Monday, September 28, 2015

An Eight-Day Bookish Bonanza from Boswell--Celeste Ng, P.S. Duffy, Jonathan Evison, UWM's United We Read, Andy Rash, Stuart Neville, and Marilyn Sadler.

What's going on at Boswell for that?
Monday, September 28, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You.

We are so excited about this event! From the moment I closed the advance reading copy of Everything I Never Told You, sent to me with a note from the author (we get a lot of these, but I still can't read them all, alas), I knew the book was something special. But I still thought, "Family drama in the seventies, with the interesting multi-cultural twist. I've read this story, but I've never read it quite like this, and it's told so well. This will be a wonderful small book to tell people about, my gem of a find."

The first time I got the hint that this book was going to be something more was at Book Expo. I was seated at a table with someone from Amazon's editorial department. I know, I know, strange bedfellows, and we asked each other what we were reading that we liked. I mentioned Ng's book and the other person (sorry, keeping this one nameless) got this intense look in this eye, turned to me and said "I LOVE that book." It went on to be named their #1 book of the year.

In addition to our free event at Boswell, we've helped set up an event with Ng at Mount Mary University at Steinke Hall at 2 pm. The free event is at Steinke Hall. Because we're not able to sell books on the campus of Mount Mary, we're working with the Barnes and Noble College Store there to sell books (strange bedfellows, the sequel). Of course you can bring your book from home.

And finally, here's Jane Glaser's recommendation for Everything I Never Told You: "Set against the social fabric of 1970's small town Ohio, this is a complex portrait of a Chinese American family living through the tragic death of their beloved 16-year-old daughter. As parents and siblings search for truth, they face coming to terms with the regret of 'never' honestly sharing their unrealistic ambitions for and deep resentments of each other. Is it too late for this shattered family to repair itself if they are willing to pick up the pieces? Beautifully written debut novel, with exceptionally moving character development that will provoke a variety of reader reactions. Perfect book club reading!"

Tuesday, September 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jonathan Evison, author of This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, in conversation with Mitch Teich.

We had a great time with Jonathan Evison for The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving when he was in conversation with Mark Krieger, who was working on a novel in progress. This time he'll be in conversation with Mitch Teich, one of our friends from Wisconsin Public Radio's Lake Effect.

From the publisher: "In This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! Jonathan Evison has crafted a bighearted novel with an endearing heroine at the helm. Through Harriet, he paints a bittersweet portrait of a postmodern everywoman, her story told with great warmth, humanity, and humor. Part dysfunctional love story, part poignant exploration of the mother-daughter relationship, nothing is what it seems in this tale of acceptance, reexamination, and forgiveness."

We've had several good reads on the new book, which also hit the Indie Next List for September. Here's Sarah Lange's recommendation for This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!: "After Harriet's husband dies, she takes his place on an Alaskan cruise. But is he really gone, and can Harriet forgive him when she finds out his secret? As her daughter joins her on the trip in another unwelcome surprise and Harriet's present story unfolds, Evison makes use of a series of smart, engaging flashbacks--this is Harriet's life, after all. Filled with charm, humor and hope, Harriet Chance will appeal to the author's many fans and those of Wally Lamb. It will also earn Evison new admirers, as there's plenty to love in this insightful, feel-good story."

Tuesday, September 29, 7 pm (reception), 7:30 pm (talk), at the Lynden Sculpture Garden:
A ticketed event with P.S. Duffy, author of The Cartographer of No Man's Land.

The Women's Speaker series at the Lynden Sculpture Garden is please to present P.K. Duffy for her most recent novel. Produced by Margy Stratton of Milwaukee Reads, the program is co-sponsored by Bronze Optical with food from MKE Localicious.  Tickets are $25 and include a copy of The Cartographer of No Man's Land, $20 for Lynden members. You can click to the ticket link or call them at (414) 446-8794.

Here's a little more from the publisher: "When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into battle. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a town torn by grief...The Cartographer of No Man s Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home."

Thursday, October 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
United We Read, featuring UWM's Rebecca Dunham, plus graduate students Loretta McCormick, Jenni Moody, and Andrew Ruzkowski.

From the publisher, regarding Rebecca Dunham's Glass Armonica: "Winner of the 2013 Lindquist and Vennum Prize for Poetry, Dunham's stunning third collection is "lush yet septic, at once beautiful and unnerving."

Visit the UWM English department Facebook event page for more info.

Friday, October 2, 7 pm at Boswell:
Andy Rash, author of Archie the Daredevil Penguin.

Brooklyn's loss is Milwaukee's gain. Andy Rash is a wonderful kids' illustrator whose work has been showcased in Superhero School, Sea Monster's First Day, and Game Over, Pete Watson. The publisher profile: "Archie has no fear except a secret one--the ocean and the creatures that lurk in it--so he tries over and over to invent a way to fly to Iceberg Nine, where his fellow penguins are having a fish fry."

Publishers Weekly writes that "Rash illustrates the slapstick action in bold cartoons whose bright colors, clean shapes, and slightly weathered-looking backgrounds feel simultaneously contemporary and retro. Panel sequences keep the story moving brisklya during an especially nifty one, Rash uses arrow-shaped panels to trace Archieas underwater barrel rolls as he conquers his fear of swimminga and the joke-heavy dialogue should make this a read-aloud winner."

