Monday, February 28, 2011

My Month of Living Penguinically--I've Got to Read Upcoming Books from Geraldine Brooks and More

We have a really great event schedule this spring. I really couldn't be happier. It's a wonderful mix of big names and developing authors, fiction and nonfiction, large publishers and small press titles, and several that are subsidy published. (We used to term this kind of self-publishing "vanity", a term that was a wee bit disparaging.)

But one thing I noticed as I was booking events is that while we're well represented at several major publishing houses, we are particularly well represented at the imprints of Penguin USA*. And that's why I've decided that March is my month of reading Penguinically. In order to get the job done, I've got to read as many of these upcoming event books as possible.

Sunday, March 13, 7 pm--Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas appearing for Life on the Line. The only way I could convince Chef and his business partner to come was by ticketing the event to ensure some decent sales numbers. The cost is $25*, including the book, which, by the way, is less than the cost of the book ($27.50). Tomorrow's post is totally devoted to this book, because I just finished it (yes, I'm always looking ahead, even on reading projects). It takes place at Boswell. Buy tickets here.

Sunday, March 20, 2 pm--Scott Korb, author of Life in Year One: What was the World Like in First Century Palestine. This is a free, in-store event.

Wednesday, April 6, 7 pm, co-sponsored by the MilwaukeeItalian Film Festival--Paolo Giordano, author of The Solitude of Prime Numbers. The author will be reading in Italian, with the traditional English reading by Angela Damiani. This is a free, in-store event.

Tuesday, April 12, 7 pm, at Alverno College's Wehr Hall--Anne Lamott, author of Imperfect Birds. I'm hoping to have tickets to this uploaded on Alverno Presents' website shortly. The cost is only $16, as the book is a paperback.*

Friday, May 6, 7 pm--Nathaniel Philbrick, author of The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of Little Big Horn. We already know we're using our new projector for this! This is a free, in-store event.

Thursday, May 12, 7 pm--Geraldine Brooks, author off Caleb's Crossing. Her new novel is about the first Native American to go to Harvard.We're taking advice from Next Chapter and will have a small ticket charge of $5, offering light refreshments from Beans and Barley. We'll cap the tix at a number to be announced when I figure it out.

All that and our next book club pick is Christos Tsiolkas' The Slap, being discussed on Monday, March 7, at 7 pm. That said, as I looked at the calendar, I saw many other books from many other publishers that I really want to read. Fortunately I found a few where I'd already read the book. I was going to put them in parentheses, but it seemed better to list those too.

This Wednesday, March 2, 7 pm--Hannah Pittard, author of The Fates will Find Their Way.

Wednesday, April 13, 7 pm--Anchee Min, author of Pearl of China, the paperback edition of her historical novel about Pearl Buck.

Friday, April 15, 7 pm--Valerie Laken with the launch event for her new story collection, Separate Kingdoms.

Friday, April 29, 7 pm--Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge. We are actually doing two events with Orringer. Our evening event will by my semi-annual book club presentation, so you'll first hear about 15 minutes of new book club picks. We're also co-sponsoring a "lunch and learn" at the JCC . More on that later.

Oy, that's not much. Good thing I get another reading spree on Tuesday morning.

*Event imprints besides Penguin include Viking, Riverhead, Pamela Dorman, and Gotham.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boswell Bestsellers, Upcoming Events, Massey's Hair Tip

This week's bestsellers were particularly event driven. Jason read the Harkness. He liked it, but is a bit surprised by how well it is doing nationally.
1 The Union Quilters, by Jennifer Chiaverini
2. When the Killing's Done, by T.C. Boyle
3. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
4. Freedom, by Jonathan Franen
5. An Object of Beauty, by Steve Martin

It looks like Scorecasting is sort of a "sport-o-nomics" kind of book. I bet I would find it interesting. And I would definitely find the Fisher book interesting. But we'll talk about the to-be-read pile tomorrow.
1. Swimming in the Daylight, by Lisa Paul
2. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
3. Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff
4. Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, by Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz
5. Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - From America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness, by Frank Brady

And this one is completely event books:
1. The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake
2. Unforgettable, by Paul McComas
3. Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle (the Ink edition)
4. The Women, by T.C. Boyle
5. The Aloha Quilt, by Jennifer Chiaverini

