Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The bookseller ramble - Ask Again, Yes, from Mary Beth Keane

Title/Author: Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane

Previous books: The Walking People and Fever, both novels. Fever is based on the life of Typhoid Mary. Both books draw on Irish American culture.

The setup: Two New York City cops, one just over from Ireland, the other second generation, meet on the job and befriend each other. They wind up becoming neighbors in Gillam, a suburb that I think is in Rockland County. If I had taken better notes, I might know better. Something bad happens that drives the familes apart, but it can't keep away the next generation, who are doomed to inherit the burdens of addiction and mental illness.

Did I like it?: Yes, and you can ask again. After all, I'm writing this really long blog post, and we're not even hosting the author. Here are the stores on the tour.

Who would read this book: Of course, the answer that every writer and publisher wants to hear is, "Who wouldn't?" But there are a few key names that come up, most notably J. Courtney Sullivan and Matthew Thomas, whose recent books, Saints for All Occasions and We Are Not Ourselves, would be great matches (and I read them both, so I'm not fudging). Both gave quotes for this book too. Thematically, you can certainly add Alice McDermott and Colm Tóibín, though to me, they are a bit different stylistically.

How the book and I collided: My rule of thumb is that when I go to a publisher dinner with authors, it's my responsibility to read one of the books beforehand. For the life of me, I do not know how other attendees seem to have read all of them. Several options run through my head - they are incredibly fast, they don't actually work at a job, they are either fibbing or doing that thing where you say "I read it," but you really are saying "I read 50 pages."

I started reading a couple of other books for the Winter Institute Dinner in Albuquerque, but I didn't connect with either of them. So I contacted Wendy at Simon and Schuster and asked her what I should do. She told me to read Ask Again, Yes. She's a long-time bookseller and has a good handle on matching people and books.

Was anybody impressed that I read the book?: Not really. I wound up seemingly talking to everyone but Keane at the dinner. I really liked all my dining companions, one so much that I went back and read her book, even though it was out of my comfort zone. After the dinner, I got her to sign my book and moved on. I could tell she had just interacted with forty some booksellers, and unless she's the most extroverty of extroverted writers, that was probably enough for the day.

How have I done with hand-selling it so far?: It's only been out a day! In advance, I set my sites on getting early reads from two authors. The first (recommended via correspondence) always has a lot on her plate, but at least one of the quotes was from someone she knows and admires. That can sometimes help. The other author was visiting and we were chatting about books, and she had read all my comparison titles. And then she realized she already had a copy. I don't know how that turned out, but I really feel like I might have won her over. In my brain, I'm batting .500. In reality, TBD.

What did I learn from the acknowledgments?: What, you don't read the acknowledgments? I now get irritated if they are missing from a book. I'd like to know the editor, the agent, the writing teachers, the friends, and who gets thanked in the family. Was a bookseller thanked? Now that this has happened to me a couple of times, I know this is possible, and I sort of like it when our profession gets a shout out. Chris Calhoun was the agent, Nan Graham and Kara Watson were the editors (the acquirer and the shepherder, so to speak). Eleanor Henderson gave her quotes for both Ask Again, Yes and Fever and is also thanked. If they are not best friends, they should be!

Cover treatment: I can't help but think that the art director was hoping for a Little Fires Everywhere connection. Not just because of the imagery of suburban houses, but also with the very similar blue-green color story. That story looms large for me because on the day of our Celeste Ng event, Olivia noted that I had dressed to match the book.

What's the best quote?: Louis Erdrich clearly gets top billing. "Mary Beth Keane takes on one of the most difficult problems in fiction – how to write about human decency. In Ask Again, Yes, Keane makes a compelling case for compassion over blame, understanding over grudge, and the resilience of hearts that can accept the contradictions of love."

Would I read another book by Keane: Yes, I would. I would also read this book again if she were visiting and I was doing the conversation. Sometimes I change the facts in my head in novels, and it takes another read to sort that out.

Our best chance for the author to come to Milwaukee: Our friends at the Irish Fest Literary Tent should invite Keane. They do ask you to hang out there a long time, but you do sell a lot of books, or so I'm told. We just hosted Carl Baehr for his book, From the Emerald Isle to the Cream City: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee: A History of the Irish in Milwaukee.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Boswell events this week: Michael Koryta, Thomas Sweetser, Gregory Lee Renz at Boswell - plus registration may still be open for David Maraniss and Yossi Klein Halevi

Special Memorial Day Hours - we're open until 5 pm.

Tuesday, May 28, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Koryta, author of If She Wakes, in conversation with Nick Petrie

Michael Koryta, the author Stephen King called a master of thriller writing, chats with Milwaukee’s Nick Petrie about If She Wakes, Koryta’s electrifying new novel about two women fighting for their lives against an enigmatic killer. Cosponsored by Crimespree Magazine.

