Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Three Books I Love About Communities - Refugee High, Karachi Vice, Squirrel Hill

I love books about community. Usually written by journalists, they follow a group of people over the course of a period time, giving multiple perspectives. Sometimes it's grounded in place, but sometimes the connection is some sort of subculture. Sometimes the author is a character in the story, like last year's Thinking Inside the Box, but more often they are an observer and attempt to be a fly on the wall. That doesn't always work - one never knows how your presence will affect the story. And of course when folks are struggling, there's a natural inclination to help. I'm sure this can lead to complicated situations. 

Though you'd not likely find the books shelved together, except perhaps in an amorphous nonfiction section, three of my favorite books of autumn fall into this category - notice how I had to avoid saying "fall fall."

The first book is Refugee High: Coming of Age in America, written by Elly Fishman, an award-winning Chicago journalist who is now teaching at UWM. I didn't even know that she had a Milwaukee connection when Chris recommended the book to me; the bio in the advance copy didn't mention her move north. But the subject was fascinating to me - one school year at a high school in Rogers Park. I have enjoyed this kind of narrative much over the years, such that I have a special shelf labeled "education" at home.  The most recent book I read of this sort was The Years That Matter Most, from Paul Tough, which was renamed The Inequality Machine in paperback. But no matter the title, what I liked about it was following the students as they tackled the college admissions process.

Here's my rec for Refugee High: "Chronicling a year in the life of Sullivan High, which has aimed to become the go-to public high school for refugees in the Chicago area, journalist Elly Fishman looks at the highs and lows of teaching kids from 35 different countries who speak 38 different languages. As she follows students from Myanmar, Iraq, Syria, Guatemala, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as their school principal and several teachers and administrative staff, Fishman does a great job bringing the players to life and documenting the pressures from families to marry early, gangs to affiliate, and jobs that provide financial security but eat up study time. Some students will succeed while others will struggle, mirroring the program itself, which is under pressure from a reduction of refugees allowed into the country as part of a former president’s policies. Refugee High is an enlightening and valuable reading experience."

Our event is tonight, August 31, cohosted by HOME and the Lynden Sculpture Garden - visit their website to learn more about their programs. We still have some in-person registrations available - register here for this option. We are also broadcasting the event on Zoom - register here for the virtual option. And we'll have a recording after the event if all goes well. If this sentence is linked, it will lead you to the recording.

The second book is Karachi Vice: Life and Death in a Divided City, by Samira Shackle. This book releases on September 7 from Melville House, and our virtual program is Monday, October 25, 2 pm Central Time. Shackle will be joining us from London, so it will be 8 pm British Summer Time. Shackle (below right), the editor of New Humanist magazine and a regular contributor to the Guardian, will be in conversation with Audrey Nowakowski (below left) of WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio's Lake Effect. 

I should note that while I have one shelf devoted to education, I have two shelves of urban planning and other city-oriented works of nonfiction.

I discovered this book through the efforts of Michael Barson, who was telling me about the book as I was recounting how many Leonard and Hungry Pauls we sold - the answer as of today is 214. Little did he know that I'd take to this book - following five people around in a city I know little about for five years? I have read some wonderful novels by Pakistani writers and Americans and British folk with Pakistani heritage (Mohsin Hamid, Kamila Shamsie, and the extraordinary Ayad Akhtar*, to name three of the best), but my nonfiction reading was lacking. Wow!

Here's my staff rec on Karachi Vice: "Journalist Shackle spent several years following Karachi residents, including a crime reporter, an ambulance driver, an educator and social activist, another advocate who maps the city’s resources and helps get things like sewers installed, and a young woman from a rural village watching a project for the wealthy encroach on their land. The Partition and other localized conflicts have created a megacity where Pashtuns, Sindhis, Baloch, and Mohajirs (Punjabis are a force in Pakistan, but not so much in Karachi) fight for land and resources, where each ethnic group has a political party which shares power with a criminal element. Underfunded police are almost incentivized to corruption. Social services are often underfunded or altogether absent; ambulances are run by a charity. Media channels are in fierce competition for viewers - with journalists putting themselves in great danger to get the best story. All this and The Taliban, too. Shackle’s detailed and sympathetic portrayal of life in this city of 20 million people is fascinating reading, always insightful, plus she’s a great storyteller. If you are one of the millions of people who loved Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, this book is for you."

Here's a link to register for Samira Shackle's event on Zoom Webinar on October 25.

