Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Economist chimes in

The Economist, too, has posted its list of the year's best. A couple repeat appearances - but also a couple unexpected (not to say forgotten) treasures. Here's what they have to say about our books -- you can fine the complete feature here.

The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela, by Brian A. Nelson (Nation Books, 9781568584188) A scrupulous account of one of the most important, yet most misunderstood, events in recent South American history. It should be read by all those who believe that Hugo Chavez is a worthy champion of democracy and the oppressed. [And lest you think this is some right-wing revisionism, pray consider the publisher.]

The Arabs: A History, by Eugene Rogan (Basic, 9780465071005) Inspired by the work of Albert Hourani, this is a traditional history that focuses on the interplay of powers and the march of events to set the Arab story in a modern context. [That's two lists since this morning - I told you this was a remarkable book!]

The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom, by Graham Farmelo (Basic, 9780465018277) Paul Dirac's equations predicted the existence of antimatter. His insights were so astonishing and so counter-intuitive that it is hard to imagine anyone else devising them. This excellent biographer demonstrates how he was probably the best British theoretical physicist since Isaac Newton.

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham (Basic, 9780465013623) A startling and persuasive analysis of the evolutionary role of cookery, arguing that you really are what you eat.

That's it for the Perseus books - but I also want to give a shout out to one of their fiction selections:

Your Face Tomorrow: Poison, Shadow and Farewell, by Javier Marias, translated by Margaret Jull Costa (New Directions) Mr Marias has seized the spy thriller and turned it into a novel of ideas.

I've been praising Mr. Marias to the skies for years - I'm glad to see him getting his due. (If, by the way, you want to start with something smaller & more self-contained than the final volume of a series, allow me to recommend A Heart So White. This takes the family melodrama and turns it into a novel of ideas; it's so good it made me dizzy.)

Fun with the Financial Times list of the best of 2009

Yet another year-end roundup has crossed my path, and this one might be my favorite. After all, combing through lists can get a bit dull, no matter how magnificent the books sound; it breaks the monotony somewhat when you have to really pay attention -- as in the case of the Financial Times, where many of our books are listed under the UK publisher, and occasionally under the UK title. Since my job is to sell books here in the good ol' U S of A, I'll use our titles first:

America, Empire of Liberty, by David Reynolds (Basic, 9780465015009)

The Arabs: A History, by Eugene Rogan (Basic, 9780465071005)

Bring Me My Machine Gun: the Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma (appearing as After Mandela: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa), by Alec Russell (PublicAffairs, 9781586487386)

The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals, by Frank Partnoy (PublicAffairs, 9781586487430)

Keynes: The Return of the Master, by Robert Skidelsky (PublicAffairs, 9781586488277)

Soccernomics: Why England Loses, Why Germany and Brazil Win, and Why the U.S., Japan, Australia, Turkey--and Even Iraq--Are Destined to Become the Kings of the World's Most Popular Sport (appearing simply, and delightfully, as Why England Lose: And Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained), by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (Nation, 9781568584256)

Tragically, still no recognition for Eduardo Galeano.

Making our mark in the history section

One thing I've enjoyed tremendously in the past few years is watching our history lists -- already strong to begin with -- develop so substantially. Some nice affirmation of that came recently, when the History Book Club put together its list of the top 100 history books of the year. Ten of their selections are Perseus books - and six are from Basic alone:

9. The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness, by Harlow Ungar (Da Capo, 9780306818080)
14. Amelia Earhart: The Thrill of It, by Susan Wels (Running Press, 9780762437634)
21. Marcus Aurelius: A Life, by Frank McLynn (Da Capo, 9780306818301)
28. America, Empire of Liberty, by David Reynolds (Basic, 9780465015009)
42. China: A History, by John Keay (Basic, 9780465015801)
45. Jerusalem’s Traitor: Josephus, Masada, and the Fall of Judea, by Desmond Seward (Da Capo, 9780306818073)
68. The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919, by Mark Thompson (Basic, 9780465013296)
69. Fatal Journey: The Final Journey of Henry Hudson, by Peter Mancall (Basic, 9780465005116)
76. Leningrad: State of Siege, by Michael Jones (Basic, 9780465011537)
96. The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe, by Andrew Wheatcroft (Basic, 9780465013746)

That list is not without its disappointments - I shake my head in wonder that neither Eduardo Galeano's Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (Nation, 9781568584232) nor Eugene Rogan's The Arabs: A History (Basic, 9780465071005) made the list; both are among the richest, most memorable history books I've encountered in a long while.

And I'm also of the mind that The White War should have been much closer to the top than #68 (picky, picky!) -- you may recall the enthusiasm with which I presented it (and even wrote about it in this forum). It vied with Mirrors for my favorite book on the Spring 2009 list. Everyone thought I was crazy for pushing it -- and I'll agree, unless your author's name is Hemingway Italy in World War One is not the easiest sell -- but this is a fantastic, enriching read. When a customer asks for a history book for that close relation who's already read all the big ones, I promise you this will satisfy.