Here's my recommendation for Archie the Daredevil Penguin: "Archie is one amazing penguin! He’s tobagganed through Craggy Pass and tiptoed through the Leopard Seal Bunks. And now he is preparing for his greatest challenge yet, creating an invention to fly across to Iceberg Nine for a fish fry. As he comes up with one wild idea after another, the truth comes out that Archie can’t swim. While cartoon penguins call to mind such classics as Tennessee Tuxedo and Chilly Willy, and more contemporary icons like Mumble from Happy Feet, Archie is more like a kind-hearted Wile E. Coyote. Rash’s penguins have a charming style all their own and the dialogue is filled with droll asides that lightly addresses the fears of many kids. Fun for everyone, but if you know someone afraid of swimming, even better!"

What's another great reason to see Andy Rash? He'll draw a cool picture in your book when you get it signed, not just one of those unreadable signatures from one of those novelists we go on and on about.

Sunday, October 4, 11 am, at Boswell:
Stuart Neville, author of Those We Left Behind.

This is our second event with Mr. Neville, who previously visited for Ratlines. He's a wonderful speaker and this promises to be a great event.

Here's a little more from the publisher: "Ciaran Devine, who made Belfast headlines seven years ago as the schoolboy killer, is about to walk free. At the age of twelve, he confessed to the brutal murder of his foster father; his testimony mitigated the sentence of his older brother, Thomas, who was also found at the crime scene, covered in blood. But DCI Serena Flanagan, the only officer who could convince a young, frightened Ciaran to speak, has silently harbored doubts about his confession all this time. Ciaran's release means several things: a long-anticipated reunion with Thomas, who still wields a dangerous influence over his younger brother; the call-to-action of a man bent on revenge for his father s death; and major trouble for Ciaran s assigned probation officer. Blood has always been thicker than water for two Northern Irish brothers caught in the Belfast foster system, but a debt of past violence will be paid by not just them, but also by those they left behind."

From Carole Barrowman's review in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "In Neville's latest taut psychological thriller, Those We Left Behind, the author has stayed in Belfast but moved on, introducing new characters whose lives are just as compelling and troubled...The dread in this novel is palpable from the first pages until the heartbreaking final ones. It's Neville's best yet."

And here is Daneet Steffens in The Boston Globe: "Stuart Neville has been masterfully capturing the mean streets of Belfast in a series of thrillers, each arguably more powerful than the last. His latest, “Those We Left Behind,” in which he ups his game by about 10 notches, is a robust police procedural that also impressively plumbs his varied characters’ psychological vulnerabilities."

Monday, October 5, 4 pm (note time):
Marilyn Sadler, author of Charlie Piechart and the Missing Pizza Slice.

From the publisher: "Charlie's family of five is joined by his friend Lewis, which means that if they order a large pizza, each of them will get two slices. But can they agree on toppings? Four-sixths want nothing to do with veggies, and no one wants anchovies. Pepperoni it is. But between the pizza's arrival and its serving, one piece has gone missing."

Here's Barbara Katz's recommendation for Charlie Piechart and the Missing Pizza Slice: "It's pizza night at Charlie's house, but wait -a piece of pizza is missing! Both a mystery and a very clever look at fractions, this is a fun book that will be read over and over." Barb added that kids who don't love math shouldn't be put off by Sadler's book, but if they do love math, Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice will be even more fun."

And yes, we'll be having a pizza snack!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Reagan, Gutenberg, and More Math Books Than Even I would Expect, All Featured on This Week's Annotated Boswell Bestseller Lists for the Week Ending September 26, 2015. Plus Links to the Journal Sentinel Book Page.

You know it's autumn when what might have been the #1 nonfiction hardcover book in July or August is now a solid #4.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Trisha's Table, by Trisha Yearwood
2. Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson (event 10/27, 6:30 pm)
3. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda (event 12/2, 7 pm)
4. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
5. Why Not Me?, by Mindy Kaling
6. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng
7. Rising Strong, by Brene Brown
8. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
9. Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
10. The Magic of Math, by Arthur Benjamin

Not one but three math books land in this week's top tens. In addition to my faves How to Bake Pi and How Not to Be Wrong, there is also The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Y, by Arthur Benjamin. Speaking of magic, we had a very strong pop for Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic, and how could we not - she completely charmed 300+ people at her visit to Boswell for her novel The Signature of All Things. Jennifer Reese in The Washington Post writes that "Gilbert’s love of creativity is infectious, and there’s a lot of great advice in this sunny book about setting your own agenda, overcoming self-doubt and avoiding perfectionism, a buzzy subject these days thanks to the popularity of vulnerability guru Brené Brown, who has appeared on Gilbert’s podcast." And yes, Brown's Rising Strong is also in our top ten.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine, by Alex Brunkhorst
2. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
3. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
4. Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart
5. Finale, by Thomas Mallon
6. The Girl in the Spider's Web, by David Lagercrantz
7. Make Me, by Lee Child
8. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
9. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore
10. Did You Ever Have a Family?, by Bill Clegg

Thomas Mallon has written a lot of praised novels, and I've been doing bestseller lists for a long time (seven years for Boswell, and another 20 or so for Schwartz), but I think this is the first time that this fine author has hit the top five for a week. I checked and his last novel, Watergate had a week at #7. Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years was reviewed by Janet Maslin in The New York Times, who didn't think it hit quite the heights of Watergate, while Chris Tucker in the Dallas Morning News writes that "even readers who don’t remember the waning days of the Cold War will find masterful performances, by the author and by his subject, in Finale."

