Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'd probably be a Blue.

Hi everybody!

It's been awhile since I blogged. I know I promised to do a piece on strange uses of form, but as my fellow booksellers can attest to - I got distracted. It's coming someday, I promise. But that day is not today.

Today I would like to talk about Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey. I realize I'm a little late to the party on this one, in more ways than one. Not only has the book been out for awhile, but I hadn't read Fforde before. "But Greg," the reading masses will likely cry, "how can you call yourself a reader of science fiction if you haven't read any of Fforde's Thursday Next?"

I'll be first to admit that I'm hideously under-read. I read a lot, but I don't always read the things I ought. This includes a lot of the classics that booksellers really should have read. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn springs to mind. But I digress.

Shades of Grey is the first book since The Magicians that I have really loved. In Fforde's dystopian world, you are only able to see one color, if any at all. The color you see, and the degree to which you can see it, shapes your placement in society for the entirety of your life. Fforde's zany caste system based on color hierarchy is about as unique as can be, and the level of detail he has put into it is really quite astounding. Many of the things Fforde describes can also be seen as not-so-subtle allusions to contemporary issues or events, which one cannot help but snicker at. The story focuses on the adventures of the compassionate, moral, and unwitting red-seeing Eddie, and the snarky, ornery, and physically abusive Jane, who can only see grey. Eddie is unquestioningly loyal to the strict rules of the society, while Jane is unabashedly rebellious. Though initially merely infatuated with Jane, Eddie's organized and simple world becomes completely upended when he begins asking questions.

Great book. I could go on for pages about it, but I'll save that for if you ask about it in the store. Well worth picking up and having a look.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Boswell Salt-o-meter

Greetings, Readers:

When there's a heavy snowfall in Milwaukee, it means one thing: massive piles of salt on the sidewalks of our fair city. We here at Boswell welcome it, of course. Not only does it keep the sides of Downer Avenue clear for pedestrians (come on by and see us!), it allows us booksellers to use that most hallowed of marketing tools: the saltometer. What is the saltometer, you ask? It's a highly sophisticated system by which we can look at the white-lined footprints all over the store and see what sections are really the most popular.

Sure, we know what books you're all buying, but what about the books you read while you linger in the store on a frosty evening? Yes, the saltometer is the bookseller's friend.

So what did it tell us last week? First, you all want to get out of town. The floor in front of the travel guides was thick with salt, particularly in front of Latin America and the Caribbean. Puerto Rico's nice this time of year, and we do have the guides to show you how to enjoy it best.

The children's section is also a favorite destination, but it was the board books that were the runaway hit, judging by the salty trails of stroller wheels. And why not, with some great titles like the anniversary edition of the beloved We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and the charming "In my..." series by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich. These adorable books feature an attached finger puppet to help narrate the story, and they've been wildly popular over the holiday season. In my Flower (with a butterfly) and In My Meadow (with a bunny) will be coming in spring!

We already knew that people love the comfy chairs and couches in the fiction room, but the saltometer proved the lovely leather furniture is the best place to curl up with the paperback titles you're purusing, like Michael Pollen's no-nonsense Food Rules, or Ron Rash's Serena, and Gil Adamson's Outlander, all of which we find stacked neatly next to the chairs.

The saltometer had a few surprises in store as well, like the heavily seasoned Science Fiction and Fantasy section. Clearly, the fans of speculative fiction aren't afraid to examine the shelves for great titles. And soon the section will be even better, as our buyer Jason plans to expand it and add several new mini-sections to cover the spectrum of spec-fic. And for fans of steampunk, get excited about The Dream of Perpetual Motion, the new novel by Dexter Palmer that's been netting great early reviews. It'll be on the steampunk shelf in March.

As always, the bargain tables at the front of the store were quite salted, as thrifty customers hunted for deals on marvelous hardcovers with absurdly marked down prices. We just got a new shipment in, so there are even more books to find. My favorite for winter: Complete Comfort Food, a cookbook that doubles as a coffee table book (or as a coffee table, actually).

Yes, the saltometer lets us see what people are up to in the store. But nothing works better than you telling us what you'd like to read. So talk to us the next time you stop by. We'd love to hear what you're reading!