Sunday, August 28, 2022

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 27, 2022

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 27, 2022

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Afterlives, by Abdulrazak Gurnah
2. The Rabbit Hutch, by Tess Gunty
3. All This Could Be Different, by Sarah Thankam Mathews
4. Haven, by Emma Donoghue
5. Horse, by Geraldine Brooks
6. Fox Creek, by William Kent Krueger (Register for September 17 event here)
7. Upgrade, by Blake Crouch
8. Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt
9. Babysitter, by Joyce Carol Oates
10. Portrait of an Unknown Woman, by Daniel Silva

The newest novel from Emma Donoghue, Haven, is, per the publisher: "about three men who take a vow together and decide to travel to the remote island of Skellig to build a monastery. When one of the men takes his devout calling to an even more fervent level, it creates a Lord of the Flies-esque environment as the men must survive together in harsh conditions." Paraic O'Donnell in The Guardian compares it to Room.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Impact Players, by Liz Wiseman
2. I'm Glad My Mom Died, by Jennette McCurdy
3. Path Lit by Lightning, by David Maraniss
4. Happy Go Lucky, by David Sedaris
5. Life on the Mississippi, by Rinker Buck
6. Slaying the Dragon, by Ben Riggs
7. Slenderman, by Kathleen Hale (Register for October 13 event here)
8. The Dawn of Everything, by David Graeber and David Wengrow
9. Birds and Us, by Tim Birkhead
10. France, by Graham Robb

Tim Birkhead, one of the world's leading bird biologists, has written Birds and Us: A 12,000-Year History from Cave Art to Conservation. Kirkus called the book "fascinating" and "authoritative." The reviewer notes: "Melding science, natural history, memoir, and travelogue, ornithologist Birkhead offers a commodious history of humans' connection to birds, from prehistoric times to the current burgeoning interest in bird-watching."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Love on the Brain, by Ali Hazelwood
2. Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead
3. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
5. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna (Register for September 10 virtual event here)
6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
7. Fire and Blood, by George RR Martin
8. Normal People, by Sally Rooney
9. Circe, by Madeline Miller
10. The Witches of Moonshine Manor, by Bianca Marais (Register for September 20 ticketed event here)

You may have read that the numbers on the new HBO Series House of the Dragon were through the roof. The source material for this series is Fire and Blood from George RR Martin and unlike the last few seasons of Game of Thrones, it has active participation from the writer. There are at least four editions of this book available, with two jackets (tie-in and original) and two formats (trade and mass).

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Feminism's Empire, by Carolyn J Eichner
2. The Paris Commune, by Carolyn J Eichner
3. Mythological Animals, by Tam O'Malley
4. Covered with Night, by Nicole Eustace
5. The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk
6. Educated, by Tara Westover
7. How to Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell
8. Do the Work, by W Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz
9. Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer
10. All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days, by Rebecca Donner

Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America from NYU Professor of History Nicole Eustace was the Pulitzer winner for history and a National Book Award finalist. From the publisher: "In the winter of 1722, on the eve of a major conference between the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois) and Anglo-American colonists, a pair of colonial fur traders brutally assaulted a Seneca hunter near Conestoga, Pennsylvania. Though virtually forgotten today, the crime ignited a contest between Native American forms of justice—rooted in community, forgiveness, and reparations—and the colonial ideology of harsh reprisal that called for the accused killers to be executed if found guilty."

Books for Kids
1. All Are Neighbors, by Alexandra Penfold, illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman
2. Hugo and the Impossible Thing, by Renée Felice Smith and Chris Gabriel, illustrations by Sydney Hanson
3. Big Feelings, by Alexandra Penfold, illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman
4. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse, illustrations by Renée Graef
5. What Feelings Do When No One's Looking, by Tina Oziewicz, illustrations by Alexksandra Zajac
6. The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster, by Mo Willems
7. Inheritance Games, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
8. The Color Monster Goes to School, by Anna Llenas
9. The Rabbit Listened, by Cori Doerrfeld
10. Turtle in a Tree, by Neesha Hudson

The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! chalks up its second week in the top 10 for Mo Willems. I've learned it is the first Pigeon book to have gatefold pages (which I think means they fold out). Apparently the concept of the book works on two levels - Pigeon is on an emotional roller coaster while imagining the upcoming ride in the literal roller coaster. As someone who has also looked forward to a rollercoaster ride, I identify!

Friday, August 26, 2022

A new shipment of Boswell mugs available with new colors

Here's what you need to know about the latest shipment of Boswell mugs.

1. Supply chain issues really are a thing. It took us five months to get this through the system. In normal times, this probably would have taken four-to-six weeks. And we still had to skip two colors that hadn't come back into stock.

2. The blue and orange mugs are pretty much the same color as last time, but we weren't able to get a complete quantity of orange mugs. 26 of the 36 we ordered came in damaged, so we will likely sell out pretty quickly.

3. The new green mugs are more emerald than kelly. Similarly, our previous red mug was more of an imperial red is now closer to maroon. The one completely new color we have is labeled teal by the manufacturer, but the booksellers contend it is more of a seafoam green. It has proven to be a hit with staff.

4. And finally, for this round, we chose not to reorder black and gray. We have a decent amount of gray left and, at least at press time, one black mug. The problem was that the blue, which is more sapphire than royal (who knew that so many colors had connections to wealth and royalty?) read very close to both the black and gray in the lights of the bookstore, and wound up selling slower than the bright colors, so I decided to focus more on the brights. 

