Sunday, January 31, 2021

What's selling at Boswell for the week ending January 30, 2021?

What's selling at Boswell for the week ending January 30, 2021?

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Mask Falling V4, by Samantha Shannon
2. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
3. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
4. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell (watch event video here)
5. Pianos and Flowers, by Alexander McCall Smith
6. The Prophets, by Robert Jones, Jr.
7. The Breaker, by Nick Petrie (Watch event video here)
8. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
9. Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession (Register for February 12 event here)
10. Ready Player Two, by Ernest Cline

When I heard at a publisher dinner years ago (with the author? I have no idea how this came to happen) how many volumes Samantha Shannon's Bone Season series was expected to be, I was surprised. I was used to series being signed up as two-to-three books at most. But here we are at volume four and the The Mask Falling debuts at #1. Where we are in this series, per the publisher: Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire. Publishers Weekly wrote: "Shannon expertly blends genres to create a story that is at once a political thriller, a dystopian epic, and a paranormal adventure. This bold series installment will leave fans eager for more."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Chatter, by Ethan Kross (Tickets for February 3 event here)
2. Land, by Simon Winchester
3. What It's Like to Be a Bird, by David Allen Sibley (Register for February 23 event here)
4. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
5. A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, by George Saunders
6. Just As I Am, by Cicely Tyson
7. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
8. Wintering, by Katherine May
9. Data Feminism, by Catherine D'Ignzazio and Lauren F. Klein
10. It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, by Jason Fried

Cicely Tyson passed awa just days after the release of her memoir, Just As I Am. An actor that was a true inspiration, her breakout role was in Sounder, the Newberry Medal-winning novel by William H. Armstrong. From Tre'vell Anderson in The Washington Post: "What shines most from the memoir is how Tyson’s story, while frankly written and supremely eye-opening, isn’t just her own. It’s also the story of Black women in America, of generations past, present and yet to come, whose wills to survive are divinely gifted and ancestrally guided."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Home Front, by DW Hanneken
2. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
3. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
4. Our Darkest Night, by Jennifer Robson
5. Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler
6. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
7. The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
8. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
9. The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn
10. The Coyotes of Carthage, by Steven Wright (Watch the event video here)

As I may have said before, Ecco went with a very different look on Steven Wright's The Coyotes of Carthage for the paperback. Whereas the hardcover used a stylized coyote imagery, the paperback doubles down on the soft money political operative aspect of the novel, and by linking the book visually to The Sellout, plays up the satire over the thriller. Hope this works. I know not every store was hand-selling this book in hardcover, but they should try in paperback. I've found a lot of enthusiastic readers. Tod Goldberg called Coyotes "a crackerjack debut political novel" in USA Today.

The Coyotes of Carthage was a finalist for the Ernest J. Gaines Award, but I can't complain about the winner - it's Everywhere You Don't Belong, by Gabriel Bump, another book that I loved and championed.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Chasing My Cure, by David Fajgenbaum
2. This Land of Snow, by Anders Morley (Register for February 9 event here)
3. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
4. Falling Is Not an Option, by George Locker
5. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
6. Leisure: The Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper
7. Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver
8. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
9. How to Prepare for Climate Change, by David Pogue
10. A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn

I was convinced Falling Is Not an Option: A Lifelong Way to Balance was a bulk sale, but no, it isn't. George Locker's book (from Bookbaby, so it's a contract-publishing success) looks at the nature of balance and how to use exercises derived from T'ai Chi to better achieve stability - downward motion is the key. Being that both my parents had balance issues in the later years of their life, I'm guessing as to why it's selling. Sure enough, this book is selling from a Jane E. Brody column in The New York Times, an enthusiastic recommendation for the book, despite Locker's perspective as a lay person: "The goal is stability by increasing one’s downward force, and the examples Mr. Locker gave of surfers, skaters and skiers made perfect sense to me. I can easily recall my stable posture when I skated on ice or pavement or skied on water or snow: a semi squat with knees and ankles bent. Although I no longer attempt these sports at age 79, my ability to remain balanced and stable is more important than ever."

Books for Kids:
1. A Thousand No's, by D.J. Corchin
2. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
3. We Are Water Protectors, by Carole Lindstrom, with illustrations by Michaela Goade
4. Unleashed V2, by Amy McCulloch
5. Quincredible V1, by Rodney Barnes
6. Ambitious Girl, by Meena Harris, with illustrations by Marissa Valdez
7. Turtle Boy, by M. Evan Wolkenstein
8. Written in Starlight, by Isabel Ibañez
9. This Is Your Time, by Ruby Bridges
10. Telephone Tales, by Gianni Rodari

The American Library Association book awards were given out this week and the winner of the Caldecott Medal is We Are Water Protectors, "told from the perspective of a Native American child, this bold and lyrical picture book written by Ojibwe/Métis author Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Tlingit artist Michaela Goade." Kirkus Reviews called the book "An inspiring call to action for all who care about our interconnected planet."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins talks to Lauren Fox about her latest novel, Send for Me, on sale this Tuesday (and yes, our copies are signed by Fox). It is inspired by a cache of letters Fox found from her grandmother. From the story, an explanation from Fox about how the novel came together: ""I've been sitting with them for such a long time," Fox said in a recent interview. "They were just always sort of in my mind and in my heart and just kind of waiting for the right moment." Two things made now the right moment. When she saw the Trump administration separating immigrant families at the U.S. border, she knew how relevant a story about forced family separation would be. Also, from a literary point of view, she realized she could be true to the letters but still write the story as fiction."