Paperback Fiction: 1. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28, 7 pm, at Boswell*)
2. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
3. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
4. Saving Kandinsky, by Mary Basson
5. The Martian, by Andy Weir
6. Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
7. The Red Notebook, by Antoine Laurain
8. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
9. Again and Again, by Ellen Bravo
10. Gutenberg's Apprentice, by Alix Christie

As I'm checking through our top ten, there are a lot of repeats (including a classic being read by an area book club), but first time on is Gutenberg's Apprentice, by London journalist Alix Christie. This historical novel is told through the eyes of scribe who is called to Mainz to be an apprentice to Gutenberg by his foster father, a wealthy bookseller. Needless to say, their plan to print the Bible hits some snags, and Gutenberg himself is not the greatest boss. But reviews say that the true hero of the novel is the press itself. Bruce Hosinginger in The Washington Post offers that "Christie’s novel is a worthy tribute to the technological revolution it re­imagines, as well as a haunting elegy to the culture of print."

Paperbck Nonfiction:
1. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
2. Yes, Please, by Amy Poehler
3. The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray, by Robert Schnakenberg
4. The Beer Bible, by Jeff Alworth (event 10/19, 7 pm, at Sugar Maple)
5. Deep Down Dark, by Héctor Tobar
6. Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook, by Mary Bergin
7. Milwaukee Food, by Lori Friedrich (event 11/24, 7 pm, at Boswell)
8. Impulse Society, by Paul Roberts
9. How Not to Be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg
10. This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein

Regional cookbooks tend to hit the restaurant circuit in lieu of traditional visits and Mary Bergin's Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook: Iconic Fare and Nostalgia from Landmark Eateries has a series of dinners planned around the state. They launched at Smoky's in Madison and followed that up with Joey Girard's this week. Coming up is the House of Embers is the Wisconsin Dells on October 15 and The Red Mill in Stevens Point on November 7. Here's the author talking about the book on Wisconsin Public Radio's Jo Caridin Show.

Books for Kids:
1. Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate
2. Rump, by Liesl Shurtliff
3. Jack, by Liesl Shurtliff
4. Finders Keepers, by Shelley Tougas
5. Shipwreck Island, by S.A. Bodeen
6. Lost, by S.A. Bodeen
7. Rump (cloth edition), by Liesl Shurtliff
8. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
9. The Orphan Army, by Jonathan Maberry
10. The Graham Cracker Plot, by Shelley Tougas

If you follow the blog regularly, I'm sure you know that we just hosted visits from Katherine Applegate and Liesl Shurtliff, but because they only did schools and had no public event (there was one with Books and Company in Oconomowoc), you might not be aware of Wisconsin writers Shelley Tougas and S.A. Bodeen. They were a big hit at the four schools that Phoebe set up for them to visit, and you'll likely be seeing future pops on this list as we process the sales. Yes, there's a bit of a delay.

The most popular choice turned out to be Finders Keepers, which sort of reminds me of a Wisconsiny Three Times Lucky (but that's a shot in the dark as I haven't read it) but other critics have referenced Gennifer Choldenko, likely because of the use of a similar mobster reference. A young girl's family spends their summers on Whitefish Lake, but when her dad loses her job, they have to sell the cabin and Christa decides to find Al Capone's hidden blood money to save the family. Kirkus called it "entertaining and humorous."

S.A. Bodeen's Shipwreck Island chronicles a blended family's vacation in Tahiti that goes...horribly wrong. Kirkus wrote: "The book ends abruptly and on an ominous note, with a "smear of red" in the sky and many unanswered questions.More tantalizing appetizer than full entree, this book will leave readers hungry for a second helping." Fortunately Lost is already out, which Kirkus called "enjoyable castaway fare enhanced with a touch of sci-fi futurism." The reviewer was anxious for part three.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews Edwidge Danticat's Untwine, a novel for young adults that comes out September 29.It's about a family whose lives are shattered figuratively (the parents have separated) and literally (a car crash). Higgins writes "Scholastic Press is targeting Edwidge Danticat's new novel Untwine at readers 12 and older. But this tale of grief and resilience should appeal to people who love Danticat's fiction for adults, too, such as Breath, Eyes, Memory and Claire of the Sea Light.

Not so much for Mike Fischer and his review of Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes Last, where only the wealthy can have police and live on tax-free sea platforms, while the middle class struggles under a constricting economy that allows them to live half the year in relative comfort but the other half in a prison. Fischer notes that Atwood raises: "interesting philosophical questions, but the way they're presented here undermines what could have been a much better novel." Dave Burdick in The Denver Post has a more positive take, offering that the humor here lands a bit better than in the recent Year of the Flood: "It's skin-crawling satire and doublespeak mastery. It's too close to some version of our shared truth for comfort." Out September 29.

And finallym also out September 29, there is The Doldrums, a novel from Nicholas Gannon, reviewed by Erin Kogler. A young boy yearns for adventures like his grandparents. And then, "When a stranger with an eye patch shows up at Archer's door and suggests that Rachel and Ralph Helmsley might still be alive, Archer begins to hatch a plan, albeit not a great plan, to travel to Antarctica to rescue his grandparents from the iceberg." Kogler's take: "Gannon's prose is filled with wit and humor and many literary allusions that reference classic adventure stories that will entertain adult readers as well as children."

Speaking of the Journal Sentinel, check out our ad in today's Tap section. We've got info about six of our most exciting events coming in October and November--Graham Elliot, Sarah Vowell, Marlon James, Jennifer Chiaverini at the Hose Tower, The Night Vale creators (Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, in conversation with Patrick Rothfuss), Rainn Wilson (!!!!), and Chris Van Allsburg (not enough exclamation points).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

"Crenshaw" Food Drive, Big Blow-Up of Rory the Raccoon for "Furiously Happy," "Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods" Arrives, Launches at the Grain Exchange.

