Friday, August 31, 2012

Our Cup Runneth Over, Fruity Beverage Division--Fall Kids' Events from Libba Bray and John Flanagan and Nick Bruel and James Dashner and John and Carole E. Barrowman and Orson Scott Card and...

So last year we made a great poster of kids’ events that we placed at various libraries in the metro area. We were even able to promote Kate DiCamillo’s event in the library the following April on the fall schedule.

This fall we can’t fit all the events in the poster. So we’re making two posters, one featuring events starting with Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty appearance at Greenfield Public Library on September 19 (details below) and another poster with our events starting later. And yes, not everything is booked yet, so there will be updates. I’m only including the confirmed events. Take a deep breath.

Wednesday, September 19, 6:30 pm, at Greenfield Public Library
5310 W. Layton Ave., Greenfield WI 53220:
Nick Bruel, author of Bad Kitty for President and Bad Kitty Christmas. And yes, Bad Kitty is also attending!
Recommended age 4-10.

Wednesday, September 26, 6:30 pm, at Bay View Library,
2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53207:
Tonya Hurley, author of The Blessed and Ghostgirl
Recommended age 12 and up.

Thursday, September 27, 6:30 pm at Cudahy Family Library,
3500 E. Library Dr., south of Layton Ave., Cudahy WI 53110:
James Dashner, author of The Infinity Ring: Infinity Ring Book 1: A Mutiny in Time and The Maze Runner, and The Kill Order.
Recommended age 8-13 but Dashner's other novels are probably for ages 12 and up.

Tuesday, October 2, 6:30 pm, at North Shore Library,
6800 N. Port Washington Rd., Glendale WI 53217:
Patricia MacLachlan, author of The Boxcar Children Beginnings: The Aldens of Fair Meadows Farm and Sarah Plain and Tall.
Recommended ages 7-12

Thursday, October 4, 6:30 pm, at Milwaukee Public Library’s Centennial Hall, 733 N Eighth St., Milwaukee, WI 53233:
Libba Bray, author of The Diviners, A Great and Terrible Beauty, and Beauty Queens. Come in costume! The top three get Boswell gift cards (and the winner's gift card is for $50, which is not small change).

Thursday, October 11, 6:30 pm, at St. Francis Library,
4230 S. Nicholson Ave., St. Francis, WI 53235:
Marla Frazee, author and illustrator of Boot and Shoe, and illustrator of Clementine (written by Sara Pennypacker) and All the World (written by Liz Garton Scanlon.)
Recommended for ages 4-8.

Wednesday, October 17, 6:30 pm, at Shorewood Public Library,
3920 N. Murray Ave., Shorewood WI 53211:
Andy Rash, illustrator of The Creature from the Seventh Grade: Boy or Beast? and writer and illustrator of Are You a Horse?
To be clear, Bob Balaban is not attending this event.
The new book is targeted to ages 9-14 but Rash's picture books are more 4-8.

Friday, October 26, 4 pm, at Boswell Book Company,
2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211:
Derek Anderson, illustrator of Waking Dragons (written by Jane Yolen), Little Quack (written by Lauren Thompson), and Hot Rod Hamster (written by Cynthia Lord).
Recommended for ages 4-8.

Tuesday, October 30, 6:30 pm, at West Allis Public Library,
7421 W. National Ave., West Allis, WI 53214:
Michelle Hodkin, author of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Wednesday, October 31, 7 pm, at Boswell Book Company,
2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211:
Orson Scott Card, author of Ruins: Pathfinder Trilogy, Volume 2 and Ender’s Game.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Friday, November 2, 7 pm, at Alerno College’s Wehr Hall,
3401 S. 39th St., Milwaukee, WI 53215:
John and Carole E. Barrowman, authors of the UK bestseller Hollow Earth.
Recommended for ages 8-13.

Thursday, November 8, 6:30 pm, at Shorewood Public Library,
3920 N. Murray Ave., Shorewood, WI 53211:
John Flanagan, author of Brotherband Chronicles Book 3: The Hunter and The Ranger’s Apprentice series, volume one of which is The Ruins of Gorian.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Such a great collection of authors, and surely you can say there is someone for just about anyone here. In addition, Jasper Fforde has a new kids’ book coming out, The Last Dragonslayer. He’s at Boswell on Wednesday, October 10, for his new adult book, The Woman Who Died a Lot. And several other authors, like Terry Brooks, who is coming on Tuesday, September 11 for Wards of Faerie: The Dark Legacy of Shannara, have a strong kids’ crossover as well.

In other words, don’t triage the rest of the schedule if you’re looking for cool things to do with someone who can't vote yet. And if they are interested in voting, I should remind you that Bad Kitty is making a campaign stop on September 19.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

September Preview—Behind Michael Ennis’s The Malice of Fortune (Appearing Monday, Sept. 17, 7 pm)

The Malice of Fortune started, like many titles, as a book looking for love in all the wrong places. Michael Ennis had a storied career teaching art history, curating art exhibits, and developing museum programs for the Rockefeller Foundation. He also wrote two books The Duchess of Milan (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989) and Byzantium (Viking, 1992), both currently out of print. And since that last book, twenty years ago, he has apparently been working on a novel about the Italian Renaissance.

After the author found a believing agent in Dan Lazar, the manuscript went through two rounds of submissions, with the manuscript weighing in around 200,000 words (that’s probably over 600 pages). Finally an editor named Lara Hinchberger at the Canadian publisher McClelland and Stewart picked it up for publication and edited it to about 125,000 words. And then they set out to come up with a plan to send it out again.

