Thursday, July 31, 2014

The New Boswell Tote, Which Will Look Familiar to Those Who Attended Book Expo.

It took us almost five years to run through our first set of tote bags. Needless to say, this was a little slower than I expected. We'd used a customer supplier, made in the USA, and I think it was a pretty good price, albeit not the dollar totes you find in mass merchants.

They finally sold through. And now, for the last six months, all I hear is "Where is your tote? Where is your tote?"

I came back from Book Expo this year with a commemorative tote from Flatiron Books. There was a lot of "that would make a perfect tote for us" talk going around. So I went to our supplier and asked, "can you get us this tote?"

The said, "This exact tote?"

And I said, "Yes."

And so that is what we got. The totes came in today. I guess I won't have to think about this for another five years.

The tote is $16.95 and is available for purchase on our website.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Releases from Scott Cheshire, Rufi Thorpe, William Vollman, Daisy Goodwin, Stephanie Feldman, Plus a Tendency to Obsess About Book Heft.

A novel that would be at home on the back of a Harley is High as the Horses' Bridles, by Scott Cheshire, what with all the flames on the jacket. In this case, I believe the flames mean hellfire and those said horses are in Queens, where young Josiah Loudermilk is about to take the stage and deliver some brimstone-like oratory, and then picks up decades later when our now-left-the-church protagonist returns to care for his ailing father. I'll put it on my list of Queens novels, which I started compiling after reading Dissident Gardens. Ron Charles, who like the author, was raised in a "church with intense ideals at odds with mainstream culture" is a big fan. He writes in The Washington Post: "This is a complicated and tender exploration of the tragedy of spiritual mania, of living in the endlessly recycled disappointment that 'the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.' But more universally, it’s also a novel about the relationship between a father and son and their sympathy that passeth all understanding." My only complaint---not loving the quality of paper on this $26 hardcover.

There's been a lot of  buzz about The Girls from Corona del Mar, by Rufi Thorpe.It's about two girls who grow up together. Mia's had a lot of struggles, while things have gone relatively easy for Lorrie Ann, and that has definitely molded their personalities. The life falls part for Lorrie Ann, and as the publisher notes, "There is nothing Mia can do to help." Steph Cha in the Los Angeles Times writes "The Girls From Corona del Mar is a slim book that leaves a deep impression. Mia and Lorrie Ann are vivid and fully formed, and their stories provoke strong emotions that linger like lived memory. Thorpe is a gifted writer who depicts friendship with affection and brutality, rendering all its love and heartbreak in painstaking strokes." Thorpe's novel has a larger trim size than Cheshire, but it's also 60 less pages, which makes me think it's still fewer words, but at 20 oz., the heft towers over the 14 ounces of High as the Horses Bridle. Next up I'm going to do my put the books in the front window for a week and see how much they yellow.

Now one expects a nice paper quality and heft on William T. Vollman, and Viking doesn't disappoint with Last Stories and Other Stories, his new collection. The publisher notes the the stories range in tone from the melancholy to the sly, and from the stripped down to the lush and lyrical, with settings ranging from the United States to Mexico, Japan, and Bohemia. Pourochista Khakpour in the Los Angeles Times (I was going to link to The New York Times review, but there was litle I could say about a necrophiliac dreamscape) notes that "Last Stories takes us to so many destinations, inhabits so many lives, that the book becomes less a rumination on death than a celebration of life; less an investigation of apparitions than a presentation of all the many possibilities of existence in the material world. This is a good thing. Vollmann understands that he has to not just invent but entertain here, as all good adventures must." (33 ounces--probably so heavy that some of my older customers would complain when they were reading it in bed.)

There's less necrophilia (for starters) in Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter, her follow-up to her breakout novel, The American Heiress. This time Goodwin follows Emmpress Elizabeth of Austria, "the Princess Diana of nineteenth-century Europe." When I was at BookPeople, I noted that they had a historical fiction section; I think it's not a bad idea, though you'd have arguments about certain titles. Like our other genres, I'd leave out the genre-mashing stuff. Not every historical novel is a "historical novel." The Brits definitely love their historicals with he quotes, and that's why the major reviewers in London all reviewed this, while it might be a little tougher to get that review attention from Americans.  Here's the UK Sunday Times review. I should note, however, that Janet Maslin did review The American Heiress in The New York Times. (23 ounces but remember, this is 480 pages)

And finally, Boswellian Jen Steele called my attention to the striking cover treatment for The Angel of Losses, by Stephanie Feldman. They are calling it The Tiger's Wife meets The History of Love, but Jen has a different comparison title. She writes "When Majorie's grandfather dies, she stumbles across a notebook he's written, a notebook that leads her on a journey to discover who she truly is. This story about Jewish folklore, mystics, secrets, and sacrifices is, at its center, all about family and love and acceptance. Fans of The Discovery of Witches would enjoy this; it's a different premise but I found some similarities and most importantly, I enjoyed both!" Being that Deborah Harkness is coming this Monday, that's a comparison to particularly keep in mind. Oh, and Kirkus has another comparison, to painter Marc Chagall. I have to remember who that customer was who told me last weekend how much she liked Dara Horn's The World to Come. Hey, based on the similar cover treatments, the cover designer also saw that comparison. (17 ounces, 288 pages, with a heft feel somewhere between Cheshire and Thorpe)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Nick Harkaway Interview, Conducted by Hannah Johnson-Breimeier, in Celebration of the Release of "Tigerman" (Plus This Afternoon, Celebratory Nick Harkaway Cupcakes from 4-6 PM)

