Monday, August 31, 2020

Boswell events - Erin Clarke with Andi Sciacca, Margot Livesey with Liam Callanan, Mary Gordon with Mary Beth Keane, Rachel Ida Buff and Alejandra Oliva, and a kids event with Lora Hyler

Here's what's going on virtually at Boswell Book Company for this week. 

Monday, August 31, 7:00 pm
Erin Clarke, author of The Well Plated Cookbook: Fast, Healthy Recipes You'll Want to Eat
In conversation with Andi Sciacca

Milwaukee-based Clarke, creator of the healthy cooking blog Well Plated by Erin, presents her brand new cookbook, in which she creates comfort classics with a lighter spin using fast, budget-friendly, creative recipes, with a special virtual cooking demo and conversation! A cooking demo will be followed by Andi Sciacca. Register for this Zoom event by clicking right here, and purchase your copy of The Well Plated Cookbook for 20% off list price from Boswell Book Company today!

Known for her incredibly approachable, slimmed-down, and outrageously delicious recipes, Clarke’s blog has been a smash hit in the healthy-eating blogosphere, and with good reason: she never includes an ingredient you can’t find in a regular supermarket, and she hacks her recipes for maximum nutrition by using the “stealthy healthy” ingredient swaps she’s mastered so that you don’t lose an ounce of flavor.

In this essential cookbook for everyday cooking, Clarke shares more than 130 brand-new rapid-fire recipes, along with secrets to lightening up classic comfort favorites inspired by her midwestern roots, and clever recipe hacks that will enable you to put a healthy meal on the table any night of the week. As Clarke often hears from her readers, “My family doesn’t like healthy food, but they LOVED this!” Now she’s visiting with her homey guide to a healthier kitchen.

Erin Clarke will be returning to sign and even personalize books later this week. If you would like a personalization, ask us on your phone order, or put a note in comments on your web order.

Tuesday, September 1, 7:00 pm
Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field
in conversation with Liam Callanan for a virtual event

Livesey, author of Mercury, The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy chats about her a poignant and probing psychological drama that follows the lives of three siblings in the wake of a violent crime. Livesey will be in conversation with Callanan, author of Paris by the Book. This virtual event will be broadcast via Zoom, and registration is required – so click this link to register today! Purchase your copy of The Boy in the Field for 20% off list price from Boswell.

Livesey's latest novel has earned starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and Jenny Rosenstarch in The New York Times Book Review proclaimed The Boy in The Field "exquisite." She continues: "Livesey’s writing is quiet, observant and beautifully efficient — there’s not an extra word or scene in the entire book  - and yet simultaneously so cinematic, you can hear the orchestral soundtrack as you tear through the pages." 

One September afternoon in 1999, three teenagers are walking home from school when they discover a boy lying in a field, bloody and unconscious. Thanks to their intervention, the boy’s life is saved. In the aftermath, all three siblings are irrevocably changed. Written with the deceptive simplicity and power of a fable, The Boy in the Field showcases Margot Livesey’s unmatched ability to, as Lily King, author of Euphoria, says “tell her tale masterfully, with intelligence, tenderness, and a shrewd understanding of all our mercurial human impulses.”

Wednesday, September 2, 7:00 pm
Mary Gordon, author of Payback
in conversation with Mary Beth Keane for a virtual event

Boswell hosts Mary Gordon, Professor of English at Barnard College, author of novels like There Your Heart Lies and Final Payments, as well as several memoirs, for a conversation with with Mary Beth Keane, author of the New York Times bestseller Ask Again, Yes. They'll chat about Gordon's brand new novel, a story of #MeToo misunderstanding and the lifelong reckoning between two women. Click right here for the registration link for this Zoom event, and purchase your copy of Payback from Boswell Book Company for 20% off list price.

Gordon's new novel has already earned praise and starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher's Weekly, who said, "Excellent… Contrasts the 1970s world of upper-class women’s education with the #MeToo era… Gordon nails period details and vividly describes her characters’ worlds, whether they are restoring a work of art or raising a daughter. This mesmerizing novel hits hard."

Unbeknownst to her many fans, Quin, the revenge-loving queen of the reality-TV show PAYBACK, was once an angry teen named Heidi. Her true story may be known only to Agnes, who was her art teacher at a private New England girls’ school in the 1970s. Then a young woman herself, Agnes saw a spark of originality in the brooding Heidi. But when she suggests Heidi visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the girl returns with a disastrous account of having been picked up at the museum by an older man. Agnes’s stunned response will haunt both women for decades.

Mary Gordon is author of nine novels, including Pearl and The Love of My Youth, six works of nonfiction, including the memoirs The Shadow Man and Circling My Mother, and three collections of short fiction, including The Stories of Mary Gordon, which was awarded the Story Prize. She teaches at Barnard College. Mary Beth Keane is also the author of The Walking People and Fever, was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, and has received citations from the National Book Foundation, PEN America, and the Hemingway Society.

Thursday, September 3, 7:00 pm
Rachel Ida Buff and Alejandra Oliva, author and translator of A is for Asylum Seeker: Words for People on the Move / A de Asilo: Palabras Para Personas En Movimiento
a virtual event

Boswell hosts a virtual event with author Buff, Professor of History and Comparative Ethnic Studies at UWM, and translator Oliva, Communications Coordinator at the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago. They will offer an introduction to their their clear and concise new A-to-Z glossary of keywords and ideas for people on the move that echos our current human rights crisis. Register for this Zoom broadcast by clicking this link right here. And purchase your copy of A is for Asylum Seeker: Words for People on the Move / A de Asilo: Palabras Para Personas En Movimiento from Boswell Book Company for 10% off list price now.

As millions are forced to leave their nations of origin as a result of political, economic, and environmental peril, rising racism and xenophobia have led to increasingly harsh policies. A mass-mediated political circus obscures both histories of migration and longstanding definitions of words for people on the move, fomenting widespread linguistic confusion. Under this circus tent, there is no regard for history, legal advocacy, or jurisprudence. Yet in a world where the differences between "undocumented migrant" and "asylum seeker" can mean life or death, words have weighty consequences.