Monday, January 25, 2021

Boswell events this week - Jennifer Robson, DW Henneken, Alexander McCall Smith, Simon Winchester

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

Plus don't forget about tonight!
Monday, January 25, 7 pm
Jennifer Robson, author of Our Darkest Night: A Novel of Italy and the Second World War
Tickets here for this virtual event.

The Lynden Sculpture Garden Women’s Speakers Series returns virtually with an event featuring Jennifer Robson, author of The Gown and Moonlight in Paris, who returns to Milwaukee for her latest novel. Cohosted by The Lynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee Reads, and Boswell Book Company. Tickets are $5 plus tax and fee, or upgrade to a ticket-with-book, available here. All tickets include a donation back to the Lynden Sculpture Garden.

Robson tells the story of a young Jewish woman must pose as a Christian farmer's wife to survive the Holocaust. Inspired by true events, this tale of terror, hope, love, and sacrifice evokes the most perilous days of World War II.

It is the autumn of 1943, and life is becoming increasingly perilous for Italian Jews like the Mazin family. With Nazi Germany now occupying most of her beloved homeland, and the threat of imprisonment and deportation growing ever more certain, Antonina Mazin has but one hope to survive: to leave Venice and her beloved parents and hide in the countryside with a man she has only just met. As Antonina and Nico come to know each other, their feelings deepen, transforming their relationship into much more than a charade. Yet both fear that every passing day brings them closer to being torn apart.

Tuesday, January 26, 7 pm
DW Hanneken, author of The Home Front
in conversation with Shannon Ishizaki 
Register here for this virtual event  

Join us for a virtual event featuring Greenfield-based author DW (Dave) Hanneken in conversation with Orange Hat Publishing’s Shannon Ishizaki. They’ll chat about Hanneken’s debut historical novel, set in Wisconsin during World War II. 

Writing for the Shepherd Express, Dave Luhrssen says, "The details of 1940s farm life are vivid enough for a Hollywood screenplay." And Kirkus Reviews calls The Home Front, “an engaging tale with a likable female lead and some surprises... A variety of tensions keep the engrossing narrative moving.”

Set in rural Wisconsin during 1944-1945, Hanneken’s novel centers on Maggie Wentworth, a wife, mother, and farmer who struggles to keep her life in balance after her physically abusive husband enlists in the Army and is shipped to Europe during WWII. On one hand, she's happy he left. On the other, she’s been left behind to deal with the challenges of an aging father, a young son, and the temptation of an attractive German POW who is harvesting apples on her farm.

Wednesday, January 27, 2 pm
Alexander McCall Smith, author of Pianos and Flowers: Brief Encounters of the Romantic Kind
in conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin 
Register here for this virtual event

The January edition of our Readings from Oconomowaukee virtual event series, presented in partnership with Books & Company of Oconomowoc, presents the worldwide bestseller and beloved Scottish author McCall Smith for a chat about his latest, a collection in which he imagines the lives and loves of everyday people pictured in twentieth-century photographs. 

Pictures capture moments in time, presenting the viewer with a window into another life. But a picture can go only so far. Who are the people in the image? What are their fears? What are their dreams. In these fourteen delightful tales, a young woman finds unexpected love while perusing Egyptian antiquities. A family is forever fractured when war comes to Penang, in colonial Malaysia. Iron Jelloid tablets help to reveal a young man’s inner strength. And twin sisters discover that it’s never too late to forge a new path - even when standing at the altar.

There are big stories behind these simple images. Though at first glance they may appear to represent small moments, these photographs in fact speak volumes, uncovering possibilities of love, friendship, and happiness. With his indomitable charm, McCall Smith takes us behind the lens to explore the hidden lives of those photographed; in so doing, he reveals the humanity in us all.

Thursday, January 28, 6:30 pm
Simon Winchester, author of Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World
in conversation with Marcy Bidney 
Tickets here for this event

Acclaimed author and historian Simon Winchester joins us virtually for a discussion of his brand new book. Cohosted by Boswell Book Company and the UWM American Geographical Society Library. Winchester will be in conversation with Marcy Bidney, Assistant Director for Distinctive Collections for the AGSL. This is a particularly special conversation, as Bidney assisted Winchester during his research process for Land, and at least one map from AGSL is featured in the book. 

The author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa explores the notion of property - our proprietary relationship with the land - through human history, how it has shaped us and what it will mean for our future. Land, whether meadow or mountainside, desert or peat bog, parkland or pasture, suburb or city, is central to our existence. It quite literally underlies and underpins everything. Employing the keen intellect, insatiable curiosity, and narrative verve that are the foundations of his previous bestselling works, Simon Winchester examines what we human beings are doing and have done with the billions of acres that together make up the solid surface of our planet.

Winchester examines in depth how we acquire land, how we steward it, how and why we fight over it, and finally, how we can, and on occasion do, come to share it. Ultimately, Winchester confronts the essential question: who actually owns the world’s land - and why does it matter? Publishers Weekly calls Winchester's latest effort "an entertaining and erudite roundup of humanity’s ever-evolving relationship with terra firma."