So here's the setup. For the last several years, Boswelian Hannah Johnson-Breimeier has been rocking sales of Nick Harkaway's novels, The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker. We basically did a multi-year pitch to get Harkaway to come to Milwaukee for his next novel, Tigerman. She read the book early and offered this recommendation:

"Lester Ferris is a British diplomat of sorts living a leisurely life on Mancreu, an island slated for destruction. That fact has turned the waters off of the island into a free-for-all of illicit activity by every major world power. Lester's befriended a local kid who learned his English from comic books and movies. Together they float through the days avoiding acknowledging that soon they will have to leave. But when they are both witness to a violent act, they each decide that extreme measures must be taken to regain a sense of justice. With kickass action scenes, reluctant heroism, and characters that break the mold of predictability, Tigerman is 100% full of win." --Hannah Johnson Breimeier

The visit almost happened but then it all fell apart. Mr. Harkaway couldn't make it to Milwaukee and Ms. Johnson-Breimeier wound up leaving the world of Boswell for new adventures, or more specifically, the Milwaukee Film Festival.

But the good news is that we talked to Harkaway's publicist, and came up with a solution. Brittany set up a virtual blog tour, with Hannah asking the question and Nick (yes, we're all on first-name basis here) belting them out of the park. Nick Harkaway's new novel, Tigerman, is now available. And so we bring you, the Nick Harkaway (photo credit Chris Close photography) interview from Hannah Johnson-Breimeier.

HJB: Tigerman is set on Mancreu, an island slated for destruction because it’s too dangerous to the rest of the world. What were any real world inspirations when creating Mancreu?

NH: The most direct is Diego Garcia, which was infamous in the UK a few years ago for having had a rendition flight land on it - the Foreign Secretary in 2006 had assured Parliament that no such flights had ever landed on British soil. Earlier this year, when Tigerman came out in the UK, it was alleged that the island may actually be the site of a secret prison, that it's being used as a hole in the world, just as Mancreu is in the book. (Which almost makes up for my complete failure to anticipate the civil war in Ukraine.)

For landscape, I leaned on the Spanish island of Tenerife (not the beaches, but further inland) and the gorgeous town of Locorotondo in Puglia.

HJB: Your characters are my favorite part! They’re always super passionate about something or someone. I’ve noticed that you’re a fan of comic books and so is the boy in Tigerman. Heck, he even learned English from them which makes for entertaining reading. What was your experience writing him?

NH: I loved it. I love how variations on what I was brought up to think of as "standard English" make the lexicon more beautiful and expressive, how the language expands and grows by being reworked for new places and contexts. The book is built around the quasi-parental friendship between the man and the boy, so the identity of the boy is really important. We have to find him enchanting. This being a novel, the language he uses and the language I use around him define what he is - so I had to make those things appealing. They had to appeal to me, too, so that you could feel my affection for the character. Writing him always made me smile, made me feel emotionally open - and if it didn't, I scrapped the scene and started again.

HJB: There is a strong theme of fatherhood in Tigerman, yet you came up with the idea for the book before you had children. Did becoming a father influence you to vary at all from your original idea, if so, how?

NH:We were already on that journey - I had the idea in January, our daughter was born in October. So I was looking forward - but by the time I came to write the book, I was absolutely submerged in being a dad. I think the sense of fatherhood, of the extremity of emotion and obligation that that entails - at least to me - really just filled in the blanks. But writing is always a little bit about sleight of hand - you leave enough space for people to put themselves into the architecture, lend their own emotional perception to your characters. That way they're invested. So, for example, we really know very little about the Sergeant and his life, or why he feels this way, but it feels - I hope - as if that little implies everything about him, because once I've sold you on the idea you start filling in the blanks for me from your own experience and understanding. It's not a con - it's the gig. It's what you do with real people, too - you can't get inside their heads, so you infer from what you know goes on inside your own, map your feelings onto them.

HJB: Tigerman, the superhero, has key kick-ass action scenes. They read like the beautiful fights by Christian Bale’s Batman and Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne. Are you trained in hand-to-hand combat/ are you secretly a ninja?

NH: Well, basically: yeah. I make a big thing about how I was bad at martial arts when I studied them, and in a sense I was - I hate getting hit and I don't feel okay with hurting other people even in the context of sparring, so I'm not your ideal MMA combatant. On the other hand, I studied aikido and fencing when I was a kid, then jujitsu at university, kickboxing for a few months when I was twenty three and couldn't find any other classes, a couple of seminars on escrima and some other less common styles, then nearly a decade of tai chi and soft kung fu. In a fight I'm probably slightly less use than a chocolate kettle, because I haven't trained for that - but I understand how it all works both conceptually and in terms of proprioception. I know what it would feel like - in terms of balance and muscle movement - to throw a perfect roundhouse kick, for example, but I don't have the flexibility to do it. But what I can do is make you feel it too... It's sleight of hand again, too. I tend not to detail fights so much as direct your eye to the exciting bits, the way a fight arranger does in a movie.