A timely antidote to this circus, A is for Asylum Seeker reframes key words that describe people on the move and shape our understanding. Rendered in both English and Spanish, this book offers a unique perspective on the journeys, histories, challenges, and aspirations of people on the move. Note that Rachel Buff has signed our initial copies of A Is for Asylum Seeker. Personalizations not available at this time, but if you are patient, you can request this. 

Saturday, September 5, 11:00 am
Lora Hyler, author of Our Bodies Stay Home, Our Imaginations Run Free: A Coronavirus COVID-19 Story for Children
A Virtual Storytime

Milwaukee area author and speaker Hyler, author of The Stupendous Adventures of Mighty Marty Hayes, joins us for a virtual kids event, in which she’ll read and chat about her brand new book, which is about helping children navigate our world as we live through the once-in-a-century event that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Register for this virtual event with this link today! And don't forget to purchase your copy of Our Bodies Stay Home, Our Imaginations Run Free from Boswell Book Company with the link above. 

Hyler helps children navigate their scary new world due to the coronavirus. Seven-year-old Maya is struggling with her feelings as she misses her classmates and teacher, her friends, her grandparents, and visits to her favorite places. And even worse, her 8th birthday is coming up during quarantine. How can she possibly have a party? With her family's help, Maya understands she needs to do her part to help her family and community. Practicing proper handwashing, wearing a mask, and social distancing are needed. She finds joy in making masks, watching nature, and creative play from afar. Maya is amazed when she has the best 8th birthday party ever.

Lora Hyler is founder of Hyler Communications, and for many years was a radio news reporter for WUWM and WISN in Milwaukee. Hyler is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Lora Hyler will sign and personalize your book - just ask by phone or request in coomments section of our event order page.
More event info here.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 29, 2020

Boswell Bestsellers for the week ending August 29, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Lakewood, by Megan Giddings
2. Squeeze Me, by Carl Hiaasen
3. Summer, by Ali Smith
4. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
5. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
6. The Last Great Road Bum, by Héctor Tobar
7. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
8. You Have Arrived at Your Destination, by Amor Towles (Independent Bookstore Day exclusive - still a few left)
9. Grown Ups, by Emma Jane Unsworth
10. The Boy in the Field, by Margot Livesey (register for September 1 event here with Liam Callanan)

Wow, look at the new titles on this week's list - fall is here! Héctor Tobar's The Last Great Road Bum  is the fictionalized story of Joe Sanderson, a young Illinois man who traveling the world looking for inspiration, wound up fighting with the guerrillas in El Salvador. From the Booklist starred review: "His life itself has inspired what is inarguably a great novel, a tribute to him that is beautifully written and spectacularly imagined."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Well Plated Cookbook, by Erin Clarke (register for August 31 event here)
2. Vesper Flights, by Helen Macdonald (tickets for September 17 event here)
3. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
4. Our History Is the Future, by Nick Estes
5. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
6. His Truth Is Marching On, by Jon Meacham
7. Five Minute Selling, by Alex Goldfayn
8. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
9. Evil Geniuses, by Kurt Anderson
10. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson

This week's sales for Vesper Flights were about 2/3 ticket-with-book and 1/3 book only. Just under half the ticket goes the raptor program at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. The New York Times Sunday Book Review is the outlier on reviews for this book of essays, as it's mixed. All the others are raves, but sadly, I have noticed that NYTBR can sometimes carry more weight than two-to-three others put together. The daily New York Times review from Parul Sehgal is far more enthusiastic: "[Macdonald's] work is an antidote to so much romantic, reductive writing about the natural world as pristine, secret, uninhabited—as a convenient blank canvas for the hero’s journey of self-discovery."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Parable of the Sower V1, by Octavia Butler
2. The Parable of the Talents V2, by Octavia Butler
3. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
4. The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
5. Poems of Resistance, Poems of Hope, by Joy Harjo and others (another IBD exclusive - we're not sold out yet)
6. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
8. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
9. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
10. A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry.

The Jaws theme follows the Scribner edition of The Great Gatsby as the book moves into public domain in the United States in January 2021. It's been many years since we saw rights lapse on a book that still sold in these numbers. I remember Knopf positioning The Prophet for competition, but the Disney reprieve had them cancel the paperback. 25 years later, a lot fewer people were reading Kahil Gibran. Coming soon are multiple graphic novels, a Norton critical edition, classics versions with new intros from Vintage and HarperCollins, a mass market from Scribner, and a Dover thrift edition priced at $8. Dover has also got a Great Gatsby paper doll book. I won't be satisfied until we've got Gatsby Mad Libs.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, by Matthew McKay (not selling off our impulse table)
2. Born Survivors, by Wendy Holden (info about the HERC event on September 10 here)
3. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
4. Cultivating Genius, by Gholdy Muhammad
5. Policing the Planet, Jordan Camp and Christina Heatherington
6. My Journey from Boxing Ring to the Boardroom, by Héctor Colón
7. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
8. Unselfie, by Michele Borba
9. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
10. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo

Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns continues to sell in conjunction with her new book Caste. A Netflix series based on the book is still in development by Shonda Rimes. It is being adapted by Anna Deveare Smith.

Books for Kids:
1. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer
2. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
3. Dragonwings, by Laurence Yep
4. Darius the Great Deserves Better, by Adib Khorram
5. Kamala and Maya's Big Idea, by Meena Harris
6. Our Bodies Stay Home, Our Imaginations Run Free, by Lora Hyler (register for September 5 event here)
7. Rite of Passage, by Richard Wright
8. Rescuing Mrs. Birdley, by Aaron Reynolds, with illustrations by Emma Reynolds (no relation)
9. Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Meyer
10. Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers

We've started doing virtual story times, but we're not sure Saturday morning is the right slot if it's not in the store. Aaron Reynolds guested on Saturday for Resucing Mrs. Birdley (bookplates to come - ask for one) and also talked about his forthcoming chapter book, Fart Quest. All the advance reviews were good, and I like the book because it reminds me of when I was in fourth grade and our teacher had to ask us not to follow her home. We really liked her!

The Journal Sentinel
has a review of Tea Krulos's American Madness, which it calls "both a biography of (Richard) McCaslin and a disturbing tour of the power of conspiracy-mongering, from the JFK assassination to QAnon and the prevalence of crisis actor theories." He notes that there's a through line from McCaslin's thinking to the QAnon movement.

