Daniel Goldin Of Boswell Books Shares 5 Of His Favorite 2020 Reads

From Historical Fiction To Autofiction, Goldin Shares Engaging Reads From 2020

books, bookstore
Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

In a year of uncertainty and isolation, books have offered readers a welcome respite from the pandemic and the news cycle.

While many book publications were postponed in the spring because of the pandemic, that didn’t stop numerous excellent books from being released in 2020, said Daniel Goldin, owner of Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee.

From graphic novels to historical and autofiction, Goldin shared his favorite books of the year — taking readers from a small café in Japan, to early 20th century Spokane, Washington, and the border of Northern Ireland.

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‘Homeland Elegies’ By Ayad Akhtar

A work of autofiction, “Homeland Elegies” begins with the protagonist talking about his father, who befriended President Donald Trump when he had a health ailment. From there, the story spins off into multiple stories of identity, politics, immigration and on, Goldin said. Akhtar, who is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, grew up in Wisconsin.

“It’s sort of a book that will make everybody a little bit angry, but it’s amazing,” he said. “The three authors that I compare him to are Philip Roth … Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith.”

‘The Cold Millions’ By Jess Walter

About two brothers in 1909 Spokane, Washington, the story is inspired by the early union free speech movement of the IWW, commonly known as the “Wobblies.” While the novel is inspired by true events, it’s also a story of friendship and romance and Walter — the author of “Beautiful Ruins” — is not afraid of emotion, Goldin said.

“(Walter) is a top-notch writer … by the end of the book, you are so blown away,” he said. “It’s like a contemporary take on John Steinbeck.”

‘Big Girl, Small Town’ By Michelle Gallen

Set at the border in Northern Ireland about 10 years after the Troubles ended, “Big Girl, Small Town” is almost like a diary of a young woman who works in a chip shop, Goldin said.

She lives a quiet life of routine and cares for her alcoholic mother, and makes quiet, but fascinating, observations about the people who come into the shop — all who have been profoundly affected by the conflict of the recent decades.

“It’s written very heavily in dialect, which I sometimes don’t really love,” he said. “But I just love the dialect because the way the words came out, they were just completely different, it wasn’t cliché to me.”

‘Before The Coffee Gets Cold’ By Toshikazu Kawaguchi

In a basement café in Japan — where it is somehow always sunny — urban legend says you can travel back in time. But there are rules. One, you can only travel back in time in the café, and two, the person you want to see must have been in the café before. Finally, you must finish your conversation before the coffee gets cold.

“It’s very charming. It’s very quirky … but it’s very emotional,” he said “It’s not a through narrative, it almost feels like just one incident after another. But they’re tied together more than a book of short stories.”

‘Come Home, Indio’ By Jim Terry

A graphic memoir, “Come Home, Indio” is a coming of age story of growing up with a musician father of Irish-American ancestry from Chicago and a Ho-Chunk mother from outside of Wisconsin Dells — feeling like you don’t fit into either world completely, Goldin said.

“It’s about him coming to terms with some troubled relationships and things like that, and finally finding his purpose as an artist,” he said. “The artwork is great.”