From Colette Bancroft in The Tampa Bay Times: "Imagine waking in a hospital bed, aware of what’s going on around you but unable to move or communicate in any way. Imagine you can’t even blink. Imagine you don’t know how you ended up trapped inside your own head. Terrifying, right? Now imagine that you begin to figure out what happened to you - and realize that someone is still trying to kill you."

A horrific car crash leaves Tara in a vegetative state. Or so her doctors think. Trapped in her body, she learns that someone wants her dead, but what can she do, lying in a hospital bed? Abby Kaplan, an insurance investigator, is hired to look into Tara's case. Despite the fog of her own trauma, Abby can tell Tara's car crash was no accident. When she starts asking questions, things quickly spin out of control, leaving Abby on the run and a mysterious young hit man hard on her heels. More from my Saturday post about If She Wakes.

Michael Koryta is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen novels, most recently, How It Happened. His previous novels, including Last Words, Those Who Wish Me Dead, and So Cold the River, were New York Times notable books and nominated for numerous awards, including having won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Koryta is a former private investigator and newspaper reporter. Nick Petrie is the Milwaukee-based author of the award-winning Drifter series of thrillers, including The Drifter, winner of the ITW Thriller Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and most recently, Tear It Down.

Wednesday, May 29, 11:00 am, at Wisconsin Club’s City Club:
David Maraniss, author of A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father

This year's Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Luncheon features the Pulitzer-winning journalist David Maraniss, author of the classic biography of Vince Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered. Tickets may still be available by calling (414) 286-8720.

A Good American Family is a riveting book that captures the pervasive fear and paranoia that gripped America during the Red Scare of the 50s through the chilling story of his own family's ordeal. Elliott Maraniss, David’s father, a WWII veteran who had commanded an all-black company in the Pacific, was spied on by the FBI, named as a communist by an informant, called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, fired from his newspaper job, and blacklisted for five years. Yet he never lost faith in America and emerged on the other side with his family and optimism intact. More on NPR's Morning Edition.

David Maraniss is an Associate Editor at The Washington Post and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Vanderbilt University. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and was a finalist three other times. Among his bestselling books are biographies of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Roberto Clemente, and a trilogy that includes RFK Book Prize-winner Once in a Great City and They Marched into Sunlight, winner of the J. Anthony Lucas Prize and Pulitzer Finalist in History.

Signed copies of A Good American Family may be available after this event.

Wednesday, May 29, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Thomas Sweetser, author of Can Francis Change the Church?: How American Catholics Are Responding to His Leadership

Jesuit Thomas Sweetser has worked for more than 35 years with Catholic faith communities on evaluation and renewal. In 2011, he set out to interview a broad range of American Catholics about their relationship with the Church. A few years into the new papacy, Sweetser asked the same people again. Had anything changed with Pope Francis? The answers are enlightening for the church's future.

Based on before/after interviews, Can Francis Change the Church? is a helpful resource for everyone concerned about the Church. The value of this book lies in the direct conversations with people from very different walks of life between 20 and 80 years old which touch on hot button questions such as hierarchy, women in the church, and sexual abuse, and offer insights into the nature of a deep desire for authentic spirituality.

Thomas P Sweetser is Founder and Director of the Parish Evaluation Project. He has taught at the Institute of Pastoral Studies, at Loyola University of Chicago, at the University of Dayton in Ohio, Boston College, University of Seattle, Retreats International, and Loyola University in New Orleans. He is author of numerous books and his articles have appeared in National Catholic Reporter, Commonwealth, and Chicago Studies, among others

Thursday, May 30, 7:00 pm, at Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun:
Yossi Klein Halevi, author of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

Milwaukee Jewish Federation presents Yossi Klein Halevi for a dessert reception, book talk, and signing. Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor is the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Community Read. Register online to attend this free event.

Attempting to break the agonizing impasse between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli commentator and award-winning author of Like Dreamers directly addresses his Palestinian neighbors in this taut and provocative book, empathizing with Palestinian suffering and longing for reconciliation as he explores how the conflict looks through Israeli eyes.

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor is one Israeli’s powerful attempt to reach beyond the Wall that separates Israelis and Palestinians and into the hearts of “the enemy.” In a series of letters, Yossi Klein Halevi explains what motivated him to leave his native New York in his twenties and move to Israel to participate in the drama of the renewal of a Jewish homeland, which he is now desperate to see succeed as a morally responsible, democratic state in the Middle East.