More info at Boswell upcoming events page.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Boswell bestsellers - week ending January 23, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 23, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Pianos and Flowers, by Alexander McCall Smith (Register for January 27 event here)
2. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
3. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
4. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
5. Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession (Register for February 12 event here)
6. The Breaker, by Nick Petrie
7. The Prophets, by Robert Jones, Jr.
8. Detransition, Baby, by Torrey Peters
9. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
10. Outlawed, by Anna North

Detransition, Baby is a new contemporary social comedy from Torrey Peters that is a new take on the idea of creating family, this time involving transgender and cisgender players, and its the February selection for the Roxane Gay Audacious Book Club. Noah Berlatsky in the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Reese, Ames, and Katrina can’t be slotted into a typical happy ever after nor into its opposite. They make their lives from the bits of gender and love and culture they’ve been given, and there’s no place to stand outside that messy process and anatomize, dissect, or categorize them. Detransition, Baby is that rare social comedy in which the author cuts people up not to judge them, but to show how we fail to fit together."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Me and White Supremacy, by Layla F. Saad
2. Land, by Simon Winchester (Tickets for January 28 event here)
3. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
4. What It's Like to Be a Bird, by David Allen Sibley (Register for February 23 event here)
5. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, by George Saunders
6. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
7. Exercised, by Daniel Lieberman
8. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
9. The Best of Me, by David Sedaris
10. Keep Sharp, by Sanjay Gupta

Harvard Professor of Biological Sciences Daniel E. Lieberman's Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding had a quiet first two weeks but took off in its third, thanks to NPR's Fresh Air. Lieberman told Terry Gross, "The more we study physical activity, the more we realize that it doesn't really matter what you do," Lieberman says. "You don't have to do incredible strength training to get some benefits of physical activity. There's all different kinds of physical activity, and it's all good in different ways." Jen A. Miller reviewed the book in The New York Times.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Every Now and Then, by Lesley Kagen
2. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
3. Our Darkest Night, by Jennifer Robson (Tickets for January 25 event here)
4. The Coyotes of Carthage, by Steven Wright
5. Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
6. The Home Front, by DW Hanneken (Register for January 26 event here)
7. Minus Me, by Mameve Medwed
8. The Duke and I V1, by Julia Quinn
9. The Eloquent Poem, by Elise Paschen
10. The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley

For a while it has seemed that there's a story about Bridgerton, the series created by Shonda Rimes, once an hour. We've had a little trouble getting stock, though one could tell it was headed for the bestseller list by the number of booksellers reading the series - The Duke and I is available in trade paperback or mass market. Maggie Fremont ponders the shape of season 2 in Vulture: "Like any good romance, season one of Bridgerton, Netflix’s adaptation of Julia Quinn’s steamy Regency-era novel series, gave us the happily ever after we were all rooting for... What more could you want, really? Well, you probably want more Bridgerton and it seems safe to assume that you’ll be getting much more. But since Daphne and Simon’s story wrapped up with an, ahem, satisfying ending, you might be wondering what a season two of Bridgerton would look like. We can probably look to the books for some clues."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Nichols Black Elk, by Jon M. Sweeney
3. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
4. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
5. The Way to Love, by Anthony De Mello
6. Sapiens: A Graphic History, by Uval Noah Harari
7. Walking Milwaukee, by Royal Brevvaxling and Molly Snyder
8. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
9. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
10. This Land of Snow, by Anders Morley (Register for February 9 event here)

A virtual book club presentation led to a pop for Say Nothing, as well as several fiction titles like The Coyotes of Carthage and Red at the Bone. Several of the other titles the club chose are not quite published in paperback. The book hit many best-of lists for 2019, but I noticed the best paperback sales were in the Northeast. When the best sales are in the Midwest, publishers call that book regional. I will be continuing to push, especially with Patrick Radden Keefe's next book, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, releases on April 13.

Books for Kids
1. Ambitious Girl, by Meena Harris, with illustrations by Marissa Valdez
2. Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas
3. Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
4. Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson
5. Season of Styx Malone, by Kekla Magoon
6. The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich
7. How Tia Lola Came to Stay, by Julia Alvarez
8. Champ and Major: First Dogs, Joy McCullough, with illustrations by Sheyda Abvabi Best
9. Turtle Boy, by M. Evan Wolkenstein 
10. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer

If our bestseller list included preorders, the top would be a sweep for Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old poet (and first Youth Poet Laureate) who wowed America with her inauguration poem. There are two editions of The Hill We Climb coming, a paper-over-board coming in April and a traditional hardcover scheduled for fall. In addition, Gorman's first picture boook, Change Sings, releases in September as well.

Speaking of inaugurations, Meena Harris's Ambitious Girl tops the kids books that have actually been release. Her picture book, illustrated by Marissa Valdez, offers inspiration for anyone who has been underestimated or overshadowed. Meena Harris told Sam Gillette of People Magazine: "I hope that girls take away from this, first and foremost, that female ambition is a good thing, it's a positive thing and it's something to be celebrated, to claim, to find power in... Society tells us something entirely different. Society, and [by that I mean] patriarchal society, has made female ambition into, frankly, a dirty word, something that is used to critique women."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins highlights City Hall, the new book by photographer and writer Arthur Drooker. His book features 15 city halls and has a chapter on Milwaukee's. From Higgins: "He describes the Milwaukee building, completed in 1895, as Flemish Renaissance Revival. Designed by architect Henry C. Koch, it cost slightly more than $1 million. Made of granite, brick and terra cotta, it rises to 393 feet at the top of the flagpole in the tower. Drooker reports it was was the third-tallest building in the United States when it opened, and remained Milwaukee's tallest building until 1973."