The Morning Blend hosted Héctor Colón, who talked about My Journey from Boxing Ring to Boardroom.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Boswell events this week - Liza Wiemer, Peter Geye, Megan Giddings, Héctor Colón, Adib Khorram with Nic Stone, Aaron Reynolds, Erin Clarke

Here's what's going on this week virtually at Boswell.

Tuesday, August 25, 7:00 pm
Liza Wiemer, author of The Assignment
In Conversation with Boswell's Jenny Chou for a Virtual Event

Milwaukee author Wiemer chats about her brand new YA novel, inspired by a real-life incident, which explores discrimination and antisemitism and reveals their dangerous impact.This event will be broadcast via Zoom, and registration is required. Register right here for this event! And purchase your copy of The Assignment from Boswell for 20% off list price. This event is cosponsored by the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.

When an assignment given by a favorite teacher instructs a group of high school seniors to argue for the Final Solution, a euphemism used to describe the Nazi plan for the genocide of the Jewish people, Logan and Cade are horrified. Their teacher cannot seriously expect anyone to complete an assignment that fuels intolerance and discrimination. Logan and Cade decide they must take a stand. As the school administration addressed the teens’ refusal to participate in the appalling debate, the student body, their parents, and the larger community are forced to face the issue as well. The situation explodes, and acrimony and anger result. What does it take for intolerance, justice, and love to prevail?

The backstory - This is one of those events that's even more exciting because we've been talking to the author about this book for a long time. We watched her write it at the coffee shop. We celebrated when it was acquired by Delacorte. And now the day has come.

Wednesday, August 26, 7:00 pm
Peter Geye, author of Northernmost
in Conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for A Virtual Event

Boswell Book Company and Books & Company of Oconomowoc welcome Minnesotan Peter Geye for a virtual Readings from Oconomowaukee chat about his latest, a thrilling ode to the spirit of adventure in which one man’s terrifying story of survival in an Arctic wasteland reverberates profoundly in the life of his distant descendant. He’ll be in conversation with proprietors Goldin of Boswell and Baudoin of Books & Co. Click this sentence to register for this Zoom event today! And purchase your copy of Northernmost for 20% off list price from Boswell Book Company here, or from Books & Company here.

Peter Geye is author of the novels Safe from the Sea, The Lighthouse Road, and Wintering. His latest braids together two remarkable stories of love and survival. In 1897, Odd Einar Eide returns home from a near-death experience in the Arctic only to discover his own funeral underway. More than a century later, Greta Nansen has begun to admit that her marriage is over. Desperately unhappy and unfulfilled, she makes the decision to follow her husband from their home in Minnesota to Oslo, but on impulse, she diverts her travels to Hammerfest: the town of her ancestors, the town where her great-great-grandmother was born and for some reason never returned.

The backstory: Lisa and I are hosting a monthly series called Readings from Oconomwaukee and for at least the first two events, our criteria were authors who were trying to book both stores in this market, and books that we thought we could both read and talk about. Geye, though truly a Minnesotan in all sense of the word, has Wisconsin connections such that we've hosted him for just abut every book. I finished it over the weekend - we're ready!

Thursday, August 27, 5:30 pm
Megan Giddings, author of Lakewood
in conversation with Taylore McBride and Markesha Hilliard for a virtual Event

UWM ACCESS presents a virtual conversation with author Megan Giddings, Features Editor at The Rumpus, who'll chat with Milwaukee educators Taylore McBride and Markesha Hilliard about Lakewood, Giddings's startling debut novel about class and race that evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation. It's one part Handmaid’s Tale, one part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Register for this event by clicking this link now! And purchase your copy of Lakewood from Boswell Book Company today for 20% off list price!

When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan. On paper, her new job is too good to be true. All Lena has to do is lie to her friends and family about the research being done. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family. Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.

The backstory - if you watch our schedule carefully, you'll note that this is officially our second event with Giddings, following an April virtual event in conversation with Dasha Kelly that we cosponsored. But there was something about this book that stuck with me, notably, that I thought it would resonate with both teens and educators. So when we started working with UWM ACCESS, I made the pitch, and yes, we're hearing back that lots of high school students are loving the book, as is our friend Kristina who is a programming librarian at Milwaukee Public Library. So excited to be working with Mareksha Hilliard and Taylore McBride. We're doing a test tonight if Zoom comes back online.

Thursday, August 27, 7:00 pm
Héctor Colón, author of My Journey From Boxing Ring to Boardroom: 5 Essential Virtues for Life and Leadership 
In conversation with Sharon Hudy for A Virtual Event

Colón, CEO and President of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, shares his compelling story and an actionable and powerful approach to living and leading. He'll be in conversation with Sharon Hudy, LSSWI Director of Donor Relations and Communications. Register right here for this Zoom event. And purchase your copy of My Journey from Boxing Ring to Boardroom from Boswell Book Company today.

Héctor Colón chronicles his life, from a challenging childhood through his international boxing success to his current position as CEO of one of the Midwest’s largest nonprofit organizations. Far more than just a business memoir, Héctor’s book offers an actionable and powerful approach to living and leading. Entrepreneurs, leaders young and old, and anyone looking for hope in an ever-changing and challenging world will find inspiration in Colón's story. A true servant leader, Héctor shares the lessons and virtues he learned from his boxing career, his business career and his strong connection with God.

The backstory - Kira Henschel's HenschelHAUS works with a lot of locals who have platforms in the community. As the President and CEO of Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Mr. Colón certainly has that. And you might also recall we have worked with LSS on two previous events.

Friday, August 28, 7:00 pm
Adib Khorram, author of Darius the Great Deserves Better (this is the ticket link)
In conversation with Nic Stone for a virtual event

Join Boswell for an evening with Adib Khorram, who’ll chat about his new companion novel to the award-winning (William C. Morris Debut Award and the Asian/Pacific Book Award for Young Adult Literature) Darius the Great Is Not Okay. Khorram For this special event, Khorram is in conversation with Nic Stone, author of the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin. Spelman College Alum Stone was  Morris Award finalist. Odd One Out was named an NPR Best Book of the Year.

This event will be broadcast via Zoom, and registration is required via Eventbrite. Click here to register right now! You can register for free, or select one of the book-purchase-with-registration options which come with an exclusive set of signed character cards - sidewalk pickup or media mail shipping. Please note, you must purchase a copy of the book through this Eventbrite page to receive the signed cards.