5. The best news of all! We were able to hold the price on the new shipment to $11.95. You can order them online here. Thanks to Goodland/Brew City for facilitating this order.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Completist - finishing what you started, author's ouevre category

It's about a week after we booked our in-person event with Andrew Sean Greer for Less Is Lost (September 30, ticketed, presented in partnership with the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library, and in conversation with Liam Callanan - details here) that I decided I was going to fill in the gaps and read each of his novels. I give myself an out on these things - once you start looking at nonfiction and short stories, are you obligated to search out anthologies and articles and reviews? I will make this decision on a case-by-case basis.

For a number of years this was a hard task because I felt so pressured to read event books and new releases that have strict deadlines of two months before pub date which follow the American Booksellers Association Indie Next schedule. But by adding a new rule to my reading list that in any month where I read five or more books, one of the titles had to be more than three years old from first publication, it suddenly made it easier for me to catch up. 

I had already read The Story of a Marriage, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (for which he led the Boswell audience in a kazoo chorus), and Less (in which he was in conversation with fellow Pulitzer winner Jennifer Egan, so I set my sights on The Confessions of Max Tivoli, and in the spirit of our event, I borrowed the book from the Milwaukee Public Library. If you've read Less and nothing else, I should note that while his early books share the spirit of his Pulitzer Prize winner, the humor, so much at the forefront of Less, is more stylized. Max Tivoli's story is that he is born an old man and grows backwards. Some people share his secret, but much like the protagonist of Matt Haig's How to Stop Time, Max shields his identity to avoid suspicion. His mother knows, as does his close friend Hughie, but the love of his life Alice, never suspects, giving him more than one chance to win her heart. The story is wistful and romantic and offers a unique way to look at other-ness. Next up? The Path of Minor Planets, his debut novel. By my ground rules, I am not obligated to read How It Was for Me, his story collection, but I still might.

Speaking of other-ness and being a completist, I am still gushing over our recent event with Megan Giddings for The Women Could Fly. She's only at book #2, but I am already confident that I will follow her around for three, four, and five. Giddings was one of those authors I read during the COVID lockdown, and we chased some programming that, due to the weirdness of that time when folks at home responded more enthusiastically than they normally did to our recommendations, turned out to be a great success. It was so great to meet Giddings in person, and to my delight, I encouraged the Boswellians to read The Women Could Fly and my colleague Oli turned out to be a huge fan. Watch the video of Giddings's Boswell visit here.

My completion program has been in my mind for a few years, after realizing I had started regularly reading Anne Tyler again after a two-book break. It came to a head last year when I read the missing entries for several of my favorite writers, including Michelle Huneven and Tom Perrotta, only to find out shortly afterwards that each had a new novel in 2022. I have gone on at length about Search, a shoo-in for one of my top favorite books of the year, and like for Giddings, I was thrilled to finally meet Huneven this spring. Search has been a hit not just with my fellow bookseller friends around the country, but with the extended Goldin household. Both my sisters read and loved it. 

While we didn't get the opportunity to host Tom Perrotta for Tracy Flick Can't Win (it usually stops just south of the Wisconsin state line), I finally realized, after listening to him talk about the book again this week on Here and Now (here's the recording) that in the post-COVID age, I could also talk to him virtually. How many other interviewers have read all eight of his novels and both collections of his stories? Will that give me a more insight than the professionals and the other authors who have all had a crack at Tracy Flick Can't Win? I doubt it, but I'm trying anyway - that virtual event is scheduled for Tuesday, September 29, 7 pm Central time. You can register here.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Emily Sullivan (virtual with Milwaukee Public Library), Elvia Wilk (virtual with Porchlight), and Carolyn J Eichner (at Boswell)

Tuesday, August 23, 6 pm
Emily Sullivan, author of The Hellion and the Hero
in conversation with Beth Gabriel and Rachel Copeland for a virtual event - click here to register! 

Join us for a virtual celebration of The Hellion & The Hero, the third book in Emily Sullivan’s critically-acclaimed League of Scoundrels series, hosted by Milwaukee Public Library and Boswell. Sullivan appears for a conversation with Beth Gabriel of Milwaukee Public Library and Rachel Copeland of Boswell.

Sullivan’s latest is a Persuasion-inspired second chance romance between a disillusioned naval hero and the dashing widow who once broke his heart. Lady Georgiana Arlington has always done what’s best for her family, even when it meant marrying a man she didn't love to save her father. Her husband’s death has left her stronger and bolder. When a mysterious enemy jeopardizes her livelihood, there’s only one person she can trust to help her uncover the threat: the same man she left heartbroken years ago. Captain Henry Harris, a decorated naval hero, will put both his body and his heart in danger for a second chance with the one woman he’s never been able to forget.

From the starred Booklist review: "Historical romance star Sullivan returns with another entrancing addition to her League of Scoundrels series that brilliantly showcases her mastery of deep characterization as well as her gift for crafting a wit-infused plot that effectively threads the needle between desire and danger without dropping a single stitch."

Emily Sullivan is an award-winning author of historical fiction set in the late Victorian period, including the novels of the League of Scoundrels series A Rogue to Remember and The Rebel and the Rake.

Wednesday, August 24, 6:00 pm
Elvia Wilk, author of Death by Landscape
in conversation with Sally Haldorson for a virtual event - click here to register

Boswell Book Company and Porchlight Book Company present a virtual event featuring Elvia Wilk, author of the novel Oval, for a conversation about her new work, Death by Landscape, a book of ‘fan nonfiction’ about living and writing in the age of extinction. In conversation with Sally Haldorson, Managing Director of Porchlight Book Company.

In Death by Landscape, Wilk questions what type of stories are being written to help us rethink our human-centric perspective and proposes a new, feminist genealogy for speculative fiction. In a constellation of essays, the book begins as an exploration of the role of fiction today and becomes a deep interrogation of the writing process and the self. Wilk examines creative works across time and genre in order to break down binaries between dystopia and utopia, real and imagined, self and world.

