Thursday, December 13, 2012

I know you know a teen who reads...

Stuck on what to buy for the 15-19 year old in your family?  Want something easy on the brain and quick moving for yourself?  Tis the season of great series for older teens.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Book 1) and Days of Blood & Starlight (Book 2) by Laini Taylor.  Paranormal teen romance novels are all the rage right now thanks to Twilight.  These two by Taylor are well-written, engaging, and full of stong characters.  More popular with young women, but enough angels wielding swords to hold a more adventurous reader's attention. 

Hold Me Closer Necromancer (Book 1) and Necromancing the Stone (Book 2) by Lish McBride.  A 20 something squeaking by in Seattle doesn't realize he's a necromancer until the most powerful necromancer in town tries to kill him.  Funny, clever, full of action.  My 17 year old brother and I both stayed up late to finish them.
Girl of Fire & Thorns (Book 1) and Crown of Embers (Book 2) by Rae Carson.  This is a fantasy series, not paranormal, not dystopian (I know, incredible huh?) about a princess who starts out wimpy and then through a series of exciting trials and tribulations grows a backbone and turns her nerdiness into an asset.
Insignia (Book 1) by SJ Kincaid.  I cannot wait for Vortex, the second book, due out in July 2013.  It's a future United States where wars are fought by drones controlled by super-skilled video game playing teenagers.  Insignia reads like an action film ala Transformers or the Avengers.  This series can skew younger (12 and up) than the above series (14 and up).

Happy reading,

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Fateful Heap of Days and Deeds

Warning: This one gets personal.

In 2005, I was struck with the urge to sidestep into seasonal work. I wanted out of my desk job and longed to get back into nature. The idea of working at a summer camp appealed, so I started sussing out opportunities, narrowing down things like location and activity focus to help decide where I might want to apply. In an e-mail to a friend, I noted an all-girls camp in Northern Wisconsin, as one of the top on my list. It was already nearing spring, however, and the timing didn't seem like it would work out. Then, I got a job working at a local bookstore and I "shelved" the idea.

A year later, realizing that summers were a bit quiet in my new line of work and still longing to do something different, I was granted the okay to be gone for a few months. Several applications submitted, two interviews, one job offer: the camp in N. Wisc. The director asked if perhaps an administrative position might be more suitable for me than working as a cabin counselor (I was 26, a little old for camp counselor-ing). I imagined sitting in an office at a desk and said, "No!" It was all the activities and being outside and playing dress-up and building relationships with kids that I was most excited about.

That first summer, my co-counselors and I were tasked with the well-being of ten 11yr-old girls for two sessions of four weeks each. The average counselor was a college freshman, seven years younger than me. I found myself counseling my co-counselors as much as the kids. So, the next three summers I spent in a liaison position, working closely with the staff, as well as the kids. All told, they were four of the most exhausting, challenging, rewarding summers of my life.

What does this have to do with books or bookselling, you ask?

Well, there comes a time, if you work with books in any capacity, where someone you know will write a book. And you will read it. And, if you're lucky, it will not be a painful experience and you won't have to smile and nod and hedge your words, while still being an encouraging friend. When that person writes a memoir, and it's about an entire family that you know and feel that you (and thousands of others) are an extension of, it gets even trickier.

It was just such a scenario when Tanya Chernov's memoir, A Real Emotional Girl, landed in my lap shortly before it's official publication. I was nervous. This is a book about people, and a place, that I know fairly well. It is also about a man I did not know, but that so many others did: Richard Chernov, Tanya's dad and a legend at camp. Richard died in 2001, and his presence was still everywhere in 2006: in name, in story, in the memories of campers who'd known him since they were young.

So, reading Tanya's story about her family - people with whom I'd developed a familial sort of closeness - was a special sort of experience. It revealed much to me of why they were who they were: the bits and pieces of their patriarch come alive in each of them, how the carrying on of this camp and his way of interacting with the kids and with nature is also their way of carrying his memory in their hearts, how even something as simple as meeting them at a particular place for tacos took on new depth when I realized how it was a favorite of the Chernovs as a family when Richard was still alive. It brought home how much they share of themselves with others - something I'd felt, but not known (truly) how linked it was with their own tragedy.

In 2008, my own tragedy occurred at camp, though not nearly at the level of theirs. One of my dogs, on one of his periodic weekend visits, was struck and killed by a truck on the highway just outside the camp borders. It was awful. And the Chernovs stepped forward and embraced my grief as if it was their own. One of the family dogs, Jimmy, who was elderly at that time and not very mobile, hiked a long ways up the hill to the entrance and stopped by my dog's side. When the campers gathered a few days later at a sacred placed on the grounds called the "service tree," and read notes, Barbara pointed out the Bald Eagle landing in the tree branches above us: these were things that carried great weight for them as they were symbols of their own passages through loss with Richard.

