Sunday, October 20, 2019

What's selling at Boswell? - week ending October 19, 2019

Here's what's selling at Boswell:

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
2. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Olive Again, by Elizabeth Strout
4. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
5. The Guardians, by John Grisham
6. Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
7. The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal
8. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
9. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
10. Full Throttle, by Joe Hill

I'm not sure if it's geography or what, but our sales for Ann Patchett's The Dutch House in the store have been particularly strong, despite our ticket-with-book event in the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, something that we have not seen with previous Wilson Center-featured authors. If you read the book and loved it as much as we did, there's still a chance to pick up a ticket (more info here), and the signed copy you get will make a great holiday gift. Note that HarperCollins has both the #1 fiction and nonfiction book this week.

New this week is Olive Again, Elizabeth Strout's latest. After loving Anything Is Possible so much that I went back and read My Name Is Lucy Barton, I thought I would borrow Olive I from the Milwaukee Public Library and plow through both, but alas, it was not to happen, at least yet. Emma Brockes profiles Strout in The Guardian: "Olive Kitteridge, one of the great, difficult women of American literature, became instantaneously beloved when the book was first published, somewhat to the surprise of her creator. Olive is blunt, erratic, bad-tempered."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Christ in Crisis, by Jim Wallis
2. Atlas Obscura, second edition, by Dylan Thuras, Joshua Foer, and Ella Morton
3. The New Rules of War, by Sean McFate
4. The Years That Matter Most, by Paul Tough
5. Here We Are, by Aarti Namdev Shahani
6. The Body, by Bill Bryson
7. Blowout, by Rachel Maddow
8. Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow
9. St. Francis of Assisi, by Jon M. Sweeney (event Wed 10/30, 7 pm, at Boswell)
10. Plagued by Fire, by Paul Hendrickson (event Mon 10/21, 7 pm - registration info here)

Please note that all the authors of this week's top five books signed stock for us. Request a signed copy if you place an order on our website.

At #6 is Bill Bryson's latest, The Body: A Guide for Occupants. David Holahan writes in USA Today: "Like an adventurer trekking the Appalachian Trail from beginning to end (as this bestselling author did for A Walk in the Woods), Bryson launches himself into the wilderness of the human anatomy armed with his characteristic thoroughness and wit. He ably dissects the knowns and unknowns of how we live and die and all the idiosyncrasies of our shared infrastructure."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Winter Soldier, by Daniel Mason
2. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
3. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman
4. The Incendiaries, by R.O. Kwon (In-Store Lit Group discussion book for Mon 11/4, 7 pm, at Boswell)
5. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
6. The Widows of Malabar Hill V1, by Sujata Massey
7. Blackfish City, by Sam J Miller
8. Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain
9. Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
10. The Current, by Tim Johnston (event Fri 11/8, 7 pm - registration info here)

We had two literary lunches this week, which is why I've read eight books in this week's top ten. It's a little unusual for me to read my November book club book so early but since I'd already read October, I got ahead of myself. I was a little worried when I saw how many paperback copies of The Winter Soldier Jason bought for the story, but all I need is a few more of these presentations and we should sell through fine. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. It seems like word-of-mouth hardcovers have much better paperback sales pops than ones that are publicity driven.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Exceptional, by Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney
2. Elizabeth the Queen, by Sally Bedell Smith
3. Health Justice Now, by Timothy Faust
4. Reflections on a Life in Exile, by J.F. Riordan
5. 111 Places in Milwaukee You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden
6. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean (In-Store Lit Group discussion book for Mon 12/2, 7 pm, at Boswell)
7. God's Politics, by Jim Wallis
8. Hail to the Chin, by Bruce Campbell
9. Calypso, by David Sedaris
10. America's Original Sin, by Jim Wallis

We don't know where a Cheney was, but one of them was somewhere and an outside organization sold books for them which they got from us. Sally Bedell Smith definitely wasn't here but Leslie Goddard did a talk at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center inspired by Elizabeth the Queen. Coming in 2020 is 'Bad Blood: The Rise and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes' and other programs. More here. Why isn't someone bringing her in to do one of her department store lectures? And finally Timothy Faust was everywhere, but this was his last tour stop for Health Justice Now, in conjunction with a family. Signed copies available.

Books for Kids:
1. How to Win the Science Fair When You're Dead V3, by Paul Noth
2. The Book of Terrifyingly Awesome Technology, by Sean Connolly
3 & 4 - More Paul Noth (How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens and How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth)
5. Revenge of Magic V1, by James Riley
6, 7, & 10 - more James Riley (The Last Dragon, The Story Thieves, Half Upon a Time)
8 & 9 - more Sean Connolly (The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science and Massively Epic Engineering Disasters)

Because of all the school visits, you have to dig a little deeper to find out what folks are buying in the store.
12. The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman
13. Dasher, by Matt Tavares (not in conjunction with his recent school visits)
14. Guts, by Raina Telegmeier
15. Greek Myths and Mazes, by Jan Bajtlik

That pop for Greek Myths and Mazes might be an indicator of what oversized nonfiction kids book might take off this season for us. I'm definitely one for putting tracing paper over the maze for a book like this, but where does one buy tracing paper nowadays. My mother and I used to share puzzle books by having one of us do the puzzle on this no-longer-so-common stationery product.

