 'There’s a new deli clerk who runs a pretty sorry store,' is met with 'a New Delhi clerk who runs a pretty sari store,' on the opposing page. As illustrator Bryce Gladfelter began adding images, Haldar says the phrases that he and Carpenter had come up with took on a new life. “It’s amazing how effortlessly and almost subliminally the various meanings of these words are communicated."

Thank you to Amy for taking my recommendations and purchasing Skunk and Badger, The True Definition of Neva Beane, and The Time of Green Magic, two of which are also Amie's holiday picks. That made my day. Though it was also fun listening to a customer talk about books they liked and realizing that The Lager Queen of Minnesota was the perfect book for them. When you realize it's a sure match, it gets you kind of giddy.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins will have his 40 books for holiday gift giving in the paper on November 29 but you can read it here - including sleepers like Big Girl, Small Town, kids books for all ages, books about The Beatles, Goodfellas, and the Kent State killings. Happy holidays!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Boswell events for the week - Kiese Laymon, Rick Bragg, Christine Kendall, Charles Baxter, Merrill Markoe

Monday, November 16, 7 pm
Kiese Laymon, author of How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: Essays
in Conversation with Amina Wilson for a Virtual Event

Kiese Laymon, Hubert H. McAlexander Professor of English anbd Creative Writing at the University of Missippi and author of the memoir Heavy, visits for a conversation about the new, revised edition of his collection of thirteen essays. Cosponsored by America's Black Holocaust Museum. Register for this Zoom webinar here.

With subjects that range from an interview with his mother to reflections on Ole Miss football, Outkast, and the labor of Black women, these thirteen insightful essays highlight Laymon’s profound love of language and his artful rendering of experience, trumpeting why he is, according to New York magazine, “simply one of the most talented writers in America.”

Roxane Gay says, "I first encountered Kiese Laymon's writing when I read How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. I was stunned into stillness." Brilliant and uncompromising, piercing and funny, this is essential reading. This new edition of award-winning author Laymon’s first work of nonfiction looks inward, drawing heavily on the author and his family’s experiences, while simultaneously examining the world - Mississippi, the South, the United States - that has shaped their lives.

Wednesday, November 18, 7 pm
Rick Bragg, author of Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep South
in conversation with Bill Young for a Virtual Event

Rick Bragg, best-selling, Pulitzer prize-winning author of All Over But the Shoutin' and The Best Cook in the World joins us for a conversation about his latest, a collection of his irresistible columns from Southern Living and Garden and Gun. He’ll chat with Midwest Media owner Bill Young. Register for this virtual event here.

From his love of Tupperware to the decline of country music, from the legacy of Harper Lee to the metamorphosis of the pickup truck, the best way to kill fire ants, the unbridled excess of Fat Tuesday, and why any self-respecting southern man worth his salt should carry a good knife, Where I Come From is an ode to the stories and history of the Deep South, written with tenderness, wit, and deep affection - a book that will be treasured by fans old and new.

From Kirkus Reviews: “Poignant... The columns are clever, unassuming, and, most notably, told in a distinctive voice. They do what good columns do: sometimes tug at your heart, sometimes make you laugh to yourself, sometimes both. You read one and then go on with your day with a better sense of what it’s like to be from somewhere.”

Thursday, November 19, 10 am
Christine Kendall, author of The True Definition of Neva Beane
A Virtual Event for families, schools, and educators

Join us for a conversation with the NAACP Image Award-nominated author of Riding Chance. Kendall's latest tells the story of a girl whose dictionary is helping make sense of the world, her changing body, friendships, and a family that's struggling to stay strong amidst the turbulent backdrop of activism. Note, this event is open to the public and is school and educator friendly! Register for this event here.

Being twelve isn't easy, especially when you're Neva Beane. Neva feels beautiful wearing her new bra, but she's confused by how others respond to the changes taking place in and out of her body. Her best friend, Jamila, is getting all the attention. Her brother, Clayton, is becoming an activist. And Mom and Dad are gone working. Grandad and Nana aren't much help, either, with their old ways and backward views.

