Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Visit to Ono Kine Grindz in Wauwatosa, Just Because All I Can Think About is Sarah Vowell's Visit to Boswell on Friday, March 9.

Today I went out to Wauwatosa to visit our friends at Ono Kine Grindz at 7215 West North Avenue. As I may have mentioned, they're co-sponsoring our event with Sarah Vowell on Friday, March 9 for Unfamiliar Fishes

We're hoping to have an assortment of cookies and other treats from their combination Hawaiian grocery and plate lunch restaurant. It fits together perfectly--Unfamiliar Fishes is a look at Hawaii and how the Puritans and the natives played off each other to create their unique culture.  As you know, Sarah Vowell's event is Friday, March 9, at Boswell. A $15 ticket gets you a copy of Unfamiliar Fishes and entry to the event. Seats are not guaranteed. The store will close at 6 pm to folk without tickets. And we're likely to sell out.

And why are we going to sell out? Because this is an amazing deal--tickets are less than the cost of the book alone. And just to make my point about how this is a perfect match, and maybe convince you that you need to buy your tickets to this event right now, here's Sarah Vowell talking about the importance of plate lunch to Hawaiian culture.

Davd and Guy started their business a few years ago, and have already won a reputation among several of my customers (and also booksellers) as a fave dining spot in the area. Entrees include laulau (steamed pork and butterfish in taro and leaf wrap), BBQ kalbi ribs, and huli huli chicken (house smoked with mango glaze). And Jason swears by the world famous CoCo Puffs.

Let me just say that my cosponsorship attempts with other area businesses have been touch and go. Most of them agree to get involved, but are honestly too busy to really contribute anything. I'm usually just happy to see a sign up (yes, there was one at Ono Kine Grindz) and a Facebook post. When someone acutally participates in an event, like the dynamic Margaret at the poptastic Hot Pop Boutique and Gallery in the Third Ward, it sort of makes my heart sing, but then I get panicky because I wonder if it was worth her time.

But the truth is that though I'd like these complimentary businesses to help get the word out about our events, mostly I just want a reason to feature them at Boswell. In a strange way, I think it's part of our mission to offer shout outs to other vibrant indie stores.

And that's what Ono Kine Grindz is--a vibrant indie store making the Milwaukee area a little bit better. So while you're at the Sarah Vowell event, say hit to Guy, and pick up one of their menus, and try a treat (while supplies last).


The email newsletter went out! Usually this is all consuming for at least a day, but I admittedly used a lot of Stacie's copy and I also started way too early in the morning. Now I hold my breath until we find out if the typos are major or minor.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Amazon Will Tell You What You Can and Can't Read, by Restricting Sales on the Kindle.

You may have noticed that I do not like to make this blog a place for advocacy. My focus is on, as the blog notes, Boswell and Books, not Boswell and the book industry. If I expand outwards at all, I like to look at community, both the book community (the bookstores, publishers) and the Milwaukee-area community (other great indie stores, area organizations). I think there are better sources for book news, such as Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, The Amercian Booksellers Association newsletter, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and so forth.

We all know that much (but not all, despite the stump speeches of some pundits) of the book business is moving digital, and that has created a quandary for both retailers and readers alike, being that information that was free flowing is now tied to an electric device. You already know that we are part of the Google ebooks program (they are cutting back on partners, but our trade association's e-commerce program is not affected) , and many of you have tried buying ebooks on your iPad, Droid tablet or phone, Nook, or Sony reading device. But folks with Kindles (except for the tablet, I'm told) are locked into buying books only from Amazon.

I have compared this in the past to the Sony Betamax, only in this case, it's not like the Amazon products are far superior to others. If you like e ink, the Nook is quite comparable, and if you want other functionality, few are going to rate the Kindle superior to the iPad. But it is still the case that the Kindle has a very high market share. Not every community has a bookstore (like McLean and Eakin of Petoskey, Michigan, for example), who has taken on as its mission the education of their community as to what concentration of business will do to the book business as a whole. And I want to say that there is a market out there for an open concept device that uses e ink.

You can read between the lines of Amazon reports (like many analysts do) that their game plan for many years has been to undercut their competitors (both other bookstores and publishers) and knock them out of their competitive position. Here's Sarah Lucy in Pando Daily ruminating on the problem. And the lack of a brick-and-mortar infrastructure is affecting all kinds of retailers But competitor's negative reactions to showrooming for Amazon is possibly forcing their hand to open their own stores. Sure, one store is just a nice vanity gesture, but won't a chain of them undercut their competitive advantage? Now I'm as confused as you are.

