Sunday, January 29, 2023

Boswell bestsellers, week ending January 28, 2023

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 28, 2023

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt
2. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy (3 editions)
3. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus
4. Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
5. The Passenger, by Cormac McCarthy
6. How to Sell a Haunted House, by Grady Hendrix
7. The Shards, by Bret Easton Ellis
8. Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries, by Heather Fawcett
9. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
10. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone, by Benjamin Stevensonn

It turns out there are weeks in publishing where pretty much nothing that makes a dent in our bestseller lists are released. It's the second week in our top ten for Bret Easton Ellis's The Shards, which got five raves, seven positives, five mixed, and three pans on Lit Hub.  From Sam Byers in The Guardian: "Others before Ellis have attempted to retool the serial narrative for the internet age. Nothing has felt quite as thrilling as Ellis’s year-long, hour-by-hour performance of The Shards" (on his podcast.)

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Creative Act, by Rick Rubin
2. Rough Sleepers, by Tracy Kidder
3. Your Table Is Ready, by Michael Cecchi Azzolina
4. South to America, by Imani Perry
5. Path Lit by Lightning, by David Maraniss
6. Life on Delay, by John Hedrickson
7. The Good Life, by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz
8. Unraveling, by Peggy Orenstein
9. What's for Dessert?, by Claire Saffitz
10. Spare, by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex

It's the second week out for Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O'Connell's Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People. Much like Tracy Kidder followed Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains, the new book looks at O'Connell's work as a doctor with homeless people in Boston. From Alex Kotlowitz: "I’m in awe of this book. I’m in awe of Jim O’Connell. What a compellingly beautiful, inspiring read."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by Shehan Karunatilaka
2. Pandora, by Susan Chapman Stokes
3. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
4. Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
5. Nothing to Hide, by Elizabeth George
6. The Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
7. The Priory of the Orange Tree, by Samantha Shannon
8. A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas
9. In the Woods, by Tana French
10. The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman

From the publisher on paperback original Pandora, breaking into our top 10 on its second week of publication: "A rich historical novel steeped in mystery set in Georgian London where the discovery of a mysterious ancient Greek vase sets in motion conspiracies, revelations, and romance." There's a nice roundup for the book in The Washington Post, but I never know whether the author of these in-shorts reads each title. It was a (UK) Sunday Times number one bestseller.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf
2. All About Love, by bell hooks
3. The Good Country, by Jon K. Lauck (see below)
4. Brewtown Tales, by John Gurda
5. The Bright Ages, by Matthew Gabriele and David M Perry
6. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
7. Rough Magic, by Jonathan Gillard Daly
8. Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest, by Teresa Marrone
9. Walking Milwaukee, by Royal Brevvaxling and Molly Snyder
10. Tacky, by Rax King

We're pretty quiet for in-person programming in the first half of February but Jon K. Lauck is doing a Midwestern tour for The Good Country, his history of the Midwest. Bill Glauber profiled Lauck in the Journal Sentinel, and will be the conversation partner for his Wednesday, February 1, 6:30 pm event. Don't forget to register at  

Books for Kids:
1. Finding Mighty, by Sheela Chari
2. One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake
3. White Smoke, by Tiffany D. Jackson
4. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse and Renée Graef
5. The Stolen Heir, by Holly Black
6. They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera
7. Peekaboo Love, by Camilla Reid, illustrations by Ingela Arrhenius
8. Peekaboo Apple, by Camilla Reid, illustrations by Ingela Arrhenius
9. Spaced Out, by Stuart Gibbs
10. Waste of Space, by Stuart Gibbs

Sometimes its hard to distinguish the series from former YA authors (Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo are listed above) and current YA authors like Holly Black, who nonetheless have a very strong audience from adult readers. It seems that a good portion of Boswell has read and enjoyed Holly Black's latest, The Stolen Heir, and only have a year to wait before #2 comes out, The Prisoner's Throne. I can't quote traditional reviews, even from PW, Library Journal, Kirkus, or Booklist - probably because they didn't offer advance copies. Jenny found the rec card from Oli Schmitz: " This delightfully dark adventure in Faerie is a story with a bite ...and some truly satisfying twists."

As of this week, the Monday upcoming event post will now be on The Boswellians blog. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 21, 2023

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 21, 2023

Hardcover Fiction:
1. How to Sell a Haunted House, by Grady Hendrix
2. Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
3. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
4. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus
5. All This Could be Different, by Sarah Thankam Mathews
6. Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries, by Heather Fawcett
7. Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan
8. Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone, by Benjamin Stevenson
9. Vintage Contemporaries, by Dan Kois (watch the video here)
10. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy

This week's top debut is Boswell favorite Grady Hendrix's How to Sell a Haunted House. Or so I thought - we don't have an official rec from a bookseller yet. But at Book Marks, there are five raves and two positive reviews, including this from Danielle Trussoni in The New York Times: "Grady Hendrix’s horror novels are a gateway drug to the genre, bridging the warm and cozy...with the harder stuff."

I should also give a shout out to Emily Wilde's Encyclopaeida of Faeries, the new novel from Heather Fawcett that my colleague Jenny is already proclaiming to be one of her favorite books of 2023. And it's only January!  

