Monday, October 28, 2019

Events this week - Martha Brosio, Krista Eastman and J Tyler Friedman, Jon M Sweeney, Cynthia Anderson with Jamilo Maalim, Carol Anderson with Jane Hamilton, Aaron Cohen with DJ Eric Blowtorch

Monday, October 28, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Martha Brosio, author of The Last Ten Days - Academia, Dementia, and the Choice to Die: A Loving Memoir of Richard A Brosio, PhD

Milwaukee-based author Martha Brosio visits Boswell with her heartrending memoir of love, scholarship, dignity, courage, and the choices one is forced to make when given the devastating diagnosis of a terminal illness. Cosponsored by University of Michigan Club of Milwaukee - The Last Ten Days is their book club choice book.

Spanning sixty years, Brosio recounts the story of her life with her husband, Richard, a scholar and college professor. From teenage sweethearts who went their separate ways after high school, to reconnecting and marriage, Martha and Richard enjoyed a vibrant life together until tragedy struck, when Richard was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a type of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Determined to have a dignified death at the time and in the manner of his own choosing, Richard hastened his death two years after his diagnosis by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, seeking only palliative and hospice care until the end. Brosio’s book highlights Richard’s teaching, writing, and their life together. Sad, yet inspirational, it is a joyful celebration of their lives together. Martha Brosio is an author from Milwaukee. She graduated from the University of Michigan.

Tuesday, October 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
with Krista Eastman, author of The Painted Forest, and J Tyler Friedman, author of Among the Wonders of the Dells: Photography, Place, Tourism

Madison-based Krista Eastman's writing has earned recognition from Best American Essays and appeared in The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, and New Letters. J Tyler Friedman, who specializes in the philosophy of art, is Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Together they present The Mythic Midwest: Wisconsin Dells and Beyond.

Eastman reads from her book, which Poets & Writers named one of the best literary nonfiction debuts of 2019. The Painted Forest is an oft-surprising collection of essays that explores the myths we make about who we are and where we’re from, uncovering strange and little-known “home places” - not only the picturesque hills and valleys of the author’s childhood in rural Wisconsin, but also tourist towns throughout the under-imagined and overly-caricatured Midwest.

Friedman, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, presents his comprehensive photographic history of the Dells. Spanning the earliest extant photos of the area to the works of contemporary photographers, including many new and never-before-seen photographs, Friedman presents the interplay of art and tourism that has made the Dells what they are today in a volume sure to delight history enthusiasts and seasonal vacationers alike.

Wednesday, October 30, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jon M Sweeney, author of St. Francis of Assisi: His Life, Teachings, and Practice

Jon M Sweeney is a scholar and author as well as a biographer of St. Francis and translator of his writings. He is author of over thirty books, including The Pope Who Quit, and The Pope's Cat. On this evening, cohosted by Eat, Drink, and Be Catholic, Sweeney offers an introduction to St. Francis's life and teachings of faith.

St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most venerated Christian figures. His profound teachings, deep love of nature, and commitment to simplicity have resonated with generations of followers. Sweeney offers a simple and universal introduction to Francis’s life, his key teachings, and the spiritual practices that enriched his faith and the lives of those who follow his legacy.

Sweeney is one of the most popular interpreters of St. Francis, and draws attention to the emphasis placed on the importance of living a simple, truthful life, making Francis’s spiritual practices just as impactful and relevant in the modern day as they were centuries ago. St. Francis is the perfect guide for anyone looking to learn more about the saint or hoping to incorporate his wisdom into their own spiritual lives.

Thursday, October 31, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Cynthia Anderson, author of Home Now: How 6000 Refugees Transformed an American Town, in conversation with Jamilo Maalim

Author and journalist Cynthia Anderson tells the moving story of the refugees in Lewiston, Maine, a chronicle of struggle, transformation, and who belongs in America. She'll be in conversation with Jamilo Maalim, who is featured in the book. Cosponsored by Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

Over the past 15 years, Lewiston, Maine has improbably become one of the most Muslim towns in America. About 6,000 of the city's 36,000 inhabitants are African refugees and asylum seekers, many of them Somali. Anderson takes the reader deep into the lives of both immigrants and lifelong Mainers: a single Muslim mom, an anti-Islamist activist, a Congolese asylum seeker, a Somali community leader. Their lives unfold in these pages as anti-immigrant sentiment rises across the US and national realities collide with those in Lewiston. Home Now gives a poignant account of America's evolving relationship with religion and race, and provides a sensitive refutation of the idea that we'd be better off without change.

From Booklist: "Along with even-handed reporting and sympathetic characterizations, Anderson weaves in personal anecdotes and updates about her mother, a Lewiston exile considering a homecoming. Topics range from trick-or-treating and soccer championships to acts of anti-Muslim terrorism and female genital mutilation. There are happy endings, horror stories, unresolved issues, and joyous breakthroughs. Readers will find lots to think about."

