Friday, June 30, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 27, 2023

Better late than never, right? A few days belated (though just in time for the weekend, so how about that, eh?) but nonetheless great, here are this week's recommendations from the Boswellians.

Let's begin with Jenny Chou and her write-up for The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue. Jenny says: "Rachel is a college student, uncertain about love and friendship, and with a desperate need to be taken seriously. Her best friend is her bookstore coworker. He’s gay, which everyone around him seems to know, even in closeted 2009 Ireland. When a married English professor turns both their lives upside down, the results are messy and surprising, and the repercussions span years. The Irish setting makes the book feel timely in 2023 America regarding the social justice chaos we’re currently facing. How is it that Ireland has moved forward on issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights while we’re backtracking? The Rachel Incident is the laugh-out-loud, clever, and sometimes cringe-inducing book we all needed in our early twenties to let us know that life would have its ups and downs during that long slog to becoming a grownup, but we’d end up mostly okay."

Now it's Chris Lee who recommends Dead Eleven, the debut horror novel by Jimmy Juliano set on a mysterious island in Lake Michigan. Chris says: "Clifford Island is a fictional (or is it?) speck of land in Lake Michigan off the edge of Door County. And this place is very weird. When I moved to Milwaukee, I thought it was a little weird – just why were all these strangers being so, so very nice? And sure, Wisconsin lags a little behind the times now and then, but it’s nothing compared to Dead Eleven’s stuck-in-'94, technology-hostile inhabitants, living on an island that may or may not have some major demon problems. Visitors wish these people were just Wisconsin nice. Instead, when a man arrives looking for his missing sister, he gets threatened, run around, and finds himself smack in the middle of a plot to keep an ancient, world-disappearing evil at bay. Super weird stuff. In small-screen, high drama, lots-of-jump-cuts style, the book goes a bit all over the place as it tracks several stories – the brothers, the sisters, the lives of several islanders – all the way through to a die or save the world trying conclusion. Quirky, nostalgic summer fun."

Speaking of summer fun, come to Boswell for a fun event featuring Juliano on Friday, July 28, 6:30 pm. Click here to register and find out more.

Custard and Milwaukee and Bears, oh my! Jen Steele recommends How to Catch a Polar Bear, a new middle grade novel by Stacy DeKeyser. Jen's recommendation: "Stacy DeKeyser’s latest middle grade novel is inspired by a true event - a polar bear escape at the Milwaukee Zoo! Nick and his friends Ace & Penny have a busy summer ahead of them. Not only are they trying to solve the mystery of how a polar bear escaped, but they also have to contend with bullies, a summer job, a feisty monkey, and all the frozen custard you can eat. Simply delightful, treat yourself to How to Catch a Polar Bear (and some frozen custard) this summer!"

Paperback picks? Okay!

First up is Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer, recommended thusly by Daniel Goldin: "If you think you heard the last of Arthur Less, last seen in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning, around-the-world journey, you’re wrong. This time the writer in a pretty much continuous midlife crisis must navigate the United States as he is shaken by the death of an old lover, and despite a seemingly perfect current beau, Arthur takes a whole bunch more gigs, most of which do not go as planned, as he searches for some variation on inner fulfillment and maybe some acceptance from his dad. But sometimes it seems not everybody wants more Less. Greer is tops in capturing types and bringing them to glowing life, from his late lover’s widowed ex to the impulsive science fiction writer who demands Less interview him (but why?!). On top of that, Greer can make any situation funny, even German translation, and yet, through all the guffaws, there's a chunk of heart too."

How about a triple-rec?! That'd be Upgrade by Blake Crouch, which has laudatory words from Jason Kennedy, Kay Wosewick, and Jenny Chou. First, from Jason: "Logan Ramsey is attempting to live a life that makes up for his Mom's ultimate failure, which caused a massive famine and killed millions. Twenty years later, he is part of a government organization that hunts down scientists and others modifying DNA. On a mission to recover an illegal package which they think contains altered DNA of some form, Logan is caught in a bomb blast. The blast introduces a virus into his system that begins changing his DNA. Logan's life is about to turn upside down as he must flee from family and friends for their safety. Blake Crouch uses this novel as a platform to express our collective anxiety of the future of homo sapiens and Earth. The science is fascinating as always with his books, and the dire warnings are completely well researched and accurate. Another blast of a book from Blake Crouch."

