Monday, June 7, 2021

Boswell events for the week of June 7 - Sebastian Junger, Maggie Shipstead, Christopher Buehlman, Lyndsey Ellis, plus cosponsored events with Jo Ivester and Lady Anne Glenconner

There's a lot to talk about this week

Monday, June 7, 7 PM
Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom
In conversation with Sarah Chayes for a virtual event
$5 tickets here or upgrade to a book with ticket (cheaper than buying the book and ticket separately)

Publishers are loving multi-store sponsored events and we're experimenting with them. Sometimes they are run by the publisher, as was a recent event with Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, and others are run by us, like our Readings from Oconomowaukee and Ink/Well series. And sometimes they are run by other booksellers, such as tonight's Sebastian Junger event for Freedom. The lead bookseller on this one is Left Bank Books of St. Paul, with additional sponsors in Anderson's Bookshop of Naperville and Downer's Grove, and McLean and Eakin Booksellers of Petoskey.

From William Finnegan in The New York Times: "Junger takes us on long detours through history, anthropology, primatology, boxing, poker. It’s not easy to follow the thread, although the main theme from Tribe - extolling the superiority, both moral and psychological, of life in small nomadic groups (or small embattled platoons) over modernity under capitalism - appears repeatedly. The main thrust here, though, seems to be a ragged pursuit of the meaning of human freedom. The two topics overlap. 'For most of human history, freedom had to be at least suffered for, if not died for, and that raised its value to something almost sacred,' Junger writes. 'In modern democracies, however, an ethos of public sacrifice is rarely needed because freedom and survival are more or less guaranteed.'"

Martin Pengelly spoke to Junger about Freedom in The Guardian, noting that he survived a life-threatening anuerysm and a bout with COVID. On contemplating the book, he noted "You could read Freedom and sort of read in between the lines and see some commentary about some of the more amoral, disreputable politics going on in this country. And you’d be right. But I didn’t want to call it out by name, because then it immediately loses its value."Junger would also like everyone to drop what they are doing and read some Cormac McCarthy.

The jumping-off point for the story is a walk that Junger talk with two other Afghanistan War veterans. I was a little confused that so many reviewers understood more of the context of the journey than I did reading the book, so I was glad that one mentioned The Last Patrol, the HBO documentary, that covers the same territory (you can watch it if you have HBO Max), in much more detail.

Tuesday, June 8, 2 pm
Maggie Shipstead, author of Great Circle or buy from Books & Company
in conversation with Lisa Baudoin and me for a virtual event
Register for this event here

The June edition of our great Readings from Oconomowaukee series of virtual events presents an afternoon of conversation with Maggie Shipstead, author of Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction. Her latest novel is a dual narrative, featuring the pilot Marian Graves, framed by the story of actor Hadley Baxter, who is the star of a biopic of Graves's life. You'll notice our next few Oconomowaukee events are weekday afternoons. We're having some nice success in this slot and decided to try a few programs there even when the authors are not in Europe.

Shipstead's latest was named one of the great summer reads by several publications and the #1 Indie Next Pick for May. It will definitely take you away, from the wilds of Montana to lush Hawaii to urbane Seattle (it's actually a backwater in the 1920s!) to war-torn England and the frigid wilderness of the South Pole. Ron Charles called it his top summer book recommendation, a 'soaring' work of historical fiction. From The Washington Post: "So convincingly does Shipstead stitch her fictional heroine into the daring flight paths of early aviators that you'll be convinced that you remember the tragic day her plane disappeared. Great Circle is a relentlessly exciting story about a woman maneuvering her way between tradition and prejudice to get what she wants. It's also a culturally rich story that takes full advantage of its extended length to explore the changing landscape of the 20th century."

From Lynn Steger Strong in The New York Times: "At a moment when so many novels seem invested in subverting form, Great Circle follows in a long tradition of Big Sweeping Narratives. I hope we always have literature that forces us to reconsider what the form can hold, but also: One of the many things that novels can offer is an immersive sense of pleasure, a sense that something you’ve seen done before is being done so well that it feels newly and uniquely alive. Great Circle grasps for and ultimately reaches something extraordinary."

And Jackie Thomas-Kennedy, whose review in the Star-Tribune should tempt reluctant readers: "Shipstead's project is not to surprise readers with the consistent parallels between Hadley and Marian; rather, she acknowledges and explores these parallels. At times, plot conveniences appear to propel the story forward ... As the novel approaches its final pages, suspense increases - here is where one finds twists and surprises, unexpected connections - though the work's ultimate interest mirrors a quality shared by the Graves twins: a natural, boundless curiosity."

I could keep going! This is the kind of interview where spoilers are tempting, but since this event is for the hardcover and the book's only been out a month, we're going to keep away from them.

Tuesday, June 8, 7:30 pm
Cosponsorship - Jo Ivester, author of Once a Girl, Always a Boy: A Family Memoir of a Transgender Journey
A virtual event
Register for this event here

The Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center presents an author event with Jo Ivester, a part of their Tapestry Arts & Ideas series of events. In his mid-twenties, Jo’s son Jeremy began taking testosterone and had surgery to remove his breasts. From Kirkus: "It’s not a traumatic coming-out story: Jeremy’s family and co-workers were generally supportive. But there is quieter drama as they all navigate uncharted emotional territory, with Jo feeling unspoken anguish that Jeremy has decided to forgo marriage and children and young Jeremy enduring the aching loneliness that many gender-nonconforming kids feel."

Jo Ivester is author of the award-winning memoir The Outskirts of Hope, and has led numerous speaking engagements about racial relations. In the last few years, she has broadened her focus to raise awareness about the transgender community, and now serves on the board of Equality Texas, a non-profit LGBTQ rights organization.