And that's the power here: that memoir, when done well, is how one person's story becomes one that others can relate to. In this case, Tanya's honest exploration of accompanying her father through illness and eventual death is more her story than his, and it's also the story of anyone who has had a similar experience with a loved one.

She writes about how instead of age-appropriate worrying about what classes to take her first years at college, or what to wear to friends' parties, she was becoming the parent - putting her sleeping-pill-goofy dad to bed at night, tucking him in with love and care. Any child who's gone through the terminal illness of a parent will know what a difficult thing that is.

With a bare honesty, Tanya shares how people can not only express profound amounts of love and gratitude when a loved one dies, they also can say surprisingly thoughtless things, especially when they feel a sense of "ownership" of that person; how selfish and oblivious people can be; how those in deepest grief find themselves comforting those barely touched, but touched nonetheless, by the loss. She admits to unhealthy choices - the kind of crazy things that people do in grief. And, at the same time, she illustrates what a blessing it must be to die at home, enveloped by immense love, and what a burden that is for those left behind to carry: the beauty and brutality of such a thing. In her father's final days, Tanya and her family wrote down everything he said, for anything could be his "final words," and I wept through them all.

In time, Tanya moved alongside her grief to a place where the ownership others felt on her family, and on her second home (camp), transformed into a feeling of pride: how lucky she and her siblings were to be the only ones who really got to call him "Dad." It takes a lot of strength to share the highly personal, intimate observing of the deterioration of a good man - especially one who many claimed as a member of their own family - and Tanya does it with a graceful openness. She shares with the world an experience that is hers and her family's, but in doing so, shares with us a man that many got to know and love - someone who those knew best, wouldn't get to have, or know better, any more - and, in a more universal way, shares what it's like to journey through grief:

It's like paddling a canoe through swampy waters on a beautiful October day, trying to reach a place you long to be, NEED to be, but that is inaccessible until others who have shared in your journey step in and carve away the brush and caved-in dirt, transforming that diminished pond into "what it was supposed to be": a place where you can sit and breathe, reminding yourself to "just be, just be, just be, just be."


To the Chernovs:
Thank you for cultivating an extraordinary home and loving family, and for sharing both with so many others. The impact you have is a long-lasting, profound one. Clearly, Richard lives on through all of you: through your silliness and play, your warmth and generosity, your love of nature, your abundant laughter, and your open arms.


Monday, August 20, 2012

What's Cookin' At Boswell Books?

Last week we celebrated the 100th birthday of American icon, Julia Child. In keeping with the spirit, I have selected some hot, new foodie titles definitely worth their salt (and pepper):

America, 1950: A land of "overdone roast beef and canned green beans". Enter Craig Claiborne, a charming and knowledgeable foodie, determined to better American eating habits by introducing the nation to an unexplored gastronomic domain. With his boldly written reviews and recipes in The New York Times, Claiborne pointed the way to the undiscovered culinary riches found right within America's own diverse borders. Thomas McNamee's rich and complex vocabulary absolutely sings in this examination of America's post-war culture (his treatise on the word bullsh*t is fantastic, and is just one of the many complements that make this book so entertaining and hard to put down).

Break out the TV dinners! Mark Kurlansky clearly delights in telling the remarkably interesting history of frozen food, framed by the story of its recondite creator, Clarence Birdseye. Without the quirky and clever Birdseye, it is possible to imagine a world without ice as we know it: the modern convenience that is often taken for granted. An enthusiastic tinkerer, Birdseye discovered the method for freezing fresh food, and thus began a chain reaction of invention and industry that would change the course of history. Kurlansky's contagious, child-like wonder for his subject keeps the book fast and fun, but it is Birdseye's belief in his idea, and his determination to discover the American Dream, that makes this tale truly inspiring.

Those of you who tend to read traditional food magazines, be warned: you may find yourself completely disconcerted (perhaps, at times, even offended) by the defiant, rough-around-the-edges style of Lucky Peach. A collaboration of chefs, food writers, and artists, Lucky Peach is a smorgasbord of essays and rants, unique and re-imagined recipes, art and photography, all pieced together in a beautifully printed layout. Providing a platform for the unorthodox writing style of authors like Anthony Bourdain, Lucky Peach will surely appeal to hardcore foodies and industry diehards - a food magazine with a rock and roll attitude!