Darius now has it all: a boyfriend, an internship, a spot on the soccer team. It’s everything he’s ever wanted - but what if he deserves better? Since his trip to Iran, a lot has changed. Darius was just starting to feel okay, like he finally knew what it meant to be Darius Kellner. But maybe okay isn't good enough. Maybe Darius deserves better.

Boswellian Jenny Chou, a big fan of Khorram’s first novel, says, “I love the detailed and laugh-out-loud observations Darius makes of the world around him. And Khorram’s writing wields such a powerful impact that reading his work is both a joy and a journey back through the emotionally draining days of high school. Another shining star of a book.” And Kirkus’s starred review says, “This coming-of-age masterpiece packs a multitude of truth and heart.”

Saturday, August 29, 11:00 am
Aaron Reynolds, author of Rescuing Mrs. Birdley
A virtual storytime

Enjoy a virtual storytime with Aaron Reynolds, author of the Caldecott Honor book Creepy Carrots and Nerdy Birdy as he reads and chats about latest picture book, illustrated by Emma Reynolds. Reynolds will read his new story, talk a bit about the book, and take questions from the audience. Broadcast via Zoom, click here to register to view this event. And get your copy of Rescuing Mrs. Birdley for 20% off list price now! Please note the storytime part of the event will likely not be recorded for future viewing, so you'll want to be there live to catch the full event!

In this story, Miranda Montgomery, an animal lover who has learned from television the importance of returning creatures to their native habitat, spots her teacher in a grocery store and attempts to return her to the classroom through a series of Looney Toons-esque plans. This delightfully over-the-top picture book explores the weirdness of seeing a teacher outside of school and will have young readers laughing out loud every time they read. Reynolds's newest as a starred School Library Journal.

The backstory - We're trying to build a virtual storytime series. This is our second and I'm thrilled - Aaron Reynolds is a bigger-than-life personality whose energy will translate well to Zoom.

Monday, August 31, 7:00 pm
Erin Clarke, author of The Well Plated Cookbook: Fast, Healthy Recipes You'll Want to Eat
In conversation with Andi Sciacca, Executive Director of MKE Food School, for A Virtual Event

Milwaukee-based Clarke, creator of the healthy cooking blog Well Plated by Erin, presents her brand new cookbook, in which she creates comfort classics with a lighter spin using fast, budget-friendly, creative recipes, with a special virtual cooking demo and conversation! Register for this Zoom event by clicking right here, and purchase your copy of The Well Plated Cookbook for 20% off list price from Boswell Book Company today!

Known for her incredibly approachable, slimmed-down, and outrageously delicious recipes, Clarke’s blog has been a smash hit in the healthy-eating blogosphere, and with good reason: she never includes an ingredient you can’t find in a regular supermarket, and she hacks her recipes for maximum nutrition by using the “stealthy healthy” ingredient swaps she’s mastered so that you don’t lose an ounce of flavor.

The backstory - We've had amazing response to Clarke's event. Folks have been emailing us all over the country to get copies signed, often requesting personalization, which you, at least for now, can't get anywhere else. And yes, Clarke is coming back to sign and personalize books after the August 31, too. I brought a copy of Well Plated Cookbook home to try out some recipes.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page.

Photo credits - Peter Geye credit the always amazing Michael Lionstar

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 22, 2020

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 22, 2020

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Everywhere You Don't Belong, by Gabriel Bump
2. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
3. The Second Home, by Christina Clancy
4. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
5. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
6. Northernmost, by Peter Geye (register for August 26 event here)
7. Grown Ups, by Emma Jane Unsworth (not too late - register for August 23 1 pm CDT event here)
8. Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno Garcia
9. Home Before Dark, by Riley Sager
10. Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, by Kathleen Rooney

Regarding Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, I haven't seen too many hardcover library editions from Penguin Random House the way we regularly see this option at HarperCollins, but we did find that for the event at least, we saw a decent amount of trade up to this edition. My guess is had we had an in-store event with a signing, we would have seen more. Also note that signed bookplates are finally coming. Ask for one.

It released on June 30, but this is the debut in our top 10 for Riley Sager's Home Before Dark, which per Brenna Erlich in Rolling Stone, is "A cross between Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and ghost hunter heir Alexandra Holzer’s autobiography - Sager’s latest is a haunted house story - with a twist. . . . Sager is a master of the twist and the turn, and he does not hold back in his fourth book. Like any good thriller, you have to read to the very last page to find how who did what to whom and why.” Riley Sager is a pseudonym. A Wall Street Journal piece looks at why Todd Ritter used a name that might be perceived to be that of a woman for the psychological suspense genre, though I should note that this might be officially classified as horror. I should also note that the RS piece was a roundup, so you can't actually judge this as a review.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
2. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
3. Reaganland, by Rick Perlstein (info about NO Studios event here on September 22, 4 pm - a promise you a continuous assortment of great conversations that day)
4. Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad
5. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson
6. Evil Geniuses, by Kurt Anderson
7. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
8. Too Much and Never Enough, by Mary Trump
9. Big Friendship, by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
10. Becoming, by Michelle Obama

Could it be that our big pop in book sales from the DNC would be from Michelle Obama's Becoming over Kamala Harris' The Truths We Hold? Obama beat out Harris this week, at least. 

We've got a link to the NO Studios event for Rick Perlstein and his just-released (August 18) Reaganland: America's Right Turn, 1976-1980. Publishers Weekly offered this starred review: "Perlstein masterfully connects deep currents of social change and ideology to prosaic politics, which he conveys in elegant prose studded with vivid character sketches and colorful electoral set-pieces....The result is an insightful and entertaining analysis of a watershed era in American politics."   

