Sunday, April 5, 2020

Here's what's selling at Boswell (well, virtually) for the week ending April 4, 2020

Here's what's selling at Boswell for the week ending April 4, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Murder at the Mena House, by Erica Ruth Neubauer
2. The Glass Hotel, by Emily St John Mandel
3. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
4. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
5. The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
6. The Herd, by Andrea Bartz
7. Oona Out of Order, by Margarita Montimore
8. We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry
9. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
10. In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle

Well, we didn't have our release party for Murder at the Mena House, but word got out. Eventually! We were also looking forward to not one but two events for The Herd, one at Boswell and another at the Elm Grove Library. If you read The Herd, you'll spot an Easter Egg for that Milwaukee suburb.

The Night Watchman is Erdrich's biggest hit since The Round House at Boswell. In just a month, she's outsold LaRose and Future Home of the Living God. Similarly, The Dutch House has now substantially outsold Commonwealth at Boswell, and that's with Boswell splitting the event sales for the current book with our friends at Books and Company.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson
2. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
3. Educated, by Tara Westover
4. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb
5. Shakespeare in a Divided America, by James Shapiro
6. The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay
7. See You on Sunday, by Sam Sifton
8. Apropos of Nothing, by Woody Allen
9. Front Row at the Trump Show, by Jonathan Karl
10. The Office, by Andy Greene

The Splendid and the Vile has not yet outsold In the Garden of Beasts or Dead Wake yet and has a long way to go on the latter - we had a sold out event for Larson's previous title. Particularly good sale on Shakespeare in a Divided America. Wondering if this is due to the Ann Levin review in the Journal Sentinel last Sunday.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
2. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
3. Dear Mrs. Bird, by AJ Pearce
4. The Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli
5. Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel
6. The Calculating Stars: Lady Astronaut, by Mary Robinette Kowal
7. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
8. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
9. The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn
10. The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

How about that sales resurgence on Dear Mrs. Bird from a bookseller blog? It's a timely book about living with a positive attitude through a difficult period, which in the case of Pearce's novel is the London Blitz.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Wow, No Thank You, by Samantha Irby
2. An Elegant Defense, by Matt Richtel
3. Leadership, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
4. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
5. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
6. Unorthodox, by Deborah Feldman
7. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
8. Striding Lines, by Bobbie Malone
9. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
10. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson

Jenny's recommendation in the Boswell blogs, website, and email newsletter led to a sales increase for An Elegant Defense, a narrative nonfiction book by a New York Times writer that came to my attention during the 2019 Winter Institute meeting where I shared a cab with the author. It's about immune systems, a mix of history, science, and personal narratives, so it's also very timely. It's a welcome return to form for Samantha Irby, who visited Boswell twice, once when her first collection Meaty was published by Curbside Splendor and she lived in Chicago, and then again, wait, it was for the same collection, when it was republished by Vintage.

Books for Kids:
1. Gooseberry Park, by Cynthia Rylant
2. Dragon Hoops, by Gene Kuen Yang
3. Prairie Lotus, by Linda Sue Park
4. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo
5. The Bad Mood and the Stick, by Lemony Snicket, with illustrations by Matthew Forsythe
6. Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds
7. Child of a Dream, by Sharon Robinson
8. Pete the Cat: Five Little Bunnies board book, by James Dean
9. Pete the Cat and Baby Animals board book, by James Dean
10. When Spring Comes board book, by Kevin Henkes/Laura Dronzek

Ann Patchett's essay on Kate DiCamillo has gone viral and that's led to a surge in sales for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Hannah Yashiroff of USA Today reports in: "Andy Greene’s The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s explores the making of the cult-favorite sitcom that exploded into a major phenomenon on Netflix years after it ended. The oral history features interviews with nearly 90 cast and crew members plus executives and critics, and includes information from scripts, call sheets and casting documents."

Barbara Vandenburgh of the USA Today Network (Arizona Republic) on The Glass Hotel: "Emily St. John Mandel’s last novel, 2014’s rapturously received Station Eleven, had one hell of an elevator pitch: What does the world look like after it’s been ravaged by a pandemic and civilization has collapsed? (If you have a strong constitution and a dark sense of humor, it’s well worth a revisit now that we’re in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic.) Her new novel, The Glass Hotel, isn’t as delectably summarizable, not least because an accurate elevator pitch would spoil the act of discovery for the reader. The story is a mix of seemingly, confusingly disparate elements: There’s a Bernie Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme and a charming investment banker nobody wants to suspect; a mysterious hotel accessible only by boat in the wilds of British Columbia; an exploration of the financially cratering and complex business of container shipping; and a strangely captivating art project built on a base of stolen home videos."

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Daniel's reading list - WE RIDE UPON STICKS put a spell on a whole bunch of Boswellians!

There are any number of books that come out each season that a Boswellian likes enough to write up and give a staff recommendation. It’s not unusual to get two. Three? Now that’s special. But when we get four or more recommendations on a book, my alarm bells start ringing. Now we’re in zone where if we promote the book right and keep our eye on the prize (that would be December), we can get the book into a lot of hands.