HJB: In The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker, you treated bureaucrats with a harsh hand. In Tigerman, the protagonist, Lester Ferris, is a bit of a bureaucrat as British consul in Mancreu. Have you softened your opinion towards that profession?

NH:  I tend to think of Lester as being a human being given a bureaucratic non-job. In reality, of course, many people working in bureaucracies are both compassionate and efficient (and often also frustrated by the limitations of their positions). I don't dislike bureaucrats, I loathe the ethos of "professionalism" - which in this context is used to mean putting your personal perception of morality and humanity on a back burner and doing only what the narrow definition of your job requires - and the wall of "no" that bureaucracies can sometimes become. Anyone who's struggled with a government department or a healthcare provider knows what I'm talking about. Anyone who's worked in those places knows, too.

The negative effect of bureaucracy, be it governmental or corporate, is obvious and awful. It's part deindividuation, part dehumanisation, and Stanley Milgram's work and the Zimbardo "Stanford Prison Experiment" show you what it can do to you, but it happens in everyday life too, often more subtly. And, of course, it happens under dictatorships. Mohammed Bouazizi, who crops up in the book, was probably massively and horrifically deindividuated when he set himself on fire and kicked off the Tunisian revolution in 2011.

HJB: I cried at the end of Tigerman. I understand why you did what you did. But why? (Only answer this if you can manage it without spoilers.)

NH: It's the story. It's the logic, inexorable and undeniable. When I'm writing, I push characters around to make them be as much themselves as possible. I let them play out against the landscape of the idea. I don't mess with actions they take that are inherent in who they are, because you'd feel the cheat and that's no good. I have an extreme negative reaction to that moment - you see it a lot in reset TV shows where for example the format depends on an unconsummated love affair between the two main characters - when someone does something totally and horribly out of whack with who they are in order to avoid a resolution. But I like to think there's happiness in the ending, too.

HJB: We appreciate that your novels have strong women. Would you ever write a book with a female protagonist?

NH: I hope they're just real - or at least, as real as the other characters. My life is full of the most remarkable women. Some of the best bits of the world are driven and run by them, often (though thankfully less and less often) unacknowledged. The book I'm writing now has five narrators claiming to be the real one, of whom two are women, two are men, and one is indeterminate - but one of the women frames and defines the whole thing. I'll leave it to you to decide, when you see it, exactly who the protagonist really is - that's part of the fun. More straightforwardly, the book I think I may write after that, the idea is absolutely about a woman and her relationship with a group of other women, and I suspect it'll be hard as hell for me to get right, which of course is one reason I'm drawn to it.

HJB:With your three novels, you’ve hit many different popular geek-lore topics, the future world and ninjas, spies and evil scientists, and comic books and superheroes, what’s next?

NH: Alchemy, video games, substrate-independent minds, semiotics and sharks.

HJB: What’s your recipe for imagination?

NH: I think imagination is almost a negative quality - by which I mean not that it's bad (of course) but that it happens by the absence of something, in this case: brakes. If you watch Sir Ken Robinson talking about education (he did a great RSAnimate) you'll see him say that kids are incredibly imaginative and unconstrained, but that adults lose that quality. I think imagination is about seeing possibility without brakes. For example: I walk down the street, I see a guy walking with a fern and because I watched Jurassic Park the other day it occurs to me that he's off to feed his dinosaur. That's something a kid might say, and an adult might correct, so the kid learns to think of that sort of possibility as silly. Except some people never do. We don't install the brakes. I very consciously stretch my mind all the time so that not only do I keep open that possibility, I see more than one. Is the fern walking down the street with the man? Is the street moving and he's having to move his legs to stay in one place?

HJB: What genre would be most difficult for you to write?

NH: I ditched a story I was writing which was basically my Stieg Larsson novel. It was just too depressing for me to live with long-term. Anything that is constitutionally not-me would be very hard - and it would change who I am in a direction I might not like, so I don't fancy it. I don't want to become moody, depressed and cynical, which was the mode in which I was writing that story. I felt very at home writing my Doctor Who novella for the David Tenant Doctor. I felt at home writing Lester Ferris for Tigerman. (And I'm loving writing a cosmicidal/archetypal far future intelligence, too. Mmm. Less said about that, the better.)

HJB: I collected some of these interview questions from my friends and family. This last question came up more than once. How’d you get to be so great?

NH: That's not a question! That's a blatant effort to make the British guy blush and swallow his own foot!

Okay, taking the question as if it was about someone else: writing novels is like being a stand-up comic, but you get eighteen months to be funny the first time. I start with something simple, tell the story, and as I go along it gets embroidered and embellished, tightened and tensioned, characters get polished and acquire quirks and identity, emotion gets heightened. So at the end it looks as if I came up with something huge and complex, but I didn't - I grew it.