Yossi Klein Halevi is an author and commentator on Jewish and Israeli affairs. He is a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute, where he co-directs, together with Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim Leadership Initiative. His book, Like Dreamers, won the 2013 Jewish Book Council’s Everett Book of the Year Award. He lives in Jerusalem.

Friday, May 31, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Gregory Lee Renz, author of Beneath the Flames, in conversation with Liam Callanan

Gregory Lee Renz served as a firefighter for 28 years, retired as Fire Captain, and was inducted into the Police and Fire Hall of Fame. Now Renz appears at Boswell with his debut novel, a story of love, race, and life as a firefighter.

When young farmer and volunteer firefighter Mitch Garner blames himself for a fire’s tragic outcome, he becomes convinced his only hope for redemption is to journey to Milwaukee’s inner city to prove himself as a professional firefighter.

Mitch is assigned to the busiest firehouse in the heart of one of the most blighted areas of Milwaukee, and soon, he’s ready to quit. Then he meets Jasmine Richardson, a brash adolescent. Despite Jasmine’s contempt toward Mitch, her courage and devotion to her little sister inspire him to stay and dedicate himself to helping her and the neighboring children overcome the hopelessness of growing up in poverty.

More upcoming events on Boswell's upcoming events page. Why not sign up for our email newsletter?

Photo credits:
Michael Koryta - Jonathan Mehring
David Maraniss - Lucian Perkins David
Yossi Klein Halevi - Ilir Bajraktari /The Tower

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Boswell bestsellers, week ending May 25, 2019

Boswell bestsellers, week ending May 25, 2019

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
2. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
3. The Satapur Moonstone V2, by Sujata Massey
4. The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake
5. Courting Mr. Lincoln, by Louis Bayard
6. The Stone Circle V11, by Ruth Galloway
7. Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan
8. Disappearing Earth, by Julia Phillips
9. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
10. Orange World and Other Stories, by Karen Russell

Who remembers Sarah Blake's last-minute visit to Boswell for The Postmistress? Though I don't have every event scenario memorized, this sticks out because we picked up the event when Borders announced the closing. It turns out there were already three other book events going on in town. The good news is that we got some extra press and had a very nice turnout. Her latest, The Guest Book, is a historical saga centered in Maine that was the #1 Indie Next Pick for May. Booklist called it "brilliant and ravishing;" Library Journal compared it to The Winds of War, which I think would have been considered an obscure reference if Wouk had not just passed away. But prior to his passing, did The Winds of War still have significant library circulation that you would comp it?

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Tribe, by Sebastian Junger (paperback moved to 2020)
2. The Hot Young Widows Club, by Nora McInerny
3. The Brisket Chronicles, by Steven Raichlen (see below)
4. Special Brew, by Tom Haudricourt
5. Bad Choices, by Ali Almossawi
6. No Happy Endings, by Nora McInerny
7. Educated, by Tara Westover
8. Furious Hours, by Casey Cep
9. The Pioneers, by David McCullough
10. Howard Stern Comes Again, by Howard Stern

Talk about a concept! As soon as Knopf introduced Casey Cep at our Winter Institute bookseller conference, to talk about Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, it had to be a hit if it was as well done and promised. And it is - Michael Lewis wrote in The New York Times Book Review: "She’s written the true-crime story that Harper Lee never figured out how to write." I so wanted to read it before publication, but this Boswell stuff keeps getting in the way, and I only say that because a legendary bookseller just stopped by the store this morning, and the only book-related question she and her husband had for me was whether Nick Petrie was as wild as Peter Ash in his novels. Did I mention Petrie is in conversation with Michael Koryta on Tuesday, May 28, 7 pm?

Paperback Fiction:
1. Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
2. There There, by Tommy Orange
3. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
4. The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton
5. The Widows of Malabar Hill V1, by Sujata Massey
6. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
7. Milkman, by Anna Burns
8. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
9. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Sourcebooks is in the news, and not just because they have two books in this week's top five paperback fiction. Penguin Random House bought 45% of the company, keeping control with CEO Dominique Raccah. Stuart Turton's The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle has been one of their many successes - our Books and Beer Book Club is discussing it on Monday, June 17, 7 pm, at Downer's Cafe Hollander. Lots of bookseller and fellow author love on this one - A.J. Finn called it "Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day." But it's more than smart escapism - Turton's book won the Cost First Novel Prize. Last year's winner was Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. The Costa is considered the more populist equivalent of the Booker Prize, but unlike that prize, Americans still can't win a Costa, even though their sponsor is now owned by Coca Cola.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Brisket Chronicles, by Steven Raichlen
2. Moving Mountains Every Day, by Dan Steininger
3. Crash, by Rich Redmond
4. The Future Is History, by Masha Gessen
5. The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
6. It's Okay to Laugh, by Nora McInerny
7. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
8. Master of the Grill, by America's Test Kitchen
9. The Barbecue Bible, by Steven Raichlen
10. The Mueller Report, by the U.S. Department of Justice and The Washington Post 

Several appearances on the lists for both Steven Raichlen and Nora McInerny this week. McInerny appeared at Boswell for The Hot Young Widows Club, but it was only several months since her last book, No Happy Endings. While I am not one to judge whether someone or not is hot (I think in today's world, you get to decide your own hotness), but their were a lot of widows in the audience, and even a widower. We have signed copies of Raichlen's The Brisket Chronicles.