At the Journal Sentinel:

--Jennifer McClellan from USA Today reviews Ali Wong's Dear Girls: "Comedian and actress Ali Wong’s first book, Dear Girls, is everything her fans would expect: raunchy, real and uproariously funny. Framed as a collection of letters to her daughters, the memoir details Wong’s rebellious youth, sexual exploits and life as a wife and mother."

--AP's Molly Sprayregen takes on Zadie Smith's Grand Union, her first collection of short stories: "The book moves between narrative- driven stories and unique experimental pieces. In one, Smith takes readers on a journey through a metaphor masquerading as a lazy river. In another, she dissects a child’s Narrative Techniques worksheet in a way that will make readers begin to see meaning in places they never before thought to look."

--Delfina Barbiero gives Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House two wands up: "Set on the campus of Yale, Ninth House imagines that the school’s secret societies are no longer just boys clubs but groups that create dark magic to manipulate stock markets and The New York Times bestseller list, see into the future and more. Alex Stern is a freshman when she enters Yale’s dangerous Lethe House, one of nine secret societies that practice magic; it polices the other houses on campus."

--And Joanne Kempinger Demski looks at bookcase ideas. I offered a bookseller's take.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Reading log: Do You Mind If I Cancel?, by Gary Janetti

Reading log: Do You Mind If I Cancel?, by Gary Janetti

A gay man writes a humor book and I play a little game; how many words will I read before I spot the name Sedaris*? For Mr. Sedaris, many years in, is still the pinnacle of literary humor that slots an author like Mr. Janetti. But I don’t think that’s a fair comparison, mostly because of the way they see the world. I see in Sedaris's work this persona of the outlier. Aside from the now trivial (and this being aside from elements of the far right, many autocratic government regimes and some ostensibly democratic ones, and plenty of traditional religious groups) subject of sexual orientation, Sedaris fits not quite in in lots of different ways, outfitted by experimental Japanese clothing designers and picking up litter in the French countryside in his free time. And he's proud of it.

In contrast, I think Janetti** in his new book Do You Mind If I Cancel? (on sale October 22, 2019) comes from a point of wanting to feel normal, and aside from his gay identity, to fit in. It’s all there in ‘Letter to My Younger Self,’ but permeates the rest of the collection too, and in a way, captures a universal coming-of-age dilemma, being torn with wanting to be unique and yet wanting to be like everyone else. I feel like I’ve read books before with this aesthetic, a little like Wade Rouse (maybe slightly less earnest) or Clinton Kelly (another Long Islander). I obviously like them – I laugh, I identify, and I shudder a bit, remembering my younger self. Sometimes I shudder remembering my current self, but I guess that’s for another post.

Janetti’s humorous autobiographical essays are indeed very funny, and someone schooled in pop culture will be searching for clues of his life in the work that he had a hand in. While I couldn’t necessary spot any connections in Family Guy, his acting school scenes called to mind Jack’s experiences in Will and Grace and that time he was upgraded from coach to first class during a youth hostel trip immediately reminded me of the Will and Grace episode where Will got an upgrade and Grace did not. Unlike many kids, Gary got to set several pivotal moments on cruise lines, being that his father worked for Cunard. Like many kids, but maybe less than in past generations now that parents don’t expect their teen kids to work because they have too many college prep courses and the like, the source of many of his stories were work-a-day jobs in the service industry, from Benigans restaurant to Waldbaum’s supermarkets.

Unlike most readers, I had a special interest in his upbringing, because like Mr Janetti, I grew up in Queens about five years before him, and things had not changed that much in that time. So when he said the Waldbaum's he worked out closed, I was eager to know which one. What is it about Queens this fall? We just co-hosted Aarti Shahani, author of Here We Are, who also grew up in Flushing, and then on November 19, the Douglaston Manor resident Lidia Bastianich visits the ICC for Felidia (ticket info here).

Is Gary the last generation to still have angst about coming out in college? I talk to folks I know and their kids are exploring gender and identity in adolescence. It is just another way that Janetti is more of my generation that that of folks 20 years younger. Even if you had come out, you’d still find yourself in these are-they-or-aren’t-they situations as you befriended someone, particularly in college, where a week of intense bonding was equivalent to a year of dating in the real world. Now you have more options and more identities to unpack, and more of that work is done online. But the through-line of Do You Mind If I Cancel is finding your identity, not just in terms of sexual orientation. Janetti so wants to be that guy who’s not working in the drudge job, who’s creating (acting, then writing), who’s not struggling. But to do that, he has to leave home, because sadly, not only is One Life to Live no longer taping in New York, it’s no longer taping.

Janetti is often touches on that early life, before apps, before GPS, before texting. It’s a reminder that it’s hard to go backwards, whether we’re talking about technology or life. But you can spin it into humor, and as Janetti watches the younger guys dancing around in Mykonos, that’s probably the idea that came into his head. Do You Mind If I Cancel is funny and often thoughtful collection. And while it's popular now to write confessional memoirs about mental illness, it's important to remember that the APA considered homosexuality a mental illness until 1973, and these childhood stories don't take place too much later than that.

*The answer to the opening game was, back cover, third word.

**The husband of fashion stylist and reality television regular Brad Goreski, author of Born to Be Brad

Photo credit - Alasdair Mclellan

Monday, October 14, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More event information at

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

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Boswell bestsellers for week ending October 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Monday, October 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on our the Boswell Upcoming Events page.

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