Monday, January 18, 2021

Two events and a preview - Mameve Medwed with Elinor Lipman, Jeff Porter with Meghan Daum, Jennifer Robson

Happy Ann Hood week! I noticed that this author, editor, and knitter wrote a lovely recommendation for Mameve Medwed's latest. And Jeff Porter's memoir was acquired for her Gracie Belle imprint.

Tuesday, January 19, 7 pm - virtual event
Mameve Medwed, author of Minus Me
in conversation with Elinor Lipman - Register here for this event

The delightful Mameve Medwed returns to Boswell (virtually) to talk about her poignant and hilarious new novel about the bonds of marriage, the burdens of maternal love, and the courage to face mortality. For this event, Medwed will be in conversation with her longtime friend and Boswell favorite, Elinor Lipman, author of Good Riddance and her latest, Rachel to the Rescue.

So many fans of Minus Me! But I think it's thematically appropriate here to single out Ann Hood, author of The Book that Matters Most and The Knitting Circle, who wrote: "Minus Me is a delightful romp of a novel. Only Mameve Medwed could have a reader smiling as she reads about the great themes of loss, motherhood, marriage, and love. Surely this is the feel good book of the year!”

Annie and Sam have successfully taken over a sandwich shop in Passamaquoddy, Maine, home of the legendary Paul Bunyan (recipe only hinted at). But then Annie receives a scary diagnosis from her doctor, and putting off the treatment, she decides instead to compose a manual to her husband on how to survive when she's gone. This might not exactly be the best plan of action. And things get more complicated when Annie's diva mom arrives in town.

Mameve Medwed is author of five novels, including Mail, How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life, which received a Massachusetts Book Award Honors in Fiction, and Of Men and Their Mothers. Can't make this event? Medwed will virtually be at Print in Portland, Maine for a conversation with writer and book champion Caroline Leavitt on January 26. Register here. Or you can watch her video with Medwed and Stephen McCauley at Porter Square here.

Thursday, January 21, 7 pm - virtual event
Jeff Porter, author of Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers
in conversation with Meghan Daum - Register here for this event

Join us for a conversation with Jeff Porter, coeditor of Understanding the Essay, for a chat about his new book, Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers. Porter will chat with Meghan Daum, acclaimed essayist and author of The Problem with Everything. Porter retired from the University of Iowa and settled in Milwaukee, but he's wintering elsewhere. So while we have signed copies of Planet Claire, we can't offer personalizations, unless you want to wait until April or thereabouts.

Meghan Daum writes that "Planet Claire left me awestruck. I don't know how he did it, but on every page of this incredible book, Jeff Porter manages to convey devastating sadness while also being delightful company." Jeff Porter will be in conversation with Meghan Daum for this event. Daum is the author of My Misspent Youth and The Problem with Everything. She has also edited several nonfiction anthologies. 

Porter tells the story of the untimely death of the his wife and gives us a candid account of the following year of madness and grief. With Claire's death, Jeff Porter tries to imagine life without her but struggles with the bewilderment that follows. The grief is crushing, her death the psychological equivalent of Pearl Harbor.

Ann Hood writes that the impetus for this imprint was from the death of her child in 2002. She wound up writing Comfort, a book that she wished had been available when she was going through her own trauma. In the time since, she's helped others with their work, but they've always struggled to find a publishing home. So she wound up collaborating with Akashic Books to make one. You can read her entire story here. 

Monday, January 25, 7 pm - a virtual ticketed event
Jennifer Robson, author of Our Darkest Night: A Novel of Italy and the Second World War
A Ticketed Virtual Event - Visit

The Lynden Sculpture Garden Women’s Speakers Series returns virtually with an event featuring Jennifer Robson, author of The Gown and Moonlight in Paris, who returns to Milwaukee for her latest novel. Cohosted by The Lynden Sculpture Garden, Milwaukee Reads, and Boswell Book Company.  

Tickets for admission to this event cost $5 plus sales tax and ticket fee, or you can upgrade to admission-with book for the cost of the book in hardcover ($27.99) or paperback ($17.99). Books can be picked up at Boswell or for an additional fee, shipped out via USPS media mail. $5 from your admission only or hardcover ticket purchase, or $3 from the paperback ticket level, will be donated back to Lynden Sculpture Garden. 

Robson tells the story of a young Jewish woman must pose as a Christian farmer's wife to survive the Holocaust. Inspired by true events, this tale of terror, hope, love, and sacrifice evokes the most perilous days of World War II.

This is Robson's third time as a featured author of the Lynden, which is a new record. Margy Stratton and Milwaukee Reads is working hard to put together a great spring schedule. We'll have more details as events are confirmed.

Looking for a way to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? This story from CBS58 has some ideas.

More upcoming events here.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending Jan 16, 2021

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

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Breaker V6, by Nick Petrie
2. The Effort, by Claire Holroyde
3. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
4. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
5. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
6. Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession (Register for Feb 12 event here)
7. The Cold Millions, by Jess Walter
8. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar
9. Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam
10. American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins

Our top two titles are this week's debuts. Our best week to date for Leonard and Hungry Paul was when we announced our event on February 12. Not only do I love the book, I can tell already that so many of our customers are going to like it too. It reminds me of back in the days of buying when I'd get really good reads on an unexpected book from really different kinds of readers. I just try not to beat myself up that I didn't read it earlier. Here's the announcement from Dublin Unesco City of Literature: "Dublin City Council is delighted to announce that Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession is the One Dublin One Book choice for 2021, following on from Tatty by Christine Dwyer Hickey in 2020. One Dublin One Book aims to encourage everyone in Dublin to read a designated book connected with the capital city during the month of April every year. This annual project is a Dublin City Council initiative, led by Dublin City Libraries and encourages reading for pleasure."