1. On my way to work today I stopped at a grocery store to buy food for our Crenshaw food drive, to benefit Hunger Task Force. While I normally donate money to these things, donating the food itself got me to thinking about what is the best food to give. It had to be shelf-stable, and based on the handling, I had to avoid glass jars. My first choice was peanut butter--I eat it every day, it seems relatively healthy, and unless you have a peanut allergy, most kids eat it too. My second choice was rice--it made sense to have some sort of staple. And finally, after seeing on the news that apples were the most popular fruit, I bought some unsweetened apple juice. This was sort of a nostalgia pick for me--I drank a lot of apple juice is a kid but now it's hard on my stomach, so I can only think wistfully about its pleasures.

Crenshaw, the book that inspired our food drive, came out on Tuessday, And Applegate will be coming to Boswell on tomorrow, Friday, September 25, 6:30. She's also doing one school visits, a multi-school program that we put together with Kay, the district librarian. Kay is really a treasure to the kids at Elmbroook Schools. We threw out the challenge to get 800-1000 kids together for an event, and she took it up. They are also doing a food drive, for the Salvation Army. And she had a great idea for a special addition to their event that resonates with the story. I don't want to give it away. Here's Entertainment Weekly's teaser and the Crenshaw trailer. Our promotion where if you buy the book ahead of time from us gets you your signing line letter early still is running.

2. It's another big week for books going on sale. We've also been celebrating the release of Furiously Happy, the new collection from Jenny Lawson AKA The Bloggess. She's doing a big tour for the book and will wind up at Boswell on Tuesday, October 27, also at 6:30 pm. As her publicist Marlena says, she signs "David Sedaris style," meaning attendees really get some quality time with the author, which also means the singing is going to go for a long time. And that means it makes more sense than ever to buy the book from us to get an early signing line letter. The event itself, like Crenshaw, is free.

We did a series of tweets celebrating the release with our stand-up of Rory the Raccoon, Lawsons's taxadermied pal. I won't repeat the all here, as our Facebook posts also get converted to Tweets and that could lead to an infinite loop that would explode the whole system, and who would want that? As the book came out, we thought it was the perfect time to celebrate raccoons on our what-seems-like-annual woodland critters table. Here's Carly drinking some raccoon-themed beverage. We also have raccoon greeting cards, plush, mugs, dishes, and while they are not out yet, ornaments. The raccoon finger puppet was out of stock, which hurt.  Here's Entertainment Weekly on Furiously Happy.

Why not come in and pose with Rory too?

3. It's not just national publishers that have major books going on sale for us this week. Historic Milwaukee, Inc. is publishing John Gurda's Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods with a big launch tonight (September 24) at the Grain Exchange Building. I traveled to their offices to pick up our first shipment of books. It was all very exciting.

Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods is somewhat inspired by the classic neighborhood posters created by Jan Kotowicz and put out by the Department of City Development in the 1980s. I actually have the Bay View poster hanging in our home. And while the old posters are not currently for sale, Jim Higgins noted in the Journal Sentinel that the 11 new posters were available from Historic Milwaukee. There's a chance we might be selling them too, but they will probably be sold to us at the net price, so the actual cost will be higher. If this happens, we'll let you know.

Here's a picture of Eric receiving the book at Boswell.  Gurda will be speaking at Boswell on December 2, 7 pm, but there are more events planned, including a talk at the Bay View Library.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What a Week! Michelle Weldon Monday, Alex Brunkhorst Thursday, Katherine Applegate Friday, Trisha Yearwood Saturday, Marco Politi Sunday, and Celeste Ng Next Mondy.

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week.

Monday, September 21, at Boswell:
Michelle Weldon, author of Escape Points: A Memoir.

I can't say it better than this excerpt from a profile by Heidi Stevens at the Chicago Tribune:

"We hear so much about single mothers and so little from them. I've been one, and it's an oddly isolating role. You know there are many, many others just like you, but you're not sure where to find them — not in a support group sort of way, just in a hear-their-voices sort of way. That's part of the reason Michele Weldon decided to write Escape Points, her new book about raising three sons after their father left."

"I didn't write another memoir because I think I'm so utterly fascinating," Weldon told me. "I just found that my experiences were not voiced in the media landscape." Weldon, who lives in Oak Park, previously wrote 1999's I Closed My Eyes: Revelations of a Battered Woman, about living with the domestic violence wrought by her ex-husband, the father of her three sons."

"Escape Points is about life after the split: nurturing three boys (now 26, 24 and 21) who live and breathe competitive high school wrestling; battling cancer; working as a professor at Northwestern University; and participating as a leader with the OpEd Project, a nonprofit that aims to broaden the diversity of voices in the media. The book is so refreshing and true that I found myself choking back tears before I even finished the preface." Read the rest of Stevens's profile here.

Wednesday, September 24, at Boswell:
Alex Brunkhorst, author of The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine.

From Brunkhorst's website, a little more about her writing life and inspiration for the boook: "I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and childhood was spent pretty much like any other kid’s childhood. I loved playing tennis, swimming, and listening to music. And I was always a veracious reader. Nancy Drew mysteries were my early books of choice, and later I devoured everything from commercial fiction to the classics. I don’t know if it was all that reading, but I always had a super vivid imagination. "

"I went to an all-girls Catholic high school (Divine Savior Holy Angel) in Milwaukee and it was then that I met a teacher, Mr. Grandy, who first noticed my talent for writing. I did what any other high schooler would do though – I ignored his advice to pursue writing and instead studied economics at Georgetown University, determined to work on Wall Street."