This is straight from a generally positive report in The New York Times: "For Amazon, long-term growth confers two major benefits: the kind of economies of scale enjoyed by Wal-Mart and eliminating or weakening competitors. The book retailer Borders has been forced out of business and a rival, Barnes & Noble, is struggling. Best Buy, the electronics retailer, reported this week that earnings plunged 29 percent, despite higher revenue and a surge of Black Friday sales, because the chain had to cut prices and offer free shipping to compete with Amazon."

Here's what I do know. Amazon turned off the "buy" button on Macmillan titles in response to their decision to move ebooks to an agency plan that leveled the playing field. And now they've taken the ebooks of the distributor/publisher Independent Publishers Group off the Kindle platform, based on not being able to force the terms they want for the product.

This is pure speculation, but one can only guess that other small publishers, when pressured, have already folded to these new terms. But IPG is a publisher that goes their own way. They've made some decisions that have gone contrary to other publishers, like charging freight when other distribution groups absorb it. At Schwartz, I even had them on our vendor of record program, buying their books through a wholesaler. But at Boswell, we looked at the low freight costs and decided it was more important for us to have a direct relationship. We love their model, their portal to hundreds of small publishers, and I have to say, the folks that work there are some of my favorite people in the industry.

Rescuing Regina, The Katyn Order, The President is a Sick Man, and The Tortoise and the Hare, all highlighted at Boswell and Books, are all IPG titles. We have a great event coming up with Jeffrey Gusfield, who has authored Deadly Valentines: The Story of Capone's Henchman "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn and Louise Rolfe, His Blonde Alibi, a history of the aftermath of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Gusfield appears on Tuesday, April 10, 7 pm, at Boswell. More on that later.

You may know that there are groups that are suing to end the agency plans, saying that the pricing model is monopolistic, but if this is the case, this model is pretty widespread in other industries, and it's hard to believe that the government would say that this was collusive. On the other hand, Amazon seems to be flexing their hand in a way that recalls Ma Bell and Standard Oil.

I'm not sure anymore that Amazon wants indie bookstores out of business. Who, after all, will showroom books for their electronic readers? You know what I'm talking about--it's when someone hangs out at a bookstore, scanning (or in the old days, writing down) the books they want, only to buy them elsewhere. Amazon even developed a mooching app, to make it easier for these people.

But it doesn't have to be that way. You factor other things into your purchase equations, don't you? Didn't more than one of you say to me that you made the choice not to shop at a certain big box store? And maybe it's time to acknowledge that Amazon is not an online bookstore, it's a general merchandise store that sells books.

And here's the best news for folks who already bought books on their Kindle. You can get rid of your Kindle for another device and still read the books you've already bought, because Amazon has a reading app, just like Google Books. The difference? You'll also be able to read books you bought elsewhere.

Here's Stacie's recommendation:
"When mentioning e ink devices, there's an option for consumers who want
the Kindle's experience but buy indie: the iRiver Story HD. Its price
point is just under $100, it has the best e ink display on the market
and syncs with Google e books."

Monday, February 27, 2012

What's Going On This Week at Boswell (John Donatich), and What's Not Going on This Week (Eleanor Henderson).

Our sympathies to Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints, who was forced to cancel her appearance at Boswell, due to a death in her family. So no event this Wednesday, February 29. We'll reschedule my short book club talk to open for another upcoming event.

On Saturday, March 3, we'll be hosting John Donatich, publisher of Yale University Press, and author of the new novel, The Variations. I fear hosting authors so early in their release cycle, unless the author is local and has enough of a base for a launch event. But how could we say no? Here are some early reads from some of our favorite authors.

"This book deserves quiet and respectful praise. I was very moved by it. Individual sentences are filled with precision and intelligence. I suppose it is, itself, a variation, in terms of its improvisations on an expected theme, the improbabilities recognized and realized, and its humane take on the world. What a surprising, beautiful book."—Ann Beattie, author of The New Yorker Stories

"Though The Variations documents harsh personal upheavals, it is characterized by great poise and dignity. With his talent for finding beauty in the dingiest corners and insights in the most confounding situations, John Donatich has given us a novel with staying power. It's impossible not to be utterly absorbed by this book."—Joanna Scott, author of the Ambassador Book Award winning Liberation

"Toward the end of this moving and highly unusual novel, its hero -- Dominic -- remarks: 'It is God that is primary, individual, irreducible. All the rest variations on a theme." These variations preoccupy the major characters in this deeply poetic and fiercely imagined book. Novels that approach matters of faith are rarely, and rarely good. But John Donatich has written a beautiful and thoughtful meditation on faith and its fate in the modern world, on listening, loving, living. The Variations plays any number of variations on the themes of love and loss in its myriad forms. It's a novel I will pass eagerly among friends."—Jay Parini, author of The Last Station and The Passages of H.M.