Wednesday, June 9, 7 pm
Christopher Buehlman, author of The Blacktongue Thief
in conversation with Jason Kennedy for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Join us for an evening with Christopher Buehlman, author of books such as Between Two Fires and The Lesser Dead. He’ll chat about his new fantasy novel set in a world of goblin wars, stag-sized battle ravens, and assassins who kill with deadly tattoos, which takes you on a dazzling fantasy adventure unlike any other. We love Buehlman for his collection of top-notch horror novels and for his days as an insult comic at Bristol Renaissance Faire when he visited Boswell on his breaks. But this book takes him to another level - as former Boswellian Ogi Ubiparivpovic says, "A cut above most other fantasy books, The Blacktongue Thief is a masterclass in world building, storytelling, and humor."

Jason's full recommendation: "Christopher Buehlman hasn’t just written a really good epic fantasy; he has taken the reader and dunked them into a world full of joy, wonder, heartbreak, foulness, horror, and hope. Once I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. The prose! And the dialogue was so perfect, I was laughing out loud from the snark that Kinch Na Shannack narrated his story with, and I was cringing from vicious, nasty goblin attacks or towering giants tossing trees. Kinch owes the Takers Guild for his education, and when they tell him to accompany a knight on her quest, he has no other option – he must go. Know that there is so much to this book; Buehlman will take you down crazy paths that will delight and fright, but I will not say any more about the surprises that are in the book. Go read it now!"

Nils Shukla talked to Buehlman in The Fantasy Hive, asking him about writing horror vs. fantasy: "Writing Horror is like writing form poetry in a way. Rather than rhyme and meter, you’re working with feelings of dread, shock and terror, and these have to be present with some regularity, in some rhythm, like the climbs and plunges of a roller coaster. Fantasy is much more like free verse – you can frighten if you want, but the reader isn’t expecting or demanding it. Certainly there are rhythms and structural requirements, but they’re not dependent on creating a specific visceral reaction like horror, or its cousin, comedy. All you have to accomplish in fantasy is the minor feat (sarcasm font) of telling a good story."

Thursday June 10, 7 pm
Lyndsey Ellis, author of Bone Broth
in Conversation with Dasha Kelly Hamilton for a virtual event
Register for this event here

I am always trying to read more independently published books, but when I came across Bone Brother, I was particularly excited, as the book's publisher is located in Wauwatosa. We'd hosted an anthology event with Hidden Timbers Press, so we're thrilled that this all came together, and we're working with Christi Craig on this title. Here's more from Jim Higgins in the Journal Sentinel about the book's journey.

Here's my staff rec: "Set in the aftermath of the Michael Brown protests in Ferguson, Bone Broth follows the lives of Justine, a newly widowed woman, who despite seeing an end to a marriage that was rather complicated (they lived apart), is still struggling with the next stage in her life. She has three kids who have distanced themselves in various ways and are struggling with their own losses. When her eldest daughter Raynah starts a social justice museum, she uncovers a secret about her mother that calls into question everything she’s believed about her family. Ellis has written an absorbing and nuanced family drama, packed with St. Louis details and unforgettable characters. Bone Broth highlights the burdens of racism over generations and the resulting trauma that can ensue, and how activism, while vital, can lead to burnout with its own lasting scars."

Lyndsey Ellis earned a BA in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts in San Francisco. Dasha Kelly Hamilton is a writer, performance artist, and creative change agent. She is the current Wisconsin Poet Laureate (More in the Journal Sentinel) and has helped start a Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate Competition (also in the Journal Sentinel).

Earlier Lyndsey Ellis did an event at St Louis's Left Bank Books with fellow authors Vivian Gibson and Malaika Horne, which you can watch here.

Saturday, June 12, 12 pm
Cosponsorship – Lady Anne Glenconnor, author of Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown
in conversation with Hugo Vickers for a virtual event
Register for the event here

Who would have guessed that the explosion of virtual events would have allowed us to cosponsor an event with a book festival in Scotland? But that's the case when it's the Boswell Book Festival, dedicated to biographies and memoirs, normally held at the historic Dumfries House, but this year virtual. I already recorded a one-minute welcome, and got to show off our collection of books about James Boswell.

Scotland’s Boswell Book Festival presents a conversation featuring Lady Anne Glenconnor, a close member of the royal circle and lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret who will chat about her memoir, which offers unprecedented insights into the royal family that are witty, candid, and dramatic. At times heart-breaking, this is the personal story of a life in a golden cage for a woman with no inheritance. In conversation with broadcaster and biographer Hugo Vickers, author of books such as The Quest for Queen Mary and The Windsors I Knew. You know her from The Crown - now get the real story! How's that for a tag line?

Next week preview...
Monday, June 14, 7 pm
Nghi Vo, author of The Chosen and the Beautiful
in Conversation with Adrienne Celt for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here

Our fantasy summer continues with Milwaukee-based Vo, a Hugo Award finalist and author of the acclaimed novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune. Her latest is a full-length novel that’s a reinvention of The Great Gatsby as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess focused on a queer Vietnamese adoptee living in a world where important doors are closed to her. Cohosted by the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. We'll also have a few words about summer reading from Milwaukee Public Library.
 
I'd feel left out if we weren't doing at least one Great Gatsby-themed event, the first major book to go into public domain in many, many years. From Jessica P Wick on the NPR website: "Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful makes me long to reread F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Not because this telling is less luminous or powerful or propulsive, but because I don't want to leave it — or Jordan. If I reread Gatsby with Chosen in my thoughts, it feels like clever way to cheat the enemy and glory of a very good book - the ending. Like I'll get the story twice. This is a wholly enthralling vision of the American Dream as observed and experienced by one suspended in a liminal place — accepted, but not really a part of the whole; apart, but not quite separate."