Books for Kids:
1. Sport: Ship Dog of the Great Lakes, by Pamela Cameron, with illustrations by Renée Graef
2. City of Ember V1, by Jeanne Duprau
3. The Land of Permanent Goodbyes, by Atia Abawi
4. The Fourteenth Goldfish V1, by Jennifer L. Holm
5. The Story of Civil Rights Hero John Lewis, by Jim Haskins, with illustrations by Aaron Boyd
6. Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea
7. The Storm Runner V1, by J.C. Cervantes
8. The Sword of Summer: Magnus Chase V1, by Rick Riordan
9. Aru Shah and the End of Time V1, by Roshani Chakshi
10. Calling the Water Drum, by Latish Redding, with illustrations by Aaron Boyd

We had some classroom purchases this week. As you can see, the new Rick Riordan Presents imprint has been quite popular, with new series from J.C. Cervantes and Roshani Chakshi. In The Storm Runner, Zane, who lives near a live volcano in New Mexico, accidentally unleashing a Mayan God. And then the new girl at school turns out to be a shape shifter. In Aru Shah and the End of Time, young Shah, whose mom does archeological digs for the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, unwittingly frees a demon from the Lamp of Bharata. As the publisher notes, the only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Barbara VanDenburgh of the Arizona Republic (USA Today network) reviews The Farm, the new novel from Joanne Ramos (signed copies still available) about a resort that hosts women with wombs for hire. VanDenburgh writes: "What’s so striking about The Farm isn’t that it imagines a frightening dystopia. This isn’t a hundred years in the future, it’s next week. This is reality, nudged just a touch to its logical extreme. Its very plausibility is a warning shot." It gets worse - Ramos was at an event when someone came up to her and thought the book's premise was a great idea for a business.

Ragan Clark of the Associated Press reviews Ani Difranco's memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream: "No Walls and the Recurring Dream is unapologetic, steadfast and vulnerable. It’s as if DiFranco has invited you into the living room of her New Orleans home to have a long discussion about how she got to where she is, from creating her first record to meeting Prince and recording in his home. I still think of her as a Buffalonian. She's at the Pabst Theater on June 5.

And here's a lovely profile of Worzalla Publishing, who prints the Wimpy Kid series, and most recently, Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid: Rowley Jefferson's Journal. Caitlin Shuda of The Stevens Point Journal writes: "Worzalla is very familiar with Kinney and his books. The company has published every domestic copy of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book since the first batch of 25,000 copies in 2007. Last year, Kinney made a special stop at the Stevens Point plant to celebrate the 200 millionth copy of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series." Whenever they finish the first printing, the plant has a pizza party.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Michael Koryta, what are you doing to me? - a little more about his new novel, If She Wakes

To be clear, sometimes I think my staff recommendations, should be color coded, like emails. If you liked my recommendation for Park Avenue Woman, I'm hoping you don't think that means you will automatically like There There. I consider myself a reader of wide-ranging tastes, and judge books based on how what I think the author was trying to write. So today I'm writing about a thriller, but even then, that doesn't tell everything. I think the scare quotient is higher for thrillers than mysteries, and if you're not in noir territory, so is the violence. But a lot of what I'd call thrillers (not in series, you know who the villain is, it's more about the chase than the puzzle) can be downright civilized, with a relatively low body count, let alone splatter count.

Michael Koryta's just-out If She Wakes is, warning to those who just took my advice to read Sujata Massey, high on the body count. It's not necessarily that graphic, but it will certainly have readers questioning their own safety, including people I know, because Tara Beckley, the person at the center of the story, is what we call a media escort. Beckley is bringing a speaker to a talk at a college in rural Maine. After the dinner (there's often a dinner, which is why a lot of our authors show up just before start time), Amandi Oltamu asks Tara to take him on a detour, and at a not-particularly-picturesque bridge, asks her to stop the car and take some photos.

Things go downhill from there. There's a terrible accident. Beckley is in a coma. An insurance claims adjuster named Abby Kaplan is called in - is Hammel College to blame? Well, that's the tip of the iceberg, because pretty soon Kaplan knows too much and the chase is on to find the phone that holds the secret that Oltamu stashed away.

