Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee

For the fourth installment of our ongoing series of interviews, Inside
Indie Bookstores, Jeremiah Chamberlin travelled to Milwaukee to speak
with Daniel Goldin, owner of Boswell Book Company.

Boswell Book Company opened in April 2009 in the Downer Avenue location of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, a beloved Milwaukee bookstore that had closed a month earlier after seventy-two years in business. Boswell's owner, Daniel Goldin, was the long-time book buyer for Schwartz.

The floor plan of the eight-thousand-square-foot store is almost completely open. You can survey the broad expanse of the store from nearly any spot.

There are comfortable nooks along the periphery of the store's open floor plan, and the children's room has its own area.

Visitors to Boswell Book Company soon find themselves winding past antique library card catalogues that display books about birds, and spindly legged side tables featuring literature about Africa.

Every part of the store feels card for and hand selected; in every corner is an oddity or suprise you could easily miss. You come to a store like this to find what you didn't realize you were looking for.

"I do a lot of events," Goldin says. "I try to do an offbeat spin on the events. For my first event last year I had the woman who owned the bookstore here [before Schwartz took over the space] introduce Jane Hamilton. She talked about what it was like being one of the first booksellers to discover Jane Hamilton, and how she’d once put together a bus tour to the apple orchard where The Book of Ruth took place."

Goldin's interests as a bookseller range from urban planning to personal finance, fiction to photography, and he's as comfortable talking about Cheever as children's books.

"In the front of the store I have a book club section; I have the IndieBound best-sellers; I have my staff picks; I have Boswell’s Best, which is really like a buyer’s pick; and I have prizewinners and what’s in the media," says Goldin. "My idea is that—especially with hardcover—I will put the same book in two or three different places if it belongs there. That way maybe someone will get confirmation from three different sources that this is the book that they want to buy."

"People who don’t know me sometimes refer to me as Daniel Boswell," Goldin says. "That’s of course not the case, but in a sense it is. The store is close to a half-century of my book and idea obsessions, plus the brainstorms and hard work of my booksellers, together with the whims of my customers. It’s very much me, but I hope it will also live on after me. All you have to do is say to yourself, 'This is the most important thing you will ever do,' and it should fall into place."