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
2. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
3. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, by Julia Alvarez
4. A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
5. How Long Til Black Future Month, by N.K. Jemisin
6. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
7. The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake
8. Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, by Kathleen Rooney
9. The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
10. I Was Told It Would Get Easier, by Abbi Waxman

Our in May in paperback but new to our list is Sarah Blake's The Guest Book, which Elisabeth Egan in The New York Times described as "Thought-provoking and propulsive…Welcome to old money, new heartbreak, big secrets, and the kind of mouthwatering picnics nobody packs in real life (boiled eggs, tin of sandwiches, bottles of gin). But the North Star of Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book isn’t the Milton family - although they are fascinating, even the ghosts - it’s the Maine island cottage where they spend their summer." Once again, this is a roundup. I'm not sure what the journalist rule is on whether someone has to read all the books in a roundup or not. If you were a bookseller, you wouldn't have to.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Unselfie, by Michelle Borba
2. Winning the Green New Deal, by Guido Girgenti
3. I Knew Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
4. Teaching for Black Lives, by Dyan Watson
5. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
6. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
7. For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, by Christopher Emdin
8. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X
9. What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker, by Damon Young
10. Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi

What an interesting sales trajectory for Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants! Robin Wall Kimmerer's book has douobled in sales this year over last without a significant quantity order. It's actually increased in sales for us every year since its paperback release in 2014. No wonder Milkweed is doing an updated hardcover special edition  on October 13, "bound in stamped linen cloth with a bookmark ribbon and a deckled edge" and with "five brilliantly colored illustrations by artist Nate Christopherson."

Books for Kids:
1. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
2. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
3. Black Boy, White School, by Brian F. Walker
4. Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds
5. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
6. Dark Sons, by Nikki Grimes
7. Sunny the Bunny Goes to Camp, by Jace Higgins
8. All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
9. Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Meyer
10. You Matter, by Christian Robinson 

Our educators are finding gems on the backlist for school libraries and classrooms. Black Boy, White School is Brian Walker's YA novel about Anthony "Ant" Jones a kid who moves from his East Cleveland public school to an elite Maine prep school, and we should note that the author went from his East Cleveland neighborhood to an East-coast prep school, and wound up teaching at Massachusetts's Weston Academy for 17 years.

No local reviews in the Journal Sentinel book section (two USA Today reprints), but you can always find a roundup of recent pieces.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Kathleen Rooney with Caitlin Horrocks discuss Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, Maggie O'Farrell and Jane Hamilton talk Hamnet, plus don't forget about tonight's event for Kirkland Hamill's Filthy Beasts (with Christina Clancy)

Tuesday, August 18, 6:00 pm (note updated time)
Kathleen Rooney, author of Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey
in conversation with Caitlin Horrocks for a virtual event

We’re pleased to host a virtual event with the author of the beloved Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. Rooney will chat about her new novel, based on the incredible true story of a WWI messenger pigeon and the soldiers whose lives she forever altered. She'll chat with Caitlin Horrocks, author of The Vexations. Broadcast via Zoom, registration is required to view this event. Click right here and register today! Purchase a copy of Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey from Boswell Book Company for 20% off list price – paperback link above. Hardcover edition also available here.

Daniel's rec: "In her latest compelling novel, the author of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk reimagines the Lost Batallion incident of World War I through two iconic historical figures, Major Charles ‘Whit’ Whittlesey and Cher Ami, the homing pigeon who got through enemy lines when others failed. As was the case in another recent pick of mine, The Story of a Goat, Cher Ami tells her own story and brings to vivid life what we ask of animals in the service of humans, in addition to the sadly familiar notes on the toll of war. Whit and Cher Ami’s stories offer pointed parallels: both are destroyed by battle, one physically and the other emotionally. And while Whit lives the life of a closeted gay man, Cher Ami also has a queer identity - mistaken by most for a male pigeon, she is actually a female, and the love of her life is another female pigeon, Baby Mine - keep in mind that this is historical fiction with a capital F. Rooney hones in on the connections between the two stories with repeated opening sentences in consecutive chapters, a touch similar to one I really enjoyed in The Maze at Windermere. Those who loved Lillian Boxfish will enjoy an old New York brought to life, as well as the celebration of a life - no, two lives - that are consigned to the margins of history. And while I should warn readers that it takes some time to acclimate to the pacing of the story, by the end, I couldn’t stop reading."

How we booked this event: Have I mentioned our success with Lillian enough for one blog post? And with the help of avid readers in the Milwaukee community (here's a shout out, Nancy Quinn), we wound up selling hundreds of copies and brought Rooney in paperback to two area libraries for a book club talk. But what about the new book? Under Life with Covid: The Series, a lot of publishers have cut back on print advance copies and I'm just having a dickens of a time reading ebooks. So here's a second shout out to our rep Stefan Moorehead, who got permission print a copy of the book for me. We made contact with Rooney's publicist and a date was set.

Wednesday, August 19, 2:00 pm
Maggie O'Farrell, author of Hamnet - just came back into stock!
in conversation with Jane Hamilton for a virtual event

Boswell Book Company and Inklink Books of East Troy, WI kick off their joint Ink/Well virtual event series with Costa Award winning author Maggie O’Farrell for a chat about her latest, Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague. She’ll be in conversation with Wisconsin’s own Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards and The Book of Ruth. Broadcast via Zoom, registration is required to view this event. Click right here to register right now! Purchase a copy of Hamnet for 20% off list price right here from Boswell Book Company, or call InkLink Books to place an order at (262) 642-9607.

O'Farrell, author of This Must Be the Place and the memoir I Am I Am I Am, now brings us a deeply moving novel about the death of Shakespeare's 11 year old son Hamnet - a name interchangeable with Hamlet in 15th century Britain - and the years leading up to the production of his great play. The novel returns us to another, far earlier time of widespread disease: England in 1580.

Writing for The New York Times, Geraldine Brooks (People of the Book) says, "Hamnet is an exploration of marriage and grief written into the silent opacities of a life that is at once extremely famous and profoundly obscure... This novel is at once about the transfiguration of life into art - it is O'Farrell's extended speculation on how Hamnet's death might have fueled the creation of one of his father's greatest plays - and at the same time, it is a master class in how she, herself, does it."

The booking bits: Here's another case where we started with a conversation partner. After Jane Hamilton's wonderful interview with Gail Tsukiyama (you can watch the interview here), we were chatting about who she'd most like to interview. One of the nice things about life in the time of virtual events is that we're not bound by geography. Maggie O'Farrell will be talking to Jane six hours in the future. The Ink/Well collaboration seemed natural - Kayleen Rohrer's store in East Troy is Jane's local hangout and were O'Farrell to visit Milwaukee, Inklink would have likely made a dinner to celebrate the occasion.