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Spare, by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
2. The Creative ACT, by Rick Rubin
3. A Waiter in Paris, by Edward Chisholm (Register for Feb 16 virtual event here)
4. What If 2, by Randall Munroe
5. Dinner in One, by Melissa Clark
6. South to America, by Imani Perry
7. I'm Glad My Mom Died, by Jenette McCurdy
8. Wintering, by Katherine May (Register for Feb 21 virtual event here)
9. The Philosophy of Modern Song, by Bob Dylan
10. Birds and Us, by Tim Birkhead (watch the video here)

I find it odd that I watched a cable feature on Rick Rubin without understanding that it was tied to a new book, The Creative ACT: A Way of Being. From the publisher: "From the legendary music producer, a master at helping people connect with the wellsprings of their creativity, comes a beautifully crafted book many years in the making that offers that same deep wisdom to all of us." Rubin has worked with the Beastie Boys, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Adele, Lana Del Rey, Johnny Cash, and more. Dave Shiflett in The Wall Street Journal notes that Rubin "offers an interesting alternative to internet bickering and similar modern maladies: creating art. While he isn’t pitching The Creative Act as a guidebook for national rejuvenation, his relentlessly positive message may help readers shed a few blood-pressure points and possibly suspend plans to jump off the nearest cliff."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Ms. Demeanor, by Elinor Lipman (watch the video here)
2. Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
3. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4. Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
5. The Maid, by Nita Prose
6. Beautiful World, Where Are You?, by Sally Rooney
7. All's Well, by Mona Awad
8. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
9. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna
10. Death at Greenway, by Lori Rader Day

It's been out since last August in paperback, but I don't think we've highlighted Mona Awad's All's Well, a favorite of our buyer Jason ("I loved every minute of this crazy, amazing novel - Mona Awad is madly creative and inventive.") Only one pan on Book Marks, from Publishers Weekly, the new bad boy of advance reviewing (replacing Kirkus). Booklist offered a rave: "A brilliant noir comedy about art and illness... Awad’s characters are deliciously over the top and impossible to forget, as is the author’s gift for morbid humor. The real magic of this novel lies in Awad’s ability to draw the Shakespearean irony out of contemporary tragedy ... Endlessly thought-provoking and not to be missed."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Brewtown Tales, by John Gurda
2. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan (register for March 7 in-person event - space limited!)
3. The Bright Ages, by Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry
4. All About Love, by bell hooks
5. Adolescents and Their Social Media Narratives, by Jill Walsh

Off the new paperback table comes The Bright Ages: A New History of the Middle Ages, by Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry. From Slate: "The beauty and levity that Perry and Gabriele have captured in this book are what I think will help it to become a standard text for general audiences for years to come….The Bright Ages is a rare thing - a nuanced historical work that almost anyone can enjoy reading.” Plus The Boston Globe called The Bright Ages "Incandescent and ultimately intoxicating." We have a bookseller who likes medieval history - I'd be surprised we don't have a rec on this, but as I've mentioned before, it's hard for us to get a hold of advance copies of serious nonfiction.

Books for Kids:
1. The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon, by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Sean Rubin
2. Every Day's a Holiday, by Stef Wade, illustrations by Husna Aghniya
3. Moving to Mars, by Stef Wade, illustrations by Erin Taylor
4. A Place for Pluto, by Stef Wade, illustrations by Melanie Demmer
5. Bat and the End of Everything V3, by Elana K Arnold (Register for Feb 14 in person event here!)

It's school visit season! That's all I have to say about that.

Bubbling under is yet another book it the Peekaboo series from Camilla Reid and Ingela P. Arrhenius. Peekaboo Apple is focused on nature, and comes complete with the slider mechanism and the last-page mirror.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Three upcoming events: Elinor Lipman for Ms. Demeanor at Boswell, Tim Birkhead for Birds and Us (virtual), and Dan Kois for Vintage Contemporaries (virtual)

Three events this week - two virtual and one in person!

Elinor Lipman, author of Ms. Demeanor
in conversation with Daniel Goldin and Nancy Quinn at Boswell
Tuesday, January 17, 6:30 pm - click here to register

Boswell is happy to welcome Elinor Lipman back to the store for a conversation about her new novel, Ms. Demeanor, which is a delicious and witty romantic comedy about love under house arrest - for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Maria Semple, and Linda Holmes. In conversation with Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company and former Schwartz bookseller Nancy Quinn.

When attorney Jan is caught by a nosy neighbor having sex on the roof of her apartment building, she’s sentenced to a 6-month house arrest in her apartment. She's bored and lonely until a doorman lets slip that Jane isn't the only resident wearing an ankle monitor. Soon, she strikes up a friendship with a white-collar felon neighbor. Can her house arrest have a silver lining? Can two wrongs make a right?

From Cathleen Schine: ""Elinor Lipman, she of the lightest touch and quickest wit, has written a novel to delight even the weariest, wariest soul of our times. Art, food, real estate - New York City rises enthusiastically to embrace the reader. And the characters rise to embrace each other. Lockdowns morph into charming English villages, and love, as it must, wins out. An enchantment I, for one, really needed."

