Sunday, September 30, 2012

What's Selling at Boswell for the Week Ending 9/29/12--Bruel, Lipton, Cousineau, Tanzilo, Rushdie, and a Good Amount of Rowling.

It's our weekly roundup of what's selling at Boswell.

Hardcover fiction:
1. The Casual Vacancy, by J. K. Rowling
2. A Hundred Flowers, by Gail Tsukiyama
3. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
4. Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon
5. The White Forest, by Adam McOmber

Because of the phenomenon that is Harry Potter, because very few folks got to read The Casual Vacancy before its release, there’s been a lot of hullabaloo about what critics would think. I’m not going to link to the Michiko Kakutani review in The New York Times because, well, she needs to calm down. But I found Marion Winik’s review in Newsday to be interesting because, she actually thought the book could work for teens (but not eight year olds).

The Huffington Post did a roundup of critical reception.

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. Fire in the Ashes, by Jonathan Kozol
2. Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie
3. Waging Heavy Peace, by Neil Young
4. How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough
5. Why does the World Exist, by Jim Holt

The rocker memoir of the season seems to be Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace. Dan De Luca in the Philadelphia Inquirer writes “Waging Heavy Peace is its own kind of book. Like an epic jam with Crazy Horse, it's loose and baggy and always in the moment.” And who knew that he was mad at Linda Ronstadt for telling Nicolette Larson not to date him. I guess he needed more than a “Lotta Love” to win her over. Hey, it’s songs you hear in the supermarket trivia time!

Paperback fiction:
1. Sister, by Rosamund Lipton
2. Ulysses, by James Joyce
3. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
4. Please Look After Mom, by Kyung Sook Shin
5. The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

I can explain Joyce (a class is using this) and the one-two punch of Shin and Towles (our next two in-store book club selections), and I’m going to guess that Lupton is also a book club selection. When it was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, Liesl Schillinger stated: “Both tear-jerking and spine-tingling, Sister provides an adrenaline rush that could cause a chill on the sunniest afternoon — which, perhaps, the friendly company of a sister or two (or, in a pinch, a brother) might help to dispel.”

Paperback nonfiction:
1. The Painted Word, by Phil Cousineau
2. Historic Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses, by Robert Tanzilo
3. Boomerang, by Michael Lewis
4. How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
5. Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol

We have a rash of local favorites with books from History Press this fall. Martin Hintz will be at the Milwaukee Public Library’s rare books room on October 15, 6:30 pm for Wisconsin Farm Lore. Paul Geenen will be at Boswell for Schuster’s and Gimbels on October 30, 7 pm, and at the Washington Park Library on December 4, 6:30, for his new Sherman Park book. But the first to get a bestseller pop is Bobby Tanzilo of Historic Milwaukee Public Schoolhouses, who is appearing at Boswell on Monday, November 12, 7 pm.

Hardcover books for kids:
1. The Infinity Ring #1: A Mutiny in Time, by James Dashner
2. Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel
3. Poor Puppy and Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel
4. Bad Kitty for President, by Nick Bruel
5. Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark, by Mary Pope Osborne

Paperback books for kids:
1. Bad Kitty for President, by Nick Bruel
2. Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, by Nick Bruel
3. Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel
4. Bad Kitty vs. Uncle Murray, by Nick Bruel
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

That’s a lot of Bad Kitty. We gave away Perks of Being a Wallflower posters from the studio. The response was more enthusiastic than some of the other offerings we get. For some reason, they are always at the last minute. It strikes me that we get targeted for these promotions because the perception is that our customers are influencers. And if that’s the case, why do we always get the promotional materials at the last minute?

What will likely dominate bestseller lists next week? It’s likely to be Stephan Pastis, who is coming to Boswell tomorrow (Monday, October 1, 7 pm) for Pearls Freaks the #*%# Out. My apologies for periodically spelling the cuss word incorrectly. Diane Bacha interviewed Pastis in today’s Journal Sentinel. It’s a free event!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Gift Post--a File Folder, a Crow, a Bookmark, and a Gift Bag

When I was putting together my photos of the Halloween table, I decided that I didn't do justice from this metal and wood crow from Creative Coop. So here's a better shot.