While just #1 is here:
1. The Curly Girl Handbook, by Lorraine Massey
2. Milwaukee Jazz Profiles, by Derek Pinkham
3. The Story of Stuff, by Anne Leonard
4. Just Kids, by Patti Smith
5. The King's Speech, by Mark Logue

I just wrote a piece on why we think we sell so much of I am a Bunny. When it appears (not on this blog), I will link to it.
1. I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and Richard Scarry
2. Silverlicious, by Victoria Kann
3. A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Christian Stead
4. Dog Days, by Jeff Kinney
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

Despite the snowy afternoon and political action in Madison (a lot of our customers have been there off and on these past few weeks), we had a nice event with Lorraine Massey. She's a big "no poo" advocate and had an enthusiastic following, with lots of demo action.

What's going on this week? It's quiet at first, but things pick up later in the week till we get crazy.

Wednesday, March 2, 7 pm. Hannah Pittard, author of The Fates will Find their Way.

Thursday, March 3, 7 pm, at the Hefter Center. Matthew Zapruder, author of Come on, All You Ghosts.

Friday, March 4, 8 pm at Turner Hall. Rodney Crowell's concert, in conjunction with the memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is the UWM Spring Writers Festival downtown. This event is ticketed. I've recommended to several folks who've contacted me about getting an agent. It's not just about writing, but also about getting published.

And alas, Jane Austen tea at the Milwaukee Public Library on Saturday afternoon is sold out!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Gift Post--Spring is Coming...Eventually

It's February and we're going out of our gourd with snow. We hosted Lorraine Massey (The Curly Girl Handbook) to a nice crowd, only it could have been nicer if a few inches hadn't fallen last night, with showers continuing for much of today. Our co-sponsorship with Studio D'Angeli went very well, though they had to leave early for...appointments, of course! Lots of demo-ing and a nice handout of Devacurl product. Not shampoo, mind you. Don't put poo in your hair. That's my takeaway.

So I decided it was time for our "spring is coming display" only this year, instead of a calendar as our sign motif, I created a field of whiteness, framed by a tiny butterfly and a plant sprig. Stacie emailed me and said, "Are we missing something?" and I replied, it's supposed to be snow. It's hard to figure out on your own, but any time we tell someone, he or she laughs.

To put us in the mood, I brought back last year's popular flower push toys, as well as some butterfly-motif items, a metal box with a jeweled top, and a larger wooden box with a nice metal clasp and a decoupage butterfly top. In addition, we have these nice butterfly ceramic bowls, which work well either for storage or for plant budding. Not for food! Didn't know that when I bought them, but that's ok, as there are plenty of other uses.

Beverly told me that just looking at the butterflies makes her feel better about the end of winter. And since we always have some birds (Jocelyn noted that birds are our's a retail thing), we brought in these nice little ceramic birds. I'll show you those another day!

So anyway, down it comes. It's hard enough to get folks from the restaurants to the store on a nice evening (easier at brunch, don't ask why) but on a night like tonight, Via and Hollander will be packed and we will be empy. Have some pity on our booksellers closing tonight (and me, and me) and visit. Was that too beggy?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Our New Blank Book Spinner is Apparently Sized for Young Children, Plus Boyle Wrap-up.

So we put together the new Paperblanks spinner, and it was suspiciously low to the ground. It turns out that one of our plexy levels was inadvertently left off the order. And then we realized that the base with the wheels didn't show up either. The wheels were one of the main reasons I ordered the new spinner in the first place.

The missing pieces are on their way. And the other good thing is that even without the wheels, the display comes apart fairly easily to move. We moved a lot of fixturing for our event last night with T.C. Boyle for When the Killing's Done, and also learned how to dim the lights. It's not easy, but you can do it without shutting down our computers.

The event was wonderful, of course. Father Bruce's kids from Racine were there, as were a number of students from Homestead High School.

And next up? Lorraine Massey, Ms. Curly Girl herself, for The Curly Girl Handbook, co-sponsored by Downer Avenue's Studio D'Angeli. It's Saturday 2/26 at 2 pm.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Does Your Book do After it Goes Clubbing? It Takes a Bookrest.

When I talked to booksellers about what they were selling like crazy last Christmas (aside from books) that we didn't have, the two things that came up again and again were Buckyballs and Bookseats.