Schine has her own novel with COVID inspirations coming out in March called Künstlers in Paradise. It's good, says Daniel.

And here’s Daniel’s take on Ms. Demeanor: "When is a COVID novel not a COVID novel? When it’s about a lawyer under house arrest for having sex on a private rooftop, only to be spotted by a snoopy neighbor. Yes, it’s all the claustrophobia and sourdough starter with none of the public health panic - probably best for a romantic comedy. I love that Lipman has taken the classic English drawing room novel and morphed it onto the modern Manhattanite. I laughed out loud while I was reading Ms. Demeanor and sighed when it was over."

Elinor Lipman has been to Milwaukee for every novel since 1995's Isabel's Bed, but this this the first time she'll be in conversation with longtime Schwartz bookseller and current Schlitz Audubon Director of Marketing and Visitor Experience Nancy Quinn. If you follow Nancy on social media, you already know that her passion for books and literature is infectious.

Elinor Lipman is the award-winning author of eleven novels, including The View from Penthouse B and The Inn at Lake Devine, as well as the essay collection I Can’t Complain and humorous poetry book Tweet Land of Liberty: Irreverent Rhymes from the Political Circus.

Tim Birkhead, author of Birds and Us: A 12,000-Year History from Cave Art to Conservation
a virtual event
Wednesday, January 18, 2 pm - click here to register

Boswell Book Company and Schlitz Audubon Nature Center present a virtual program featuring preeminent ornithologist Tim Birkhead, author of Birds and Us, a book that examines the changing relationship between humans and birds, from the earliest depictions in cave art to the threat of extinction now and in the near future.

Since the dawn of human history, birds have stirred our imagination, inspiring and challenging our ideas about science, faith, art, and philosophy. We have worshipped birds as gods, hunted them for sustenance, adorned ourselves with their feathers, studied their wings to engineer flight, and, more recently, attempted to protect them. In Birds and Us, Birkhead takes us on a dazzling epic journey through our mutual history with birds, from the ibises mummified and deified by Ancient Egyptians to the Renaissance fascination with woodpecker anatomy, and from the Victorian obsession with egg collecting to today’s fight to save endangered species and restore their habitats.

Birds and Us has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, which says, "This is a must-read for nature lovers," and from Kirkus Reviews, which says, "From acorn woodpeckers to zebra finches, Birkhead examines bird habitat, behavior, cultural meaning, and physiology in species around the world… A fascinating, authoritative avian history."

Tim Birkhead is an award-winning author and one of the world’s leading bird biologists. He is author of The Wonderful Mr. Willughby: The First True Ornithologist, The Most Perfect Thing: The Inside (and Outside) of a Bird’s Egg, and Bird Sense: What It’s Like to Be a Bird, as well as coauthor of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Sheffield.

Dan Kois, author of Vintage Contemporaries
in conversation with Jami Attenberg for a virtual event
Thursday, January 19, 6 pm - click here to register

Boswell joins forces with Flyleaf Books of Chapel Hill, NC, to present a virtual event with Slate editor and podcaster Dan Kois, who will chat about his long-awaited first novel, Vintage Contemporaries. In conversation with Jami Attenberg, author of books such as I Came All This Way to Meet You.

Click here to order from Boswell. Alternatively, click here to order from Flyleaf Books.

Kois’s book is a stunning coming-of-age novel set in New York City, about the power of leaning into the moment, the joys of unexpected life-altering relationships, and learning to forgive ourselves when we inevitably mess everything up. A sharp yet reflective story of a young woman coming into herself and struggling to find her place, Vintage Contemporaries is a novel about art, parenthood, loyalty, and fighting for a cause - the times we do the right thing, and the times we fail - set in New York City on both sides of the millennium.

Here’s early praise from Rumaan Alam, New York Times bestselling author of Leave
the World Behind
: "Vintage Contemporaries is about being young and becoming less young, exploring friendship (sometimes magical, sometimes messy), parenthood (ditto), and how to reconcile youthful ambition and ideals with real life. It’s a warm and big-hearted coming of age story that made me wistful for my own twenties, set in a vividly rendered and long-vanished New York City."

And here's Daniel Goldin's angle on Vintage Contemporaries: "The first thing local readers need to know is that this author and Slate editor was once a bookseller in Milwaukee - that semi-familiar minor character’s name is not an accident - it’s a shout out to his former

store manager. And for a Downer Avenue reference, at one point, lunch on a family trip back home is at the legendary Coffee Trader.”

Dan Kois is a writer, editor, and podcaster at Slate, where he’s been nominated for two National Magazine Awards. He is author of How to Be a Family and co-author of The World Only Spins Forward, was a Stonewall Honor book. Jami Attenberg is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books of fiction, including The Middlesteins and All This Could Be Yours.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 14, 2023

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 14, 2023

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus
2. Hell Bent V2, by Leigh Bardugo
3. Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
4. All This Could Be Different, by Sarah Thankam Mathews
5. Age of Vice, by Deepti Kapoor
6. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
7. Babel, by RF Kuang
8. The House in the Pines, by Ana Reyes
9. The Old Woman with the Knife, by Gu Byeong-Mo
10. In the Upper Country, by Kai Thomas

With the #1 Indie Next Pick for January, the Good Morning America book club pick, and an appearance on the New York Times bestseller list, Age of Vice hits our top ten. The Hindustan Times offered a profile of the author, noting the book "captures the world of politics, patronage and power and is perhaps the only Indian novel to have been auctioned directly in Hollywood for a multimillion dollar TV deal."