But why quibble overmuch? It's lovely to see such recognition.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A brilliant review for A Brilliant Darkness

This was a book I really warmed to as the season progressed. I think this is a good sleeper opportunity. Booklist would agree - here's just some of what they said in their starred review:

"Magueijo explains [Majorana's] scientific theories in mercifully simple terms. But what simple terms can illuminate a tortured and unstable personality, vulnerable to bouts of depression and prone to antisocial reclusiveness? The complexities of that personality resist assimilation into any of the standard explanations – suicide, kidnapping, flight, monastic retreat – for Majorana's disappearance. But astounded readers will thank Magueijo for his daring venture into the science and the psyche of a perplexing figure."

Further reviews are upcoming in Seed Magazine (online) and New Scientist; and Mr. Magueijo will be making an appearance on KPFA's morning show in the coming weeks. This one is worth a gamble.
A Brilliant Darkness: The Extraordinary Life and Mysterious Disappearance of Ettore Majorana, the Troubled Genius of the Nuclear Age, by Joao Magueijo (Basic, 9780465009039)

(There's good precedent for a science biography really taking off: consider The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Master of the Atom, by Graham Farmelo [Basic, 9780465018277]. We've been chasing stock of that book since July - partly owing to this sensational New York Times review.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let us begin to judge

It has begin to happen: the arbiters of taste are taking turns declaring the "best books of the year." True, there have been a few such lists already (Publishers Weekly,, but they came a little too early, I thought -- we're only now half way through November, for Pete's sake. But I like the list that The Atlantic just published. I won't lie: I like it because it includes two Basic titles. Obviously I'm not an impartial judge...but I have to say I applaud their decision. Here's what their reviewers had to say about these wonderful history books (the links in the second review are original; the emphasis in both is mine):

The Arabs: A History, by Eugene Rogan (Basic, 9780465071005)

Describing the Arab world as perpetually reacting to the superpower du jour, Rogan, an Oxford scholar, provides a prism through which the lay Westerner can view five centuries of tumult, zealotry, and complication. During this period, Rogan writes, Arabs have had to contend with four geopolitical eras: the Ottoman Empire, European colonialism, the Cold War, and the current U.S. hegemony. But they have not been "passive subjects in a unilinear history of decline." Rather, these diverse people—making up a "national community stretching from Morocco through Arabia" and distinguishing themselves via wondrous linguistic, religious, and aesthetic achievements—"have worked with the rules when it suited them, subverted the rules when they got in the way, and suffered the consequences when they crossed the dominant powers of the day." Deeply erudite and distinctly humane, Rogan consistently plays up (and never papers over) the bountiful East-West parallels: "Nationalism, imperialism, revolution, industrialization, rural urban migration, the struggle for women's rights—all the great themes of human history in the modern age have played out in the Arab world." (reviewed November 2009)

The author, a scintillating young Cambridge historian, argues that the coming of a German prince to the British throne in 1714 and the consequent link with the House of Hanover made the United Kingdom into a true European power. In the next half century, the island nation became, thanks to a series of shifting alliances, a Continental juggernaut. Britannia's ascendance culminated in its victory over France in 1763 at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War. This success, which included expelling France from North America, led Britain into the dangerous error of focusing on its empire across the Atlantic, rather than on its hard-won, newfound place among the Continental powers. Soon faced with a rebellion in North America, it found itself without allies to help it; indeed, its European foes and former friends alike helped the American colonists succeed. Simms has a superb knowledge of diplomatic and military history to buttress his passionate, elegantly written argument that 18th-century Britain needed to concern itself less globally and concentrate its primary energies closer to home—an argument that has particular resonance at the beginning of the 21st century, as Britain fights in Iraq and Afghanistan and fails too often to pull its weight at the center of European decision-making. (reviewed April 2009)

R.I.P James Lilley

I heard yesterday that James Lilley had died - last week I believe. His memoir of his time as a resident, diplomat, and spy in China has stuck with me. I know he wasn't exactly a household name, but still, it seems a good time to remember (and maybe to re-present) his fine book, China Hands (PublicAffairs, 9781586483432) -- beguiling, and, in its day, a surprisingly strong seller.

You can find his New York Times obituary here; or click here for a re-play of an interview on NPR's "All Things Considered."

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Like everyone else in the publishing world, our first instinct in remembering the life of a towering figure in American history is to point to the books we publish. I'll briefly mention two, which I think are suitable memorials:

The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings, by Thomas Maier (Basic, 9780465043187). Recently revised, this contains significant new material on Ted Kennedy's life and legacy.

The Kennedy Family Album: Personal Photos of America's First Family (Running Press, 9781560259237). Linda Corley presents a portfolio of photographs of the Kennedy clan at rest and at play, in Palm Beach and Hayannis Port; the photographs are by long-time Kennedy friend and photographer Bob Davidoff. Ted Kennedy wrote the foreword.

He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy. -- John M. Broder, in the New York Times

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Thinking ahead a bit

Link of the day: European Cyber-gangs Target Small U.S. Firms (Washington Post): a financial services industry task force has warned that "Eastern European organized crime groups are believed to be predominantly responsible for the activities that are employing witting and unwitting accomplices in the U.S. to receive cash and forward payments -- from thousands to millions of dollars to overseas locations -- via popular money and wire transfer services."