Sunday, August 23, 1:00 pm
Emma Jane Unsworth, author of Grown Ups
in conversation with Chris Lee for a virtual event

Boswell hosts a virtual event with British author Emma Jane Unsworth for a chat about her latest, one of Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020 and a favorite of several Boswell booksellers. It’s Fleabag meets Conversations with Friends in this brutally honest book about living online. She’ll chat with Boswell Book Company’s Chris Lee. Broadcast via Zoom, registration is required to view this event. Click right here and register today! Purchase a copy of Grown Ups from Boswell Book Company for 20% off list price.

Boswellians absolutely love this edgy debut. Chris says, “this book is so good it’s giving me anxiety attacks.” Madi says, “I cannot stress enough how well this book handles the stigmas and struggles that women face, including female relationships that are much more than catty bickering. Grown Ups makes you want to hug your best friends and call your mother.” Kira calls it, “a quirky, she's-already-come-of-age novel with a cast of characters that you can't stand and can't believe you so clearly identify with.” And Parker adds, “Unsworth tosses the falling tree and the forest aside and asks the question, 'if I don't post about it did it really matter? And what happens if no one cares?'”

Jenny McLaine’s life is falling apart. Her friendships are flagging. Her body has failed her. She’s just lost her column at The Foof because she isn’t the fierce voice new feminism needs. Her ex has gotten together with another woman. And worst of all: Jenny’s mother is about to move in. Having left home at eighteen to remake herself as a self-sufficient millennial, Jenny is now in her thirties and nothing is as she thought it would be. Least of all adulthood.

The backstory: Here's a case where I watched Chris hand-selling Unsworth's novel to one bookseller after another and thought, we should bottle that, and short of that, we should ask Gallery if Unsworth would do an event with us. Much like O'Farrell, Unsworth will be signing onto the conversation from across the Pond.

And don't forget tonight!
Monday, August 17, 6:00 pm (note updated time)
Kirkland Hamill, author of Filthy Beasts
in conversation with Christina Clancy for a virtual event

Hamill discusses his debut memoir, the riches-to-rags tale of a wealthy family who lost it all and the unforgettable journey of a man coming to terms with his family’s deep flaws and his own long-buried truths. He’ll chat with Wisconsin’s Christina Clancy, author of The Second Home. Broadcast via Zoom, you can register with this link for this virtual event. And purchase your copy of Filthy Beasts for 20% off list price from Boswell Book Company.

Chris Lee's rec: "Filthy Beasts is a chronicle of family wounds accrued during a childhood lived between extremes – the crustiest of upper crust New York and exile from elite society to his alcoholic mother’s native Bermuda. Hamill is that rare beast, a most generous kind of memoirist who opens up his entire world to you, without hedging or over-explanation, and trusts you to understand it. Particularly sensitive is his writing about brotherhood and the childhood traumas which resulted from necessary self-preservation yet delayed his own self-discovery. An honest, elegantly bold book."

In The New York Times Book Review, Jason Sheeler writes, "Hamill’s tragicomic memoir [is] about survival - and recovery: of his identity, memories and compassion for his mother... Wendy deserves placement in the gay canon, somewhere between Endora on Bewitched and Jessica Lange in anything directed by Ryan Murphy."

How we booked this event! I was talking to Christi Clancy about how with the success of The Second Home, it would be great to put something together with her as conversation partner. We decided that this would be a great pairing, and Chris (see above) had already read and loved Filthy Beasts. He convinced me to read it as well and the rest is history. Note the time change, so that we'd be more out of the way of the virtual DNC.

More on the Boswell Upcoming Events Page.

Photo credits: Maggie O'Farrell by Murdo Macleod, Emma Jane Unsworth by Alex Lake, Kirkland Hamill by Sieglinde Friedman

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Boswell bestsellers, week ending August 15, 2020

Here are the Boswell bestseller for the week ending August 15, 2020.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
2. If I Had Two Wings, by Randall Kenan (watch our Boswell virtual event here)
3. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell (register for our 8/19, 2 pm event here)
4. Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy
5. Three Hours in Paris, by Cara Black (watch our Boswell virtual event here)
6. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins (#2 in hardcover Bookscan sales for 2020 so far)
7. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens (#1 in hardcover fiction Bookscan sales for 2020 so far)
8. The Guest List, by Lucy Foley
9. Writers and Lovers, by Lily King
10. We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry (and yes, here's that Boswell virtual event video)

If you've been aching for the next great work of climate fiction, many critics are reccommending Migrations, from Charlotte McConaghy, which looks at a world with many extinctions. From Ellen Morton at The Washington Post: "The beauty and the heartbreak of this novel is that it’s not preposterous. It feels true and affecting, elegiac and imminent ... Franny has an irresistible gravitational pull. The mystery of her bleak grief draws you in. Her affinity for the natural world, especially birds, is nearly mythical. She seems heroically strong, but within her first-person narrative, we see she feels just as human and as helpless as the rest of us ... The fractured timeline fills each chapter with suspense and surprises, parceled out so tantalizingly that it took disciplined willpower to keep from skipping down each page to see what happens."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Caste, by Isabel Willkerson
2. It Was All a Lie, by Stuart Stevens
3. Filthy Beasts, by Kirkland Hamill (register for our 8/17, 6 pm event here)
4. The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson
5. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
6. Evil Geniuses, by Kurt Anderson
7. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
8. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
9. A Very Punchable Face, by Colin Jost
10. The Lazy Genius Way, by Kendra Adachi 

Hopping on our chart the first week out is Kurt Anderson's Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America, A Recent History. The author of Heyday and and Turn of the Century looks at the successful if disturbing remaking of America. Per the publisher: "Beginning in the early 1970s, by means of a long war conceived of and executed by a confederacy of big business CEOs, the superrich, and right-wing zealots, the rules and norms that made the American middle class possible were undermined and dismantled." Here's The NYT review from Anand Giridharadas.