We Ride Upon Sticks, the second novel from Quan Barry, is one of those novels. It’s so different from She Weeps Each Time You’re Born, her first novel, sort of a Vietnamese magical realism story that definitely showed her background in poetry. Former Boswellian and still good friend of Boswell Todd was a big fan, and his enthusiasm got me to choose the book as a In-Store Lit Group selection for the paperback. If you contacted the store and said you really loved Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (editorial aside – the publisher just delayed the paperback on this one, so we won’t be reading it for In-Store Lit Group this summer), I’d put She Weeps Each Time You’re Born in your hands.

And then our sales rep Jason reads We Ride Upon Sticks and gets excited. And when he gets excited, frankly, so do we. It’s different. It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s accessible. And one by one, we pick it up. Because Barry teaches at UWM’s Creative Writing Program, she was set to do four different programs in the Milwaukee area – the famous Inklink dinner in East Troy, a conversation with Lisa at Books and Company, another conversation with the wonderful Carole E Barrowman at Boswell, and a bonus event at Alverno College, which I added on just because I thought the book was a perfect match for college women.

OK, I’m trying to sell this novel and I haven’t even told you what it’s about. I’ll leave that to the staff recs. First up is Margaret Kennedy: “We Ride Upon Sticks is an empowering tribute to the decade of the ‘80s, girlhood, and women of all sorts. The story follows the 1989 varsity girls field hockey team of Danvers High, ready to start another season after an impressively long losing streak. This time, however, they are going to do whatever it takes to get to States - even if it means following in the footsteps of those teen girls that lived in their town three centuries ago by dabbling in a bit of witchcraft. Told from the point of view of all the girls at once with the collective ‘We,’ Barry introduces us to each of these teen girls that signed their name in the devil’s book (which is actually just a spiral notebook with Emilio Estevez on the cover), giving us their hopes, struggles, and reasons for turning to darkness. Except, are dark forces really at work here? Or is it just the ever-constant, ever-changing ordeal of being a woman? Barry expertly weaves a tale with big hair, outrageous fashion, and rocking music without being over-the-top cheesy, giving us a story that every girl and woman has lived through while at the same time being entirely unique.”

Now comes Kay Wosewick: “One of the things I loved about this book is it reads as if one of my best friends is talking. The casual, funny, chatty writing style, liberally dosed with sniping and sarcasm, fits the story perfectly. Set in Danvers, home of the original witch trials, a girl’s losing field hockey team signs itself over to the dark side in order to become a winning team. Hilarity ensues, with loads of action accompanied by occasional moments of soul-searching.”

I think we had two other readers who didn’t write something up. If you work in a bookstore, you know it’s not easy to get booksellers to write things down, particularly in a Word document. I’ve been known to grab a shelf talker and copy it out on my computer.

I think we explained the plot and structure pretty well in the recommendations. It’s one season of the 1989 girls field hockey team. Each chapter is a different game and said chapter highlights a different member of the team. Each player has their own struggle that they are working out in the story, and everyone gets their moment in the sun.

Yes, the author went to Danvers High School and has a wonderful essay about the inspiration for the book, but I gave away my ARC and it’s not in the finished book. You also have to understand that Danvers was once known as Salem Village and resident Rebecca Nurse is one of the most famous people to be tried and convicted of witchcraft. Hence the contemporary take on witchcraft. But witches are also a nice metaphor for women going beyond the boundaries of what society sets for women, particularly back in 1989. One of the things I love about We Ride Upon Sticks is that the book should easily cross over to teens without being locked into the tropes of YA fiction.

Because Quan Barry chooses not to use an author photo, our signage initially looked a little bare compared to the other events. But Chris made a clever icon which crossed a field hockey stick (which is used on the jacket of the book) with a broomstick (which of course is associated with witches, though we get that it’s not associated with Salem witches. It’s called shorthand! We wound up sharing the icon with several other bookstores who were hosting events.

And a few other things about the finished package. I’m thrilled that the jacket of We Ride Upon Sticks is green (thanks, designer Kelly Blair) because when you’re breaking all the rules, you might as well break the green curse rule. That’s right, green covers are very uncommon unless they are focused on money or the environment. It’s blue, blue, blue, baby. Acqua is about the closest you’re going to see. If you’ve read the blog over the years, you also know that acqua means funny. It’s the Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Rule. So I guess this cover, which is what I’d call a dark seafoam, is close enough to aqua. Because We Ride Upon Sticks is funny. Here's a link to Oona Out of Order which also has two staff recs from Boswell, and is definitely going full Maria Semple.

Another touch that makes Quan Barry’s hardcover special are the endpapers. Oh, to still live in an era when publishers made nice endpapers. Look no further because We Ride Upon Sticks has a super swell map of North Shore Boston by Eric Hanson. It even tells you how to get to the state finals in Worcester. As a longtime Worcester visitor, I found that handy.

I’m not going to share it here, but in fact there is an author photo of Quan Barry in the hardcover of We Ride Upon Sticks. It’s her as the Danvers High School Marching Band mascot in 1978 and it’s adorable.

OK, there’s one thing I don’t love in the layout. Between the journals, the reports, the texts, and so forth, the designer decided to use a lot of different typefaces. When I first got a computer, I think I would change my typeface every five minutes. It’s actually worse than that. When I had my first job in publishing, I had an IBM Selectric at my desk. I went out and bought additional font balls. So I get it. But I’m over that phase of my life.