After witnessing his performance as contestant on television's Top Chef, I will admit developing unfair preconceptions about Marcus Samuellson. Thankfully, Chef Samuellson's memoir, Yes, Chef sets the record straight, revealing the much more human and fallible soul hidden behind the celebrity chef facade. As a young orphan adopted into a foreign family, Samuellson discovered potential in the cuisine of his new home, Sweden. Nurtured by his adopted grandmother, Samuellson began a grand pursuit of flavor that would carry him around the globe. Yes, Chef is a passionate, honest, and grateful love letter to everyone and everything that has contributed to his success.

When you think of America, what food comes to mind? Hot dogs? Fried chicken? Coca-Cola? For me, there is nothing more American than pie. Ashley English demonstrates that pie is not only a food of America, but also a food like America, in that it so delightfully diverse. You can eat it for breakfast (quiche!), you can eat it for dinner (pot pie!), and of course, for dessert (hooray!). A Year Of Pies: A Seasonal Tour Of Home Baked Pies is cozy and easy, providing step-by-step instructions for the beginner and clever, new tips for the seasoned baker. Sixty beautifully photographed recipes (drool gutter installation may be required) which are sectioned into four groups (one section for each season), allowing the reader to take advantage of ingredients found in the garden or market at any point of the year. If you buy one cookbook this year, make sure it's this one.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Happy birthday, Hemingway!

A very happy 113th birthday to one of America's most celebrated icons, and one of my favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway is one of those names that I grew up just knowing. Admittedly, I did not read any of Hemingway's work until I was in college, but I had always known of him - a courageous, rugged, globe-trotting hunter. A spy. A war hero. An adventurer...a man's man. As an impressionable young buck, this larger-than-life character appealed to me, so I began to explore the Hemingway library. Much to my surprise, the piece that I ended up enjoying the most - the book that I now keep a copy of wherever I go - represents the opposite of the macho Hemingway persona that I had come to venerate: A Moveable Feast.

A Moveable Feast is the collection of Hemingway's memoirs of his time spent in 1920's Paris. It is a rare glimpse of the man as a young, contagiously enthusiastic author experimenting with his craft. There are no rugged heroes, no stiff dialogue; just a lean, romantic, and genuine account of Hemingway's experiences with love and life. My favorite passages are those in which he enchantingly describes food and drink, such as:

" I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans..."

Pour yourself a hot cup of coffee, or a cold glass of wine, and treat yourself to Ernest Hemingway's final triumph.



Thursday, July 19, 2012

What We're Recommending - 7/19

Our staff rec shelves in-store are populated with a variety of titles - new and old - and while they're best experienced in person, they can also be browsed online.  Here's a round-up of the latest in bookseller recs.

$24.95 hardcover / $14.95 paperback
Office Girl by Joe Meno*
It is 1999 in snowy Chicago, and art school dropout Odile (pronounced O-deel) is having a rough time: she is stuck in a dead end office job, in love with a married man, and can't create any interesting art. Nick is a twenty-four-year-old, chronically depressed, and soon to be divorced artist who is obsessed with recording sounds of the city. Together they decide to start their own art movement that celebrates the transitory, fleeting moments of contemporary life. Office Girl is a sweet, snowy bicycle ride through the uncertainties and difficulties of post-college life.

$13.95 paperback
No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym
Delightful mid-twentieth century comedy of manners, eccentricities, and foibles of a love triangle set in the world of British academia. Refresh your summer reading; discover Barbara Pym at her insightful, and witty, best! Great with iced tea.

$24.99 hardcover / $11.99 ebook

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
A really sweet book with characters you'll care about and a plot that will keep you engaged. Yet another wonderful voice from the South.

$13.99 paperback / $9.99 ebook
Up Jumps the Devil by Michael Poore*
From cryogenics to Woodstock, ancient Egypt to the first video game console--the devil as a (wooden) hand in all human matters. Follow this villain through key moments in human history and rethink the nature of love, compassion, and evil.

$15 paperback

The Waitress Was New by Dominique Fabre
Veteran bartender Pierre is forced to take stock of his life after his beloved cafe (more of a home, really) is closed. A sweet, deeply emotive tale that celebrates the ordinary man.

$16 paperback / $9.99 ebook
The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb
A young Vietnamese American woman comes to Hanoi to search for information about her father,a  dissident artist who disappeared during the war. This brings her in contact with Hung, an old man whose touching story personalizes the years of political chaos and the resulting human toll. Beautiful!!!

$26.95 hardcover / $13.99 ebook
Niceville by Carsten Stroud
Niceville starts off with a child's disappearance, moves into a deadly, brutal police chase, then shakes things up with a bit of supernatural phenomenon. It's a sucker-punch-to-the-gut sort of story; Stroud's novel never lets up, and will keep you awake late into the night.