Neva struggles to find her place in a world that is uncertain, at times scary, and filled with unanswered questions. While the pages of her beloved dictionary reveal truths about what's happening around her, Neva must discover the best way to define herself. In this wholly original story, a girl finds her voice in unexpected ways.

Thursday, November 19, 7:30 pm
Charles Baxter, author of The Sun Collective
in Conversation with CJ Hribal for a Virtual Event

Join us for a special evening with National Book Award finalist Baxter, whom the Chicago Tribune has called “one of our most gifted writers,” for conversation about his first novel in more than a decade. Register for this event here. Ask for your signed bookplate when you purchase the book.

The Sun Collective is earning advanced praise, with a starred review from Kirkus, which calls it “an exceptional work. There are no easy answers, but there’s promise, even respite in the quasi-magical, the nearly miraculous.” And Booklist says, “Fiction virtuoso Baxter’s artistry and merciless insights are in full, intoxicating flower in this sinuous, dark, and dramatic tale… He has brilliantly choreographed a wholly unnerving plunge into alarming aberrations private and public, festering political catastrophe, and woefully warped love.”

From Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Baxter points toward an inspiration for this duality by naming the Brettigans’ pets after characters from Mikhail Bulgakov’s hallucinatory classic The Master and Margarita. But the likeness that occurred to me is with Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels, where the underlying chaos is both concealed and somehow deepened by the inviting, mannerly prose."

Charles Baxter is author of novels such as The Feast of Love, nominated for the National Book Award, First Light, and The Soul Thief, and story collections Believers, Gryphon, and Through the Safety Net. His stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories. 

Tuesday, November 24, 7 pm
Merrill Markoe, author of We Saw Scenery: The Early Diaries of Merrill Markoe
in conversation with Mimi Pond for a Virtual Event

Merrill Markoe may be best know for her work on Late Night with David Letterman, but she also won a Writers Guild award for HBO's Not Necessarily the News. She wrote episodes of Sex and the City, Moonlighting, and Newhart, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, and The New Yorker. Markoe joins us for a conversation about her first ever graphic memoir. She’ll be joined by graphic memoirist Mimi Pond. Register for this event here.

Markoe unearths her treasured diaries, long kept under lock and key, to illustrate the hilarious story of her preteen and teen years and how she came to realize that her secret power was her humor. Wielding her layered and comically absurd style, Markoe takes readers back through her time as a Girl Scout, where she learned that “scouting” was really more about learning housewifery skills, to her earliest crushes on uniquely awful boys and her growing obsession with television.

Perfect for fans of Roz Chast, Allie Brosh, and Lynda Barry, We Saw Scenery is a laugh-out-loud story of a girl growing up, told from the perspective of the woman she became, and it will speak to all who wanted to understand themselves in the midst of their own maturing. The Washington Post writes that Markoe "taps into not only the challenges of a girl growing up in the 1960s, but also Markoe’s special ability to use traditions and American consumerist culture as fuel for her absurdist humor." 

Photo credits:
--Rick Bragg by Jake Reiss
--Christine Kendall by Matt Godfrey
--Charles Baxter by Keri Pickett
--Merrill Markoe by Markoe

More on Boswell's upcoming event page.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The bestsellers are heating up, sort of - week ending November 14, 2020 (it's just two weeks to Thanksgiving)

The bestsellers are heating up, sort of - week ending November 14, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Moonflower Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
2. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
3. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
4. The Knockout Queen, by Rufi Thorpe (Register for December 2 event here)
5. The Cold Millions, by Jess Walter (signed tip-in copies available)
6. A Time for Mercy, by John Grisham
7. All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny
8. The Searcher, by Tana French
9. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
10. The Office of Historical Corrections, by Danielle Evans
11. Memorial, by Bryan Washington
12. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab
13. We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry
14. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
15. The Law of Innocence, by Michael Connelly

My first thought is that there are more mystery/thrillers than we've seen on our list late, with five out of 15. Top imprint is Riverhead, with three titles, two of which (Bennett, Washington) I have read - enjoyed this interview with Danielle Evans for The Office of Historical Corrections by Noelle King on NPR, who used to be at UW-Madison but is now at Johns Hopkins. Had she still been at Madison, I might have gotten signed books (outside), like we did for We Ride Upon Sticks and The Coyotes of Carthage (#20).