As I've mentioned previously, after we started displaying file folders using a stand, our sales have been better. The only problem was that there aren't many vendors that sell them, and Galison hasn't really been coming out with too many new styles. Then I went through my Compendium catalog and noticed a few eye-catching styles. Since we already order from them for the Positively Green cards, it wasn't hard to take a chance. The top is "gold geometry" while the bottom is "painted garden."
Mel was very happy that we got our new Spitfire Girl order of wooden bookmarks. The new catalog had a lot more home goods, like pillows, but despite being eye-catching, we all agreed that we probably were not the right store for them. The bookmarks, however, sell quite well, and we brought in a few more of the wooden greeting cards. The only problem is that there weren't any new bookmark designs in the new catalog, which means that not enough stores are selling them. If you are another bookstore, could I suggest you giving them a try?
And finally, I've been trying to figure out how to better merchandise that big oval display table in the cooking section. What is, for most of the year, a cookbook display, becomes our Christmas card space in September. the understock, however, is still not well utilized. It was originally built for art and photography books at the Iron Block location of Harry W. Schwartz, by the way. I added some temporary hooks and am trying to display gift bags on the side. Then Amie told me she did this back when she was manager of the Downer Schwartz, and there still is some wire to prove it.
It's been a long week!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Event Photos--Tsukiyama, Hamilton, Cousineau.

We had so many events this week that my head is spinning. For some, I didn't bring my camera so I've been using my cell phone. But my new phone doesn't allow me to transfer the photos to my email. I mean, it does, but I don't know how to set it up.

Fortunately I brought my camera to our Gail Tsukiyama event for A Hundred Flowers on Thursday, where Tsukiyama was interviewed on stage by Wisconsin's own Jane Hamilton. They met years ago at a Tattered Cover book club program, and have stayed very good friends. And Gail was just over the border at Ragdale in Lake Forest, making Milwaukee an easy add on.

More authors should think about that!

Over the years, we sold well over 1000 Gail Tsukiyama novels at Schwartz. And I have to say that two of Gail's biggest bookseller fans were Jane, who blew out The Samurai's Garden for a number of years at Schwartz's Mequon location, and Catherine, the longtime Brookfield manager, who first started championing Tsukiyama with Women of the Silk (editor's note--I originally listed the sequel, The Language of Threads. Whoops!)

Both Jane and Catherine attended Gail's evening. But Catherine caught up with more than Tsukiyama because for many years, the Brookfield Schwartz was Jane Hamilton's bookstore of choice. I myself ran into her there a few times when I was would spend a day working at that store. And of course Jane was one of the three authors who headlined the Schwartz closing party at that location.

As you all know, that location is now a Half Price books. And I was just chatting with our friend Tom, who transferred to the Brookfield location from Greenfield, about lunch options in the area. My advice. Don't be afraid to cross Bluemound Road by foot. It's not as hard as it looks.

But why am I talking about Brookfield when we were all gathered together at Centennial Hall in downtown Milwaukee? I have no answer to that. I guess seeing all those all friends reconnecting got me nostalgic.

While we're showing pictures, Phil Cousineau had a nice crowd on Tuesday evening to talk about his new book The Painted Word. He makes some new friends on every visit, but his oldest friends are always Antler and Jeff, with whom he painted houses many, many years ago.

Signed copies of both titles are available, of course.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Learning to do teen events--A Day with Tonya Hurley, Author of The Blessed.

So we’ve picked up an enormous schedule of kids’ events this fall. In addition to our biggest fall slate of kids’ authors to date, we picked up a number of kids friendly events and school visits from Next Chapter when they closed.

I think we have the picture book, chapter book, and intermediate authors down cold. We do one to two school events with presales, and then host the evening event either at the store or at one of the many libraries in the area.

But this season, we picked up several teen authors. Even last year, we were shying away from teen events. There’s a different kind of outreach, and it’s harder to get presales in the schools. Plus we need to build up our high school contacts. Plus many of the teen authors who tour tend to be more female-focused, and some schools shy away from that. And also many schools have very tight high school structures, and they have lots of test periods and things that make scheduling an author more difficult. Our baptism by fire, so to speak, was with yesterday’s event with Tonya Hurley, best known for our ghostgirl series. Her new book, The Blessed, targets a slightly older crowd of 14+, and like Libba Bray (a pretty decent comparison, only for her more serious stuff—this is definitely not a satire), could carry into folks in their twenties.

