Joanne Berg

My day job is owner of the Mystery to Me bookstore on Monroe Street.

After 25 years as a UW-Madison employee, I was ready for something new. I’d dreamed of owning a bookstore since I was a little girl and decided to take the leap. I was able to purchase the inventory and shelving from the Booked for Murder shop when that owner retired, which made it easier to open this shop. My partner and I played the “what’s the worst thing that could happen” game and decided to give it a shot. We weathered the first year, which is when many businesses fail, and are currently celebrating our fourth year in business.

About 60% of the books we sell fall under the mystery genre and we carry all kinds from “cozies” to thrillers. We also have quite a few things for kids, adult fiction and non-fiction and a good selection of local poetry and fiction. Through our publishers we have access to over a million titles online—so there’s no reason to go to Amazon for your books!

We also hosts writers and are very excited that Joan Hess—a mystery writer who was hired to finish a partially written manuscript by one of my favorite mystery writers, Elizabeth Peters—is going to be coming to our shop. Her name popped up on my cell phone one day and I was pleasantly surprised to pick up the phone and find that it really was her on the other end of the line!

My most memorable caffeine would be one of the times that I enjoyed coffee at a sidewalk café, especially in Europe. I just got back from a trip to Bruges in Belgium where I found a beautiful café to enjoy a coffee in. It’s so much fun to make coffee an experience—to have your pretty little cup, your little cookie and to be surrounded by a swirl of languages. It’s a great way to watch people and experience another culture.

My current caffeine of choice is black coffee with a side of chocolate, preferably at least 70% cacao.

My favorite place for caffeine is Crescendo Espresso Bar & Music Café. It’s right next to my store and the owners are just fabulous. Cait, one of the owners, is also a musician and she’s created a wonderful place to enjoy the best coffee around and some great local music.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is Gloria Steinem. I’ve always wanted to meet her and remember reading the first issue of Ms. Magazine back in the ‘70s. I grew up in a conservative, Catholic family in the Fox River Valley. My dad owned his own business and I remember him bemoaning the fact that he had no sons to pass it along to.

I’ve had a recurring dream where I’m at a party that Gloria is also attending—I’d love to make it a reality. I’d like to ask her to reflect on her notions of what being a feminist means and how society’s views have changed over time. Women still face such tremendous prejudice, our earning power remains lower than men and although things are better in some respects they seem to have stagnated in others.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine:  education. I believe so many of the problems our world currently faces could be alleviated with education. I think there would be more awareness and appreciation for different views and less hatred and partisanship. I remember going off to college and taking a class about different religions. It was incredibly eye- opening to me—a young woman from a small town in east central Wisconsin—to learn there were so many options and that not one of them was “right.” I wish people would be more inclined to celebrate our differences rather than feeling everyone has to be the same.