"After three years working in finance, I moved to Los Angeles, a city I had only visited once, on little more than a whim. Once I got there, I decided that my lifelong dream of working in finance wasn’t agreeing with me, and I begged my way into United Talent Agency, where I started in the mailroom and then worked for the head of the TV Literary Department."

"Soon after, inspired by the creativity around me in Hollywood, I finally took Mr. Grandy’s advice and began writing – a short story for an ex-boyfriend that turned into the novel The Mating Season, which was published by St. Martin’s Press. At this point I decided I needed a more 'author-friendly' occupation, so I started working in high-end real estate, and I eventually founded the popular website on luxury living."

"The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine was inspired by many of my friends who, unlike me, live truly gilded lives, and my crush on a boy I only saw on Sundays." More about the book here.

Friday, September 25, 6:30 pm, at Boswell:
Katherine Applegate, author of Crenshaw.

First up, a little more about the book from me: "Jackson’s family has fallen on hard times. His dad can’t work regularly since his MS diagnosis and his mom lost her job teaching music and struggles with three part-time positions. His little sister can’t really remember the last time they were homeless and lived in the minivan, but Jackson can. And what with the food rationing and the upcoming yard sale, when they’ve been asked to put all but a few of their possessions up for sale, Jackson knows in his heart that something is wrong again. And that’s when he spots a giant black and white cat, first surfing, and then taking a bubble bath. It’s the imaginary friend from back when he was in first grade, but why has Crenshaw returned? A-pplegate has written a tale that captures what it’s like to be a kid in this situation. It’s poignant and philosophical, a great jumping-off point to serious discussion, and softened with moments of goofy humor." (Daniel Goldin)

Katherine Applegate is the author of The One and Only Ivan. For her new book, we are sponsoring a food drive with The Hunger Task Force. While supplies last, folks who donate food will get a Crenshaw "I donated" sticker. Please ask for yours at the front desk.

Here's Applegate talking to Rocco Staino at School Library Journal about Crenshaw: "I am so in love with this book. It was a labor of love. It was a very long, extended labor, with a long gestation period, but I am thrilled [with] how it turned out. It is about two different things. It is about a little boy, Jackson, who is going through some really tough economic problems. His family is classic American working poor, working several jobs and not making ends meet. He is a very bright, astute kid who knows that his parents are having trouble, even though they are trying to shield him from it."

"In the middle of all this, an old imaginary friend returns. His name is Crenshaw. He spent some time with Jackson when he was five years old. To have Crenshaw return when Jackson is almost 11 is a little unnerving. However, it doesn’t really matter if your friend is imaginary [if] he [is] a good friend."

Saturday, September 26, 1 pm, at Boswell:
A ticketed signing with Trisha Yearwood, author of Trisha's Table.

Here's our news about Trisha Yearwood. "Country music superstar, Trisha Yearwood is quickly becoming the next big lifestyle maven with three New York Times best-selling cookbooks, host of an Emmy award-winning Food Network show, as well as new lines of cookware and furniture."

200 tickets are available to meet and have copies of Trisha's Table signed on Saturday, September 26, 2015, 1 pm. In order to make sure Yearwood can meet as many fans as possible in a limited amount of time, she will only sign copies of Trisha's Table.

We're so excited to have Trisha Yearwood for a signing at Boswell, while she is in Milwaukee performing on September 25 and 26 at BMO Harris Bradley Center. with the Garth Brooks World Tour. Thanks to our partner, FM106.1 for helping promote this event.

Sunday, September 27, 3 pm:
Marco Politi, author of Pope Francis Among the Wolves: The Inside Story of a Revolution.

Could the timing be better for a visit from Marco Politi with all the attention from Pope Francis's first visit to the United States. This week The Wall Street Journal's Francis X. Rocca talked about the divided church: "The stakes are high. If the pope lays the emphasis on his social agenda and his efforts to draw fallen-away Catholics back into the fold, he might appeal to a younger generation that is key to revitalizing the church. But he then risks demoralizing and alienating a core of believers who have remained stalwarts and have sustained the church during half a century of upheaval. According to Marco Politi, author of Pope Francis Among the Wolves, the trip is crucial because of the influence the U.S. has on issues the pope is prioritizing, from the environment to human trafficking. But it also matters because the pope will be meeting with a divided church, where conservative bishops and lay people are resisting his liberalizing moves on family issues."

From the publisher: "Marco Politi takes us deep inside the power struggle roiling the Roman Curia and the Catholic Church worldwide, beginning with Benedict XVI, the pope who famously resigned in 2013, and intensifying with the contested and unexpected election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, now known as Pope Francis. Politi's account balances the perspectives of Pope Francis's supporters, Benedict's sympathizers, members of the Catholic laity." I should note that The Wall Street Journal's take on laity and the authors are not exactly the same.

From Christine Amanpaour, CNN correspondent: "Marco Politi is a writer for our times, with his insight, access, and wisdom about an intriguing pontiff. Few people can dig up the nuggets and jewels about such important papal matters, and what Politi knows and serves up to his readers cannot be missed. Pope Francis Among the Wolves is surely another of Politi's 'must-reads." Here's a conversation with Politi on Amanpour's blog.

Monday, September 28, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You.