From the starred Publishers Weekly review: "Superb… Fiery…Elegant and powerful. This one packs a punch." And from Jonathan Lethem: "Perhaps 'essays' is too slight a description for Death by Landscape, which strikes me as the stealth memoir of a supertaster of the present moment - a citizen of our suffering species who has chosen storytelling as herarmor for survival. Whatever you call it, Wilk’s book strengthens me to go on with the essential work, and makes me awfully eager for her next."

Elvia Wilk is author of the novel Oval, and her work has appeared in publications like Artforum, Granta, and The Atlantic. She is a Contributing Editor at e-flux Journal and recipient of an Andy Warhol Arts Writers Grant and a fellowship at the Berggruen Institute.

Friday, August 26, 6:30 pm
Carolyn J Eichner, author of Feminism’s Empire and The Paris Commune
in-person at Boswell Book Company - click here to register!

Join us at Boswell for an evening of French Feminist history with Carolyn Eichner, author of Feminism's Empire and The Paris Commune, two books which reframe our understanding of France in the nineteenth century and how women shaped the country. Cohosted by UWM's Department of Women's and Gender Studies and Alliance Française de Milwaukee. Masks required at this event. We can provide a mask for you, but we'd love for you to bring yours from home. 

With Feminism's Empire, Eichner investigates the complex relationships between imperialisms and feminisms in the late nineteenth century and demonstrates the challenge of conceptualizing ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ imperialist as binary positions. Eichner explores how feminists opposed - yet employed - approaches to empire in writing, speaking, and publishing. In differing ways, they ultimately tied forms of imperialism to gender liberation. Margaret Cook Andersen, author of Regeneration through Empire, says: "Feminism's Empire expands concepts of imperialism beyond France's colonial holdings and brilliantly demonstrates how integral ideas of empire, race, and religion were in shaping articulations of French women's rights."

And in The Paris Commune, the first brief history of this event written in English in decades, Eichner considers a moment in history that began when Parisian women stepped between cannons and French soldiers, using their bodies to block the army from taking the artillery from their working-class neighborhood. Sarah Fishman, author of From Vichy to the Sexual Revolution, says: "This compelling account of the Paris Commune makes a complicated event understandable and vivid. Eichner’s rich portraits bring to life the freedom and empowerment the Communards experienced, juxtaposed with the bloody repression of its final days."

Carolyn J Eichner is also author of Surmounting the Barricades: Women in the Paris Commune. She is Professor of History and Women’s and Gender Studies at UWM.

Visit the Boswell upcoming events page for a look farther ahead.

Photo credits
Elvia Wilk by Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Boswell bestsellers, week ending August 20, 2022

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 20, 2022

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Women Could Fly, by Megan Giddings
2. Elizabeth Finch, by Julian Barnes
3. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
4. Heat 2, by Michael Mann
5. Horse, by Geraldine Brooks
6. Wrong Place, Wrong Time, by Gillian McAllister
7. All Good People Here, by Ashley Flowers
8. Upgrade, by Blake Crouch
9. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus
10. Mercury Pictures Presents, by Anthony Marra

Top debut this week is Julian Barnes's Elizabeth Finch, his first novel since 2018's The Only Story. I should warn you that while there are plenty of great reviews for this novel, there are a good number of negative reviews as well. I think the Kirkus, which is mixed, explains the book well: "A man processes his crush on a former teacher and the impact of what she taught. Late-period Barnes novels have either been tales of doomed love or intellectual persecution. This slim, contemplative, modestly successful novel blends those two themes."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Path Lit by Lightning, by David Maraniss
2. Life on the Mississippi, by Rinker Buck
3. Slenderman, by Kathleen Hale (Register for October 13 in-person event here)
4. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner
5. Slaying the Dragon, by Ben Riggs
6. All That Moves Us, by Jay Wellons
7. All of This, by Rebecca Woolf
8. Emperors of Byzantium, by Kevin Lygo
9. France, by Graham Robb
10. River of the Gods, by Candice Millard

All of This has gotten mostly positive reviews, but her sales strength will come from her prominence in the blogger space, where her fans include Roxane Gay, Rebecca Traister, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Jenny Lawson. From Library Journal: "What if you were planning to divorce your husband when suddenly he received a terminal diagnosis? From the opening salvo, Woolf makes it clear to readers that this is not going to be a traditional grief memoir. Rather, it is a forthright portrait of one marriage, and the things that came after."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Verity, by Colleen Hoover
2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
3. Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
4. Book Lovers, by Emily Henry
5. The Glass Hotel, by Emily St John Mandel
6. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
7. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
8. Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, by Rivka Galchen
9. Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead
10. The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle (Register for September 29 virtual event here)

While our bestseller list is not 60% Colleen Hoover the way the New York Times list is, our top book this week still is Verity, from Colleen Hoover, and as Atria releases some of her other titles, they are destined from our new and noteworthy tables at the front of the bookstore. A large print edition of Verity is planned by Grand Central for September. 

What with the attack on Salman Rushdie Buffalo's Chautauqua arts festival, there's some talk on locking down cultural institutions and perhaps another reason why certain authors who might have visited independent bookstores (that don't have budgets for massive security) might not in the future. There's also been a resurgence in sales for The Satanic Verses, the 1988 novel that led to the fatwa, both in paperback and hardcover. 