$18 hardcover
Things That Are by Amy Leach
With Seussian rhythms and Thoreauvian observations, Amy Leach explores how nature reflects our own humanity in this sparkling, priceless gem of an essay collection. Whether discoursing on the familial carpentry partnerships of beavers, why ferrets likely do not utter the word "God," or the destiny of our galaxy after the stars burn out, she enlarges the tiniest microcosms of nature - the things we do not see unless we stop to look, quietly and closely - until we feel as much a part of the birds and the earth as we do our homes and cities.

*Joe Meno will be at Boswell on August 2nd at 7pm, with Dan Nowak
Michael Poore will be opening for Lev Grossman on August 7th at 7pm.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What We're Recommending - 6/26

Our staff rec shelves in-store are populated with a variety of titles - new and old - and while they're best experienced in person, they can also be browsed online. There's been a wave of new releases landing this week, and in previous weeks, that we're excited about. Here's a round-up of the latest in bookseller recs (excluding upcoming events, which we'll round up in another post).

$25.95, hardcover

Tallula Rising by Glen Duncan
"In this much anticipated sequel to The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan takes us on a quick and dirty trip through the supernatural world where Talulla has been left alone, mourning her lover Jake, and pregnant with his offspring. Talulla is a mother searching for her lost child, but she also has the unfortunate habit of turning into an animal when the moon is full. A vicious, bloodthirsty, killing machine, when she is not ripping out throats, Talulla is delightfully human-- cunning, sarcastic, quick thinking, and alternatively mourning her dead lover, Jake, and cursing him for leaving her. I am looking forward to the third and final book in the series."

$26, hardcover; $12.99 eBook

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
"A young girl wakes up one Saturday morning to news reports that the Earth's rotation is slowing down. As the initial panic subsides, days and nights stretch ever longer, and humanity struggles to adapt, eleven-year-old Julia narrates the story of her adolescence in a California suburb. The Age of Miracles is a striking debut novel that examines the yearning, despair, and hope of coming of age during an uncertain time."

“The end of the world does not come with a bang but with a whisper in Walker’s wonderful debut novel. Earth’s rotation is slowing, the days are becoming longer, gravity mutates, radiation spikes, but still, life must go on. The narrator is 12-year-old Julia, and she chronicles everything she sees happening in the world around her, from shock and panic to people desperate to maintain normal routines. This is not a flashy, bombastic, apocalyptic novel, but rather the story of how a family manages through unimaginable circumstances.”

$15.99, paperback; $12.99 eBook

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
"The strength of Livesey's writing is how seamlessly the 19th-century classic Jane Eyre is ramped up into a mid-20th century modern tale of Gemma Hardy. Both are women seeking independence, yet a century apart...same story, different clothes! Read as homage to a classic or as variation on theme. And cherish the stunning use of nature imagery!"

$27, hardcover; $13.99 eBook

Superman!: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye
"There really isn't anything new one can say about the man of steel, but it's how Tye says it that makes this book so fun. A vigorously written culture study sure to please the history/comic book fan!"

$14.95, paperback

Inukshuk by Gregory Spatz
"Thomas believes his family is descended from the Franklins of the Franklin expedition, and he is constantly imagining a movie. His father also disconnects in other more adult ways. A powerful tale of a father and son struggling through despair and loss."

$25, hardcover; $12.99 eBook

The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
"At an American military outpost in Kandahar Province, a group of men (and one woman) are being held hostage--by their individual experiences, beliefs, prejudices, and philosophies. For all their best intentions, what they face is unprecedented--not only the woman who waits outside their gates, refusing to leave--but also the harsh realities of a war that even the most seasoned veteran doesn't quite understand. What happens over the course of only a few days is brought forth through the shifting realities and dreams of these young men. When strong winds stir up Afghan sands, it can be impossible to see what is right in front of you. And, when the dust has settled, what has been laid to waste will be your own heart."

$25, hardcover; $12.99 eBook

Amped by Daniel Wilson
"In the not-so-distant future, debilitating mental problems have been cured by electronic implants. When implanted individuals - called Amps - start becoming stronger and smarter than normal people, however, legislation comes down on them. Now legally second-class citizens, things quickly spiral out of control. Smart, sleek, and every enjoyable. A Crichton-esque thrill ride!"

$26.99, hardcover; $13.99 eBook

Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum
"We've all come to think of the internet as being an amorphous place, best represented by the cloud so popular in current marketing. But Andrew Blum, a correspondent for Wired magazine, shows that it a very physical place indeed. Traveling to the switching stations, data centers, and fiber optic cables that traverse the globe, he shows the incremental changes that built upon television and cable TV wiring, but go back further, using the routes of trains and freighters to determine pathways. And of course it all combines with computer science, physics, and half a dozen disciplines I don't understand, but fortunately, that didn't get in the way of my reading. Blum's journey even docks in Milwaukee, on a side visit a regional switching center (unlike things like data centers, these were often unplanned) in an old office building on Wisconsin Avenue while ostensibly here to see a giant printing press on the northwest side print out maps of the internet that are sold for several hundred dollars apiece. A fascinating look at an industry that deals in trust, despite a natural inclination for obsessive secrecy."