Tatty, you say? It's a 2004 novel by Christine Dwyer Hickey that is available from Vintage in the UK, but appears never to have gotten an American release. Sigh. Here's the Irish Times profile of the author - sounds good!

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, by George Saunders
2. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
3. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
4. Evil Geniuses, by Kurt Anderson
5. You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey, by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar
6. Kill Switch, by Adam Jentleson
7. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
8. Keep Sharp, by Sanjay Gupta
9. Children of Ash and Elm, by Neil Price
10. Is This Anything, by Jerry Seinfeld 

George Saunders's nonfiction book  A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life continues his early January release date, which proved auspicious for him for both Tenth of December and Lincoln in the Bardo. From Parul Sehgal in The New York Times: "The desperate, botched rescue operation is a common feature in Saunders’s work, and his fiction itself has the feeling of a rescue operation — on us, the reader. He’s moved by an evangelical ardor where fiction is concerned, intent on how it can help us 'become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional,' as he put it in a viral commencement speech. These particular hopes have never been more precisely, joyfully, or worryingly articulated than in his new book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, an analysis of seven classic Russian short stories." 

Also debuting is You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey, which is a book-length dialogue between two sisters about everyday racism. Ruffin's segments on Late Night with Seth Meyers (Amber Says What, Jokes Seth Can't Tell) has led to The Amber Ruffin Show on Peacock. They discuss their story in People magazine.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Home Front, by DW Hanneken (Register for Jan 26 event here)
2. The Drifter V1, by Nick Petrie (two editions)
3. Minus Me, by Mameve Medwed (Register for Jan 19 event here)
4. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
5. Feast Your Eyes, by Myla Goldberg
6. The Wild One V5, by Nick Petrie
7. Burning Bright V2, by Nick Petrie
8. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
9. Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
10. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

We sold books for a JCC event with Myla Goldberg last fall, and when we had a few leftover, I decided Feast Your Eyes would be a great selection for our not-in-store In-Store Lit Group. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2019. In March, we're reading the 2020 National Book Award winner, Interior Chinatown, and in April, we're reading the Costa First Novel Prize winner, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, from Sara Collins. All the upcoming selections here. 

This is kind of a pandemic first - we actually had multiple backlist titles pop in sales the week of Nick Petrie's debut for The Breaker. #6 in the series lifted sales not just of #1 (The Drifter), but also of #2 (Burning Bright) and #5 (The Wild One). I've been told the trade paperback editions of the backlist are going out of stock, but I'm hoping they at least leave The Drifter in both formats. We'll see!  

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Nicholas Black Elk, by Jon M Sweeney
2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
3. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
4. The Pulse of Perseverance, by Maxime Madhere
5. Quit Like a Woman, by Holly Whitaker

Books for Kids:
1. Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas
2. Kamala and Maya's Big Idea, by Meena Harris, with illustrations by Ana Rami Gonzalez
3. Turtle Boy, by M. Evan Wolkerstein
4. The Atlas of Record-Breaking Adventures, by Lucy Letherland
5. What You Don't Know, by Anastasia Higginbotham

Only one big debut in these two categories, Angie Thomas's Concrete Rose, a prequel to The Hate U Give. Here's Thomas talking to Noel King about the book on NPR's Morning Edition: "I had to do a lot of work beforehand. And for me, that meant reading books by Black men about Black boys. So I read a lot of Jason Reynolds; I read a lot of Kwame Alexander - and then, too, reading books just by Black men like Ta-Nehisi Coates because I recognize that as a writer, I have a responsibility, and it's even greater when I'm writing a character unlike myself, when I'm writing outside of my identity. I have a responsibility to get it as close to right as possible, to be, if nothing else, respectful of the people who do identify with this character."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reported that Dasha Kelly Hamilton was named Wisconsin Poet Laureate. She is only the second person to be Poet Laureate of Milwaukee and Wisconsin, following Marilyn Taylor. She'll be in conversation with Ethan Kross for Chatter on March 3. That event is ticketed - $5 or the cost of the book, plus sales tax and ticket fee. Register here

If you missed it, Higgins also notes local debuts from DW Hanneken, Lauren Fox, and Anuradha Radurkar.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Boswell log - Signed copies from Nick Petrie and Jon Sweeney, more about Mameve Medwed's Minus Me, a surprise Elinor Lipman release

This was a big week for new releases. Nick Petrie's new novel, The Breaker, was released. Our event with Jim Higgins was great; it is already on our website. Nick has signed all our stock, and can still come in to personalize if you want. We generally do not take inscription requests  -  not every author likes doing them, and often the messages are something the giver should be writing on the half title page, instead of asking the author to write it on the full title page - but Nick is up for it! You'll still get the caveat from our booksellers that we can't guarantee inscriptions, but that's because it can be hard for everyone to remember what an author will and won't do. 

I enjoyed The Breaker because it's such a Milwaukee book. Petrie really leans into the Machine Shop of the World nickname that Milwaukee once brandished. And there are still lots of small machine shops around. I walked passed several as I was reading The Breaker. I also passed Milwaukee Makespace, just blocks from my house, behind the McDonald's. It was built as a Krambo, back when Bay View appeared to be coming into its own as a supermarket paradise. The Outpost Natural Foods was a Kohls and the BMO Harris bank branch was an A&P. Krambo was a Wisconsin-owned company that sold out to Kroser, the very folks who now own Pick 'n' Save and Metro Mart. Regular Boswell event monitors may recall that we did a cohosted event with Makerspace for Eric Gorges and his book, A Craftman's Legacy.