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
2. The Paris Commune, by Carolyn Eichner (Register for August 26 in-person event here)
3. When Pride Still Mattered, by David Maraniss
4. The Icepick Surgeon, by Sam Kean
5. This Is Your Mind on Plants, by Michael Pollan
6. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
7. The New Handbook for Post-Roe America, by Robin Marty
8. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
9. Death by Landscape, by Elvia Wilk (Register for August 24 virtual event here)
10. The Oregon Trail, by Rinker Buck

We are out of Braiding Sweetgrass as we had a book club purchase a quantity of copies. I guess we probably didn't expect when this book was published in 2013 that we would sell over 700 copies, which is probably a pittance compared to other bookstores.  Sure enough, there's at least one bookstore out West that has sold over 1300 copies in the last twelve months, and another that's sold over 1000.

Since Wisconsin is one of the states dealing with changes to reproductive rights, it's not a surprise that 2021's The New Handbook for Post-Roe America has seen strong sales.   

Books for Kids:
1. What Feelings Do When No One's Looking, by Tina Oziewicz, illustrations by Aleksandra Zajac
2, Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse, illustrations by Renée Graef
3. Noodle and the No Bones Day, by Jonathan Graziano, illustrations by Dan Tavis
4. The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster!, by Mo Willems
5. Magic Tree House: Mummies in the Morning graphic novel, by Mary Pope Osborne, adapted by Jenny Laird
6. Berry Song, by Michaela Goode
7. She Gets the Girl, by Rachel Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
8. Heartstopper V1, by Alice Oseman
9. The Belly Button Book, by Sandra Boynton
10. See You Yesterday, by Rachel Lynn Solomon

There are several unusual things about What Feelings Do When No One's Looking, the big hit from our kids emotions table. For one thing, it's published by an indie, Elsewhere Editions. For another, it prominently lists the translator, Jennifer Croft, on the book jacket. It's a rare thing, though there's been a lot of push for translators to get more credit. Boswellian Tim's staff rec calls this book "brilliant," and clearly others agree - it was featured on the kids Indie Next list for July-August.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Four exciting upcoming events! Megan Giddings and Rinker Buck (both at Boswell), David Maraniss at MPL, and Christine Simon for Readings from Oconomowaukee

Monday, August 15, 6:30 pm
Megan Giddings, author of The Women Could Fly
in-person at Boswell - follow this link to register! 

Boswell is pleased to host Megan Giddings, author of Lakewood, for an evening featuring her second novel, The Women Could Fly, a rich blend of fantasy and sharp social commentary that explores the limits patriarchy puts on women and the powers women use to transcend.

Josephine Thomas is contacted by her mother, who disappeared when she was a child and became a famous true crime story that Jo and her father had to live through. And like the rest of America, they don't know if she was kidnapped, murdered, or worse - a witch. Meanwhile, Jo’s future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30 or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has her never understood her mother more.

Reminiscent of the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Octavia Butler, a biting social commentary from the acclaimed author of Lakewood that speaks to our times - a piercing dystopian novel about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her mysterious mother, set in a world in which witches are real and single women are closely monitored.

Megan Giddings is author of Lakewood, one of New York Magazine's top ten books of 2020, an NPR Best Book of 2020, and a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards. She is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and her writing has received funding and support from the Barbara Deming Foundation and Hedgebrook.

Tuesday, August 16, 6:30 pm

Boswell hosts an evening with journalist and adventurer Rinker Buck, author of books such as The Oregon Trail and Flight of Passage, for a conversation about his latest, Life on the Mississippi, an enchanting blend of history and personal travelogue in which Buck builds an authentic wooden flatboat from the early 1800s and pilots it down the Mississippi River, from Pittsburgh to New Orleans.

A modern-day Huck Finn, Buck casts off down the river on the flatboat accompanied by an eccentric crew of daring shipmates. Over the course of his voyage, Buck steers his fragile wooden craft through narrow channels dominated by massive cargo barges, rescues his first mate gone overboard, sails blindly through fog, breaks his ribs not once but twice, and camps every night on sandbars, remote islands, and steep levees. As he charts his own journey, he also delivers a richly satisfying work of history that brings to life the bygone flatboat era of the early 1800s, illuminating the forgotten past of America’s first western frontier.

From the starred Kirkus review: "An invigorating blend of history and journalism informs this journey down Old Man River… Besides being a willing and intrepid traveler, Buck is also an able interpreter of history, and it’s clear that he’s devoured a library of Mississippiana. It all makes for an entertaining journey in the manner of William Least Heat-Moon, John McPhee, and other traveler-explainers. For armchair-travel aficionados and frontier-history buffs, it doesn’t get much better."

Rinker Buck author of The Oregon Trail, Flight of Passage, and First Job. He has written for Vanity Fair, New York, Life, and many other publications, and his work has won the PEN New England Award, the Eugene S Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award, and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award.

Wednesday, August 17, 6:30 pm
David Maraniss, author of Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe
In-Person at the Milwaukee Public Library Centennial Hall, 733 N Eighth St - click here to register. 

Boswell Book Company presents the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Maraniss, author of bestselling books such as When Pride Still Mattered, for a presentation featuring his latest book, Path Lit by Lightning, a new biography of America’s greatest all-around athlete. Cohosted by Milwaukee Public Library.

Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played major league baseball for John McGraw’s New York Giants. Even in a golden age of sports celebrities, he was one of a kind. But despite his colossal skills, Thorpe’s life was a struggle against the odds. As a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he encountered duplicitous authorities who turned away from him when their reputations were at risk. But for all his travails, Thorpe did not succumb. The man survived, complications and all, and so did the myth.

From biographer Jane Leavy, author of The Big Fella: "David Maraniss brilliantly rescues Jim Thorpe from myth and prejudice, restoring something more consequential than the Olympic medals stolen from him by small men - his humanity. This is another masterpiece from the master of biography."

David Maraniss is Associate Editor at The Washington Post, a distinguished visiting professor at Vanderbilt University, and author of bestselling biographies of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Roberto Clemente, and Vince Lombardi. His book They Marched into Sunlight was winner of the J Anthony Lucas Prize and Pulitzer Finalist in History.