I still can't bring myself to order in Buckyballs, having nightmares about me acciedentally swallowing one of the magnets (or worse, two of them), but maybe I will someday be able to bring myself to do it. Theyare very popular and fun--tiny magnets that you can mold into mini sculptures.

That said, we've brought in Bookseats, somewhat vaguely recalling the Peeramid Bookrests that Schwartz sold several years ago, only a little more moldable, and with a lucite holder for the book.

But where to put them? Aha! A re-jiggered book club display. And did I tell you what books we were featuring for the winter? I don't think I did. Well, here you go:

Award Winners
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Tinkers, by Paul Harding
The Girl who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi Durrow
A Long, Long Time ago and Essentially True, by Brigid Pasulka
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon

Big Stories (I don't know what this means, but I like labels.)
The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas (which I'm currently reading for our upcoming in-store book club discussion)
Secrest of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian
The Surrendered, by Chang-Rae Lee
The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson

Fact to Fiction
Half-Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls
Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Cheavlier
The Women, by T.C. Boyle (event tonight 2/24)
Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin
Pearl of China, by Anchee Min
Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead

Just Kids, by Patti Smith
Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Stoddard
Country Driving, by Peter Hessler
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Shop Class as Soulcraft, by Matthew Crawford
Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers.

Come in and pick up a book club flier and try out a Bookseat, which come in eight colors. The book club flier only comes in pink

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five Book Events Today, Chiaverini Launch, Italian Times, Blank Book Spinner

1. Jim Higgins of the Journal Sentinel makes note of Wednesday, February 23, when there are five high-profile book-related events in metro Milwaukee.

2. Jennifer Chiaverini's launch at the Sunset Playhouse was hitchless with more than double our last event in the store, despite the not-perfect weather. I would suggest to SP folks to put a sign on Elm Grove Road, as several of our customers couldn't find it. Or maybe change the address to Wall Street, which seems to be where the parking lot connects. Great facility, wonderful crowd, I'd definitely consider coming back there to see a show.

3. Hey, we advertised in the Italian Times for our three upcoming Italophile events including:

--Thursday, March 31, 7 pm--Lawrence Baldassaro, talking about Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Baseball

--Tuesday, April 5, 11 am--The Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch with Donna Leon, discussing her new book, Drawing Conclusions. Tickets at 414-286-8720 or email

--Wednesday, April 6, 7 pm--Paolo Giordano, author of The Solitude of Prime Numbers, reading in Italian with Angela Damiani reading the English.

More to come on this, but we just got our tear sheet!

4. And yes, the bane of my life for big events, our blank book spinner that is made for crossworld puzzles, is finally getting replace. But first we have to put it together.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Favorite Book is Nominated for a Prize--Hurray

Off I go to the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove to quilt in spirit with Jennifer Chiaverini. It's our launch event for The Union Quilters at 7 pm. Info on the Elm Grove Playhouse here.

The big news today was the announcement of the Los Angeles Book Prize nominees. I was happy to see Powells Books receive the Innovators award. After all, how often are bookstores lauded as innovators?

But if that wasn't enough, it was the fiction finalists that set my heart aflutter:
Rick Bass, Nasvhille Chrome
Richard Bausch, Something is Out There
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
Frederick Reiken, Day for Night
If you need to ask what I'm excited about, you haven't been reading this blog enough. All the finalists are here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Yucky Presidents Day, and Paul McComas Event Day

No, we're not celebrating the yucky presidents. It's just a bit messy out there. The icy-sleety-snowy downfall has quieted down, however, and we should have a better day than yesterday.

And since we have such great events this week, it seemed important to get an email newsletter out to our bookish friends and customers. You can read it here.

Paul McComas called me from somewhere around Loyola, where the college's radio station interferes a bit with cell phone reception. Apparently this is well know down there. He'll be here tonight for the publication of Unforgettable: Harrowing Futures, Horrors, & (Dark) Humor. I linked to his piece in the email newsletter, and he was also on WUWM's "Lake Effect". To Lake Effect, Mr. McComas is grateful for a wonderful interview.

As to the other lake effect (snow), Mr. McComas is withholding judgment for now.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bestsellers, Launch Events, More Bookseller Raves for T.C. Boyle's New Novel, and Bellevue Bookending

Here's our fiction bestsellers for this past week:
1. Tinkers, by Paul Harding
2. Swamplandia, by Karen Russell
3. Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon
4. While Mortals Sleep, by Kurt Vonnegut
5. Fadeaway Girl, by Martha Grimes

Our takeaway for this week is that if you host Paul Harding, bring in the hardcovers!