Let's close with another voice. Hannah passed the baton of Nick Harkaway enthusiasm to our buyer Jason Kennedy, who is also a big fan of Tigerman. He wrote "This book hits all the notes of a great novel; there are hilarious moments, followed by some somber tones, followed by a thrill ride action event, and then just keep repeating till the end. Now the hard part comes--waiting for another Nick Harkaway novel." 

For those of you who've read Harkaway before, Hannah makes the valid point that the author is kick ass. But Jason's argument is also forceful: You only get to read Tigerman before you have to wait for the next one. But for a lot of you, near most of you, you've got three adventures ahead of you - Tigerman, The Gone-Away World, and Angelmaker. There's also The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World and a short story, only available as ebooks. And if you search further, you'll find hiss Dr. Who book, Keeping Up with the Joneses. And here you were trying to figure out what you were going to do this August!

Thank you to Hannah Johnson-Breimeier and Nick Harkaway for this guest post. And come by this afternoon for a copy of Tigerman and a kick-ass cupcake.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Event Post--Sandra Ackerman, Matthew Gavin Frank, Edan Lepucki, Nick Harkaway Release Party, Find Waldo Local Wrap Party, Plus a Deborah Harkness Preview.

Tuesday, July 29,  4-6 pm, Nick Harkaway's Tigerman release celebration.

We  have been queried by customers about doing midnight release parties this fall, specifically for David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami. I asked my staff and I could not get enough volunteers to make this work. This person has to work at Starbucks at 4 in the morning, this other person has to work all day and host the events in the evening. Hey, that's me!

But former Boswellian Hannah, who had been rocking hand-selling Nick Harkaway during her tenure at the store, had long petitioned for the author to visit Milwaukee on his first tour, and while the tour did not happen to the extent that he slipped into the midwest, we are hosting Mr. Harkaway for a virtual visit this week and are celebrating from 4-6 pm with a release party of sorts.

A. Tigerman is Boswell's Best. Buy Harkaway's newest at an extra incentivized good price.
B. Take the Nick Harkaway personality quiz.
C. Have a Hannah-made cupcake! (Hannah made = better than home made, and in a completely different league than monster-made)
D. Agree that Nick Harkaway is the best author ever. Do you think it's coincidence A Most Wanted Man, a film based on a John LeCarré novel is playing next door, or fate?

Tuesday, July 29, 6 pm, at the Milwaukee Public Library, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave.: Sandra Ackerman, author of Milwaukee: Then and Now.

You're probably wondering "why the new edition?" Well this book was originally part of a series published by Thunder Bay Press, a Canadian promotional publisher that was owned by Advanced Marketing that was picked up with Baker and Taylor when they went bankrupt. Several books in the series are seemingly still available, but somehow Ackerman was able to get the rights back on this one. This location, both as Schwartz and Boswell, sold over 1000 copies of the previous edition.

Watch Ackerman on Morning Blend today. My apologies on the room change, as the event switched from the Rare Books Room on the 2nd floor to the first floor meeting room.

Wednesday, July 30,  7 pm, at Boswell:
Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer.

I have done this enough to know that just because Frank had a front page review in the New York Times Book Review is not enough for you to come out and hear the author. But John Mooallem's review is quite good. Here's a taste:

"Preparing the Ghost, Frank’s slyly charming book-length essay, explores Harvey’s compulsion to understand the mystery of the giant squid and also Frank’s compulsion to understand compulsions like Harvey’s. Frank is interested in both the way we mythologize what we can’t fully understand and the amount of uncertainty that surrounds every story. (It’s not even clear if Tommy Picco existed; Harvey may have invented him to liven up his story. And Frank has no problem clouding the facts further by embellishing some of the historical scenes he relays.) Frank winds up musing about a lot--it’s a wide-ranging book — but the giant squid is always pulsating somewhere in the darkness underneath it all."

Here's William Giraldi's review in The Wall Street Journal.

From Andrea Denhoed in The New Yorker: "The book is a history of people who have become enthralled by the giant squid; it is also a larger exploration of the human tendency to fall into obsession and mythologize the actual, just because it’s unusual.'"

Frank also has a lot of nice quotes from fellow authors, the most prominent of which is probably Simon Winchester. "Fans of Federico Fellini and, most especially, of Georges Perec, will adore Mr. Frank’s infuriatingly baroque, charmingly eccentric and utterly unforgettable book. And with hand on heart I can truly say that I also loved every word of it."

So here's our three areas of interest--creative nonfiction, photography, Georges Perec fans, squids. We once had an octopus gift table in the store. Doesn't that mean anything?

Thursday, July 31, 3-5 pm, at Boswell
Find Waldo Now Wrap-Party.

I was very excited to vist Bartz's: The Party Store on North Avenue in Wauwatosa so I could pick up our Waldo costume. One of the rules of having someone be Waldo is no talking allowed, so now you know if you someday host a Waldo party.

Join us for some Waldo activities, your basic assortment of Waldo swag, but most of all, the Waldo prize giveaway. We've got goodies from Fischberger's Variety, Soaps and Scents, Outpost Natural Foods,  Indulgence Chocolatier, plus Waldo books and Boswell gift cards.

Oh, and the most important thing--we'll have a survey for you to fill out so that we can make Find Waldo Local 2015 better than ever, assuming Candlewick continues the promotion.