Thursday, August 18, 7 pm
Christine Simon, author of The Patron Saint of Second Chances
in conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for a virtual event - click here to register now!

Readings from Oconomowaukee, the event series that puts authors in conversation with booksellers, hosts its August edition with an evening featuring Christine Simon, author of The Patron Saint of Second Chances, a charming debut in which the self-appointed mayor of a tiny Italian village is determined to save his hometown no matter the cost. Perfect for fans of Fredrik Backman and Maria Semple.

And be sure to order your copy of The Patron Saint of Second Chances now as well. Click here to order from Boswell. Or, click here and order from Books & Company.

Vacuum repairman and self-appointed mayor of Prometto, Italy (population 212) Signor Speranza has a problem: unless he can come up with 70,000 euros to fix the town’s pipes, the water commission will shut off the water to the village and all its residents will be forced to disperse. So in a bid to boost tourism and revenue he spreads a harmless rumor that movie star Dante Rinaldi will be filming his next project nearby. Unfortunately, the plan works a little too well, and soon everyone in town wants to be a part of the fictional film.

The early praise for Simon’s novel is glowing! From Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Better Luck Next Time: "The Patron Saint of Second Chances is a rare treasure: both hilariously funny and beautifully written. I was sad to say goodbye to these delightful, large-hearted characters when I turned the final page. Sequel, please." And from People magazine: "A charming farce that highlights the triumph of hope and community in an often unforgiving world."

Christine Simon is a debut author who grew up in a very large (and very loud!) Italian family.

Photo credits
Rinker Buck by Dan Corjulo
David Maraniss by Linda Maraniss
Christine Simon by Juliet Simon

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 13, 2022

Boswell Bestsellers for the week ending August 13, 2022

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Women Could Fly, by Megan Giddings (Register for August 15 event here)
2. The Good Left Undone, by Adriana Trigiani
3. Upgrade, by Bake Crouch
4. The Rabbit Hutch, by Tess Gunty
5. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabriel Zevin
6. Mercury Pictures Presents, by Antyhony Marra
7. Heat 2, by Michael Mann
8. Horse, by Geraldine Brooks
9. All This Could Be Different, by Sarah Thankam Mathews
10. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus

Our top debut this week actually came out August 2 and hit the indie bestseller lists last week. So why were all our sales, and it was a decent number, delayed to week #2? I have no idea why. We read Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena for our In-Store Lit Group in 2013 and I enjoyed it. So I'm not sure why I didn't read Mercury Pictures Presents early, except who has the time in the day? Book Marks scores it six raves, four positives, two mixed, with one rave being from Ron Charles in The Washington Post, who was also thinking about novel #1, one of his faves.: "The author’s fans, who include former president Barack Obama, will recognize his elegant resolution of tangled disasters, his heartbreaking poignancy, his eye for historical curiosities that exceed the parameters of fiction. But the emotional range here is narrower, the record of human cruelty more subtle. And if Mercury Pictures Presents doesn’t generate the impact of  A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, well, that’s an impossibly high standard."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. A Path Lit by Lightning, by David Maraniss (Register for August 17 MPL event here)
2. Happy-Go-Lucky, by David Sedaris
3. Life on the Mississippi, by Rinker Buck (Register for August 16 event here)
4. Slenderman, by Kathleen Hale (Register for October 13 event here)
5. France, by Graham Robb
6. Plant Based India, by Sheil Shukla
7. Slaying the Dragon, by Benn Riggs
8. Life in Light, by Mary Pipher
9. I'm Glad My Mom Died, by Jennette McCurdy
10. Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner

I was talking to Parker about I'm Glad My Mom Died (a big fan!) and they noted, when I brought up the Ariana Grande stuff, that this was simply clickbait and McCurdy's true thoughts about Sam and Kat were more nuanced. I don't usually think of these memoirs coming from folks who are no longer acting - one can only image if HarperCollins had published a Anna Chlumsky memoir when she temporarily left acting for University of Chicago and an editorial assistant job at Harper Voyager (or probably at the time Eos). She could have edited it herself, but where would we be without Veep? I am currently watching Veep, did you figure that out?

I'm Glad My Mom Died did not get a Book Marks listing (who makes this decision?) but it nonetheless had starred reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, which offered: " Despite the provocative title, McCurdy shows remarkable sympathy for her mother, even when she recalls discovering that the man she called Dad while growing up was not, in fact, her biological father. Insightful and incisive, heartbreaking and raw, McCurdy's narrative reveals a strong woman who triumphs over unimaginable pressure to emerge whole on the other side. Fans will be rapt." By the way, Parker also gave it a star.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead
2. Book Lovers, by Emily Henry
3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
4. Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro
5. Verity, by Colleen Hover
6. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
7. The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner
8. Bookish People, by Susan J. Coll
9. Recursion, by Blake Crouch
10. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Yes, we've got authors with multiple books in this top ten, but no, neither is Colleen Hoover - instead it's Taylor Jenkins Reid (still BookTok) and Blake Crouch (from his visit). Our debut this week is Bookish People, by Susan J. Coll, which several customers have already talked to me about. I'm not the buyer, so I don't get the inside scoop, but Harper Muse, her imprint, is the fiction line of Harper Colins Focus, which I think is some of the collection of Nashville imprints that were at Thomas Nelson, which got combined with the Zondervan Christian imprint. The book is an August Indie Next Pick. From Jan Danielson Kaiser at Beaverdale Books (which I have visited!): "Coll captures the loveable mix of quirky customers, booksellers, and writers who bring a bookstore to life. Fast-paced, hilarious, and insightful..."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Behind the Horror, by Lee Mellors
2. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
3. Educated, by Tara Westover
4. The National's Boxer, by Ryan Pinkard (33 1/3)
5. How to Focus, by Thich Nhat Hanh
6. The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson
7. Covered with Light, by Nicole Eustace
8. When Pride Still Mattered, by David Maraniss (Register for August 17 MPL event here)
9. Little Hawk and the Lone Wolf, by Raymond C Kaquatosh
10. The Oregon Trail, by Rinker Buck (Register for August 16 event here)

Talk about off my radar! We only sold one copy of Behind the Horror: True Stories That Inspired Horror Movies in its first 6 months of sale in 2020, but since then we've sold 39 more, mostly off Madi's rec shelf. What film was based on the crimes of Wisconsin's Ed Gein? I guess I would have to read the book to find out. Or listen to the podcast. Or ask Madi.