$14.95, paperback

Understories by Tim Horvath
"Horvath's stories simultaneously stimulate the intellect while being fantastically imaginative. Contemporary urban life is examined through the looking glass, twisted slightly but still entirely recognizable and relatable. His images imprint, linger and the characters balance on the fine edge of what is real and what is imagined. This is memorable stuff."

$18.99, hardcover

Bike Tribes: A Field Guide to North American Cyclists by Mike Magnuson
"Most of us may only know the roadies (pg. 113) or the hipsters (pg.183), but there's so much more to the biking world than spandex and skinny tires, or fixies and messenger bags. Magnuson introduces the uninitiated and the cogged alike to a fascinating cast of biking characters in varying degrees, from Rando, to three different types of commuters, to the small shop owner (Ed!). Far from just a field guide, Magnuson crafts narratives for each character, interweaving many of the storylines. Wait until you see what happens when the Occasionally Dirty meet up the Weekend Mountain Biker on the trail!"

$27.95, hardcover

Against Wind and Tide: Letters and Journals, 1947-1986 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
"When her early journals were published years ago, I read them all and loved them. This collection from her life after WWII is fascinating as well. What an amazing and complicated life she had!"

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tooting Our Own Horns

No less than three of our booksellers (2 past, 1 present) now have published work available for your reading pleasure!

Cover design by Kristopher Pollard.1
Ashes, Ashes by Jocelyn Koehler
A forlorn maid known simply as Cindrelle toils like a servant on her family estate. She is given a glimmer of hope for deliverance from her plight when an invitation to the Harvest Ball arrives. She has but three nights to find her freedom and win the prince's heart. But who is the prince? Is the dark mystery surrounding him worth her devotion? A shadowy twist on a timeless tale that will leave you enchanted with its enigmatic ending.
The first story in an ongoing series of fairy tales set in the mythical and fantastical Nine Kingdoms.

$1.00, Hammer & Birch.


Cover design by Deep Sea Studios.2
Lesser Apocalypses by Bayard Godsave
Like "snow in the tropics," this collection is a revelation. Clustered as shell-shocked survivors, Bayard Godsave's Lesser Apocalypses occupy the edge of ruin. Though bleak, the stories contained here are enlivened, emboldened, by disaster. A man emotionally undone by his time inside a missile silo, by the turn of his key; a gas mask that reflects a marriage's murkiness; a domestic bomber whose conscience ignites every fuse; a post-nuclear war refugee facing concurrent adolescence, motherhood, and middle age; and two former cosmonauts disengaged from everything but each other are all vivid against a tenebrous backdrop. Underpinned by a series of prophetic vignettes, the book's blast zones are aglow—illuminating, through stark humanity, the blazing end of devastation.

$12.95, Queens Ferry Press.
Available at Boswell or order online.


The Pfister Narrator, Volume II by Stacie Williams
Twice a week from May 1 to October 31, 2011, Stacie penned blog posts for the Pfister Hotel, as their writer-in-residence, known as the "Pfister Narrator." This book collects those posts in one place for offline reading. Whether interviewing a 92yr old Bay View resident about her mother serving Teddy Roosevelt, getting the scoop on room service, sharing a dog's eye view of the gallery art, or befriending folks from all over the world over cocktails and dining recommendations, Stacie's colorful, personable sketches provide a glimpse of a place that endures—and the people who cherish it.

$14.95. Available at Boswell or at The Pfister Hotel.


1Kristopher Pollard is a Milwaukee artist who designed our awesome "The Book Was Better" t-shirt. He also gives great hugs.

2Deep Sea Studios is the freelance design brainchild of former Schwartz bookseller Joe Lisberg and his best friend, Tuc Krueger, a musician. They designed the Boswell Book Co. logos in use all over our shop.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting Lost, On Purpose

Named one of 2011’s “Top 20 Young Nonprofit Leaders in America”, The Everyday Journeyman is the travelanthropic arm of Milwaukeean Loyal Mehnert, who made it his mission to give back to those less fortunate through adventure travel. His work has taken him to over twenty-five countries on five continents, and he has been recognized by People Magazine, Outside Magazine and Major League Baseball for his adventurous approach to volunteering and fundraising.
The Everyday JourneymanMeet The Everyday Journeyman.