One last recommendation. Unlike Karachi Vice, I knew as soon as I read about Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood that I would want to read it. Sure I'm interested in Jewish culture. But I'm especially interested in Pittsburgh. Because of its setting, there was some fierce competition to read the advance copy, as we've got two other Yinzers on staff. It was as good as I hoped. 

Here's my written suggestion that you read it too: " Director of the Yale Journalism Initiative Mark Oppenheimer goes behind the headlines of the tragic Tree of Life shooting to explore the fascinating community of Squirrel Hill, a walkable Pittsburgh neighborhood that has retained both religious and secular Jews when so many others have scattered to suburbs. Even the Tree of Life building itself was home to three congregations of different denominations. In Oppenheimer’s exhaustive interviews, he found a pathway to healing that doesn’t always happen after other mass shootings – there wasn’t a single post-event suicide connected to the incident, and there were no controversies over how money flowed to victims and their families. But there was a cost too, at least for some, as activism was played down in favor of unity. 

"I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Squirrel Hill, which is much more of an exploration of a community, rather than the crime drama or issue book you might have thought it was. There are so many interesting players in the story, not just the victims and their families, but folks like the Iranian student and his hugely successful fundraising efforts, and the young Christian woman who painted images in the Starbucks windows that became a symbolic center of the neighborhood. My top Hanukkah pick!"

The key is that the book is not about the shooting so much as the aftermath. Our event is Thursday, November 4, 7 pm Central Time, which is 8 pm Pittsburgh Time. Register here for this Zoom Webinar.

Oppenheimer will be in conversation with Rachel N Baum, Deputy Director of the Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM, who is also our cohost. Needless to say, I also recommend you read the book, which goes on sale October 5. 

If I may recommend one more city book, I'll include Sam Anderson's Boom Town, which is focused on Oklahoma City. It's a crazy book for a crazy place.  It was published in 2018, but I read it late and I'm still talking it up. It's also a great basketball book.

If you are in publishing and have an upcoming book that follows this kind of format, you should tell me about it! I've also noticed that I have read a lot of novels that are basically fictional variations of this concept. 

*Are you telling me you haven't read Homeland Elegies yet? It's now in paperback. My nephew Adam, who was recently visiting, told me how much he loved the book. It's called a purchase link for a reason.

Photo credits:

Mark Oppenheimer by Lotta Studio

Monday, August 30, 2021

This week - Elly Fishman for Refugee High and William Kent Krueger for Lightning Strike

Tuesday, August 31, 7 pm
Elly Fishman, author of Refugee High: Coming of Age in America - ask for your signed copy
A conversation with Boswell's Daniel Goldin
Register for the in-person event here - masks required
Register for the virtual broadcast here

Milwaukee-based reporter Elly Fishman joins us for a conversation about her new book of journalism, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Award, which chronicles a school year at Chicago's Sullivan High School, where nearly half the student body was born in another country and 70% speak a second language.

This event is cohosted by HOME and Lynden Sculpture Garden. More about their programs here.  

Refugee High is a riveting chronicle of the 2017–8 school year at Sullivan High, a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric was at its height in the White House. As Fishman follows teachers and administrators grappling with the everyday challenges facing many urban schools, the reader witnesses the complicated circumstances and unique education needs of refugee and immigrant children. Equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring, 

Refugee High
raises vital questions about the priorities and values of a public school and offers an eye-opening and captivating window into the present-day American immigration and education systems. Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here and An American Summer, says “A wondrous tapestry of stories, of young people looking for a home. With deep, immersive reporting, Elly Fishman pulls off a triumph of empathy. Their tales and their school speak to the best of who we are as a nation - and their struggles, their joys, their journeys will stay with you.”

Elly Fishman worked as a senior editor and writer at Chicago magazine. Her features have won numerous awards, including a City Regional Magazine Award for her first report on the students and faculty of Sullivan High School. Fishman currently teaches in the Journalism Department at UWM.

Thursday, September 2, 7 pm
William Kent Krueger, author of Lightning Strike - ask for your signed bookplate
A virtual conversation with Lisa Baudoin
Register for this virtual event here

We’re pleased to welcome back William Kent Krueger, the Edgar Award-winning author of bestselling novels Ordinary Grace and This Tender Land as well as his beloved Cork O’Connor series, which he returns us to in his latest, Lightning Strike. Cohosted by our friends at Books & Company of Oconomowoc.

Lightning Strike
is a powerful prequel to the Cork O’Connor series. It’s a book about fathers and sons, long-simmering conflicts in a small Minnesota town, and the events that echo through youth and shape our lives forever. In the summer of 1963, Cork stumbles upon the body of a hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp. It is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.