Liz Ohanesian in the Los Angeles Daily News asks about Vo about writers who have been important to her work: "Her early influences include Neil Gaiman, British fantasy writer Angela Carter, The Talented Mr. Ripley author Patricia Highsmith, and the popular podcast series Welcome to Night Vale. More recently, she’s found inspiration in the work of Bryan Fuller, the television writer and producer behind series like Pushing Daisies and Hannibal.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page.

Photo credits
Sebastian Junger credit Peter Foley
Sarah Chayes credit Kaveh Sardari
Adrienne Celt credit Adrianne Mathiowetz
Dasha Kelly Hamilton credit VaNa Barki

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending June 5, 2021

Here are the Boswell bestsellers for the week ending June 5, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
2. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
3. The Bombay Prince, by Sujata Massey (Register for June 17 event here)
4. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. While Justice Sleeps, by Stacey Abrams
6. The Guncle, by Steven Rowley
7. The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris
8. The Chosen and the Beautiful, by Nghi Vo (Register for June 14 event here)
9. Double Blind, by Edward St Aubyn
10. The Five Wounds, by Kirstin Valdez Quade

The Other Black Girl is the selection for at least three book clubs - Good Morning America, Esquire, and Read with Marie Claire. It's an Indie Bound pick, with Kirsten Wilson from Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama calling it "A literary fiction tale with a side of suspense, this expertly woven critique on society is bound to keep readers on the edge of their seats.” It's also got 10 Rave reviews from Bookmarks (of 12 total), with Alicia Rancilio of Associated Press noting "Dalila Harris’s book peels back the curtain on recent efforts of corporate America to embrace diversity, but also shows the weaknesses behind its intentions."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Belonging, by Kathryn Jacob, Sue Unerman, Mark Edwards
2. Daughters of Kobani, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
3. Shape, by Jordan Ellenberg
4. Somebody's Daughter, by Ashley C Ford
5. How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith
6. Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green
7. Premonition, by Michael Lewis
8. After the Fall, by Ben Rhodes
9. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
10. The Bomber Mafia, by Malcolm Gladwell

Ashley C Ford is the podcast host of The Chronicles of Now and Lovecraft Country Radio. Her memoir, first week out, has 7 rave reviews on Book Marks, including Natatchi Onwuamaegbu's in The Boston Globe, where the critic wrote: "Somebody’s Daughter left me struggling to breathe - I found that holding my breath held back the tears that kept coming and coming and coming." Ford spoke to Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
2. One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston
3. The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
4. Circe, by Madeline Miller
5. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
6. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
7. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
8. The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix
9. The Weaver's Revenge, by Kathleen Ernst
10. The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune
11. Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett
12. Bone Broth, by Lyndsey Ellis (Register for June 10 event here)

It took a year to break out Red, White, and Royal Blue, but the first week of Casey McQuiston's One Last Stop is an instant bestseller. It's an Indie Bound pick, with Cori Cusker of Bright Side Bookshop of Flagstaff saying "What a magical and creative tale, an addictive read that I did not want to put down" and it's got a staff rec from Boswellian Margaret Kennedy too: "Filled with witty dialogue, beautifully detailed scenes, and music that will have you dancing on the table, Casey McQuiston once again gives us a couple to root for and a book to read again and again."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Spirit Run, by Noe Alvarez
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. Healing Conversations, by Nance Guilmartin
4. Drawing Lesson, by Mark Crilley
5. ABA Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Charles Hagner
6. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
7. How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg
8. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
9. There's a Revolution Outside, My Love, edited by Tracy K Smith and John Freeman
10. God of Love, Mirabai Starr

There's a Revolution Outside, My Love: Letters from a Crisis is an anthology of essays from Lithub on race and justice from former Poet Laureate Tracy K Smith and Knopf Executive Editor. Smith spoke to Ari Shapiro on NPR's All Things Considered, and noted: "We wanted to think about diversity in lots of different ways. And because racial justice is a big part of the vocabulary of this time, we wanted to center the voices of Black writers and writers of color. But we were also thinking about geographic diversity because America is huge, and we lived through this crisis differently depending on where we were. And there's also a desire to think toward different issues. And so you know, policing and incarceration are policy issues that live here alongside other questions that ask us to think more internally or interiorly. And that felt important to coming to this moment and its many crises from different kinds of depths, if you will."

Books for Kids:
1. A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade/Melanie Demmer
2. Children Just Like Me, from DK
3. The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L Holm
4. The Land of Permanent Goodbyes, by Atia Abawi
5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar board book, by Eric Carle
6. Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Boulley (Register for June 29 event here)
7. Lucky Girl, by Jamie Pacton
8. Because of Mr Terupt, by Rob Buyea
9. Instructions for Dancing, by Nicola Yoon
10. Oh the Places You'll Go, by Dr. Seuss

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon is out this week and it's an Indie Next pick from Stefani Kelley of the Book Nook of Brenham, Texas, which is halfway between Auston and Houston. She writes: "Evie is still dealing with her parents' divorce when she gains the ability to see a vision of a couple's romantic future together when they kiss: from the meet-cute all the way to the end (and it seems like there's always an end). Bitter about both developments in her life, she meets a handsome young man named X who becomes her ballroom dancing partner. But should she fall for him, knowing there's probably inevitable heartache? I laughed, I cried, I rooted for Evie and X to make it work.” Yoon talks to Jeff Glor on CBS News This Morning about the book.