I came across this yesterday afternoon, and thought immediately of our forthcoming book Fatal System Error by Joseph Menn (PulicAffairs, 9781586487485; Feb. 2010). It's a surprising, thrilling read, that follows cyber attacks back to their sources in Italy and Russia, and finds a much darker, scarier world that you tend to imagine when you move those "lottery winnings" e-mails into your SPAM folder. A page-turner about an issue of increasing importance - it's definitely got potential.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reads for radicals...and most everyone else, too

It has been a real joy to have Nation Books as part of the Perseus Books Group. We started off with quite a bang (forgive the choice of words): it was shortly after Nation came aboard that Blackwater USA guards were involved in a massacre of civilians on Baghdad streets -- this gave Jeremy Scahill's excellent book it's second surge of national interest. Blackwater's recent return to the news (and our book's attendant sales boost) has got me thinking about how Nation books succeed, and about the particularly strong lineup we've had this summer and fall.
Since I discussed Blackwater last week, I'll here add only a reminder that that book was selling extraordinarily well even before the national media caught on -- it had been out for 6 months when the September 2007 shootings occurred. What we had going for us then are the same things we count on now: bookseller attention and enthusiasm, and a great online publicity program. A few Nation Books have broken into the mainstream conversation already this summer, but even those that haven't offer lots to be excited about.

The book that I think generated the most bookseller interest last season was Eduardo Galeano's Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (9781568584232). This has been a great success, hitting the indie bestseller lists up and down our coast; and now it is finally getting the major media attention it deserves. Hopefully you saw the review in yesterday's New York Times:

Galeano's prose is nearly lulling in its lyricism, a quality that gives it an over­ridingly shamanic tone. His powerful voice reminds us, over and over again, of the responsibility of writers to be constantly in search of new forms of expression that may draw us out of our complacency, as he does so eloquently here. As in his previous books, he succeeds in capturing the bottomless horror of the state’s capacity to inflict pain on the individual, offering as effective an act of political dissent as exists anywhere in contemporary literature.

And in a very nice one-two punch, that was followed by NPR's "Morning Edition" earlier today. It's been a great pleasure to have Mr. Galeano on our list - and it looks like we will be reissuing some of his earlier works in the Spring, which is again a cause for celebration.

"Bottomless horror" sometimes seems the specialty of Nation Books. An odd specialty, it's true, but it does provide wonders: recently among them is Chris Hedges' Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (9781568584379), a true jeremiad against America's retreat from reality, and our diminishing ability to engage in, or even imagine, the serious discussion necessary for a functional democracy. Apparently, Mr. Hedges' revulsion at our national obsessions with fantastic spectacle has struck a chord -- even without major national review attention we've seen it hit the New York Times extended list. That's a credit to your efforts - thanks.

More in that vein - if with a somewhat lighter touch - is landing now, in Max Blumenthal's Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party (9781568583983). Perhaps because there is more genuine fascination and less out and out revulsion in its pages, Mr. Blumenthal's book is already getting the kind of attention we strangely had to wait for for Messrs. Galeano and Hedges: on top of a plethora of on-line activity (Daily Beast, TPM, crooksandliars, etc.), we 've locked up a September 10th appearance on "Fresh Air."

It's hard to imagine us topping that publicity lineup right out of the gate, but we do still have a couple real treasures on the way this fall. In late November, we'll publish a career capping opus from the wily old rabble rouser John Ross: El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City (9781568584249). You're in for a rollicking good time with this one, in the company of Beatniks and drug lords and other assorted reprobates. It's a love song to the city that has arisen at what the Aztecs called "the umbilicus of the universe," touched by sorrow at the loss of its demimonde, and awe at how this intense metopolis continually picks itself up, buries its dead, and forges insolently ahead. In his attention to the people whose stories are nearly always ignored, Mr. Ross is a kind of marvelous and peculiarly American cousin to Mr. Galeano.

And finally, this October, we'll publish what was to me the most surprising and affecting of them all: Wandering Souls: Journeys with the Dead and the Living in Viet Nam (9781568584058), by Wayne Karlin. The odds are good you've heard me sing in praise of this already, so i'll keep this short. This belongs in the company of Tim O'Brien's books, not only because it is a unique, wise, and moving look at the Viet Nam war and its aftermath, but because of the quality of the writing. It takes a kind of magic (the consolation of art?) to bring uplift out of such a grim story, but this manages to do it -- almost literally putting the ghosts to rest. It is simply magnificent, my favorite book of the fall, and absolutely worth reading right now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Assassination, Inc.

The last couple weeks have started a great pattern for our purposes: shocking revelations about a company that never wants for shocking revelations. Last week, Jeremy Scahill reported that sealed testimony in a civil liability complaint against the-private-security-firm-formerly-known-as-Blackwater USA (now going by the moniker "Xe") accused the company and its owner, Erik Prince, of conspiring to smuggle weapons into Afghanistan and Iraq and to murder whistle blowers. Shocker!