More love! Here’s Annalisa Quinn on the NPR website: “Barry, who has published four collections of poetry, definitely did the English homework. References to Macbeth, The Crucible, and the Malleus Maleficarum are sprinkled throughout like so much Jovan Musk. But she also is gloriously literate in the advertising lingo of the late eighties — hence losing one's virginity is "taking the Nestea plunge."

Let’s end with my staff rec: “It’s 1989 and the Danvers Lady Falcons field hockey team is having another crappy year. So what harm could it do to take a cue from the witches of the city’s past and inscribe their names in a demonic book, especially if it helps you start winning games? With each game getting its own chapter, and each chapter bringing another player and her journey to adulthood to life, Barry’s second novel captures the excitement of a pennant race with the power of a feminist comic novel, notably a comic-steeped-in-the-eighties one.” (Daniel Goldin)

Margaret made a nice eighties-themed display table. But alas, that’s for bookseller viewing only now.

We Ride Upon Sticks is Boswell Best through at least April 13. And we’re hoping when things get better, Barry will take the one-hour trek from Madison to visit some bookstores. Feel free to cast some spells to make it come to pass.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Release date read! MURDER AT THE MENA HOUSE, by Erica Ruth Neubauer

We’ve been waiting for this moment for months, maybe years – the release of Erica Ruth Neubauer’s Murder at the Mena House. Boswell met Neubauer when we started selling books for Murder + Mayhem, the longtime Milwaukee mystery conference (currently on hiatus). Since then, she’s interviewed several authors for our Thrillwaukee series. We were celebrating the release of Mena with not one, not two, but three events. A launch at the store on Saturday, a multi-author lunch at the Woman’s Club the day before, and a joint event with Erica Ruth and two of her fellow mystery writers in June, while they did an old-fashioned bookstore road trip. That one might still be happening! Maybe.

And instead? A blog post. We had three great reads on Neubauer’s debut and two of us wrote up recommendations. First up is Chris Lee: “A roaring ‘20s vacation to an Egyptian resort is marred by murder, and our intrepid heroine, being herself implicated, must engage in a bit of serious sleuthing to clear her name, all the while avoiding the company of handsome men. While this novel will fit in well for readers of historical mysteries, don’t let the cozy trappings fool you – Neubauer isn’t afraid of the dark. She leans into themes drawn from classic noir, revealing the dark intentions and everyday evils hidden beneath charming exteriors and slick veneers. Here’s a mystery that’s a cut above the rest of its class, and with a first adventure this pitch-perfect, you’ll want to book passage ASAP to follow Jane Wunderly to the ends of the earth.”

And here’s my take on Murder at the Mena House: “When newly widowed Jane Wunderly is offered a chance for an Egyptian vacation with her Aunt Millie, she jumps at the chance. The Mena House resort offers many chances to mingle with visitors, and Jane catches the eye of Redvers, a gentleman whose last relationship was undone by his banker’s hours, and the scorn of Anna, a flirt who also might have her sights on Redvers. But the whirl of socializing can be a bit exhausting, especially when it is packaged with card sharks, blackmailers, antiquities thieves, and at least one murderer. This delightful new historical mystery series highlights a charming heroine, albeit one with secrets up her sleeve, and features colorful characters, a picturesque setting, sparkling wit, and a healthy dose of suspense.” (Daniel Goldin)

This book really is just what you need right now – a classic historical mystery with a delightful heroine. And you don’t have to worry about wanting more; the next two books in the series are already written. I sent a few questions to Neubauer, and she was gracious enough to write back. First up, I asked her about subgenre. It seems to me that publishers seem to prefer thrillers over mysteries. It feels like I’m inundated with advance reading copies of the former and it’s hard to find anything of the latter.

Erica Ruth Neubauer: “I was a reviewer for many years, so I did understand that the market heavily favors thrillers and even domestic suspense right now. But I kept reminding myself of the sage advice I had been given to write what I wanted to read. And this was what I wanted to read. And it's also how I wanted to spend a big chunk of time - living in Egypt with these characters, who I really like. If I had tried to write a thriller it wouldn't have worked, because it wouldn't have been authentic.”

DCG: And here’s the obvious follow-up – 1920s Egypt? How did you pick the time period?

ERN: “My dad raised me on Masterpiece Mystery and Agatha Christie and old black and white movies - especially the detective ones. (Truly, that whole Edward Gorey opening to Masterpiece Mystery with the woman wailing on the tomb is very emblematic of my childhood.) Somewhere along the way I picked up very romantic ideas about Egypt, but especially the 1920s. I could just see a hotel with slow fans turning overhead and everyone elegantly dressed and sipping cocktails on the terrace, but someone winds up dead. I could still swear I've seen a movie set in Egypt like this, but I've yet to find the one that matches what I remember. So I wrote it instead.”

DCG: The 1920s is quite decade for fiction. Boswell is fans of your friend Susanna Calkins, whose Murder Knocks Twice is set in 1920s Chicago. Looking forward to her follow-up, The Fate of a Flapper, which is currently scheduled for late July.

And now to head into the writerly weeds. Plotter or pantser?