It was also the launch week for Claire Holroyde and her novel The Effort. Holroyde considers herself a Milwaukeean in-law as her husband's family is from Whitefish Bay. Milwaukee gets some of its most loyal followers by marriage - that's one of the reason Peter Buffett lived here for a number of years. Holroyde didn't do bookplates, but we did have special bookmarks - we might have some left. Her conversation was J.S. (Jenny) Dewes, whose novel, The Last Watch, releases April 20. It's more science fiction than speculative (which seems to be the preferred term for books with science fiction elements but do not wholly embrace the science). 

With the holidays behind us, Chris has been able to catch up on event videos. In addition to the Petrie interview, we rushed out Jon M. Sweeney's talk with Damian Costello on Nicholas Black Elk, due to demand. Jon has also signed copies and like Nick, will personalize. Place your request in comments. And as always, apologies that our website sometimes gets stuck in the shopping cart. It's a function of the device + browser and maybe also the phase of the moon. Any number of people told me they got stuck one day and it worked just fine the next. Were we a tech firm with massive investors, this wouldn't be a problem. Or maybe it would be, as anyone who's had problems with large websites and apps can attest. 

Also out this week was Mameve Medwed's Minus Me, her latest novel, which is from Alcove Press, which is a division of The Quick Brown Fox & Company, or in terms of branding, the non-mystery imprint of Crooked Lane Books. This is our second event with Alcove, following Lesley Kagen for Every Now and Then. We always note that Medwed, along with Elinor Lipman and the late Anita Shreve, cut the ribbon on Boswell's grand opening. 

Her latest book is set at a sandwich shop in small-town (but not rural) Maine, where Anne and Sam operated a gourmet sandwich shop. They bought the recipe for their acclaimed Paul Bunyan Special, from the previous owners, but changed the name. This is a special sandwich indeed - they get orders to ship it! Can you order sandwiches online from Maine? Yes, here's a link to buy a four-pack of Hancock gourmet lobster rolls. And from this, I detoured to the Goldbelly site to see what other foods were shipping online.

But while a sandwich shop can be a comedy gold (see Bob's Burgers "Roamin' Bob-iday" episode), there's more to it than that. Annie's gotten a possible cancer diagnosis and she doesn't have the heart to tell Sam. Instead, she decides to give him instructions for when she dies and works on finding  him a replacement partner. A possible wrench in her plans is her glamourous mother, local royalty, who decides to visit from the big city. I'm going to note that this is not one of those super sad but also funny novels that the Jodi Picoult blurb might imply. I think it's more funny than sad. 

A conversation with Mameve and Elinor Lipman is always worth tuning in for. When I first queried the idea of the two in conversation, I had no idea that Lipman would also have a book, but she does - Rachel to the Rescue. It was published differently from her previous novels - it's actually from a British press and imported here, at least rights-wise (the copies themselves are print on demand). It sounds like a political comedy, because of the set-up. Rachel Klein has gotten a job unshredding documents for the government. Yes, she pieces back together ripped up (or worse) notes from the White House for the federal archive. She sends her inappropriate comment out - yes, it's the curse of  the inadvertent "reply all," rearing it's ugly head. I had a close friend fired from his job for doing this. 

Things get worse. As she's leaving, she's hit by a car. Maybe an accident, maybe not, but it turns out the driver, an optometrist, is guilty of something more than bad driving - I both don't want to give anything away and I also don't want to think about what's she's doing. I think the thing to note here is that this is not political satire; it's an Elinor Lipman novel with a political setup. I read a review that seemed to be upset that it didn't more seriously take on the political climate. But to me, that's like yelling at late-night stand-up monologues. I guess maybe someone out there is doing that.

One thing both Medwed and Lipman's novels have in common is that they are celebrations of small retail. In Minus Me, it's a sandwich shop. In Rachel to the Rescue, the meet cute is between her family paint and wallpaper store and his (yes, it's a romantic comedy, if I didn't note this before) family wine shop. And as an independent bookseller, I can't help cheering for that agenda. 

Mameve Medwed's event for Minus Me, with her in conversation with Elinor Lipman, is Tuesday, January 19, 7 pm CST. Register here. And more virtual event videos here.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Events! Nick Petrie with Jim Higgins for THE BREAKER, Claire Holroyde with J.S. Dewes for THE EFFORT, and Jon M. Sweeney with Damian Costello for NICHOLAS BLACK ELK

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week, event-wise. All times are Central Standard Time. 
Tuesday, January 12, 7 pm
Nick Petrie, author of The Breaker
in conversation with Jim Higgins for a virtual event 
It's time for book #6 in the Peter Ash series. This is a special one for Milwaukee, as the latest installment, The Breaker, is set right here in our fair city. We are one of several stores that have signed copies, and one of even fewer where you can get your books personalized. We have permission to mail books today, and folks will be able to pick up their signed copies starting at 10 am tomorrow. Ordering my our website? Please put signing request in the comments.

Our event is cohosted by Books & Company (also has signed books) and Whitefish Bay Public Library, which has copies of The Breaker available for lending. Did I mention also that both Petrie and Higgins are residents of the Bay? Register here for this Zoom event.