One thing that's very different for me about reading these kinds of thrillers is the way I go about the reading process. When I read a family drama, or a comedy, or a historical, or even a more traditional mystery, I usually stop reading every 50 pages or so to get a drink, load the dishwasher, or check my phone. Then there comes a certain point, for usually the last 100-150 pages, where I read the book straight through. But for this sort of thriller (how do you distinguish a more pulse-pounding, threat-of-violence-lurks story from the others?), I am constantly stopping, pushing the book away, taking a walk to clear my head, and then heading back for another 10-20 pages. Even moreso as the book comes to a climax. Is that common? Is that why so many books of this type have short chapters?

Like many a mystery-thriller, the lead, and I guess Abby the insurance adjuster is the lead, there's a backstory in there. I feel like this is particularly important in psychological suspense, where there's always the question, "What is this quasi-protagonist running away from?" In this case, Kaplan was a race car driver, who had an unfortunate accident that led to the death of her boyfriend, an up-and-coming actor. Yes, she was that good a driver that she ran with celebrities. She's suppressed that drive, such that at one point, she takes a long train ride into Boston for a hospital visit - she's got great reasons not to drive. Great ones. But those driving instincts are still there and they will be at the heart of some chase scenes. And its really her knowledge of the road that first unlocks the cover up.

Needless to say, there's a terrible conspiracy going on. Because all the killers are at least one step removed, we don't get that much more than a short recap of the why. I refer back to the beginning of the book where Tara Beckley wonders what exactly her charge does, anyway? Something about batteries.

One other thing of note about If She Wakes is the sociopath assassin. I can't exactly call him the villain because there are several villains, but he certainly is the prime adversary (goes by Dax), and I'm not giving much away as you'll figure this out pretty quickly. He's very young - in fact, I'd call this my first encounter with a millennial sociopath assassin. He's got all the tropes of that generation on top of his killer instincts. And he's got those killer instincts from being raised by his dad and uncle, also assassins. It's a case where nature and nurture work together.

It seems like Michael Koryta sells production rights on just about every novel. Here's The Prophet, here's Cypress House, her's So Cold the River. Most recently, there's been a flurry of news about Those Who Wish Me Dead with Angelina Jolie being attached.  I wouldn't be surprised if a deal is in the works for his latest. He'll likely hint at one when he visits Boswell on May 28*, when he'll talk to fellow pulse-pounder, Nick Petrie.

--Marilyn Stasio's review of If She Wakes in The New York Times Book Review
--Starred Kirkus - Michael Koryta has never been better
--Oline Cogdill's Associated Press review in Chicago Daily Herald - Dax is the son of the villain in Those Who Wish Me Dead
--Colette Bancroft in The Tampa Bay Times, who notes that this "inventive" new thriller "accelerates like one of Abby's beloved race cars"

Photo credit for Michael Koryta is Jonathan Mehring.

*May 28, 2019, to be exact, at 7 pm. Hope to see you at Boswell! More on our upcoming event page.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Retail report from Taiwan

As readers of the blog know, I love visiting bookstores and getting ideas from other booksellers. Sometimes, however, inspiration can travel beyond the bookstore, and even beyond the border, as this note from my sister Claudia reveals. She was recently in Taiwan for a conference and visited her long-time friends. When she was a grad student in Chinese, you weren't able to go to mainland China for study.

"Yesterday I spent the evening with my old friends from Taiwan, Tsungling and Hsinming, along with their daughter. When I had visited two years ago, Hsinming was following his dream and had opened a small record store in Keelong, a port city north of Taipei. It didn't work out, and he opened a small bakery in Taipei with some friends. As he has developed the business, he has been taking inspiration from you. He told me he reads your bookstore newsletter regularly.

"The bakery has begun hosting community events such as a tea tasting (he and Tsungling know a lot about Chinese tea) and music events featuring seniors who revive traditional music. Recently they've re-opened the record store within the bakery. He seems really happy with the direction things have moved in.

"The last time I saw the daughter she was nine years old and spent the whole day giving me a detailed plot summary of Frozen. Now she is a young lady, and we talked about popular music. She knows the K-pop groups and I showed her videos of Beyoncé** and some other American singers. Hsinming confirmed that they were important American pop singers, and she was dutifully impressed."

If I were writing a business book (or perhaps I have caught business inspiration fever after selling books for Daniel Steininger's Moving Mountains Every Day this week*), my take-away from this would be that inspiration is everywhere. Hsinming, hope to someday visit you in Taiwan!

*Hey, you know I have to link to at least one book.