In the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins discusses Bone Broth, the new novel from Lyndsey Ellis, published by the local Hidden Timbers Press. Ellis will talk to Dasha Kelly Hamilton, who is helping start a Milwaukee Youth Poet Laureate competition. More here.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Events - Steven Rowley with Christina Clancy, Jordan Ellenberg with John Urschel, Elizabeth Hinton with Robin DG Kelly

Tuesday June 1, 7 pm
Steven Rowley, author of The Guncle
in conversation with Christina Clancy for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Christina Clancy, the author of The Second Home and the forthcoming Shoulder Season,(preorder your signed copy - ask for personalization) and I were talking about books. She's such a good reader and such a good conversation partner that I suggested maybe she had someone she'd love to talk to. Especially for virtual events, we sometimes find the conversation partner first, and then ask them for suggestions. These are sometimes our best events!

Christi (I've known her for years - I think I can be informal here) has been recommending books to me for years. Last fall we hosted Kirkland Hamill's Filthy Beasts at here suggestion (read it and liked it) and recently she also suggested I read The Salt Fields, by Stacy D Flood (bought it, haven't read it yet). She immediately mentioned Steven Rowley, the author of Lily and the Octopus* (here's a story about the book's backstory when the film rights were sold - thanks, Hollywood Reporter) and The Editor, a novel that features no less than Jacqueline Le Bouvier Kennedy Onassis (I put in all her names just in case you thought I was talking about someone else), who was an editor at Doubleday (and with Martha Levin, shepherded the Naguhib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy to American publication and convinced her neighbor Dorothy West to finish The Wedding, per Wikipedia.

After getting a printed out advance copy (sorry, still not able to get through the electronic advance copies that publishers, most notably PRH, prefer), I devoured it! Here's my rec, that also gives you an idea of what the book's about: "Patrick O’Hara, Golden Globe winner of the iconic television comedy The People Upstairs, has been holed up in Palm Springs after the cancellation of his show and the death of his partner. When his college buddy turned sister-in-law also dies, and his brother confronts his addictions by heading to rehab, Patrick agrees to take in his niblings Grant and Maisie for the summer. As Patrick’s disagreeable sister Clara notes, Patrick is no Rosalind Russell, but that doesn’t stop The Guncle from calling to mind Auntie Mame, notably when the ready-made family has a Christmas-in-July party. I’m well aware that quirky children are a shortcut to sympathy – ask any screenwriter – but Maisie and Grant (or Grantelope, nicknames don’t become Maisie) do a particularly good job of forcing Patrick to overcome his grief-fueled-malaise. And like Rowley’s novel, they are also charming and funny."

It's Bojack Horseman with humans and a happy ending. And a different kind of funny. Giddier. Gayer.

I even wound up reading Patrick Dennis's Auntie Mame, which was a huge bestseller and became a play, a film, a musical, and another film, but this one, based on the musical and starring Lucille Ball, is probably best not talked about. Dennis wrote a number of bestsellers, but blew through his money (he was married with children, but lived a gay life on the side) and ended his career working as a butler. 

I asked Christi if she had an interesting story about The Guncle and she did! Rowley's now husband Byron Lane is the author of a 2020 debut novel A Star Is Bored, a roman a clef about working for the late Carrie Fisher. In the acknowledgements, Lane proposed to Rowley. While they are already married, Rowley noted in The Guncle acknowledgments that he accepted, just in case you read both books and both sets of acknowledgements but didn't use social media or a key word search to find out how things went. How could these vows not have been in The New York Times?

I really like The Guncle cover, which was both illustrated and designed by Tal Goretsky (All the Light We Cannot See and so many others). It's a book that reflects on the outside the happiness you'll feel when you read the inside. I also pay special attention to books edited by Sally Kim. We have two more Sally Kim projects on the books this summer - forthcoming novels from Nickolas Butler and Meghan Abbott.

Wednesday, June 2, 7 pm
Jordan Ellenberg, author of Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else
in conversation with John Urschel for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

I went on and on about Shape last week, and we had a fabulous first week of sales. Here's the post. 

I don't think I referenced Parul Sehgal's wonderful review in The New York Times: "A moment of appreciation for the popular math writer who must operate with the same stealth, balletic improvisation and indomitable self-belief as someone trying to corner a particularly skittish and paranoid cat into the pet carrier. No sudden moves! Approach carefully; compliment liberally — precious reader, brilliant reader. Offer bribe and blandishment. Assure us it won’t hurt. Ellenberg, a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is rather spectacular at this sort of thing."

From a Kate Tuttle profile in The Boston Globe wrote: "Some of those ideas seem simple but lead to vexing questions; one example in the book asks readers how many holes are in a straw. 'Part of the reason that question is hard to answer is that there’s not really a definition of what counts as a hole,' Ellenberg said. 'I think some people think mathematics is about knowing what the exact definition of everything is: what is a hole, what is a circle. No, in mathematics we choose our definitions.'"

More about John Urschel on this recent (December 2020, close enough) Penn Live/Patriot-News story about getting kids interested in math: "Urschel recently drew 700 participants worldwide for an event staged by the National Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) called Bending the Arc. Urschel is a member of the board of trustees at MoMath and serves as the organization’s ambassador by extolling the virtues of the subject to children of all backgrounds, particularly African-Americans."

We also have two upcoming cosponsored events. In the case of Elizabeth Hinton, the event is being run by Source Booksellers of Detroit. In the case of Sebastian Junger, the lead is Left Bank Books of St. Louis. Hinton is free, the Junger requires a $5 ticket or upgrade to a book. You don't have to buy $5 and a book - I've recently done a couple of refunds for folks who double ordered.