According to Publishers Weekly, Lazar confessed his frustration at selling the book to the owner of Pudd’nhead Books outside St. Louis, who once worked for Lazar. As they noted in the story, it was like the Algonquin ad with booksellers, or as I see it, soliciting for quotes for the Indie Bound list, but before the book is even published.

I am particularly fascinated by Lazar’s tenacity in this endeavor. You heard of great success stories after much failure, but usually the the struggle is about getting an agent. That’s author tenacity. But one can only suppose that it is a rare thing for an agent to pick up a project and work on selling it for over two years. Like a bookseller who usually has to give up and move on to handselling another book that is stickier, it’s a rare thing to carry on in the face of so much rejection. Yow.

And that’s where we came into the story. Mr. Lazar and I had been corresponding about Julie Pandl’s memoir (that’s for another post) and he asked me about Conrad. He had been scanning the Indie Next recommendations for booksellers who liked a certain kind of historical fiction with a thriller element, and saw that Conrad was a fan of Umberto Eco. Would he be interested in reading a manuscript? And just for good measure, we were chatting about Italian history, an interest of Jason’s, and Lazar decided to send a copy to Jason as well.

And lo, they both read The Malice of Fortune and liked it enough to send Lazar a rec, and that was without prodding. And later I heard that of the 48 people asked to read the book, and more than half read the book and sent positive replies. That's an astoundingly large response percentage.

Here’s Jason:
"What Michael Ennis does in The Malice of Fortune is no less than complete genius—he transports the reader into an atmospheric world that I would call ‘Umberto Eco-esque’ and it works beautifully. Surrounded by intrigue and murder, Damiata has to go on an errand for the pope to help protect her son and to possibly find her father’s murderer. Along the way she has to help in the likes of da Vinci and Machiavelli--two of the most brilliant minds in Renaissance Italy, though she is a complete match to their wits. What most impressed me, though, was the attention to detail that Ennis gives to this time period. The historical accuracy that he imbues is astounding, from the political intrigue to that the individual city states had to the historical characters and their motivations. This is one novel not to be missed!"

And here’s Conrad:
"The Malice of Fortune is a tightly-crafted murder mystery set in the early sixteenth century Italian Renaissance of Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli. It calls to mind nothing so much as Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, in comparison to which it holds up nicely. Who better than da Vinci to bring a nascent scientific mind to an otherwise bewildering set of clues…Who better than Machiavelli to navigate the convoluted intrigues of a corrupt political system that has everything to do with the mystery and its solution? And the two are united by the main character, a more or less retired high-class and well-educated courtesan (or ‘honest whore,’ as she styles herself) who happens to have been the lover of the pope’s murdered son and the mother of his (the pope’s) grandson. This will appeal to mystery buffs and fans of historical fiction alike. Please publish this so I can sell it."

And just for good measure, here are a few more.

“The Malice of Fortune suggests, with Machiavelli and Livy, that the ‘study of history is the best medicine for present ills’—and Ennis masterfully breathes life into that history.”
--Ed Conklin, Chaucer’s Bookstore, Santa Barbara, California

“The Malice of Fortune is historical fiction at its very best. History lovers will love the research and detail. Fiction lovers will love the twists, turns, and narrative…I look forward to handing this book to my customers who loved The Name of the Rose and The Shadow of the Wind.”
--Sally Brewster, Park Road Books, Charlotte, North Carolina

“There are a lot of moving parts to this book—it’s a serial killer murder mystery, a paintstakingly researched historical fiction, a peek behind the scenes of the writing of The Prince, a family story, and a love story—but it all comes together and packs one hell of a punch.”
--Jenn Northington, WORD, Brooklyn, New York

The Malice of Fortune was like a window into the past. As soon as I read the first page I found myself transported into the world of the Borgias, a world filled with powerful people and more powerful secrets.”
--Paul Fyke, Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi

And I could go on...for a long time. I was intrigued enough to read Malice of Fortune myself, not necessarily at the manuscript stage, but after we got a placement on Michael Ennis’s reading and appearance tour. I was intrigued by the idea of Ennis imagining the motivations for the events that likely led to Machiavelli later writing The Prince. The fictional character of Damiata is yes, a courtesan, but also someone who is both connected to the plot, and also everywoman enough to draw you into the story.

I asked Jason about the brutal killings in the book, knowing that he’s read a lot about this period of history. Is it a bit outlandish to think that such things would happen, and Jason replied, “There was a lot of crazy stuff going on at that time. It is absolutely not inconceivable.

You don’t think of me reading big fat historical novels with thriller elements but I’ve read a few, and I was reminded a bit of Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth. I also think that folks who liked Elizabeth Kostova’s novels, particularly if they liked the first one for more than for its being a vampire novel.  Other booksellers mentioned David Liss, Alison Weir, Max Hastings, C.J. Sansom, Sharon Kay Penman, and Cara Black

Coincidentally, I worked at Warner Books when we published the paperback version of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, and helped out with the publicity. Embarrassing confession of the day, I never finished reading the book, though I can state with pride that my mother and one of my sisters did, and I quoted them both liberally.

Michael Ennis will be appearing at Boswell to discuss and read from The Malice of Fortune on Monday, September 17, 7 pm.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Particularly Good Harvest of September Indie Next Recs--So Good We're Hosting Five of the Authors.

Once upon a time, we didn’t even write recommendations down. When I started bookselling in the mid 1980s, we didn’t have staff recs, we didn’t have a newsletter, and we certainly didn’t have an email newsletter or blog. And there was no Indie Bound selection either. I can only imagine mailing our bookseller recommendations to a publisher, or perhaps calling them in, the way we called in most of our backlist orders, the ones that were too urgent to mail.