"Catholic writers in America have not found much excitement in theology. John Donatich goes a long way towards repairing that lack with this beautiful novel about a contemporary priest who can't help contemplating the failure of his rundown urban church as his own inner failure…The author has a poet's feel for image, which he confers upon his priest with breathtaking effect…There is genuine suspense, a sense of life or death importance, in this thoughtful novel about what Father Dominic will choose to do as well as about the fates of his parishioners."—Jaimy Gordon, author of the National Book Award winning Lord of Misrule

"A novel of priests, pianists, hysterics, dry drunks, urban decay, and above all the irresistible drive to achieve transcendence, even while you know it can’t be done by trying. When these people pray or make music they know they have to master an art form and give up hope of mastering it at the same time. Their dilemmas are old, universal, perfect. Donatich doesn’t believe in the kind of orthodoxy that obliterates doubts and declares a permanent winner to contests inside the soul. He seems to believe in a continuous struggle between what we can and can’t do on our own, a faith of variations that will keep on changing from one day to the next because it’s alive."—Salvatore Scibona, author of The End

Mr. Donatch will be appearing at Boswell on Saturday, March 3, at 2 pm. He'll be talking about his book, as well as the changing world of publishing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What Sold at Boswell Last Week? Past Event Recaps and Upcoming Event Shout Outs.

Hardcover Fiction
1. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, by Nathan Englander
2. Sonoma Rose, by Jennifer Chiaverini
3. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
4. The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson
5. American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar

That's a clean sweep for last week, as we hosted every author in our top five at one point for their current book. I should note that Ayad Akhtar will be coming back to be the Friday dinner speaker at the UWM Spring Writing Conference on Friday, March 9. TIckets are still available for the entire conference, which is $85 for three days of talks and workshops, plus meals and networking. Buy here.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. While America Sleeps, by Russ Feingold
2. Sic, by Joshua Cody
3. The End of Illness, by David Agus
4. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
5. Eminent Outlaws, by Christopher Bram

Senator Feingold's new book was the big news this week. Not too many reviews yet, but Kirkus notes: "Sage, sensible words by a leader who can now point to how he right he was." Feingold's out stomping the country on tour, appearing at Barnes and Noble in New York and Politics and Prose in DC. He doesn't look like he'll get to the Milwaukee area until April 28, when he does an area event sponsored by our friends Next Chapter.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson
2. For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, by Nathan Englander
3. The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. Until the Next Time, by Kevin Fox

Fox will be appearing at County Clare in a Boswell co-sponsored free event on March 14 for his novel Until the Next Time. He'll also be in Waukesha County at a gig sponsored by our friends Books and Company. Here's a teaser, also from Kirkus: "Given a journal belonging to an uncle he never knew existed, Sean Corrigan embarks on a quest across the Atlantic—and lifetimes—in search of the truth about Michael Corrigan, a cop accused of murder who fled to Ireland."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Please Stop Laughing at Me, by Jodee Blanco
2. In the Moment: The Life and Art of Shomer Licthner, by Sue Montgomery
3. In Celebration: The Life and Art of Ruth Grotenrath, by Sue Montgomery
4. American Made, by Nick Taylor
5. Species of Spaces, by Georges Perec

Jodee Blanco will be appearing at a free event at Greenfield High School on Tuesday, March 6, at 7 pm. Greenfield High School is located at 4800 South 60th Street.

What's with the books from West Bend's Museum of Wisconsin Art? The Golda Meir Library asked us to sell books at a wonderful talk by Barbara Brown Lee, regarding beloved Milwaukee artists Lichtner and Grotenrath. The UWM Library Friends (Officially Friends of the UWM Golda Meir Library) have a nice schedule of events and you can join, just like you can a public library friends group. More info here.