Now Friday, November 1, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Carol Anshaw, author of Right After the Weather, in conversation with Jane Hamilton

Carol Anshaw is the author of Carry the One and Aquamarine. She has received the Ferro-Grumley Award, the Carl Sandburg Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. For this event, she'll be in conversation with Wisconsin's beloved writer Jane Hamilton.

Fall of 2016. Cate’s conspiracy theorist ex-husband is camped out in her spare bedroom as she attempts to settle into a serious relationship and get financially solvent working in Chicago’s theater community. Her yoga instructor best friend is Cate’s model for what adulthood looks like. Then Cate finds strangers assaulting her friend and is forced to take fast, spontaneous action. Cate learns the violence she is capable of, and overnight, her world has changed.

From Connie Ogle in Newsday: "...what happens when a traumatic event changes things forever? How do we move forward when the ground under our feet shifts with every step? Anshaw examines that question with her typical intelligence, compassion and insight in Right After the Weather, her fifth novel. She explored similar issues in her terrific Carry the One, in which a group of siblings and their friends are involved in a fatal traffic accident on the night of a wedding. Here, she expands her scope, not focusing merely on the aftermath of a single, terrible incident, but letting it play out against a bigger, existential threat."

Saturday, November 2, 6 pm, at Boswell:
Aaron Cohen, author of Move on Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power, with DJ Eric Blowtorch

Aaron Cohen, who teaches at City Colleges of Chicago and is author of Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace, now tells the remarkable story of the explosion of soul music in Chicago. The evening will also feature soul records spun by Cohen and DJ Eric Blowtorch.

Chicago’s place in the history of soul music is rock solid, but for Chicagoans, soul music in its heyday was more than just a series of hits: it was a marker and a source of black empowerment. Soul music and black-owned businesses thrived together as record producers and song-writers broadcasted optimism for black America’s future through their sophisticated, jazz-inspired productions.

Soul music also accompanied the rise of African American advertisers and the campaign of Chicago’s first black mayor. This empowerment was set in stark relief by the social unrest roiling in Chicago and across the nation: as Chicago’s homegrown record labels produced rising stars singing songs of progress and freedom, Chicago’s black middle class faced limited economic opportunities and deep-seated segregation, all against a backdrop of nationwide deindustrialization. Cohen shows us how soul music became the voice of inspiration and change for a city in turmoil.

Over at Chicago Magazine, Mark Guarino breaks down some of the lessons of Cohen's book.

More upcoming events on the Boswell upcoming events page.

Photo credits
Jon M Sweeney by Maurice Wolf
Cynthia Anderson by Sally Pasley Vargas

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending October 26, 2019

Here's what selling at Boswell for the week ending October 26, 2019

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
2. The Envious Siblings, by Landis Blair
3. Agent Running in the Field, by John LeCarre
4. Olive Again, by Elizabeth Strout
5. The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner
6. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
7. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
8. Grand Union, by Zadie Smith
9. The Guardians, by John Grisham
10. A Better Man, by Louise Penny

Reviewers seem to really be liking the more experimental stories in Zadie Smith's Grand Union. I think you'd say it was one of those collections that does not read like a novel. As Rien Fertel writes in AV Club, "Nothing so obvious as a single subject or theme links the 19 stories in Smith’s first collection of short fiction, Grand Union. Nothing beyond a virtuosity for the form, a powerful imagination, and, as in her five novels and two essay collections, a striking empathy for her characters." In addition to the book being 20% off, we still have signed first editions which also come with a nice magnet.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Troubled Water, by Seth M Siegel
2. Dad's Maybe Book, by Tim O'Brien
3. Salt Fat Acid Heat, by Samin Nosrat
4. Plagued by Fire, by Paul Hendrickson
5. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, by Caitlin Doughty
6. For the Good of the Game, by Bud Selig
7. Blowout, by Rachel Maddow
8. Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow
9. Confirmation Bias, by Carl Hulse
10. It Feels Good to Be Yourself, by Theresa Thorn

Caitlin Doughty was officially the conversation partner for our event with Landis Blair for The Envious Siblings. She was going to leave before the signing, but once we had established a very enthusiastic and long line for Blair, she decided to sign books after all. And that's why we sold a lot of Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?

Someone at Boswell asked if the book should be shelved with kids books. Here's the answer to that question from Terri Schlichenmeyer in the Mason City Globe Gazette: "It would be easy to think otherwise: the questions are kiddish, author Caitlin Doughty’s answers are nudge-and-wink funny, and lighthearted drawings accompany each chapter. Read a little, though, and you’ll see that this book is really more for young adults, at least, and grown-ups, for sure, especially those who love dark laughs. Yes, there’s serious science here, but also cultural lessons in death and dying, a little history, and a touch of gruesomeness wrapped in that shroud of sharp, witty humor."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien
2. Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk
3. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
4. Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
5. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
6. Little, by Edward Carey
7. The Incendiaries, by R.O. Kown
8. The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey
9. Passing, by Nella Larsen
10. Murder Knocks Twice, by Susanna Calkins