Three very different women find themselves meeting at the emergency room of Perpetual Help Hospital. Lucy is a stylish wealth woman whose life depends on getting in the gossip rags. Cecelia (CeCe) is an underground rock guitarist who plays in dive clubs and is on the verge of being homeless. And Agnes is an everygirl who lives in a middle class neighborhood, who nonetheless is under the thumb of her domineering mom, particularly when it comes to boys.

At the hospital, the three women (one whose been admitted for a suicide attempt, another for a near drowning in a puddle of brackish water, the third for passing out in a club, probably from a drug/alcohol combination) meet the mysterious Sebastian, who is actually from the psychiatric ward. They also meet Dr. Alan Frey, who has taken a keen interest in all of them.

So not to give too much away, but there’s a long setup and I think you need to get to the point, Sebastian thinks he’s the reincarnation of St. Sebastian and has taken refuge in a church, the Precious Blood Church, to be exact, which has been deconsecrated and is slated to be torn down for condos. And yes, it was also on the site of a deadly subway mine accident, which plays into the story.

But more than that, the girls slowly come to realize that their lives are slowly unraveling, and they are being pulled towards both Sebastian and the church. And that is because they may or may not be the reincarnation (or perhaps modern avatars) of three saints, all of whom brutally died as teenagers. And yes, those saints were Lucy, Cecelia, and Agnes.

The story plays off a lot of themes of teen fiction, but instead of using vampires, zombies, and werewolves, the story plays off of Catholic imagery. I don’t know how religious people would feel about the book; it could go either way, as there is actually a reverence for the religion and faith that permeates the story. And the underlying themes of the story, of committing to what you believe in, of choosing goodness over evil, and even in the rewarding of works of charity that permeate the story, all have a sort of traditional.

The Blessed also has a wonderfully Brooklyny vibe about it. So I was really happy that we had put Hurley’s public event at the Bay View Library, which is probably the closest thing to Brooklyn that I can think of. I guess Riverwest would argue that out, but I feel like crossing the Menomonie Valley feels more like crossing the East River than does crossing the Milwaukee River. Riverwest can take the title of Lower East Side of Milwaukee, and that would mean that Brewers Hill would be Tribeca, and oh, I guess I’m digressing a bit.

I hoped that with a teen event, all the fans would be so wired and connected that they’d show up for an event if I put it in a private igloo, but alas, that was not the case, and we had a disappointing showing. I think getting into a new area means investigating new areas for promotion. The Journal Sentinel and the Shepherd Express skew too old and Metroparent was probably skewing young. We sent posters to all the libraries we were working with, but not everybody put them up. In addition, you’re always starting from scratch with a new series, even when the last series is popular.

We had a nice turnout at our school event (thanks, Amy!) and Tonya and her sister Tracy had a great time wandering around Milwaukee between events. We had a good Happy Days/Laverne and Shirley talk. But perhaps the best time I had was talking about their adventures in the music world. For many years, Hurleys were top music publicists, as well as writers, producers, film-makers, and so forth. Depeche Mode even contributed a song to one of Hurley’s trailers.

And then it hit me, this book has the vibe of so much British music of the 80s and 90s that had that death/faith vibe going on. I was playing the songs of Depeche Mode (yes, we have a copy of Just Can't Get Enough: The Making of Depeche Mode in stock) and several other bands in my head (Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy) the whole time I was reading The Blessed.

And just a warning, the last scenes of the book are pretty brutal. I sort of looked away as I was reading. But I don’t think it’s too much out of line of other teen fiction, certainly not the last volume of Suzanne Collins. And just another little great thing about The Blessed--the cover reverses to each character as their martyr. Several of us think this jacket is more eye-catching, but I can imagine that there are some retailers that might not carry it.

So this time around, a small event, but someday, perhaps an enormous one!

Next week’s event with Libba Bray should go better. Even though it’s also a new series, she’s futher along in her author development, and is big enough to get major press and word of mouth. Lots of customers in the bookstore have been buzzing about the appearance. The new book is The Diviners, it just came out, and our event is at Milwaukee Public Library’s Loos Hall at Centennial Hall (733 N. Eighth St. 53233), Thursday, October 4, 6:30 PM.

And by Michelle Hodkin (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, The Evolution of Mara Dyer) on Tuesday, October 30, at the West Allis Public Library, 7421 W. National Ave. 53214), things should be going swimmingly.