Books for Kids:
1. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
2. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
3. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
4. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes (board book), by Mem Fox with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury
5. The House in the Night (board book), by Susan Marie Swanson, with illustrations by Beth Krommes

The Swanson/Krommes collaboration is a Calecott medal classic came out in board book form last fall. From the Booklist review of the original hardcover: "The use of gold isespecially effective, coloring the stars and aknowing moon, all surrounded with black-and-white halos.A beautiful piece of bookmaking that will delight both parents and children."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--Define Spring.

Of course we know that spring is not for another month, but it seems to me that sometime towards the end of February, it's time to take away the winter reading table and start contemplating birds and flowers again.

In Milwaukee, spring isn't when it stops snowing. It's when the snow melts more quickly. And let's just say that we've had a very mild winter. I was looking at last February's sales and we had two pretty miserable days last year. Because the storm was mostly overnight, this week's storm was mostly cleaned up by mid-day, and we had solid afternoon to early evening traffic.

For this year's migration celebration, we brought in more resin birds (yes, yet another assortment), some tin bird houses, bird mugs, and of course our Peruvian (yes, made in Peru) water whistles. Everything is under ten dollars. Folkmanis has a new robin finger puppet that seems aching for the vernal equinox. And more to come later, of course.

So I say, start thinking about the return of birds now. Jason already stocked up on his Adventure Publiciation bird guides.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Traditional Short Friday Post--A New Shipment of Plastic Bags Means a New Color.

Snow overnight meant that my morning was spent shoveling, though with the warm afternoon weather, I think a decent amount melted by now. I got to work for my closing Friday shift after my traditional bowl of chicken tikka masala soup at The Soup House (on Milwaukee and Michigan) and a lingonberry cupcake from the Milwaukee Cupcake Company on Milwaukee Street in the Third Ward.

We finally got some more Little Thinkers to fill up our case--it was looking mighty thin there for a bit. They are still out of stock on a number of our mainstays, but at least Virginia Woolf, Queen Elizabeth, Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakepeare are keeping company with our other regulars.

The big news, however, was that our new shipments of plastic Boswell bags came in. If you haven't been following the blog, we like to change the color with each shipment. The new bag is Pantone #548, which our color matcher called deep Arctic blue, but I find akin to a dark wash denim.

I'm glad they arrived. We ran out of our orange bags and were halfway through my emergency stash of plain white bags.

Oh, and I also updated my reading log on the blog. I hadn't done so for several months. So many details!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

On Peter Cameron, Coral Glynn, The Fifties, and a Whole Bunch of Wonderful Writers, Many of Whom I Haven't Read (Yet).

The setting is a English village in the 1950s. Coral Glynn, a young nurse takes as her charge an elderly dying woman, Mrs. Hart. Also living there is the woman's disabled son, Major Clement Hart and their fiercely loyal housekeeper, Mrs. Prence. Then theelder Hart passes and Coral receives an offer of marriage from the Major.
I don't want to say more than that. I feel I've perhaps given too much away, though there is far more on the copy of the book jacket. What one has to know is the pieces are all in place. Coral, shy and innocent as she appears, is not exactly what she appears to be, nor is the Major.

Coral Glynn (on sale 2/28) is a novel imbued with fifties British style. But it's not the fifties that we think about, Eisenhower-era nuclear families taking new government-built highways from our little boxes to our sparkling new shopping malls.

In England, the country was still rebuilding from a devastating war. Sure, council flats were going up in areas where not everyone wanted to see them. But that wasn't really so much about what was going on the United States--that was more related to the fraying of the traditional class system.

Now I'm no expert, but I've been told that a sharp reading of fifties fiction will indicate that many authors were writing about this, as well as the cultural changes that exploded in the sixties. Things like new ways to think about, not just class, but gender roles and sexual identity. And Cameron has great command of the period, and yet is able to play out more the struggles that were often not quite named in novels of that time. The Major has a past (not giving much away,  it is revealed quickly) with his friend Robin (now married to Dolly), and Coral has been a victim of impropriety at her previous household.

You can tell that Cameron has read widely from this oeuvre (he cites Rose Macaulay, Penelope Mortimer, and Elizabeth Taylor on his website), but from my personal experience, we're talking mostly about the early novels of Barbara Pym here. Pym wrote diligently through the 1950s to little acclaim, gave up, and was rediscovered in the 1970s, later called the most under-rated novelist of the twentieth century. She is one of my favorite novelists, and certainly one of the few adult writers whose novels I have reread. Some of her most lauded works came after she started writing again (I believe Cameron's favorite is Quartet in Autumn), but I have a special love for the early books, that seem in some ways so observant of the future.