We have a nice pop for our 2018 Nobel winner with Peter Handke has caused more strife for his viewpoints, but others have complained that the choices together are Eurocentric. I have nothing to add. We might wind up pick Flights, which also won the Man Booker International Prize, for a future In-Store Lit Group selection. Ruth Franklin noted she was on the Nobel shortlist in this New Yorker piece from this past summer: "Excavating something forgotten from Polish history and reframing it in a contemporary context has become Tokarczuk’s signature."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. When Bad Lands, by Alan Kent Anderson
2. Funny in Farsi, by Firoozeh Dumas
3. In Search of a Better World, by Payam Akhavan
4. Best American Food Writing 2019, edited by Samin Nosrat
5. Blessed Are the Organized, by Jeffrey Stout
6. The Fall of Wisconsin, by Dan Kaufman
7. Calypso, by David Sedaris
8. These Truths, by Jill Lepore
9. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval lNoah Harari
10. Embrace Your Weird, by Felicia Day

This is the second year in a row that a UWM Distinguished Lecturer had edited a Best American Anthology. Last Year Roxane Gay edited Best American Short Stories 2018 and this year Samin Nosrat took the wheel for Best American Food Writing 2019. From Food and Wine: "The shoutouts mentioned in her story include Priya Krishna, who released her debut cookbook, Indian-ish, earlier this year—one of our most anticipated spring cookbook releases of 2019. (She also recently appeared on our Communal Table podcast.) Helen Rosner, the food correspondent for The New Yorker, will also have work included, as will Soleil Ho, a restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle." Ignore the suggestion to order the book elsewhere.

Books for Kids:
1. The Happy Book, by Andy Rash
2. I Am Not Your Perfect American Daughter, by Erika L Sanchez
3. Unstinky, by Andy Rash
4. Love Hate and Other Filters, by Samira Ahmed
5. Enrique's Journey, by Sonia Nozario
6. Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonsky
7. Archie the Daredevil Penguin, by Andy Rash
8. The Story of Civil Rights Hero John Lewis, by Jim Haskins, with illustrations by Aaron Boyd
9. Cog, by Greg Van Eekhout
10. Handimals, by Silvia Lopez, with art by Guido Daniele

Handimals: Animals in Art in Nature has a nice Booklist review: "You've got to give Italian artist Guido Daniele a hand or, in some cases, six for painting and turning this human appendage into incredibly lifelike animals. From the monarch butterfly, toucan, and sea turtle to the polar bear, royal python, and Komodo dragon, this informational picture book uses Daniele's Manimali, or Handimals in English, to highlight 16 threatened and endangered animal species around the world...Plenty of animal titles abound, but few are as quirky and enthralling as this picture book.

Over at the Journal Sentinel...

--Jim Higgins reports on the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, featuring Andre Dubus III. More here.

--Donna Liguori reviews Deborah Levy's The Man Who Saw Everything for AP, which she compares to "a beautiful shattered mirror. The reader (and Saul) have the impossible task of putting together that mirror in the second half. That’s what makes it so ambiguous and uncomfortable and irresistible. Shattered things show up throughout: mirrors, records, a string of pearls – even Saul."

--Also from AP is Kendal Weaver's take on Elizabeth Strout's Olive Again: "As before, Olive is either a central character or plays a peripheral role in each of the 13 stories. These stories unfold chronologically, for the most part, as Olive ages from her 70s into her 80s, incollection creasingly hit with the physical and emotional afflictions of her years."

Monday, October 21, 2019

What's happening at Boswell this week? Paul Hendrickson in conversation with Catherine Boldt, Ann Patchett at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, Samin Nosrat in conversation with Kyle Cherek at UWM, Tim O'Brien in conversation with Liam Callanan, Alan Kent Anderson, Martha Brosio

What's happening at Boswell this week?

Monday, October 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Paul Hendrickson, author of Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright, in conversation with Catherine Boldt, Education Outreach Doecent at Taliesin

Paul Hendrickson, author of the the National Book Critics Circle finalist and New York Times bestseller Hemingway's Boat, visits Boswell for a conversation about his latest work. Free registration is requested at Advance registration has ended for this book, but don't worry, we have room for walk-ups.

Hendrickson offers an illuminating, pathbreaking biography that will change the way we understand the life, mind, and work of the premier American architect. Revealing Wright's facades along with their cracks, Hendrickson forms a fresh and more human understanding of the man with prodigious research, unique vision, and his ability to make sense of a life in ways at once unexpected, poetic, and undeniably brilliant.

Hendrickson's latest got great reviews in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, October 22, 7 pm, at Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, not moved but at a new address of 3270 Mitchell Park Dr, still in Brookfield:
Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House

The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, Oconomowoc's Books & Company, and Milwaukee's Boswell Book Company present an evening with PEN/Faulkner and Orange Prize-winning novelist Ann Patchett. Tickets are $33 and include admission to the event, all taxes and fees, and a copy of The Dutch House, available at Ticket sales end Tuesday morning. Walk-up tickets will be available.

