Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Larry Watson Summer Reading - Readings from Oconomowaukee Special Editon

Here are the books that Lisa Baudoin discussed with Larry Watson on our Readings from Oconomowaukee Summer Reading Special Edition. Visit the websites of Boswell Book Company or Books & Company to purchase - note that I have some links to Boswell and some to Books & Company.

Larry Watson
    The Lives of Edie Pritchard
    Let Him Go

James Welch
    Winter in the Blood
    Fool's Crow

Thomas McGuane
    Nothing but Blue Skies

Norman Maclean
    A River Runs Through It

A. B. Guthrie
    The Way West

Nickolas Butler
    Shotgun Lovesongs

Andrew J. Graff
    Raft of Stars

Rónán Hession
    Leonard and Hungry Paul

Cathleen Schine
    The Grammarians
    The New Yorkers
    They May Not Mean to, but They Do
    Fin and Lady

Katherine Heiny
    Early Morning Riser

Laurie Colwin
    Happy All the Time

Sigrid Nunez
    The Friend

Nick Petrie
    The Drifter

Maggie Shipstead
    Great Circle

Richard Marx
    Stories to Tell

Louise Erdrich
    The Round House
    The Night Watchman

Larry Woiwode
    Beyond the Bedroom Wall (out of print)

Ayad Akhtar
    Homeland Elegies

E. L. Doctorow

Matt Haig
    The Midnight Library

Philip Roth

James Salter
    Light Years

Michael Ondaatje

Vikram Seth
    The Golden Gate (out of print)
    A Suitable Boy

Randall Jarrell
    The Animal Family (out of print)

Jane Smiley
    Some Luck
    Early Warning
    Golden Age

Daniel Mendelsohn
    The Lost

Chris Harding Thornton
    Pickard County Atlas

Video link here.

Want some more suggestions? I had more summer reading suggestions on Wisconsin Public Radio's Larry Meiller Show

Monday, June 28, 2021

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week - Angeline Boulley and Margaret Noodin, Lana Bastašić talks to Chris Lee

Two great events, three great authors, and all with a whole mess of Boswell love!

Tuesday, June 29, 7 pm
Angeline Boulley, author of Firekeeper’s Daughter and 
Margaret Noodin, author of What the Chickadee Knows
Together in conversation

Register for this free event here

Boswell presents an evening with Angeline Boulley, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Firekeeper's Daughter, which NPR called "a powerhouse of a debut." For this special event, Boulley will be in conversation with Margaret Noodin, UWM Professor, Director of Electa Quinney Institute, and author of the Boswell bestseller, What the Chickadee Knows. This event will be a celebration of young adult literature, poetry, and the Anishinaabemowin language.

Here's Jenny Chou recommending Boulley's debut: "Firekeeper’s Daughter is one of those books written for teens that adult readers must make a point not to miss. The plot moves along just like the very best of thrillers, and the characters are nuanced and believable. Main character Daunis Fontaine is biracial, with a white mom and a Native American dad who together caused quite the scandal, but they separated before Danius was even born. Now, as a teen, she’s welcomed by both her Anishinaabe and white families, and yet is not wholly part of either culture. When her best friend is murdered, and it’s clear that a new form of meth is devastating the tribe, Daunis is approached by law enforcement agents to go undercover to investigate where the drug is coming from. With her knowledge of chemistry and native plants, she’s clever and curious enough to take the investigation in her own direction. Along the way, she gets caught up in a pretend romance that starts to feel very real with an officer disguised as a high school student. With all the difficulties in her life, the relationship added just the right amount of sweetness to the novel. Ultimately, this is a story of community, which made a betrayal from within feel all the more soul crushing. But trust that a writer as talented as Angeline Boulley can, somehow, also leave us with hope."

Tim McCarthy recommends What the Chickadee Knows: "It's a literary gift to suddenly find profound inspiration. Finding that it comes from a local author makes it rare. Margaret Noodin is a professor of English and American Indian studies at UW-Milwaukee. She earned two degrees from Minnesota schools, and it’s where she learned the language of the poems in What the Chickadee Knows. They’re conceived and written in Anishinaabemowin, side by side with her English translations. It’s “the language of the Odawa, Potawatomi, and Ojibwe people centered in the Great Lakes region.” I don’t know the language, but the words are visually thrilling. I can begin to imagine their lovely sounds, and I love seeing the continuation of First Nations languages. Their descriptions of the land and life, time and loss, sorrow and celebration have the feel of a natural world we all long for. They're simply stated, and beautifully complex. They speak of love, while also confronting the tragedy of our history. This is one of the most precious book discoveries I've had, and it's very exciting to know that Noodin teaches up the street from Boswell!"