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Setsuko's Secret, by Shirley Ann Higuschi
2. The Best of Me, by David Sedaris
3. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
4. My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, by Jason Brian Rosenthal (Tickets for JCC event here)
5. I'll Be Seeing You, by Elizabeth Berg
6. Thinking Inside the Box, by Adrienne Raphel
7. Modern Comfort Food, by Ina Garten
8. 99 Percent Invisible City, by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
9. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
10. Dolly Parton Songteller, by Dolly Parton with Robert Oermann
11. Accidentally Wes Anderson, by Wally Koval
12. His Truth is Marching On, by Jon Meacham
13. The First Principles, by Thomas E. Ricks
14. Pappyland, by Wright Thompson
15. One Life, by Megan Rapinoe

Another gift book pops this week, and it's not based on a podcast (99 Percent Invisible City) or Instagram Story (Accidentally Wes Anderson). It's Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, which I want to call either Songwriter or Storyteller. Can I just remind you not to wait until the last minute? If you were in bookselling, you know that you should always worry about reprints from Chronicle, though I should note that our (everyone's) wholesaler Ingram took a big stand on it. The two imprints with three books on the list are both PRH - Random House and Penguin Press.

Paperback Fiction:
1. What Kind of a Woman, by Kate Baer
2. By a Lake Near a Moon, by DeWitt Clinton
3. Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart (this is our January In-Store (not really in store) Lit Group seletcion - more here)
4. Where We Come From, by Oscar Cásares (Register for December 8 event here)
5. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
6. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
7. Miss Benson's Beetle, by Rachel Joyce
8. This Tender Land, by William Kent Krueger
9. The World That We Knew, by Alice Hoffman
10. Circe, by Madeline Miller 

Wow, Ingram is sold out (as are we) of Kate Baer's What Kind of a Woman after its first week on sale. Publishers Weekly wrote that "In these confident and fearless poems, Baer suggests that the deepest and most vulnerable love is found in life's imperfections." Chloe Schama in Vogue calls her "the Instagram poet for people who don't like Instagram poets."

Jason informed me that Alice Hoffman has just won what is least her second award for The World That We Knew - and as you know, she, like William Kent Krueger listed above her, did events with Boswell in hardcover. In addition to the Dayton Peace Prize (did you know that Peace, by Richard Bausch, is the film Recon? I didn't), she won the Book Club Prize at the National Jewish Book Award. I learned that we tend to do better with the Book Club Prize than we do with the Fiction award, which this year was for Fly Already, by Etgar Keret.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Storied and Scandalous Wisconsin, by Anna Lardinois (we hope to get more copies signed - request when ordering)
2. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, by Kiese Laymon (Register for November 16 event here)
3. Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Chuck Hagner
4. Memorable Milwaukee, by Darlene Wesenberg Rzezotarski (signed copies available)
5. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
6. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
7. When Milwaukee Went to War, by Thomas Fehring
8. Wise Aging, by Rachel Cowan
9. The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom
10. Come Home, Indio, by Jim Terry (Register for November 30 event here)

Thomas Fehring's follow-up to The Magnificent Machines of Milwaukee is When Milwaukee Went to War: On the Homefront During WWII. Fehring did a virtual event with Milwaukee County Historical Society and the War Memorial. Watch it here.

Books for Kids:
1. The Very Last Leaf, by Stef Wade/Jennifer Davidson
2. A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade/Melanie Demmer
3. The True Definition of Neva Beane, by Christine Kendall (Register for November 19 event here)
4. The List of Things That Will Not Change, by Rebecca Stead
5. The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Weird, Wild Names, by Matthew and Steve Murrie
6. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake/Jon Klassen
7. This Is Your Time,. by Ruby Bridges
8. The Deep End, by Jeff Kinney
9. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
10. Pete the Cat, Scuba Cat, by James Dean
11. Kamala and Maya's Big Idea, by Meena Harris/Ana Rami Gonzalez
12. Bunheads, by Misty Copeland/Setor Fladzigbey
13. A Time of Green Magic, by Hilary McKay
14. Scritch Scratch, by Lindsay Currey
15. 50 Adventures in 50 States, by Kate Siber 