We've had several requests for T.C. Boyle's When the Killing's Done, but we had to tell them that the book has a Tuesday laydown. It's an honor having an event during launch week, but on the other hand, but this is the price. On the other hand, it doesn't leave folks much opportunity to buy the books elsewhere. So especially when there's backlist to sell (and in this case, there was), I'll take it!

Just in time for the event, I've had two more advance reads on the book. Here's the scoop from Sharon:
"When the Killing’s Done is an involved but quick-moving story set in the Channel Islands. Boyle relates the conflict between Alma Takesue, a scientist trying to protect an endangered community, and Dave LaJoy, an empassioned animal rights activist who doesn't want to see any species harmed, not even rats. Boyle also delves into the backgrounds and histories of the two main characters, which makes them each more than just their causes."

And here's Carl's take:
"Filled with moral ambiguity and three-dimensional characters like all of Boyle's best novels, When the Killing's Done pits Alma Boyd Takesue, a conservationist with the National Park Service, against businessman and environmental activist Dave LaJoy. The battleground for these two is California's Channel Islands, where the park service is attempting to re-establish a "natural balance" by eliminating invasive species such as rats and wild pigs, and which LaJoy is doing everything in his power to stop. The novel is very entertaining, and not preachy, while tackling weighty issues."

Carl has gone one further, and has been seemingly been reading nothing but Boyle for the past few weeks. He's been telling folks that When the Killing's Done is even better than Drop City!

We're also the launch event for The Union Quilters this Tuesday, February 22nd, at the Sunset Playhouse, at 7 pm. Jennifer Chiaverini's new novel goes on sale the day of the event.

Regarding nonfiction, it's great to see some early sales on Lisa Paul's memoir of helping a Russian friend navigate the dissident maze in the 1980's. The launch event is at the Shorewood Public Library (3920 North Murray) this Wednesday, Feb. 23, 6:30 pm.

Hardcover Nonfiction
1. Ace of Cakes, by Duff Goldman (out of signed copies!)
2. Swimming in the Daylight, by Lisa Paul
3. The Pack is Back, by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (not in the Ingram database yet. I think we're hoping to have a direct link for sales. Did I forget to arrange for that? Yeeks, sorry.)
4. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
5. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Jason had mentioned to me recently that we've seen an upsurgence in Gladwell's Outliers yet again, but this is his first time on our bestseller list in a while. I recently enjoyed his New Yorker piece on college rankings*. Oates was featured on the front page of The New York Times today, paired with Michelle Latiolais new collection of stories, also titled Widow. And yes, it's from Bellevue Literary Press, the publisher of Paul Harding's Tinkers.

Don't you like the when posts come full circle?

*As well as Peter Hessler's piece on the Peace Corps.** Did you hear that Country Driving (which I finally finished--yes, sometimes I don't quite get it done in time for the event) hit the New York Times bestseller list. And as we're referencing articles, we have a display up that features the dog stories in Jim Higgins' literary canine roundup that was in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

**I know, just the beginning, but if you subscribe to the magazine but don't keep your issues very long, you can get free online access.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saturday Gift Post--Window Stickers, and Plip Clips and Presidential Plush and Celtic Boxes

Every day I go into the receiving room to find out if anything that I've ordered has come in. In my mind, we're so overwhelmed with stuff that I can't spend another dollar on gift items. But in actuality, it's not here.

When my orders are large enough, I'm able to stage shipments so that we're not paying for everything at once. But not I'm second-guessing myself and wondering why I didn't bring it all in now. I'm going to be off for the day and there will be sixty boxes waiting for me. This happened last September.

That said, the Plip Clips are restocked. They hold pencils, toothbrushes, and the like. We've sold through the last two times I ordered them. I also restocked our literary taxidemy, and we're generally still selling one plush famous person per day (which is good for us). We like putting them on seasonal displays--currently Obama and Lincoln are on our President's Day table, but the secret is they don't sell well that way. They only really sell together off the fixture.