Thursday, June 3, 6 pm
Elizabeth Hinton, author of America on Fire: The Untold Story of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s
in conversation with Robin DG Kelly for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Boswell cohosts an evening featuring Elizabeth Hinton, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Yale University and a Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She will discuss her new book with Robin DG Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Of Hinton's book, Kelley says, "If you want to understand the massive antiracist protests of 2020, put down the navel-gazing books about racial healing and read America on Fire."

This event is also cohosted by Anderson's Bookshop of Naperville and Downer's Grove, Left Bank Books of St Louis, and Moon Palace Books of Minneapolis.

Elizabeth Hinton is also author of From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, co-winner of the Thomas J Wilson Memorial Prize and a New York Times notable book of the year. Robin DG Kelley is also the author of  Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. Kelley is the Gary B Nash Endowed Chair in US History at UCLA.

From Peniel E Joseph in The New York Times: "America on Fire is more than a brilliant guided tour through our nation’s morally ruinous past. It reveals the deep roots of the current movement to reject a system of law enforcement that defines as the problem the very people who continue to seek to liberate themselves from racial oppression. In undertaking this work, Hinton achieves something rare. She deploys scholarly erudition in the service of policy transformation, propelled by Black voices whose hitherto untold stories of protest add much-needed sustenance to America’s collective imagination."

And next Monday
Monday, June 7, 7 PM
Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom
in conversation with Sarah Chayes for a virtual event
$5 Tickets for this event here.

This event is cohosted by Left Bank Books of St Louis, Anderson's Bookshop of Naperville and Downer's Grove, and McLean & Eakin Booksellers of Petoskey.

For much of a year, acclaimed author Sebastian Junger and three friends - a conflict photographer and two Afghan War vets - walked the railroad lines of the East Coast. It was an experiment in personal autonomy, but also in interdependence. Dodging railroad cops, sleeping under bridges, cooking over fires, and drinking from creeks and rivers, the four men forged a unique reliance on one another.

From Seth Combs in the San Diego Union-Tribune: "While the book is, on its surface, an account of a nearly yearlong trek on foot across the northeastern United States, its essence is its exploration of humanity’s conceptualizations of independence, liberty and self-determination. Mixing history, memoir and philosophy, Junger actually never intended to write about the 400-mile trip at all. 'I was thinking to myself, how am I going to write a book about freedom without it being this unbearable philosophical tract,' says Junger, who spent nearly a year walking from Washington, D.C., to western Pennsylvania almost a decade ago. 'So inevitably I thought, What’s the freest I’ve ever been? Of course, it depends on how you define it, but by the definition I use in the book - that for miles we were the only people who knew where we were every night - that’s not a bad definition of freedom.'"

If you upgrade to a book, we suggest media mail for local shipments and priority for anything out of state.

Sebastian Junger is the author of Tribe, War, and The Perfect Storm, and co-director of the documentary Restrepo, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He is also the winner of a Peabody Award and the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Sarah Chayes is author of On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake.

*Referencing Lily and the Octopus, it's Marley and Me crossed with The Art of Racing in the Rain - and an octopus.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page. Apologies - it's Memorial Day (Boswell open 10 to 5) and so we have nobody to proofread this. Apologies for the typos. 

Photo credits:
--Steven Rowley by Byron Lane
--Christina Clancy by James Bartelt
--Jordan Ellenberg by Mats Rudels
--Elizabeth Hinton by Emily Schiffer
--Sebastian Junger by Peter Foley

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Boswell bestsellers! Week ending May 29, 2021

Boswell Bestsellers! It's for the week ending May 29, 2021.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
2. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
3. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. While Justice Sleeps, by Stacey Abrams
5. The Blacktongue Thief, by Christopher Buehlman (Register for June 9 event here)
6. At the End of the World, Turn Left, by Zhanna Slor
7. The Plot, by Jean Hanff Korelitz
8. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, by VE Schwab
9. Send for Me, by Lauren Fox
10. The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah

The Plot is Jean Hanff Korelitz's eighth novel, her first moving with Jamie Raab and Deb Futter to Celadon from Grand Central, and possibly its best recommendations, from Stephen King ("One of the best novels I've ever read about writers and writing") to Meghan Abbott ("Psychologically acute and breathtakingly suspenseful, you'll find yourself rushing towards a finale both astonishing and utterly earned." It's about a teacher/writer who appropriates a killer plotline from his now-dead student, and when someone starts sending threatening messages, attempts to expose the exposer. But I might have left out fifty or so twists.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Radical Awakening, by Shefali Tsabary
2. Shape, by Jordan Ellenberg (Register for June 2 event here)
3. Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green
4. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
5. Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard
6. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
7. The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel
8. The Bomber Mafia, by Malcolm Gladwell
9. Punch Me Up to the Gods, by Brian Broome
10. Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe

It's the fourth week of sale for The Secret to Superhuman Strength and the second week in our top ten. Per Shelf Awareness, graphic memoirist "Alison Bechdel approaches the subject of exercise in The Secret to Superhuman Strength with the same insatiable curiosity, interdisciplinary rumination and candid humor as she did with the earlier subjects of her parents in Fun Home (editor's note: the subject of a Broad musical) and Are You My Mother?" There's also a promotional video here. I think it might be for the British edition!