From Helen McAlpin at NPR: "Ann Patchett may well be the most beloved book person in America - not just for her irresistibly absorbing novels and memoirs (including The Patron Saint of Liars, Bel Canto and This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage) but for becoming a patron saint of readers and publishers when she opened Parnassus Books in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn. And despite a few small reservations, this is the story of a happy book critic: The Dutch House is another wonderful read by an author who embodies compassion."

And here's our own Jane Glaser: "Who has not passed by their childhood home and "scrolled through the years,” recalling impressions that bring to mind the universal questions of family identity, complete with its losses, forgiveness, hope, and love? An intimate journey into the heart of the Conroy family, whose dream it is to live the perfect life in a suburban Philadelphia mansion, Dutch House, is shaken when Mrs. Conroy abandons her husband and children, 10-year-old Maeve and 3-year-old Danny. Layering the past with the present over five decades and three generations, readers will come to care for this family, recognizing that the powerful grip that connects them to the Dutch House has the pull to not only divide them but to also unite them. This is Ann Patchett at her brilliantly insightful best. Destined to be my favorite read of 2019!" Addendum: don't scoff at destiny - The Dutch House is officially favorite book of 2019.

Tuesday, October 22, 7 pm, at UWM Student Union, Wisconsin Room, 2200 E Kenwood Blvd:
Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

The UWM Distinguished Lecture Series presents an evening with chef, television host, and author Samin Nosrat, in conversation with culinary historian Kyle Cherek. Cosponsored by Boswell, who will be on hand to sell books.

Tickets for the general public will be available online and at the UWM Student Union Information Desk beginning September 30. $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets for UWM students are free. For non-UWM students, $5 in advance, $8 at the door, and for UWM Campus Community, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. More information available at

Called “a go-to resource for matching the correct techniques with the best ingredients” by The New York Times and “the next Julia Child” by NPR’s All Things Considered, Nosrat has been cooking professionally since 2000, when she first stumbled into the kitchen at Chez Panisse restaurant.

Wednesday, October 23, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Tim O’Brien, author of Dad’s Maybe Book, in conversation with Liam Callanan

Tim O’Brien, National Book Award-winning author of The Things They Carried, shares his first book in more than two decades, a collection of wisdom from a life in letters, lessons learned in wartime, and the challenges, humor, and rewards of raising two sons. O'Brien is also author of In the Lake of the Woods, winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize. He was awarded the Pritzker Literature Award for lifetime achievement in military writing in 2013.

Tickets cost $29, and include admission, a signed copy of Dad’s Maybe Book, and all tax and fees, available at Ticket sales will end Wednesday morning, but walk-up ticket sales are available.

Matt Gallagher of Time offers this praise: "For my generation of writers of war, this book, and this story in particular, are lodestars. For how to write, how to seek, when to tell and when to hold. I can’t think of one of my contemporaries whose work hasn’t been shaped by it in some way. What Crane and Stein were to Hemingway, what Hemingway was to Salinger and Vonnegut and Heller, what those authors were to O’Brien, O’Brien is to us." Don't miss this rare chance to see Tim O'Brien!

Friday, October 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Alan Kent Anderson, author of When Bad Lands: How Not to Numb Out, Freak Out, or Bottom Out - Buddhist Style

Alan Kent Anderson has been a musician, educator, writer, and a student of meditation and mindfulness for over 30 years. Alan has been teaching mindfulness, music, and self-regulation skills in public schools and is the founder of Arts and Mindfulness for Academic Progress. Prior to teaching, he played jazz professionally for 20 years, and toured, performed, and recorded with Paul Cebar, playing American roots music.

Change. Sometimes it wells up from within and we enter gracefully. At other times it is utterly choiceless and the past, present, and future get burned up in the most unforgiving flames. Anderson offers a path through change that is not a shortcut to clean up the surface or soften the edges. Rather, it is a mirror for courageously seeing ourselves with humor and heart.

Michael Carroll, author of Awake at Work, says, "this insightful and playful text explains how mindfulness-awareness meditation introduces the possibility of living a fearlessly compassionate life. For those interested in 'going deeper' with their mindfulness practice, this book is for you." And Arno Michaelis, author of My Life After Hate, adds that Anderson has done “a brilliant job of compiling wisdom both ancient and modern, while offering new insights and practical techniques to realize the miracle of basic goodness.”

Monday, October 28, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Martha Brosio, author of The Last Ten Days - Academia, Dementia, and the Choice to Die: A Loving Memoir of Richard A Brosio, PhD

Milwaukee-based author Martha Brosio visits Boswell with her heartrending memoir of love, scholarship, dignity, courage, and the choices one is forced to make when given the devastating diagnosis of a terminal illness. Cosponsored by University of Michigan Club of Milwaukee - The Last Ten Days is their book club choice book. The event will feature a reading from Martha's granddaughter, followed by a conversation.