Books for Kids:
1. Hide and Don't Seek, by Anica Mrose Rissi
2. Starfish, by Lissa Fipps 
3. Radium Girls young reader's edition, by Kate Moore
4. Rhino in Right Field, by Stacy Dekeyser
5. We're Not from Here, by Geoff Rodkey
6. Solimar, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
7. Paradise on Fire, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
8. Pie in the Sky, by Remy Lai
9. Blackbird Girls, by Anne Blankman
10. Saucy, by Cynthia Kadohata

One book on this list that is fairly new is Pam Muñoz Ryan's Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs from the author of Esperanza Rising. This novel, which came out in February, has raves from the advance reviews including the Publishers Weekly critic, who notes that Ryan "wields fairy tale charm in this rousing fantasy about a young Mexican royal who must protect her home and its rich natural resources from invading forces just before her quinceañera and official coronation." School Library Journal adds: "The story is rich with vibrant imagery, suspense, and humor."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins offers a review of Slenderman - Kathleen Hale is visiting on October 13 (register here). Normally these events are close to pub date, but our event ties in to the Madison appearance at the Wisconsin Book Festival. From the piece: "In terms of reader attention and narrative sympathy, this tilts the book toward Morgan and the Geysers. In one respect, that fits what I believe is Hale's primary thesis: that from early in her life, Morgan suffered from undiagnosed and untreated schizophrenia, and was let down by the adults in her life, starting with her parents, then her teachers and school leaders, and later by the justice system. Prosecuting her as an adult, and focusing on her legal competency for trial rather than her mental illness, delayed getting her necessary treatment for her schizophrenia, Hale argues."

On Lake Effect this week, Amy Waldman talks about the book of the month - Ha Jin's A Song Everlasting. From Amy: “[The book] showed, in a way that I haven’t seen in any of the other books I’ve read, the impact of the state on an individual life and the way the personal becomes political. Even if you don’t intend it to."

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Season of Witches - Megan Giddings, Sangu Mandanna, Bianca Marais

The Season of Witches

Over the years at Boswell, and probably since bookstores existed, there has been interest in books about witches. I’m not talking about nonfiction books here, but fictional narratives. I think it’s because witches often stand in for other-ness, female strength, and prejudice, reaching back to the time of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and beyond. There’s also a long tradition of witches in popular culture, and cultural icons often work their way into contemporary literature. Some of the favorites since Boswell has been open have been The Discovery of Witches and its sequels, from Deborah Harkness, and We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry. But this year we have not one or two, but three witchly titles which have cast their spell on us, and it isn’t even Halloween.

First up is Megan Giddings’s The Women Could Fly. Giddings uses witch culture to shine a mirror on contemporary society. In Jo Thomas’s America, witchcraft is banned, and punishable by death, and in almost all cases it’s women who are the guilty parties. Haunting her is the disappearance of her mother 14 years, but it’s never been clear exactly what happened. So when Jo is given the opportunity to visit an island in Lake Superior that is said to have her mother’s inheritance, she decides to take on the quest. Giddings takes on all sorts of philosophical questions in her novel, which becomes as much about mother and daughter as it is about the race, class, and gender conflict.

I finished the book was blown away by way Giddings created a world of beauty and discomfort. So much of the story takes place inside Jo’s head – the voice is so powerful. I love the way she plays with genre, and despite it being a very different novel than Lakewood, it is clear that they are from the same writer’s imagination. The Women Could Fly has received raves from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Star Tribune. Perhaps we’ll see a repeat year-end performance of her first novel, Lakewood, which was an NPR best book I 2020, and a finalist for an NAACP image award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for in the science fiction, fantasy, and speculative category. Also like Lakewood, The Women Could Fly is being compared to the work of Margaret Atwood. And The Women Could Fly is already in development for a streaming series.

Megan Giddings is at Boswell this Monday, August 15, 6:30 pm. Register at

Next up is Sandu Mandanna’s The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. Mandanna is best known for her Kiki Kallira series of middle grade novels. She’s also written for the YA market. It looks like her latest is her first adult romance and it’s a smash. Rachel discovered this one. Here’s her recommendation:

“Mika Moon is lonely; it's the reality of being a modern witch. When she's invited to a mysterious place called Nowhere House to tutor three young witches, she should refuse, but she doesn't. In a house run by a housekeeper, a groundskeeper and his retired actor husband, and a grumpy (and gorgeous) librarian for an absentee archeologist who fosters the girls, Mika is the only person who can help the girls control their magic. Now all Mika has to do is keep the girls' feet on the ground (literally!) and her heart guarded from something she shouldn't want - to love and be loved. Finally, a witch book that really nails it! The magic in this book is that perfect balance of wicca-ish and Sabrina the Teenage Witch silliness, but the real winner is the human element of found family. Mandanna's writing is relentlessly charming - mark me down as devotee!”