But my friend John is an expert on other novelists of this sort. I think about his love for Ivy Compton-Burnett, whose body of work stretches from the twenties (actually there is something published in 1911, but it seems far removed and it's for another writer to explain the gap) into the early 1960s. And several years ago, he turned me on to Elizabeth Jenkins's The Tortoise and The Hare, which I've written about in Boswell and Books. Alas, despite some success selling this novel, nobody has yet to reissue another--perhaps one is on Nancy Pearl's list of Kindle exclusives--a sigh, as an aside.

So now here's the place where I note that the code of honor for bookselling is that we never reveal who purchased a book. That's what opposition to the Patriot Act is all about. But I wrote to Cameron and asked if it was ok, and since I got permission (the way Bunch of Grapes must do when asked what the Obamas bought on vacation) to say that Cameron bought his copy of The Tortoise and the Hare from us. Needless to say, I was quite the giddy schoolgirl about the whole thing.

And like any proud bookseller, I'm pretty sure he was happy with the purchase. For despite being a totally different book in tone, it is one of those very novels written in the fifties that hints at coming changes, seeming at once so very period and surprisingly modern.

I don't know if you've read Peter Cameron's past fiction, but I think I've read everything he's published, except maybe for the second short story collection, which I still regret. From One Way or Another to Someday This Pain Will be Useful to You, Cameron has created a body of work where each work, despite its differences, shares a haunting tone laced with humor, a powerful voice, and a remarkable way with language.

I love them all but I would say the three that have stayed with me the longest are City of Your Final Destination, The Weekend, and the sadly out of print Leap Year, which was written in installments for a newspaper, a la Tales of the City. Now I don't know if Cameron's first novel will hold up twenty years later, and honestly I'm not sure I want to know. I'm scared that if I don't like it at much, it will destroy my good memories. Funny how that is.

That's the beauty of art. When I read Coral Glynn, I announce that despite his having synthesized many, many works of this time period, this is so extremely and individually a welcome addition to the Cameron canon. And the book's coda, which perhaps turned it from a great work into one I wanted to hug to my chest and maybe give a little peck to, is an homage to Pym, whether intended or not.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Last Minute Things to Know About Jennifer Chiaverini's Event at the Public Market

I'm almost off to the Public Market (400 North Water Street) for our event with Jennifer Chiaverini, author of the Elm Creek Quilt novels and the newest, Sonoma Rose. As always, Ms. Chiaverini is offering fabric bundles as a door prize. Thank goodness we just traded emails--I'll be collecting names for the drawing.
We're co-sponsoring the event with Thief Wine. With any purchase of Sonoma Rose, in addition to the latest collectible pin, you will get $3 off any glass (or for designated drivers, bottle) of wine at Thief Market today.

We've just booked our next event at the Public Market for Saturday, May 5, 11 am. It's Jenny Lewis and her new book, Midwest Sweet Baking. She'll be bringing treats.

I continue to put out our new boxes from Poland, and now that we have our new table that pairs Polish books and boxes, I've got several new varieties on display. I've had some very nice comments about our musical instrument themed boxes, but I'm a sucker for stained wood, and this blue floral box may just be my favorite.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ten Things I Did Today While Trying to Work Off Nervous Energy for Tonight's Event with Nathan Englander.

1. At the moment, I am just about to set up chairs for Nathan Englander's event in conjunction with the release of his acclaimed short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. Someone called and asked when the talk about Anne Frank would be. Here are some other things I've been working on.

2. Writing an advance recommendation for Natalie Bakopoulos's first novel, The Green Shore. As is the practice, I will not be saying what I said so far in advance of the book's release, but I can say that I liked it a lot. I was just explaining the hold-for-publication practice of reviewing books, but how the more public presence of trade reviewers like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus has shaken up that model.

3. I've been confirming several events. We're hosting another round of kids' events this spring, capped* by Kate DiCamillo's appearance at Centennial Hall on Tuesday, April 17, 7 pm. We've got several suburban and neighborhood library events lined up as well, at Franklin, Greenfield, Shorewood, and Bay View. If you're an area library with the energy to help promote an event, you should be in touch with me. I'll have the schedule in a future blog.