I don't count reading picture books because, well, it's just too easy to inflate numbers, but I'm excited to say I read almost all the middle grade fiction titles in our top 15 - The True Definition of Neva Beane, The List of Things that Will Not Change, Skunk and Badger, and A Time of Green Magic. Alison McKay's novel, which Amie is a big fan of, is great for readers of Katherine Rundell. Sarah Harrison Smith in The New York Times Book Review called the book "utterly enchanting." We're #1 in the country on Edelweiss for Skunk and Badger and I'm hoping we hit that spot for A Time of Green Magic too. Late breaking news - we're also #1 for True Definition of Neva Beane - looking forward to Thursday's event.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins runs down some new books, including Lincoln Among the Badgers.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Boswell events this week - Elizabeth Berg's caregiving memoir, Adrienne Raphel on crossword puzzles, DeWitt Clinton's Kenneth Rexroth inspiration, Shirley Ann Higuchi on Japanese incarceration, Anthony Horowitz's latest mystery, and Kiese Laymon's revised collection of essays

Monday, November 9, 7 pm
Elizabeth Berg, author of I’ll Be Seeing You: A Memoir
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for a Virtual Readings from Oconomowaukee Event 
Click here to register for this virtual event.

The November installment of our Readings from Oconomowaukee Virtual Event Series features Elizabeth Berg (Night of Miracles, Talk Before Sleep, Durable Goods, The Story of Arthur Truluv, we could go on) talking about her very first memoir, though you'll learn that there have been autobiographical elements to her novels. She’ll chat with Lisa Baudoin of Books & Company and I about  caring for her parents in their final years.

From my staff rec: As a bookseller, I see a lot of memoirs about caregiving, from established authors to folks who have chosen contact publishing. And why not? Caregiving is an almost universal experience and one that generates a lot of memories and moments. It is hard not to see ourselves in the folks we care for, leading to more than one bout of philosophical musing. 

But not every writer can get at those small moments like Elizabeth Berg. Her father was a military man, while her mother seemed to accept her role to serve him, as long as she got time for little pleasures, like shopping with her sisters at Herberger’s. But with Art in decline, Jeanne chafes at his constant presence and rebels at leaving her longtime house in St. Paul for assisted living. 

The story has a diary structure, offering immediacy to the story, and showing Berg’s skill at quickly bringing to life family, friends, and even incidental characters. But most importantly, I’ll Be Seeing You succeeds at what it set out to do, sharing that story that so many of us must face, with all the drama and insight of one of her novels.

Lisa and I are excited to talk about Berg. As you know, Berg is a great friend of Boswell and Books & Company. We've had her do just about every every event format, special lunch, and program that we have. We've share some of her favorite authors in the Writing Matters series. But neither of us have never sat down with her and had this kind of conversation. The time has come. 

Tuesday, November 10, 7 pm
Adrienne Raphel, author of Thinking Inside the Box: Adventures with Crosswords and the Puzzling People Who Can't Live Without Them
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin for a Virtual Event 

Sometimes you read a book and think, I love it, but it's going to be tough to find an audience. But that's not the case with Thinking Inside the Box, which is a delightful look inside the world of crossword puzzling. I read the book long before COVID, and never expected that the publisher would send Raphel to Milwaukee, but being that I saw Thinking Inside the Box as a great holiday gift, why not call attention to its charms with a virtual event? So here we are.

From my staff rec: From its beginnings as a 1920s fad whose detractors sounded much like today’s video game vigilantes, crosswords were the bones of one major publisher (Simon & Schuster) and even developed an English accent, with British cryptic crosswords more focused on clue wordplay than the American counterparts. Puzzle creation etiquette was soon standardized under Margaret Farrar, with two sea changes to follow – the triumph of the pop culture guard over traditionalists (so OREO could now be a cookie instead of a mountain prefix) and the rise of crossword creation software, which has coincidentally led to a decline in the percentage of women constructors. 