On Friday, our new window stickers came in. We planned to decorate our front window with monkeys (of course), but that's the one we were shorted stock on. So we went with birdcages. We also have green leaves, planes, Paris icons (the company is French), and fishbowl.

I was expecting to have a cupcake table, but our sell through at Iron Cupcake Pro/Am was well near complete. Instead, we put our St. Patrick's Day table up early. We try to stay away from shamrock drinking glasses and go for the Celtic. I restocked the boxes we sold through last year, and found some new journals and boxed cards.

And who knows what will show up on Monday?

Friday, February 18, 2011

It's Been an Exciting Day--Five Things You Don't Expect to Do When You're a Bookseller

1. Fix the CD player.
We play music that we sell in the store, but I have to say that the preferred music that my booksellers seem to want is no music. We're experiencing that right now as our very old CD player got stuck on the change mode. I try to get it going again.
Success or failure? Failure

2. Fix the shredder.
It's suddenly making a buzzing noise and the paper isn't working.
Success or failure? Failure, but the replacement cost is pretty low

3. Pricing out fire extinguisher certification.
The fire inspector came in and we're due to recertify our fire extinguishers. We used a national service at Schwartz and I'd like to go local on this. I found the names of several local suppliers, and then wrote to retailers I know, asking for recs. I also walked up and down the block and asked around. One of our neighbors was very enthusiastic because he gets a postcard in the mail to set up his annual inspection. Another neighbor (who used the same national service, which will remain unnamed) was surprised to find that one of his extinguishers had been recertified and the other had not.
Success of failure? Qualified success. I don't get to chalk it off until everything is up to code.

4. Driving around author.
Let me just say this was not a chore, but more like a dream. What a wonderful event we had last night for Paul Harding, author of Tinkers! And I don't know why this is my big takeaway, but I had no idea he was the drummer in a band called Cold Water Flat in the mid 1990's. Wonderful reading, interesting questions...I'd highly recommend attending a Harding event. I think his next stop is Milan, for the release of the Italian translation. We've got signed copies, including hardcovers, which went over very well at the signing. It's so cute! I bought one for my sister Merrill's birthday present (which already happened)
Success or failure? Enormous success. Hurray!

5. Picking up cigarette butts off the sidewalk.
The snow is melting. The garbage is appearing. It's disgusting, but it has to be done.
Success or failure? It depends how you judge this. I suppose I was successful at picking a bunch up.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A New Artist on Our Art Wall, a Boswellian No Less.

When I was making a list of artists whom I wanted featured on our art wall, I included Boswellian Pam Stilp, whose contributions as a bookseller and our school outreach person belie her talent as an artist.

A couple of weeks ago Pam I asked Pam to put up a collection of her paintings. As I was showing them to one of our customers, another woman looked up from working at one of our cafe tables and said, "That's Pam? I had no idea she was an artist." The exact quote gave a greater compliment to her talent, but silly me, forgetting to tape everything people say to me. I wasn't able to get it exactly right.

Pam paints both still lifes and landscapes, with her personality shining through particularly in the latter. I'm so happy to have her beautiful work on the walls of Boswell. Some in and take a look. These small photos don't do them justice.
That said, it reminds me that we have to do some repairs. Setting and resetting artwork really creates a lot of holes!

What else is going on art-wise for us? Well, we're working on a new tee shirt, for one thing, with Kristopher Pollard. I don't have a timeline, but I guess I either have to set one or reprint our classic tee in a new color. But what color should it be? I was of course intrigued by Bayberry showing up on key colors for both women and men for spring 2011, according to Pantone, but it strikes me that doing a tee in this color isn't going to fly with many guys. I wonder exactliy what the boys will be wearing in this shade of purplish red?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Borders Bankruptcy File--We Help Out and Pick Up Sarah Blake's Event for The Postmistress for Next Wednesday, 2/23

It's the news we've been expecting for some time. Borders declared chapter 11, and announced the closing of 200 stores, including all three in the Milwaukee area. Since it happened, news orgs have been calling to get our local spin on the story.

Honestly, I'm not rubbing my hands with glee. I'm worried about the publishers that will be affected, especially the smaller ones that may not be able to recover, as well as the booksellers who will lose their jobs.

Even though there is a Borders store only a few miles away from us in downtown Milwaukee, I don't expect to pick up much of that business. Downtown traffic is a funny thing; it doesn't migrate to the next closest store, but seeps out through the rest of the metro area (and probably into the internet).