This caused a little bit of a stir...but nothing like this morning's news, as seen in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and, that in 2004, the CIA contracted with Blackwater to hunt and kill suspected Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and gave Blackwater operational control of the program. That's right: they outsourced assassination attempts.

This was part of the CIA program recently disclosed - and disbanded - by current CIA Director Leon Panetta; according to today's reports, in fact, it was a key factor in Mr. Panetta's decision to alert Congress. (You might recall that the program was allegedly kept from Congress at the direction of Vice President Cheney. Which might surprise you, considering how communicative Mr. Cheney usually is.)

It's true that in this case the Times and the Post got this into print before our Mr. Scahill, who's usually far ahead of the curve on issues relating to Blackwater. (Remember: Nation Books published his book a full six months before the mainstream media was forced to pay attention to them after their employees murdered 17 Iraqi civilians.) But given how focused Mr. Scahill is on this issue, I'd not be surprised at all if he had more of the story to tell. And we'll have plenty of chances to find out -- as the recognized authority, he's the one the talking heads and blogging heads are turning to: this morning, he was Amy Goodman's guest on "Democracy Now" to discuss the issue. You can see their conversation here.

This evening, he will be Keith Olbermann's guest on "Countdown;" and tomorrow he will be a special in-studio guest of Bill Maher's on "Real Time." (He'll also stick around to join the panel - his co-panelists will include Chuck Todd of NBC News and Jay Leno of NBC entertainment.)

When Mr. Scahill gets his teeth into something, he keeps at it. He told Amy Goodman today that what was reported in the Times and the Post is just a small fraction of the story. I'm very interested to see what more he finds. In the meantime, we've got plenty of stock....

Blackwater: the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
by Jeremy Scahill
Nation Books
paper, $16.95

Monday, July 20, 2009

Turning the page past Big Tobacco

Apologies that I have not been posting too regularly of late. As it happens, the problem is mostly that there has been too much going on in the news for me to stay on top of pointing out relevant information. I'm going to try to dig myself out, bit by little bit, starting now:

The world is a busy place these days, and so it is perhaps easy to lose sight of how radical a change it is that Congress has passed, and the President signed, a law giving the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products. You may recall that about 10 years ago, Dr. David Kessler (now a bestselling author, but at the time the FDA Commisioner) proposed that the FDA already had the necessary authority to do so -- and his claim was regarded as a profound threat to the tobacco industry. His account of how and why he made the argument is to be found in a backlist item from PublicAffairs, A Question of Intent: A Great American Battle with a Deadly Industry (9781586481216, 2002). The New York Times titled its review "U.S. vs. Joe Camel" (3/25/01), identifying the paramount symbol both of the cigarette industry's marketing practices, and of Dr. Kessler's rather cleverly pitched battle. "Suspecting he would be stymied by higher-ups at the Department of Health and Human Services," David Kusnet wrote in his review, "Kessler established his own channels to the White House, and as Clinton prepared for his 1996 re-election campaign, Kessler shrewdly framed an approach that focused on the companies' efforts to market cigarettes to teenagers. At a news conference with Clinton, Kessler announced new regulations designed to discourage teenage smoking, including bans on the tobacco companies' running advertisements with cartoon figures like Joe Camel, sponsoring sports events like the Nascar races or selling cigarettes in vending machines."

I always thought that some of this strategy was unfair. Leaving aside for the moment (but only for the moment) the question of whether or not tobacco companies purposely manipulated nicotine levels in order to ensure that customers developed addictions, it always seemed to me that in campaigns like those involving the now infamous Joe Camel, the tobacco industry was simply following long established American business practices in trying to develop and maintain new markets. The storm of outrage that eventually developed seemed to me to be making a scapegoat of the tobacco industry for the standard methods of American capitalism. But then, as any reader of Rene Girard will tell you, the scapegoat is a necessary element of any social order.

In any case, Dr. Kessler failed -- ultimately, the Supreme Court decided, in a 5-4 decision, that the FDA did not in fact have the regulatory authority Dr. Kessler had claimed. But Congress and President Obama have given Dr. Kessler the final word, passing legislation only weeks ago that assigns such power to the agency the doctor once headed. So it is worth acknowledging his work, I think -- as that original Times review said:

If anything approaching this proposal ever comes to pass, historians will give a great deal of the credit to the indefatigable David Kessler, who took on an influential but irresponsible industry. One of his offhand observations should be memorized by careerists both inside and outside the Beltway: 'The challenge in Washington, I began to realize, was not getting a job, but figuring out what to do with it.'