Want to see Tonya Hurley in person? Here are her upcoming events.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Biggest Travesty in Publishing, and How it Relates to Our New Tee Shirt.

Today I’m going to talk about the biggest travesty in publishing.

1. Is it the DOJ settlement? No!

2. The schmaltzy inappropriate covers put on trade paperback fiction? No!

3. What about increasing amount of newsprint used in book publishing? Terrible, but no!

The biggest travesty in publishing is that Dwellephant is not illustrating children’s books for a major publisher.

I first met Dwellephant (who also goes by the name Milan but I will not use it here as it will be too confusing) when I was the buyer at Schwartz. Joe (who designed our logo) came to Carol (my former boss at Schwartz and still friend) and said he had a friend who wanted to paint a mural in the kids’ section. For free. The timing was off and it didn’t happen. But I didn’t forget that artwork.

So Schwartz closed, Boswell opened, and Dwellephant came to me with a book project he had just finished, called Missing the Boat, a Noah’s Arc tale about a species that didn’t make it on board. The book was a collaboration with Wayne Chinsang and Justin Shady, and was published by a kids’ imprint at Diamond Comics.

He had the idea to put together a Saturday marketplace, with booths from all his creative friends, with an all day book signing. And then he had the idea to promote it by painting over old books he found at thrift sales with artwork promoting the event. It was a really great event and I still treasure the books.

In between, I’d see Dwellephant’s work appearing around town—at WMSE radio, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Classic Slice Pizza. Some of his work has a dark edge, while other pieces belied a wide-eyed innocence, but all his work has a playfulness that’s infectious.

He was at Boswell (a book lover, of course) when I suggested he do a tee shirt for us. Someday, we agreed.  Below right is my Alverno Presents Global Union tee from several years ago.

And then he asked me to be the bookseller for a signing he was doing at an elementary school art fair. I watched him sign about sixty books, but it was not like anything I’d ever seen anyone do in my life, and that includes all the children’s book illustrators we’ve ever hosted.

Dwellephant would ask the kid, “What do you want in your book?”

And the boy or girl would say “an elephant playing the violin” or “a crocodile skateboarding under water” or “a monkey eating a banana while riding a unicycle” or any number of creative scenarios.

And in very short order, Dwellephant would draw that picture, and it would be perfect. And that’s when I thought, “Why isn’t this guy in demand in the publishing world?” He’s amazing, he takes direction, he’s fast, and his work always packs a lot of emotion.

So I went to a few of my sales reps, who of course fell in love with his work, connected them with Dwellephant, and gave them a portfolio and pronounced, “Go findeth an editor.”

But we didn’t findeth. I scratched my head as I continued to see artwork coming out in children’s books that one would categorize similarly, yet was, to be honest, not as good. I know that the thing now is to be a writer/illustrator. The total package seems to be in ascendance. But I know publishers are still matching up illustrators with writers, and we have upcoming events with Marla Frazee and Derek Anderson to prove it.

I just didn’t get it. And I said to Dwellephant, “We have to do that tee shirt.” And then he gave me the design. And then I sat on it for six months while I putzed around doing other stuff.

But we finally got it in production at Brew City Promotions (and George said, “You have to do kids’ sizes, and by the way, I’m buying one”) and they printed it and it’s here.

The Read Like a Monster tee even looks good on a middle-aged bookstore owner with a great deal of wrinkles.

And if that doesn’t say, “I’m your next picture book illustrator,” I don’t know what more I can do, except for writing this blog. The tee shirts are available now. We have unisex in small to 2XL, women’s fitted in small to XL, and youth small, medium, and large. We'll eventually have a link to purchase on our web site, but for now, stop by, email us at, or call us at 414-332-1181.

PS—I’ll give the first major editor who signs Dwellephant up a free tee shirt, if we have any left.

PPS—We’ve also reprinted Aaron Boyd’s fishy tee, so we now have a complete range of sizes again. I think we’re going to reprint K Polly’s tee in a darker shade when we sell down, by request.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's Up with Boswell this Week? Take a Deep Breath--Phil Cousineau, Tonya Hurley, Adam McOmber, James Dashner, Gail Tsukiyama with Jane Hamilton, Mary Pope Osborne with Natalie Pope Boyce, Jonathan Kozol, and J. Hoberman!