Paperback Fiction: 
1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. All the Right Mistakes, by Laura Jamison (watch our Boswell virtual event here)
3. Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey, by Kathleen Rooney (register for our 8/18, 6 pm event here)
4. A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams
5. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
6. Hamlet (Ignatius edition), by William Shakespeare
7. The Need, by Helen Phillips (register for our 10/5, 5:30 pm event here)
8. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
10. The Crucible, by Arthur Miller 

It's not easy to follow a book for us as big as Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. Just look at the books this year that hardly made a splash, after their previous books sold 100 of copies at Boswell. 
--Katherine Bivald's Welcome to the Pine Away Motel - previous book is The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
--Hannah Rothschild's The House of Trelawney, which came after The Impossibility of Love
--Audur Ava Olafsdottir's Miss Iceland, the next book after Hotel Silence
You can't call it the sophomore slump, as the books we touted were not debuts. You can blame COVID to an extent, because hand-selling is taking a beating, at least the in-store kind. Let's hope that Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey escapes this fate. 

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Don't Know Much About History, by Kenneth C. Davis
2. Wildflowers of Wisconsin, by Stan Tekiela
3. Birds of Wisconsin, by Stan Tekiela
4. Trees of Wisconsin, by Stan Tekiela
5. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe (Read the book? Register for our In-Store Lit Group discussion on 8/29 here)
6. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
7. Intimations, by Zadie Smith
8. What's Your Enneatype?, by Liz Carver
9. The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris
10. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond 

It was a savvy move to package The Truths We Hold just in advance of the vice president selection, though I suppose it would have been a less savvy one had Kamala Harris not been picked. By replacing the adult Kamala with her childhood image, I think the book looks more like a memoir than a campaign platform and recalls Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father. Note below that the Kamala Harris picture book, Kamala and Maya's Big Idea, written by her niece Meena was at one point going to be an event at Boswell today, in advance of the rescheduled DNC, before it went 99% virtual.

Books for Kids:
1. Kamala and Maya's Big Idea, by Meena Haris, with illustrations by Ana Rami Gonzalez
2. Midnight Sun, by Stephenie Harris
3. You Matter, by Christian Robinson
4. The Very Last Leaf, by Stef Wade (watch highlights from our virtual event here)
5. This Book Is Anti Racist, by Tiffany Jewell
6. Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
7. Antiracist Baby Board Book, by Ibram X. Kendi with illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky
8. Rite of Passage, by Richard Wright
9. When We Were Very Young, by A.A. Milne
10. Queen of the Nile V3 Cleopatra in Space, by Mike Maihack 

I wasn't really aware of the Cleopatra in Space series so it's interesting to me that we had a pop on Queen of the Nile, book six in paperback - and yes, this is a real pop, not a school sale. It's a kids graphic novel series with an endorsement from one of the stars of the genre, Raina Telgemeier, who calls Cleo "A fun, fearless heroine - I'd love to explore the galaxy with her!" If you or young reader hasn't picked up the series, you might want to start with #1, Target Practice.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Margot Armbruster reviews Money, Marriage, and Madness, a biography of Anna Ott from Kim Neilsen and published by University of Illinois Press. Armbruster notes: "When Kim E. Nielsen first encountered Anna Ott, a 19-century woman who served for nearly two decades as Madison’s only female doctor, she thought Ott would occupy no more than a few paragraphs of her work. But then Nielsen learned Ott had been accused of assault, gender nonconformity and even bank robbery before being committed to an insane asylum." Please note that while this book is orderable from Boswell, it's possible that the price might be higher than the suggested list price is the same as the net price for us at our wholesaler. If you are patient, we'll likely be able to get you a copy at the price quoted. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

What Did the Book Club Think? A Retrospective of three discussions - Lost Children Archive, Trust Exercise, Miracle Creek

What Did the Book Club Think? A Retrospective

Three of our book clubs are chugging along virtually through Boswell and a fourth one, the Mystery Group, has spun off on their own for now. We’ve got booksellers hoping to start two more, but everything moves slowly in the age of COVID. And even before the age of COVID.

Here is a round-up of the last three books that we’ve read.

June’s selection was Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli. This is a twist on a classic road novel. A mother and father take their two kids to a project in Arizona. Dad is an audio ethnographer and is interested in documented Apache Indian history while Mom has been charged with finding out what happened to the children of an undocumented refugee who insists that her kids are still out there after a failed border crossing, despite Mom fearing the worst. The story is told mostly from the mother’s perspective and is structured as a series of boxes or archives.

Valeria Luiselli wrote the book inspired by her experiences working as, per Jeffrey Brown of the PBS News Hour “an interpreter for children seeking to remain in the US,” and actually wrote Tell Me How It Ends, her book of essays, while the in the midst of writing her novel. Many of the attendees felt the story really kicked into gear when the perspective changed from mother to son. This book was named one of the ten-best books of 2019 by The New York Times and was praised by its sensitive portrayal of migrants without co-opting their stories. In a way, it’s a counterpoint to American Dirt. I am reading so many books with nameless protagonists that I simply have to adapt to this, but sometimes I just buck a trend and hope I’ll like the next thing better.

I bought my copy at RoscoeBooks in Roscoe Village, on my last trip out of town before the COVID shutdown. I recall not touching anybody. The store is wonderful, by the way. I can see why I’ve heard so much good about it. Lost Children Archive is a book that makes no bones about what it is – an intellectual book for a sophisticated reader. The story is filled with maps and photographs, as well as various inventories. You will never mistake it for genre or escapist entertainment, and it’s hard to imagine it would be adapted to a film or streaming series by anyone but the auteuriest auteur. I admired the book for the achievement it was, and that’s probably the way I would sell it. We’re in a multiple tie for 15th place on Edelweiss’s inventory-sharing database of independent bookstores. That seems about right. The book club was mixed.

On the other hand, it is not surprising to imagine reading Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise and think you’re reading a plot-driven book. For much of the book, you think you’re reading a high school novel about a theater program at an arts high school, focused on a boy and girl with a relationship that might remind you a bit of Sally Rooney’s Normal People. It makes you squirm a bit, especially when you read about the acting exercises which first of all, didn’t seem to have much to do with acting, and second of all, didn’t seem appropriate for a high school. I suppose this could devolve into a discussion about whether acting experimental acting techniques create amazing actors or are more psychological obstacle courses. In a way it reminded me of the different ways to write fiction.

But the true thing about this book is that writing about it is a spoiler minefield. Several folks have compared it to Asymmetry in that there are three parts and the book is very much about writing and perspective. They are triptychs of a sort, but uneven ones, with much of the story weighted towards the first third, which is both sets up the thesis and offers hints about how said thesis will be destroyed later on. Several of us loved this, but there were definitely discussion participants who did not love the rug being pulled out from under them.