Refreshments provided by Nehring's Sendiks on Downer.

Friday, August 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Edan Lepucki, author of California.

First of all, a big thank you to the Journal Sentinel for including this event on the front page of the Tap section. Of course we dreamed about the tour (and Boswell) being mentioned on the Colbert Report but heck, that's something to aim for in the future, though not too much in the future, as the show is ending soon.

First of all, I think you need a link to the Colbert Report appearance.

Second of all, I'm sure you want to know if the book is up to snuff? Well, it's my thinking that the book got some tougher reviews than it might have normally, as they saw Lepucki as a lottery winner of sorts, and everybody knows that people who win the lottery don't deserve it, which is why it's completely appropriate to hit them up for money, which is why I don't play the lottery. Also because as a gentleman who enjoys probability and statistics, I know what the odds are.

But we've had some great reads at Boswell, both from Jannis and Carly. "A hyper-realistic literary approach to a not so distant future, Lepucki's California presents a disturbing world of fragmented settlements, the crumbling and rebuilding of communities, as well as their social hierarchies, where people and the things they say and do are not necessarily how they appear on the surface. Frida and Cal, the two main protagonists, find their marriage challenged and tested in the dramatic trappings of this dystopian future when they choose to abandon their safety in order to discover the dark truths about the nature of their current world. An extremely imaginative debut novel!"--Carly Lenz

Monday, August 4, 7 pm, at Boswell

Deborah Harkness, author of The Book of Life, Volume 3 in the All Souls Trilogy.

From Boswellian Jen Steele: "Witches and Vampires and Daemons, oh my! The moment of truth has arrived; the past, the present and the future for all creatures. Diana and Matthew are back from their time-walk in London, 1590 and are faced with new losses and new beginnings. Reunited with their family, they must get to the Ashmole 782 before old enemies get to it. A combination of magic, mystery, science, romance and suspense--these threads, like a weaver’s knot, wrap you up in this book's powerful spell! Sink your teeth into the final installment of the All Souls Trilogy. Once you sit down to start it, you will not want to stop."

A few more things you should know. Though most of the events on the tour are ticketed, or require a book purchase to get on the signing line, our event is free, and we'll allow anyone to get a book signed.

Line letters for the general public will be given out starting at 5 pm on Monday, August 4, but we'll be putting aside the A line letters for folks who bought the book from us. And starting Thursday, we'll be giving out a line letter to folks who buy the book from Boswell, with this caveat--we will not replace the line letter if lost. You'll have to get a new one.

Don't worry, everyone's book will get signed and we'll be here as long as it takes. Yes, we'll close the doors when we hit capacity, but if that happens (and I don't think it will), you'll be able to wait outside till the store opens up again and get your books signed and meet Ms. Harkness and get your picture taken--the whole nine yards.

Stay tuned for next week. There are so many interesting events, you're going to have to double check your calendar to make sure it's not October.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Boswell's Bestsellers for the week ending Saturday, July 26: Predicting the Rise of the Shakespeare Diet, Plus Other Links and Asides.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
2. California, by Edan Lepucki (event 8/1)
3. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
4. The Book of Life V3, by Deborah Harkness (event 8/4)
5. Evergreen, by Rebecca Rasmussen
6. The Heist V14, by Daniel Silva
7. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
8. Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King
9. The Serpent of Venice, by Christopher Moore
10. Remains of Innocence V15, by J.A. Jance (MPL event 8/12)

Putting together our order (which anyone browsing Boswell can see has come in in a big way) for J.A. Jance's event at the Milwaukee Public Library on August 12, I learned that Jance has no less than four protagonists in four series. Sometimes we try to distinguish them in our inventory by the initials of the protagonist, but we noticed it was getting confused, because Jance's most popular heroes are Joanna Brady and J.P. Beaumont, which are the same initials. They are now indicated as "BRADY" and "BEAU." Remains of Innocence is a Joanna Brady mystery (or thriller, as the publishers like to call these for the mass merchants) and it concerns a waitress whose dying mother's surprising fortune leads to a heap of trouble.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. My Family and Other Hazards, by June Melby
2. The Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills
3. The Making of Milwaukee, by John Gurda
4. A Fighting Chance, by Elizabeth Warren
5. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thoms Piketty
6. Factory Many, by Beth Macy
7. Elephant Company, by Vicki Croke
8. Jesus, by James Martin
9. The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver
10. The Removers, by Andrew Martin

The publisher notes that Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II is the story of James Howard “Billy” Williams, whose uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill. Matthew Price in The Boston Globe calls the new book "splendid," pleased with author's "blending (of) biography, history, and wildlife biology."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Saving Kandinsky, by Mary Basson
2. The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
3. The Infatuations, by Javier Marias
4. The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline
5. The Discovery of Witches V1, by Deborah Harkness (event 8/4)
6. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
7. Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent
8. Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
9. TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann
10. And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

We're having very good sales for the paperback of Javier Marias's The Infatuations, which is on Conrad's rec shelf. He writes "This is writing at its purest: elegant, stylish and subtle. The work of Javier Marias transcends such bromides as: 'I couldn't put it down!' It insists that you savor every word; that you stop and reflect on what you have just read; that you parse the sinuously snaking sentences for every nuance they reveal." Here's also The New York Times review from Edward St. Aubyn.