Angeline Boulley, an enrolled member of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is a storyteller who writes about her Ojibwe community in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. She is a former Director of the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. Margaret Noodin is Professor of English and American Indian studies at the UWM, where she is Associate Dean of the Humanities. She is the author of Bawaajimo: A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language and Literature and Weweni, a collection of bilingual poems in Anishinaabemowin and English.

Thursday, July 1, 2 pm
Lana Bastašić, author of Catch the Rabbit
in Conversation with Chris Lee for a Virtual Event
Register for this free event here

Lana Bastašić, the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature winner, chats about her debut novel, Catch the Rabbit, a story of estranged friends who take a road trip through post-war Bosnia and into their illusive shared history. In conversation with Chris Lee of Boswell, who has been championing this book for months. 

Chris Lee's recommendation for Catch the Rabbit: "Amazing, heart-wrenching, wondrous. A years-spanning story of an intense friendship and how history (you know, wars and stuff) weighs on people's bonds. More than a decade ago, Sara left Bosnia, never to return. Now, drawn back by a long-lost childhood friend, she’s on a road trip through the Western Balkans, her own past, and a landscape scarred by social and political violence. Bastašić wrestles questions of obligation and understanding into one woman’s deeply personal reckoning. What do we owe the people who’ve shaped us, who taught us how to feel alive? What we know (and un-know) of our friends, our histories, and ourselves? It’s a story of how a person can misunderstand her friend and herself and then be completely wrecked and rebuilt as she grows to a new understanding of her world. Prepare to be split in two. WOW!"

Cory Oldweiler raves about Catch the Rabbit in the Star Tribune: "Bastašić, who also translated the book into English, is a glorious writer, approaching even familiar emotions with a unique vibrancy, and if Catch the Rabbit simply followed Sara and Lejla as they drove from, say, Minneapolis to St. Louis, it would still be well worth your time. But the novel's true brilliance lies in the many ways that the war, though rarely explicitly named, infuses and enhances every aspect of Sara's narration."

Lana Bastašić (photo credit Radmila + Vankoska) is a Yugoslav-born writer. Catch the Rabbit was shortlisted for the 2019 NIN award. It was also named an Indies Introduce book for Summer-Fall 2021.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending June 26, 2021

Here's what's selling at Boswell

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
2. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
4. Filthy Animals, by Brandon Taylor
5. The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris
6. The Five Wounds, by Kirstin Valdez Quade
7. The Paris Library, by Janet Skeslien Charles
8. That Summer, by Jennifer Weiner
9. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
10. Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead

It's not unsual for a collection of stories to follow a high-profile first novel, but what is unusual is for the stories to have such great reviews and a sales pop that most novelists would covet. Brandon Taylor's Filthy Animals follows his Booker-Prize finalist Real Life. From John Paul (Hola Papi) Brammer's review in The New York Times Book Review: "Roughly half the book follows Lionel, a damaged grad student; Charles, a muscled dancer; and Sophie, Charles’s headstrong girlfriend — and the dynamics of their entanglement after meeting at the aforementioned potluck, in Madison, Wis. The other half tells unlinked stories that range from stellar to pretty good (I’m not sure Taylor is capable of 'bad' writing)."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Exit Rich, By Michelle Seller-Tucker
2. Shape, by Jordan Ellenberg
3. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
4. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
5. How the Word Is Passed, by Clint Smith
6. In the Heights, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Jeremy McCarter
7. Dessert Person, by Claire Saffitz
8. Noise, by Daniel Kahneman
9. Premonition, by Michael Lewis
10. Frank Lloyd Wright's Forgotten House, by Nicholas Hayes  

In the Heights: Finding Home is the tie-in to the recently released major musical, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Quiara Alegría Hudes, and Jeremy McCarter. Many bookstores were involved in a virtual book launch, which is probably still viewable. Miranda is one the new partners in the Drama Bookshop in New York, and he and Thomas Kail worked on In the Heights in the basement of its former location. Michael Paulson wrote about it for The New York Times - I can't wait to see the amazing bookworm that weaves through the store. Jonathan Mandell notes in New York Theater that the book is more attached to the stage musical than it is to the movie.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Social Graces, by Renée Rosen
2. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
3. Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession
4. What the Chicakdee Knows, by Margaret Noodin (Register for June 29 event here)
5. The Second Home, by Christina Clancy (Register for July 8 event here)
6. The People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
7. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
8. One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston
9. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
10. To Have and to Hoax, by Martha Waters