ERN: I'm a pantser. I didn't even know who my murderer was until I was more than halfway done with the first draft. When I start writing, I might have some broad ideas about what I want to happen or where I want to go, but I find that I can't write to an outline well. I tried with book three and it was so hard for me to do that I'm going right back to my pantsing ways.

DCG: Without a plot, how did the book take form? I'm guessing Jane was a big part of it. Is she based on someone? Oh, come on, I see a little bit of you.

ERN: I did start with Jane. And like me, I wanted her to be a little bit older, to have already seen some life, which would put her past the age of a young, flamboyant flapper, but still with plenty of life left in her. I didn't mean to base her on anyone, but I'm sure I've unintentionally written something of myself into her. (Especially anywhere she's a smart-aleck.)

DCG: Who were your writerly inspirations? Not who are your favorite writers, but who did you read who made you say, I want to write something like that!

ERN: I can remember exactly where I was when this happened. My best friend Beth, a librarian, and I were sitting on my back porch reading one summer afternoon a few years ago. We like to read at the same time and occasionally take a break and fill the other in on what is happening in the book each of us is reading--always different books. I was reading Murder at the Brightwell, by Ashley Weaver and I kept putting it down and saying, "This. I want to write something like this." Beth and I started brainstorming Jane that very afternoon. (We were so loud and laughing so much that my neighbors slammed their windows shut.) 

Prior to her writing career, Weaver worked at Greendale Public Library.

DCG: I really enjoyed a lot of your bit characters. Did you have characters mapped out as you were writing or was that pantsed too? Who are your favorites? When this book is a hit and you get a contract for ten more and then they ask you to do a spinoff series like Jeff Kinney did, who would you most want to be at the center of your story?

ERN: My main characters I did a lot of background work on, figuring out who they were and what their stories were. My side characters were very much pantsed, although once they came to me, I added them to my worksheet of characters and tried to do the same thing--figure out who they are.

As unpleasant as Aunt Millie can be, I have a real soft spot for her. She *is* based on someone I knew and was fond of despite how difficult they were. But I can't really see her carrying her own series. But I also really liked my vaudeville characters, Charlie and Deanna. I could see them having their own series, and even if they don't, I suspect they will make a reappearance down the line.

DCG: I can hear the sparkling repartee already.

Want to know even more? Visit Rochelle Melander’s Write Now! Blog for the latest in her Writers at Work series, where you'll learn lots more about Mena and Neubauer. And yes, you can buy Murder at the Mena House at Boswell.  It's Boswell Best for at least the next two weeks.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Daniel reads THE HERD, by Andrea Bartz

Networking. Remember when you could go to a mixer? Reading a thriller based on a coworking space almost seems nostalgic, right? That’s how I felt when I started The Herd, the entertaining second thriller from Andrea Bartz, after 2019’s The Lost Night, which is now out in paperback. Click to read a staff pick from Boswell’s Chris Lee.

At the center of this story are two sisters, Hana and Katie Bradley. Katie’s a freelance journalist, who has just returned to New York after a stint in Kalamazoo, where she was both caring for her mom during cancer treatment and investigating a story about a fake news lab. Her profile even led to a book contract. Her older sister works for her dear college friend, Eleanor Walsh, who struck it big, first with Gleam, a line of insta-friendly cosmetics, and then with The Herd, or should I writer HERd, a female-friendly coworking space. Katie, Hana’s younger sister, might have only gone to NYU, but she’s part of the crowd too, if but as a tag-along.

Together with Mikki the designer, also a Harvard buddy, they’ve broken through together. But Eleanor has a lot of secrets and isn’t exactly generous with spreading the financial windfall. All four friends have enough secrets to start a deodorant empire. And Eleanor’s got one more up her sleeve, a big announcement planned for a few days from when the book starts. But then something happens, and it turns out that this reveal is the least of the group’s problems.

The Herd is told from alternating perspectives of Hana and Katie. They are sisters, true, but Hana is adopted and distant from her divorced mother. Katie is the miracle baby who came along a few years later, and closer to her mom than her uncaring dad. Hana also deals with a fair amount of prejudice, what with her mixed-ethnicity background. As the story unfolds, more characters with murky pasts appear, including Eleanor’s cool husband Daniel, her high school boyfriend Cameron, and Cameron’s brother Ted, Eleanor’s right-hand tech guy.

The story’s setting is making-it-in-New-York lavish, but the themes are classic psychological suspense in the vein of Lori Rader-Day and Mary Kubica. In addition to the secrets, it’s all about the relationships, and one thing I’ve noticed in this genre is the friendships between women are almost more important than the traditional romantic relationships. And one other thing  that caught my attention – while the genre has a different veneer, at The Herd's heart is a feuding sisters story, as was the case for so many books I read in 2019. Not exactly feuding – more like seething, below the surface anger.

At the same time that Bartz effectively uses this world for the thriller, she also pokes holes in their self-righteousness. How oppressed can you be when you're immersing yourself in the luxe life? And can you really call out privilege while you're sitting on a throne? And yet, there are plenty of obstacles for these women to overcome, which is why there is much suspicion cast at the Antiherd, the loose-knit men's group that objects to a female-only space. Oh, and if you're wondering - female presenting, in this case. So yes, to trans-women, but I guess no to trans-men? I didn't read the bylaws.