The day started with a key issue, specifically, my key wouldn’t open our receiving room. It sometimes needs a little jiggling, but no pushing or pulling could fix the problem. Amie go to work soon after me and we decided to call a locksmith, hoping we could have the problem fixed before our UPS delivery.

The locksmith came, replaced a spring, it worked, then it didn’t, then UPS came. It was that kind of day.

Once again, I’m a bit behind getting out the week’s events, but since we don’t have an author tonight, it’s not as much of an issue. Here’s what we’ve got going on.

Tuesday, September 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Phil Cousineau, author of The Painted Word: A Treasure Chest of Remarkable Words and Their Origins .

I was a fan of Wordcatcher several years ago, and so I welcomed the news that there would be a sequel in The Painted Word. Jeff Poniewaz notes in this week’s Shepherd Express that Cousineau is both a prolific writer and inveterate wanderer. Though he’s based in the San Francisco Bay area, his path crosses Milwaukee with regularity, as this is already his third visit to Boswell.

And here’s a quote from Lemony Snicket: "A mytagogue, a carrytale and a thaumaturge, Cousineau makes us Argus-eyed to the ubuntu of the aprocryphal and Gemutlichkeit it provides, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you definitely need this book."

I’m always curious about what shows up when I search for videos. Here’s a video review from Kenny’s Bookshop of Galway, with Desi recommending Phil’s last word book, Wordcatcher. Did I ever mention that Marilyn, a Boswell regular, actually interned at Kenny’s? (PS—Desi likes the book.)

Wednesday, September 26, 6:30, at Bay View Library, 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 53207:
Tonya Hurley, author of Ghostgirl and the new book, The Blessed.

Having found popularity with her Ghostgirl series, Tonya Hurley’s new novel, The Blessed, comes out tomorrow, and is said to take her to a new novel of popularity. It’s about three very different young women who discover that they are living avatars of saints brought together to battle an epic evil.

Here’s Hurley’s take on the story: “I’ve always wanted to write a book about martyrs. Ever since I was little, I was both fascinated and horrified by their stories and the imagery I’d seen and heard from my grandparents and in churches. Very powerful stuff–gruesome and yet glorious. Girls who decided at very young ages to stand up for what they believed in, and gave their lives to defend their beliefs rather than deny them. I didn’t want to write a theological book, but I did want to explore the commitment these girls had, their inner strength.”  Read more here.

Entertainment Weekly has the book trailer.

Wednesday, September 26, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Adam McOmber, author of The White Forest.

From Jason: “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. “

Recently, McOmber was interviewed by Mary Houlihan for the Chicago Sun-Times: “Set on the moody heath and a maze of gritty London streets, it’s a story that has Masterpiece Theatre written all over it. McOmber fell in love with London during a summer abroad in college. So he knew the city well, but he also researched 19th century ideas about religion and mythology in books such as James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. The Empyrean is one of the seven levels of the medieval heaven, the place where saints and angels are said to roam.

“I love the depth of history that envelops London,” he explains. “I tried to be accurate about everything in the book so the reader would feel grounded in actual reality, and then I could go into Jane’s strange reality from there.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

Thursday, September 27, 6:30 pm, at Cudahy Family Library, 3500 Library Drive, 53110:
James Dashner, author of The Infinity Ring #1: A Mutiny in Time, and also The Maze Runner, its sequels, and the prequel, The Kill Order.

From the publisher: “Time has gone wrong, and best friends Dak Smyth and Sera Froste, together with the young Hystorian Riq, must use the infinity ring to travel back to one of the Great Breaks--a mutiny on the Santa Maraia--to correct history and defeat the SQ.”

This new series will feature several different authors writing installments, a la The 39 Clues. The series was developed by James Dashner, who has so many ideas floating out there that he has not one, not two, but three new books.

Dashner has written a prequel to The Maze Runner called The Kill Order, which explains how the world came to be before WICKED was formed and The Glade was built. Jason read this, and found it quite enjoyable.

And from Shadow Mountain comes the newest entry in The 13th Reality series, The Void of Mist and Thunder. In this volume, “an all-consuming void from the Fourth Dimension opens up, unleashing monsters throughout the Realities, Mister George has one last weapon at his disposal--the mysterious and powerful Karma button, which might be even more dangerous than anyone imagined.”
Here’s a trailer for The Infinity Ring.