Our paperback sales have really been hurt by the lack of browsing, and one idea I’ve had is to do spoiler author events – book club discussions on a larger scale where you only join if you’ve read the book, knowing that we’re not going to keep any climaxes or twists from attendees. I’d really love one for this, especially after I watched videos with Susan Choi. Unlike Luiselli’s book, where some people liked it, others disliked it, but nobody was visceral, this book was more polarizing. People either loved it or hated it. I think it’s because Lost Children Archive never promises to be anything other than it is, but Trust Exercise throws a curve ball. Much like Asymmetry, the secrets in the final third (hardly a third of the novel) were hard for me to unlock without help, which is why this makes a good book club book.

I will note that we’re number 4 on Edelweiss's bookseller sales sharing site (all stores anonymous, though we know who we are), which is much higher than I would hope to be. Remember, Trust Exercise won the National Book Award and was on many best-of lists for 2019. I think this book’s paperback release was when a lot of bookstores had their doors closed and many booksellers couldn’t even inhabit their stores. Instead, they sold off of Ingram’s direct-to-home and the Bookshop website. We don't participate in Bookshop at this time, but I know many indies do. Did you love Trust Exercise? My favorite New York book critic Bill Goldstein on Today in New York suggests you read Yiyun Lee's Must I Go, another novel that uses structure to tell a larger truth about storytelling.

Finally we have a novel that appealed to the plotties in our group – Miracle Creek, by Angie Kim. When Jason put this book in legal thrillers, I looked at the cover and thought, really? But he was completely on the mark – the entire novel is told as a courtroom trial. Set in suburban Virginia, it’s set in the aftermath of a fire at Miracle Submarine that killed two of patients getting oxygen therapy. The business is run by a family of Korean immigrants, but after the devastating event, the father Pak is in a wheelchair and his daughter Mary has been in a coma. But Elizabeth is on trial, a mom who skipped treatment and was caught with cigarettes that might have set the fire.

The hyperbaric oxygen chamber is used to treat a number of conditions. Matt is hoping it will recharge his fertility. But many others are thinking that this treatment will affect children’s autism. At the same time these treatments are going on, a group of protesters are championing the cause that kids on the spectrum are normal and there’s no reason to change them. Elizabeth has done just about every treatment you can do, and that has led to some resentment by Teresa, Elizabeth’s seemingly only friend, when it becomes clear that Rosa isn’t responding to treatment

As the defense and prosecution call witnesses, we learn the backstory. Who is keeping secrets? Well, the answer to that one is everybody. And Kim (photo credit Tim Coburn) does a great job of weaving in what its like to be a parent of a special needs child – the great love that parents give to their children, but the frustration that sometimes accompanies this, as well as the rivalries that can sometimes arise between families whose kids have different levels of symptoms and sometimes respond differently. Kim also captures the immigrant experience – this family has sacrificed so much for America and what has it gotten them?

The story is told from various perspectives, but I think the group agreed (not consensus, mind you, but majority) that at the heart of the story is Young Yun, Pak’s wife and Mary’s mom, who we learn quickly (no spoilers) was left at the controls when Pak left to handle another problem. And the story becomes not just that of a trial with several mysteries at its center, and not just an immigrant story, and not just a special needs story, but a story that will resonate with all families.

Angie Kim has written a book that's a hybrid between Scott Turow (who praised the book) and Celeste Ng. There was almost total positivity regarding Miracle Creek, including some of the naysayers that had trouble enjoying the previous two selections.But we had one naysayer – she said, after the dense and complicated narratives we’d been tackling, this was almost too easy!

Our next In-Store Lit Group virtual meeting is on August 31, 7 pm where we’ll be discussing Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing. Here’s the link to register. Meetings are about an hour and if this is your first time, email me at daniel@boswell and I’ll give you the lay of the land.

On October 5 (our September meeting is almost always the last week in August because of Labor Day), we’ll be trying something different. Once or twice a year, we’ve brought in an author to answer questions from the group, followed by a public event in the rear of the store. Sometimes the book club read the same book as the main event, sometimes the previous book. But now that we’re virtual for the moment, it made more sense to me to have the author talk about the book before our discussion. So we’re having an event with Helen Phillips, author of The Need, a novel that like Miracle Creek, is also about motherhood and also plays with genre, though in this case it’s psychological horror.

At 5:30, we’ll have a conversation with Helen Phillips that is open to all. It’s like any of our other author events, I’ll talk about The Need with Phillips, she’ll discuss writing it, what she set out to do, and so forth, only with one twist – nothing is off limits. It’s the spoiler zone. You can ask about twists and ask about the ending, which we generally haven’t allowed folks to do in author events. With that in mind, we highly recommend you read the book first. The only thing we ask is that like all author events, you respect the author and if you don’t like the book, you share that with your book club (organized or spontaneous) afterwards.

Then at 7 pm, we’ll have our regular In-Store Lit Group discussion, sans author.

I’m excited to experiment with these spoiler events. I’m just finding that without regular browsing, paperback fiction is suffering, and I’m trying to figure out something that will turn that around. And yes, I know that we could just open for regular browsing, but the truth is that stores that are open generally have much lower traffic, so either way, the browsing is greatly diminished. What I’m finding is that paperback reprints get so little promotion and publicity that our customers aren’t paying attention. We already knew that downloads were cutting into paperback sales. But it’s not so much the format as the second publication that’s suffering. Everything being paperback is one option, but many books being hardcover only is another.

It’s not helped that as prices rise, the paperback becomes closer in percentage to the hardcover price. Think about it. If a hardcover is $25 and the paperback is $15, the paperback is 40% cheaper. But if the hardcover is $30 and the paperback is $20, that’s only a 33% discount. I’ve noticed (we do this too) that hardcovers are more aggressively discounted. The print is generally smaller and the paper quality is rarely better, often worse. At the beginning of COVID, we experimented with discounting more paperbacks 20%, but we still didn’t see the pop in sales that we saw for hardcovers. So that’s where we are.

There’s a chance we might have a spoiler-friendly paperback discussion with Angie Kim for Miracle Creek too. I’ll keep you posted.