Here’s high praise from Kristin Hannah, author of The Four Winds and The Nightingale: "William Kent Krueger is a master storyteller at the top of his game with Lightning Strike. A pitch perfect, richly imagined story that is both an edge-of-your-seat thriller and an evocative, emotionally-charged coming of age tale that explores the complex bonds between fathers and sons and the long simmering animosities of the past. This is a beautifully written novel that packs a powerful punch. I loved it."

Minnesotan William Kent Krueger is the New York Times bestselling author of This Tender Land and Ordinary Grace as well as eighteen acclaimed books in the Cork O’Connor mystery series, including Desolation Mountain and Sulfur Springs.

Photo credits
Elly Fishman by Alyssa Schukar
William Kent Krueger by Paul Dinndorf

More upcoming events at the Boswell website.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending August 28, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending August 28, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Madness of Crowds, by Louise Penny
2. Lightning Strike, by William Kent Krueger (Register September 2 virtual event here)
3. Shoulder Season, by Christina Clancy
4. The Blacktongue Thief, by Christopher Buehlman (signed copies available)
5. The Love Songs of WEB Du Bois, by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
6. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
7. Billy Summers, by Stephen King
8. Damnation Spring, by Ash Davidson
9. The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave
10. The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix

Once again, a new Louise Penny trounces all comers. The Madness of Crowds is Gamache #17, and goodness, I still remember selling #1 at Schwartz and talking to the sales rep about how well we were doing. Booklist's starred review notes the setup: "It begins when Chief Inspector Gamache is ordered to provide security for a lecture by controversial statistics professor Abigail Robinson, who argues that further pandemics can be eliminated by a program of mandatory euthanasia targeting at-risk groups, including the elderly and the disabled."

I should note that The Love Songs of WEB DuBois from Honorée Fanonne Jeffers was just noted as the best reviewed fiction on LitHub's Bookmarks program this week with seven rave reviews, and that doesn't include Oprah. One is from Veronica Chambers in The New York Times, who wrote, "The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is quite simply the best book that I have read in a very, very long time. I will avoid the cliché of calling it 'a great American novel.' Maybe the truest thing I could say is that this is an epic tale of adventure that brings to mind characters you never forget"

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
2. Hero of Two Worlds, by Mike Duncan
3. All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner (In person at capacity - we'll have a virtual registration by Monday)
4. Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard
5. Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green
6. This Is Your Mind on Plants, by Michael Pollan
7. All In, by Billie Jean King
8. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
9. Dopamine Nation, by Anna Lembke
10. Refugee High, by Elly Fishman (Register to attend August 31 event here. Register to watch the event virtually here.)

Podcaster Mike Duncan had a very strong first-week showing for Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution, but he couldn't outperform the Giannis bio. Publishers Weekly called this "a comprehensive and accessible biography" while Booklist notes that "Duncan offers solid historical research in a hip, humorous, and appealing voice."

Paperback Fiction
1. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
2. Dune (two editions), by Frank Herbert
3. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
4. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
5. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
6. Circe, by Madeline Miller
7. People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
8. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
9. The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix
10. The Paris Connection, by Lorraine Brown

The Paris Connection once again proves the adage that putting the Eiffel Tower on any book automatically increases sales. The publisher is calling this the One Day in December for 2021. Per the publisher, Brown "was one of 11 mentees chosen to be part of Penguin Random House UK’s 2017 WriteNow program, which aims to launch the careers of writers from under-represented communities."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1 .The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
2. In the Shadow of Powers, by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith
3. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
4. The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk
5. Agent Sonya, by Ben Macintyre
6. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
7. Van Gogh, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
8. Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts, by Christopher De Hamel
9. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
10. Wisconsin Farms and Farmers Markets, by Kristine Hansen

Price point pressure - it's interesting to note that five of the top 10 paperbacks on this list are priced at over $20 and only #1, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is as low as $17, which used to be the de facto for nonfiction narrative paperbacks. It's now $18-19, by the way. Is it unrelated that we're struggling to break out paperback nonfiction? Ben McIntyre's latest, Agent Sonya: The Spy Next Door has its best showing it its fifth week of paperback sale. Its paperback sales have now surpassed its hardcover total - that can be tough in nonfiction.