Scott Simon talked to Kai Thomas on In the Upper Country on NPR Weekend Edition

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Reading for Our Lives, by Maya Payne Smart
2. Spare, by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
3. A Waiter in Paris, by Edward Chisholm (Register for February 16 virtual event here)
4. Good for a Girl, by Lauren Fleshman
5. I'm Glad My Mom Died, by Jennette McCurdy
6. We Don't Know Ourselves, by Fintan O'Toole
7. The Good Life, by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz
8. Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins, by Aidan Ley
9. American Midnight, by Adam Hochschild
10. Birds and Us, by Tim Birkhead (Register for January 18 virtual event here)

There's still only one NPR show that can single-handedly pop a book onto our top 10 and that's Fresh Air. Lauren Fleshman talked to Terry Gross about her new memoir,   Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man's World. You can listen to the event or read the highlights on the NPR website.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Ms. Demeanor, by Elinor Lipman (Register for January 17 in-person event here)
2. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by Shehan Karunatilaka
3. A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
5. Sorrow and Bliss, by Meg Mason
6. Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson 
7. Clark and Division, by Naomi Hirahara
8. Night of the Living Rez, by Morgan Talty
9. A Court of Mist and Fury V2, by Sarah J Maas
10. Factory Girls, by Michelle Gallen

We're seeing a lot fewer movie tie-in editions and we're wondering if that is because a certain retailer who used to encourage them now does not. But it's hard not to have two editions of A Man Called Ove because the American-made version of the film is A Man Called Otto. And here's the thing  - in 2023, why did you have to change the name that sounds foreign sounding? 

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Rough Magic, by Jonathan Gillard Daly
2. Brewtown Tales, by John Gurda
3. The Best We Could Do, by Thi Bui
4. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
5. We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders, by Linda Sarsour
6. Global Nomad, by Tom Haig
7. The Tools, by Phil Stutz
8. The January 6th Report, by the Select Committee, with The New Yorker
9. Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari
10. The Story of Jane, by Laura Kaplan

We have a winner! While the Ari Melber edition of The January 6th Report (Harper and Celadon) holds at #1 on The New York Times, the first of the many editions to hit our top ten offers a preface by David Remnick (of The New Yorker) and an epilogue by Jamie Raskin. And there's plenty more where that came from.

Books for Kids:
1. Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, by Sharon Creech
2. A Hundred Years of Happiness, by Thanhhà Lai
3. Every Day's a Holiday, by Stef Wade, illustrations by Husna Aghniya
4. They All Saw a Cat, by Brendan Wenzel
5. Peekaboo Moon, by Camilla Reid, illustrations by Ingela Arrheniius
6. Nick and Charlie, by Alice Oseman
7. Rare Tiny Flower, by Kitty O'Meara, illustrations by Quim Torres
8. Skin and Other Stories, by Roald Dahl
9. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
10. The Book of Dust V1, by Philip Pullman

Jenny has two full days of schools for Stef Wade's new picture book, Every Day's a Holiday: Winnie's Birthday Countdown. From Booklist: "Using dialogue within the narrative as well as illustrations' speech balloons, the writing sets an upbeat tone that is reinforced by the vibrant digital artwork. A great read-aloud picture book for opening discussions of traditional holidays, more recently created ones, and ideas for new ones."

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Suzette Mayr and The Sleeping Car Porter

I wish I could predict awards better. It would be so nice if as the major awards were announced - the Booker Prize, The National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize - I could say, "I already read that!" But that isn't going to happen too often. But it happened with this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize winner, The Sleeping Car Porter. Buy it here from Books & Company. Register for January 10 event.

It all started with our commission rep John Mesjak. He was in the store visiting and I asked him to pick one or two of his fall books to read. Not something that was the highest priority, but something that I would like. He's served me well in the past, most notably in turning me on to Antoine Laurain's The President's Hat. If John hadn't convinced me, there almost definitely wouldn't be a character from Milwaukee in Laurain's novel Vintage 1954. 

I'm so glad John directed me to The Sleeping Car Porter, the sixth novel from Calgary-based writer Suzette Mayr. My affair with Canadian fiction has been longstanding. It's so underappreciated in the United States - so close and yet so far. For a few years, publishers were doing Canadian border tours for their authors - Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit, Buffalo - but I haven't seen that of late. It's served us well in the past - I don't think I would have read Miriam Toews's All My Puny Sorrows otherwise. We've sold over 200 copies of that wonderful novel and I still have folks coming in to talk about how much they loved it. The Toews novel Women Talking is also making an impact as a film adaptation. Allegra Goodman (the author - watch her event here) recommends you read the book Women Talking first. 