Spanning sixty years, Brosio recounts the story of her life with her husband, Richard, a scholar and college professor. From teenage sweethearts who went their separate ways after high school, to reconnecting and marriage, Martha and Richard enjoyed a vibrant life together until tragedy struck, when Richard was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a type of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Determined to have a dignified death at the time and in the manner of his own choosing, Richard hastened his death two years after his diagnosis by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, seeking only palliative and hospice care until the end. Brosio’s book highlights Richard’s teaching, writing, and their life together. Sad, yet inspirational, it is a joyful celebration of their lives together.

More event info on our upcoming events page.

Photo credits!
Paul Hendrickson by Tim Samuelson
Tim O'Brien by Meredith O'Brien

Sunday, October 20, 2019

What's selling at Boswell? - week ending October 19, 2019

Here's what's selling at Boswell:

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
2. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Olive Again, by Elizabeth Strout
4. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
5. The Guardians, by John Grisham
6. Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
7. The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal
8. The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
9. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
10. Full Throttle, by Joe Hill

I'm not sure if it's geography or what, but our sales for Ann Patchett's The Dutch House in the store have been particularly strong, despite our ticket-with-book event in the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, something that we have not seen with previous Wilson Center-featured authors. If you read the book and loved it as much as we did, there's still a chance to pick up a ticket (more info here), and the signed copy you get will make a great holiday gift. Note that HarperCollins has both the #1 fiction and nonfiction book this week.

New this week is Olive Again, Elizabeth Strout's latest. After loving Anything Is Possible so much that I went back and read My Name Is Lucy Barton, I thought I would borrow Olive I from the Milwaukee Public Library and plow through both, but alas, it was not to happen, at least yet. Emma Brockes profiles Strout in The Guardian: "Olive Kitteridge, one of the great, difficult women of American literature, became instantaneously beloved when the book was first published, somewhat to the surprise of her creator. Olive is blunt, erratic, bad-tempered."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Christ in Crisis, by Jim Wallis
2. Atlas Obscura, second edition, by Dylan Thuras, Joshua Foer, and Ella Morton
3. The New Rules of War, by Sean McFate
4. The Years That Matter Most, by Paul Tough
5. Here We Are, by Aarti Namdev Shahani
6. The Body, by Bill Bryson
7. Blowout, by Rachel Maddow
8. Catch and Kill, by Ronan Farrow
9. St. Francis of Assisi, by Jon M. Sweeney (event Wed 10/30, 7 pm, at Boswell)
10. Plagued by Fire, by Paul Hendrickson (event Mon 10/21, 7 pm - registration info here)

Please note that all the authors of this week's top five books signed stock for us. Request a signed copy if you place an order on our website.

At #6 is Bill Bryson's latest, The Body: A Guide for Occupants. David Holahan writes in USA Today: "Like an adventurer trekking the Appalachian Trail from beginning to end (as this bestselling author did for A Walk in the Woods), Bryson launches himself into the wilderness of the human anatomy armed with his characteristic thoroughness and wit. He ably dissects the knowns and unknowns of how we live and die and all the idiosyncrasies of our shared infrastructure."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Winter Soldier, by Daniel Mason
2. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
3. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman
4. The Incendiaries, by R.O. Kwon (In-Store Lit Group discussion book for Mon 11/4, 7 pm, at Boswell)
5. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
6. The Widows of Malabar Hill V1, by Sujata Massey
7. Blackfish City, by Sam J Miller
8. Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurain
9. Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
10. The Current, by Tim Johnston (event Fri 11/8, 7 pm - registration info here)

We had two literary lunches this week, which is why I've read eight books in this week's top ten. It's a little unusual for me to read my November book club book so early but since I'd already read October, I got ahead of myself. I was a little worried when I saw how many paperback copies of The Winter Soldier Jason bought for the story, but all I need is a few more of these presentations and we should sell through fine. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. It seems like word-of-mouth hardcovers have much better paperback sales pops than ones that are publicity driven.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Exceptional, by Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney
2. Elizabeth the Queen, by Sally Bedell Smith
3. Health Justice Now, by Timothy Faust
4. Reflections on a Life in Exile, by J.F. Riordan
5. 111 Places in Milwaukee You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden
6. The Library Book, by Susan Orlean (In-Store Lit Group discussion book for Mon 12/2, 7 pm, at Boswell)
7. God's Politics, by Jim Wallis
8. Hail to the Chin, by Bruce Campbell
9. Calypso, by David Sedaris
10. America's Original Sin, by Jim Wallis

We don't know where a Cheney was, but one of them was somewhere and an outside organization sold books for them which they got from us. Sally Bedell Smith definitely wasn't here but Leslie Goddard did a talk at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center inspired by Elizabeth the Queen. Coming in 2020 is 'Bad Blood: The Rise and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes' and other programs. More here. Why isn't someone bringing her in to do one of her department store lectures? And finally Timothy Faust was everywhere, but this was his last tour stop for Health Justice Now, in conjunction with a family. Signed copies available.