Critics chime in. From Christine Tran at Booklist: "This fast-paced, irony-strewn blend of ruthless ambition, jealousy, and buried secrets is guaranteed armchair escapism." And from Publishers Weekly: "Though too many last-minute twists muddle an otherwise satisfying ending, Bartz is especially astute at highlighting the hypocrisy of glamorous careerist feminism. Readers won't want to put this down." Daniel counters, "Is there such a thing as a thriller with too many twists? Shouldn't the experience be like an intellectual roller coaster?"

Here’s one last Easter Egg for Milwaukeeans. For Mocktail Mondays, The Herd brings in a hot bartender to make the drinks, and at one point in the story, the bar is The Elm Grove. Guess what Milwaukee suburb is home of the author’s mom?

The Herd is currently on Boswell’s Best and will stay there through at least April 13. One day we’ll have a program with Bartz, either at Boswell or the Elm Grove Library. Buy your book now, read it in advance, and you won’t have to worry about any spoilers at the event.

(Photo credit: Kate Long)

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week of March 28, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending March 28, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Glass Hotel, by Emily St John Mandel (#1 Indie Next Pick for April)
2. The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
3. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
4. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
5. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
6. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
7. The City We Became, by NK Jemisin
8. Writers and Lovers, by Lily King
9. In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle
10. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
11. Oona Out of Order, by Margarita Montimore (Jenny rec in the link)
12. My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell (#1 Indie Next Pick for March)
13. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
14. The House in the Cerulean Sea, by TJ Klune (read our staff recs in the link)
15. We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry (likewise)

In the new physically closed-store model, we've noticed that hardcover bestsellers have fared better than paperback and kids, and fiction is doing better than nonfiction, which is why we have 15 slots in this category. Our sales are responding to both media hits and email newsletter features. We learned from our sales rep that we're doing particularly well on The Glass Hotel. I think that is partly helped because Mandel was our featured author at our 11th anniversary celebration, and also that Station Eleven was used by at least three cities/villages and one university for an all-community read.

Note here that I'm not talking about sales as a whole, but bestseller numbers.

What a difference a breakout novel makes. I really enjoyed Father of the Rain, Lily King's two-books-ago novel, but our event crowd was disappointing. After the explosive success of Euphoria, Writers and Lovers, King's return to contemporary fiction, has outsold Father's life of book sales in hardcover and paperback in just a few weeks. She might even beat Euphoria's hardcover sales at Boswell, but beating the 200+ paperback sales is a much more difficult challenge. Congrats!

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson
2. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle (helped further by social media saying there were signed copies in the market)
3. Educated, by Tara Westover
4. The Sky Atlas, by Edward Brooke-Hitching
5. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb
6. How to Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell
7. When the Words Suddenly Stopped, by Vivian L King (also available in paperback)
8. The Office, by Andy Greene (Follow the link to my rec)
9. Thinking Inside the Box, by Adrienne Raphel (And again)
10. Recollections of My Nonexistence, by Rebecca Solnit

Our buyers Jason and Amie have expanded what's discounted on Boswell Best by a substantial amount. One is The Sky Atlas, by Edward Brooke-Hitching, which you'd normally see our gift table come holiday season, but we're grateful to have it available now. Here's Brooke-Hitching talking to Meghan Bartels at Space.com on the project: "This book was designed to take the most overlooked type of map in terms of how maps have been written about, the celestial map or star map. Star maps are either viewed as the sort of technical diagrams that are only of interest to a PhD astronomer or, paradoxically, they're viewed by a lot of dealers and collectors as merely decorative things. [I wanted to] show that star maps, even though they show the world above, still reflect a lot of what's going on down below."

Both The Splendid and the Vile and Untamed are leaps and bounds ahead of #3 in sales.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Little Fires Everywhere (three editions), by Celeste Ng
2. Normal People, by Sally Rooney (link to staff rec)
3. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
4. The Overstory, by Richard Powers (link to staff rec)
5. Recursion, by Blake Crouch (link to staff rec)
6. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
7. Dear Mrs Bird, by AJ Pearce (link to staff rec)
8. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles (link to staff rec)
9. Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
10. Severance, by Ling Ma (link to staff rec)

I have been trying to make sure all our staff recs are on our website, but I just realized we have a staff rec shelf talker in the store for Daisy Jones and the Six, but it never got written up for our website and to distribute to publishers and Indie Next. I think it's because the rec came after pub date. Chris or I will try to find the card and add the rec to our title listing. It was the #1 Indie Next pick for its publication month in hardcover. Here's Jerry Portwood writing about the book for Rolling Stone: "The most frustrating part about reading 300 pages about a fictional band, however, is that you don’t have a chance to immerse yourself in the music. But that will soon change. Reese Witherspoon optioned the TV rights before publication, and (a tech company I won't name here) has ordered a 13-episode run of the adaptation of the book, with writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer, The Fault In Our Stars) penning the scripts. Plus, there’s a team crafting the original music for the show."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Story of More, by Hope Jahren
2. Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain (likely a digital book club)
3. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
4. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
5. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean

The Story of More follows Hope Jahren's award-winning Lab Girl to publication. A paperback original, Geobiologist Jahren's book is based on a course she prepared on climate change, the environmental problem that we'll get back to tackling after this pause. From Booklist: "In concise chapters patterned after a course she designed and taught on climate change, Jahren dips into such topics as population growth, agricultural methods, meat consumption, and humanity's overwhelming dependence (especially in the U.S.) on electricity. Peppering the text with pertinent statistics and pointing out the flaws in potential solutions, Jahren zips along at a devastating pace, making it clear that many bad choices have led us to the current planetary predicament."