I read The Sleeping Car Porter and couldn't stop talking about it. First I picked it for our Lit Group book club. Then I recommended it to Lisa Baudoin and Books and Company, and we wrote a proposal to talk to author Suzette Mayr for our Readings from Oconomowaukee series. We set up the event and then The Sleeping Car Porter received the Giller Prize, one of the most prestigious awards given to Canadian writers. So exciting!

Here's my recommendation for The Sleeping Car Porter: "While many readers know about the American porters of George Pullman, Suzette Mayr’s eloquent new novel, shortlisted for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize, chronicles the life of an attendant on the trans-Canadian railway. One thing not different was the job was filled almost exclusively by Black men, who were subject to the whims of riders and faced much racism on the job. In the case of Baxter, he carries an extra burden, as he is also closeted, and burns with the memories of past encounters and the constant fear that any wrong move could lead to losing his job. His dream is to be a dentist, and if there is levity in the story, it is in Baxter’s propensity to focus on the teeth of the folks around him. Through these details, George and his plight are brought to vibrant life. And how can I not love a story where one of the referenced works is an Eaton’s Department Store catalog?" 

From my colleague Tim McCarthy: "This is intensely researched historical fiction that doesn’t feel like history. It feels like heart."

I liked The Sleeping Car Porter so much that I went back and read Mayr's fifth novel, Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall. I should note that I didn't mention Baxter's hallucinations because I thought it might scare people off. They are a bit over the top, and our book club had a vigorous discussion over whether they were real or the result of extreme fatigue. But reading the previous novel, about a newly tenure professor fighting for her university position amidst some very bad behavior, I realized that Mayr's tendency towards the bizarre was reined in in the new novel! I can't wait to ask her about this.

Suzette Mayr talks to Lisa Baudoin and me tonight at 7 pm Central. Register here and if you can't attend, we'll send you a link to the recording.

Photo credits
Suzette Mayr by Tonya Callaghan

Addendum - here are the Giller Prize winners I have read in addition to The Sleeping Car Porter.
1996 - Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
1999 - A Good House, by Bonnie Burnard
2004 - Runaway, by Alice Munro
2018- Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan

In several cases, I have read multiple books from Giller winners Mordecai Richler, David Adams Richards, and Michael Ondaatje, but not their Giller winers. All the winners here.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending January 7, 2023

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver
2. Sam, by Allegra Goodman (Watch our virtual event recording here)
3. All This Could Be Different, by Sarah Thankam Mathews
4. Small Things Like These, by Claire Keegan
5. Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus
6. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin
7. Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
8. The Rabbit Hutch, by Elinor Lipman
9. Ms. Demeanor, by Elinor Lipman (Register for January 17 in-person event - see below)
10. The House in the Pines, by Ana Reyes

We've started featuring four of the more influential book club selections in our book club case, and Reese's Book Club pick for January is The House in the Pines, by Ana Reyes. She's got nice blurbs from Riley Sager, Andrea Bartz, and Lisa Gardner, but I think it's most appropriate to reprint the Reese rec: "This is an absolute, can't-put-it-down thriller... It's truly a wild ride that had me flying through chapter after chapter - which I think is the perfect way to kick off your year of reading."

Ms. Demeanor is Elinor Lipman's second book to be published as a paperback original, but Harper also made a hardcover edition, which is selling for us as well. When they do these dual editions, sometimes the cloth version turns out to be a weird paper-over-board thing that looks like an elementary school textbook. That is not the case here - I bought the hardcover for myself! Here's a nice Q&A with Lipman on the Barnes & Noble website.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Light We Carry, by Michelle Obama
2. An Immense World, by Ed Yong
3. The Philosophy of Modern Song, by Bob Dylan
4. And There Was Light, by Jon Meacham
5. What's for Dessert?, by Claire Saffitz
6. Birds and Us, by Tim Birkhead (Register for January 18 virtual event here)
7. Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, by Matthew Perry
8. The Book of Days, by Patti Smith
9. I'm Glad My Mom Died, by Jennette McCurdy
10. Inciting Joy, by Ross Gay

My apologies for not doing the appropriate research, but I think this is the first week in our top 10 for Matthew Perry's Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, after nine weeks on the NYT bestseller list. 

Not in The New York Times top 10 though it should be is Ross Gay's Inciting Joy, which Publishers Weekly called a "stunning collection how joy deepens when accompanied by grief, fear, and loss." I think we've featured Gay's latest before, but it just seems like a great book for the new year. Here's the author talking to Leah Asmelash at CNN: "Ultimately, it's a book about noticing what you love, articulating what you love, and sharing what you love. And in a certain kind of way this book wonders how do we do that. How do we do that structurally; how do we do that in our practices?"
Paperback Fiction:
1. Ms. Demeanor, by Elinor Lipman (Register for event)
2. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie
3. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, by Shehan Karunatilaka
4. The Maid, by Nita Prose
5. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
6. Cursed Bunny, by Bora Chung
7. The Sleeping Car Porter, by Suzette Mayr (Register for January 10 virtual event here)
8. Once Upon a December, by Amy E. Reichert
9. Clark and Division, by Naomi Hirahara
10. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir6