Now we write recs like crazy. I think it almost becomes a competitive thing. I feel guilty when I like a book and don’t do anything about it. There’s this perception that this could make a difference, help not just an author, but an editor or a publicist. But mostly I and other booksellers do it for the feeling you get when a customer comes back to Boswell and tells you how much he or she loved the book. Exhibit A? L., who was shopping at the store last Saturday, and told me how much she adored Dean Bakopoulos's My American Unhappiness. Hilarious and heartwarming, with astute political observations. Hooray!

I just have two rules—you have to finish the book and you can’t lie. That said, there are sometimes books that I like, and there are other books that I love. Both deserve a rec, especially when I can read a book and absolutely know that there’s someone out there for the book that will love it.

You can see the difference when a lot of booksellers get behind a book. Our sales on The Dog Stars have been particularly strong, and several folks buying a copy noted that seeing Jason, Stace, and Shane all over the moon about this title helped convince them to make the purchase.

Interestingly enough, we have adult five fiction writers on our September schedule, and all of them have had great reads from Boswell Booksellers. In fact, four of them are on the Indie Next list for September—Emma Straub, Michael Ennis, Jonathan Evison, and Adam McOmber. And the only reason that Emily St. John Mandel, who is coming Saturday, September 15, 7 pm, for The Lola Quartet, is not on the list, is that her book came out last May, where it was, you guessed it, the #1 Indie Next Pick. So here are the five titles with Indie Next recommendations in September.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, by Jonathan Evison (Algonauin, our event is 9/12, 7 pm)
“What a heartfelt journey we travel in this capriciously tragic story of Benjamin Benjamin Jr., caregiver extraordinaire. His charge, Trev, is a 19-year-old suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, or, as Ben describes him, ‘a pretzel with a perfectly healthy imagination.’ Ben is suffering, too. He is trying to recover from a personal tragedy that has left him without a family or a job. To read this book is to be in a constant, conflicting state between tears and laughter.” —Lynn Riggs, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, WI

#1 Pick: The Lola Quartet, by Emily St. John Mandel (Unbridled, our event is 9/15, 7 pm)
“In her latest, St. John Mandel shows how relationships formed in high school, so often fraught with drama, can ebb and flow and fade and come back to haunt. Among her characters, the perception of what’s important and the potential impact of actions varies widely, and something as seemingly insignificant as a photograph can become riddled with layers of meaning, differing for each person who sees it. The writing is taut, the characters well wrought, and St. John Mandel’s characteristic infusions of moral ambiguity and complexity remind us, as good novels should, of what it means to be human.” — Emily Pullen, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA (Note to readers—Emily is now at Word in Brooklyn.)

The Malice of Fortune, by Michael Ennis (Knopf, our event is 9/17, 7 pm)
“Ennis brings to life the chaos and mayhem of the Italy that inspired Machiavelli’s The Prince. An unlikely trio teams up to solve the most notorious murder of the Italian Renaissance: the assassination of the Borgia Pope’s favorite son. Niccolò Machiavelli believes he can solve the mystery by studying human behavior. Leonardo da Vinci believes that carefully measuring all the elements of the crime will lead him to the killer. Then there is Damiata, the courtesan, who knows an unhealthy amount of Borgia secrets. This tale will keep you guessing right up to the thrilling conclusion.” —Sarah Harvey, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, by Emma Straub (Riverhead, our event is 9/18, 7 pm)
“Despite what the gorgeous dresses, extravagant jewelry, and exotic mansions might suggest, movie stars are people, too. Elsa Emerson learns as a nine-year-old in Door County, Wisconsin, that she loves the limelight, and she spends her life both seeking it out and resisting it. Elsa moves to Hollywood, becomes film star Laura Lamont, loves, loses, succeeds, and fails. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures gives readers a well-crafted, wistful, inside look into the glory days of Tinseltown.” —Hannah Johnson-Breimeier, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI

The White Forest, by Adam McOmber (Touchstone, our event is 9/26, 7 pm)
“Jane Silverlake is a lost soul when Maddy and Nathan find her. Jane is different, however; she can feel and hear the souls of manmade objects. Jane reveals herself to Maddy and Nathan, hoping she can trust them with her burden, so she does not have to be alone with it. She is wrong, and when Nathan disappears, Jane’s world begins to crumble around her. McOmber has delivered an ingenious, haunting tale full of mystery and dread.” —Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

And look at that, three Milwaukee-area bookstores are represented. Actually there are five recs from Wisconsin among the top 20 titles o
n the rec list, as well as three of the top twelve “now in paperback” selections. I’m not sure why.
We have two recommendations on the September list actually.

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel, by Louise Penny
“In the eighth mystery in this popular series, Chief Inspector Gamache finds himself investigating a murder in a remote abbey in the wilds of the Canadian forest. The only clue appears to involve an ancient form of church music, the very earliest Gregorian chant. As usual, Penny’s complex characters and their multidimensional relationships, as well as the unusual setting, make this a fascinating reading experience. Each book in the series is better than the one before.” —Anne McMahon, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

We were hoping that our continued enthusiasm for Louise Penny might make a difference, but alas, we didn’t make the tour. Here’s the schedule. Sorry that I didn’t think of posting this list until after the author was in Naperville.

Here’s the rest of the September picks. And coming tomorrow? An agent solicits recs, Indie Bound style, to sell a manuscript.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Acclaimed Poet John Koethe's ROTC Kills on sale Today--Join Us for a Celebratory Launch on Friday, September 7.