Paperback Nonfiction
1. Going Somewhere, by Brian Benson
2. One Summer, by Bill Bryson
3. The Boys in the Bone, by Daniel James Brown
4. Assholes, by Aaron James
5. How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, by Ken Ludwig
6. Rand McNally Road Atlas 2015
7. Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon
8. Riverwest, by Tom Tolan
9. Studying Wisconsin, by Martha Bergland and Paul Hayes
10. Milwaukee at Water's Edge, by Tom Pilarzyk

Ken Ludwig's How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare is billed as "a foolproof, enormously fun method of teaching your children the classic works of William Shakespeare." You've probably noticed from this bestseller list that you can slap Shakespeare on a decorating book and it will probably hit our bestseller list. Better than that, how about The Shakespeare Diet? It's my idea; you can't have it. You probably know Ludwig as the author of the hit plays Lend me a Tenor and Crazy for You. Here's a review of the book in Playbill (of course).

Books for Kids:
1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
2. The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
3. The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
4. Paper Towns, by John Green
5. Where's Waldo: Incredible Paper Chase V7, by Martin Handford
6. The Feelings Book, by Todd Parr
7. Tar Beach, by Faith Ringgold
8. The Ballpark Mysteries V1, by David A. Kelly
9. The Rules of Summer, by Shaun Tan
10. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

The Find Waldo Local program ends this Thursday and we're celebrating with refreshments, activities, and our prize giveaway. You'll be able to pose with Waldo (costume purchased at Bartz's: The Party Store) and if you haven't yet come by since you got your 15 or more check-ins on your passport, you'll also got your coupon good for a dollar off a Where's Waldo book. So why do I mention this on our bestseller list roundup? It's because we've got another Waldo book on this week's bestseller list. Though the verdict is out on whether this year's program was as successful as last year, our sales of Waldo books more than tripled over the first promotion, and let's be frank, that's why our sponsor Candlewick puts this promotion together. If other folks found similar success, I'll suspect there will be a Find Waldo Local 2015.

This week in the Journal Sentinel, Mike Fischer reviews Lucky Us, Amy Bloom's first novel in seven years, that starts with a young girl and her mother heading to the home of her father who has just lost his second wife. He writes "It's a breezy and funny beginning, from a writer who has always had a wicked sense of humor. But the mood soon alters: The speaker — 12-year-old Eva Acton — learns that what Mom really wants to see is what's in this death for her. She dumps Eva on the grieving Edgar — father to both the illegitimate Eva and the legitimate, 16-year-old Iris — and disappears, except for a brief cameo late in the novel." He calls is a novel of "striking emotional depth."

Mary Louise Schumacher reviews The AIA Guide to Chicago. "It's a combination of thoughtful essays and neighborhood guides that focus on exemplary examples of certain architectural trends as well as structures that simply stand out for one reason or another."

My goal this week is to build a display around Jim Higgins second annual short-story speed dating roundup. What a treat to give space to a genre that doesn't normally get it's due. Now mind you, Higgins only reads one story in the collection, but it still gives you a taste. This session includes: --"The Last Thing We Need" by Mike McCormack from Forensic Songs
--“Collected Stories,” by Ryan O'Neill, from The Weight of a Human Heart
--“Dogs I Have Known,” by Andy Mozina, from Quality Snacks
--“Black Vodka,”by Deborah Levy, from Black Vodka
--“Going After Lovely,” by Sean Ennis, from Chase Us
--“The Favorite,” by John Brandon, from Further Joy
--“The Dog,” by Jack Livings, from The Dog

And finally, Jim Higgins notes on his blog that with the first Booker Longlist released with Americans qualifying, team USA takes four slots out of 13. More important than that to us is that two of the four visited Boswell on their tour, Karen Joy Fowler for We are All Completely Beside Ourselves and Joshua Ferris for To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. Did I tell you to read these books? Did you come to our event? Well, some of you did, I know some of you weren't paying attention to me. Next time you'll pay attention, right?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Roundup of Local Book Stuff: Literary Tidbits from Urban Milwaukee's Dial, Shepherd Express News and Previews, Lake Effect, Wisconsin Public Radio.

First up, we visit the Booked Up page of the Dial cultural section of Urban Milwaukee. Will Stotts, Jr. reviews The Silkworm, the-J.K.-Rowling-writing-as-Robert-Galbraith follow-up to The Cuckoo's Calling. He writes: "One need only read the book’s harrowing description of a murder victim’s remains to realize anew why authors sometimes use pen names. Freed from the Harry Potter audience, Ms. Rowling is liberated to experiment with the conventions of noir and the horror genres. These books are not for her legion of young fans, but rather their parents and grandparents. They will appreciate The Silkworm as a descendant of PI tales like those featuring Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade."