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters was published in 2020.Boswell has a rec from Rachel for #2 in the series, To Love and to Loathe: "If you read romance for the banter, this one is for you - Waters knows the genre well, and she has aptitude for both winking at tropes and using them sincerely. I can't wait to read the next in the series." Like all genre series, no matter how much you love #2, most folks listening to your recs are going to go back and start with #1.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Wildflowers of Wisconsin Field Guide, by Stan Tekiela
2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
3. Gilded Suffragists, by Johanna Neuman
4. And Yet They Persisted, by Johanna Neuman
5. Classic Restaurants of Milwaukee, by Jennifer Billock
6. Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
7. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
8. Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Chuck Hagner
9. Wisconsin Atlas and Gazetteer, from Delorme
10. Best Lake Hikes Wisconsin, by Steve Johnson

The new edition of Wildflowers of Wisconsin Field Guide tops this top ten, of which fully half the titles are nonfiction about Milwaukee or Wisconsin. Per the publisher, this new edition includes updated photographs, expanded information, and even more of Stan's expert insights.

Books for Kids:
1. Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Boulley (Register for June 29 event here)
2. Waiting for Wings, by Lois Ehlert
3. Red Leaf Yellow Leaf, by Lois Ehlert
4. The Assignment, by Liza Wieimer
5. Color Farm, by Lois Ehler
6. Fish Eyes, by Lois Ehlert
7. Blackout, by Dhonielle Clayton
8. The Bench, by Meghan the Duchess of Sussex/Christian Robinson
9. Milo Imagines the World, by Matt de la Peña/Christian Robinson
10. Peace Train, Cat Stevens/Peter H Reynolds

Lois Ehlert has four books on this week's list and Christian Robinson has two, not leaving much room for other illustrators. The Bench, by Meghan (Markle) The Duchess of Sussex is one of the two illustrated by Robinson and certainly got the lion's share of enthusiasm in Sarah Lyall's New York Times review.

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins highlights A Smart Girl's Guide: Race and Inclusion, which he notes is "a clearly written, positive set of suggestions for girls 10 and older about breaking through bubbles of implicit bias and becoming anti-racist. Written by local diversity, equity and inclusion trainer and speaker Deanna Singh, with illustrations by Shellene Rodney, it follows the 'Smart Girl's Guide' template of short text blocks, quizzes and infographic definitions. Rodney's illustrations depict girls of many colors and apparent ethnic identities, as well as some girls who use wheelchairs and arm braces."

The book goes on sale June 28. Hoping to see the publisher work with ABA so that our website has a link.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Events coming up - Judith Flanders presentation with Woman's Club, Larry Watson summer reading Lisa and Daniel, Ashley Weaver with Erica Ruth Neubauer

More Boswell programming this week -

Tuesday, June 22, 12:30 pm
Judith Flanders, author of A Place for Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order
A virtual presentation
Register for this event here

Judith Flanders is author of the bestselling The Invention of Murder, Inside the Victorian Home, and The Victorian City. She is senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, as well as a frequent contributor to the Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. This Woman's Club of Wisconsin event is cosponsored by Boswell. 

This book had been on my radar, but it took participation in the program to get me to read it, and I'm so glad I did. Here's my rec: "I both love and hate the title of Judith Flanders's new social history. It’s catchy, and it speaks to me personally, but it’s also so limiting. What Flanders has done is write a history of data filing and retrieval, something that will appeal to any sort of librarian, database manager, or evenChristian theologian. One major shift that A Place for Everything chronicles is from pictograph writing to representational letters. Per the research, writing may have independently sprung up as many as a dozen times, but all signs point to only one discovery of the alphabet, in ancient Egypt. Every other known example was cribbed from some other civilization, and it took off because it was so much easier to learn, adapting quickly for trade. 

"I also am fascinated by how the rise in alphabetization replaced a more subjective classification that organized by status. And yet being first has its privileges – why else is grade A the best? So many fascinating factoids here! Flanders tries to clarify that just because alphabetization has come to dominate classification in the West, it’s not the only way, or even the best way. With the rise of computer databases, the alpha reign has lessened in importance. It still seems likely that kids will be singing their ABCs for some time to come."

Joe Moran writes in The Guardian that he was also taken by the unique creation of the alphabet: "Sharing no mother tongue and communicating in a creole of their many languages, they found it easier to memorise (British spelling!) 20 or 30 symbols and rearrange them into new words. The alphabet soon seemed as inevitable as that other human abstraction bequeathed to us by antiquity: money. Just as money was a stand-in for value, so the alphabet was a stand-in for meaning, separating words into letters for ease of reordering. This beautiful invention allows us to shape whole universes of meaning out of a small number of letters."

And that's just the alphabet. Alphabetical order is another beast entirely, and took several hundred more years to develop. Deirdre Mask in The New York Times notes the greater purpose of all this: "Ultimately, A Place for Everything rewards us with a fresh take on our quest to stockpile knowledge. It feels particularly relevant now that search engines are rendering old ways of organizing information obsolete. (How do today’s Rob Flemings organize their Spotify playlists?) That we have acquired so much knowledge is astounding; that we have devised ways to find what we need to know quickly is what merits this original and impressive book. 'We think,' Flanders writes, 'therefore we sort.'"