I know as little about poetry as the last time I wrote about it. But honestly, do I know anything about novels, or memoirs, or anything besides a few nonfiction niches where I’ve read enough to catch an error? When it comes to literature, what’s an error anyway?

So I think about this as I ponder John Koethe’s newest collection, ROTC Kills, in advance of our launch event on Friday, September 7, 7 pm. The book goes on sale today.

Of course unless it a book-length work, most poets poets don’t have a structural theme that runs through their collection. That said, you can see what Koethe is contemplating at this point in his life, and I can imagine it’s very different from the works in his first book, which seems like its (apologies for the shoddy research) 1969’s Blue Vents.

Koethe has retired, and is thinking about one thinks about when one isn’t obsessing over work matters. Poems such as “Dreams at 65” and “The End of the Line” raise the questions that we all think about in life. They just use better words than the rest of us.

There’s no question my gateway experience to appreciating poetry was listening to the spoken word at our events. The meter is there, though it’s not as structured as say, our poetry events that have celebrated sonnets and villanelles. Sometimes Koethe’s style will recall a personal essay (particularly “The Reality of the Past” and “Like Gods”), but the connective fabric will ground the piece in poetry.

Whether he is talking about fishing at a cottage house, or recalling his undergraduate years at Princeton, or the political activism at Harvard (title poem), a hospital visit recently, or one to a movie theater in his childhood, the poems (even “Alfred Hitchcock”, which almost serves as a film festival benediction), almost always seems to come back to our place and purpose in the world.

And of course it doesn’t hurt to know a little philosophy, another area where I am remiss. Sigh. But my advantage is that sometimes I'll get a glimpse into a poem based on an earlier conversation we had at the bookstore. I certainly know that Koethe was very happy to get his chosen title for the collection, which he feared would be controversial.

Before I read the collection, I wondered whether the book was about political activism in the past, or a call to arms for political activism in the present. But I was barking up the wrong tree. Like much of the poems in this collection, this political poster is a touchstone for looking at the past, and how its memory resonates and changes in the present. Having also been reading a couple of books that dabble in neuroscience, I have become quite aware to not quite trust memories, and I think Koethe might have had an overlapping reading list.

A little reminder about the awards for Mr. Koethe’s previous collections:
North Point North was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Falling Water won the Kingsley-Tufts Award.
Ninety-Fifth Street was awarded the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

As the board noted, “John Koethe's candidness is unique among contemporary poets. In remarkably direct and transparent language, he writes about familiar things and ordinary moments that the reader will almost certainly have no trouble recognizing. 'For that's what poetry is—a way to live through time / And sometimes, just for a while, to bring it back.'”

Join us on September 7 for a celebratory evening of poetry.

Monday, August 27, 2012

This Week We’re Hosting Giulio Tononi, Author of Phi--Our Last Week with One Event Until Sometime After Thanksgiving.

We always have folks asking for a great science event. Why can’t Brian Greene visit Boswell? Could you host Michio Kaku? Isn’t Antonio Damasio touring? This is not too different from requests in other categories, and I generally have the same answer. Because we don't pay for our authors to come, we are at the whim of the folks with the purse strings*. Take more chances on unknown authors. You could be pleasantly surprised. All three of the authors above did Schwartz before they built their reputations. In short, in a market like Milwaukee, for a free event, you’ve got to catch these guys on the way up.

So that’s why I’m telling you that your calendar should be marked for our event with Giulio Tononi, author of Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul.

Tononi’s provocative story features the great Galileo himself, as he sets off to discovery what makes consciousness. His partners in the journey are, respectively, Francis Crick, Alan Turing, and Charles Darwin. I’ll let Pantheon say a bit more.

“Galileo’s journey has three parts, each with a different guide. In the first, accompanied by a scientist who resembles Francis Crick, he learns why certain parts of the brain are important and not others, and why consciousness fades with sleep. In the second part, when his companion seems to be named Alturi (Galileo is hard of hearing; his companion’s name is actually Alan Turing), he sees how the facts assembled in the first part can be unified and understood through a scientific theory—a theory that links consciousness to the notion of integrated information (also known as phi). In the third part, accompanied by a bearded man who can only be Charles Darwin, he meditates on how consciousness is an evolving, developing, ever-deepening awareness of ourselves in history and culture—that it is everything we have and everything we are.”

Here are some other folks who feel the same way.

“Giulio Tononi is a man of bold and original mind who has developed a fundamental new theory of consciousness. In Phi, he calls on all the resources of drama, metaphor, and the visual arts to present his scientific insights, in the form of imaginary dialogues in which Galileo meets Francis Crick, Alan Turing, and other major thinkers of the twentieth century. This is an astonishing (and risky) literary device, but Tononi pulls it off triumphantly. He makes the deepest neuroscientific insights come alive.”
--Oliver Sacks, author of Musicophilia

“This wonderful book reads like a popcorn novel but informs like a primer on consciousness and where it comes from. By turns exciting, challenging, and thought provoking, Giulio Tononi’s marvelous imagination explores the origin of thought, sensation, and feeling. Learning about the difference between the cerebrum and the cerebellum doesn’t sound like fun, but here you encounter them amidst fat friars shouting in vulgar Latin, nymphs of radiant beauty, and a mysterious juggler on a unicycle. I’ve always taken pride in being a conscious, sentient being; after reading Phi, I’m beginning to understand what it means when I say that!”
--Leonard Mlodinow, author of Subliminal and The Drunkard's Walk

“You may or may not endorse Giulio Tononi’s views on how the brain generates consciousness, but you can certainly agree that his book is a garden of intellectual delights.”
--Antonio Damasio, author of Self Comes to Mind and Descartes’ Error

May I also add that all the folks who attended either of our wonderful events with Dava Sobel should also attend.