Books for Kids:
1. How to Win the Science Fair When You're Dead V3, by Paul Noth
2. The Book of Terrifyingly Awesome Technology, by Sean Connolly
3 & 4 - More Paul Noth (How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens and How to Properly Dispose of Planet Earth)
5. Revenge of Magic V1, by James Riley
6, 7, & 10 - more James Riley (The Last Dragon, The Story Thieves, Half Upon a Time)
8 & 9 - more Sean Connolly (The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science and Massively Epic Engineering Disasters)

Because of all the school visits, you have to dig a little deeper to find out what folks are buying in the store.
12. The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman
13. Dasher, by Matt Tavares (not in conjunction with his recent school visits)
14. Guts, by Raina Telegmeier
15. Greek Myths and Mazes, by Jan Bajtlik

That pop for Greek Myths and Mazes might be an indicator of what oversized nonfiction kids book might take off this season for us. I'm definitely one for putting tracing paper over the maze for a book like this, but where does one buy tracing paper nowadays. My mother and I used to share puzzle books by having one of us do the puzzle on this no-longer-so-common stationery product.

At the Journal Sentinel:

--Jennifer McClellan from USA Today reviews Ali Wong's Dear Girls: "Comedian and actress Ali Wong’s first book, Dear Girls, is everything her fans would expect: raunchy, real and uproariously funny. Framed as a collection of letters to her daughters, the memoir details Wong’s rebellious youth, sexual exploits and life as a wife and mother."

--AP's Molly Sprayregen takes on Zadie Smith's Grand Union, her first collection of short stories: "The book moves between narrative- driven stories and unique experimental pieces. In one, Smith takes readers on a journey through a metaphor masquerading as a lazy river. In another, she dissects a child’s Narrative Techniques worksheet in a way that will make readers begin to see meaning in places they never before thought to look."

--Delfina Barbiero gives Leigh Bardugo's Ninth House two wands up: "Set on the campus of Yale, Ninth House imagines that the school’s secret societies are no longer just boys clubs but groups that create dark magic to manipulate stock markets and The New York Times bestseller list, see into the future and more. Alex Stern is a freshman when she enters Yale’s dangerous Lethe House, one of nine secret societies that practice magic; it polices the other houses on campus."

--And Joanne Kempinger Demski looks at bookcase ideas. I offered a bookseller's take.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Reading log: Do You Mind If I Cancel?, by Gary Janetti

Reading log: Do You Mind If I Cancel?, by Gary Janetti

A gay man writes a humor book and I play a little game; how many words will I read before I spot the name Sedaris*? For Mr. Sedaris, many years in, is still the pinnacle of literary humor that slots an author like Mr. Janetti. But I don’t think that’s a fair comparison, mostly because of the way they see the world. I see in Sedaris's work this persona of the outlier. Aside from the now trivial (and this being aside from elements of the far right, many autocratic government regimes and some ostensibly democratic ones, and plenty of traditional religious groups) subject of sexual orientation, Sedaris fits not quite in in lots of different ways, outfitted by experimental Japanese clothing designers and picking up litter in the French countryside in his free time. And he's proud of it.

In contrast, I think Janetti** in his new book Do You Mind If I Cancel? (on sale October 22, 2019) comes from a point of wanting to feel normal, and aside from his gay identity, to fit in. It’s all there in ‘Letter to My Younger Self,’ but permeates the rest of the collection too, and in a way, captures a universal coming-of-age dilemma, being torn with wanting to be unique and yet wanting to be like everyone else. I feel like I’ve read books before with this aesthetic, a little like Wade Rouse (maybe slightly less earnest) or Clinton Kelly (another Long Islander). I obviously like them – I laugh, I identify, and I shudder a bit, remembering my younger self. Sometimes I shudder remembering my current self, but I guess that’s for another post.

Janetti’s humorous autobiographical essays are indeed very funny, and someone schooled in pop culture will be searching for clues of his life in the work that he had a hand in. While I couldn’t necessary spot any connections in Family Guy, his acting school scenes called to mind Jack’s experiences in Will and Grace and that time he was upgraded from coach to first class during a youth hostel trip immediately reminded me of the Will and Grace episode where Will got an upgrade and Grace did not. Unlike many kids, Gary got to set several pivotal moments on cruise lines, being that his father worked for Cunard. Like many kids, but maybe less than in past generations now that parents don’t expect their teen kids to work because they have too many college prep courses and the like, the source of many of his stories were work-a-day jobs in the service industry, from Benigans restaurant to Waldbaum’s supermarkets.

Unlike most readers, I had a special interest in his upbringing, because like Mr Janetti, I grew up in Queens about five years before him, and things had not changed that much in that time. So when he said the Waldbaum's he worked out closed, I was eager to know which one. What is it about Queens this fall? We just co-hosted Aarti Shahani, author of Here We Are, who also grew up in Flushing, and then on November 19, the Douglaston Manor resident Lidia Bastianich visits the ICC for Felidia (ticket info here).