From Jenny: "Not only is Upgrade a fast-paced thriller, but author Blake Crouch takes a deep dive into the science of DNA. Since I find our genetic code fascinating, I couldn’t put this novel down. Main character Logan answered for the catastrophic destruction unleashed on our planet by his scientist mother, and he served time in prison following her death. After his release, several decades in our future, he’s a detective investigating labs suspected of modifying DNA, which has become illegal. When a mysterious virus targets him specifically, he recovers to find he’s now an upgraded version of homo sapien, with increased strength and speed and the ability to recall everything he’s ever read and process new information instantly. Who did this to him and why? The answer seems to lie with his sister, who also received an upgrade. They’ve seemingly been handed the task of saving humanity from a decimated planet, but along with these skills comes an ability to think critically without letting emotion guide them. So much of this book is food for thought. Perhaps the biggest question of all: if saving our species means giving up what makes us distinctly human, is it worth the price?"

And take it home, Kay: "Crouch has outdone himself. Upgrade is masterful story about a tiny group of people illegally testing massive genetic alterations on a few people - without their knowledge. You’ll fly through this book, gaining insight into faults in our thinking, sensing the elation of having a perfect body, and perhaps vicariously feeling the power of thinking deeply about multiple complex subjects at once. The scope and depth of Crouch’s research is the engine that makes Upgrade feel vividly real."

That's it for the recommendations this week. Hope you can cram them all in for a great weekend of reading, and we'll be back next week, maybe even sort of on time, with more great books. Until then, read on.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 20, 2023

Five newly released books get the staff recommendation treatment this week, plus a few paperback picks for you as well. 

First up, Jen Steele recommends Lucky Red, the debut novel from Claudia Cravens. Jen says: "Set in Dodge City in the late 1800s, a young woman is caught up in other people's expectations and wants. But what does Bridget want, and how will she make it happen? Lucky Red is about carving your own way in a world that wants to keep you under its thumb. A thrilling western full of grit, passion, and whiskey!"

Next it's Chris Lee and his write-up of Adult Drama: And Other Essays by Natalie Beach. Chris says: "The hook of the book is Beach’s viral essay about that Instascammer, though trying to explain Beach (or anyone, really) by their viral moment is something like painting a portrait from a pinhole projector’s shadow. Fortunately, (to strain a metaphor) Beach fleshes out her self-portrait with aplomb into a charming chronicle of a millennial writer’s becoming. First of all, she’s just plain good at writing – totally open yet never guileless or na├»ve. And I love how each essay is so much of its place in time, yet also dips into history and culture to understand how the world got to those moments. Plus, how great is it to read about someone who seems to actually enjoy work and writes about it in ways so much fresher and more interesting than just the old ‘oof, day jobs, amiright?’ With wit and perspective, Beach’s essays cram together the pleasures and horrors and tedious in-betweens of life as she figures out that she was the star writer all along."

Kay  Wosewick is up next, and she recommends a new graphic novel entitled Night Fever, written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips. Kay keeps it short and sweet this time: "Dark, Kafkaesque, haunting. The illustrations perfectly capture the story’s shifting moods."

Oli Schmitz jumps into the fray with the latest installment of Juno Dawson's Her Royal Majesty's Coven trilogy. Book number two is titled The Shadow Cabinet, and of it, Oli says: "In this thrilling sequel to Her Majesty's Royal Coven, Dawson builds on the characters and events of book one, masterfully managing multiple perspectives and complicating some of the characters we thought we understood. As secrets are unraveled and elements of the Coven's history - and narrators' pasts - come to light, the story flows naturally between moments of fear, joy, confusion, and love. The sequel stands out for its emotional range, nuanced characters, and page-turning plot. I can't say more without spoiling book one, but if you're looking for a summer series to whisk you away, the release of The Shadow Cabinet is a great excuse to dive in!"

Guess what! Juno Dawson is visiting Milwaukee this week, so if you're reading this blog before 5:30 on Friday, June 23, 2023, there's still time for you to get down to the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. More info and registration here.

And we wrap up the recommending with Daniel Goldin, who has a couple of kids books to suggest. The first is a new middle grade novel by Caroline Hickey called Ginny Off the Map. Daniel says: "When Ginny’s family is transferred by the military from North Carolina to Maryland, things are hard enough. But things do get worse – her father has been deployed to Afghanistan. It’s so hard for Ginny to make new friends – her obsession with geography is hardly infectious, and she just can’t be outgoing like her sister Allie. Will Ginny even survive the summer? I really liked how Ginny slowly learned to empathize with others while still being herself.  And yes, the story is also packed with fascinating facts."