Wednesday, June 23, 2 pm
Summer Reading with Larry Watson, author of The Lives of Edie Pritchard
In conversation with Lisa Baudoin and Daniel Goldin for a virtual event
Register for this event here

Boswell and Books & Company are getting together virtually to host Wisconsin author Larry Watson for a special conversation about summer reading. They’ll chat about summer reading, including Watson's new-in-paperback The Lives of Edie Prichard. Larry Watson is the author of ten critically acclaimed books, including the bestselling Montana 1948. His essays and book reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and other periodicals.

Instead of just repeating our hardcover events for The Lives of Edie Pritchard (which you can still watch here), we thought it would be fun to talk books with Larry, a summer reading edition of Readings from Oconomowaukee. We'll be talking about Montana books and triptychs and strong older women heroes. Here's a taste of our conversation. When we were discussing ideas, Watson wrote, "Thomas McGuane is probably my favorite contemporary Montana writer, and I really liked Cloudburst, his collected stories. I think he’s one of our finest short story writers. Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It is my favorite Montana novel, for its closing paragraphs if for nothing else." I should note that A River Runs Through It was a bookstore bestseller for years!

Here’s a little more about the book, a multigenerational story of the West told through the history of one woman trying to navigate life on her own terms. Edie always worked hard. She worked as a teller at a bank, she worked to save her first marriage, and later, she worked to raise her daughter even as her second marriage came apart. Really, Edie just wanted a good life, but everywhere she turned, her looks defined her. It’s been a lifetime of proving that she is allowed to exist in her own sphere. The Lives of Edie Pritchard tells the story of one woman just trying to be herself, even as multiple men attempt to categorize and own her.

From Christine Brunkhorst in the Star Tribune: “This is a fast and compelling read, sparse and dusty as the open plain. Watson’s journey is a sensory one, taking us down rippling highways and across weedy fields into basement rec rooms and out into shadowy sunsets. Though some scenes are gritty, the novel’s dialogue and imagery awaken our senses and prove once again that when depicting small-town life in the West, Larry Watson is crushing it.” 

Thursday, June 24, 7 pm
Ashley Weaver, author of A Peculiar Combination
in conversation with Erica Ruth Neubauer for a virtual event
Register for this event here

Ashley Weaver is author of the Amory Ames series, which includes novels such as A Deception at Thornecrest, A Most Novel Revenge, and A Dangerous Engagement. She works as the technical services coordinator at the Allen Parish Libraries in Oberlin, Louisiana. Milwaukee’s Erica Ruth Neubauer is author of Murder at Wedgefield Manor and Murder at the Mena House. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America

Erica Ruth Neubauer has been citing Ashley Weaver's Amory Ames series as one of her influences on her two mysteries. So I thought, wouldn't it be great to have an event with Neubauer talking to Weaver? Weaver's series has won great praise, and she's also got local ties - she used to be a librarian at the Greendale Public Library.

Her enthusiasm was contagious - I read this book on Neubauer's recommendation. And here's my recommendation to you for A Peculiar Combination: "For her latest mystery, Weaver pivots from aristocratic Amory Ames to working class London burglar Electra McDonnell. Captured during a routine break-in-attempt (perhaps a set up), Ellie and her Uncle Mick are recruited by the arrogant-but-dashing Major Ramsey to help foil a major transfer of secrets to the enemy. Things become a bit more complicated when Ellie is asked to pose as Ramsey’s date to a lecture, where several of possible traitors are expected to gather. This fast-paced outing has an array of suspects to please mystery fans and lots of period detail for historical fiction readers. And what reader wouldn’t enjoy Electra, a spunky heroine with a murky origin story that still needs to be explored?" (Daniel Goldin)

Publishers Weekly
gave A Peculiar Combination a starred review: "A thorny relationship between Ellie and Ramsey, a cast of colorful characters, a brisk pace, and an ironic message about the identity of true patriots enthrall. Readers will look forward to the next mission for the smart, feisty Ellie and her circle." The reviewer praised this as "a superb series launch."

More on the Boswell upcoming event page.