Paperback Fiction:
1. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
2. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
3. The Kindred Spirits Supper Club, by Amy E Reichert
4. The People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
5. The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri
6. One by One, by Ruth Ware
7. The Door Behind a Door, by Yelena Moskovich
8. The Glass Hotel, by Emily St John Mandel
9. The Children's Bible, by Lydia Millet
10. The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune

Jenny and I hosted an event for Jamie Pacton in conversation with Elise Bryant and one book they both loved was the former #1 bestseller The People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. Angela Haupt talks about enjoying the romance even though you know how it ends in The Washington Post: "People is an excellent reminder that a familiar trajectory doesn’t erase the fun of the journey. The novel — a follow-up to last year’s well-loved Beach Read - is absorbing and entertaining. Henry isn’t aiming for originality: This is an updated version of When Harry Met Sally, which all these years later still sets the standard for friends who become lovers. She freshens it up with her signature wit, epic near misses and steamy longing that threatens to seep through the page, fogging the reader’s glasses"

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Minor Feelings, by Cathy Park Hong
2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. Spirit Run, by Noe Alvarez
5. Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela
6. Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari
7. Best Lake Hikes Wisconsin, by Steve Johnson
8. People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
9. The Birdman of Koshkong, by Martha Bergland
10. The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk

The author of Biking Wisconsin, Best Hikes Madison, Wisconsin, and Hiking Waterfalls in Minnesota (I guess Wisconsin doesn't have enough for a book, plus the author is a Minnesotan) has written Best Lake Hikes Wisconsin: A Guide to the State's Best Lake and River Hikes, a guide to either 56 (according to the table of contents) or almost 100 (guide to the copy) of the most scenic hikes in the state. I have done the Devil's Lake trail several times (both many years ago) - that's #50!

Books for Kids:
1. Black Enough, edited by Ibi Zoboi
2. American Betiya, by Anuradha D Rajurkar
3. Land of Permanent Goodbyes, by Atia Abawi
4. Peace Train, by Cat Stevens, with illustrations by Peter H Reynolds
5. Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Boulley (Register for June 29 event here)
6. We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom, with illustrations by Michael Coade
7. City Spies V1, by James Ponti
8. Pet, by Matthew Van Fleet
9. Shady Baby, by Gabrielle Union-Wade and Dwyane Wade Jr, illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker
10. The Ones We're Meant to Find, by Joan He

It's the 50th anniversary of Peace Train, the beloved song from Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, and that means the lyrics have been turned into a picture book, illustrated by Peter H Reynolds. His statement to People Magazine: "I wrote these lyrics more than 50 years ago, and I know the words still boom as true and loud today as they did in the 1970s...It's incredible to see how Peter Reynolds has made the words jump into life in brilliant style for a new generation with his joysome illustrations." If you like these kinds of song adaptations, Akashic has a lot of them!

Jim Higgins offers a story on Lois Ehlert's life in the Journal Sentinel.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Memorial: Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle

How crazy is it that we are putting together memorial tables for not one but two literary lights of the children's world, Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert? Carle was the bigger name, so he seems to be getting more attention, but not in Milwaukee, where Lois Ehlert was one of the city's treasures, inscribed on the Wisconsin Writers Hall of Fame at the Milwaukee Public Library. From her studio in the Lower East Side, she would create those amazing collage illustrations that brought her books to life. 

When I was still working on the floor of the Iron Block location of the Schwartz Bookshops, my coworker Jean put together a lovely display of Growing Vegetable Soup in our kids section, which was this weird little space across from the Water Street desk. I can see it like I am still there, but since it was 1987, I have no photo. If  we made it now, there'd be 700 images on the internet. 

While I never hosted an event for Ehlert at Schwartz, being holed up in my supply closet buying mostly adult books for the stores, I know she did many events at Harry W. Schwartz, as well as at kid-centered and also much missed Book Bay, which was across the street on Downer Avenue and then in Whitefish Bay, in the space of the Book Nook when it moved to Shorewood as a Schwartz location. Bookstore musical chairs! I'm quite positive that Carle also visited Book Bay, and might have signed at one of the Schwartz stores too, maybe Brookfield, which also at one time had a separate kids store. I can ask Pat (the longtime proprietor) next time she's at the bookstore, and I'm sure she'll have a fabulous story about his visit. 

At Boswell, we hosted Ehlert several times, and my absolute favorite was for Rrralph, a picture book that was inspired by the old series of jokes about the dog that can talk. Hey Ralph, what's on that tree? "Bark, bark, bark!" Ehlert did the event with her brother - as kids, they loved this running gag. As always, there was no slide show because to Ehlert's eyes, the colors weren't quite right in the projection. And as always, Ehlert didn't sign board books, worried that young kids would put the books with ink on them in their mouths. 

Here's an interesting coincidence. Ehlert and Carle mostly wrote their own books, but each illustrated one or more books that they didn't write. And if you look at the most popular book that each illustrated but did not write, the author is the same person, Bill Martin, Jr. He wrote both Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with Carle's artwork and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom with Ehlert's. 

Jim Higgins offered this obituary of Lois Ehlert in the Journal Sentinel.

We will miss you both. Thank you for all the wonderful books you created. 

Alas, the images I took of Lois talking about Rrralph were very dark, and to get them lighter, they wound up being more grainy. I am not a professional photographer!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Book focus - Shape, by Jordan Ellenberg

There are three things to know about me when it comes to math:

1. I had promise when I was young, culminating with co-captaining our high school math team. We had team jackets made with money we raised selling bagels. Good boiled bagels. I was too embarrassed to wear mine much. We were the city champions for non-specialized schools, meaning excluding Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, et cetera. In retrospect, I realize that it might not have been on the up and up to have a teacher who helped make up the questions for the competitions.*

2. In college, I quickly realized two things. In most of my math classes, I would get lost halfway through most lectures. But the tests were always easier than the lectures. So in a turn of events, I majored in math anyway. I still feel sorry for the class where I was the teaching assistant, and it became clear some ways through that I was struggling with the subject as much as they were.