Daniel also recommends Wombat by author / illustrator Philip Bunting. This book actually came out last week, but I wanted to be sure to include it on the blog, so here it is now. Daniel says: "Counting, shapes, colors, rhyme - no concept is out of reach for Philip Bunting’s simple but expressive wombats. You can only imagine the fun a kid would have reading this book out loud - every word or phrase sounds funnier when it ends in b-a-t. And while it’s true that wombats are an Australian thing, this could be just the book to help wombats overtake kangaroos and koalas as world’s favorite marsupial."

Now we move on to books getting their second life as softcovers this week. Oli Schmitz recommends Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Katherine J Chen. Oli says: "Chen's take on the life of Joan of Arc richly imagines a complicated young woman behind the legendary historical figure; not the martyr or the saint, but the girl who lived. Reading this felt like being at Joan's side, let in on her perspective and motives as she makes her way from a childhood of survival-mode to the height of French military leadership, growing into the formidable warrior we remember. I especially appreciated Joan's voice and inner thoughts, delivered in such a way that she read like a real person. This may be my favorite retelling of Joan of Arc's story!"

Ottessa Moshfegh's Lapvona gets a recommendation from Chris Lee, who says: "Moshfegh is the modern bard of violence and delusion, and Lapvona lies somewhere in the territory between lost books of the Bible and Shakespearian tragedy. In a medieval fiefdom struck by drought and ruled by superstition, a demented power struggle plays out between a bitter shepherd, his deformed but pious son, an ignorant priest, a blind, witchy midwife, and a heretical, frail lord. Is there a wolf among them, or are they all sheep for slaughter? Captivating and brutal, this is a heady novel of ideas that will grab you hard and shake away any scraps of complacency you might have left."

This one is on Parker Jensen's rec shelf, too!

And those are the recs. Here's to another great week of reading for you and recommending for us. Until next time, read on.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 13, 2023

We've got lots of great summer reads to recommend this week. Snag one or two (or five, whatever!) of these books, find a spot in the sun (or at least a spot out of today's drizzle), and enjoy.

Daniel Goldin kicks us off with Rocky Mountain High: A Tale of Boom and Bust in the New Wild West by Finn Murphy. Daniel says: "Anyone who has read Finn Murphy’s The Long Haul probably noticed that there are some missing years in his story, in between his two stints as a trucker. What exactly happened? The revelation: after moving to Boulder, Colorado, he jumped feet first into the hemp cultivation business. If you’re thinking this is a rags-to-riches story, think again – just about anything that can go wrong does. I was reminded of Tim Clissord’s classic business memoir, Mr. China, another tale of near delusional can-do spirit. So many setbacks, but along the way are some good stories and lots of fascinating insights and tips for entrepreneurs."

Remaining in the nonfiction lane, it's Tim McCarthy with his write-up for What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World's Most Enigmatic Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. Tim says: "I’m not an active birder, but they fascinate me and comfort me and somehow make me believe that surviving our maddening times is possible. I've read several books about birds lately, especially owls, because seven-year-old Landon and I shared the experience of Great Horned Owls nesting and hunting in our neighborhood. The Merlin Bird ID app also has me identifying bird species by photos and sound recordings from my phone. Landon intuitively questions me about disrupting their lives while gathering information. Smart boy! Together we watched the Boswell virtual event with Miriam Darlington and Schlitz Audubon Raptor Director Lindsay Obermeier for Darlington's lovely owl memoir The Wise Hours. (Ed note: click here to watch that program.) Lindsay brought out all of the center’s owls, and the conversation was magical - check it out on our virtual event archive. Now Ackerman details the latest owl science and the stories behind the science. She explains our growing understanding of owl species diversity and the dedicated worldwide fight for their preservation. Her writing is energetic and thorough, a missing piece of my developing owl puzzle, and I kept hoping the book and the birds would continue forever."

We'll once again partner with the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for a virtual event - Jennifer Ackerman joins us in conversation with the aforementioned Lindsay Obermeier on Wednesday, September 6, 2 pm. Click here to register for this event.