Event preview - Renée Rosen and the Social Graces - a virtual Lynden event on June 21, 2021

Monday, June 21, 7 pm Central
Renée Rosen, author of The Social Graces
A virtual presentation
Tickets for this event here

Renée Rosen had already written a young adult novel and Dollface, a historical novel about Chicago gangsters, but it was What the Lady Wants, her novel about Marshall Field, the Chicago department store magnate, that put her on the radar with several of us at Boswell. She followed that up with novels about the Chicago Tribune and Chess Records, two other Chicago landmarks of Chicago history before detouring east. Her New-York-set novel of Helen Gurley Brown and Cosmpolitan, Park Avenue Summer, turned out to be her breakout hit nationally - Chicago isn't second city for nothing, and more often than not, it's third or even fourth, and she isn't the first or last author find greater success in the Big Apple. Look at the success Thomas Dyja recieved for New York, New York, New York compared to the much quieter reception for The Third Coast

She returned to New York for The Social Graces, a novel based on the feud between the Astors and The Vanderbilts. The new-versus-old money story is an evergreen for fiction writers; we saw it just play out in Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful, her alternative, magical take on The Great Gatsby. While Rosen hews closer to historical facts than Vo, historical fiction is still fiction. Rosen often lets her story play out around a fictional everywoman, but in the case of The Social Graces, the protagonists are the real Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt.

The results have won critics over. Publishers Weekly called The Social Graces a "witty and beautifully imagined Gilded Age outing," while Library Journal called Rosen's story" a vivid and ravishing picture of the Gilded Age, bringing to life some of the people and parties that rocked this particular era, in an altogether believable tale. And Jennifer Funk in Library Journal noted, "Rosen paints a vivid and ravishing picture of the Gilded Age, bringing to life some of the people and parties that rocked this particular era, in an altogether believable tale. Recommended for fans of Rosen's other works and readers who enjoy historical fiction and authors such as Kristin Hannah and Elizabeth Gilbert."

Rosen is doing a special Powerpoint for us (we tested it on Saturday), and based on her past experiences, we know historical fiction fans will enjoy this program. As part of the Lynden Sculpture Garden Women's Speaker Series, there's a $5 admission charge, all of which is donated to the Lynden and their beautiful sculpture garden. We hope to return to the actual grounds in the months ahead. Producer Margy Stratton is talking about an in-person Jenna Blum event for November. But the date to mark on your calendar for Renée Rosen is Monday, June 21, 7 pm Central Time. Can't make the event? We'll send you the recording afterwards. Tickets at rosenlynden.eventbrite.com.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending June 19, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending June 19, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
2. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
3. The Bombay Prince, by Sujata Massey
4. The Maidens, by Alex Michaelides
5. The Chosen and the Beautiful, by Nghi Vo
6. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
7. That Summer, by Jennifer Weiner
8. The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris
9. Send for Me, by Lauren Fox
10. The Sweetness of Water, by Nathan Harris

Jennifer Weiner follows Big Summer, her biggest hit (at least for us) in years with That Summer. Maureen Corrigan in The Washington Post writes: "Weiner has made a major literary career out of writing engrossing popular novels that take women seriously. At their most basic, all of her stories are about women trying to hold on to themselves in a world intent on diminishing them. That Summer is more explicitly a political novel than most in that its plot is informed by the rise of the #MeToo movement and the seismic shift in attitudes toward men who claim their actions should be excused because of their youth or because their victims were drunk or dressed provocatively or . . . just because. The intertwined story lines of That Summer concern two women, both named Diana, who have been harmed in different ways by a man. And that’s only the beginning of what these 'two Dianas' have in common."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Frank Lloyd Wright's Forgotten House, by Nicholas D Hayes
2. Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard
3. The Bomber Mafia, by Malcolm Gladwell
4. Anthopocene Reviewed, by John Green
5. Caste, by Isabel Wilkerson
6. The Sum of Us, by Heather McGhee
7. Shape, by Jordan Ellenberg
8. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
9. The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel
10. Noise, by Daniel Kahneman

With the release of Japanese Breakfast's new album, it seems like Crying in H Mart has had a second wind of sales momentum. Here's Jillian Mapes in Pitchfork reviewing Jubilee: " Some have positioned Taylor Swift’s folklore as the great nexus of pop music and indie culture, but an album like Jubilee is a more interesting example of pop’s fluidity: a true blue rock star tempered in the waters of shoegaze, Pacific Northwest rock, and twee, making music that naturally bridges the gap between dream pop and electropop. It’s an exuberant listen that feels of the moment and also steeped in classic indie sensibilities, packed with Zauner’s sharp observations and frank desires."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
2. Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
3. Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
4. One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston
5. Leonard and Hungry Paul, by Rónán Hession
6. Circe, by Madeline Miller
7. Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
8. Interior Chinatown, by Charles Yu
9. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
10. The Lives of Edie Pritchard, by Larry Watson (Register for June 23 summer reading event here)