**Shout out to Teasha. Don't say I never mention Beyoncé in this blog.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Boswell author bulletin - Sujata Massey, Tom Haudricourt, Daniel Steininger, Nora McInerny with Moe Richardson, Michael Koryta, Memorial Day hours

Here's what's happening with Boswell. Don't forget that our Memorial Day hours are 10 am to 5 pm.

Tuesday, May 21, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Sujata Massey, author of The Satapur Moonstone

Boswell hosts author Sujata Massey with her highly anticipated follow-up to the critically acclaimed novel The Widows of Malabar Hill, winner of the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel, inspired in part by the woman who made history as India’s first female attorney.

In Massey's new novel, a curse seems to have fallen upon Satapur's royal family, whose maharaja died of a sudden illness shortly before his teenage son was struck down in a tragic accident. The kingdom is now ruled by an agent of the British Raj on behalf of Satapur's two maharanis, the dowager queen and the maharaja's widow. The royal ladies are in dispute over the education of the young crown prince, and a lawyer's council is required - but the maharanis live in purdah and do not speak to men. Just one person can help them: Perveen Mistry, India's only female lawyer. Perveen is determined to bring peace to the royal house and make a sound recommendation for the young prince's future, but knows she is breaking a rule by traveling alone as a woman into the remote countryside. And she arrives to find that the Satapur palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realizes she has walked into a trap. But whose? And how can she protect the royal children from the palace's deadly curse?

Haven't yet read Massey's first novel in the series, The Widows of Malabar Hill? I really enjoyed it - like the new book, it spins on the idea that only a woman can meet with women in purdah, and being that this has been a common practice for wealthy Hindus and Muslims, you only wonder why practical issues did not lead to more women in the legal profession earlier. The Widows of Malabar Hill packed with fascinating historical detail – it’s also is a little longer than your average mystery because it includes the backstory of Perveen’s ill-fated marriage, a mystery in itself. Massey has piled up best-ofs and awards for this first book in a series, including the Mary Higgins Clark Award at the Edgars, and it’s no wonder – it's that good.

Sujata Massey was born in England to parents from India and Germany. She was a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun before becoming a full-time novelist. She is also author of the acclaimed Rei Shimura mystery series and two historical novels.

Wednesday, May 22, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Tom Haudricourt, author of Special Brew: An Inside Look at the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers

Baseball beat reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tom Haudricourt pulls back the curtain to provide an up close-up look at the inner workings of the Milwaukee Brewers remarkable 2018 season. Books now on sale at Boswell.

When the Milwaukee Brewers embarked on a rebuilding program in 2015, the expectation was that it would take four or five years to return to competitiveness. That’s the way it went with other rebuilding clubs, but the Brewers somehow got it done in a mere three years. It certainly didn’t hurt when star outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain were added to the team, a sign that management was all in.

The 2018 Brewers caught fire at exactly the right time, falling just short of the franchise’s first World Series since 1982. But the ’18 Brewers captured the imagination of fans in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin, creating a buzz not heard for decades. Special Brew is an inside look at the decisions, the decision makers and the players who made it all happen, some who were expected to excel, others who seemingly came out of the blue.

Tom Haudricourt covers the Brewers and Major League Baseball for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He was voted Wisconsin Sports Writer of Year for 2011 and 2012 by National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.

Wednesday, May 22, 7:00 pm reception, 7:30 talk, at Wisconsin Club’s Country Club, 6200 W Good Hope Rd:
Daniel Steininger, author of Moving Mountains Every Day: Lessons for Business Leaders in Creativity and Innovation

Celebrate the release of Moving Mountains Every Day, by Daniel Steininger, President and Founder of BizStarts Milwaukee and President of Steininger and Associates, at a cocktail party and book signing. Registration required to attend this event. Please email

Business leaders need the tools of creativity and innovation to navigate the never-ending obstacles to running a successful business. Drawing on the lessons he's learned in the corporate world and in his role as chairman of the board of harbor commissioners overseeing the Port of Milwaukee, Steininger shares lessons of how business leaders can successfully lead organizations to creative breakthroughs that drive innovation and success.

Daniel Steininger writes "Innovate or Die" for Biz Times. He is president of Steininger and Associates and president and founder of BizStarts. He also teaches courses on innovation for the UWM School of Continuing Education for business leaders, and served as chairman of the board of harbor commissioners that oversees the Port of Milwaukee.

Thursday, May 23, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Nora McInerny, author of The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief

Nora McInerny, the host of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast, is coming to Boswell for a conversation with Moe Richardson, cofounder of the real-life Hot Young Widows Club, about a wise, humorous roadmap and caring resource for anyone going through the loss of a loved one - or even a difficult life moment. Register for free at or upgrade to registration with a copy of The Hot Young Widow's Club for signing line priority for $18, including tax and ticketing fee.