4. We need supplies! I turned around and we're almost out of our Dunder Mifflin copy paper. We need more Boswell Benefits sign-up sheets and Boswell's Best bookmarks. And we needed to go back to our supplier of pricing gun labels. We ordered replacement labels for the Avery Dennison 210, but they sent us ten rolls fit for the 216.

5. Amie's paying bills. I started signing checks today, but tomorrow bodes for a big pile of signatures.

6. We've got four big conferences in March, and I've been frantic, collating authors, recommended titles, and in some cases, notable new titles. I think everything is open to the public. There's the Green Energy Summit on March 7-9, UWM Spring Writers workshop on March 9-11, the Wisconsin Restarant Show on March 12-14, and the UWM Spring Leadership Conference on March 30. When I take a breath, I'll come back and link to tickets for each.
7. We needed more journals from Paperblanks, and for some reason, address books. I thought you weren't buying any address books any more, but as is the case in these things, you need the right address books. The Paperblanks ones are too pretty to pass up for technology. Alas, some of my frontlist order cancelled without being filled from last year and I was missing many of the newer baroque styles. Never fear, they are reordered.

8. And greeting cards too. We have no overstock of wedding/anniversary/baby. An order just came in from Compendium. Alas, they are cards that need to be price stickered and we can't do that, due to item #4.
9. Print event signs for Stacie! For some reason, our extension cord stopped working for our break room printer. We can't seem to get the wifi to work either. So everything needs to be put on a stick and moved to my laptop. The only problem with that is that my connection also doesn't always work. Oh, and sometimes I'm not here.

10. Oh, and there are something like 648 emails I haven't quite replied to. Someone asked for a photo of the store's interior. Done! Apologies in advance to everyone else (except for the 50 or so emails I did reply to).

*By capped, I sort of mean highlighted, whereas Stacie thought it meant last. It is almost our last kids' event of the season, at least so far.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's Happening This Week at Boswell? Englander and Chiaverini, Events with the Florentine and In Tandem Theatre, Plus We're Off to UWM's Golda Meir Library.

I get in these weird funks where I don't want to do the very thing that has the most imminent deadline. Needless to say, today's blog should be about what's coming up for the week. It should have posted before 11 am. Instead it's close to 5 and I've just finished making our "Carol Anshaw is coming March 27" sticker for our Indie Next fliers.

This is not a new marketing strategy for us, as we did the same thing for our Nathan Englander February fliers. And Englander is the very person I was supposed to talk about first for this very what's happening post. He's appearing tomorrow, Tuesday, February 21, 7 pm. We went back and bought another dozen copies of What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, due to a solid weekend of Englander sales. Stacy Schiff reviewed the book for the front page of The New York Times Book Review. And Mike Fischer's review ran in yesterday's Journal Sentinel. We should have a very, very, very, very good time tomorrow night.

On to Wednesday, February 22, 5:30 pm, where we mention our Jennifer Chiaverni event for Sonoma Rose, going on with Thief Wine at the Public Market, 400 North Water Street. The book isn't even on sale until tomorrow, so this is what one calls a launch event. Here's more in the Journal Sentinel, whose eat-a-tron suggest Ryan Braun's Graffito for your dining pleasure.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (also on Wednesday, February 22, at 7 pm), Stacie will be hosting the Florentine Opera is at Boswell for their beloved Opera Insights series, featuring Corliss Phillabaum and the Florentine Opera Studio. And I quote:

"Susannah tells the story of an innocent 19-year-old girl branded as a sinner in a 1950s Tennessee community, bringing to light the tragic consequences of intolerance, betrayal and revenge.

"Maestro Joseph Mechavich, highly praised by composer Carlisle Floyd for his masterful interpretation of the Susannah score, leads the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as the Florentine Opera presents this stirring twentieth-century American classic to our audiences for the first time.

"Betty Waynne Allison (Susannah) and Wayne Tigges (Blitch) make their Florentine Opera debuts, while tenors Jonathan Boyd and Rodell Rosel return to the Florentine stage. Chorus Master Scott Stewart unleashes the power of the Florentine Opera Chorus in compelling ensembles and fervent hymns in an enthralling production directed by William Florescu."

Tickets for the March 16 and 18 performances are available on their website.

Thursday, February 23, we're off the Golda Meir Library for a talk by Barbara Brown Lee called "Ruth Grotenrath and Schomer Lichtner: The Artists and Their Art", featuring two books from the Museum of Wisconsin Art, In Celebration: The Life and Art of Ruth Grotenrath and In the Moment: The Life and Art of Schomer Lichtner. This event begins at the earlybird special time of 6 pm.