Books for Kids:
1. Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson
2. Pigeon Has to Go to School, by Mo Willems
3. Rite of Passage, by Richard Wright
4. Oh the Places You'll Go, by Dr Seuss
5. Skunk and Badger, by Amy Timberlake (Register for September 15 virtual event here)
6. Mindful Mr. Sloth, by Katy Hudson
7. Regina Is Not a Little Dinosaur, by Andrea Zuill
8. Three Cheers for Kid McGeer, by Sherri Duskey Rinker
9. Turtle in a Tree, by Neesha Hudson
10. We Don't Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T Higgins

A lesson on mindfulness appears in the new picture book release, Mindful Mr. Sloth, by Katy Hudson, author of Bear and Duck and Too Many Carrots. I should note that this is Hudson's bestselling book to date at Boswell. Publisher notes that "story themes of mindfulness and friendship combine perfectly with SEL core competencies of social awareness and relationship skills."

Monday, August 23, 2021

This week - Martha Waters talks to Rachel Copeland, Roxanne Veletzos talks to Jennifer Chiaverini

Boswell events for the week of August 23, 2021

Monday, August 23, 7 pm
Martha Waters, author of To Love and to Loathe
in conversation with Rachel Copeland for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Historical romance author Martha Waters joins us for an evening featuring her latest effervescent, charming, and swoon-worthy novel. This special event will be Rachel Copeland’s first event in conversation, and it’s a perfect pairing, as Copeland is the Rom-Com Queen of the Boswellians.

Emily Henry, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller (which it seems everybody is reading this summer) People We Meet on Vacation, calls Waters's latest "sweet, sexy, and utterly fun. A love story with depth to match its humor, and refreshingly frank communication between its two headstrong leads - I adored it.”

Here’s Rachel’s take on To Love and to Loathe: “Diana, Lady Templeton, and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham, are always at each other's throats - he's an incorrigible rake, and she's a wealthy young widow. When Diana wagers that he'll be married within a year, Jeremy is confident he'll win. But then Jeremy's former mistress gives him negative feedback about his so-called skills, and he realizes he needs an honest review from his toughest critic: Diana. As a longtime reader of Regency-era romance novels, I'm ashamed to say I did not know about this series until the second book. 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.”

Martha Waters is the author of To Have and to Hoax, To Love and to Loathe, and the forthcoming To Marry and to Meddle. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and works as a children’s librarian by day.

Thursday, August 26, 7 pm
Roxanne Veletzos, author of When the Summer Was Ours
in conversation with Jennifer Chiaverini for a virtual event
Register for this event here.

Boswell hosts a virtual evening with Roxanne Veletzos for a conversation about her new historical novel, an epic World War II tale of star-crossed lovers separated by class, circumstance, and tragedy. She’ll chat with Jennifer Chiaverini, author of novels such as The Women’s March and Resistance Women.

Hungary, 1943: As war encroaches on the country’s borders, willful young Eva César counts the days to her upcoming nuptials to a kind and dedicated Red Cross doctor. But Eva’s life changes when she meets a charming and passionate Romani fiddler and artist. As each are swept into the tides of war, they try to forget their romance. From the horrors of the Second World War to the tensions of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and beyond, When the Summer Was Ours is a sweeping story about the toll of secrets, the blurred lines between sacrifice and obsession, and the endurance of the human spirit.

Our conversation partner Jennifer Chiaverini is a big fan. Here's what she wrote: "When the Summer Was Ours is a breathtaking romance that unfolds in a richly drawn landscape of war and loss—a gripping, unforgettable story of enduring love and the fragile yet indomitable hope that sustains the human heart through tragedy to redemption."

Roxanne Veletzos is author of The Girl They Left Behind, an international bestseller. Born in Bucharest, Romania, Veletzos draws from her family’s experience and history in her writing. She has worked as an editor, content writer, and marketing manager for a number of Fortune 500 companies. 

Look for Veletzos to be on Morning Blend on Thursday!

Photo credits!
Martha Waters by Ryan Chamberlain
Roxanne Veletzos by Eric Lindstrom

More on the upcoming events page of Boswell.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 21, 2021

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 21, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
2. Shoulder Season, by Christina Clancy
3. The Cellist, by Daniel Silva
4. Yours Cheerfully, by AJ Pearce
5. We Were Never Here, by Andrea Bartz
6. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
7. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
8. Afterparties, by Anthony Veasna So
9. A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes
10. The Final Girl Support Group, by Grady Hendrix