Books for Kids:
1. Stamped, Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
2. Brazen, by Penelope Bagieu
3. Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang
4. Children of Virtue and Vengeance, by Tomi Adeyemi
5. Prairie Lotus, by Linda Sue Park

For the second week in a row, our #1 book is Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, adapted from Ibram X Kendi's award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds. It would have been high on our list two weeks ago except we were still processing school visit sales then. Said Reynolds to Annabel Gutterman in Time Magazine last year when the book was announced: "Ultimately, Reynolds hopes that by reading this edition of Stamped, young people will understand their role in contributing to an ongoing dialogue about racism. 'I want them to know that they have a place, that they have a seat at the table and that they have an obligation and responsibility,' he says. 'And that my love for them — and for the adults around them — is hopefully shown by giving them this book to help them better navigate these complex ideas.'"

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins offers some recommendations from Boswell Booksellers, including (links provided if the books weren't listed above) We Ride Upon Sticks, The Coyotes of Carthage, Murder in the Mena House, Dragon Hoops, Mostly Dead Things, (paperback on sale April 21) Thinking Inside the Box, and Death in Her Hands, which we think is no longer scheduled for April 21.

Emily Gray Tedrowe reviews Beheld, a novel by TaraShea Nesbit, which comes from the USA Today network.

Associated Press writer Ann Levin covers Shakespeare in a Divided America, newly released by James Shaprio.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Boswell Bestsellers for the week ending March 21, 2020 - Every book linked for purchase

Life is not business as usual, but at least for now, we've been able to fill orders via delivery, shipping, and curbside pickup. We take each day as it comes and try to stay safe and healthy, limiting interaction, washing and disinfecting regularly. New restrictions likely tomorrow. We'll keep you posted. But if you were requesting curbside pickup, we suggest you pickup today.

Boswell Bestsellers for the week ending March 21, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel
2. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
3. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
4. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
5. In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle
6. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
7. My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell
8. Apeirogon, by Colum McCann
9. The Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende
10. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins

Want to know more about each book? I've linked to our website page for each title. Even if we don't have a book in stock, we will likely be able to order it in or even directly send it to you from our warehouse.

It is almost like we had our event with Kiley Reid for Such a Fun Age. Originally scheduled for March 19, it obviously didn't happen. But sales more than tripled over last week, with my guess being that a lot of our customers who were waiting for the event to buy the book went out and got it through our website. Thank you!

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson
2. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
3. The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, by Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett
4. The Yellow House, a memoir by Sarah M Broom
5. Salt, Fat, Acid: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat
6. Reflections of My Nonexistence, a memoir by Rebecca Solnit
7. Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know, by Malcolm Gladwell
8. Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover
9. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X Kendi
10. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

I have no idea why my linked titles are sometimes blue and sometimes purple.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
2. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
3. Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman
4. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
5. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
6. Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
7. Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
8. American Spy, by Lauren Wilkinson
9. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
10. The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

Interesting that we're seeing a larger increase on hardcover bestsellers then on paperback. I think it's because you just don't see as much promotion for paperback reprints.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Milwaukee Frozen Custard, by Bobby Tanzilo and Kathleen McCann
2. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe
3. Fading Ads of Milwaukee, by Adam Levin
4. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson
5. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
6. The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here, by Hope Jahren
7. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, by Christina Sharpe
8. Historic Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses, by Robert Tanzilo
9. Don't Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life, by Anne Bogel
10. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie

This week's sales include results from a signing at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear, where we supplied books for some of their authors. The museum displays the late Avrum Chudnow’s (1913-2005) extensive and eclectic collection of early 20th Century Americana.

Books for Kids
1. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
2. A Friendship Yarn, by Lisa Moser, with illustrations by Olga Demidova
3. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, by Judy Blume
4. Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland
5. Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang
6. Paper Kingdom, by Helena Ku Rhee
7. The Blackbird Girls, by Anne Blankman
8. Prairie Lotus, by Linda Sue Park
9. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, illustrated edition, by JK Rowling, with illustrations by Jim Kay

With all school visits cancelled through this semester, you're not likely to see the dominance of one to two authors. We've got some residual sale on Linda Sue Park and Lisa Moser. And we just got cute signed bookplates for Dragon Hoops! We will tuck one into any orders that come in.