From the rave review in Kirkus: “From the three magical girls to the elderly gay caretakers to the hot, young Irish librarian, each resident of Nowhere House is a lovingly crafted outcast reaching for family. Various threads laid out seemingly haphazardly through the story all come together in surprising ways in the last 30 pages for a finale worthy of the tale that preceded it. A magical tale about finding yourself and making a found family that will leave the reader enchanted.” As you can see from this review, TJ Klune fans should pick this one up.

Once again I am grateful for Zoom, that puts authors across the pond on our screens. We’re doing a special conversation with Mandanna on Saturday, September 10, 11 am Central time, which is 5 pm British Time. We’ve heard from other stores that these Saturday morning virtual events are quite popular. Let us know what you think, as if this works, we’ll likely be scheduling more. Register for Sandu Mandanna’s event here.

Finally, there is Bianca Marais’s The Witches of Moonshyne Manor: A Witchy Rom-Com Novel. For those of you who loved Bianca Marais’s first two novels, Hum if You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, this newest novel might seem like a bit of a left turn, but don’t worry, the storytelling is still first rate. Tim McCarthy was our first reader on this one, and he offered his enthusiastic take:

“Oh, man! By that I mean oh, how does a man review a book like this!? Let's start (and end) with the fact that I loved every minute. I loved the characters, and the plot twists, and the very verbal crow. Most of all, I loved the sense that Marais was having as much fun writing as I was reading about a sisterhood of glorious old witches with a long history in a town that’s been mostly ok with them, until something changes. Now their manor and their popular distillery are being attacked by a mob of irrational townsmen (go figure), and reliving their own tragic past could offer them either salvation or destruction. They’re not sure which. Enter the Mayor’s spiky-haired teenage daughter and her dog named Ruth Bader Ginsburg and you’ve got the setup for a lovely riot. So take a break from our very strange real world and pour yourself into this spellbound concoction of laughter and full-blown feminist power, mixed with suspense and dashes of potent wisdom likely to fly into my thoughts forevermore.”

Library Journal chimes in: “Marais's latest is a quirky Golden Girls with wands that explores women's empowerment, friendship, and loyalty and addresses racial equality, identity, and gender fluidity. A timely, fun modern-day fable about women who refuse to conform.

We don’t have this event quite nailed down yet, but the revamped Women’s Speaker Series, beloved by many of our North Shore readers, is putting together a program with Bianca Marais. There will be a new venue for the program, as COVID restrictions have limited the use of the Lynden Sculpture Garden gallery space. We’ll have details soon, but for now, mark your calendars for September 20.

And that’s August and September. One can only imagine what’s on the docket for October!

Monday, August 8, 2022

Mark your calendars! Colson Whitehead for Harlem Shuffle paperback (virtual), Tess Gunty (in person), Sarah Thankam Mathews (virtual), Black Crouch (in person), and Megan Giddings (in person)

Tuesday, August 9, 7 pm
Colson Whitehead, author of Harlem Shuffle
in conversation with Adam Serwer for a virtual event - click here to register.

Boswell Book Company is pleased to present a ticketed virtual event featuring the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead to celebrate the paperback release of his latest bestselling novel, Harlem Shuffle. This event is cohosted by several other premier bookstores across America. In conversation with Adam Serwer, staff writer at The Atlantic.

Tickets for this this virtual broadcast costs $14.35 plus tax and ticket fee and include admission to the virtual event and a paperback copy of Harlem Shuffle that you can pick up at Boswell after the event. Or we’ll ship your copy to you via USPS media mail within the contiguous United States only for an extra charge. A link to the Zoom webinar will be sent out before the event starts.

Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle is a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s. Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked. To his customers and neighbors on 125th Street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife, Elizabeth, are expecting their second child. Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. When his cousin is involved in a heist gone wrong, the internal struggle begins between Ray the striver and Ray the crook.

Here’s Boswellian Tim McCarthy’s take on the novel: "Whitehead starkly defines his characters' world as he unwraps their stories with a direct, graceful style and unique symbolism. I met him once at a Boswell Book Company event. I saw the genius in his eyes; the sincerity, too. And he’s funny! Once again, he drops us into another time. Harlem, 1959, was a much harder place than the one where I was born (that same year). I like Ray, and in Whitehead’s masterful hands he becomes real. I haven’t read a better American novelist, living or dead. He stands with James Baldwin, Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, and E. L. Doctorow. Back-to-back Pulitzers ain’t bad. By giving us the past, Whitehead leads us toward the future. He's the new King of American historical fiction, the new voice as powerful as Doctorow’s. The torch of greatness has been passed."

Colson Whitehead is the New York Times bestselling author of ten works of fiction and nonfiction, a recipient of MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, and is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Nickel Boys and The Underground Railroad, which also won the National Book Award.

Tess Gunty, author of The Rabbit Hutch
in conversation with Chris Lee, in-person at Boswell Book Company
Wednesday, August 10, 6:30 pm - click here to register

Boswell hosts an evening with Tess Gunty who visits with her debut novel, The Rabbit Hutch, a stunning story of four teenagers who’ve recently aged out of the state foster-care system and live together in an apartment building in the post-industrial Midwest. Great for fans of Rachel Kushner, Emma Cline, and Ottessa Moshfegh. In conversation with Chris Lee of Boswell, who sat down with Gunty recently for a pre-event mini-chat. Click here and check that out, because once you do, you'll barely be able to wait for this event!

The auto industry has abandoned Vacca Vale, Indiana, leaving the residents behind, too. In a run-down building commonly known as the Rabbit Hutch, a number of people now reside quietly, looking for ways to live in a dying city. Teenaged Blandine is plagued by the structures, people, and places that not only failed her but actively harmed her. Now all she wants is an escape, a true bodily escape like the mystics describe in the books she reads. Set across one week and culminating in a shocking act of violence, The Rabbit Hutch is a cerebral, Gothic page-turner that chronicles a town on the brink, desperate for rebirth.