3. It was a struggle for me to figure out what to do with this degree, at the time considered less practical than being a history major. I tried to turn my knowledge of math (with an interest in consumer culture) into a career in market research, but I couldn't get an interview anywhere. So here I am - a bookseller with a shelf of math books.

Truth be told, I hardly read math books anymore. For some reason, publishers push a lot of fiction on us, but not too much serious nonfiction. Most of the books I read are advance copies, and there isn't the expectation that we booksellers will move the needle on the subject. I'd do better if I could read e-galleys, but I'm pretty addicted to physical books. If the industry follows the model of the current market leader, there are going to be less and less advance options for me, but I suppose by that point, I will be back to the point where nobody will care what I read.

When I think about it, one of the only math books of the last ten years that I not only finished but loved was How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg. I loved the way Ellenberg integrated math into the real world, and I loved his voice too. It reminded me a lot of Freaknomoics, in the way he took an academic discipline and made it come alive. He didn't exactly turn the book into an industry the way the Steve's did, but I hear it did quite well.

In between teaching, proving theorems, and writing for various magazines (there's an article in The Atlantic out any second, maybe now), Jordan Ellenberg has written a second book, Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else. I'm not going to lie - I hoped I would have finished reading the book at this point, but I'm still on page 285. Why? The publisher graciously printed out a copy for me (so appreciated!), but there was a not-for-distribution notice in faint letters on every page. I appreciate their concern, and had it been a novel, I think I would have made it through, but Shape took a little more concentration from me, so I waited until we had our finished copies.

And oh goodness, was this worth the wait! Shape is the perfect title for this book, which shows that geometry is about more than proving whether two of the angles of an isosceles triangle are congruent. They are! Geometry is mapping and game theory and cryptography and artificial intelligence and predicting epidemics. Did I sometimes get a little lost reading the book? I did! But it's kind of like falling into a body of water with a life preserver - even if you're only an okay swimmer, you don't have to worry about drowning.

Once again, I should note how much I love Ellenberg's voice. He's such a good storyteller, and no lie, I have already laughed out loud many more times than I have in many a so-called comic novel. And when you run into one of your old friends, like the Fibonacci sequence, it's like attending a really good party, which maybe I will one day experience again.

Please don't worry if you get lost sometimes. Take my advice, you don't have to understand every detail to enjoy this book.  

One reason I'm thrilled I waited is because the finished book is just beautiful. The paper quality is top notch, smooth to the touch, not scratchy like the lower grade paper we get on most hardcover books. I'm not a fan of white jackets, but at least it's glossy so it won't get scuffed like the matte finishes. And the front panel has the author's initials, which is a rare thing nowadays. I looked at six other recent hardcovers I bought and the only other was Sanjena Sathian's Gold Diggers, so maybe that's a Penguin Press thing. I also loved the old-fashioned two-tone hardcover binding. It's rarer than you think - I found it on Commonwealth, Hamnet, Such a Fun Age (also has the initials!) No colored endpapers, but it's a trade off - I'm happy with what I got!

Last weekend I was able to drive to Madison and get Ellenberg to sign our stock. Real signature, not a bookplate, not a tip in! Order a signed Shape here. As a bonus, I also met up with Barrett Swanson, author of Lost in Summerland, and get him to sign books too. If you order either, ask for a signed copy in the order comments just so our bookseller double checks - there are probably some unsigned copies floating around. If you want a personalized copy of Shape, I'd direct you to Mystery to Me in Madison, which can handle those.

If you are reading this before June 2, we'll be hosting Professor Ellenberg in conversation with John Urschel, the former Baltimore Ravens player who has received a PhD in Mathematics from MIT and is now doing postdoctoral work at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. You can register here. If you're reading this later, we probably have a recording of the event here.

This event is cosponsored by the UWM Department of Mathematical Sciences.
 

*I'm pretty sure this story comes up every time I write about a math book. I'm your doddering uncle!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Events this week - Mary Alice Monroe, Brian Broome, Yelena Moskovich, Kate Zambreno, Jamie Pacton

Here's what's going with Boswell this week

Monday, May 24, 7 pm
Mary Alice Monroe, author of The Summer of Lost and Found
in conversation with Margy Stratton
Tickets for this event here.

The Lynden Sculpture Garden's Women's Speaker Series, sponsored by Milwaukee Reads and Boswell Book Company, welcome Mary Alice Monroe back to Milwaukee for a virtual, BYOS (bring-your-own-snacks) event for her latest novel. Tickets are $5 plus sales tax and ticket fee, or upgrade to admission-with-book for $28. $5 from each ticket will be donated to the Lynden Sculpture Garden. Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books and an active conservationist, and she's an inductee in the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Hall of Fame.

This tender and compassionate novel follows the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina as they face a summer of upheaval and change with perseverance, a spirit of unity, and a dose of humor, discovering unexpected joys and lessons that will endure long past the season. Monroe once again delves into the complexities of family relationships and brings her signature sensitive storytelling to this poignant and timely novel of love, courage, and resilience.

From Mary Alice Monroe in Parade Magazine, as part of their new collaboration with Friends and Fiction: "Throughout the past year, I began writing a novel about life in the time of coronavirus. I was interested in how the experience of the pandemic affected families and interpersonal relationships. Because it did - mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, friends, lovers. I paid attention to my life and the lives of my loved ones, recording what I observed as we marched through the months. I wrote this novel in real-time, and what a roller coaster it has been."