In the Shepherd Express, arts editor David Luhrssen reviews The Four Horsemen: Riding to Liberty in Post-Napoleonic Europe, by Richard Stites. Regarding the author's choice of topics, the 19th century European upheavals, Luhrssen notes that "although the topic may seem obscure to the general public, Stites writes with an engaging wit sadly lacking in much academic writing, delivering his judgments with nuanced emotional as well as intellectual understanding for the chief actors and the issues of free expression, national liberation and constitutional governance they grappled with." As of today, we've got a copy for you in stock.

Luhrssen also takes on Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. His take: "Nader takes some dubious populist positions but makes good points on the hijacking of the word 'conservative' by radicals bent on turning back the clock to a time that never was."

While a creative nonfiction book about a photographer obsessed with capturing the likeness of a giant squid might have seemed like an arty sort of Book Preview (Matthew Gavin Frank takes on Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer on Wednesday, July 30),the actual Book Preview went with the equally arty Saving Kandinsky talk by Mary "Peetie" basson at the Milwaukee Art Museum, tying into their own Kandinsky exhibit. Their event is 2 pm on Sunday, July 27.

On Lake Effect, Patricia Skalka appeared on Monday to discuss Death Stalks Door County. The new series features  Cubiak, a former Chicago detective, who moved to Door County "to get away from all the death and mayhem he’s encountered in his life." Needless to say, murder must have followed his trail.

Tuesday's show also features Barbara Manger, whose memoir Riding Through Grief is about the death of her son after a Chicago bike race in 2008. "The book is also about how her family dealt with their loss by finding unique ways to honor Matt and his memory, not the least of which is the work itself.

Wednesday's show has an interview with Rebecca Rasmussen, author of Evergreen, who appeared at Boswell that evening. There's not a direct link so what I want you do now is move the bar to minute 29.  How much of Evergreen is inspired by your own time in the North Woods? This book isn't autobiographical in any way (The Bird Sisters was partly based on a grandmother's journal) but it gets to her true love of the North Woods and a wish always to be back there (that's paraphrased).

Today, Brian Benson talked with Susan Bence about his trip from Wisconsin to Oregon as documented in Going Somewhere. This was actually a bicycle book tour, traveling on two wheels to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois (including Boswell on Thursday). Regarding his cross country trek: “There were so many moments like that trip when I blew up nothing into everything. It was a part of that trip and so many relationships. So I decided to write something based on that; and also in North Dakota, so many things happened in that state; the wind was such a force and it was when things really shifted in the trip,”

I should note that we have signed copies of both Evergreen and Going Somewhere.

And now onto Wisconsin Public Radio. Kathleen Dunn spoke with Randall Herbert Balmer, author of Redeemer, the Life of Jimmy Carter (Basic). The book highlights his deep roots in the Progressive Evangelical tradition.

On July 22, WPR re-aired Dunn's conversation with Michael Lewis regarding Flash Boys and then Joshua Zeitz's appearance for Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln's Image, just in case you missed it. Yes, we have both in stock.

Wednesday was another day of book-releated repeats. First Luke Harding was the guest, having authored The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Ma and that was followed by an hour about The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life, with Alan de Quiroz, once again from Basic Books. And Thursday is an encore of Beasts, a talk with Jeffrey Moussaiff Masson. I'm sure you're wondering why I am documenting all these repeat broadcasts but I am getting into it, plus I didn't write about them the first time.

On Joy Cardin's show this week, Michelle Abbate argues that politics have a rightful place in books for kids.The author wrote a book about conservatives using books to influence kids in 2010. I'm not sure whether Abbatte and Cardin agree on this one.

Larry Mueller doesn't talk much about fiction, especially when it doesn't have a Wisconsin connection, but he hooked up with Jeff Shaara for The Smoke at Dawn. I don't think it was for this book but for the last (time gets all twisted around) but we did have a possible event with Shaara at one point, but it never came to pass.

He also talked to Victoria Houston, author of Dead Lil Hustler. Per the station, "Larry Meiller finds out what trouble can await there in the latest installment of the Loon Lake Fishing Mysteries. Plus, information on tenkara flyfishing, which figures in the book." We've got two copies!

I didn't have the 15 hours to listen to all of Central Time, but maybe I'll figure out a shortcut!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Another Display For a Book That's Not Out--Back to School with Julie Schumacher and "Dear Committee Members"

One of the problems we continuously face at Boswell is how to get the word out about events that are books from new authors that don't have a local family and friends base. Now many publishers wouldn't probably tour these authors, equally wary of turnout, but when the author lives in Chicago, Madison, or even surrounding states (Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, and downstate Illinois would account for the bulk), it sometimes makes sense for the publisher to try to send the author on the road and see how it goes, especially when bookstores start showing the book some love.

In the case of Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher, the love is definitely out there from booksellers. We have three great staff recs, which I'll list here. Reading all three, you'll definitely get a feel for the book.

First came Jen Steele's rec: "Jason Fitger, professor of creative writing at Payne University, is the go-to guy if you want honest, snarky, passive-aggressive letters of recommendation. He has no problem writing about his ex-wife, the university's "golden" child: the economics department, or the construction disrupting his office, all in a letter of recommendation for your prospective employer to read. Dear Committee Members had me laughing out loud, the perfect companion for an afternoon of reading."