In the span of a few weeks, thirty-something Nora McInerny had a miscarriage, lost her father to cancer, and lost her husband due to a brain tumor. What Nora discovered is that, when you’re in these hard moments, it can feel impossible to feel like even a shadow of the person you once were. How do you find that person again? Welcome to The Hot Young Widows Club, Nora’s response to the toughest questions about life’s biggest struggles.

The Hot Young Widows Club isn’t just for people who have lost a spouse, but an essential tool for anyone who has gone through a major life struggle. Based on her own experiences and those of the listeners dedicated to her podcast, Nora offers wise, heartfelt, and often humorous advice to anyone navigating a painful period in their lives.

Nora McInerny is the reluctant cofounder of the Hot Young Widows Club (a program of her nonprofit, Still Kickin), author of the memoirs It's Okay to Laugh, (Crying Is Cool Too) and No Happy Endings, and the host of the award-winning podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking. She was voted Most Humorous by the Annunciation Catholic School Class of 1998. Moe Richardson is cofounder of the real-life Hot Young Widows Club, a program of the Still Kickin nonprofit organization.

Tuesday, May 28, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Koryta, author of If She Wakes, in conversation with Nick Petrie

Michael Koryta, the author Stephen King called “master” of thriller writing, chats with Milwaukee’s Nick Petrie about If She Wakes, Koryta’s electrifying new novel about two women fighting for their lives against an enigmatic killer. Cosponsored by Crimespree Magazine.

A horrific car crash leaves Tara in a vegetative state. Or so her doctors think. She’s a prisoner of locked-in syndrome: fully alert but unable to move a muscle. Trapped in her body, she learns that someone wants her dead, but what can she do, lying in a hospital bed? Abby Kaplan, an insurance investigator, is hired to look into Tara's case. Despite the fog of her own trauma, Abby can tell Tara's car crash was no accident. When she starts asking questions, things quickly spin out of control, leaving Abby on the run and a mysterious young hit man hard on her heels.

Booklist calls If She Wakes, “instantly gripping, with realistic action, (and) a breath-snatching twist," and Publishers Weekly says, “Adept at creating Hitchcockian moments, Koryta keeps the suspense high throughout.”

Michael Koryta is the New York Times bestselling author of thirteen novels, most recently, How It Happened. His previous novels, including Last Words, Those Who Wish Me Dead, and So Cold the River, were New York Times notable books and nominated for numerous awards, including having won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Koryta is a former private investigator and newspaper reporter. Nick Petrie is the Milwaukee-based author of the award-winning Drifter series of thrillers, including The Drifter, winner of the ITW Thriller Award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and most recently, Tear It Down.

Alas, our Steve Raichlen event at The Urbanite with Heaven's Table BBQ is sold out. Signed copies of The Brisket Chronicles may be available after the event.

More listings on our upcoming events page.

Photo credits:
Sujata Massey - Jim Burger
Nora McInerny - Black Wolf Photography
Michael Koryta - Jonathan Mehring

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending May 18, 2019, plus Journal Sentinel summer reading picks

And we're off!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini (event today at Boswell, 3 pm - registration has closed by walk-ups are fine)
2. Orange World and Other Stories, by Karen Russell
3. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
4. Circe, by Madeline Miller
5. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
6. Moby Dick Pop-Up, by Herman Melville and Gerard Lo Monaco
7. Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James
8. The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
9. The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake
10. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles (because signed books are still available)

I tend to not mention when our top five books are written by men because I'd probably get in trouble, but I'm guessing that citing a female sweep is fine. Our big debut is Orange World and Other Stories, by Karen Russell, the rare young novelist who despite the acclaimed Swamplandia, might be even better known for her New Yorker stories. I feel compelled to buy it because I haven't gotten a pretty orange book since There There last year. Booklist writes: "Heir to Shirley Jackson and a compatriot of T. C. Boyle, virtuoso Russell, gifted with acute insights, compassion, and a daring, free-diving imagination, explores the bewitching and bewildering dynamic between the voracious appetite of nature and its yawning indifference and humankind's relentless profligacy and obliviousness."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Guardian, by Thomas Pecora
2. Outer Order, Inner Calm, by Gretchen Rubin
3. My Darling Winston, edited by David Lough
4. The Pioneers, by David McCullough
5. Howard Stern Comes Again, by Howard Stern
6. A Good American Family, by David Maraniss (MPL lunch reservations for 5/29 here)
7. The Four Tendencies, by Gretchen Rubin
8. Educated, by Tara Westover
9. UWM The First Sixty Years, by John Schroeder
10. The British Are Coming, by Rick Atkinson

