Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Boswellian Kira on Shopping Small, Nestled Pines, and Ornamentation

Hello! My name is Kira, and I’ve been a bookseller just shy of five months.  Allow me to introduce myself — I ride my bike through sunshine and sleet alike. I kill most of the plants I bring home, regardless of how much love I smother them with. I go climbing as much as I can without shredding my hands to bits, and if I’m not climbing, there’s a good chance I’m reading about it. Not least of all, I’m a huge advocate for supporting and frequenting small businesses, as I think my fellow booksellers could attest to. I’ve been working for small businesses essentially my entire working life, sixteen on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way — trust me. I tried my hand at a few corporations over the years, and I think my record for longest employment was a measly four months before I respectfully quit, thank you very much. 

My excitement over Boswell’s 2019 holiday ornament (designed by Boswellian Aaron Boyd) should come as no surprise then — it’s not only created by any old small business, but the Wisconsin-based Nestled Pines Woodworking, who I happened to work for throughout high school. They were my first job! I vividly remember walking in my first day, overwhelmed by the smell of freshly engraved wood and nervous as all hell. I was beyond relieved when my new boss Amie was wearing Converse All Stars. I figured we’d get along just fine after that, because I was also wearing my super cool Converse sneakers. Sophomore logic, eh? I apparently hadn’t had enough of them after high school was over, because I went back to complete my college internship a couple of years later. How could I not? The owners of Nestled Pines, Matt & Amie, are truly some of the most genuine, hard working people I know. 

Not to be overly sentimental, but they treated me like family at a time when I certainly needed a little more parental guidance than I was receiving at home. Matt, Amie — thank you for all of your wisdom, home-cooked meals, and lessons on how to be unequivocally true to yourself. Truly, though, I don’t know how the two of them do it. Especially every December — it’s the most chaotic time of the year, with numerous all-nighters, frantic bow-tying, and Epilog lasers engraving quite literally 24/7 to complete every order on time. Even though December was so insanely busy, they somehow found time to make it to some pretty important trade shows. The first time I went along to one, we found ourselves stuck in Chicago during a brutal snowstorm. I’m sure they were somewhat distraught not to head home and keep working after the show was complete, but 17-year-old me was definitely over the moon to be stuck overnight in a beautiful hotel with my role models in a city I’d never been to.

Matt & Amie aren’t only wonderful role models, they’re also ethical, eco-conscious brand owners. Thought and care clearly goes into every step of their process, from sustainably grown woods, USA-made ribbons, and packaging/shipping materials from a fellow Wisconsin company (plus, the community of Monticello, where Nestled Pines is based, is encouraged to bring in pre-loved shipping materials, rather than tossing them out). The ornaments themselves, of course, biodegradable, rather than plastic or other icky materials. Nestled Pines Woodworking has partnerships all over the country, from national parks to museums and the like, so if you’re travelling this season, there’s a good chance you’ll happen upon more of their creations!

But if all this isn’t quite enough to convince you that shopping locally is great — here’s why you should personally consider it whenever you can. It keeps your dollars within your community; you’re supporting businesses owners who care about your city because they live alongside you, rather than thousands of miles away; and one that I personally care about deeply —  if the businesses you frequent (like Boswell!) carry locally made goods, it has the potential to lower your environmental impact. Let me explain, in case you’re not sure what I’m talking about — if you purchase something made all the way across the globe, it must be created, potentially with questionable labor practices; packaged, often in lots of plastic that can’t be recycled; loaded onto a boat or a plane or a train or a truck, and brought all the way to you from who knows how far away. All those miles the item has to travel to get to you add up to a fair amount of burned fossil fuels. Alternatively, if your item only comes from a few towns away, that means less non-renewable resources are consumed in transport, and you know who made your goods,as well as how! When you visit Boswell this season, keep your eye out for a few of the brands we carry that are local, Wisconsin companies — Tabal chocolates, Mayana chocolates, HANmade Milwaukee puzzles & gifts, and, as you know, Nestled Pines Woodworking. There’s no better way to do Christmas than with locally crafted, eco-friendly, gorgeous ornaments on your tree, in my humble opinion. Especially when it’s made by a couple who are so truly wonderful to work for and with. Happy holidays, y’all.
- Kira McGrigg

Friday, October 18, 2019

All About Puzzles

When the weather starts to turn a bit chilly, some of us think it's puzzle time. There's something cozy about it. Maybe it's the escape of daily stresses or the warmth and charm it brings when people gather around and work on a puzzle together. Are you a 1,000 piece puzzler? Or do you prefer the 500 piece puzzles to occupy your mind? We have a variety of puzzles to choose from; we even have a few puzzles that are over 1,000 pieces for the more adventurous person.

Not sure if puzzles are your thing. Here's what our Boswellians have to say about puzzling:

Kay says "Puzzles pull me deeply into a world of color, pattern, shape, visual texture and rhythm, often at a very micro level. The world outside the puzzle melts away. When I’m finished, I have an intimate appreciation of the imagination and skill that went into creating the piece which I, in a sense, have just recreated. It’s a totally healthy addiction!"

Aaron says "I puzzle because it's good for the mind and soul as well as being fun. No matter the puzzle I have found once it's spread out on a table most people cannot help but take a seat and place a few pieces. It allows me to go inside to a quiet place where I can relax and stretch my mind at the same time. There is no pace or pressure, just fun. "

Conrad likes puzzle because "Puzzles are problem solving that can be done alone or with others. I love them around the holidays as people drift in and out of working on them."

Madi, one of our newest Boswellians, declares "How do I love puzzles? Let me count the ways. There's nothing quite as satisfying as finishing a puzzle. You know what the picture is going to look like, and yet still feel accomplished when all the pieces come together to show the picture you've been trying to match the whole time. It's both calming and challenging, and the perfect way to spend a relaxing night."