Now let's go to Kay Wosewick, who has four (four!) recommendations to share. Yowza. The first Kay rec keeps us in the animal kingdom, specifically the science books about animals realm. It's Many Things Under a Rock: The Mysteries of Octopuses by David Scheel, illustrated by Laurel "Yoyo" Scheel, and Kay says: "This intimate portrayal of octopuses’ daily life is based on 25 years of diving in coastal Alaskan waters. Octopuses spend much of their time privately observing the neighborhood from a safe, hidden home, often under a rock. Hunting and eating habits, mating, predator avoidance, and interactions with other octopuses are described. While most books about octopuses focus on their intelligence, this is the first book I’ve found that paints a full picture of how octopuses live - and die - in the wild."

Kay also recommends The Book of Pet Love and Loss: Words of Comfort and Wisdom from Remarkable People by Sara Bader. Of this book, Kay says: "Tears rolled down my face as I read dozens of heartfelt, heartwarming, and heartbreaking quotes and short stories by people reckoning with the last stages of life with - and the first stage of life without - a precious animal friend. Bader has composed a perfect book for anyone facing the loss of a dear pet. Keep a copy handy for a friend in need."

Kay turns to fiction with her next recommendation, a paperback original short story collection entitled Beijing Sprawl, written by Zechen Xu and translated into English by Eric Abrahamsen and Jeremy Tiang. Kay says: "The young men in these related short stories leave their small village with plans to build exciting new lives in the big city of Beijing. Without college degrees, the jobs they find are meaningless, dead-end, and poorly paid. Zechen’s vibrant writing made me feel their boredom, stress, listless fun, and their shock when an occasional event or situation sends someone back home while the others double-down to stay. A couple stories feel unique to China, but most have universal themes that could take place nearly anywhere."

And Kay's final rec is for The Puzzle Master, the latest novel from horror and thriller author Danielle Trussoni. Kay says: "The Puzzle Master is a mashup of puzzle addicts - a man with extraordinary intellectual powers (the puzzle master), a young woman in a psychiatric ward who tracks all of the master’s output, and mysterious adversaries intent on disrupting the master's work. A couple other curious individuals add more depth and twists. The result is a first-rate thriller."

Parker Jensen jumps in with their rec of Wolfpack, a new YA novel by Amelia Brunskill. Parker writes: "The Wolfpack, a group of nine young girls, have all lived at Havenwood for most of their lives. They follow the rules, they give back to their community, they don't dare leave the property, and they don't question their leader. But when one of their group disappears without a trace, and with no acknowledgment from the elders, they must begin to finally question the way things are. Amelia Brunskill delivers an engaging and beautifully crafted novel about the lengths we will go to save ourselves and the ones we love."

And Jen Steele wraps up the new release recommendations with a picture book called The Best Flower Ever!, written and illustrated by Neesha Hudson. Jen says: "Neesha Hudson's latest picture book makes for a great family story time. It's a delightful picture book with a witty message about jealousy, told through dog gardeners. I was absolutely charmed by this one!"

Paperback picks - perfectly totable books for summertime (or any other time for that matter.  You want 'em, and we've got 'em. Here are our recommendations of books getting their paperback release this week.

Rachel Copeland brings a bit of delightful, funny romance to the blog with The Bodyguard by Katherine Center. Rachel says: "Hannah looks like an ordinary young woman, which is a great advantage in her profession as a bodyguard. Dumped by her boyfriend/coworker the day after her mother's funeral, she's determined stay professional and prove herself to her boss - but then she gets assigned to Jack Stapleton. You know him, of course - twice voted sexiest man alive, blockbuster movie actor, and recently the subject of a death threat or two. With his mother's health in question, Hannah has no choice but to pretend to be Jack's girlfriend in order both keep him safe and not worry his family. Now she just has to do her job... and guard her heart. What a thoroughly charming book this is! Hannah's matter-of-fact voice is so funny that I could listen to her talk about security and guns all day, and Jack is so wonderfully quirky (always misses when throwing away trash, does tricks on horseback) that I couldn't help but fall for him along with Hannah. Center's writing style is super charming and adorably weird (there's a character named Dog House!); I was laughing the whole time."

Daniel Goldin has a write-up for Jackie & Me, the latest from Louis Bayard. Daniel says: "The mythology of the Kennedys is baked into the brains of many an American. So it’s fascinating to me when a writer like Louis Bayard switches it up. His take on a single Jacqueline Bouvier being courted by the well-connect Congressman is told through a fictionalized version of Kirk LeMoyne Billings. Lem was a prep school friend of Jack’s and known as a walker to Kennedy women. Jack assigned Lem to occupy Jackie while he ran for the Senate and who knows what else? Could he stay true to both parties, especially when they were not exactly on the same page regarding what exactly this relationship was? Jackie & Me is at once wryly entertaining and wistfully somber. Prime historical fiction!"