I think there's a little bit of business, to be sure, and probably a drop more from the Fox Point store. I'm hoping that more of that Fox Point Borders business will travel to our friends at Next Chapter.

One thing we did pick up was an event with Sarah Blake for her paperback tour of The Postmistress. This wonderful novel was a hit with booksellers and critics alike, including several Boswellians. Here's a rec from our ex-bookseller and still good friend, Rebecca:

"WWII offers limitless opportunities for good storytelling, and The Postmistress introduces us to both a new front -- a small town on Cape Cod, where tension is mounting on the eve of America's entry into the war -- and new voices. You won't soon forget Frankie Bard, radio gal!"

It pays to throw away nothing. Thanks, Rebecca! Are you coming?

So here's the scoop on our event:
Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
Wednesday, February 23, 7 pm
at Boswell
which, as you know, is at
2559 N Downer Ave.

and here's the rest of the tour!

Monday, February 21, 7 pm
Edina (Minneapolis)
Barnes and Noble
3225 W. 69th St.

Tuesday, February 22, 7 pm
Madison/Barnes and Noble
7433 Mineral Point Road

then us on 2/23 (see above!)

Thursday, February 24, Noon
Lunch at Mirani's, Winnetka
Sponsored by The Book Stall
727 Elm Street
Reservations required. Please call 847-446-8880

Thursday, February 24, 7 pm
The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, Chicago
4736-38 North Lincoln Ave

Friday, February 25, 7 pm
Left Bank Books, St. Louis
399 N Euclid Ave (Central West End)

In March, the author visits Books and Books in Coral Gables and the Vero Beach Book Center. It's not too late to plan a getaway!

And for you folks in Milwaukee, you absolutely must attend one of the great book events going on next Wednesday. While Stacie is in the store with Blake, I'll be at the launch party for Lisa Paula and her book, Swimming in the Daylight: An American Student, a Soviet-Jewish Dissident, and the Gift of Hope at the Shorewood Public Library. That event begins at 6:30 pm. The library is of course at 3920 North Murray Avenue.

Next Chapter in Mequon has a great event as well, Roberta Gately's novel, Lipstick in Afghanistan (I'm linking you to more info, but if you go, buy it at the event, not from us!). It's the story of a humanitarian nurse in war-torn Afghanistan, who finds both tragedy and beauty in her new environment. Booklist called the book "utterly engrossing" and it seems a wonderful pick for book clubs. More on their website.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reading Lolita as an Aria, and How Your Favorite Book Can be Next, a Prelude to Our Florentine Preview on Wed. 2/16, 7 pm.

Reading Lolita in Tehran as an opera? Yes, it's true. A University of Maryland doctoral student and composer Elisabeth Mehl Greene have put together a work that makes its way through The Great Gatsby, 1984, and yes, Lolita, according to a recent piece in the Washington Post. The performance is this Friday, February 18th, at College Park, and the memoir's author Azar Nafisi, will be on hand to take questions. More info here on this free event.

And Anchee Min's books have been made into not one, but at least two operas, per the Los Angeles Times. Her memoir Red Azalea was turned into an opera by William Kraft, while her novel Becoming Madame Mao was turned into the opera "Madame Mao" by Bright Sheng. If you are wondering why Min's work seems to attractive to composers, you should visit us for our event with Min on Wednesday, April 13th, at 7 pm for her most recent novel, Pearl of China, releasing shortly in paperback.

That's nothing, the unnamed Wikipedia correspondant claims that Victor Hugo's work is the source of more than 100 works, including "Lucrezia Borgia" and "Rigoletto." And some would say the Broadway musical "Les Miserables" is pretty much an opera, and there's certainly a book involved in that too.

It goes on. Here's the New York Times piece on Sophie's Choice, and Carnegie Mellon's student newspaper reports on an operatic version of The Grapes of Wrath. It's hard to imagine that someone isn't working on an opera version of Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, if there isn't one already. I'm pushing for Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge. Seems grand enough!

So I discuss this just before we host our preview for the Florentine Opera's "The Italian Girl in Algiers", a Rossini opera that is not adapted from a literary work. But them's the breaks when your hook is the opera version of Reading Lolita in Tehran.