Tuesday, May 25, 7 pm
Brian Broome, author of Punch Me Up to the Gods
in Conversation with Chris Lee
Register for this event here

Boswell Book Company hosts an evening with award-winning poet and screenwriter Brian Broome for a conversation about his debut memoir, a poetic and raw coming-of-age memoir about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction. Brian Broome is a poet, screenwriter, and the K Leroy Irvis Fellow in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been a finalist in The Moth storytelling competition and won the grand prize in Carnegie Mellon University's Martin Luther King Writing Awards. He’ll chat with Chris Lee of Boswell Book Company.

Broome’s memoir chronicles his early years growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy harboring crushes on other boys, his move to Pittsburgh as a young man, and his years of self-discovery, indiscriminate sex and escalating drug use. He recounts his experiences in all their cringe-worthy, hilarious, and heartbreaking glory to reveal a perpetual outsider awkwardly squirming to find his way in.

From Darnell L Moore in The New York Times: "Punch Me Up to the Gods is a coming-of-age story that explores Black manhood and queerness in the Rust Belt. The title of the book is a reference to the ways that Black boys are often socialized into rigid conceptions of manhood - sometimes by the use of violence. 'Any Black boy who did not signify how manly he was at all times deserved to be punched back up to God to be remade, reshaped,' Broome writes. With this book, Broome hopes to counter the force of that punch by exploring the beauty of queer Black manhood, while offering a new way to write about that beauty."

Wednesday, May 26, 2 pm
Yelena Moskovich, author of A Door Behind A Door 
and Kate Zambreno, author of Drifts
A Virtual Event
Register for this event here

Boswell presents a conversation between two authors – Yelena Moskovich, author of the novels Virtuoso and The Natashas, and Kate Zambreno, author of Heroines and Green Girl. Her latest book of criticism is To Write As If Already Dead.

In Yelena Moskovich's spellbinding new novel we meet Olga, who immigrates as part of the Soviet diaspora to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From Publishers Weekly: “Moskovich mystifies with this vivid story of a pair of estranged siblings who immigrated to Milwaukee from the Soviet Union as children in 1991... The dynamic style and psychological depth make this an engaging mind bender."

And from Kate Zambreno, a haunting and compulsively readable portrait of creative obsession. At work on a novel that is overdue, spending long days walking neighborhood streets with her restless terrier, the narrator grows obsessed with the challenge of writing the present tense, of capturing time itself. She photographs her neighborhood, haunts bookstores and galleries, and records her thoughts in a notebook that soon subsumes her work on the novel. As winter closes in, a series of disturbances - the comings and goings of enigmatic figures, the burglary of her apartment - leaves her unsettled… until an intense and tender disruption changes everything.

Yelena Moskovich is a novelist, playwright, critic, and curator for the 2018 Los Angeles Queer Biennial. She has written for New Statesman and Paris Review and in French for Mixt(e) Magazine, and won the 2017 Galley Beggar Press Short Story Prize. Kate Zambreno is author of several acclaimed books and her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, VQR, and elsewhere. She teaches in the writing programs at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College.

Thursday, May 27, 7 pm
Jamie Pacton, author of Lucky Girl
in conversation with Elise Bryant, author of Happily Ever Afters
Register for this event here

Boswell hosts Wisconsin YA author Jamie Pacton for a chat with Elise Bryant, author of Happily Ever Afters. Jamie Pacton previous novel is The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly. Pacton’s new novel is the story of a teen who wins the lottery and the suspicion and jealousy in her small town - a funny, poignant reflection on what money can and can’t fix. Perfect for Rainbow Rowell fans. Elise Bryant earned a BA in Africana studies from California State University, Long Beach, and her MA in special education from Loyola Marymount University.

58,642,129. That’s how many dollars seventeen-year-old Fortuna Jane Belleweather just won in the lotto jackpot. It’s also about how many reasons she has for not coming forward to claim her prize. Jane is still a minor, and if anyone discovers she bought the ticket underage, she’ll either have to forfeit the ticket or worse. She could let her hoarder mother cash it, but the last thing Jane’s mom needs is millions of dollars to buy more junk. Then there’s Jane’s best friend, aspiring journalist Brandon Kim, who declares on the news that he’s going to find the lucky winner. It’s one thing to keep her secret from the town. It’s another thing entirely to lie to her best friend. Especially when Jane’s ex-boyfriend, Holden, is suddenly back in her life and has big ideas about what he’d do with the prize money.

From Kimberly Giarratano in Book Page: "Jamie Pacton’s second novel, Lucky Girl, explores the myriad ways money can change people. When the winning ticket is announced, everyone ponders what they would do with such an enormous windfall, but few consider the risks associated with newfound wealth. Eventually Jane learns of the tragedies that often befall lottery winners, their lives so frequently torn apart - and in some cases ended - by the greed and envy of those around them, and this possible fate makes her decision even more complicated."

Next week preview:

Tuesday June 1, 7 pm
Steven Rowley, author of The Guncle
in Conversation with Christina Clancy for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here.
As our latest entry in the Christina Clancy presents reading series (only half joking), we have an evening with Steven Rowley, author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor. The Guncle is a contemporary novel inspired by the classic novel (and film and musical and another film) Auntie Mame, in which Gay Uncle Patrick (that's GUP or Guncle) takes in his niece and nephew after the death of a close friend who is married to his brother, who desperately needs a stint in rehab. It's funny and thoughtful novel that is perfect for folks who like Elinor Lipman, Stephen McCauley, or Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney's Good Company. More later! 


Photo credits
Brian Broome by Andy Johnson
Kate Zambreno by Heather Smith
Elise Bryant by Rachal McCutchen
Steven Rowley by Byron Layne