Lee is the chief educator at the Milwaukee Art Museum. This talk, like many things we're associated with, is very valuable, and yet free. More here.

On Friday, February 24, 2 pm, we are a talk from director Chris Flieller plus a scene preview from In Tandem Theatre's new production of The Chosen. The show opens March 2; here is the calendar of performances.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Welcome to the Week That Was (the One Ending February 18, 2012)--A Bunch of Events, Unseasonably Warm Weather, and The Resulting Bestsellers.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo
2. The End of Illness, by David B. Agus
3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain (third week in the top five!)
4. All There Is: Love Stories from Storycorps, by David Isay
5. Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner

Boo, staff writer for The New Yorker, is winning raves for her "intimate, unforgettable portrait of India's urban poor," to quote Kirkus.  But that's just one of the breakout titles of the last few weeks. Publishing folks love to publish breakout fiction in January and February because the books seem to get more attention, but nonfiction really pops as well. And we'd probably have had William Broad's The Science of Yoga on the list too, if only we and the wholesalers hadn't run out of copies.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Friends Like Us, by Lauren Fox (who is pictured reading her excellent review in People Magazine)
2. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, by Nathan Englander (event 2/21)
3. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
4. The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey
5. Goodnight iPad, by Ann Droyd

One doesn't expect to have so much excitement in the middle of February, but a barrage of great author events mixed with mild weather, gave us a really run week of bestsellers. So great to see The Snow Child picking up some traction. I'm pretty sure I listed Sharon's rec for the book here earlier.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Townie, by Andre Dubus III
2. Cupcakes, Cookies, and Pie, Oh My!, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson
3. Scout, Atticus, and Boo, by Mary McDonagh Murphy
4. Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street, by John Nichols
5. Bossypants, by Tina Fey

Nichols's new release is just one of the Wisconsin protest books that we have been selling well at Boswell. I think it's time for a roundup, perhaps on a blog later this week. I assume he is doing an event somewhere for someone. As soon as I figure out the answer, I'll let you know.

All my close-up photos of Andre Dubus III from Friday night's event are a bit blurry. I may have to upgrade to a better camera. The blurriness is perfectly represents, however, the kinetic energy of Dubus, the boisterous of the evening, combined with the emotional intensity of the subject. The publisher tour is pretty much over, but he's appearing at schools all over the place for the rest of the year, and there is still Newtonville on February 28.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Still Life with Husband, by Lauren Fox
2. The Quiet Twin, by Dan Vyleta
3. Ten Thousand Saints, by Eleanor Henderson (event 2/29)
4. The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown
5. The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt

What's more intense, the battle of the family members (husband versus twin versus sister, versus sister versus brother?) or battle of the Eleanors?  To me, this is an exciting list, as there are a lot of fresh faces, and the potential of knockouts. Perhaps I am still stuck on Townie and all its boxing.

Books for Kids:
1. Cold Cereal, by Adam Rex
2. The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex
3. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, by Adam Rex
4. Frankenstein Takes the Cake, by Adam Rex
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
6. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
7. Hug Time, by Patrick McDonnell
8. Brother Sun, Sister Moon, by Katherine Paterson
9. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
10. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

I expanded to ten because I thought it would be a little boring to have an all Adam Rex list, but expanding it to ten just gave us a bunch of Suzanne Collins. Hug Time was definitely our go-to Valentine's Day book this year. And it's nice to see that we are keeping up with John Green sales. We've got a great rec from Pam at the front of the store with our display.

Signed copies available of all of the new books from last week's events--Townie, Friends Like Us, Cold Cereal (actually from 2/10 but as an offsite, it's sale wandered into the next week), The Quiet Twin, Scout, Atticus & Boo, and Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh My! You can also reserve a signed copy for any of our upcoming events.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--New Book Jacket Tee Shirts, Journals, and Coasters

As I think I mentioned previously, I didn't think I'd get our Penguin Classics mugs seven months after they were ordered, but they were certainly welcome. Coincidentally I was in the process of restocking our Out of Print tee selection, and since they had an incentive special, we went a little deeper into the line, bringing in Lolita, The Bell Jar, Ulysses, and A Clockwork Orange. Inadvertently, I also brought in a few of their alternative design for The Great Gatsby--that was just a question of marking the wrong line for reorder.