If you saw the actual numbers, you would probably big deal us, but remember we're just one independent bookstore and it isn't Christmas. That said, I think our paperback fiction bestsellers have the most vibrant all around numbers that I've seen since 2019. Helping things along is the release of Mexican Gothic, the breakout bestseller from Silvia Moreno Garcia. Jessica P Wick wrote on the NPR website: "There is a gradual rise of dread in Mexican Gothic. It never quite falls off, even at the end, which I loved for its satisfying ambiguity; this is a novel that will leave you wary even after the last page. Mexican Gothic touches on racial, class, and labor inequity, the way these things fester, infusing the landscape and blighting generations. High Place is haunted by memory. The very air is possessed. This is Silvia Moreno-Garcia's greatness as a storyteller: She makes you uneasy about invisible things by writing around them. Even when you think you know what lurks, the power to unsettle isn't diminished. Secrets brought to light stay disquieting."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
2. Healing the Human Body with God's Remedies, by Lester Carter
3. American Nations, by Colin Woodard
4. Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
5. The Brothers, by Stephen Kinzer
6. Growing Old, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
7. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
8. Spirit Run, by Noé Alvarez
9. Welcome to our World, by Sarah Williams Goldhagen
10. Backroads and Byways of Wisconsin, by Kevin Revolinski

Out in April in paperback was The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Vilvicencio. Finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, it was also shortlisted for the Porchlight Business Book Award. Natasha Walter offers this in The Guardian: "I have never read anything that so captures the pain of the migrant child of migrants. This book bears witness to the great violence of our times: the violence of borders, which has seeped into all our lives. It also reveals the empathy and courage we might need to move beyond these dark years."

Books for Kids:
1. Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
2. One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
3. Weird but True Animals, By National Geographic Kids
4. Q and U Call It Quits, by Stef Wade, with illustrations by Jorge Martin
5. Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Boulley (Register for June 29 event here)
6. What Is God Like, by Rachel Held Evans
7. The Box in the Woods, by Maureen Johnson
8. When Lola Visits, by Michelle Sterling
9. Peacemaker, by Joseph Bruchac
10. Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Milwaukee-area writer Stef Wade has another winner in Q and U Call It Quits, her third picture book. From the starred School Library Journal review: "This humorous and punny alphabet book highlighting letter blends features colorful and vibrant digitally rendered illustrations. Letter blends within the text are appropriately highlighted in red, making it easy to share examples with young readers. Wade's quirky story pairs well with the personified letters in Anne Marie Houppert's What About X? An Alphabet Adventure."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins reviews The Witness for the Dead, the latest fantasy from Katherine Addison, whom you also know as Sara Monette. He writes: "Set in the same universe but not a direct sequel, the Madison writer's new novel Witness for the Dead centers on Thara Celehar, a middle-aged cleric living in a provincial city. He's absented himself from the imperial capital both because of a personal scandal and because he solved the assassination of the previous emperor, upsetting some. His past and enemies still make trouble for him." It's "satisfying mystery fiction" and "strong fantasy," with a "probing character study" and a "fascinating and involving treatment" of religion.

Higgins talks to Addison/Monette on July 7. Register here.

Monday, June 14, 2021

What's happening on Boswell's virtual calendar? Nghi Vo with Adrienne Celt, David Swinson with Nick Petrie, Benjamin Percy and Jonathan Evison together, Sujata Massey with Shauna Singh Baldwin, plus preview for Renée Rosen

Monday, June 14, 7 pm
Nghi Vo, author of The Chosen and the Beautiful
in conversation with Adrienne Celt for a virtual event
Register for this event here

Milwaukee-based Vo, a Hugo Award finalist and author of the acclaimed novellas When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, visits with her latest, her first full length novel that’s a reinvention of The Great Gatsby as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess focused on a queer Vietnamese adoptee living in a world where important doors are closed to her. Cohosted by the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. Ask for your signed copy of The Chosen and the Beautiful.

From Jennifer Jenkins at Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, from an article on January 1, 2021: "After 95 years of exclusivity, The Great Gatsby is now entering the public domain, where it will be freely available to the next Fitzgerald.... What might future creators do with The Great Gatsby? They could make it into a film, or opera, or musical. Importantly, they could do so even if they did not have the financial resources that were required to license the book for the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Baz Luhrmann. For future filmmakers The Great Gatsby will be as free as.... Romeo and Juliet."

"But the public domain does not just bring financial freedom, it also provides cultural leeway. Someone could reimagine the story with a more inclusive cast, or set in a different era. They could reinterpret it, tell it from the perspective of Myrtle or Jordan, or make prequels and sequels. In fact, novelist Michael Farris Smith is slated to release Nick, a Gatsby prequel telling the story of Nick Carraway’s life before he moves to West Egg, on January 5, 2021."