In its third week of sales, Afterparties increases sales enough to make it into our top 10. Reviews on this posthumous collection have been spectacular, such as The Washington Post, with Rosa Boshier noting that "So’s stories allow the past to well up into the present without force or preciousness. Afterparties insists on a prismatic understanding of Cambodian American diaspora through stories that burst with as much compassion as comedy, making us laugh just when we’re on the verge of crying." And Boswellian Chris Lee says says, "Call Afterparties the Goodbye, Columbus of Californian Cambodian-American life."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
2. All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner (Register for September 23 event here)
3. Frankly We Did Win This Election, by Michael Bender
4. The Reckoning, by Mary Trump
5. Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard
6. I Alone Can Fix It, by Carol Leoning and Philip Rucker
7. The Bomber Mafia, by Malcolm Gladwell
8. Refugee High, by Elly Fishman (Register for August 31 event here)
9. Our Own Worst Enemy, by Tom Nichols
10. World Travel, by Anthony Bourdain and Lauren Woolever

It is not common nowadays for me to be able to highlight a bestseller from Oxford, not like the old days when they had a thriving trade list where it was not unusual for their history titles to reach The New York Times top 15. Our Own Worst Enemy : The Assault from within on Modern Democracy is written by a Professor of National Security Affairs at US Naval War College and highlights the rise of illiberal and anti-Democratic movements. This Never-Trump Conservative's prescription includes more widespread military service.

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Restaurant Inspector, by Alex Pickett
2. Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell
3. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
4. The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix
5. The People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
6. The City We Became, by NK Jemisin
7. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
8. Dune (two editions), by Frank Herbert
9. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong (Register for August 30 book club discussion - no author)
10. The Overstory, by Richard Powers

NK Jemisin's bestselling The City We Became was nominated for the Nebula, Locus, and won the BFSA (British Science Fiction Award). It was also a big hit - we sold almost 100 copies in hardcover. Our Science Fiction Book Club will be discussing it in November. Neil Gaiman called it "a glorious fantasy, set in that most imaginary of cities, New York. It's inclusive in all the best ways, and manages to contain both Borges and Lovecraft in its fabric, but the unique voice and viewpoint are Jemisin's alone."

Paperback Nonfiction: 
1. Milwaukee River Greenway, by Eddee Daniel 
2. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah 
3. Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson 
4. Hidden Valley Road, by Robert Kolker 
5. The Beauty in Breaking, by Michale Harper 
6. Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindberg 
7. ABA Field Guide to Birds of Wisconsin, by Chuck Hagner 
8. Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes, by Anna Lardinois 
9. Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered, by Karen Gilbariff and Georgia Hardstark 
10. Grit, by Angela Duckworth

I was chatting with a reader about books at the store this week and recommended Hidden Valley Road off our book club table. The next day I ran into her at the coffee shop where she was reading outside. She'd already read half the book. I really enjoyed Robert Kolker's family history, but I never thought of it as a fast read. Apparently I was wrong. A relatively late review (January 2021) in Forbes from GrrlScientist notes that the book is "a skillful mix of biography, a history of mental illness and medical case studies - the author alternates, chapter-by-chapter, between sharing some of the Galvin family’s countless struggles and revealing how our scientific understanding of schizophrenia evolved rapidly during the past 50 years." I do not know why the reviewer doesn't use her name.

Books for Kids:
1. Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson
2. The Assignment, by Liza Wiemer (Pre-order the paperback)
3. Mightier than the Sword, by Rochelle Melander
4. From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle
5. Peace Train, by Cat Stevens/Peter H Reynolds
6. Time for School, Little Blue Truck, by Alice Schertle
7. Mindful Mr Sloth, by Katy Hudson
8. Turtle in a Tree, by Neesha Hudson
9. What If, Pig?, by Linzie Hunter
10. This Is Not a Ghost Story, by Andrea Portes

What If, Pig? is a June release in the States, and is the first picture book from Linzie Hunter (born in Scotland, now in England, which as she notes, is similar but different). Publishers Weekly wrote "Lighthearted doodle-adjacent digital art in a vibrant color palette lends Hunter's 'porky panicker' protagonist levity in this cheerful picture book debut." School Library Journal noted its message: "Young readers will learn that being afraid is a common, temporary feeling, and that they can talk to others about it." Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books offered "plenty of silliness."

