Boswell Book Company's Ten Titles To Gift In 2016

Dec 13, 2016

Earlier this month, writer and bookstore owner Ann Patchett shined a spotlight on Boswell Book Company as reason alone to visit Milwaukee. Her article in the New York Times included it as one of a handful of bookstores to visit in the country. Patchett singled out the store as "lit by the internal fire of one Daniel Goldin, a stupendously great bookseller."

So before all the book tourists flock to Downer Avenue, now might be the time to take Goldin's list of the top ten books to gift to heart.

Women in Science By Rachel Ignotofsky

As the importance of STEM fields continues to rise, there has been a greater focus on women's roles in science and technology. Goldin says Women in Science is part of a growing body of work on this topic, and offers an in-depth look at how women have shaped STEM. 

"It's a really complete bio of people like Rachel Carson, of people like Valentina Tereshkova, the cosmonaut," he says.

The book not only includes thorough biographies of women who changed the world of science, it also includes lovely illustrations from the author, Rachel Ignotofsky. 

"So this book could convince you to be the next Ada Lovelace, the mathematician.... but it also could make you want to be the artist," says Goldin.

Under Water Under Earth By Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski

This book is unique for many reasons, but one is that it can be read from either the front or the back. That's because Under Water Under Earth doesn't really have a back, just two fronts.

One side dives into all things water, with facts about underwater chimneys, the Mariana Trench and amazing sea creatures. The other side digs into the earth, with facts about the world's deepest caves, burrowing animals and man-made tunnels. The two side meet at the earth's core in the center. 

"Like Women in Science, the art draws you in but there's so much to learn," says Goldin. "I love it. It's actually for middle-grade level, I would say 8+, but I could absolutely see an art collector, a scientist, an environmentalist, a miner, you know, any number of people, falling in love with this book." 

Speaking American By Josh Katz

"I love, love, love Speaking American by Josh Katz," says Goldin. "As somebody who grew up in New York and went to college in New Hampshire and then came to Wisconsin, it has been nothing but language confusion since day one."

This book maps out the presence of regional dialects throughout the country. It's an analysis of where "pop" becomes "soda," and where "youse" becomes "you guys." The book draws on information gathered by an interactive quiz created by author Josh Katz for the New York Times. Speaking American explores the ebb and flow of the American vernacular through extensive maps and infographics. 

City Atlas By Georgia Cherry and Martin Haak

Like the other books on this list, City Atlas includes eye-catching illustrations sure to entice the more artistically inclined reader. Where it diverges is with its content. 

Georgia Cherry and Martin Haak's City Atlas is essentially a travel guide, which gives a unique look at some of the world's largest cities. "It's got a Where's Waldo quality," says Goldin. "Every city has its own thing to find. So Tokyo has teapots, and New York City has little taxis, and San Francisco has sea lions." 

Although the book is intended for children, Goldin says the book holds aesthetic appeal for adults and kids alike. 

The Rolling Stones All the Songs By Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon

This book is very much as the title suggests, an explanation of the history of each song from The Rolling Stones' extensive catalogue.

It's a book that can be used as a sort of reference guide to decoding the meaning behind the Stones lyrics, but Goldin cautions that it can also lead the reader down a rabbit hole of information. "It's the book equivalent of being stuck on the internet and jumping from site to site," he says. 

The Lyrics 1961-2012 By Bob Dylan

This year, Bob Dylan became the first musician to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature and the first American author to receive the award in more than 20 years. There was some controversy over the decision and his book, The Lyrics allows the reader to decide whether or not they believe the award was warranted. 

"It's every song and it's structured like poetry," says Goldin. "This will be your source material for making the case for or against the prize committee." 

Milwaukee Frozen Custard By Kathleen McCann and Robert Tanzilo

Many of Milwaukee's most well-known dishes actually originated in other places. Although the butter burger is a tradition original to the Cream City, local favorites like brats (Germany), kringle (Denmark), and even beer cheese soup (Medieval Europe) have roots in other parts of the world. So it's no surprise that frozen custard didn't start off in Milwaukee. 

"Frozen custard started in Coney Island, [by] the Kohr Brothers," he says. But although it may not have started here, like many local delicacies, Milwaukee perfected it. 

Milwaukee Frozen Custard by Kathleen McCann and Robert Tanzilo explores some of the city's best custard spots and looks at the history of the sweet treat. 

Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round By Ron Faiola

Like custard, supper clubs did not originate in Wisconsin, but the state did perfect the concept. The supper club was originated in Beverly Hills, California, and then traveled back east. But except for a few choice locales, you'd be hard-pressed to find too many supper clubs outside of the Badger State.  

"It got stuck in Wisconsin, and to an extent the neighboring states, but really we are the center," says Goldin. "It is just proof that when Wisconsin sees something good, we do not give it up. We're very tenacious." 

Wisconsin Supper Clubs: Another Round is the second book by Ron Faiola that looks at the state's many establishments. The sequel explores an additional 50 supper clubs from the Northwoods to Beloit. 

Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores By Bob Eckstein

There's a good chance that if you're buying a book for someone, that they're a person who likes the feel and nostalgia of bookstores. In fact, Goldin says bookstores are rather popular subject matter.

But among the plethora of books on the topic, Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein still stands out. It features 75 paintings of bookstores from across the globe.

"Every bookstore has a two-page spread with a description on the left, a little bit about the store, when it existed, because some of these went out of business... And then the right has little quotes from various people and then a beautiful painting of the bookstore," he continues. "It's so much fun, really pretty." 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend By Katarina Bivald

Like FootnotesThe Reads of Broken Wheel Recommend is, in part, about bookstores. But Bivald's novel takes a different angle on the subject. 

"Katarina Bivald is a Swedish writer who had never been to the United States, who decided to write this book set in Iowa," says Goldin. "It's about a Swedish bookseller, which Bivald was, who starts a pen pal relationship with an older woman in Iowa." 

Things sort of spiral out after that. A trip to visit her friend in Iowa takes an odd turn, and the Swedish bookseller faces a new and unknown adventure.

For more book suggestions, check out NPR's Best Books of 2016. The list of over 300 books features a few of Lake Effect's favorite author interviews from this past year, including Evicted by Matthew Desmond and Hero Of The Empire by Candice Millard.