Let's start with a recommendation from Jane Glaser: "Set against the social fabric of 1970's small town Ohio, this is a complex portrait of a Chinese American family living through the tragic death of their beloved 16-year-old daughter. As parents and siblings search for truth, they face coming to terms with the regret of 'never' honestly sharing their unrealistic ambitions for and deep resentments of each other. Is it too late for this shattered family to repair itself if they are willing to pick up the pieces? Beautifully written debut novel, with exceptionally moving character development that will provoke a variety of reader reactions. Perfect book club reading!"

Bubbling below the bestseller lists for months in hardcover, Everything I Never Told You exploded in paperback. We've got a full day planned with the Celeste Ng. She'll be appearing on Morning Blend, then will talk to high school students at Nicolet High School (we've been told they love the book!) and then will talk to college students at Mount Mary University. That's a free event at Steimke Hall at 2 pm. We've set this event up but the bookseller at the event will be Barnes and Noble College Stores. You are welcome to bring your book from home or purchase a copy at their event.

And then there's our event at Boswell at 7. Bring your friends. Bring your family. Read the book with your teenage kids and bring them too - Everything I Never Told you won an Alex Award from the American Library Association. And don't forget that this event is cosponsored by our friends at OCA-WI.

More links:
--Arun Rath talked to Ng on All Things Considered
--Clea Simon reviewed the book in The Boston Globe
--A review/profile from Héctor Tobar in the Los Angeles Times.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Three Laurens and a Luis--A Look at Boswell's Bestsellers for the Week Ending September 19, 2015

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Barbara the Slut and Other People, by Lauren Holmes
2. Days of Awe, by Lauren Fox
3. The Water Museum, by Luis Alberto Urrea
4. Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff
5. The Girl in the Spider's Web, by David Lagercrantz
6. The Nature of the Beast, by Louise Penny
7. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
8. The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George
9. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen
10. Secondhand Souls, by Christopher Moore

Clearly Lauren is the name of the moment for hardcover fiction, right? With Lauren Holmes and Lauren Fox having events with Boswell for Barbara the Slut and Other Stories and Days of Awe, respectively, and Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies being our top selling non-event hardcover fiction title. Signed copies of the first two available--we're almost out of the tip-in signature first editions of Groff. Now please forgive me if I get the names mixed up sometimes when writing quickly.

In other stories, The Girl in the Spider's Web continues to sell well. I'm fascinating about the sea change of acceptance for publishers getting writers to continue series after the death of the original authors. It seemed to me there was a time where these ghost-written adventures were kept more anonymous, but now they are taken seriously, whether it's a rave like Michiko Kakutani's review in The New York Times, or Karolina Waclawiak in the Los Angeles Times worrying that the new installment hurts the legacy of the original. It's not like the old days where "several more manuscripts were found in a trunk," said with a wink.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Why Not Me?, by Mindy Kaling
2. How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng
3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
4. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
5. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Miller: Inside the High Life, by Paul Bialas
7. Once in a Great City, by David Maraniss
8. Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
9. Pope Francis Among the Wolves, by Marco Politi
10. Black Man in a White Coat, by Damon Tweedy

I'm sure you're wondering if we were the store that was behind Mindy Kaling being in conversation with Atul Gawande, based on our bestseller list. No, that was at Harvard Book Store and the event was sold out! They use Eventbrite and I do like the way the Organizer gets a nice shout out. Why Not Me? had a very good sales pop at Boswell, even without an event, and in addition to all the light features, Megan Garber in The Atlantic states the underlying theme of the book, that it's ok to work hard for what you want. "...But maybe the main thing to say is this: The book is, at its core, a defense of work. It is a defense of striving, and wanting, and thirsting. It takes all the glib protestations of Hollywood doublespeak...and says to them: No. You are lying. You worked for what you got. You struggled, somehow, for it. Just own that."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Meet Me Halfway, by Jennifer Morales
2. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
3. Again and Again, by Ellen Bravo
4. Tijuana Book of the Dead, by Luis Alberto Urrea
5. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
6. The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
7. Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper
8. Euphoria, by Lily King
9. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng (event 9/28 7 pm, at Boswell)
10. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories is this year's Common Read at UWM, and while I was very excited for this development, I wasn't thinking about all the spinoff sales there might be to people who were not freshmen. If you haven't paid attention to the book (though we have had several events promoting the book, so it's likely that blog readers are aware of it), here's an interview with Mitch Teich on Lake Effect.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Hidden History of Milwaukee, by Robert Tanzilo
2. The Holy Madmen of Tibet, by David DiValerio
3. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown
4. The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard J. Davidson
5. You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero
6. Everyday Makeup Secrets, by Daniel Klingler
7. Deep Down Dark, by Hector Tobar
8. Zendoodle Coloring Creative Sensations, by Julia Snegireva
9. Trees of Wisconsin Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela
10. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie

I was on the fence about whether to include coloring books on our bestseller lists, as we do leave out a lot of items that are more gift than book, even if they are in book form - blank journals, for example. But my goodness, we are selling so many of them each week that they deserve a shoutout. This week's appearance is from Zendoodle Coloring: Creative Sensations: Hypnotic Patterns to Color and Display, by Julia Snegireva. This past week we sold 26 different titles we classified as adult coloring books, and we're not even including the ones we have that were packaged for kids but that adults are buying.