And now a bit about the author. Giulio Tononi is a professor of psychiatry, the David P. White Professor of Sleep Medicine, and the Distinguished Chair in Consciousness Science at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to the major scientific journals, his work has appeared in New Scientist, Science Daily, and Scientific American. His research has been the subject of articles in The New York Times and The Economist. He is the coauthor, with Nobel laureate Gerald Edelman, of A Universe of Consciousness.

One day, Professor Tononi will no longer be teaching at UW Madison. He’ll be on a big lecture tour. And one of you will walk up to me and say, why can’t you host someone like Giulio Tononi? And I will sigh.

*The holders of said purse strings are generally publishers, sometimes sponsoring organizations or schools, and most often, the authors themselves.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Bestsellers, Week Ending August 25--Michael Perry Vanquishes with His Event Sales, but There Are Lots of Other Interesting Tidbits.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
2. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
3. Canada, by Richard Ford
4. Sacré Bleu, by Christopher Moore
5. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

I was just having a conversation with Pauls Toutonghi about Seattle and how it’s a great place to set a novel—a large literate population, a relatively new wealthy population in what was once a middle class city, and influential people who like to read about themselves. And sure enough, we’ve been doing quite well with Where’d You Go Bernadette?, by Maria Semple, who has a great pedigree in TV writing, but who seemed to get less attention for her last novel, This One is Mine. Now L.A. is also a large dynamic market, but it’s been said that novels set in L.A. seem to have an extra burden.

The new book is about a mom who disappears from her Microsoft family, outsourcing all her responsibilities to a virtual assistant. The story is told through her daughter Bee. Carolyn Kellogg in the Los Angeles Times (but the link is to the San Jose Mercury News, as it's cleaner) said that she wasn’t the prime target for the novel’s setup but the review is a rave, calling it “a fantastic, funny novel.”

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Visiting Tom, by Michael Perry
2. Paris: A Love Story, by Kati Marton
3. Healing the Heart of Democracy, by Parker Palmer
4. Joy of Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free Baking, by Peter Reinhart
5. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

We had a great event with Michael Perry on Friday (ask for a signed copy), with not just his new book, but backlist popping up on our bestseller list. And we’re hoping to have a great event with Kati Marton on September 5 for Paris: A Love Story, what with the attention she is receiving. This Wall Street Journal review from Julia Klein focuses on her tumultuous relationship with first husband Peter Jennings. She was also married to diplomat Richard Holbrooke.

Paperback fiction:
1. Pryme Knumber, by Matthew Flynn
2. Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood
3. The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
4. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin
5. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett

After about a year of dilly dallying, I finally got around to reading The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes. Like many customers, I don’t really understand the egg on the paperback jacket. You know the plot—an older man has lived with a bad decision in his past by misremembering it, and then tries to set the remains of the past right, with rather bad results. I was surprised how much the novel reminded me of Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, another compact Man Booker winner for a book that relied on a clever twist for much of its impact, sort of like a Roald Dahl short story. That's a tip to Commonwealth novelists who write big, sprawling books and don't think they are getting their due prizes.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
2. The Table Comes First, by Adam Gopnik
3. Coop, by Michael Perry
4. Population 485, by Michael Perry
5. Just Ride, by Grant Petersen

I don’t think The Table Comes First: France, Family, and the Meaning of Food, hit our top five in hardcover, but one does not think of this kind of book popping bigger in paperback. Adam Gopnik wrote the runaway bestseller Paris to the Moon, and this is sort of a companion book. Ina Garten says, “Adam Gopnik brilliantly weaves together the history, philosophy, and culture of food with his deep passion for cooking and the shared pleasures of the table.” And here’s Maria Popova in The Atlantic: “Deeply fascinating and absorbingly written, The Table Comes First is the kind of read you'll want to devour in one sitting, despite its Thanksgiving-sized 320-page heft.” Laura Shapiro in Slate liked the book but poked a few holes in his premise, but what’s wrong with a little friendly debate between foodies?

Books for Kids:
1. The Brixen Witch, by Stacy DeKeyser
2. The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids, by Terese Allen and Bobbi Malone
3. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
4. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
5. The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee, by Tom Angleberger

Excluding some bulk sales, our top two bestsellers where books were sold individually were at local events with Stacy DeKeyser and Terese Allen. But the breakout continues to be the Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda series, as The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee has surpassed our life-of-book sales for Darth Paper Strikes Back in three weeks, and we sold most of the sales of the second book at Christmas.

Next week perhaps we’ll have East of Eden and Moby Dick on our bestseller list. Those are just a couple of recommendations from Bonnie Jo Cambpell, as told to Jim Higgins in today’s Journal Sentinel. The author of Once Upon a River (who visited in June) offers her take on books she’d like to argue with, a book she’s given as a gift, and a writer who deserves to be rediscovered. She just finished reading Benjamin Busch’s Dust to Dust. We had a great event with Busch last spring, and look, he’s still on tour.

Also in the Journal Sentinel is Mike Fischer’s review of The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, Jonathan Evison’s third published novel about a road trip between a battered loser and his charge, a wheelchair-bound young man with muscular dystrophy. Evison balances “sharp humor” with “warm-hearted generosity” in this novel, and yes, the author is visiting on Wednesday, September 12. You’ll be hearing a lot about the book in the next few weeks, particularly because I’ve just finished reading the new novel, and I’m now making my way through West of Here, the featured title of our next in-store lit group meeting (first Monday at 7 pm).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Gift Post—Squeakaboo Coup!