That's last week. Who knows what this week will bring? We have also heard that while 3/24 and 3/31 and maybe even 4/7 releases will continue as normal, we may start to see postponements of titles coming out later in April and May.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Boswell bestsellers, week ending March 7, 2020

Boswell bestsellers, week ending March 7, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Trace Elements, by Donna Leon
2. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid (unfortunately, our 3/19 event with Reid has been cancelled)
3. This Town Sleeps, by Dennis E. Staples
4. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
5. Apeirogon, by Colum McCann
6. The Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende
7. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
8. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
9. The Wild One, by Nick Petrie
10. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert (alas, our event is sold out)

Louise Erdrich's new novel, The Night Watchman (March 3 on sale) has a nice first week, only outsold by current and upcoming event titles. From the publisher: "Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Ending Ageism, by Margaret Gullette
2. The Memo, by Minda Harts
3. Fearless Leadership, by Carey Lohrenz
4. Name Drop, by Ross Mathews
5. Power in Numbers, by Talithia Wiliams
6. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson
7. Brunetti's Cookbook, by Donna Leon and Roberta Pianaro
8. Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat
9. Educated, by Tara Westover
10. Hood Feminism, by Mikki Kendall

Just out on February 25 is Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot. Library Journal writes: "In this collection of essays, Kendall explores how feminism has not acknowledged the many ways in which race, class, and sexual orientation intersect with gender. Through a biographical lens, Kendall examines how issues like food security, access to education, safe housing, and health care connect to feminist concerns, and ponders why they continue to be ignored by mainstream feminists."


Paperback Fiction:
1. Map of Salt and Stars, by Zeyn Joukhadar
2. The Waiting Life, by Mark Rader
3. The Story of a Goat, by Perumal Murugan
4. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
5. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
6. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
7. The Bear, by Andrew Krivak
8. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
9. Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James
10. Daisy Jones and the Six, by by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Not a surprise that we are #3 in sales in indies (according to Edelweiss) for The Story of a Goat. Yes, we are discussing the book for In-Store Lit Group on April 6, and yes, the author was longlisted for the National Book Award translation prize (for another title). It also got a nice review from Parul Sehgal in The New York Times: "He has returned with another parable about village life, written with breathtaking and deceptive simplicity, translated from the Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman. The novel examines the oppressions of caste and colorism, government surveillance, the abuse of women — all cunningly folded into the biography of an unhappy little goat." But really, all you have to do is face this book out and people are intrigued. I love this book jacket!

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Discipline with Dignity, by Richard Curwin
2. Fading Ads of Milwaukee, by Adam Levin
3. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
4. Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher
5. Jesus Wasn't Killed by the Jews, by Jon M Sweeney
6. Gut Intelligence, by Susan Wehrley
7. Don't Overthink It, by Anne Bogel (Register here for event April 9 at the Pfister)
8. The Yogi Executive, by Susan Wehrley
9. The Story of More, by Hope Jahren
10. From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City, by Carl Baehr

Does one give St. Patrick's Day gifts? We often have a table, assuming interest. But this year, we actually have two Ireland themed books in our top two, Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing, and the more updated From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City from Carl Baehr, about the Irish in Milwaukee. The table was originally focused on Sebastian Barry and his upcoming novel, A Thousand Moons, which isn't set in Ireland. There was talk of him visiting Boswell, but alas, that is not to be.

Books for Kids:
1. Prairie Lotus, by Linda Sue Park
2. The Distance Between Us young reader's edition, by Reyna Grande
3. A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park
4. Red Hood, by Elana K. Arnold
5. Be Not Far from Me, by Mindy McGinnis
6. The Story of Civil Rights Hero John Lewis, by Jim Haskins, illustrated by Aaron Boyd
7. Cloak of Night, by Evelyn Skye
8. Melena's Jubilee, by Zetta Elliott, with illustrations by Aaron Boyd
9. Smoky Night, by Even Bunting
10. A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park

It was a busy week for programs, but March 5 was a particularly busy, what with Linda Sue Park at North Shore Library at 4:30 and Evelyn Skye, Mindy McGinnis, and Elana K. Arnold at Boswell at 7. I attended both events (didn't have to run either!) as did Liza Wiemer, the kids book champion who has her own important YA title coming in August, The Assignment. We'll be celebrating the release date on August 25. This was our first visit from McGinnis and Skye, but our third from Arnold, who appeared for a previous YA and also did schools for a Middle Grade Mania school tour. Come to think of it, it might be visit #4 - she did a pre-pub lunch visit with Kelly Barnhill. We have signed copies of Red Hood, Be Not Far from Me, and Cloak of Night. We went a little light on Prairie Lotus signed copies - if you want one, you're going to want to get it right now.

At the Journal Sentinel book page, The Associated Press's Bruce DaSilva looks at Walter Mosley's latest. He writes: "Trouble Is What I Do is the seventh novel in Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Walter Mosley’s series featuring McGill, and as his fans already know, McGill is the right man for the job. He’s dangerous in his own right, and his network of underworld acquaintances who owe him favors are a match for anyone Charles’ money can buy.

"Racial identity is a prevailing theme in Mosley’s 44 novels, and this isn’t the first time he’s explored the complex perils of passing for white. In his debut novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, the first in his brilliant Easy Rawlins series, Easy is hired to track down a missing white girl named Daphne Monet who, it turns out, is actually a mixed-race woman named Ruby."

Patty Rhule reviews The Night Watchman. From the USA Today essay: "Thomas Wazhushk, the night watchman of the title, works security at a jewel bearing plant near the Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota that employs his niece, Patrice. It is 1953, and Thomas, a tribal council member, is fighting a congressman who wants to cut his people off from their land... Thomas is based on Erdrich’s grandfather, who testified before Congress against a bill that would have “emancipated” the tribe – in reality, stripping the tribe of all federal support and expelling them from their land."