Stop by Boswell and we'd be happy to talk puzzles!

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Effervescence of Boswell's Maltiest Book Club

Want to know more about Boswell's newest book club?

The Books & Beer Book Club meets the third Monday of every month at Café Hollander on Downer. Now, you may be wondering what type of books a Books & Beer book club will read? Boswellian Jen has chosen genre-bending novels, often with speculative elements: those quirky books you may not have chosen for yourself to read. The books that may tend to fall through the cracks of other book clubs. And where does the beer fit in? By having our book club meet at Café Hollander, there's a certain camaraderie when you're gathered with fellow readers talking books, and beer just adds to the warmth of that gathering. Of course wine/cocktail drinkers are welcome; it's not a book club for beer drinkers only!

What is the Books & Beer Book Club like?

We have lively discussions, but a few books in particular have stayed with the group and sometimes at the end of the night we tend to revisit those books. I always enjoy those surprise moments where someone will bring the book out in a different light. I love seeing what people take away from the books, because we all bring our own experience to a book.

Do we read any books about beer? Not yet, but who knows? I'm on the lookout for any speculative novels about beer. A fun thing did happen at our June meeting. Café Hollander's Bier Master was able to offer beer pairing suggestions for The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. We're hoping to offer beer pairing suggestions for some of the other books we will be discussing.

If you're considering joining a book club, and you enjoy reading or want to read unconventional literature, then why not join the Books & Beer Book Club? We're discussing The Emissary by Yoko Tawada July 15th. An infusion of fairytale, dystopia and light-hearted insight. Why not try Hitachino Nest White Ale, a complex mix of flavors perfect for a light yet complex book!

For more upcoming selections, visit our Boswell-run book clubs page.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Boswellians Read The Current

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious what’s going to be the next big hit - literary darling debuts, new releases from authors who are longtime old favorites, and memoirs by certain former First Ladies are all easy checks on the list. Sometimes, though, new books creep up on us, and advance copies get passed from one bookseller to another in the break room with whispers and notes that say things like, “this is such an Amie book,” and “you love Tana French so I know you’re going to love this,” or simply, “you’ve gotta read this right now.” Being that we’re all professional book suggesters, sometimes we even get it right. Recently, one of the books we’re passing around is Tim Johnston’s new mystery, The Current.

Johnston’s first novel, Descent, hit The New York Times and USA Today lists and was a bestseller in indie bookstores around the country, and it had fans here at Boswell, too. So we were definitely excited when Tim agreed to visit Boswell on his tour for The Current this winter. He’ll be here on Monday, January 28, at 7 pm, and our mystery book club is reading Descent right now, to discuss at their meeting at 6, right before Johnston’s event. How cool is that?

Among the Boswellians, Kay finished The Current first. She’s the one who convinced me to pick it up off my stack – when I asked her what she thought, she pretty much just shouted at me, “I LOVED it! Lots of twists and turns and very well-developed characters.”

Tim finished reading it next and says it is “a fine novel of suspense and an intricate study of how people react to tragedy and loss from an excellent writer. Johnston's descriptions of places in and around the river, where lives suddenly change forever, have a gravity like the flowing water, and he captures the survivors' struggle over what they can never get back as time pushes them away from what they had. His use of places and things to reveal characters' emotions is masterful, and his characters' direct, honest dialog about the most difficult problems is compelling. With very few words Johnston quickly shows us the thoughts and actions of people who seem real”

I’m about halfway through the book as I’m writing this*, and I am loving it, too. It’s kind of the season 1 of True Detective of books, with a story that jumps back and forth between characters and a winter in Minnesota setting you can feel creeping off the page until you feel like you’ve lived there a little too long yourself. Yeah, it’s really good.

And what of Anne, the Boswellian who runs our Mystery Book Club? Her group is reading The Descent at 6 pm, and then heading to the rear of the store to hear Johnston speak. Want more info about our in-store book clubs? Visit this page right here!

So that’s four booksellers eagerly anticipating Johnston’s visit to Boswell (friendly reminder: Monday, January 28, at 2 pm**) for The Current. Kay, I know, already has a prepared list of several questions for him, and I suppose Tim will be adding another autographed first edition to his collection.

*Editor's Note: I finished the book. Guess what? I, too, LOVED IT. Here's my full write up about The Current:
If we’re comparing books to television, and why shouldn’t we be, then Johnston’s second novel is clearly the critical darling mini-series from your premium subscription-package channel kind of TV. You know the shows I’m talking about. If really good cozies are Masterpiece Theater, and maybe the not-so-good ones are Lifetime movies, and the middling psychological thrillers are the ones that get made into, well, middling psychological thriller series that drag on for three to seven seasons on channels that bored people sort of half watch while they’re ironing, then The Current is that show that’s filling up your Twitter feed, the one all the cool people won’t shut up about with the arty opening credit sequence. So what’s it about, right? Well, yeah, it is another book about dead girls, and if that’s a story that you’re understandably tired of, then this book won’t convince you otherwise. But, to Johnston’s credit, it’s also about the strength and humanity of those girls and women, and the book does confront men who do bad things and deals honestly with good men and how they respond to bad actions, what they do and what they leave undone. The story twists and weaves through these people’s lives before, during, and after a crime is committed.  There are several times in the novel where all questions seem answered, where Johnston could have wrapped up the story all nice and neat, but that’s not the writer he is – he keeps pushing, deeper and deeper, in this masterful performance that plumbs the depths of life’s extremes.
- Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company

**Due to a storm forecast, we have changed the time of this event from 7 pm to 2 pm.