Or maybe Jordan Baker, re-imagined as a queer Vietnamese adoptee living amidst the luxury and splendor of New York in the 1920s. The rest of the cast is there, from Jay Gatsby to Daisy Buchanon to Nick Carraway. But there's another difference - magical elements flit around the periphery of the story. In addition to prohibition alcohol, folks at parties pour demoniac, an ominous alcohol-like substance. Some of the Gatsby-esque new money was derived from deals with the actual devil, and you can tell because the dealmakers generally have one blackened fingernail, and yet it's hard to spot because it's trendy for many of the wealthy to blacken a nail. And Jordan herself can conjure magical beings out of her paper-cutting skill, from dragons and lions to actual people.

Vo offers a contemporary sensibility to her interpretation F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic story. Backlash to demons and foreigners has led to talk of the Manchester Act, which will outlaw both. And Jordan, who can be almost public with her dalliance with Nick Carraway, must still hide her relations with other women, including an old fling with Daisy. After reading The Chosen and the Beautiful, I had the itch to reread Gatsby, or at least make a display of all the Gatsby-influenced novels.

Tuesday, June 15, 7 pm
David Swinson, author of City on the Edge
in conversation with Nick Petrie for a virtual event
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David Swinson is a retired police detective from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, having been assigned to Major Crimes. He is the author of The Second Girl, Crime Song, and Trigger. Now he presents his new stand-alone novel about a teenage boy living abroad in Beirut, who discovers the truth about himself and his family. In conversation with Nick Petrie, author of the Peter Ash thrillers.

13-year-old Graham moves with his family to Beirut, a city on the edge of the sea and cataclysmic violence. Inquisitive by nature, Graham suspects his State Department father is a CIA operative and that his family's fragile domesticity is a front for American efforts along the Israeli border. Over the course of 1974, Graham's life will utterly change. Two men are murdered, his parents' marriage disintegrates, and Graham will run afoul of forces he cannot understand.

City on the Edge is elegiac, atmospheric, and utterly authentic. It’s the story of innocents caught within the American net of espionage, of the Lebanese transformed by such interference, of the children who ran dangerously beside the churning wheel of history. A perfect blend of Stephen King’s "The Body" and John le Carre’s A Perfect Spy, it’s a transformative crime story told with heart and genuine experience.

From JB Stevens in Criminal Element: "After finishing the work, the reader will reader feel as if they’ve been to pre-revolution Lebanon. Swinson’s intimate knowledge of the place and time shines through. The entire volume comes across as deeply authentic. I can’t help but wonder how much is autobiographical. I enjoyed this book immensely. It has shades of Box’s Blue Heaven as well as le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and Hart’s The Last Child. These books won the Edgar award. I feel that City on the Edge is in the same league and deserves serious award consideration."

Wednesday, June 16, 7 pm
Benjamin Percy, author of The Ninth Metal and Jonathan Evison, author of Legends of the North Cascades
A virtual conversation
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We've hosted both authors at Boswell, but this is the first time they are together, at least for us. Benjamin Percy and Jonathan Evison share the spotlight in this program, acting both as featured author and conversation partner. So tonight's event is Benjamin Percy, author of books like The Dark Net and The Dead Lands, and Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy and West of Here. Connecting the two authors are recommendations from Boswellian Kay Wosewick, our champion for this double header.

Benjamin Percy’s latest, The Ninth Metal, is a speculative thriller that begins a new Comet Cycle book series in which a powerful new metal arrives on Earth in the wake of a meteor shower, triggering a massive new gold rush in the Midwest and turning life as we know it on its head. Kay offers this recommendation: "Five years after a huge meteor shower leaves large deposits of a mysterious metal scattered around Northfall, this once-tiny but now-bulging town near the Boundary Waters feels right out of the gold rush days. The town’s established mining company is battling upstart Black Dog Energy for control of a large, private interest of this highly valuable (and did I mention addictive?) metal. Chockfull of characters with competing interests, a couple individuals with special powers, crooked police, murders, and much too much testosterone, Ninth Metal is guaranteed to give you a wildly intense ride. And there’s more to come!"

And in Jonathan Evison's Legends of the North Cascades, a man’s life is unravelling as he finds himself in the grip of PTSD after his third tour of Iraq. From Kay: "Dave has sustained significant psychological damage from three tours in Iraq. When his wife dies in a car accident, he has few options to support himself and a seven-year-old daughter. Unable to retain a job and about to lose his home, Dave decides to apply the many outdoor skills he learned, and loved, as a child. He and Bella move to a cave in the North Cascades wilderness. Life goes reasonably well until winter approaches, when family and individual rights are pitted against society’s expectations and laws. I closed the book with a deeper understanding of people who live at the very edges of society, where life is fragile, because so few viable options exist. This is a wonderful adventure story spiked with relevant social issues."