Cursed Bunny has been a hot book at indie bookstores, and with Jason's rec, we are in the thick of things. The book was a finalist for the Booker International Prize. Though Chung attended Yale, the stories were written in Korean and translated by Anton Hur. Chung teaches Russian and translates Russian and Polish works into Korean! From the Booker bunch, on Cursed Bunny: "A genre-defying collection of short stories, which blur the lines between magical realism, horror, and science fiction."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Global Nomad, by Tom Haig (today! 2:30 pm at North Shore Library - Facebook registration)
2. Adolescents and Their Social Media Narratives, by Jill Walsh (Register for January 18 USM event here)
3. A Short History of Queer Women, by Kirsty Loehr
4. Rough Magic, by Jonathan Gillard Daly (Register for January 9 in-person event here)
5. A History of Milwaukee Drag, by BJ Daniels and Michail Takach
6. Architects of an American Landscape, by Hugh Howard
7. Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer
8. Giannis, by Mirin Fader
9. The Icepick Surgeon, by Sam Kean
10. The Way of Integrity, by Martha Beck

It's nice to see Architects of an American Landscape, the dual biography of  HH Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted, having a paperback pop after a nice hardcover run at Boswell, helped along by a virtual event tied into a year-long Olmsted celebration. Alex Beam in The Wall Street Journal called it "the literary equivalent of a rolling, Olmstedian greensward."

Books for Kids:
1. The Roof Over Our Heads, by Nicole Kronzer
2. The Stolen Heir, by Holly Black
3. What Feelings Do When No One's Looking by Tina Oziewicz, illustrations by Aleksandra Zajac
4. Wings of Fire V6: Moon Rising graphic novel, by Tui T. Sullivan
5. Cat Kid Comic Club V4: Collaborations, by Dav Pilkey
6. Turtle in a Tree, by Neesha Hudson
7. Nick and Charlie: a Heartstopper novella, by Alice Oseman
8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid V17: Diper Overlode, by Jeff Kinney
9. The Snowy Day board book, by Ezra Jack Keats
10. The Little Book Story Reader for a Free Ukraine, by Mykola Matwuczuk

I am beginning to wonder if every early reader and middle grade series of any level of popularity will be turned into graphic novels. The latest installment of the graphic-ization of Wings of Fire: Moon Rising, not only hit our bestseller list in paperback, but came close in hardcover as well. No info yet on when the adaptation of #7, Winter Turning, will be available. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

More on Allegra Goodman - being a reading completist and so forth.

I can be a bit of a completist. When it comes to authors, that means reading everything they publish, though sometimes I have caveats. When the author is prolific, that can be quite a challenge, and what happens when you realize that 25 pages into the book that you really don't like it. Do you decide to exclude this author from this less-than-coveted pantheon? Or do you plow through, hoping at best that the book had a slow start and at worst, that it's just a hiccup and the next book will be better?

I was thinking about this upon hearing about the death of writer Fay Weldon at 91. I read a lot of Fay Weldon in the 1980s and 1990s, even working backwards through her older titles. But I just couldn't keep up. The Guardian obituary didn't even bother to count. The Fantastic Fiction website lists 36 novels, six collections of short stories, and seven works of nonfiction. I have read 16 of her books, including her memoir, Auto da Fay, and the book she wrote for hire for Bulgari, titled The Bulgari Connection. I don't think I will ever catch up.

That said, I am intrigued by her writing book, Why Will No-One Publish My Novel: A Handbook for the Rejected Writer, which came out in paperback through Head of Zeus, imported by IPG, in 2019. 

After reading the forthcoming Künstlers in Paradise (March 14), I thought maybe I should start trying to catch up on Cathleen Schine. She has 12 novels and I have read seven of them. I have three options: 1) Start at the beginning 2) Work backwards 3) Take whatever I can get! I'll keep you posted. 

And so we return to Allegra Goodman. There were times when I might have fallen off the completist wagon (here are the caveats - I have read neither her kids book nor her cowritten textbook), but there were champions out there who helped me through, most notably our sales reps, those unsung (or at least undersung) heroes of publishing. A sales rep (Mark) got me to read The Family Markowitz. A fellow bookseller Dave, who, no surprise, went on to be a sales rep (he's talking to our buyer right now!), convinced me to go back and read The Cookbook Collector, one of my favorite Goodman works. There are so many recommendations of his that have steered me well over the years. 

And then there's Sam. I started, I stopped. It felt so different from his other books. And am I in that moment of life when I want to read a coming of age story? But then I spoke to our rep John, and he convinced me to go back. It was the kind of pep talk you expect a coach to give one of his players. I was convinced. And I soon became entranced by the story, and more than that, saw how the book was different and yet was so clearly an Allegra Goodman novel. I wrote my staff rec. And sent it in. I try to get at least one rec in for each monthly deadline, but you're at the mercy of pub dates. 