Have you been to our Florentine Opera Insights? The events are wonderful, with an wonderful talk from professor emeritus Corliss Phillabaum and wonderful singing from the Florentine Opera Studio, pictured above, who are:
Erica Schuller, soprano
Julia Elise Hardin, mezzo soprano
Matthew Richardson, tenor
Scott Johnson, baritone.

Our event is Wednesday, February 16th, 7 pm. Tickets are on sale for "The Italian Girl in Algiers for the shows on March 18, 19 and 20th. Get tickets here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bustling Bestseller Lists, Pretty Pictures

I spent the day with Sharon at the Iron Cupcake Pro/Am Challenge. I changed my mind and decided to not post my photos from the event, as they are kind of crappy. So much for the "pretty pictures" part of the post. Guest judge Duff Goldman's Ace of Cakes is a shoo-in for #1 nonfiction hardcover this coming week. But what of the week just past?

1. Cesar's Rules, by Cesar Millan
2. It's All Relative, by Wade Rouse
3. Wisconsin's Own, by Connolly and Wasserman
4. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
5. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua

And here's fiction:

1. Swamplandia, by Karen Russell
2. A Red Herring without Mustard, by Alan Bradley
3. Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
4. Tinkers (yes, the hardcover--folks are gearing up for the event on 2/17), by Paul Harding
5. The Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

It's a pretty Jason list, though Anne likes the Bradley titles. I was remiss in our email newsletter on Swamplandia two levels. First of all, I got confused as to when Mike Fischer's review ran for Russell. It happened already and he loved the book, calling it the first must-read book of 2011. Here's a link to his review, which was the Powell's review of the day.

I also couldn't find Jason's review of Swamplandia when I was setting the email newsletter. Honestly, the Constant Contact problem with functionality is driving me to drink. More. Tea. (But strong tea.)

"A family of alligator wrestlers, in the swamplands of the Florida Everglades, comes upon hard times, when the matriarch passes away. Everything seems to be encroaching upon them at once, the World of Darkness is attempting to take everything Ava and her family have been doing for generations. The twelve-year-old girl watches as her family spirals apart. She must make her own way and save everything she has ever known. Karen Russell has spun a bewitching tale. I reread whole sections in this imaginative, quirkly, and complex book. If you can engross me to care about the hatching alligators, then I know that Russell has worked her magical world upon me perfectly."

Jason Kennedy's review of Swamplandia.*
It's such a pleasure to have a pop like that on a new title. Sort of can't miss for the national bestseller lists, don't you think? No surprise, Peter Hessler's Country Driving is #1 nonfiction, followed by a bunch of Cesar Millan backlist. But paperback fiction's got some interesting stuff going on:

1. Secrets of Eden, by Chris Bohjalian (not one, but two events)
2. Tinkers, by Paul Harding
3. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
4. The Slap, by Chistos Tsiolkas
5. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
6. The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
7. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
8. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
9. Shadow Tag, by Louise Erdrich
10. The Three Weismanns of Westport, by Cathleen Schine

We always have a pop in sales when I announce our upcoming in-store book club books, which accounts for The Slap (March) and People of the Book (May). The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is our April pick.

I don't really think I'm necessary a snob about my reading tastes, well, not much anyway, but it's pretty cool that I've either read or would be happy reading every book in our paperback fiction top ten. Not every store can say that.

*Does my linking to Swamplandia five times make you want to buy it? It's Boswell's Best for a few more weeks, making it 20% off the list.

New Displays-Resetting Edgar and NBCC Noms

I have broken many vows over the years, some professional and others personal. But one I've done pretty well on is switching out displays with some regularity. And nothing energizes me like too much to do, so I followed up our four events on Friday (OK, Jason sold the books at the Riverside but I did help him pack) and a visit from family to spend Saturday evening working with Jocelyn to freshen things up.

The Edgar nominees already had their table, but now we've got signs listing all the book noms. So it was fun to get a take from mystery reviewer Carole Barrowman when she brought in her Oprah's Book Club class for a session with Chris Bohjalian--they always read Midwives. We both agreed that we'd love to see Tom Franklin get the prize for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

Carole also gave me her pick for Best First Novel, The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron. Well, at least that's what she told me. I wish I had been writing this down. It's about a Maine game warden that finds his estranged father accused of murder. The author is the editor of Down East magazine, so you can be sure that he captures local color. Here are the rest of the noms for that category:
Rogue Island, by Bruce DeSilva
The Serialist, by David Gordon
Galveston, by Nic Pizzolatto
Snow Angels by James Thompson

Just as an aside, here is Sharon's recommendations for another nominee, James Thompson. She's read both Snow Angels and its follow-up, Lucifer's Tears, and this is a group rec.