From Jim Higgins at the Journal Sentinel, a review of Rebecca Donner's NYT bestseller: "In the new biography All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler, Donner brings her ancestor to life through artful use of documents and interviews. Donner is also a novelist, and she tells Harnack's story with dramatic pace and vision. As the story unfolds in time, Harnack and her resistance comrades become like a small cluster of white blood cells targeting the seemingly overwhelming infection that was Nazism." Should we mention again that Donner is planning to visit on September 23? Registration required. We're working on a hybrid option.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Boswell bestsellers, week ending August 14, 2021 - Milwaukee novels, Shakespearean pain, time management, monsters, and more

Boswell bestsellers, week ending August 14, 2021

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Shoulder Season, by Christina Clancy
2. We Were Never Here, by Andrea Bartz
3. The Comfort of Monsters, by Willa C Richards
4. The Turnout, by Megan Abbott
5. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig
6. The Women's March, by Jennifer Chiaverini
7. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
8. Malibu Rising, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
9. All's Well, by Mona Awad
10. Mrs. March, by Virginia Feito

It looks like novels set in and around Milwaukee are at the top of this week's list. Christina Clancy's Shoulder Season is mostly set right out the DMA in Walworth County, while Bartz's We Were Never Here jumps around to Chile, Cambodia, and Up North, but all three, including The Comfort of Monsters, which stays mostly within city boundaries, are firmly lodged in Southeast Wisconsin.

New to our top 10 is Mona Awad's All's Well in its second week of release. Her latest features a Shakespearean actor with chronic pain. Our buyer Jason notes in his recommendation, "She drowns her sorrows at the pub, where she meets three mysterious men who know all about her and her pain. After a golden drink, Miranda is able to start transferring her pain to others, and her life takes on a new light. Much like Mona Awad’s Bunny, All’s Well starts to get more and more surreal and fantastical. I loved every minute of this crazy, amazing novel." George Saunders is also a fan, who called this "a dazzling, wild ride of a novel."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
2. Finding the Mother Tree, by Suzanne Simard
3. Refugee High, by Elly Fishman (Register for August 31 event here)
4. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
5. Noise, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass Sunstein
6. The Ugly Truth, by Sheera Frenkel and Cecelia Kang
7. Untamed, by Glennon Doyle
8. Anthropocene Reviewed, by John Green
9. This Is Your Mind on Plants, by Michael Pollan
10. Four Thousand Weeks, by Oliver Burkeman

It's not an exaggeration to say that we sold more Giannis than the other nine books combined - multiplied by five. We're out of bookplates and probably out of books, but we have more copies arriving by Wednesday. We should eventually get more bookplates too - request with your order.

Squeaking onto the list is Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman, which caught my eye enough for me to hold onto the advance copy for a bit, though I didn't actually read it yet. All the business gurus are loving this book - Adam Grant wrote "This is the most important book ever written about time management. Oliver Burkeman offers a searing indictment of productivity hacking and profound insights on how to make the best use of our scarcest, most precious resource. His writing will challenge you to rethink many of your beliefs about getting things done - and you'll be wiser because of it."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Dune (two paperback editions), by Frank Herbert
2. Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi
3. The People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
4. The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
5. Death Foretold, by David S Pederson
6. Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman
7. Four Major Plays, by Henrik Ibsen
8. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
9. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
10. One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston

As Jason mentioned when doing reorders, "Boy people seem really excited about this Dune movie." It's been on our bestseller list for months already (mass market and trade paperback) and has seemingly bested most of the literary tie-ins this year - none of the streaming hits seem to be driving major sales for us since Bridgerton quieted down. The film arrives October 22 and will be simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Built for This, by The Athletic
2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
3. Rocket Fuel, by Gino Wickman
4. Wisconsin Farms and Farmers Markets, by Kristine Hansen
5. The Deepest Well, by Nadine Burke Harris
6. Classic Restaurants of Milwaukee, by Jennifer Billock
7. Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino
8. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
9. The First Three Minutes, by Steven Weinberg
10. The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

Aside from Built for This, one of the only two Bucks tie-in books we have (the Journal Sentinel one is on order), and Braiding Sweetgrass, it's a very quiet paperback nonfiction list. It makes me long for some fad to drive sales - sudoku or Instagram poetry. No wait, we put that in fiction, a controversial move (we argued about it) that nonetheless follows the New York Times lead.

Books for Kids:
1. Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi
2. The Day the Babies Crawled Away, by Peggy Rathmann
3. Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell
4. The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
5. Siege and Storm v2, by Leigh Bardugo
6. Rite of Passage, by Richard Wright
7. Left Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix
8. Ada Twist Scientist, by Andrea Bety and David Roberts
9. Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Bouley
10. Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

I don't always shout out our school purchases, but being that Pet came out this year in paperback, it's still a release that qualifies as new and noteworthy. It was a National Book Award finalist, a Stonewall Book Award winner, and was on a Time Magazine best 100 YA books of all time list. The reviews I found don't exactly explain the book so I defer to publisher copy: "There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother's paintings and a drop of Jam's blood, she must reconsider what she's been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption's house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question - How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?"