Crazy thing - it wound up being selected as the Indie Next recommendation, my first in years. As is the case for the new shorter recs with 25 books being featured, it was too long and needed to be cut. But I guess, unlike some things I write, it was actually cuttable. Reprinted here: "You’ve never read a novel like Sam. Sam’s seminal years leave her insecure at best, entering adulthood with a number of missteps. Rock climbing gives her purpose; it doesn’t take her where she wants to go, but leads to unseen paths. Powerful.”

I followed this up with a virtual event request. And being that I've been writing back and forth with Goodman's agent about books, it struck both of this that this would be an interesting and unique conversation. She has gotten me to read many terrific books (shout out to Belinda Huijan Tang's A Map for the Missing!), but I love that she reads books from authors that aren't current or potential clients. And I love that she was a fan first, and only started representing Goodman with Sam. And I really love that she is a former bookseller. 

I am excited that I found my old write up of Intuition. It was still back in the days when most of my reviews weren't meant for the public, but apparently I did write this up (or a something very similar) for one of the old Harry W. Schwartz newsletters. 

"A Cambridge research lab is the setting for Intuition the keenly insightful new novel by Allegra Goodman.  Cliff, a young postdoc on the verge of career failure may have made a cancer breakthrough.  Another associate, Robin, suspects a problem, but she’s also his ex-girlfriend, whose own research has been sidetracked by his success. Don’t think, however, that this is just a two-character study.  The lab itself is having funding problems, and this breakthrough could be just what they need, but the controversy splits the partners, one of whom is more interested in chasing the limelight and funding more than the research itself.  Oh, and the director of the competing lab who is encouraging Robin along the way is just deliciously icky.   I’ve already been debating the finer points of the story with friends in publishing; one thought it stupendous, the other was exasperated by the whistleblower.  I agree with both, but I thought the exasperation with Robin was well thought out; this is a book that is as much about perspective and moral ambiguity as anything else - Robin isn’t a heroine in a Robin Cook novel, after all."

Not that there's anything wrong with being a heroine in a Robin Cook novel. It sounds thrilling!

As a bonus, I transcribed my write up of The Family Markowitz, which until now was only available if you happened to be my pen pal in the 1990s: "Rose Markowitz has been uprooted from her New York apartment to an old-age home in Venice, California. Her neighbor tells her to stop being so old fashioned and take off those plastic slipcovers. Is Rose saving her furniture for her own death? Well, Rose gives up the slipcovers only to watch the material go, and finds out that her neighbor sold the slipcovers at a yard sale. So goes Goodman’s hilarious novel/inter-connected stories about one family’s travails through life. Henry and Ed, Rose’s sons, are respectively gallery manager.Laura Ashley manager/poet and college professor/terrorism expert. Ed’s wife Sarah has set aside her own writing to raise  their children, and daughter Miriam has returned to the Orthodox faith. Whether writing about Henry’s super-Anglo wedding, the oral history project for which Rose is a subject, or the spiritual/academic conference in Minnesota that Ed attends, Goodman mixes hilarity and truth in equal parts, totally fulfilling the promise of 1989’s Total Immersion.

I only just now realized that the heroines of The Family Markowitz (Rose) and Künstlers in Paradise (Mamie) are living out their golden years in Venice, California. More than coincidence?

Join us for the virtual event on January 5, 7 pm Central Time, or use the link here (should be live by January 10) to watch the recording.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Allegra Goodman's SAM is out today! Here's a little bit about why I am such a fan.

One of great things about virtual events is that we get to host authors who in most cases, would probably never come to Milwaukee. Now that programming has returned to mostly in person, we talked about letting our virtual programming go. But this winter, we're trying to keep it up, seeing if our interviews can move the needle. And so, the first of two blog posts about Allegra Goodman, one of my favorite writers, whose new novel Sam is out today.

During the holiday season, two books sold well off our upcoming event case that have virtual events later in January - Suzette Mayr's The Sleeping Car Porter and Tim Birkhead's Birds & Us on January 18 (More info here). But our January 5 program with Allegra Goodman was a little tougher to promote in this manner. For one thing, her new novel Sam did not release until today, January 3. And because she doesn't publish too frequently and her last novel, The Chalk Artist, did not come out in paperback, we had to go back to 2011's The Cookbook Collector to find a book for our upcoming event case. And guess what? We sold the copies we brought in. And why not? It's great book, which I speak more of below.

I have been reading Goodman since her debut collection of stories, Total Immersion, in 1989, and I was immediately hooked. I actually have what I wrote about the book! "Though it starts off slowly, Total Immersion soon becomes what it promises – a fascinating world of Hawaiian and London Jews, where life seems a paradox of religious discipline and worldly concerns. 'And Much Cattle' tells of the attempts to build an ocean-front Orthodox synagogue. As in many of the stories, the plan runs amuck as petty grievances erupt into idealistic schisms. Goodman’s characters are amusingly consistent in their ability to get along with anyone. I found this very funny – people shouting about the finer points of nursery school, using the Torah and Piaget as their sources. It is shocking that the author is only 21 – her characters are often over 50. I must note that the Hawaiian-Yiddish glossary in the back is too cute."