Blending first-person reporting from the world of crosswords with a delightful telling of its rich literary history, Raphel dives into the secrets of this classic pastime. Raphel visits the annual Stamford tournament and goes on an ocean-crossing crossword cruise. She looks at the clue-driven connections to mysteries and notes the puzzle’s place in culture, from Vladimir Nabokov to Sex and the City. And she looks at how technology has changed the avocation, from construction programs to user apps. As a person who is attracted to puzzles but struggles with solving them, 

Aboard a crossword-themed cruise, she picks the brains of the enthusiasts whose idea of a good time is a week on the high seas with nothing but crosswords to do, and, visiting the home and office of Will Shortz, New York Times crossword editor, she goes behind the scenes to see for herself how America’s gold standard of puzzles is made. As ingenious as it is fun, Thinking Inside the Box is a love letter not just to the abiding power of the crossword but to the infinite joys and playful possibilities of language itself. 

Raphel is also a poet. Which transitions to event #3.

Wednesday, November 11, 7:30 pm
DeWitt Clinton, author of By a Lake Near a Moon: Fishing with the Chinese Masters
in Conversation with Sylvia Cavanaugh for a Virtual Event 

Join us for a virtual conversation and poetry reading from Shorewood poet DeWitt Clinton, Professor Emeritus of English at the UW Whitewater. and author of At the End of the War, The Conquistador Dog Texts, and other collections. Clinton will read poems from By a Lake Near a Moon and chat about them with Sylvia Cavanaugh, English language editor for Poetry Hall: A Chinese and English Bilingual Journal. Cavanaugh is the author of Icarus: Anthropology of Addiction. 

Clinton’s new collection of 114 poems are variations based on Kenneth Rexroth’s translation, 100 Poems from the Chinese which place the poems in the landscape of contemporary Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With lyrical scenes of the changing seasons, the Lake Michigan beach front, and roads and highways of the nearby countryside, Clinton explores the themes of the classical Chinese poets such as Tu Fu, Meo Yao Ch’en, and Hsu Chao, and his adaptations bring life and energy from Classical China to the modern-day world.

Praise from John Koethe, “DeWitt Clinton’s marvelous adaptations of Kenneth Rexroth’s Chinese translations are remarkable. They preserve the serenity, lucidity and directness of great Chinese poetry while transforming its setting into the environs of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and even Europe. The speaking voice feels like that of the originals, while making its surroundings feel remade.”

Thursday, November 12, 7 pm
Shirley Ann Higuchi, author of Setsuko's Secret: Heart Mountain and the Legacy of the Japanese American Incarceration
in conversation with Kathy Saito Yuille and Doug Nelson for a Virtual Event 
 
Shirley Ann Higuchi discusses her story and the legacy of Japanese American incarceration that is at the heart of Setsuko's Secret. She'll be in conversation with Kathy Saito Yuille, Setsuko's younger sister, and Doug Nelson of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. Shirley Ann Higuchi is Chair of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation and the daughter of former incarcerees. 

As a child, Higuchi knew Heart Mountain only as the place her parents met in rural Wyoming. As she grew older, they would come to recognize the name as a source of great sadness and shame for their older family members, part of the generation of Japanese Americans forced into the hastily built concentration. After her mother’s death, Shirley skeptically accepted an invitation to visit the site, a journey that would forever change her life and introduce her to a part of her family she never knew.

Navigating the complicated terrain of the Japanese American experience, Shirley patched together Setsuko's story and came to understand the forces and generational trauma that shaped her own life. Moving seamlessly between family and communal history, Setsuko's Secret offers a clear window into the "camp life" that was rarely revealed to the children of the incarcerated. This volume powerfully insists that we reckon with the pain in our collective American past.

From Meg Nola of Foreward Reviews: "Setsuko’s Secret details Shirley Ann Higuchi’s Heart Mountain work. It balances a complex cultural history with the individual perspectives of Japanese American families. Higuchi shows that the resilience and sense of community that developed in the camps was remarkable, despite harsh extremes in climate and a demeaning lack of privacy and resources." 