Bayard visited Boswell with this book when it came out last year - click here to check out his conversation with Christina Clancy, author of Shoulder Season.

Daniel also recommends Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrotta. Of this one, he says: "Thirty-something years after Tracy Flick’s run at student council president, Tracy is assistant principal at her high school, once again in the running to move up with the pending retirement of Principal Jack Weede. In her court is Kyle Dorfman, a graduate who’s returned to town after making a bundle in tech, with a modernist mansion-ette squeezed in among the suburban houses to show for it. What’s up with that? Tracy just has to do Kyle one little favor – serve in the committee for the new Green Meadow High School Hall of Fame and throw her weight behind former football star (and reminder of Green Meadow’s glory days) Vito Falcone, Kyle’s preferred candidate. But between all the secrets and scandals, it’s hard to imagine everything’s going to turn out alright for anybody. Told from multiple perspectives, including two students on the committee with drama of their own, it isn’t the heebie jeebie-est of Perrotta’s reads (if you read him, you’ll know what I mean), but it’s funny, smart, and provocative, and fitting of Tracy’s Election legacy."

And finally, from Jen Steele, a book that came out last week and is currently still on display on our paperback tables up front. Alas, I somehow missed including this one in last week's blog as I compiled it. So let's squeeze it in now. The book is Carrie Soto Is Back, and the author is Taylor Jenkins Reid. Jen says: "A riveting, fast-paced, and enthusiastic look at the world of tennis through the eyes of Carrie Soto, the world's finest athlete. It's been five years since Carrie Soto retired as the reigning champion of women's tennis, and it's all about to be taken away by powerhouse Nicki Chan. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Carrie decides to step back onto the court to remind everyone who the world's greatest player is. Taylor Jenkins Reid delivers a gripping comeback novel with a fierce character you will be rooting for until the very last page. A must read!"

Monday, June 5, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 6, 2023

The first week of the month always means many new books. There are several we'd like to recommend.

Daniel Goldin has five (FIVE!)recommendations to start out this June. His first is a book that three of us love - All the Sinners Bleed, the latest novel from rising crime fiction star SA Cosby. Daniel says: "For once, Cosby’s hero is neither a current nor reformed outlaw, but a sheriff. Not just a sheriff, but the first Black sheriff of Charon County, an area where the troubled past is still simmering. Concerned that his biggest problem is a march by Christian Nationalists, Sheriff Titus Crown is blindsided by a school shooting, where the victim is a beloved teacher, and in addition, the shooter, killed by a trigger-fingered officer. This does nothing to ingratiate Crown with the formerly supportive Black community, led by an activist minister. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg; before this story is fully told, there will be plenty of secrets revealed and, as promised in the title, shed blood. Edge of your seat thrills, masterful storytelling, and what a voice – another winner from SA Cosby!"

Rachel Copeland offers rec #2 for Cosby's book. She says "The South is haunted, and so is Titus Crown. A former FBI agent turned first Black sheriff of his hometown of Charon County, Titus's days are filled with white supremacists, holier-than-thou church leaders, and bureaucratic blowhards, but it's the memories that keep him up at night. And then a school shooting uncovers a serial killer in their midst, and nobody in Charon County will be the same. For most people, the prospect of a tightly-plotted narrative with a truly horrifying killer is enough. But the real staying power comes from SA Cosby's voice and the undeniable truth of life in a small Southern town. If you assumed everyone in a small town knows each other, All the Sinners Bleed is here to disabuse you of that notion."

And Chris Lee has the final word (on this book, anyway). He adds: "Phew! Crime fiction kingpin SA Cosby grabs the police procedural by the throat and dunks it into the murkiest depths of the Chesapeake Bay. This book is very seriously not playing around and gets about as dark as a moonshine blackout. Cosby and his hero (the first black sheriff in a rural, Eastern Virginia county) stare straight into the heart of the South’s (let’s be honest, America’s) worst bugaboos - race, religion, good ol’ boy politics, fanaticism, and violence - the blackest parts of broken men’s hearts. Yet what makes this one special are the sparks of kindness between characters that Cosby clings too – both calloused-hand country tough love and the tender care that passes between father and son – it’s a reminder of what grace can be. Oh, and that voice! Cosby bends language to his will and coins more than a couple delightful new Southernisms along the way. As long as the creek don’t rise and the good Lord’s willing, I’ll keep reading Cosby’s excellent books."