What I love about Nick Petrie's writing is that he never rests. You're never going to feel that he's cranking them out, so to speak. So in The Wild One, book five in the series, Petrie set up the challenge that Peter would not have his friends to come to the rescue with reinforcements when things got tough (Thanks to Chris for catching that). And in The Breaker, June stopped being someone to get out of trouble, and started being the person getting other people out of trouble. I think this is the first volume where June is Peter's equal.

The other thing I love about his books is that the series is set in different places and Petrie really leans into the place (That's per Petrie himself). Which aspect of the place he's writing about does he want to bring to life? That's why he's visited every place in his novels, including Iceland. And it's also why the plot pivoted slightly in The Breaker. In this book, he explores Milwaukee's history as Machine Shop of the world, and while like most cities, we've lost a lot of manufacturing, the shops still dot the city and suburbs. It's also why I think Milwaukee has a cool place like Makerspace, which is featured in The Breaker. Did you know the climax of the story was supposed to take Peter somewhere else (it always started here), but changed course, due to COVID? Ask him about this during our event on Tuesday.

Nick Petrie's debut novel, The Drifter, won both the ITW Thriller award and the Barry Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the Edgar and the Hammett Awards. You can read my rec as well as Chris Lee's for The Breaker here.

Wednesday, January 13, 7 pm
Claire Holroyde, author of The Effort
in conversation with JS Dewes for a virtual event

Join us for an evening with debut author Holroyde as she chats about The Effort, her heart-pounding novel of love and sacrifice that follows people around the world as they unite to prevent a global catastrophe. Perfect for readers who loved Station Eleven and Good Morning, MidnightRegister here for this Zoom event

When dark comet UD3 was spotted near Jupiter's orbit, its existence was largely ignored. But to individuals who knew better - scientists like Benjamin Schwartz, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies - the threat this eight-kilometer comet posed to the survival of the human race was unthinkable. What would happen to Earth's seven billion inhabitants if a similar event were allowed to occur? There are only two options - neutralize the greatest threat the world has ever seen or come to terms with the annihilation of humanity itself.

Claire Holroyde is a writer and graphic designer. Her work has been published as part of Akashic Books’s web series and her interactive narrative collaboration with designer Levi Hammett was featured in Born Magazine. Madison-based JS (Jenny) Dewes has written scripts for award-winning films which have played at film festivals around the country, as well as San Diego Comic-con. Her debut novel The Last Watch releases in April.  

Just to have a bit of a through line, I should note that Holroyde is not local, her husband's family comes from, where else? Whitefish Bay. Holroyde's debut novel goes on sales January 12. 

Thursday, January 14, 7 pm
Jon M. Sweeney, author of Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man, Catechist, Saint
in conversation with Damian Costello for a virtual event

Milwaukee-area independent scholar (and publisher of Paraclete Press) Jon M. Sweeney joins us for a conversation about his latest work, which tells us the life story of the deeply spiritual Nicholas Black Elk, who served as both a traditional Oglala Lakota medicine man and a Roman Catholic catechist and mystic. Sweeney will chat with Damian Costello, author of Black Elk: Colonialism and Lakota Catholicism. This event is cohosted by the Family of Four Milwaukee Parishes. Register here for this Zoom event.

Nicholas Black Elk is popularly celebrated for his fascinating spiritual life. How did his two spiritual and cultural identities enrich his prayer life? How did his commitment to God, understood through his Lakota and Catholic communities, shape his understanding of how to be in the world? This is Sweeney's second contribution to Liturgical Press's People of God series, the first being a biography of James Martin. Other entries in the series include Helen Prejean, Thomas Farmer, Thea Bowman, and Shahbaz Bhatti.

To fully understand the depth of Black Elk’s life-long spiritual quest requires a deep appreciation of his life story. He witnessed devastation on the battlefields of Little Bighorn and the Massacre at Wounded Knee, but also extravagance while performing for Queen Victoria as a member of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Widowed by his first wife, he remarried and raised eight children. Black Elk’s spiritual visions granted him wisdom and healing insight beginning in his childhood, but he grew progressively physically blind in his adult years. These stories, and countless more, offer insight into this extraordinary man whose cause for canonization is now underway at the Vatican.

Jon M Sweeney is Publisher and Editor in Chief of Paraclete Press. His many books include The Pope Who Quit, which was optioned by HBO, and The Pope's Cat, a popular fiction series for children, as well as several books and edited volumes on the work of Thomas Merton. Shorewood-based Sweeney writes regularly for America in the US, and The Tablet in the UK. Damian Costello, who specializes in the intersection of Catholic theology, Indigenous spiritual traditions, and colonial history. 

One last event reminder! 
Tuesday, January 12, 7:30 pm
Part of the Tapestry: Art and Ideas series put on by the Harry and Rose Samson Family JCC

A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son is a poignant look at boyhood, in the form of a heartfelt letter from comedian Michael Ian Black to his teenage son before he leaves for college, and a radical plea for rethinking masculinity and teaching young men to give and receive love. 