Other people like these books too. Here's Stephen King on Percy's latest: "The Ninth Metal, debris from a comet drops a fabulously valuable new metal on Northfall, MN., turning it into a bloody, brawling boomtown. Great characters, fine writing, totally engrossing.” And Victor LaValle writes: "When Benjamin Percy publishes a novel, I have got to read that novel. The Ninth Metal continues his streak of thrilling, incisive genre bending goodness. It’s a sci-fi novel, a crime novel and a super-hero novel, too. Audacious and intelligent and exactly what I was dying to read.”

The Jonathan Evison fan club for Legends of the North Cascades includes Willy Vlautin, who writes: "Only a writer of Evison’s talent could so brilliantly weave the struggles of a PTSD-stricken veteran and the ghosts of an ancient family into such a powerful social commentary. Wildly original and breathtakingly big-hearted.” And then there's Ron Rash, who notes: "Under the daunting and impassive mountains of the title, two dramas, one ancient and one contemporary, intertwine to become a greater story of parent and child attempting to survive in the harshest of circumstances. For me, the heart of this fine novel is Bella, a young heroine whose courage and steadfastness are a timely reminder of how human decency can prevail in the darkest of situations.”

Thursday, June 17, 7 pm
Sujata Massey, author of The Bombay Prince
in Conversation with Shauna Singh Baldwin for a Virtual Event
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Sujata Massey was born in England to parents from India and Germany and grew up in St Paul, Minnesota. She was a features reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun before becoming a full-time novelist. The first Perveen Mistry novel, The Widows of Malabar Hill, was an international bestseller and won the Agatha, Macavity, and Mary Higgins Clark Awards. Her second novel was a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Sue Grafton Prize. 

It's been three books in Sujata Massey's Perveen Mistry series and we've hosted events for all three. I haven't quite figured out whether it makes more sense to host every event or if it's better to have the author for every second or third book. I guess it depends what kind of momentum you've built. But once I read The Bombay Prince, I couldn't help but beg the publisher to include us on the tour. It's so good! You'll hear me say this several times, but the story works very well as historical fiction.

I guess I should offer my recommendation for this: "It’s 1921 and all of Bombay is readying for the visit of Edward VIII, Prince of Wales. A celebratory parade travels right past Woodburn College, where Mistry’s dear friend Alice Hobson-Jones teaches mathematics, and Perveen has been invited to view from the stands. But right before the appearance, a Student Union member disrupts the festivities with a call for Indian independence, and this incident is followed by the appearance of a young woman’s body, dead from a fall. More disturbing still, Perveen knows the student, who visited her earlier in the week, asking for advice. Did she die of suicide or was she pushed? Will Perveen be able to figure out what’s going on before chaos ensues from rioters? And more importantly, will she figure out how she feels about the attentions of Colin Sandringham, the agent protecting the prince? I have enjoyed the two previous volumes in this series, but I particularly loved how Massey ratcheted up the tension here with the burgeoning independence movement."

It's interesting that this book is set at about the same time as Nghi Vo's The Chosen and the Beautiful.

Massey’s latest installment in this series is earning advance praise already! Kate Quinn, author of The Rose Code, says, “Heroine Perveen is much more than a sari-clad Miss Marple: she’s Bombay’s first female lawyer as well as a keenly intelligent sleuth, a trail-blazing woman balancing the weight of family tradition with her own dreams. Perveen’s investigation into the mysterious death of a young university student coincides with the imperial visit of the future Edward VIII, and the resulting trail of breadcrumbs through royal receptions, street riots, squalid jails, and lavish hotels makes for a deliciously satisfying read!”

Carole E Barrowman featured The Bombay Prince in her Journal Sentinel roundup of best summer mysteries, where she noted that "Massey’s lush descriptions and rich historical details are thoroughly transporting."

Next week!
Monday, June 21, 7 pm
Renée Rosen, author of The Social Graces
A Virtual Event
$5 tickets for this event here.

Renée Rosen is the bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer, Windy City Blues, and White Collar Girl. Our latest Women's Speaker Series virtual event features a novel about the rivalry between the Astors and the Vanderbilts during the Gilded Age. White Collar Girl was Rosen's breakout novel, beating the others by a good margin, even the beloved What the Lady Wants, which was about Marshall Field. Cosponsored by Milwaukee Reads and Boswell Book Company. 

From the starred Publishers Weekly: "In this witty and beautifully imagined Gilded Age outing, Rosen examines the rivalry between the Astors and the Vanderbilts toward the end of the 19th century...Rosen delights with breezy dialogue and keen insights into the era. Historical fans will love this."

Photo credits
David Swinson credit Jeffrey Baldwin
Benjamin Percy credit Arnab Chalkladar
Sujata Massey credit Tim Burger