You’ve heard me go on about Squeakaboos, those animal stick rattles produced by Fiesta Crafts and imported by Original Toy Company, also the source of our incredibly popular wooden bendable robots. We’ve been carrying six varieties of Squeakaboo for about two years now, and they’ve been a consistent seller. I usually tell folks we sell jungle animals the best in kids, compared to farm and forest, but in this case, cow, with its spotted pattern is out bestseller, followed by elephant, with duck, giraffe, monkey and lion following behind. Note that the two bestsellers are animals including blue.

About a year ago, I stumbled across the UK site where I saw there were a whole variety of Squeakaboos that we couldn’t order, including the elusive penguin that nonetheless still shows up on the label tag. I asked the vendor if they were thinking of bringing in any of the other animals, but alas, no.

It’s a year later, and I’m still regularly returning to the site. I pine over the sheep, and give a hoot when I spot the new dog and cat. (I know you were thinking that hoot was for the owl, it’s just my noise when I get excited.) What the heck? I wrote to the folks at Fiesta and they told me they were actually filling an import order for Original Toy, and then I wrote to Original Toy and this time they said, yes, they’d let us order some of the penguin, cat, dog, and sheep. Later on I was chatting with the rep, and she asked them why they changed their mind. It turns out the one more year of regular reorders made a difference, and the timing worked.

You can also order the dog, cat, sheep, and penguin from us, as well as the cow. If we get any takers, I will add the other animals to our online database.

So anyway, they are here and I love them. Of course now I see a few other things on the UK website that I want to sell, but I’ll save that for another day. Thank you to Fiesta Crafts, Original Toy Company, Mary, and especially Andrew and Kevin for making this happen. Now I just have to sell them!.

Last week I mentioned our Beatrix lunchboxes, backpacks and water bottles. I didn’t show a photo of our dino collection, and I feel badly to those blog readers who haven’t delved into the true depths of cuteness. Shown is the Percival backpack, as well as the dino water bottle. As part of our opening order, we also received a plush version of Percival for sale.

For those who are looking for a lunchbox at more of the ten dollar price point, we’ve received and already sold several varieties of food sacks from Coelacanth. You’ll recognize this vendor from our coin purses and totes. We’ve got robot, octopus, bird flower, and Paris trip.

And yes, Paris trip is leading sales, once again. What is it about a bicycle and the Eiffel Tower that is a resounding call to buy? If I placed a sailboat by the Taj Mahal, would I get results? How about a skateboard and the Washington Monument? A resounding no to both!

Another sign of fall? I start reordering jigsaw puzzles. My first choice of late has been Piatnik. They are made in Germany and while they don’t have the largest assortment, I like their photo still lifes everything from buttons to beer.

To all those puzzle manufacturers who require assortments of three or more per sku, you should know that most of the best puzzle manufacturers and distributors generally only require two per design, and many are open stock. And that's why I'm not reordering from you--mostly card companies that are trying to extend their lines.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Short Post--The New Official Cover Image of Boswell Book Company--Thank You to Kelly McNees and Adam McOmber for Keeping with the Program.

So several years ago we hosted Kelly O'Connor McNees for the book, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. We had a good time, and so when the new novel, In Need of a Good Wife came out, we asked her back, teaming the author with Jean Reynolds Page, author of Safe Within. They are appearing together on Tuesday, October 23, 7 pm. The backlist came in, and the books are on display at the front of our store. Sharon has read and enjoyed the new book.

So then Stacie was at her desk, looking at our other upcoming events. She glanced at Adam McOmber's The White Forest. McOmber is coming for this novel on Wednesday, September 26. She took a second peak. And what do you know? It's the same photo, just retouched differently. It's darkened, metallicized, and with a little fishnetting added. And Jason's a fan of this one.

"Jane Silverlake is a lost soul, when Maddy and Nathan find her. They bring her out into the wide open world of Hampstead Heath. Jane is different, however, and she can feel and hear the souls of manmade objects. Jane reveals herself to them, hoping she can trust them with her burden so she does not have to be alone with it. She is wrong, and Nathan is changed by it. His obsession leads him to the occult and then he disappears. Jane’s world begins to crumble around her. Jane’s naiveté of the outside world lands her into trouble as she looks for him. Adam McOmber has delivered an ingenious, haunting tale full of mystery and dread, as we all know that nothing good can come from Jane discovering who she is and what happened to Nathan, but we all must find out for good or ill."

We'll have more coming up about both books. And I'll let you know if both of the authors wind up reading together. They both live in the Chicago area, so it could happen.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Boswell's Best--Four New Fiction Titles for Four Very Different Readers.

Another week, another bunch of new releases. Here are four new titles which Jason has chosen for Boswell's Best.

I regret not reading in advance One Last Thing Before I Go, by Jonathan Tropper (Dutton). I hoped that with my great enjoyment of This is Where I Leave You, I might be able to get it to the top of the pile, but that was not to be. In this one, divorced Drew Silver plays in wedding bands, and maneuvers around the detritus of his past bad decisions. When he’s diagnosed as needing emergency heart surgery, he decides to forego it and repair his relationships and truly live in the moment. Entertainment Weekly gives it an A, calling the novel “a bristling, witty tale of woe that'll make you appreciate whatever good things, no matter how few, have come your way.”