Friday, November 13, 2 pm
Anthony Horowitz, author of Moonflower Murders
A Virtual Literary Tea in Support of the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library 
in Conversation with Tessa Bartels

The Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library and Boswell present an afternoon with Anthony Horowitz, the author of Moriarty (an official Sherlock Holmes novel), The Sentence Is Death, and the Alex Rider novels for young readers. He’ll be discussing his  Moonflower Murders, a follow-up to his nationally bestselling novel, The Magpie Murders.  

Tickets for this event are $45 and include a copy of Moonflower Murders and admission for one device to the virtual event. $20 from each ticket will be donated to the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library fund, which supports library book purchases. Books can be picked up at Boswell via the sidewalk pickup option, or shipped in the continental US via USPS media mail for an additional $4. Tickets available now at horowitzmplfriendsboswell.eventbrite.com.

Readers, booksellers, librarians, and critics alike loved Horowitz’s award-winning book, The Magpie Murders, chosen as a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Esquire, the Washington Post, and many more. Now, in a new novel featuring his famous literary detective, Horowitz echoes Agatha Christie in his newest complex literary thriller.

Retired book editor Susan Ryeland is vacationing on a Greek Island, where she learns from the visiting Trehearne family of an unsolved murder in Suffolk, and Ryeland realizes this murder might be connected to the third Atticus Pund mystery by the late Alan Conway. AJ Finn, author of The Woman in the Window, says, “Moonflower Murders showcases Horowitz’s full battalion of strengths: the whiplash plotting, the leather-smooth prose, the bold energy… and above all, the bright spark of joy that ignites the best fiction - the joy of a storyteller finding brave new ways to dazzle his audience. Sophisticated, literate novels aren’t supposed to be so much fun.” And Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal called Moonflower Murders "a welcome sequel."

And don't forget next week Monday, November 16, 7 pm 
in Conversation with Amina Wilson for a Virtual Event 
Click here to register for this virtual event 

Kiese Laymon, the Hubert H McAlexander Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi and author of the memoir Heavy, visits for a conversation about the new, revised edition of his collection of thirteen essays. Laymon is author of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and NPR Best Book of the Year, Heavy. Cosponsored by America's Black Holocaust Museum. Laymon's doing a wide-ranging bookstore tour for his new collection, and we're thrilled to be part. Both Chris at Boswell and Cydney Key of our cosponsor America's Black Holocaust Museum, loved this book in its first incarnation and are excited about the new essays.


With subjects that range from an interview with his mother to reflections on Ole Miss football, Outkast, and the labor of Black women, these thirteen insightful essays highlight Laymon’s profound love of language and his artful rendering of experience, trumpeting why he is, according to New York magazine, “simply one of the most talented writers in America.” 

Roxane Gay says, "I first encountered Kiese Laymon's writing when I read How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. I was stunned into stillness." Brilliant and uncompromising, piercing and funny, this is essential reading. This new edition of award-winning author Laymon’s first work of nonfiction looks inward, drawing heavily on the author and his family’s experiences, while simultaneously examining the world - Mississippi, the South, the United States - that has shaped their lives. 

It looks like his current publisher Scribner will be also be releasing a new edition of Laymon's novel, Long Division, being that the Agate version is no longer available and this essay collection also came from this independent Chicago-area publisher.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Boswell bestsellers, week ending November 7, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending November 7, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Boy, the Mole, The Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy
2. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar
3. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
4. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
5. The Searcher, by Tana French
6. The Cold Millions, by Jess Walter (signed tip-in copies available)
7. Hench, by Natalie Zina Walschots
8. Snow, by John Banville
9. Piranesi, by Suanna Clarke
10. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