Books for Kids:
1. Rump, by Liesl Shurtliff
2. Jack, by Liesl Shurtliff
3. The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
4. Pool, by Jihyeon Lee
5. The Marvels, by Brian Selznick (event 10/12 at Alverno, $10 tickets available)
6. Fate of Ten, by Pittacus Lore
7. The Boys in the Boat, Young Readers Edition, by Daniel James Brown
8. In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler
9. Archie the Daredevil Penguin, by Andy Rash (Event at Boswell Fri. Oct. 2)
10. Appleblossom the Possum, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Liesl Shurtliff charmed crowds at several schools and the Cudahy Public Library this week, in conjunction for her visit for Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Kids put on a play (well, a short scene) and at the public event, there was a song too. Abby at the library had special Jack-themed treats and a 3D beanstalk too. Just before the event, we found out that the next companion novel, Red, is coming out next spring.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, the feature story is on Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, the new book by John Gurda. We'll be getting it in - we have an event scheduled later this fall - but alas, we don't have it yet. Please reserve your copy. From Jim Higgins's profile:

"Milwaukee's Department of City Development between 1983 and 1990. Artist Jan Kotowicz conceived and illustrated an iconic image for each neighborhood: a Polish flat for Riverwest, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church for the Historic South Side. Gurda researched and wrote lengthy essays for the back of each poster, but jokes that few people have read his work, because so many people have framed and displayed the beautiful posters. (Stroll through the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee segment of the downtown Skywalk and you'll see many of them.)"

"For this book, Gurda has expanded his scope to 37 city neighborhoods, with Kotowicz creating new poster images for the additions. In addition to Kotowicz's artwork, each chapter includes a map that sets the neighborhood in its Milwaukee context, a generous helping of historical images and an equally generous set of contemporary photos. The visuals add up to more than 1,300 images."

And that explains why there was no poster for The Third Ward. In the early 1980s, less than 100 people lived there.

Mike Fischer reviews Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies in the Journal Sentinel. His take, including the bracketed aside, in the spirit of Groff's story.

"For all the homage Groff pays to the comforting rituals comprising a marriage, her novel is also attuned to how little we'll ever know, even of those we know best. And not just about our partners, but also about our families and friends — often as surprising and conflicted here, in ways good and bad, as Mathilde."

"[Or, if you will, as you and me. Because I promise you: Fates and Furies will induce such reflection. Involving the bed you've made. The loved ones you've made it with. And whether you're living your life there or just sleeping it away.]"

And also from the Journal Sentinel is Carole E. Barrowman's "Paging Through Mysteries" column. This week she highlights three new releases, including Stuart Neville's Those We Left Behind. Neville is coming to Boswell on Sunday, October 4, 11 am. We'll be serving coffee and pastry, sort of a Belfast Brunch.

Barrowman writes: "Coming of age in Glasgow in the 1970s, the Troubles in Northern Ireland were part of my childhood soundtrack. Not the main melody, but a low thrumming baseline. I remember quite vividly sitting in a movie theater on a Saturday night when the manager stopped the projector and announced the IRA had called in a bomb threat. Would we check under our seats for suspicious packages? We did. No bomb. The movie played on. But what was it like to be in Northern Ireland? What was it like to be looking under your seat and over your shoulder? Those were the questions that first drew me to Stuart Neville's Belfast thrillers, morally complex stories of men and women struggling to find redemption, retribution, forgiveness and even love during the violence. In Neville's latest taut psychological thriller, Those We Left Behind, the author has stayed in Belfast but moved on, introducing new characters whose lives are just as compelling and troubled. "

Her other recommendations consist of two debuts: "The first is Donald Smith's The Constable's Tale, set in colonial North Carolina with a cast of authentic and endearing characters, including Harry Woodyard, a tobacco planter and the volunteer constable of Craven County, and his outspoken Welsh wife, Toby, who came to the colonies as an indentured servant." A family is murdered, and Native Americans are blamed, but of course, the true crime is much trickier to solve than that.

And finally Barrowman tackles The Drowning Ground, by James Morrison. She calls it "a fresh take on the English village mystery with a transplanted Argentine as the detective." Guillermo Downes is stationed in the Cotswolds, far from a world where the police are as untrustworthy as gangs. A wealthy neighbor is killed and it turns out that he has a bit of a dirty past. Also great reviews from the trades. Kirkus Reviews writes that "in his fiction debut, Marrison leaves just enough unexplained about his shrewd, moody protagonist to make you hope he'll return in a sequel."

And finally, over in the "Fork, Spoon, Life" column of the Fresh section, Kristine M. Kierzek profiles Eugnia Cheng, author of How to Bake Pi. Here's a fascinating excerpt:

On cooking and connections: :" love trying to get people interested in math. I gradually discovered that the stories I told that involved food got people interested. Every time I brought in food, an actual food, and did a mathematical demonstration with the food, everybody perked up and always remembered what I said."

And on method and math: "I love following recipes, but if a recipe has 55 ingredients I will get put off. I would much prefer a recipe with three ingredients and an epic list of things to do with those ingredients. I like the process and method. Mathematics, the kind I like, is all about process."

And of course we have signed copies available. And I wouldn't be surprised if you find another post on our day with Cheng. I learned a lot!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Not Selling Anything But the Book--The Joy of Reading Lauren Groff's "Fates and Furies," With Yes, a Little Behind-The Scenes Stuff.

I have been doing a lot of event shilling for the past few days, and I need to remedy that. Our straightforward event listings do post on Mondays, though it's meant to be a little more personal and with more links than, say, our email newsletter. And I'll talk about events on other days, though mainly that's for books I'm really excited about that I've read, and once again, there should be a personal angle, a twist, that I can't do elsewhere.