"The first two books in James Thompson's new series provide an excellent answer to the question of what to read when you are done with Stieg Larsson. Kari Vaara is a Finnish police detective with an American wife. In Snow Angels, he has to solve the brutal killing of a Somali actress. In Lucifer’s Tears, he is investigating the torture and murder of a Russian businessman’s wife. The crimes are quite violent, but what makes these stories interesting are the details about Finnish culture and language. Like most Americans, I know next to nothing about Finland, and I found these books to be a quick fascinating read about a place that I will probably never have the opportunity to visit."

We also finally set up our National Book Critics Circle nomination display. It's right at the front of the store, bumping our winter book club picks to the middle. Eventually book club will settle in its semi-permanent home where we have the last of our holiday markdowns.

I've already listed a few of the category noms on another blog post, but here are a couple more. Jason's had a bit of a challenge getting in some of the noms for this one, so if you don't see something as you're browsing the table, just ask.

Anne Carson,author of Nox
Kathleen Graber, author of The Eternal City
Terrance Hayes, author of Lighthead
Kay Ryan, author of The Best of It
C.D. Wright, author of One with Others: [a little book of her days].

Sarah Bakewell, author of How To Live, Or A Life Of Montaigne
Selina Hastings, author of The Secret Lives Of Somerset Maugham
Yunte Huang, author of Charlie Chan
Thomas Powers, author of The Killing Of Crazy Horse
Tom Segev, author of Simon Wiesenthal. Translated by Ronnie Hope.

Kai Bird, author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate
David Dow, author of The Autobiography of an Execution (just out in paperback)
Christopher Hitchens, author of Hitch-22
Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of Hiroshima in the Morning
Patti Smith, author of Just Kids
Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life.

Not sure why one set up nominations come title first, and the other comes author. I should fix that...someday. Lots of washed-out grays in the jackets that got nominated. And that makes two noms that I read this year, Apollo's Angels in nonfiction and Half a Life in autobiography. I feel like a good bookseller should have read at least three, so I still have work to do.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our New Boyle-Wright Window, Bohjalian Guests, Hessler Slides

Today is the start of the "Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century" exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Our window celebrates Wright and T.C. Boyle, whose novel, The Women, is the subject of their first book salon on Saturday, February 19th, at 10:30 am.

And Boyle is coming to Boswell on Thursday, February 24th. His new book, When the Killing's Done, lands on February 22nd. Fortunately Boyle has a lot of backlist, as it can be tough to promote an event so close to the release of a new book.

For Peter Hessler and Chris Bohjalian's events yesterday (2/11), we brought in their hardcovers, since the paperbacks would not be out on either until just before the events started. I went in a panic as I like to have hardcovers available at paperback reprint events. In Hessler's case, we sold out of hardcovers?

So I'm sure you're wondering, how did the events go and are you going to show me photos?

Bohjalian's event for Secrets of Eden was just lovely--beautiful setting, delicious meal, incredibly charming guest host. Everyone loved it, and why not? At what other event could you speak intimately with an author. Bohjalian sat at a different table for each course. I had hoped to take a photo of each table, but sadly, I got so involved in my dessert conversation that I forgot. Could we do this again? I'd definitely need a larger turnout to continue this. Help me figure out how I can convey the value of this very special kind of event. After the lunch, we had over both sections of the Oprah's Book Club class at Alverno college for a brief talk. Yes, we're a classroom too!

Hessler's talk for Country Driving was great and for once, the weather was perfect, for February at least. And yes, we used the slide projector again. I'm becoming an old pro at this. If you're hosting him at an upcoming event, you should be aware that his wife is Leslie Chang, the author of Factory Girls, and he talks about her and the event in her talk. I'd bring in at least five copies--we sold out immediately and had several more folks asking for it. And just to talk it up further, my sister Claudia (who came out, along with my brother-in-law Les), is a huge fan. Hessler and Chang talk about the same factory in their books, but in a totally different way. Their stories complement each other perfectly.