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Carol Deptolla has a feature on Something and Tonic, a new book of mixology by Nick Kokonas, appearing at Bay View's The Mothership. Looks like the book is print on demand, non-returnable, and short discount from us, so my suggestion is to buy it at the event on August 18.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Events! Elm Grove Library presents Hello Sunshine selection from Andrea Bartz, Mirin Fader's Giannis bio, David S Pederson's new Heath Barrington mystery, Megan Abbot's Read with Jenna pick

Virtual programming for Boswell for the week of August 9-15, with a sneak preview for next Monday. It's book club week, as we've got two authors with high-profile book club selections for August.

Monday, August 9, 7 pm
Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here
In conversation with Jennifer Hillier for a virtual event
Register for this event here. Ask for your signed bookplate.

Elm Grove Public Library and Boswell present Milwaukee-area native Andrea Bartz, author of The Lost Night and The Herd for an event featuring her latest thriller, a novel that travels from Milwaukee to Cambodia for a backpacking trip with deadly consequences. We Were Never Here was just named the August selection for Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club.

Kirkus called the book's plot "exhilarating" and praised this "slow-burn thriller that gradually suffocates both the protagonist and the reader - in a good way."

Emily is in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip. But on the last night of the trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she brought back to the room attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: the scene is horrifyingly similar to last year’s trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving head-first into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to confront their violent past.

Steph Cha, author of Your House Will Pay, says, “Bartz takes a friendship with boundary issues and adds an extra-special ingredient - the permanent, secret alliance of two people who have gotten away with murder… An observant, suspenseful, and deeply scary novel.” And from Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of The Other Black Girl, “A nail-biting, immersive whirl of a read…Brimming with mysterious twists, turns, and a frenemyship of the most chilling proportions, We Were Never Here is every woman’s worst nightmare - and every thriller-lover’s dream.”

Andrea Bartz is author of The Lost Night and The Herd. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Cosmopolitan, and she’s held editorial positions at Glamour, Psychology Today, and Self. Jennifer Hillier is the author of Little Secrets, Creep, and Jar of Hearts.

Tuesday, August 10, 7 pm
Mirin Fader, author of Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP
in Conversation with Chris Herring for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here. Ask for your signed bookplate - limited to the first 150 orders.

Boswell Book Company presents a virtual event with sports writer Mirin Fader for a discussion of her new book, which charts the inspiring story of Giannis Antetokounmpo and his rise to superstardom. In conversation with Chris Herring, Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated.

As the face of the NBA's new world order, Giannis Antetokounmpo has overcome unfathomable obstacles to become a symbol of hope for people all over the world, the personification of the American Dream. But his backstory remains largely untold, and Fader unearths new information about the childhood that shaped him. Fader tells a deeply human story of how an unknown, skinny, Black-Greek teen, who played in the country's lowest pro division and was seen as a draft gamble, transformed his body and his game into MVP material.

Journalist Jemele Hill offers this praise: “Mirin Fader gives readers a gorgeous portrayal of one of the most unique talents to ever play professional basketball. But Giannis is more than just the comprehensive story of a once-in-a-generation athlete. It is the story of how American promise intersects with iron will and heartwarming vulnerability.”

From Boswell buyer Jason Kennedy comes this recommendation: "Mirin Fader lays out the unlikely, Hollywood-esque story of the rise of Giannis, from living in poverty in Greece to the top of the NBA as a two-time MVP of the league. This is a look at how Giannis is Giannis. How Milwaukee was the perfect city to fit his blue collar work ethic and humbleness. It's about how family is the most important thing to him, and where you come from doesn't define you but can be a spring board to fight for a better life. Mirin Fader did hundreds of interviews, far and wide, to cast the largest possible net. Reading some sections of the games Giannis played, I remember being there, sitting in my seat, cheering and watching it unfold. Now, though, I have more perspective. I am even more in awe of Giannis and his family. At the end of it all, one major takeaway for me from this book is that nothing else matters if your family is not there supporting you and you lifting them up, too."

Mirin Fader is a staff writer for The Ringer and has written for Bleacher Report as well. Her work has been honored by the Pro Writers Basketball Association, the AP Sports Editors, and the Los Angeles Press Club, and her work has been featured in the Best American Sports Writing series. Chris Herring is author of Blood in the Garden - available January 2022. He spent five years covering the NBA for ESPN and FiveThirtyEight and covered the Knicks for The Wall Street Journal. He teaches at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

Wednesday, August 11, 7 pm
David S Pederson, author of Death Foretold
A Virtual Event
Register for this event here.