Also known by his real name, Loyal Mehnert, this travelanthropist is co-sponsor of our upcoming event with she-of-the-indomitable-spirit-and-recent-Dear-Sugar-columnist-for-The-Rumpus, Cheryl Strayed, author of the #1 IndieBound pick for April, WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Cheryl's book explores what happens when one woman descends into the lowest depths of grief and how her antidote - a 1,100+ mile solo hike - didn't quite repair her body and soul, though it most certainly directed her on to the true path towards healing.

Cheryl Strayed, author of WILDPraise for WILD has been nonstop across the bookseller, author, blogger, reviewer crossroads, though at Boswell it started with my own staff rec: "As much a memoir about finding oneself in nature, WILD is equally about picking one's way along the precarious trails that line the canyons of grief and loss. Gritty, fierce and tough, Cheryl's writing reflects the woman who came out stronger than she imagined possible at the end of the 1,100 miles she hiked alone. When tragedy snowballs into one bad decision after another, the avalanche that sweeps her down life's difficult slopes lands her shoeless and broke on the Pacific Crest Trail. The result is an engaging and memorable read bound to resonate far beyond Cheryl's life, and into our own."

And Publishers Weekly calls it "Searing . . . powerful . . . mesmerizing.”

Melanie Rehak, in her eloquent and glowing review, describes Strayed's voice as "fierce, billowing with energy, precise."

And, Dwight Garner, via the New York Times, admits openly weeping while reading WILD, adding "This book is as loose and sexy and dark as an early Lucinda Williams song. It’s got a punk spirit and makes an earthy and American sound."

With that as background, we thought we'd give you a glimpse into why we thought Loyal would make a great match for this book, and event, with a little Q&A.

1. What exactly is "travelanthropy?"
Happy Loyal paddlingTravelanthropy is essentially Adventure Travel + Philanthropy. 10 years ago, one would race a 5k to raise money and awareness for a great cause. Travelanthropy is the next step. It's about finding incredible and unique adventures - hiking, biking, mountain climbing, and partnering them with charitable causes. This year's travelanthropic project is the Hike for Hope, a 1200 mile hike across 4 countries raising money and awareness for the Catalyst Foundation and their fight against child trafficking.

2. How long have you been going on these types of adventures and what got you started?
After slaving away in marketing and public relations for a decade, I started working in the non-profit sector. That led to a position with Habitat for Humanity as the National Field Media Spokesperson. In 2007 I came up with the idea for Travelanthropy and The Everyday Journeyman (the codename for the project). I pitched it to Habitat as a crazy fundraising tool and the rest is history.

3. How do you choose the type of adventure you take?
I generally start with finding the charity partner and working my way backwards. Is it an adventure that I can tie into the charity, for example by geography? I look at the world map, select a few interesting places, interesting to me and to supporters. I try to go to countries and do things that I haven't done before. A big part of The Everyday Journeyman is stepping outside your comfort zone. I also try to stay away from incredibly expensive adventures because Travelanthropy isn't about being wealthy, it's not an exclusive club. I'd love to climb Everest but that's a rich man's playground.

4. How do you know when it's time to throw in the towel?
Short answer, you don't. I try to measure things by my "regret meter." How bad will it suck 1 week, 1 month, 6 months from now if I quit. Luckily at any given time I have several thousand people following me through social media. That pressure fuels me and pushes me along beyond my normal breaking point.

Braving desert dust storms5. What's the craziest/wildest/scariest trip you've taken?
Probably racing the Plymouth-Dakar 4,200 miles across Europe and West Africa. The route south from Morocco to Gambia was crawling with warlords, bandits, land mines, and Al-Qaeda cells. The US State Department advised me and my team not to travel there as several Westerners had just been kidnapped and beheaded. Outside of a few shakedowns by corrupt government officials, some logistical concerns, and a 12 year old pointing an AK-47 in my face, it was pretty laid-back.

6. What was it about WILD that most resonated with you?
It's really hard to explain the magical nature of long-distance hiking to those who haven't experienced it firsthand. Everyone reading this blog lives in a world of 24 hour convenience, anything we need is a phone call or car drive or keyboard click away. Long-distance hiking destroys that comfort. All the sudden it's you, your feet, and the wilderness. What's recorded on the DVR or posted on Facebook doesn't matter. You need food, water, and shelter, those are the daily constants.

The way long-distance hiking resets your clock is almost as if you've traveled back in time. And Cheryl did an incredible job conveying that in WILD. She also talked about the beauty of trail companionship which is a little known aspect of long-distance hiking. I've never cried as much as an adult as I have after leaving friends I made on the trail. These are people you may have only known weeks or even days and yet because of the mental, physical, and emotional toll long-distance hiking takes, it feels as if these are friends you've known your entire life. It makes no sense in the context of the real world but out there in the WILD, it's a beautiful thing.