Thursday, September 27, 7 pm, at Centennial Hall, 733 N. Eighth St., 53233:
Gail Tsukiyama, author of A Hundred Flowers, in conversation with Jane Hamilton.

Tsukiyama’s newest novel is about a family facing extraordinary times at the start of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1957. This special event, presented by the Milwaukee Public Library, is a conversation with Wisconsin’s own Jane Hamilton.

Here’s Alan Cheuse on A Hundred Flowers on NPR. He confesses: “I was following this family almost as though it were my own and stayed all the way to the end of their story.”

Tsukiyama obviously resonates in DC, as here’s Eugenia Zukerman in The Washington Post, who found the new novel “gripping,” exclaiming that “Tsukiyama’s ability to transform a dark and complex story into a work about human dignity and love is magical.”

Friday, September 28, 4:30 pm, at Boswell:
Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, author of The Magic Tree House 20th Anniversary Edition: Dinosaurs Before Dark, and The Magic Tree House Fact Checkers.

Can you believe that Mary Pope Osborne has been entertaining kids for twenty years with her adventures about everything from pandas to leprechauns? And her sister Natalie has been educating us with the companion fact checkers. Now both Mary and Natalie are coming to Boswell (we inherited the event from Next Chapter) to meet as many of their fans as they can. This is now a free and open-to-the-public event.

The Magic Tree House series has been translated into over twenty languages (I’m quoting Wikipedia here) and has sold over 53 million titles. Osborne has written many other books outside of the Magic Tree House series. You can read more about them here.

Fans know that due to wrist injuries, the sisters are not able to sign books, but we have a special stamp (it arrived today!) with both authors’ signatures. But you know how lots of popular authors aren’t able to pose with fans? Not Mary and Natalie, who are hoping to take a picture with every kid that comes to our event.

Saturday, September 29, 4 pm, at UWM Golda Meir Library, 2311 E. Hartford Ave., 4th floor, 53202:
Jonathan Kozol, author of Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America.
The sponsors?
Rethinking Schools
Schools and Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association
UWM Libraries
Friends of the UWM Golda Meir Library
Educators Network for Social Justice.

Kozol returns to the children he has vividly portrayed in previous books to share their fascinating journeys and unexpected victories. As Emily Bazelon recounts in Slate, Kozol has spent almost fifty years trying to change our attitudes about the treatment of poor, particularly children.

And from Stacy Teicher Khadaroo in the Christian Science Monitor: “It’s a deeply personal collection of stories about people who became his friends – stories in which the ashes are sometimes so deep it can be hard to find the fire. But that’s right where Kozol’s storytelling gifts shine through: with simple anecdotes that show the soulful humor, compassion, and wisdom that kindles progress among the survivors.”

Sunday, September 30, 1 pm, at the Downer Theatre, just north of Boswell:
J. Hoberman, author of Film After Film: Or, What Become of 21st Century Cinema?

Hoberman, acclaimed film critic best know for a long tenure at the Village Voice, is the keynote speaker of the Milwaukee Film Festival. Per the festival, “Mr. Hoberman will attend the festival to spotlight two significant films—Sans Soleil (dir. Chris Marker, France, 1983) and Inland Empire (dir. David Lynch, US, 2006)—and present the keynote address of our panels series, State of Cinema in the 21st Century: Film After Film. Co-presented by UW-Milwaukee’s Center for 21st Century Studies, this talk will explore the shifting contexts and future of film and film criticism in a post-9/11 world.”

Visit the Milwaukee Film website for more information.

So the day ended, surprisingly enough with a key issue. Amie came to me and realized she had lost her keys, either in the store or along Downer Avenue. We spent close to an hour searching for them, deciding in the end, that we would assume that they had disappeared to a place where they wouldn’t be found by someone who might then break into the bookstore. I had to think that; how else was I going to sleep tonight?

And we were right—about 15 minutes later, Amie came back and found them in her jacket that she had worn in the morning, but had left on the hook at the end of the day.

Until tomorrow!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Bestseller Post--What Sold Last Week at Boswell?

It looks like at least some of my distribution list for the Boswell and Books blog. If you're wondering what happened because B&B is not popping up in your in box, please resign up here.