Raven Leilani, author of Luster, says: "Gunty writes with a keen, sensitive eye about all manner of intimacies - the kind we build with other people, and the kind we cultivate around ourselves and our tenuous, private aspirations." And Boswellian Chris Lee says The Rabbit Hutch is a strong contender for his top book of the year. His review: "Wow. Wonderful, insane, brilliant, and I love, love, love it. Rust belt, Indiana, where the denizens of a crumbling apartment building are desperate to transcend their crumbling lives; to transcend trauma, forgottenness, and fame, to transcend the emptiness of material circumstances. To transcend the body. This book is ALIVE. The lives within it pop, scream, and bleed of the page."

Tess Gunty earned an MFA in creative writing from NYU, where she was a Lillian Vernon Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Joyland, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Thursday, August 11, 7 pm
Sarah Thankam Mathews, author of All This Could Be Different
in conversation with Dawnie Walton for a virtual event - click here to register.

Boswell is pleased to host a virtual event featuring UW graduate Sarah Thankam Mathews, author of All This Could Be Different, an electrifying debut novel of a young immigrant building a life for herself in Milwaukee among a landscape of queer love, friendship, work, and precarity. Cohosted by A Room of One’s Own in Madison. In conversation with Dawnie Walton, the author of The Final Revival of Opal and Nev.

Graduating into the long maw of an American recession, Sneha is one of the fortunate ones. She’s moved to Milwaukee for an entry-level corporate job that, grueling as it may be, is the key that unlocks every door: she can pick up the tab at dinner with her new friend Tig, get her college buddy Thom hired alongside her, and send money to her parents back in India. She also has a crush on Marina, a beguiling and beautiful dancer who always seems just out of reach. But painful secrets rear their heads, jobs go off the rails, and evictions loom.

A beautiful, capacious novel All This Could Be Different is a wise, tender, and
riveting group portrait of young people forging love and community amidst struggle, and a moving story of one immigrant’s journey to make her home in the world. From Susan Choi, author of Trust Exercise: "Some books are merely luminous - this one is iridescent: with joy and pain,

isolation and communion, solemnity and irreverent humor. Even the title has twin meanings. 'All this could be different' is a sorrowing observation of our contemporary precarity, but 'All this could be different' is equally - and ultimately - a declaration, an electrifying act of resistance."

Sarah Thankam Mathews grew up between Oman and India, immigrating to the United States at seventeen. She is a recipient of a Best American Short Stories 2020 award and fellowships from the Asian American Writers Workshop and the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Friday, August 12, 6:30 pm
Blake Crouch, author of Upgrade
in conversation with Jon Jordan, in-person at Boswell - click here to reserve your space now.

Boswell hosts an evening with Blake Crouch, author of hit sci-fi thrillers such as Dark Matter and Recursion, for a conversation about his mind-blowing new novel, Upgrade, in which an ordinary man undergoes a startling transformation and soon fears all of humanity may be next. In conversation with Jon Jordan, cofounder of Crimespree Magazine.

Logan Ramsay can feel his brain changing. His body too. He’s becoming something that might be beyond human. As he sets out to discover who did this to him, and why, his transformation threatens everything - his family, job, even his freedom. His DNA has been rewritten with a genetic-engineering breakthrough beyond anything the world has seen, one that could change our very definitions of humanity. And the battle to control this unfathomable power has already begun.

The Boswellians love Crouch’s Upgrade! From Jason Kennedy: "The science is fascinating as always with his books, and the dire warnings are completely well researched and accurate. Another blast of a book from Blake Crouch." From Kay Wosewick: "Crouch has outdone himself. The scope and depth of Crouch’s research is the engine that makes Upgrade feel vividly real." And from Jenny Chou: "Not only is Upgrade a fast-paced thriller, but author Blake Crouch takes a deep dive into the science of DNA. So much of this book is food for thought!"

Blake Crouch is author of books such as Recursion, Dark Matter, and the Wayward Pines trilogy, which was adapted into a television series for FOX. Crouch is a screenwriter and co-created the TNT show Good Behavior.

Megan Giddings, author of The Women Could Fly
in-person at Boswell
Monday, August 15, 6:30 pm - click here to register

Boswell is pleased to host Megan Giddings, author of Lakewood, for an evening featuring her second novel, The Women Could Fly, a rich blend of fantasy and sharp social commentary that explores the limits patriarchy puts on women and the powers women use to transcend.

Josephine Thomas is contacted by her mother, who disappeared when she was a child and became a famous true crime story that Jo and her father had to live through. And like the rest of America, they don't know if she was kidnapped, murdered, or worse - a witch. Meanwhile, Jo’s future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of 30 or enroll in a registry that allows them to be monitored. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has her never understood her mother more.

Reminiscent of the works of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson, and Octavia Butler, a biting social commentary from the acclaimed author of Lakewood that speaks to our times - a piercing dystopian novel about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her mysterious mother, set in a world in which witches are real and single women are closely monitored.

Megan Giddings is author of Lakewood, one of New York Magazine's top ten books of 2020, an NPR Best Book of 2020, and a finalist for two NAACP Image Awards. She is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and her writing has received funding and support from the Barbara Deming Foundation and Hedgebrook. 

A note from Daniel - this is another great week of events (every book has a staff rec, some have multiples!), but there are several books here that are near and dear to our heart. You'll be hearing more from me about Megan Giddings! Thanks to Rachel for transcribing and formatting the blog post.

Photo credits: 
Colson Whitehead by Chris Close
Sarah Thankam Matthews by Dondre Stuetley
Blake Crouch by Matthew Staver