7. What is your top "boot flying off the side of a mountain" adventuring experience?
Nearly getting eaten by a very upset mama bear while hiking the Appalachian Trail. That was a very interesting afternoon.

8. If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be?
Flying While Brown: The Global Misadventures of the World's Foremost Travelanthropist.

Hike for Hope 2012

Loyal will introduce Cheryl Strayed at our event on Monday April 16th, at 7pm.

In addition to WILD, Cheryl Strayed is author of the critically acclaimed novel Torch, a finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award. Her stories and essays have appeared in numerous magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, The Missouri Review, and anthologized in The Best New American Voices and twice in The Best American Essays

You can read more about Cheryl and her books on her website, or by "liking" her author page on Facebook.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Introducing Your Boswellians: Nick

Name: Nick Berg
Bookseller, philosopher, hunky dude

1. Why did you want to work in a bookstore?
There are three things every great city must possess: an old movie theater, a good coffee shop and a great bookstore. In Milwaukee, you can find all of these components on the same block. From the moment I stepped onto Downer Avenue, and likewise, into Boswell Books, I knew I’d found nirvana.

2. Which section of the store would you consider your “specialty”?
Normally nonfiction (history, science, cooking, etc), but I’ll admit to a fondness for children’s books. I’m an illustrator, and I draw a lot of inspiration from the work of the masters - Dr. Seuss, Tomie dePaola, Chris van Allsburg, Eric Carle, E.B. White, Quentin Blake, Don Wood, Maurice Sendak...

3. What book has kept a permanent place on your “favorite books” list?
Cloudy With a Chance Of Meatballs. Ron Barrett’s illustrations were what inspired wee, little six-year-old Nick to pick up a pencil and draw.

4. What’s on your reading list right now?
I’m digging science and physics writing lately – I’m working through Brian Cox and Michio Kaku at the moment. I’ve been a huge fan of cooking literature lately as well; can’t wait to read Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, The Sorcerer’s Apprentices by Lisa Abend, It Must Have Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten, and A History Of The World In 6 Glasses by Tom Standage.

5. Who is your newest favorite author?
Mary Roach; she’s brilliant. And Stephen Fry is hilarious.

6. Which writer would render you speechless if you met him/her?
If he were living, I’d want to sit down for a mojito with Hemingway. Otherwise meeting Bill Bryson would be incredible – the guy’s a genius. I’d imagine a conversation with him would be amazing.

7. With which fictional character can you most relate?
Calvin, of Bill Watterson's genius Calvin and Hobbes comic strips: Adventurous, an avid comic book reader, intensely imaginative, curious, inexplicably intelligent, loyal, extraordinarily well-spoken and deeply philosophical, yet prone to pure idiocy. Sounds like me!

8. Someone wrote your biography – what is the title?
I Hope You Wore Clean Underwear.

9. If you were a super-villain, what would be your name and who would be your arch-nemesis?
The Quoter – I’d speak only in dialogue from film and television - with terrible impersonations included, of course. My arch-nemesis would be Captain Copyright.

10. You’ve been asked to select four commercial-free hours worth of programming for a cable TV station, what shows/movies would you put on it?
Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

11. What pop culture decade would help your team win Trivia Night, thanks to you?
I have a certain affinity for all things 90's, but I believe I could hold my own with just about any other decade.

12. Coffee or Tea?
Yes, please.

13. Can you bake a cake?
Boy, can I! I'm also remarkably talented at eating them. I'm happy to show you.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bookselling: The Missing Link in Particle Physics?, or, An Interview with Brent Gohde

Brent Gohde is one of the sexy minds behind Cedar Block, an organization responsible for art, science, and art & science events/ephemera since 2005. Starting at Luckystar Studio, followed by six shows at Milwaukee Art Museum, and now at Turner Hall Ballroom, they showcase some of the most creative minds in Milwaukee for large audiences. Their new show is titled "Sexy Results: Cedar Block's Dig for the Higgs and how the Quest Was Won."

What in the name of Pluto's eccentric orbit is "Sexy Results?"

Well, by "Pluto" I can only assume you're referring to Asteroid 134340. With that established, Sexy Results is Cedar Block's first stage performance, taking place at Turner Hall Ballroom on February 18th, inexplicably but thankfully a part of the 2011-12 Alverno Presents season.

Previously Cedar Block has recruited local creative types to pay tribute to artists in exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and we've organized one-of-a-kind science fairs for grown-ups. So it only makes sense we'd draw from our pool of brilliant Milwaukeeans to pay tribute to scientists, primarily those who have spent four decades searching for the Higgs boson particle at Fermilab in Batavia, IL. And who knows? Maybe we'll even find the Higgs in the process. I'm not convinced one needs a particle accelerator in order to do so.