Still, though, the best way to appreciate his fight, and our long, twisted, multifaceted relationship with the tobacco industry, is to be found in Allan M. Brandt's Bancroft Prize-winning history, The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America (Basic, 9780465070480). In its pages we return, in detail, to the nicotine question. It is true that the story has progressed since publication in 2007; still, this is the best way to understand how deeply woven tobacco has been in American culture, history, and politics -- and to appreciate how significant a change it is that our government has now claimed strict regulatory power. It's a big book to be sure, but a wise and fantastically written one. It is most definitely worth another look.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lance Armstrong, defying the odds...again

As the Tour de France returns to the mountains, with Lance Armstrong still well-positioned at third, only 8 seconds behind the leader, John Wilcockson's biography is doing some climbing of its own:

#9 on the MPBA bestseller list

#15 on the SCIBA bestseller list

#35 on the New York Times bestseller list

Keep in mind: Mr. Armstong is returning to racing at the advanced age of 37 years, and after 3 years away from the sport (and from a broken clavicle!). Winning the Tour for seven consecutive years (after recovering from cancer) already qualified him as "the world's greatest champion," but, my oh my, wouldn't a title this year be a phenomenal capstone?

Lance: The Making of the World's Greatest Champion

by John Wilcockson

Da Capo, 9780306815874

cloth, $26.00

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I couldn't have said it better myself

It's been a little tougher than I'd hoped getting this book noticed, so I was pleased to see this morning's Shelf Awareness:

Book Review: That Mad Ache

That Mad Ache by Françoise Sagan, translated by Douglas Hofstadter (Basic Books, $14.94 trade paper, 9780465010981/0465010989, May 2009)

Why is that man reading his book upside down?

Because one side of That Mad Ache, the handsome, newly-released paperback original from Basic Books, is a fresh translation of Françoise Sagan's 1965 French novel, La Chamade, but flip the book over and you'll find another book altogether. Upside down on the other side is a brilliantly-written 100-page essay on the art of translation by the translator himself, Douglas Hofstadter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning genius who created Godel, Escher, Bach. Sagan leaped to fame in 1954 at the age of 18 when her novel Bonjour, Tristesse became an international sensation. That Mad Ache, written 11 years later, contains the same witty, ironic dissection of upper-class French lovers and disenfranchised young people, gracefully baring the souls of her characters and watching them misunderstand each other. Lucille is the aimless, 30-year-old lover of Charles, 20 years her senior. She sits next to a gloomy young man she doesn't much like at a high society dinner, someone else's lover, and together the two cause a scandal by a tactless burst of laughter. From there it's a labyrinthine journey into the human heart, as lively and invigorating in Hofstadter's fresh, airy translation as any novel written today.

Hofstadter lays bare the zillion-and-one decisions that confront any translator. He compares his choices with those of the earlier translator, Robert Westhoff, who was Françoise Sagan's husband and the father of her only child. Translation is a subtle, suggestive art, and Hofstadter reveals, among other things, his clever solution to the vous/tu dilemma and when to have English idioms come out of French mouths. His boldest assertion is blatantly favoring the meaning and idea over the literal translation, and he shows you his daring insertions, alterations and omissions to prove it. Hofstadter is a delightfully endearing smartie who adores the text he's translating, knows how to doubt himself and unabashedly admits his pleasures in this frequently laugh-out-loud funny personal essay.

Not only that, but it's a beautifully made book, a physical pleasure in weight and flexibility, super-readable type face, lovely cover--a book-lover's joy to hold and read in which every aspect of publishing (including the contents, both fiction and non-fiction!) are superbly executed for maximum reading enjoyment. Kindle, eat your heart out.--Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: A new translation of Françoise Sagan's La Chamade--subtle and daring--combined with an essay on translation by the translator himself, Douglas Hofstadter.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Hot Seven from Perseus -- new math edition!

In this incarnation there are really only six titles on the “hot” portion – but the first one pleases me so much that I count it twice:

Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (Nation Books, 9781568584232) is getting the attention it deserves, and creating evangelists. For example, Lucia Silva of Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City pitched it most articulately on NPR’s “Morning Edition” yesterday – you can check out her segment at She is one of many who helped Mirrors make the SCIBA bestseller list in its very first week of publication. I’m extremely glad to see, though, that their neighbors to the north have followed: this week it is on both the NCIBA and PNBA bestseller lists as well. Thanks to you all! We’re doing what we can to keep it in people’s minds: Mr. Galeano is touring, and we have reviews and features upcoming in Harper’s, The Nation, Lapham’s Quarterly, The New York Times Book Review, the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Portland Oregonian. This is a real gem, and we feel lucky to have it on our list. We are currently out of stock, however, so please don’t be shy in ordering what you need from wholesalers.

Richard Wrangham’s Catching Fire: How Cooking Made s Human (Basic, 9780465013623) has certainly captured the imagination of radio producers. Having already been featured on 7 public radio programs, including “Weekend All Things Considered,” “Chef’s Table,” and “To the Best of Our Knowledge” (taped, but still to air), Dr. Wrangham has added a high profile eighth: yesterday he taped an interview with PRI’s “The World.” And looking down the summer, we have him confirmed for an appearance on “Talk of the Nation’s Science Friday” on August 28. Famed minimalist Mark Bittman also featured the book in his “Bitten” blog on the New York Times website, and will feature a Q&A with Dr. Wrangham in an upcoming blog post. All of which follows on glowing reviews in the Times (Catching Fire is a plain-spoken and thoroughly gripping scientific essay that presents nothing less than a new theory of human that Darwin (among others) simply missed.”), the San Francisco Chronicle (“Wrangham has a curious mind, in all the best senses…. This is colorful stuff, and Wrangham obviously has an eye on a general readership, but he never talks down, and he's a trustworthy guide through some daunting intellectual terrain.”), and just about everywhere in the science press you could think to look.