But my antidote to all that is to talk about Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies. Back in May, when I was at Book Expo, I was able to participate in a program where booksellers could sit down with different publicists and pitch their programs. I was lucky enough to get a few moments with Jynne Martin, the director of publicity at Riverhead, who basically said, "I want to hear everything about your store, but first I want to tell you that you must read Fates and Furies, and then please have a donut." And crap, they are Doughnut Plant donuts, which is the one thing about New York that I think about all year, leading up to when I'm going to get a carrot cake donut, or a tres leches, or the chococloate chip. This woman knows her baked goods, and in my eyes, that is a window to the book lover's soul...except if their are gluten free issues.

So I made my pitch, took the galley, and moved on. And while you go through a lot of advance copies at Book Expo, the book stuck with me. You don't know how many great editors and publicists and marketing people come to booksellers and say, "I know you have a lot on your plate, but here's the book you have to read." And you have to know the formula - the priority is for event books, there's one in-store lit group book a year, and then there's everything else. And while some people think I'm a fast reader, I'm not. I'm generally at five books per month, which I think is slow for an active bookseller, and slow for me. I look back at my reading log for the eighties, when I had not too many responsibilities and at one point, no television, and I would read 15 books a month no problem. 15 turned to 12 to 9 and well, here we are today.

I loved the cover. I event loved the color of the cover. No people on it! No house! No street! If this was an important novel written by a woman, how did they prevent a certain retailer from making them create something more literal?  And I should note I particularly loved it together with several of the other Riverhead jackets, most notably Gold, Fame Citrus, by Claire Vaye Watkins.

Lauren Groff made a splash with her first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, but by the time Arcadia was released, the second novel in her contract, her publisher Hyperion (the trade imprint of Disney) had gone through many editors and incarnations and was in flux. Like many media conglomerates (Hearst, Newhouse, Time Warner), they were wondering what they were doing with books. and soon decided to jettison everything that did not mesh with their programming on ABC or Disney, and sold the backlist to Hachette.

In one sense, it didn't matter; Arcadia, a novel about a boy who grows up on a commune that I've discussed in this blog, still got great reviews and wound up showing up on several best-of lists. It turned out to be Ron Charles's favorite book of the year in The Washignton Post.You know Charles, I hope. I mention him all the time. That got it on our year-end best table. Hyperion had released the book early in paperback (after seven months) and that, along with us choosing the book for our book club promotions, led to some decent numbers for the paperback at least (since I'm the proprietor, I can tell you--30 books).

So somehow I was able to get the book to the top of my pile. And I read it. And here is my reaction.

"Did you ever read a book and have little to say but “Wow?” That was my response upon finishing the new novel from the author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia. It’s the story of a marriage, and for the first half of the book, it’s from the perspective Lancelot 'Lotto' Satterwhite, written off by his mother, the matriarch of a bottled water empire, when he impulsively marries Mathilde in college. Treading water as an actor, he finds his calling as a playwright, and fame too, with Mathilde hovering in the background. But that’s just half the story. When Mathilde’s voice takes over, everything we seem to know is wrong, or at least not quite right. It’s a rollercoaster of reversals and secrets, of loyalties kept and broken, of economic oppression and sexual politics – the stuff of high tragedy. All this and some fierce writing too. Wow." (Daniel Goldin)

Was there a tour? Yes. Did we get on it? No. Could we complain? Absolutely not! We already had several Riverhead authors coming, and for that, I was incredibly grateful. Plus could I guarantee 100 people? We really do have a good reputation for doing well with literary events, but I just felt that to beg, I needed to put together something amazing. In retrospect, this is the event for which I should have worked with a theater group, but even by July, our event schedule was so packed with programming, programming that would take up a lot of energy, that I just didn't do it. And honestly, I probably would have been told that the tour was full. Budgets are tight! Lots of authors don't tour at all anymore.

In a way, this book reminds me a lot of Station Eleven. First novels are fun, but it's even more fun to take an author that has a solid track record and explode them. Or think George Saunders' Tenth of December. And that was short stories! But there's something about someone paying their dues, and finally their work gets the attention it deserves that really gets to me.

And boy, has this book exploded. Early reviews are great. Mike Fischer reviews it in Sunday's Journal Sentinel. How about this line to make you melt?: "That passage (read the review for more) constitutes some of the best writing I've read this year, in a book filled with sentences that are not only drop-dead gorgeous, but also philosophical and existentially tough."

And yes, it has been already shortlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction. There is a tour, though her Philadelphia event was postponed, due to the Pope's visit. And boy, I thought about how I could get to one of those cities, but well, with our own schedule, I just couldn't make it work, especially because Chicago wasn't on the tour. Now that the book has exploded, it's possible that they'll add more dates on. [We're getting Celeste Ng for Everything I Never Told You, right? Monday, September 28, 7 pm at Boswell or 2 pm at Steimke Hall on the Mount Mary campus. Please come - I love this book!]
OK, now I think I could aim for 100 people, but that's my 20/20 hindsight in action. I'm already quite positive that Fates and Furies will be on my favorite books of 2015 list. The only thing that can possibly push it off is if all the other booksellers wind up reading it and picking it as well, leaving me no choice but to pick an underdog. That is called the "pound puppy" theory of picking your favorite books of the year.

Congrats to Lauren Groff and the Riverhead team for hitting it out of the park. I'm not shilling anything here except a book I love. But hey, I'm a bookseller, right? That's what I do.