Of course, I was going to ask what books influenced you as you developed this idea, but then you went and wrote "this show only exists because I worked at a bookstore," which means there's a juicier answer than just a list of titles and authors. Please give it to me now.

This show never would have occurred to me had I not spent three years as a bookseller at the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop on Downer, when an author named Leonard Shlain (R.I.P.) visited Milwaukee to promote The Alphabet vs. The Goddess. Many artist friends pointed me to a book called Art & Physics, in which he made the argument that, while the two disciplines seemed exclusive, they were actually very similar in that they are developing a language to interpret the world around them. Shlain even goes so far as to suggest many artists have anticipated major scientific discoveries throughout history, so we're hoping to join that club. (I'd also like to credit my best friend in grade school, Brad Cage, for handing me a copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which changed just about everything in my 12 year-old brain. Oh, and it was one of my great memories to met Mr. Adams at the Schwartz in Brookfield prior to his death.)  

What books influenced you?

I'd like to think every book I've ever read has influenced this show. Those books are either directly related to our subject matter (Ian Sample's Massive, Shlain's Art & Physics), related in my mind (Jonathan Lethem's As She Climbed Across the Table, Adams' THHGTTG), or just responsible for warping my view of reality (anything by Mark Leyner, Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, Nabokov's Lolita, Fernando Pessoa, David Foster Wallace, Flannery O'Connor, James Gleick, James Ellroy... what's my word-count here?). I even discovered some of my favorite visual artists through bound collections of their work (Anselm Kiefer, Paul Klee, and Jenny Holzer).

I seriously just deleted an entire paragraph of books people should read. You can take the bookseller out of the bookstore, but...  

Do you consider yourself more scientifically minded or artistically inclined?

The great thing about that Leonard Shlain book is that we no longer need to choose between art and science. And that's one of the main messages we hope to communicate with this show.

We had the great opportunity to sit down with three brilliant physicists at Fermilab and pick their brains, to find out how they got involved in particle physics research. They all had scientists in their immediate family... and they all had artists in their immediate family. This discipline requires a significant amount of creative thinking to develop new theories and answers to age-old problems.

A guy named Dwellephant[*]keeps telling me to approach this show like a little kid, and I think that's how you have to approach the great mysteries of the universe: imagine you're the first one to approach this. It's a playground. Where do you start? Anything is a potential solution, so just start working and imagining the possibilities.

Are you familiar with Steve Martin's play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile? It posits that the processes in art/science are much the same, and also that greatness always comes in threes. What three people, at the intersection of art and science, would you most like to put in a locked room together, along with too much wine and a camera to record the scene?

Grammy Award-nominee banjo player Steve Martin is a playwright? The world is amazing. Also, I'm embarrassed to say I haven't gotten around to this, because theatre is a blindspot for me, and because I have a dayjob and spend most of my free-time reading James Ellroy.

But as for the three people (and the number THREE is significant to the show, as it turns out, so thanks), I'd... huh. I don't know. There's a great book that came out in 2010 called Quantum that I need to finish about Einstein and Bohr figuring out this brand new way of thinking. So maybe I don't have to invite those two.

Honestly, the participants in this show all fit that description, and I can't tell you how amazingly inspiring it has been to hear them share ideas and go down the rabbit-hole which is our Sexy Results show. Anytime three of my friends are talking about this in my vicinity, I'm pretty happy. But Douglas Adams' ghost is always invited.  

Describe what Cedar Block will be like at 10 years old.

It would be amazing to take this show on the road, but we've got way too many ideas for a group that consists of one guy that has no idea how to make money at this.

Describe what Brent Gohde was like at 10 years old.

Brent Gohde was a 4th grader at Immanuel Lutheran grade school at 10 years-old, and he had his dad as a teacher. Young Brent pretty much only cared about baseball, comic books, and GI Joe. But his parents always took him to MAM for artist lectures (Gordon Parks and Jerry Zucker stand out), took him to the symphony, and always encouraged him at any path he decided to take on any given day.

I'm pretty sure they're okay with the fact that he's stressed out putting on a show called Sexy Results at 36 instead of stressed out closing that merger that's going to net the company a few million dollars I have no idea what I'm talking about.

How much can I swear in my responses?

You say whatever/however much you want  and if it's not okay, we'll just make them pretty symbols instead.

Damn boobs hell fart.


Tickets for "Sexy Results" are available online via Alverno Presents or through Turner Hall Ballroom.

[*] Dwellephant happens to also be the designer of our next Boswell t-shirt!