Going into last season I thought that Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America’s Most Unlikely Tourist (PublicAffairs, 9781586484972) had the potential to be a sleeper. Reviews and features are certainly helping – whether you’re a Vanity Fair or Parade person, you’ll have seen it pushed as a great summer read. Earlier this week, the Washington Post had a rave review: “Carlson seems to have sought and discovered every piece of arcana associated with the Soviet leader's American sojourn. A deft and amusing writer, Carlson does a marvelous job of recounting it.” Earlier in the Daily Beast, Christopher Buckley called it “simply hilarious, while being about the guy whose finger was on the nuclear triggers during the hottest time in the Cold War” – and yesterday the Beast elevated it to their “recommends” page. A feature is upcoming in Newsweek, and Mr. Carlson will be on “Weekend Edition Saturday” on June 20, by which time I’m hoping word of mouth will have spread even further.

The Skinny Bitch empire continues to expand, with the recent publication of Skinny Bastard (Running Press, 9780762435401). Authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin will have their first major national media interview on the Lifetime Network’s new morning show, “Balancing Act with Dr. David Friedman,” the first week in July (exact air date to come). You’ll know from past experience that this is just the beginning of a prolonged onslaught.

Now that the film Food, Inc. is getting broad release, its advocates – and the contributors to our companion book from PublicAffairs (9781586486945) – are burning up the airwaves. Last week Eric Schlosser was on Colbert, Michael Pollan was on Bill Maher, and director Robert Kenner appeared on PBS’s “Now.” This very morning, Mr. Kenner appeared on “Morning Edition,” and ABC’s “Nightline” will run a segment on the film next Monday. There should be no paucity of attention, and we think it’s a great opportunity for the book. I’d like to remind you, and hope you’ll remind your customers, that the book is much, much more than a simple recap of the documentary – it’s almost entirely original material, and should appeal widely. And it’s a paper original! Magic words these days….

And finally (or almost finally), Sunday’s New York Times Book Review will feature a magnificent review of Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe (Basic, 9780465013746). As they remark, this deep history should help nudge us out of this “clash of civilizations” mindset that has so widely taken hold over the past several years: “As Andrew Wheatcroft brilliantly shows in The Enemy at the Gate, the skirmishes and the pitched battles that raged for centuries between Habsburgs and Ottomans, and their numerous vassals on both sides, represented not so much a ‘clash of civilizations’ as a collision of empires…. [H]is narrative is thrilling as well as thoughtful, a rare combination.” (It’s a combination, I can’t help mentioning, that is not without precedent among our publishers: consider Da Capo’s The Great Arab Conquests, PublicAffairs’s Destiny Disrupted, and Basic’s forthcoming The Arabs, all of which are both engaging and enlightening. It’s a real pleasure to present these books.)

I can’t help but mention, too, that Mr. Wheatcroft’s review is but a step in Basic’s continuing string of New York Times Book Review coverage – I’ve attached a lovely little sheet showing the reviews they’d received through April; upcoming issues will review The Secret Lives of Boys and Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love. PublicAffairs is also shoehorning in, with several reviews scheduled in the next couple weeks: World War One, The Sages, and (best title ever) The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday. And while we’re in the Book Review’s pages, I must also mention that the eternal bestseller Skinny Bitch has had recent company on the bestseller lists – Thomas Sowell’s The Housing Boom and Bust (thank you, Mr. Glenn Beck) and Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by John Medina. This one is particularly pleasing – a small, indie press (Pear Press, 9780979777745), succeeding largely through the evangelical efforts of booksellers like you. Many thanks from all of us at team Perseus.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Hot Five from Perseus - un-BEA edition!

Some quick items of interest as Perseus titles make waves in the marketplace:

Glenn Beck has found someone to help him through his great fears for our nation, and that man is Thomas Sowell. Last night, he had Mr. Sowell on his program to discuss the economy and President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The good television host was moved almost to tears by Mr. Sowell’s wisdom and reason: But that is only the beginning. Next week, Mr. Beck will conduct a week-long, 5-part seminar on the wisdom to be found in Mr. Sowell’s current book, The Housing Boom and Bust (Basic, 9780465018802). Much more national media is scheduled, including a review and Q&A in the Investor’s Business Daily, and an appearance on the nationally syndicated “G. Gordon Liddy Show.” The trick is not to mind it…and to sell the book.