Join us for a virtual evening with the always-charming Milwaukee-area author David S Pederson to celebrate the release of the latest installment of his Lambda Literary Award-nominated Heath Barrington mystery series. Barrington delves into the spirit world to solve the murder of a spiritualist while discovering dark secrets in another detective's past.

A traveling spiritualist is found shot to death in an alley late at night with his underwear around his ankles. But the perpetrator is an enigma. Was it the young trick with a drug problem the spiritualist met in the alley? The unusual woman who runs the boarding house where the trick lives? The dead man’s wife, another spiritualist with secrets of her own? The handsome, alcoholic protégé? The beautiful woman who leads the spiritualist’s fan club? Or someone else altogether?

With a list of suspects a mile long, only Detective Heath Barrington will be able to crack the murder. But Heath’s handsome fellow detective, Grant Riker, has an unlikely connection to their prime suspect that reveals a shady past he’s ashamed to admit. With more questions than answers, a séance may be the only way to the truth. Or perhaps the answer is in the cards? While Heath searches for the murderer, he uncovers more dark secrets than he bargained for, and witnesses firsthand the relentless pressure for LGBTQ+ people in the 1940s to stay hidden in the shadows.

David S Pederson is author of seven Heath Barrington mystery novels, which include the Lambda Literary Award finalists Death Checks In and Death Takes a Bow. His novel Death Goes Overboard was selected by the GLBT Round Table of the American Library Association for the 2018 Over the Rainbow book list.

Thursday, August 12, 7 pm
Megan Abbott, author of The Turnout
in conversation with Erin Lewenauer for a virtual event
Register for this event here. Ask for your signed copy.

Join us for a Thrillwaukee evening with Megan Abbott for her latest psychological thriller, a mesmerizing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio that’s made the Must Read Summer Books lists from Time, The Washington Post, Crimereads, and many more. She'll chat with area writer and critic Lewenauer.

The Turnout was just named the August selection of The Today Show Read with Jenna Book Club.   

With their long necks, matching buns, and pink tights, Dara and Marie Durant have been dancers since they can remember. After their parents' tragic deaths, the sisters began running the school together, along with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prized student. Circling around one another, the three have perfected a dance that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutcracker - a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration - an interloper arrives and threatens the sisters' delicate balance.

Perfect for fans of Black Swan, Abbott’s novel is like a dark noir fairy tale. From The Washington Post, “Abbott is a legend for good reason. No one combines the style of classic noir with the psyches of sophisticated men and women who are willing to do anything – anything - to succeed better than Abbott. Her latest is a dizzyingly fascinating story of a family-owned dance studio and the weight of unrequited ambition. An instant classic.”

Megan Abbott is author of ten novels, including Dare Me, Give Me Your Hand, and You Will Know Me. She earned a PhD in literature from New York University and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Believer. She is the co-creator and executive producer of USA's adaptation of Dare Me and was a staff writer on HBO's David Simon show The Deuce.

Monday, August 16, 5 pm
Nick Flynn, author of This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire
in Conversation with Natasha Trethewey for a Virtual Event
Register for this event here. Ask for your signed bookplate.

Boswell presents a special evening with Nick Flynn, celebrating the paperback release of his latest memoir. Flynn will be in conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner and former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

When Nick Flynn was a child, his mother set fire to their home. The event loomed large in his imagination for years, but it’s only after having a child of his own that he understands why. He returns with his young daughter to the landscape of his youth, reflecting on how his childhood has him still in its reins, and forms his memories into lyrical, sinister, and wounded bedtime stories.

From the starred Publishers Weekly review: "In this outstanding work, poet and playwright Flynn bookends his first memoir, 2004’s Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City, with this unsparing look at his early childhood and his mother, who died by suicide when Flynn was 22 years old. He makes a series of visits to his hometown of Scituate, Mass., with his young daughter and describes his solitary childhood spent living with his mother in a small, ugly house that she bought after she left Flynn’s father. When Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to the house, an event he is still trying to understand."

Nick Flynn is author of three previous memoirs, including the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award–winning Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City, and four volumes of poetry. Flynn is Professor on Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Natasha Trethewey is a former US Poet Laureate and the author of five collections of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Native Guard and the memoir Memorial Drive. She is currently the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. 

Photo credits
Andrea Bartz by Bill Wadman
Mirin Fader by Hana Asano
Nick Flynn by Ryan McGinley
Natasha Trethewey by Nancy Crampton