No new books this week, which gives me room for a rumination. I think that by The New York Times putting The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (but no Oxford comma) in the miscellaneous category instead of fiction, the book's sales impact is being muted. The author describes it as a small graphic novel. Were it moved, it would be the second oldest book on the list after Where the Crawdads Sing. It's hard to argue that the hardcover fiction list is more prominent than the potpourri catch-all that is advice/how-to/miscellaneous. Nora Krug in The Washington Post reported on the phenom in January. It's still going.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Best of Me, by David Sedaris
2. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
3. The Moment of Lift, by Melinda Gates
4. Thinking Inside the Box, by Adrienne Raphel (Register for November 10 event here)
5. The Well Plated Cookbook, by Erin Clarke
6. Greenlights, by Michael McConaughey
7. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
8. Modern Comfort Food, by Ina Garten
9. Ottolenghi Flavor, by Yottam Ottolenghi
10. Is This Anything?, by Jerry Seinfeld
11. Setsuko's Secret, by Shirley Ann Higuchi (Register for November 12 event here)
12. I'll Be Seeing You, by Elizabeth Berg (Register for November 9 event here)

It's new but it's not new. But Heller McAlpin writes in the Christian Science Monitor: "OK, so technically, there’s nothing new here. But The Best of Me is an excellent introduction to Sedaris’ work if, somehow, you’re not among the millions who have made him a mainstay on bestseller lists and flocked to his ticketed readings. Even if you’ve read or listened to every word he’s ever written, it’s a terrific highlights reel and a chance to view the arc of Sedaris’ development as a writer over 25 years" But where's my new bonus track and fold-out poster?

Paperback Fiction:
1. By a Lake Near a Moon, by DeWitt Clinton (register for November 11 event here)
2. Olive Again, by Elizabeth Strout
3. The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner
4. Beowulf, translated by Maria Dahvana Headley
5. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
6. Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart
7. Circe, by Madeline Miller
8. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
9. Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain
10. Mirror Lake, by Juneau Black

I do not know why Vintage 1954 outsold The Readers' Room last week, only it's not a bulk sale and I did hand-sell at least one of them. Speaking of backlist pops with new releses, it was this week that I noticed that Song of Achilles is on The New York Times paperback list along with Circe, month's after what I thought would be a promotional pop. I did also notice good bestseller runs for Mothers and Homegoing with the releases of The Vanishing Half and Transcendent Kingdom. I hadn't seen this much in the past few years, so I'm wondering if a new retail (in-store or online) marketing program.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Memorable Milwaukee, by Darlene Wesenberg Rzezotarski (signed copies available)
2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
3. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
4. The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
5. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
6. Furious Hours, by Casey Cep
7. The Bastard Brigade, by Sam Kean
8. The Body Is Not an Apology, by Sonya Renee Taylor
9. My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
10. Monsieur Mediocre, by John Von Sothen

Casey Cep sent us several signed bookplates for the paperback edition of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, so the book is not only in new releases and book club recommendations, but on our bookplate display as well. A recent Cep column in The Wall Street Journal describes a situation that often befalls me, pronouncing words improperly that you only know from reading: "I came across a delightful account of this predicament during my research into the life of the novelist Harper Lee. Lee loved doggerel and nonsense poetry—not only reading and reciting it but also writing it. One of my favorite examples, a reflection on what it was like to move from the Deep South to New York City at the age of 23, was sent by Lee to a friend of hers under the fantastically farcical title 'Some Sociological Aspects of Peculiarities of Pronunciation Found in Persons From Alabama Who Read a Great Deal to Themselve.s'"

Books for Kids:
1. Wishes and Wellingtons, by Julie Berry
2. Sun Flower Lion, by Kevin Henkes (signed copies available)
3. The True Definition of Neva Beane (Register for November 19 event here)
4. The Mitten, by Jan Brett
5. Lilly and Friends, by Kevin Henkes (also signed - please request in special instructions)
6. The Enigma Game, by Elizabeth Wein (Register for November 8 event here - that's today!)
7. Margaret's Unicorn, by Briony May Smith
8. The Very Last Leaf, by Stef Wade
9. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer
10. Every Night Is Pizza Night, by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

We had a nice pop in sales for one of our recent virtual school visits with Julie Berry, author of Wishes and Wellingtons. Weirdly enough, the origin of this book was as an Audible Original, which was why there was a Brilliance edition (both brands are owned by Amazon) in 2019. It's the story of a girl who finds a djinni in a sardine tin. Kirkus Reviews called it "a nostalgic Dickens and (E.) Nesbit mashup)."