If you like, you can set up a point-counterpoint on your display shelves, between Mr. Sowell on the right, and Robert Frank on the left. On Monday, June 1, Mr. Frank will be a guest on NPR’s “The Talk of the Nation” in the 3 o’clock hour, discussing his current release, The Economic Naturalist’s Field Guide (Basic, 9780465015115). The first reviews for this unabashedly liberal look at political economy have been stellar. Library Journal wrote, “Frank’s writing sparkles, and the topics, which include health care and the subprime-mortgage crisis, are timely.” And on Monday Booklist will have a starred review: “Witty, compelling, and sensible, these essays should resonate in this era of economic turmoil.” There is also a Q&A with Mr. Frank in the current issue of Money magazine, which you can find here:

We were very pleased with the starred PW review of Neil MacFarquhar’s The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday (PublicAffairs, 9781586486358); how much more so you may imagine with last Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook piece: “Neil MacFarquhar is that rare and wonderful thing, a Middle East correspondent who not only speaks Arabic but also grew up in the region. This experience infuses his book -- the product of 20 years of reporting -- with the wit, insight and eye-rolling exasperation of a near-native…. The result is an intelligent and fascinating romp full of anecdotes, acid asides and conversations with everyone from dissidents to diplomats and liberal religious sheikhs, and even a Kuwaiti woman with a sex-advice column…. It's a testament to MacFarquhar's deep background knowledge and the lightness of his touch that complex issues … are distilled into clear exposition without ever being oversimplified or dumbed down. But MacFarquhar has written much more than just a very good primer to the region. His real achievement is to give the reader a window into the private debates among the intelligentsia and political classes of the Middle East…. MacFarquhar, now the United Nations bureau chief at the New York Times, is a fun guide.” Upcoming national media includes Charlie Rose (probably on June 4) and, just confirmed, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on June 10.

A big thanks to Southern California booksellers, for starting Eduardo Galeano’s Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (Nation Books, 9781568584232) with a bang – in its week of publication it hit #12 on the SCIBA bestseller list. And that’s before any of the big media hits! This afternoon Mr. Galeano appeared on CNN International’s “CNN Today” and on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy NOW.” This weekend he’ll be conversing with booksellers at BEA. Next week, he’ll appear on public radio programs from Seattle (KUOW’s “Weekday,” KEXP’s “Mind over Matters”) to Los Angeles (KPFK’s “Free Forum” and “Uprising”), with pieces also scheduled on NPR’s “Latino USA” and KCRW’s “Bookworm.” He has taped an interview with Washington Post book editor Maria Arana, and a version of it will run alongside his piece on “The Writing Life” in the June 12 Outlook section. On June 11, he will be interviewed by the LA Times, with a feature to run shortly thereafter. And reviews are expected far and wide, with the San Francisco Chronicle confirmed. Yes, the word will be out – please help us get the book into people’s hands. Judging by PW’s starred review, they won’t be disappointed: “Across disparate civilizations and centuries—but always with an unflinching eye (and irony) trained on the present—Galeano's stories register the imaginations of our mythmaking species, the elaborate gestures of (gendered) forms of power and the spirit of rebellion and resilience that fires the underdog masses.”

And finally, a bit of a sleeper: Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top (PublicAffairs, 9781586484972) continues to capture imaginations. Most recently, it was America’s Finest News Source, The Onion, with a glowing review: “Carlson delivers his bizarre travelogue in the most deadpan manner possible, as if to counteract the largely hysterical news reports at the time, which tracked K’s every move with the ardor of paparazzi chasing a bare-headed Britney.” The book will be among Parade Magazine’s picks next weekend, and by the end of the month Mr. Carlson should make appearances on NPR’s “On the Media” and “Morning Edition Saturday.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this book is just a total hoot.

That’s all for now – go do your good works.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vegan Soul Kitchen. Just do it.

A recent e-mail from Paul Takushi. head book buyer at UC Davis Bookstore:

If you are hosting an event for Bryant Terry's new book, Vegan Soul Kitchen (Da Capo, 9780738212289), be sure to get at least as many copies as the number of attendees you are expecting at your event. Also be sure to stock his 2005 book, GRUB (9781585424597). Bryant is a very good speaker: entertaining, humorous, informative, polite (and we all know how much this counts at author events). About half of the attendees at the event I just worked bought more than one copy of each book. He usually travels with copies of his own so you might want to make arrangements with him for consignment sales just in case you run out (but don't under-stock the books with this mind).

If you have not already booked this guy for an event, do it

(I'll admit, I added the emphasis for that last sentence - but wouldn't you have done?)

For more info on Mr. Terry, check out Da Capo's excellent new cooking site.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

BOOK: The Sequel - a collaborative venture from Perseus

A note from World Headquarters in New York, USA:

As you may know, we are spearheading a unique project at BEA - a collaborative crashed title called BOOK: The Sequel.

This project asks the world to imagine the sequel to any book, and then write its first sentence.

For example: ever wonder what happens to Harry Potter after twenty years of marriage and a steady government gig? Or what Karl Marx would say about today's financial crisis? If the Bible had a sequel, what its first sentence would be? Write that sentence and you could be published! It's easy!

Pick a Book.
Imagine its Sequel.
Write the first sentence.
Add a great title, and then submit it to, and it might just get published by Perseus.

At 5pm on Thursday, May 28th, at the start of BEA, we will "open the submissions box." Over the next 48 hours, in our booth at BEA, we will Select, Edit, Organize, Design, Layout, Print, Convert to Digital, Create the Audio and Large Print versions, Publicize, Market and Sell this book.