Co-sponsored by BBYO and Milwaukee Jewish Day School

Photo credits!
Nick Petrie by Troy Fox
Claire Holroyde by David Wiskowski
Jon M. Sweeney by Maurice Woll  

More info on our upcoming events page.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 9, 2021

What's selling at Boswell, week ending January 9, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett
2. The Prophets, by Robert Jones, Jr
3. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, by V.E. Schwab
4. Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar
5. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
6. Deacon King Kong, by James McBride
7. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy
8. The Talented Miss Farwell, by Emily Gray Tedrowe
9. The Liar's Dictionary, by Eley Williams
10. Push, by Ashley Audrain

New this week is The Prophets, by Robert Jones, Jr, the third breakout bestseller from Putnam edited by Sally Kim, who also shepherded The Immortalists and Such a Fun Age. This #1 Indie Next Bestseller is winning raves everywhere, and will likely to accumulate laurels through awards season this fall. Edmund White wrote in Publishers Weekly: "This is a first novel, but I hope it took years and years to write since it is so powerful and beautiful. It is an antebellum story of a flourishing Mississippi plantation some people refer to as 'Nothing' and others call 'Elizabeth,' the name of the owner's mother. This is a love story of two gay enslaved men, Isaiah and Samuel (not their original African names), who've been assigned to look after the horses and who work together in perfect harmony in the barn...The lyricism of The Prophets will recall the prose of James Baldwin. The strong cadences are equal to those in Faulkner's Light in August. Sometimes the utterances in the short interpolated chapters seem as orphic as those in Thus Spake Zarathustra. If my comparisons seem excessive, they are rivaled only by Jones's own pages and pages of acknowledgments. It seems it takes a village to make a masterpiece."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
2. A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
3. Keep Sharp, by Sanjay Gupta
4. A Better Man, by Michael Ian Black (Register for January 12 JCC event here)
5. Braiding Sweetgrass gift edition, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
6. What It's Like to Be a Bird, by David Sibley
7. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
8. Wintering, by Katherine May
9. 99% Invisible City, by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
10. The Best of Me, by David Sedaris

It looks like the 'New Year, New You' breakout is Sanjay Gupta's Keep Sharp: Build Your Brain at any Age, a title-explains-it-all guide from CNN medical correspondent and also a neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta. When you get advance blurbs from Dean Ornish, Dr. Oz, Walter Isaacson, and Bill Gates, you probably... stop looking for blurbs. But there are actually more. From Terry Gross's Fresh Air interview: "I think that crossword puzzles and brain training exercises can be quite helpful at making the roads in your brain that you use a lot already, keeping them strong... It's kind of the 'practice makes perfect' part of your brain. And some of the brain games can actually increase your processing speed, the speed at which you process new content and new information. But I really do draw a line between that and keeping a brain sharper and building cognitive reserve throughout your life. That's different. You want to be doing different things in order to build that reserve, as opposed to doing the same thing better and better."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Devotions, by Mary Oliver
2. Feast Your Eyes, by Myla Goldberg (February Daniel's Lit Group pick- register here)
3. The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, by Deesha Philyaw
4. The Home Front, by D.W. Hanneken (Register for January 26 event here)
5. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
6. Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (January Books and Beer pick - register here)
7. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
8. Poems 1962-2012, by Louise Glück
9. 11-22-63, by Stephen King
10. Dune, by Frank Herbert

Post-Christmas, we noticed that publishers started to drop in paperback releases of big titles from 2020, 2019, and at least from one case, 2018. First up is The Dutch House, Ann Patchett's 2019 hit that was detoured from a fall paperback release, which was already a longer run than Commonwealth, which followed its fall publication with a May paperback publication. After a year of delaying paperbacks, publishers are back to contracted hardcover runs. Lydia Millet's The Children's Bible, is now schedule for February.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Nicholas Black Elk, by Jon Sweeney (Register for January 14 event here)
2. Deep Hope, by Diane Eshin Rizzetto
3. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
4. Say Nothing, by Patrick Radden Keefe
5. Heart Talk: The Journal, by Cleo Wade
6. What Unites Us, by Dan Rather
7. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
8. Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler
9. Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari
10. ABA Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Charles Hagner

Two older books with large quantities at Ingram show that sales have continued long after pub date. Cleo Wade's Heart Talk: The Journal, is the companion to Heart Talk, and I got a little confused about whether to put this in fiction, with poetry trending one way and affirmations the other. Dan Rather's What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, has had a independent bookstore/social media campaign all fall and couldn't be more timely.

Books for Kids:
1. Baby Faces board book, from DK Publishing
2. The Hero Next Door: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
3. Ghost, by Jason Reynolds
4. Magical Yet, by Angela DiTerlizzi
5. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer
6. Most People, by Michael Leannah
7. 50 Adventures in 50 States, by Kate Siber
8. Today Tonight Tomorrow, by Rachel Lynn Solomon
9. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake
10. On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier

Jenny's championing of the Rachel Lynn Solomon novels get us her on the bestseller list again with Today Tonight Tomorrow, seven months after publication, and earns her the bests sales to date at Boswell, multiples over her last two. It's the story of two high school rivals who team up to compete in a scavenger hunt/competition. From Voice of Youth Advocates: "There is a bittersweet nostalgia, the letting go of the past to move forward and a longing for what has been lost by choosing a contentious path. The romance is sweet and sudden. The passion Rowan has for romance novels is mirrored in the story of the relationship. There is vulnerability that both characters develop with the other, and it is evident that opening up to a rival can be painful, but it also holds the potential for deep fulfillment."

From Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel, a review of Nick Petrie's The Breaker, which goes on sales on Tuesday. Signed copies still available. Cosponsored event with Books and Company and Whitefish Bay Public Library. Higgins writes: "If Milwaukee has become drab and listless to you during the pandemic, turn to Nick Petrie's The Breaker for a more exciting view of the city: Stalking an assassin through the Milwaukee Public Market! An ax murderer on the loose in Riverwest!" More here.