Is Gary the last generation to still have angst about coming out in college? I talk to folks I know and their kids are exploring gender and identity in adolescence. It is just another way that Janetti is more of my generation that that of folks 20 years younger. Even if you had come out, you’d still find yourself in these are-they-or-aren’t-they situations as you befriended someone, particularly in college, where a week of intense bonding was equivalent to a year of dating in the real world. Now you have more options and more identities to unpack, and more of that work is done online. But the through-line of Do You Mind If I Cancel is finding your identity, not just in terms of sexual orientation. Janetti so wants to be that guy who’s not working in the drudge job, who’s creating (acting, then writing), who’s not struggling. But to do that, he has to leave home, because sadly, not only is One Life to Live no longer taping in New York, it’s no longer taping.

Janetti is often touches on that early life, before apps, before GPS, before texting. It’s a reminder that it’s hard to go backwards, whether we’re talking about technology or life. But you can spin it into humor, and as Janetti watches the younger guys dancing around in Mykonos, that’s probably the idea that came into his head. Do You Mind If I Cancel is funny and often thoughtful collection. And while it's popular now to write confessional memoirs about mental illness, it's important to remember that the APA considered homosexuality a mental illness until 1973, and these childhood stories don't take place too much later than that.

*The answer to the opening game was, back cover, third word.

**The husband of fashion stylist and reality television regular Brad Goreski, author of Born to Be Brad

Photo credit - Alasdair Mclellan

Monday, October 14, 2019

Paul Tough, Rene Steinke, Jim Wallis, Timothy Faust, JF Riordan, Landis Blair, Paul Hendrickson - but alas, Dylan Thuras is at capacity

Alas, you waited until the last minute and now we're at capacity.But for which event? Read on and find out.

Tuesday, October 15, 7 pm, at University School of Milwaukee, 2100 W Fairy Chasm Rd:
Paul Tough, author of The Years that Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us

The University School of Milwaukee Speaker Series and Boswell Book Company present Tough, author of How Children Succeed and Helping Children Succeed, talking about his latest work, a mind-changing inquiry into higher education in the United States which asks, does college still work? Registration required for this free event on the University School of Milwaukee website.

With insight, humor, and passion, Paul Tough takes us on a journey from Ivy League seminar rooms to community college welding shops, from giant public flagship universities to tiny experimental storefront colleges. Whether you are facing your own decision about college or simply care about the American promise of social mobility, The Years That Matter Most will change the way you think, not just about higher education, but about the nation itself.

Online registration will likely be turned off sometime tomorrow morning. Last I heard, we had seats available for walk-up registration. For the latest info, check the ticketing website.

Tuesday, October 15, 7:30 pm, at UWM Hefter Center, 3271 N Lake Dr:
Rene Steinke, author of Friendswood

Please join us in celebrating 50 years of Creative Writing at UWM with a reading by UWM creative writing alum René Steinke, now Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Steinke was a 2016 Guggenheim fellow, and her nonfiction work has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, and Salon.

René Steinke’s most recent novel, Friendswood ,was named one of National Public Radio’s Great Reads of 2014, shortlisted for the St. Francis Literary Prize, and was an Amazon Book of the Month. Her previous novel, Holy Skirts, an imaginative retelling of the life of the artist and provocateur, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, was a Finalist for the National Book Award. Her first novel is The Fires. More information here.

At capacity - Wednesday, October 16, 6:30 pm, at American Geographical Society Library at UWM Golda Meir Library, 2311 E Hartford Ave:
Dylan Thuras, author of Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders

Dylan Thuras adventures back to Milwaukee for an event celebrating the brand new edition of his explorer’s guide that the New York Times calls “a wanderlust-whetting cabinet of curiosities on paper.” And what better place for this event than the AGSL, Milwaukee’s own geographer’s treasure trove?

The evening will feature Thuras’s slide show presentation and a trivia contest, plus the American Geographical Society Library will have a special mini-exhibit of maps connected to the book. More info at

Alas, this event is registered to capacity. Doors open at 5:30 pm, when we'll be giving out stand-by numbers.

Wednesday, October 16, 7 pm, at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 1100 N Astor St:
Jim Wallis, author of Christ in Crisis: Why We Need to Reclaim Jesus

Boswell presents an evening with Jim Wallis, Founder of Sojourners, a faith in action organization pursing racial justice, environmental stewardship, and peace, at Immanuel Presbyterian Church. Wallis will discuss his latest book, Christ in Crisis. Through his writing, Wallis offers a path to spiritual healing and solidarity, aimed to mend the divide separating Americans today.

With a practical and empathetic approach, Wallis addresses questions of power, truth, fear, and discipleship, applying lessons from the biblical stories to contemporary issues like race, immigration, and political discourse. As Wallis has done throughout his career, he offers comfort, compassion, and a constructive field guide for the modern era.

Registration will continue for this event at until Wednesday morning. We expect that walk-up registration will be available. Boswell will be selling copies of Christ in Crisis at the event, and attendees have the option to reserve a copy with registration - payment due at the event.