Want to meet the author of this marvelous mystery? Great! SA Cosby appears at Boswell on Thursday, June 15, 6:30 pm for a conversation with the above recommender Chris Lee. Click here to get more information and register right now!

Next up, Daniel recommends Relentless Melt, a paperback original novel by Jeremy P Bushnell. Daniel says: "It is 1909 Boston and Artie Quick is working the counter at Filene’s Basement Store. To foster her interest in solving crimes, she disguises herself for the men-only criminal investigation class at the YMCA. When the class is cancelled, Artie suspects it might be connected to a couple of other suspicious events that are on her radar, and with the help of her wealthy and somewhat eccentric acquaintance Theodore, she decides to investigate. The clues lead to a crime more unexpected than first imagined; suffice it to say that her friend’s interest in magic will come in handy. Disturbing yes, but also a nice combination of thrills and philosophical pondering, like a period X-Files."

Next Daniel recommends Hedge by Jane Delury. He says: "Maud is a garden historian who has taken a job helping renovate a Hudson Valley estate, a continent away from her husband. She’s leaving him; he just doesn’t know that yet. A friendship with an archeologist on the property soon turns into something more, only when her daughters arrive for the summer, it makes things initially more complicated, and soon enough, impossible. Can a novel be both serene and turbulent at the same time? In the case of Hedge, yes, as it counterpoints a woman and family in crisis with the serene tranquility of nature. Can Maud come out of this without destroying herself? That is the question in this provocative, passionate, and philosophical novel."

Thirdly, Daniel suggests Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style by Paul Rudnick. Of this, Daniel says: "When uber-rich Yalie Farrell Covington spots middle-class New Jersey freshman Nate Reminger across a crowded theater club, it’s the beginning of a crazy relationship that spans decades and continents. No one can keep them apart, only many try, from Covington’s villainous Wichita family, to Hollywood, and AIDS. I really enjoyed how Rudnick included elements of his own life into the story, reflected through a funhouse mirror. Sister Act becomes Habit Forming; see if you can spot them all! Farrell Covington and the Limits of Style veers into madcap and perhaps far-fetchedness, but it is always entertaining, ultimately moving, and much like Rudnick’s play Jeffrey (translates to I Dare You in this novel), uncompromising."

Daniel turns to nonfiction for his final choice: Game of Edges: The Analytics Revolution and the Future of Professional Sports by Bruce Schoenfeld. Daniels says: "If you read Moneyball and were wondering what happened afterward, Game of Edges has the answer – the data revolution is here. It has overtaken baseball, where home runs, walks, and strikeouts now dominate the game. It’s hit the NBA, where the three-pointer is the shot of choice. And as Schoenfeld shows, it’s making inroads in other sports too, where data analysists are stats obsessed. Much of his book chronicles the American takeover of undervalued English soccer teams It’s not just the rise of technology that is driving this but also the greater valuation of sports teams and the rise of venture capitalists and tech billionaires as owners. And there’s no question that these changes have also led to the explosion of sports gambling too. And there are downside too – these teams may win more, but alternate leadership styles are marginalized, even if they are successful. And more than that, it's made the games more boring. In just one example, the stats suggest pulling pitchers after two times through the lineup. Who’s going to pitch a no-hitter with that philosophy? So, teams may win more, but fans are watching less. The thing is, trends turn on a dime – I’ve been told that the NBA is moving away from safe stat-based shots back to superstar ball at the net. The story isn’t over yet! Hey, nobody’s going to take sports advice from me, but I do know a good story, and take my word, Schoenfeld knows how to tell one. 

Daniel's not the only one with four recommendations this week. Kay Wosewick matches him with her four! Her first is for At the Edge of the Woods by Kathryn Bromwich. Kay writes: "Bromwich has crafted a lovely, quiet, and haunting tale of a woman who escapes a luxurious but miserable life to live alone in a tiny cottage outside a small village. Laura becomes a creature of the forest but still depends on the village for small jobs to buy necessities. The villagers’ trust is necessary to get and retain work and be safe in her isolation. Can Laura throw off her once-lofty status to become a member of a tiny, rough-edged community? Gritty and very satisfying."