Jason noted to me that this was the first week where just about all the highlighted new releases were from the fall selling season, not spring summer. One novel I saw being touted on fall lists that is finally out (and may make you cry, but not while your laughing) is Amand Coplin’s The Orchardist (Harper). Two girls appear at William Talmadge’s orchard. They steal fruit; he takes them in. Then some men arrive and things go very downhill. There are great quotes from Wally Lamb (“masterful writer”), Charles Baxter (“patiently beautiful), Ron Rash (“outstanding debut”) and Bonnie Jo Campbell (“mysterious, compelling, elemental novel”). And it’s not just writerly folk; Wendy Smith in The Washington Post says “Amanda Coplin’s somber, majestic debut arrives like an urgent missive from another century. Steeped in the timeless rhythms of agriculture, her story unfolds in spare language as her characters thrash against an existential sense of meaninglessness.”

With a creeping nostalgia for newspapers, particularly British newspapers, particularly British newspapers that influence government policy, I quite taken with the jacket for Lionel Asbo (Knopf), by Martin Amis. It has a Fleet Street quality about it, though with more typefaces. Lionel is a thug turned millionaire, kept remotely in check by his nephew, Desmond Pepperdine. Jess Walter, author of this summer’s breakout, Beautiful Ruins, wrote in Publishers Weekly the novel “crackles with brilliant prose and scathing satire” but then becomes “a gleefully twisted Great Expectations.” Alas, having searched among The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and The Guardian, I have to say that satire can be a tough mistress.

There's nothing satirical about Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile (Simon and Schuster), a novel of Florence Nightengale and Gustave Flaubert in a conceivable meeting as they traveled down the Nile in 1850. She is a radical thinker, he is a notorious womanizer, and both are destined for greatness. This is Shomer’s first published novel, following the story collection, Tourist Season (winner of the Iowa Short Fiction award) and several books of poetry. it’s unusal for a trade house to buy stories from a small press without a novel under contract, so I suspect Shomer moved with her editor from Random House. Alas, no trade reviews yet, though Kirkus notes that “by weaving her own imaginative constructions in with actual journal entries of both Flaubert and Nightingale, Shomer skillfully combines historical plausibility and historical truth.”


Local author Nicholas Dettman wrote in and let us know he's going to be on WTMJ's Morning Blend tomorrow, August 24, at 9 am. His novel, A Life Worth Dreaming About, is available at Boswell.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Twin Cities Bookstores Continued--A Visit to the Bookcase of Wayzata

When I am scouting out bookstores in a new town, I try to veer off the beaten path. So many folks who visit San Francisco never get beyond City Lights, and folks visiting Seattle and Portland often wind up thinking that Elliot Bay and Powells are the only games in their respective towns. But it’s hard to rely on tourism for your daily bread—just look at Elliot Bay, which moved from the tourist-heavy International District to the more residential area of Capitol Hill.

There are plenty of great indie bookstores in suburban strip centers (including Milwaukee favorites Next Chapter and Books and Company), and even a number in regional malls, but I have a special place in my heart for those in village shopping districts. So that’s why when we were at the Minneapolis Gift Mart in Minnetonka, we made a special effort to visit The Bookcase of Wayzata (photo courtesy of the Book Case, as I accidentally deleted my photos), on the scenic banks of Wayzata Bay, which I think is part of the meandering Lake Minnetonka. OK, we got lost once or twice, even with a phone’s GPS system, but isn’t that part of being a visitor?

The store has a long and storied history, dating back to the early 1950s in downtown Minneapolis. The owners moved it out to Wayzata, where it has had a number of owners. My former boss David was good friends with long-time owner Gail. It is currently owned by Charlie, who was the store’s manager under the previous owner Peggy. I walked in and wanders around, but the conversation started when I saw their great Baby Lit collection from Gibbs Smith. Counting books about Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice and Dracula? Who can resist them?

While we were admiring the display, Debbie at the register started chatting with us. “I knew you were a bookseller,” she noted triumphantly. So then the questions started. Where are your staff recs*? How do you display your upcoming events? How do your Peter Pauper journals sell? The answer to the last one was for Bookcase “Incredibly well.” They just got in a pile of them, turned around, and they had all sold.

We started trading stories about events—how wonderful Cheryl Strayed was, for example. One can’t help but get a little competitive about these things, albeit in a friendly manner. I suppose we’ll have to check back about Mike Perry (their event is August 28) and Adam Johnson (their event is September 5, while we hosted him in hardcover, and I just put the paperback on my rec shelf).

It’s a small space, efficiently used, connecting like us to a chain coffee shop, in their case, Caribou. They can move fixtures and get a good amount of people in the store, but they have a great relationship with a nearby church that can take their events to the next level.

Because the village center is a thriving hub of stuff for sale, they have to be a little more careful about not stepping on toes with their gift items. Every time I’d ask about a category, Debbie would mention the store nearby with a friendly relationship. That can be tricky, but there are categories, like cards, where you can always find some line that’s not being carried. And it sounds like we might be trading journal vendors. I was sort of surprised not to see a Paperblanks spinner in all my MSP bookstore travels. A lot of gift lines decide to drop their dedicated bookstore commission rep thinking that this business is a sure thing, but I have noticed with frequency in my travels that for smaller stores that only do a minimum of gift buying, they stick to the lines that are carried by their book reps, like Peter Pauper, Galison, Moleskine, and Merry Makers.

In all, just the kind of experience you want at this kind of store--curated selection, enthusiastic events, and lots of conversation. And when I thought about it, with such a scenic locale, the bookstore probably does get plenty of tourist business, just not a tourist like me, who has not interest in relaxing. And then we had a nice late lunch at Sunsets restaurants because Debbie’s first choice was only between meals. I had a spinach salad with chicken and strawberries, while Kirk had a chicken and sausage penne pasta. Two thumbs up.