I could talk history, as there's a lot of it on this top ten (Pecora and Lough had events in town, while McCullough and Atkinson and flexing for Dad Day), but I'm more intrigued by the sales pop for Howard Stern Comes Again. Who knew he had an evolution? Terry Gross was so fascinated her interview aired over two days on Fresh Air. The things you don't know when you don't subscribe to Sirius radio. Per Janet Maslin in The New York Times, this book is "hefty all-star tutorial on the art of the interview."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
2. Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
3. Paris by the Book, by Liam Callanan
4. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
5. Murder Knocks Twice V1, by Susanna Calkins
6. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
7. Park Avenue Summer, by Renée Rosen
8. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
9. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
10. There There, by Tommy Orange

Dang! I missed reading our entire top 10 by one book, and it's one I promised to read at one point - The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. No lie, once I was told she wasn't traveling, I put it away for a bit to concentrate on our event titles.But we've still got something like six enthusiastic fans on staff without me, and so, even without a read, I've been doing some hand-selling. It's nice to see that the book is selling well enough that Ingram has reordered copies, the limited edition hardcover (for libraries) looks like it sold out, and the book has been showing up on the top 50 list of Bookscan for Milwaukee fiction. Publishers Weekly called it "a gem of a historical" noting that the history part isn't its strongest asset, instead noting that "readers will adore the memorable Cussy and appreciate Richardson's fine rendering of rural Kentucky life." I told the publisher we could sell 100 copies by Christmas - who doesn't love a challenge? - but I think at one point I better come back to it.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Mueller Report, by US Department of Justice and the Washington Post (Scribner)
2. Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin
3. How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan
4. The Milwaukee Anthology, edited by Justin Kern
5. Healing The Thyroid with Ayurveda, by Marianne Teitelbaum (event Mon 6/10, 7 pm, at Boswell)
6. Writing Fiction, tenth edition, by Janet Burroway (event Wed 6/19, 7 pm, at Boswell)
7. The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
8. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
9. The Fire Next Time, by James A Baldwin
10. Drawdown, by Paul Hawken

From Michael Pollan comes a nice paperback pop for the release of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. It's sometimes harder for big hardcover bestsellers to have a strong paperback showing but it seems like if they do hit again, they never leave. Who's placing bets that Educated will be in the top 10 for ten years, excluding a major scandal, and perhaps even in spite of one. What you generally won't see as much in paperbacks, bestseller or not, is an updated jacket. Pollan's paperback just adds the popular contrasting stripe and The New York Times seal of approval. It's rare that a book like this is proclaimed thrilling, but The Guardian did just that. It also has quotes from everyone from Andrew Weil to Errol Morris. I guess the former was more expected.

Books for Kids:
1. The Unbelievable Oliver and the Four Jokers V1, by Pseudonymous Bosch
2. Dactyl Hill Squad V1, by Daniel José Older
3. The Order of the Majestic V1, by Matt Myklusch
4. Freedom Fire: Dactyl Hill Squad V2, by Daniel José Older
5. Sport: Ship Dog of the Great Lakes, by Pamela Cameron with illustrations by Renée Graef
6. Dactyl Hill Squad V1 (hardcover), by Daniel José Older
7. Look Up, by Annette LeBlanc Cate
8. Tomorrow Most Likely, by Dave Eggers
9. Extraordinary Birds, by Sandy Stark McGinnis
10. Rabbit and Bear: Rabbit's Bad Habits, by Julian Gough

Who wants to start a middle-grade series? It turns out that everyone does! In addition to the authors who appeared for a public event as well as school visits, Matt Myklusch was also in town visiting schools for his new series, The Order of the Majestic. I don't normally quote the publisher pitch (as opposed to the copy), but hey, I'm speaking to adults I think would be more fascinated by this than just explaining how Joey Kopecky lands at a school with a minor in magic: "Fantasy has always provided metaphor for looking at society. The central conflict occurs between heroes who want to share hope and human connection, and an enemy who wants to control and hoard magic. The underlying theme of this action-packed plot is the message that regular kids have a magical ability of their own: they too can be forces of change in society and the world."

Over at the Journal Sentinel it's the book issue you've been waiting for, 81 books for Summer Reading, from Jim Higgins, with baseball and pop culture picks from Chris Foran. Here are the most important selections, the editor's picks
--An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, by Alex Kotlowitz
--Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers, by Fred Rogers
--Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer
--A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father, by David Maraniss
--Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
--Murder by the Book, by Claire Harman
--The Satapur Moonstone, by Sujata Massey
--Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories, by Sarah Pinsker
--Tear It Down, by Nick Petrie
--The Vanishing Man, by Charles Finch

Read the rest on the Journal Sentinel website.