Kay's next pick is The Endless Vessel by Charles Soule. Kay says: "A dramatically beautiful object - clearly not of this world - is given to the owner of a small company. Employee Lily sees signs of her long-dead father in the innards of the object, setting her on a mission to find where it came from. The story that unfolds is beautiful, magical, hopeful, occasionally frightening, and often inspiring. This story will grip you tightly until it releases you, finger by finger, in the end."

Thirdly, Kay suggests Thing: Inside the Struggle for Animal Personhood, by Samuel Machado, Cynthia Sousa, and Steven M Wise. Kay writes: "Happy the Asian elephant made news in 2022 when an appeals court denied her habeas corpus (personhood). This book presents scientific and philosophical reasons why elephants, great apes, and many whales qualify for personhood. Not a diatribe, this book calmly explains why humanity must finally dismantle its false sense of superiority over animals."

Kay's fourth recommendation is Open Throat by Henry Hoke. Kay says: "There’s not an extraneous word in this one-of-a-kind, remarkable story narrated by a lonely lion living beneath LA’s HOLLYWOOD sign. I LOVE THIS BOOK!!"

Jason Kennedy brings us the next recommendation, for The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller, author of novels such as Bitter Orange and Swimming Lessons. Of this latest novel, Jason writes: "Claire Fuller gave me PTSD at the very outset of this book as Neffy went into a vaccine trial to combat a pandemic. When virus mutates rapidly (cue more PTSD), and Neffy wakes up from fighting off the virus with the experimental vaccine, the world is gone. But there are other people trapped with her in the medical building, and this is the heart of the story: how they relate to and end up relying on one and other. It's a novel about the human condition during a crisis, but Claire Fuller also looks at the trip Neffy took to get to this point. The future is a frightening place, but we can't live in the past."

And how about a new picture book recommendation from our kids buyer Jen Steele?! She suggests We Are Going to Be Pals! by author and illustrator Mark Teague. Jen says: "We Are Going to Be Pals! is a delightful novel about friendship between a talkative egret and a silent rhinoceros.  Teague’s bright and fun illustrations bring to life a day between the seemingly unlikely duo. A clever read that’s sure to be a hit!"

And how about some paperback picks? We've got two write-ups for Slenderman: Online Obsession, Mental Illness, and the Violent Crime of Two Midwestern Girls by Kathleen Hale. First, from Chris Lee: "Slenderman is a perfect example of true crime writing at its best – throughout a detailed account of Waukesha’s Slenderman stabbing and years of legal fallout, Hale searches for the places where the legal system fails us and where we, as people, fail each other. What is justice, really, and how can it be better served? The facts of the case are not in dispute, though widely misreported. Case in point: the single crime’s only victim survived, yet the incident is still often known as the ‘Slenderman murders.’ And key elements were all but ignored by a tough-on-crime judge hellbent on trying the girls as adults according to an outdated, illogical Wisconsin law enacted out fear of the superpredator myth. The facts are: two 12-year-old girls, one suffering from severe early-onset schizophrenia and one with pathological attachment issues, misunderstood online YA horror fiction as reality and then plotted and attempted to murder their classmate. A native Wisconsinite with a sensitive and fact-oriented eye, Hale cuts through the slogans attached to the case (Internet Evil! Adult Crime, Adult Time!) to understand the ties between mental illness, Midwestern stoicism, violence, and reactionary impulses. It’s a horrible incident, yes, but Hale well makes the case for the necessity of talking honestly about hard things to shine some light into the dark."

And from Parker Jensen: "The Waukesha Slenderman stabbing, often mistakenly referred to as the ‘Slenderman Murders’, left many shocked and morbidly intrigued. Because the true facts of the case were blurred, fumbled, and outright ignored, the idea of two 12-year-old girls committing such a violent crime all in the name of an internet boogeyman is confusing and downright disconcerting. But that was never the full story. Kathleen Hale's telling of the tale is extremely comprehensive, well researched, and compellingly written. Told with facts and not sensationalism in mind, Slenderman is the best true crime book I've read in years. I was glued to the pages as Hale pulled back the layers of this complicated story, exploring the ways in which a young girl's ignored mental health crisis, backward judicial and mental health services systems, and Midwestern attitudes came together to create a truly tragic scenario. It's a hard story in which no one wins, but you'll have to decide for yourself if justice was served. Thankfully, Hale is willing to have that conversation. I haven't stopped thinking about this case or the three girls since I closed the book, leaving me to wonder, what does justice look like, and how we as a society can do better?"