Finally there is Russell Contreras's take on a new title from Gretchen Sorin, also from The Associated Press: "Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin, is a riveting story on how the automobile opened up opportunities for blacks in the U.S. The car allowed African Americans to avoid segregated trains and buses throughout the American South and gave blacks a chance to travel across the country. Travel guides presented a modern-day Underground Railroad to show black travelers which hotels and restaurants would serve them. The free movement opened the window to migration across the land and away from Jim Crow, bring in the modern Civil Rights Movement."

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Here's what's going on March 9-16, 2020, with Boswell - Please note Boswell closes at 6:30 pm to the general public on March 12, 13, 14

Here's what's going on March 9 through 16 in the year 2020 with Boswell.

Monday, March 9, 7 pm, at Turner Hall Ballroom, 1034 N Vel R Phillips Ave:
Dan Pfeiffer, author of Un-Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again, in conversation with Joy Powers of WUWM's Lake Effect

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Yes We (Still) Can, cohost of Pod Save America, and former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Dan Pfeiffer appears at the Turner Hall Ballroom to chat with WUWM Lake Effect Producer Joy Powers about his brand new book, a sharp political playbook for how Democrats can take on Trump. Tickets cost $30 and include admission and a copy of Un-Trumping America, available at pabsttheater.org/event/danpfeiffer2020.

Pfeiffer worked for nearly twenty years at the center of Democratic politics, from the campaign trail to Capitol Hill to Barack Obama's White House. But it was Trump's victory and Republicans' incessant aiding and abetting of Trumpism that has radicalized his thinking. Here, Pfeiffer urges Democrats to embrace bold solutions - from fixing the courts to abolishing the electoral college to eliminating the filibuster - in order to make America more democratic (and Democratic).

Last week I noted that Dan Pfeiffer's July live podcast event at the Riverside was overshadowing our book talk for Un-Trumping America, despite our competitive pricing and more intimate venue. Why not consider attending both events?

Our event with Vaneesa Cook on March 10 for Spiritual Socialists has been cancelled.

Our event with Neal Shusterman on March 12 for The Toll is at capacity.

Thursday, March 12, Friday, March 13, and Saturday, March 14, 7:30 pm, at Boswell Wild Space Dance Company's Off the Page:

Boswell Book Company hosts Wild Space Dance Company for three evenings of site-specific performances inspired by literature and the joy of reading titled Off the Page. Advance tickets cost $25, $18 for students and seniors, available at wildspacedance.org.

Led by Founder/Artistic Director Debra Loewen, Wild Space Dance Company has intrigued audiences for three decades. Known for site-specific works and artistic collaborations, Wild Space takes audiences on adventures through built and natural landscapes, visual art, history and the human condition through wry humor, clever choreography and emotionally-charged dance.

Wild Space Dance Company's mission is to expand the audience for contemporary dance through performance and outreach programs in the greater Milwaukee area and throughout southeastern Wisconsin, reaching diverse communities.

Thursday, March 12, 7 pm, at The Greene Museum, 3367 N Downer Ave:
Jessica Kirzane, translator of Diary of a Lonely Girl, or The Battle Against Free Love

Lecturer in Yiddish at the University of Chicago Jessica Kirzane appears at the Stahl Center with her translation of Miriam Karpilove’s novel, which offers a raw personal criticism of radical leftist immigrant youth culture in early twentieth century New York.

A century before Lena Dunham’s Girls, a Yiddish writer named Miriam Karpilove was already telling the world, in mordant, sometimes hilarious prose, what it was like to be a young Jewish woman in New York City. Diary of a Lonely Girl is a novel of intimate feelings and scandalous behaviors, shot through with a dark humor. From the perch of a diarist writing in first person about her own love life, Miriam Karpilove’s novel offers a snarky, melodramatic criticism of radical leftist immigrant youth culture in early twentieth-century New York City.

Kirzane's translation opens up anew the life of a young Jewish woman in the early years of the last century and boldly explores issues of consent, body autonomy, women’s empowerment and disempowerment around sexuality, courtship, and politics. Karpilove immigrated to the United States from a small town near Minsk in 1905 and went on to become one of the most prolific and widely published women writers of prose in Yiddish. Kirzane’s skillful translation gives English readers long-overdue access to Karpilove’s original and provocative voice.

Monday, March 16, Noon, at the ICC, 631 E Chicago St: Registration closes March 9!
Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

REDgen and Boswell Book Company present a fundraising luncheon with New York Times bestselling author and therapist Lori Gottlieb. Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and author who writes The Atlantic's weekly "Dear Therapist" advice column. She also writes for The New York Times Magazine and appears as a frequent expert on mental health in media such as Today, Good Morning America, and NPR.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Registration costs $100 and includes admission, lunch, and a copy of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. More information at redgen.org/fundraising-luncheon. Part of the proceeds from this fundraiser will directly help REDgen grow its programming in schools, local events, and faith communities around the Milwaukee area. Please note that registration closes for this event on March 9.

More info at boswellbooks.com/upcoming-events.