I actually found what I wrote about all of Allegra Goodman's adult fiction work. I never read her kids book, The Other Side of the Island, or her cowritten writing book, Speaking of Writing: A Brief Rhetoric. In the case of the latter book, I did not know it existed until this moment, and textbooks don't count, right? But I should note it's out there.

I enjoyed 1996's The Family Markowitz a lot as well. At the time, I would rank the books I read as I documented them, and would send (mail!) monthly lists to friends, usually three or four months at a time. The Family Markowitz was my top book of the month. Total Immersion was #3 of 10, and I should note that 2001's Paradise Park was #2 of 7., I'll skip over those and go directly to Kaaterskill Falls, the 1998 novel that was also my #1 book of the month. I have very distinct memories of that book because we sold it quite well at the old Schwartz Bookshops, but because of Ken and a few other booksellers, the location that sold it best was Brookfield, which shows the power of the hand-sell. 

Allow me to share my write-up on Kaaterskill Falls: "Just in time for high-holiday observance, Goodman’s first fully-realized novel of an Orthodox Rav and his followers who divide their time between Washington Heights and summers in Sullivan County arrived to spectacular acclaim, much of it from me. As in The Family Markowitz, many of the character face choices between the spiritual and the specular. My favorite, Elizabeth Shulman, would like to find time while raising her five daughters to open a summer grocery store. Raised Orthodox since birth but in culturally different England, Elizabeth is one of several characters that never questions her faith while struggling with her problems. Even the Rav, near to death, must choose between his two sons, one pious and obedient, the other filled with worldly knowledge, more interesting but defiant of ritual. Altogether Goodman juggles about a dozen characters, each sparkling with life. Kaaterskill Falls is like a 19th century English novel set in a synagogue. We drove down to Chicago to hear Goodman read at Women and Children First, and it was a genuine treat. Goodman is a great reader, did a splendid introduction, took questions graciously, and answered them informatively."

I had no memory of going to Chicago to see Allegra Goodman!

I stopped writing up my Booklists in the early aughts, as recommending books moved online. It was the rise of the Booksense (now Indie Next) nomination and at the bookstore, we could finally repurpose our staff recs beyond shelf talkers. And of course there was a time before shelf talkers too - we picked up that practice from other stores - the two I remember doing it early were Elliot Bay (Seattle) and Unabridged (Chicago) - shout out to them! But those were the days of backing up computers onto drives that held very little information, and for the life of me, I can't find my rec for 2006's Intuition. I know I wrote something. 

I know why I don't have a staff rec for 2010'sThe Cookbook Collector - I read the book late and was finally convinced to read it by Dave, my former fellow bookseller who is now our W.W. Norton rep and is also a big fan. And so I did what I did a lot more in those days - I wrote a blog post. 

The Cookbook Collector: "The first thing I realized after finishing the book is that the title is a bit misleading; the story is not quite as much a foodie novel as you'd think. Only one sister has a cookbook story arc, and it's not central to much of the story. Jess is a philosophy student at Berkeley, a vegan and would-be environmental activist, though her sister Emily would say she flits a bit from cause to cause. Yes, she does work at a second-hand bookstore, and yes, a collection of cookbooks does play into her transformation. 

You should also know that The Cookbook Collector plays off Sense and Sensibility, Jessamine is the Marianne, while the Elinor character in the book is best represented by Emily, the older sister of the family, who is running a tech start-up in the Silicon Valley. She has a boyfriend, Jonathan, who runs a similar sort of business in Cambridge, and both operations are expecting (as this is the late 1990s) to cash in big on an upcoming IPO.

"In this way, the story is much like Intuition, which uses a cancer lab as its setting, but at its core is a novel about relationships and honor. But both novels use social issues to play off personal ones, most notably power struggles in relationships. Not that Goodman leaves behind the Jewish themes she explored in her earlier fiction. Both sisters lives are touched by the Bialystocker Rabbis (and brothers-in-law) who have set up shop respectively in Berkley, and in their home town of Canaan. Coincidence yes, but if that bothers you, you should not be reading comedies. It's intrinsic to the plot, so just accept it.

"Perhaps I loved this book so much because it is more clearly a comedy. Yes, bad things happen, but it ends with a party of some sort, which is sort of in the playbook for these types of novels. It was just the kind of party I love, where you're happy and sad and happy that you read The Cookbook Collector, but sad to see it go. And because I read this book on the late side, I feel bad about missing part of the ceremony. But at least I got there before they cut the cake."

It's so unusual that so much of Goodman's work is still available in print, especially because she was at several publishers at the beginning of her career. These are the days when publishers would still pick up paperback rights from other publishers. I wish that still happened more. I can't talk about this much or I will get in a funk.

But back to happier thoughts. It's 2022 and Allegra Goodman's long-awaited novel Sam is out today! But I'll save my thoughts about that book for later. But I hope this blog explains a little more about why I am both excited and nervous for our event!

Register here for our virtual event with Allegra Goodman, in conversation with agent Julie Barer and myself on January 5, 7 pm Central. Even if you can't join us at the time, registration will make sure you get a link to the recording afterwards. Photo credit by Nina Subin.

And breaking news! Sam is the Read with Jenna pick for January. More here.