Thursday, October 17, 6:30 pm, at Frank L Weyenberg Library, 11345 N Cedarburg Rd:
JF Riordan, author of Reflections on a Life in Exile

JF Riordan studied voice at University of New Mexico, continued her music studies in Chicago and Milwaukee, and ultimately became a professional singer. Now she's the author of the Washington Island-set North of the Tension Line series, as well as this brand-new collection of essays.

Riordan’s essays are easy to pick up and hard to put down. By turns deeply spiritual and gently comic, these brief meditations range from the inconveniences of modern life to the shifting nature of grief. Whether it’s an unexpected revelation from a trip to the hardware store, a casual encounter with a tow-truck driver, the changing seasons, or a conversation with a store clerk grieving for a dog, Riordan captures and magnifies the passing beauty of the ordinary and the extraordinary that lingers near the surface of daily life.

Thursday, October 17, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Timothy Faust, author of Health Justice Now: Single Payer and What Comes Next

Wisconsin native Timothy Faust has traveled around the United States, talking to people about health inequality in their neighborhoods. With his new book, he offers a concise explanation of the benefits of single-payer health care and widening the definition of health care itself.

In Health Justice Now, Faust explains what single payer is, why we don’t yet have it, and how it can be won. He identifies the actors that have misled us for profit and political gain, dispels the myth that healthcare needs to be personally expensive, shows how we can smoothly transition to a new model, and reveals the slate of humane and progressive reforms that we can only achieve with single payer as the springboard.

Single payer healthcare is not complicated: the government pays for all care for all people. It’s cheaper than our current model, and some say most Americans and their doctors already want it. So Faust asks, what’s the deal with our current healthcare system, and why don’t we have something better?

Saturday, October 19, Noon – 4 pm, on Historic Downer Ave:
Historic Downer Avenue’s Haunted Halloween

Historic Downer Avenue’s Haunted Halloween returns with fun for the whole family. Enjoy the amazing Halloween-themed artistry of our chalk artists, stroll along with our accordion player, and pick your pumpkin at St. Mark's Church! For more information, visit

Downer businesses will compete in a pumpkin carving contest voted on by attendees. For the kids, there will be trick-or-treating, face painting, and twisted balloon shapes. For the adults, a mini-pub crawl sponsored by MKE Brewing, featuring seasonal favorite brews, with beer sales proceeds going to benefit the Riverwest Pantry.

Sunday, October 20, 3 pm, at Boswell:
Landis Blair, author of The Envious Siblings: And Other Morbid Nursery Rhymes, in conversation with Caitlin Doughty

Boswell hosts a conversation with award-winning comics artist Landis Blair and mortician-turned-author Caitlin Doughty about Blair’s new book of gleefully macabre vignettes as delightful as they are deadly.

This event is free, but registration is requested at Upgrade to purchase-with-registration for a copy of The Envious Siblings. Please note that while Caitlin Doughty will not be part of the post-event signing, signed copies of her new book, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, will be available for sale at the event. See ticketing website for restrictions.

Inspired by the dark imagination of Edward Gorey, Envious Siblings is a twisted and hauntingly funny debut. Blair interweaves absurdist horror and humor into brief, rhyming vignettes at once transgressive and hilarious. In Blair’s surreal universe, a lost child watches as bewhiskered monsters gobble up her fellow train passengers; a band of kids merrily plays a gut-churning game with playground toys; and two sisters, grinning madly, tear each other apart.

Boswell’s Chris Lee says, “Landis creates a demented world of ghoulish delights at once sharply cynical and delightfully surprising. This book is even more fun and dangerous than a dinner party with a rhyming tiger and his cheery bear and gator friends.”

Monday, October 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Paul Hendrickson, author of Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright, in conversation with Catherine Boldt

Paul Hendrickson is author of Sons of Mississippi, which won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award, NBCC Award-finalist Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life and Art of Marion Post Wolcott, and the National Book Award finalist The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War. He'll be in conversation about his latest book with Catherine Boldt, an Education Outreach Docent at Taliesin known for the disability accessible tours she gives at Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring Green Estate.

In Plagued by Fire, Hendrickson offers an illuminating, pathbreaking biography that will change the way we understand the life, mind, and work of the premier American architect. Revealing Wright's facades along with their cracks, Hendrickson forms a fresh and more human understanding of the man with prodigious research, unique vision, and his ability to make sense of a life in ways at once unexpected, poetic, and undeniably brilliant.

Free registration is requested at Upgrade to a purchase-with-registration for 20% off the list price. This price applies to preorders only.

More event information at

photo credits:
--Paul Tough credit Paul Terefenko
--Dylan Thuras credit Michelle Enemark
--Jim Wallis credit Elliott O'Donovan
--Timothy Faust credit Laura Wing-Kamoosi
--Landis Blair credit Anid Linden Medres
--Paul Hendrickson credit Tim Samuelson