Hardcover fiction:
1. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, by Emma Straub
2. Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon
3. The Malice of Fortune, by Michael Ennis
4. Winter of the World, by Ken Follett
5. This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz

It’s only a couple times a year that a short story makes bestseller impact, but Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her debuted in the top ten. Perhaps it’s because of the impact of Diaz’s previous novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, or perhaps the accolades shed on his first short story collection, Drown. Or perhaps it’s because similar raves are being written for the new collection. Ron Hansen offers this praise in the Washington Post: “Written in a singular idiom of Spanglish, hip-hop poetry and professorial erudition, it is comic in its mopiness, charming in its madness and irresistible in its heartfelt yearning.”

Hardcover nonfiction:
1. My Mother was Nuts, by Penny Marshall
2. Wheat Belly, by William Davis
3. Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie
4. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
5. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, by Paul Tough

Paul Tough, an editor at The New York Times Magazine, gets a pop on How Children Succeed, a book that is said to reverse thinking on what makes successful children—it’s character, he says, not test scores. Here’s more on NPR.

And our friend John came in, saying he is riveted by Joseph Anton, Salman Rushdie’s new memoir of his years in hiding. “I need to read every book he mentions on the first hundred pages.” He’s starting with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Anton Checkhov’s short stories.

Paperback fiction:
1. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
2. American Dervish, by Ayad Akhtar
3. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
4. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
5. The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

At a sports bar last night for a party where I was asked to sell books (long story), I wound up having a conversation with two guys who were trying to figure out what my game plan was if the store couldn’t compete in price with the lowballers and didn’t seem to sell the celebrity books that sometimes seem to dominate the nonfiction bestseller lists. When I mentioned Ann Patchett and Jeffrey Eugenides, who’ve both had numerous appearances on our bestseller list this past year and both had very successful visits to the store, their faces went blank. But then I had to admit that I didn't recognize most of the athletes who graced the names of the menu's sandwiches. Just one niche befriending another niche on a Saturday evening.

Paperback nonfiction:
1. Just Ride, by Grant Petersen
2. How to Live Almost Forever, by Leonard Zubrensky, Gary N. Guten, and L. Samuel Wann
3. In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
4. Write a Thon, by Rochelle Melander
5. The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt

I thought with everything going on this past Saturday, including Doors Open Milwaukee and two Obama talks, we might have a problem getting folks out to see Grant Petersen for his Just Ride talk. But fans are fans, and our attendance was pretty closely in line with Petersen’s other appearances, perhaps slightly lower due to the competition and the Saturday placement. But in January through March, that Saturday afternoon slot can actually boost sales.

With Len Zubrensky and Gary Guten’s talk, event sales dominate this week’s paperback nonfiction list. Another is an upcoming event. On Tuesday, October 9, 7 pm, we’re hosting Rochelle Melander’s NaNoWriMo prep talk. Several folks are preparing by buying her guide book, Write a Thon. And then we had a particularly large pop on In the Garden of Beasts, with the book almost doubling its weekly rate of the last month. Something happened, but I don’t know what.

Books for kids:
1. Bad Kitty for President (paperback), by Nick Bruel
2. Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, by Nick Bruel
3. Bad Kitty Christmas, by Nick Bruel
4. The Diviners, by Libba Bray
5. Bad Kitty Meets the Baby, by Nick Bruel

Young adult titles don’t get traditional newspaper reviews, but boy do they get massive blog attention. I was fascinated to see that the Guardian did a mash-up, using a blogger, labeled a blogger, in traditional format. But is her effusiveness more of a blogger style or newspaper critic’s style? I’m not sure—think about when Maslin or Kakutani or Charles or Fischer really, really love something.

So here’s The Book Addited Girl: on The Diviners: “Now, with so many various storylines, the plot could have been so confusing so easily. But it just wasn't - it was rich, complex and addictive - an elaborate web of stories, winding together to create one masterpiece tapestry of a book.”

What might hit the list next week?

Jim Higgins offers a thumbs up for My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher, a novel about a young girl whose sister was killed in a terrorist bombing.

From the review: "If a novel about a family wounded by terrorism can be called charming, Annabel Pitcher's My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is that novel. It delights and uplifts while still taking its characters' traumas seriously, and in this horrible day of political blather never devolves into talking points.”

Read the rest here.