*I understand that smaller stores generally have so much personal service that they don't need a staff rec section, but I would like to go on record that I still like them and think they add a personal connection to the bookstore.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Ben Merens Play by Play--A Giddy Selection of Fall Reads, Plus Recs from Listeners.

Before I go on Wisconsin Public Radio, I usually come up with a list of titles to discuss. In this case, last week's appearance on "At Issue with Ben Merens," we decided to focus on upcoming fall books. But the trick is that half the fun of the show are the folks who call in with their favorite books. They are looking to share their enthusiasm with the audience, but as a bookseller, I feel obligated to come up with another title they might like. It's called "stump the bookseller" and some days it goes better than others. Listen to the show here.

Books mentioned on "At Issue with Ben Merens":

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller (Knopf)
Regular customers know that we have a number of great reads on this post-apocalyptic book, The Road with heart. Did you notice how similar the jacket and theme of this book is similar to The Age of Miracles? Yes, start forming your 2012 apocalypse book club now.

The Price of Politics, by Bob Woodward (Simon and Schuster)
Or as I like to call it, Untitled. Thanks to Bret for figuring out the title before our buyer could. It's about Obama's first term in office.

The Woman who Died a Lot, by Jasper Fforde (Viking)
Indeed, this title could be interpreted several different ways, but the most important thing to know is that the author of the Thursday Next series will be at Boswell on Wednesday, October 10.

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling (Little, Brown)
Can Potter's grasp on the imagination transfer to a very different kind of novel. This is about a small town whose frayed edges start to shred when town councilman Barry Fairbrother dies.

The Tie that Binds, by Kent Haruf (Viking)
A listener recs, based on Chapter a Day. Edith Goodnough lies in bed, an IV attached to her hand, a police officer at her door. She's charged with murder.

And yes, Plainsong favorite Kent Haruf does have a new novel coming. It’s called Benediction and it comes out March 2013. (Knopf)

The Black Swan, second edition, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Random House)
And I just want to reinforce that I was not referring to the author when I panicked about the word "prolific." It's just that I'm worrying that many authors are piling on so many opportunities that they struggle with original content. It's such a strange thing to have pulled Jonah Lehrer's Imagine after selling over 40 copies. Will it come back after being fully vetted? Are the publishers now to nervous to even trust they can vet it?

And of course Taleb's book talks about the occurrence of massively improbably events, based on luck, probability, and human error. Just a thematic coincidence.

The Fourth Turning, by William Strauss and Neil Howe (Three Rivers)
From the same listenter, one of several books that has addressed the cycles of history, Strauss and Howe saw us in a period they called The Unraveling." As the book is 15 years old, we're close to whatever the next generation is going to be called.

Mrs. Kennedy and Me, by Clint Hill with Lisa McCubbin (Gallery)
A listener recommends this book, wehre Mrs. Kennedy's secret service agent tells all.

In One Person, by John Irving (Simon and Schuster)
The listener wonders why Irving does not show up on best books of all time, but I'm not sure what she thinks about the new novel, which she hadn't finished.

Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving (Ballantine)
But she loved this one.

Towing Jehovah, by James Morrow (Mariner)
A listener extols Morrow, a cult classic.

The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt (Ecco)
A quirky western about two brothers, for-hire killers, who get caught up in a gold scheme.

True Grit, by Charles Portis (Overlook)
This comic western of a 14-year-old avenger inspired not one but two great films.

Visting Tom, by Michael Perry (Harper)
I feel like I am doing a daily Michael Perry post.

The Malice of Fortune, by Michael Ennis (Doubleday)
The big historical novel about Macchiavelli and a Renaissance plot has several fans at Boswell. He's actually coming Monday, September 17 and I'll have a post devoted to teh story behind the publication soon.

Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse (Berkley)
One of the books that Malice of Fortune reminded me of. It doesnt have a parallel past/present story, but there's the historical detail and the religious cult mixed with politics, plus a strong hero, all leading me to make the association.

The Prince, by Niccolo Macchiavelli (various editions, here's the Penguin we normally stock, plus the Bantam that seems to almost match the new book.)

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz (Knopf)
A wonderfully affectionate biography from the author of The Beatles, Lev Grossman liked it, but that's Lev Grossman the critic, not the fantasy writer (split personality).

This is How You Lose her, by Junot Diaz (Riverhead)
Oops, I mixed up the titles at first. The advance praise is amazing. From Library Journal: “Díaz’s third book is as stunning as its predecessors. These stories are hard and sad, but in Díaz’s hands they also crackle.”

Best American Short Stories, edited by Tom Perotta and Heidi Pitlor (Mariner)
Mentioned as an aside, when we were talking about stories.

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, by Emma Straub (Riverhead)
This novel of the internal life of an actress's tumultuous career reminded me a bit of Curtis Sittenford's American Wife.

Other People we Married, by Emma Straub (Riverhead)
Straub's first collection of stories won praise from Lorrie Moore, Dan Chaon, and Karen Russell.

Lovers and Beloveds: An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom, by MeiLin Miranda (Sans Coulotte)
A caller discussed a self-published fantasy that he enjoyed. I suspect that it's a pay-for-in-advance proposition if you'd like to order from us.

Whiplash River, by Lou Berney (Morrow)
A getaway driver tries to escape his life of crime as a restauranteur in Belize. It follows him.

The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny (Minotaur)
Murder at a monastery.

Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon (Harper)
Diesel: A Bookstore, is recreating Brokeland Records in Berkley. How cool is that?

NW, by Zadie Smith (Penguin Press)