Because there are so many sizes, we generally don't buy more than two of any sku, and often just one. But what I didn't count on was that the Boswellians would immediately pick off several I bought in singles. If our customers react as warmly to the new selection as our booksellers, we should be reordering soon.

My only beef is that the v-neck tees are a bit inconsistent. Some have a very deep v while others are more modest.

In addition to the tees (and did I mention their Books for Africa program, where a book is donated for each tee sold?), we also brought in a selection of their journals, their coaster set, and an assortment of blank greeting cards.

So this ties in well to our new moderns-from-classics display, which we've had a lot of fun putting together. But that's for another post.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Enjoy Jennifer Chiaverini at the Public Market, and Have Some Wine (Partially) on Us, Wednesday, February 22, 5:30 pm.

If you've been paying attention to our events with Jennifer Chiaverini, you've probably noticed that we've developed a very nice partnership with Patched Works in Elm Grove. Of course that didn't mean we weren't going to challenge ourselves with each event. Our first event was at Boswell, our second was at the Sunset Playhouse, and our third was at the Elm Grove Woman's Club. OK, I confess, it would be sort of lovely to have a formula.

But then I heard that Patched Works was having a retreat in early March, at the Olympia Resort and Spa (March 8-11, to be exact), and honestly, how could Chiaverini not appear at that? And being that the Olympia is so close to our friends Books & Company, it made sense for them to be the designated bookseller. It looks like tickets are still available, by the way. I have learned from Julie and Jennifer that retreats are a big deal for quilters. Who knew?

So that left us with yet another opportunity to break the event mold. I asked Ms. Chiaverini if she had any ideas about a good partnership, and she said to me, the new book, Sonoma Rose, has a wine theme. Can you do something with that? So we went to our friends at the Milwaukee Public Market and asked if they wanted to team up with Thief Wine to put together something different. So that's what we're doing next Wednesday, February 22, at 5:30 pm.

Thief Wine was started by Aimee Murphy and Phil Bilodeau (pictured). At each of their locations (they have another just north of us in Shorewood), they stock 600 wines, and have about 30-35 wines available by the glass in their wine bar. Just in the time that I was setting up this event, Phil had been to Europe and California searching for perfect wines for their operation.

Note the special time. This gives folks working downtown and the Third Ward (and Walker's Point, and the East Side, and the Marquette area, and even beyond, as you are travelling against rush hour traffic) a chance to have relax with Chiaverini before heading home. We're hoping that other attendees will get a sitter for a girls' night out. And then of course there are a good number of Chiaverini's fans who are retired. Her is as broad and diverse as a giant patchwork quilt, though of course, I have noticed that I haven't met too many of her fans who are anti-quilting.

Sonoma Rose is set on a Californa rye farm, during prohibition. Rosa Diaz Barclay has eight kids, but four have succumbed to a mysterious wasting disease. Rosa winds up fleeing the farm (and her volatile husband with her surviving kids, and in her new mess of a situation, is rescued by her first love. Hey, I'm not going to give the plot away to you--let's just note that Rosa winds up in wine country, where she becomes determined to learn the fine (but still outlawed) craft. And yes, she's a quilter.

If you or someone you know reads the series but have yet to meet Chiaverini, you're in for a treat. Her talks are warm and witty, and it's almost as if you're chatting with the gang about mutual friends. Here's more things you need to know.

--Chiaverini will be giving out the commemorative Sonoma Rose pin with every purchase of the new novel.

--We'll be offering a $3 coupon off any glass or bottle (so folks who are driving don't feel left out) of wine at Thief Wine in the Public Market with each purchase of Sonoma Rose, good only on Wednesday, March 22.

--The Public Market offers an hour of free parking with any purchase in their Water Street lot. Most meters in the area are $1.50 per hour, but only run until 6 pm, so that option might be even less expensive.

--The Public Market is located at 400 North Water Street, just under the 794 freeway downtown. For dinner, I don't think you can do better for a sit-down meal than the St. Paul Fish Market. Wednesday is the king crab dinner special! (OK, there are plenty of other great places to go, including the Cafe Benelux across the street. Pannekoeken really are pancakes on steroids.)

We'll have a nice assortment of backlist, but I have learned from these events that most fans have all the older titles. It's really all about the new book, Sonoma Rose, which goes on sales just the day before.

See you there!