Jenny Chou recommends Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Jenny says: "Phoebe Oppenheimer arrived in the world seventeen years after her triplet siblings, but as she likes to point out, she’s exactly the same age. Sally, Harrison, Lewyn, and Phoebe started as four embryos in a petri dish, three implanted, and one sent off to be frozen and just about forgotten. The triplets don’t exactly create the loving, close family their mother Johanna envisioned, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they can’t stand each other by the time they leave for college. In addition, their dad has checked out of their lives, supposedly (but only partially) due to his obsession with his art collection. Johanna, still hoping to create the blissful, loving family of her dreams, makes what feels like an impulsive decision, but actually did take quite a bit of planning. She hires a surrogate to carry the embryo that becomes Phoebe, the child nobody really wanted (including Johanna), but perhaps the one they all needed. Her wise and slightly cynical voice carries the novel from beginning to end, catching the reader up on all the many things she missed out on through her arrival seventeen years too late. She’s one of the few people you won’t want to strangle by the end of the book, but if you like messy family dynamics, then this one is a winner!"

It wouldn't be a staff rec blog without a Tim McCarthy rec. And he sneaks into the paperback releases this week with his words on Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss. Tim writes: "Swedish King Gustav V apparently told Jim Thorpe, as he handed him a gold medal at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, that he was “the most wonderful athlete in the world.” Thorpe was certainly admired and sought after worldwide for his unmatched athleticism and talent. Everyone wanted to see him, wherever he went. He was on World Series teams, he was there at the inception of the NFL, and later he had many small Hollywood film roles, befriending the biggest stars of the day. Thorpe was often used as a novelty as well, a drawing card constantly subject to racial stereotypes, and as time passed he became more actively involved with indigenous people’s rights. As a man, Jim Thorpe had serious human flaws and struggled constantly to succeed, but he was personally kind and generous, offering a huge smile to all. He never seemed inclined to pity himself or stop chasing his dreams. The extraordinary details of his life, including many connections to Wisconsin and Milwaukee, are endlessly fascinating, and Maraniss makes them exceptionally smooth reading. He wraps Thorpe's life into the story of America, and he’s blunt about our cruel contradictions in such an intelligent way that my progressive anger feels completely validated. This is a top-flight history lesson that separates the truth from the myth of a legendary and iconic American!"

Now it's back to Daniel Goldin for Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks from Patrick Radden Keefe. Daniel says: "While I have a subscription to The New Yorker, I don’t read every long-form article. In fact, I consider it a triumph if I can get through the cartoons, Talk of the Town, at least one review, and at least one article.  But even when I did read some of the pieces collected in Rogues, I found it fascinating to revisit them as part of a collection. Rogues, particularly if you exclude the closing profile of Anthony Bourdain, reads as a collection of true crime short stories, being that they have the vibrancy of the best fiction. I love the way traditional crime subjects like drug cartels and arms dealers are mixed with the corporate misdeeds of unscrupulous hedge fund managers, look-the-other-way bankers, and unrepentant television producers, leading me to wonder if we should reshelve some of those corporate narrative books that are currently in our business section. Whether you want to read more Patrick Radden Keefe or are just hungering for juicy narrative nonfiction, this should satisfy you 12-fold."

Let's stick with Daniel for The Two Lives of Sara by Catherine Adel West. Daniel says: "It’s early 1960s Memphis, and Sara King, on the run from trouble in Chicago, has taken a job at a boarding house run by Mama Sugar, the aunt of her close friend. There she finds a new community of friends, found family, and even a possible beau, but there’s trouble too, in the form of Mama Sugar’s errant son and the even shadier type after him to repay a loan. Steeped in Memphis’s Civil Rights struggles and packed with a treasure trove of references great Black writers, musicians, and artists, West’s second novel is a powerful and emotional story of a woman trying to find her place in a world. And while the book works completely on its own, readers of Saving Ruby King will savor West bringing one of the secondary characters of that novel to vivid life."

Kathy Herbst also recommends this novel! She says: "An intensely moving and brilliantly written story of pain and loss and the search for love and forgiveness. Sara moves from Chicago to Memphis to escape a troubled past. There, in Mama Sugar's boarding house, her son is born, and she begins to find her way to the promise of a better life. But dealing with past trauma on a personal level as well as the larger issues of racism and segregation makes her journey difficult. There are no easy answers and no fairy tale endings in this story, but following Sara on her journey is worth every minute spent reading this heartfelt book."