Mel Morrow's followed up soon behind: "Some say that every joke begins with a kernel of truth. So it is for Jason Fitger, protagonist of Dear Committee Members, the latest novel by University of Minnesota creative writing professor Julie Schumacher. Through his many, varied letters of recommendation, readers learn what irks Fitger as he trundles his way through tenure in the Department of English at Payne University. Just as Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry captured a bookstore owner's transformation from solitary curmudgeon to romantic hero, Dear Committee Members tracks the plodding rise of Fitger's star from infamous letter-obsessed recluse to English Department Chair: Dear Committee Members is the A. J. Fikry of the Ivory Tower. It is at once hilarious and familiar, illustrating in an utterly humane way some of the problems that plague contemporary campuses. I am eager to send copies to my tenured friends, accompanied by an overlong letter of recommendation (of course!)."

And they convinced me to give it a try: "I write this recommendation for Julie Schumacher’s new novel, which is coming out at the end of August. Schumacher, whose novel The Body Is Water, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, has pulled off a literary hat trick. While keeping to a variation of the epistolary form, she’s created a powerful character in beleaguered English professor Jason T. Fitger, woven a plot that documents his rise and fall and possible redemption, and crafted a series of zinger missives that capture all the craziness of the modern academic world. You or any reader will be fortunate to place a copy of Dear Committee Members on your bookshelf, physical or otherwise. I remain,Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company."

And of course it was our rep Jason Gobble who got us to read it in the first place, but I'm sure that's not surprising to folks who pay attention to these things.

So what we decided to do was to make Dear Committee Members the cornerstone of our back-to-school displays, much the way this year's Graduates in Wonderland became the face of our graduation displays or last year's Dad is Fat was our Father's Day focus. First up was a display table centered on academic novels with Mel's rec. Then later we'll feature some lunch bags and such with a rec from Jen.

The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach (Daniel)

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion (Daniel)

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides (Sharon)

An Academic Question, by Barbara Pym (Daniel)

Stoner, by John Williams (Jane)

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt (Sharon)

Lucky Jim, by Martin Amis

Pnin, by Vladimir Nabokov

On Beauty, by Zadie Smith

The Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon

White Noise, by Don Delillo (Daniel)

Blue Angel, by Francine Prose (Amie)

The Human Stain, by Philip Roth (we looked at some other lists for a few of these)

I wanted to include a David Lodge book, but his more recent titles veer from his campus comedies of yore. The idea is not just to get browsers to pay attention, but to remind booksellers to talk about it too. We'll see how it goes. And just one piece of gift advice; the next time an academic complains about the politics of their job, think of it as a cry for help, a cry for Dear Committee Members.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Few New Displays: Robot Science Fiction, Regional Selections, Penguin Beach Reading, Walter Dean Myers.

Tis time to walk around and give shout outs to various displays.

When I saw these tin robots in a gift catalog, I thought surely there is a display to be made from this.These are not the cutesy often plush robots that pair with children's books. No, this is for an honest-to-goodness science fiction display, and since Game of Thrones had finished airing, the timing was perfect.

Some of Jason's picks:
--I Robot, by Isaac Asimov
--Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson
--How to Build an Android: the True Story of Philip K. Dick's Robotic Resurrection, by David Dufty
--Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
--Robot Uprisings, edited by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
--R..U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), by Karel Capek.

As I mentioned previously, I co-starred in my fifth grade production of RUR. It was abridged. I played Alquist.

Summer is the perfect time for a regional table at the register, what with all the folks visiting town for various festivals and general summering. I was chatting with an FOB who moved to New York but comes back in summers to visit her mom who said that even our one humid 90 degree day was relatively painless, compared to recent heatwaves. And now we're back to the lower dew point averages that mean so much to us.

Our next regional event is Sandra Ackerman at the Milwaukee Public Library for Milwaukee: Then and Now, this coming Tuesday, July 29, 6 pm. We just booked Larry Widen's event for Milwaukee Rock and Roll on Thursday, October 2.

Another season, another tote. Penguin has a summer reading display that features mesh bags. There aren't that many in the promotion, so we're asking folks to buy two books off a pretty good list of titles to get one. Our only caveat is that they have to buy both books on one transaction, within our promotional period.

The qualifying titles include:
--Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
--A Hundred Summers, by Beatriz Williams
--Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini
--A Tale fo the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
--A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
--The Silent Wife, by A.S.A. Harrison
--The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel Brown
--The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
--Graduates in Wonderland, by Rachel Kapelke-Dale
--The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
and a good number of other titles. How could you not find a couple of books on this list that you don't want to read?

We just get up our Walter Dean Myers table and it's time to say goodbye to Nadine Gordimer. We can really only keep three of these going at one time, as otherwise the store starts looking a like a funeral home.

We also have a back-to-school table, but the photo was a little blurry. We've put our 2013 backpacks, lunch boxes, and water bottles on sale at 25% off and our two 2012 items, a shark and an owl backpack, are clearanced at 50% off. That line in particular was beautifully made. I expect to see them disappear quickly, at least before our new items come in.

That's the trick with back to school. We start relatively late but the national chains schedule their sales for the earliest school years, which can be the second week in August.