Submissions have been rolling into our website since its launch April 28th - all are encouraged to participate. In addition to the website, we've got a Facebook page (become a friend!), and you can follow the project on Twitter.

Some inspiration to get you started:

"See, I was right." -From Das Kapital 2, by Karl Marx (sequel to Das Kapital)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man who has lost his fortune in a Ponzi scheme, his job in structured finance and his retirement savings in toxic assets, must be in want of a wife." -From Busted and Bailed Out by Jane Austen (sequel to Sense and Sensibility)

"Call Me, Ishmael!" -From Moby Dick's Guide to Dating at Sea

Write your own at, and find out on May 30 if you've become a published author!

(As for the actual book itself: it will be a paper original , priced at $9.95, on sale as soon after June 2 as standard shipping allows -- ISBN: 978-0-78674-781-8. Orders accepted now!)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Congratulations to Justin Marozzi!

This was a pleasant bit of news to start the morning: the long list of finalists for the 2009 BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-fiction has just been announced, and it includes a book called The Man Who Invented History, by Justin Marozzi. The book was published here in the states under the title The Way of Herodotus: Travels with the Man Who Invented History (Da Capo, 9780306816215), to glowing reviews. (The LA Times, for example, called it "one of the year's best and most engaging travel books." Personally, I think that undersells the book; it's as much a meditation on history, history writing, and cultural difference as it is a travel book.)

The Samuel Johnson Prize is the richest non-fiction prize in the UK, and aims "to reward the best of non-fiction and is open to authors of all non-fiction books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts." Mr. Marozzi's book is in exalted company - others on the long list include David Grann's The Lost City of Z, Alexander Waugh's The House of Wittgenstein, and Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. It truly is an accomplishment to be grouped together with those (and the rest of the finalists), and I wish him well as the judges deliberate.

The short list will be announced later this month, and the winner will be declared in a televised ceremony on June 30. Hopefully, we'll be able to put a fancy "winner" badge on the paperback, which is on this fall's list and due for publication in February 2010.

(Oh, and a backlist opportunity: if you'd like to check out Mr. Marozzi's chops as a more conventional historian, I highly recommend his earlier book, Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World. It's available in paperback (9780306815430), and an excellent contribution to western scholarship on the history of the Muslim world - an area in which I'm pleased to say the Perseus Books Group has been publishing strongly. More on that later, perhaps; for the moment I'll just say that Mr. Marozzi's skills as a writer - vivid descriptions and characterizations, strong narrative drive - are equally evident here.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Wisconsin, every week is Banned Books Week

My thanks to UC Davis buyer Paul Takushi for passing this update along:

May 11, 2009
(As reported by ABBFFE, the American Booksellers Foundation
for Free Expression)
The controversy over the dismissal of four library board
members in West Bend, Wisconsin, continues to grow. The West Bend Common Council may soon be forced to reconsider its April 21 vote to dismiss the board members because of their refusal to remove controversial books from the young adult section of the library. The board members are accused of promoting "the overt
indoctrination of the gay agenda." Supporters of the library board intend to introduce a motion to reconsider at the May 18 council meeting.

Two of the books challenged are Brent Hartinger's Geography Club (Harper) and Stephan Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Simon & Schuster). Meanwhile, critics have recently called for restrictions on a third book, Baby Be Bop by Francesca Lia Block (Harper). The Christian Civil Liberties Union's (CCLU) Milwaukee branch has filed a legal claim, calling the book offensive and arguing that the elderly plaintiffs' mental and emotional well-beings are damaged by the book's presence at the library. Named in the claim are the city of West Bend, Mayor Kristine Deiss, the West Bend Library Board and Library Director. CCLU seeks $30,000 per plaintiff, Deiss' resignation and the book's removal and a public burning.
That's right: an organization with "Civil Liberties Union" in its title is calling for a court-mandated book burning. Truly chilling.

(If I'm supposed to connect this to a direct professional interest, I'd point out that we have had two books featured by ABBFFE: Obscene in the Extreme, by Rick Wartzman (PublicAffairs, 9781586483319), which is not only a detailed anatomy of a particular censorship drive (against Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath), but also a marvelous piece of Depression-era history; and Freedom for the Thought that We Hate, by Anthony Lewis (Basic, 9780465039173), a biography, and celebration, of the first amendment and those who defend it. Both are coming in paper this fall. Obviously, I think both are appropriate and valuable in this context.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May 12 is John Ross Day!

Here’s a reason to love San Francisco: the Board of Supervisors has decreed that May 12 shall be a day to honor the vestigial Wobbly, visionary, poet, journalist, and all around literary maverick John Ross. He’s scheduled to receive the honor at City Hall, during their annual “Poets Under the Dome” event – although I’m told he may use the occasion to protest the City’s treatment of the homeless, which would only be appropriate.

If you’d like a sense of what Mr. Ross has been up to recently, check out this recent account on the Bay Guardian’s blog. When not harassing repressive authorities, Mr. Ross has been writing a followup to his marvelous Murdered by Capitalism – Nation Books is proud to be publishing, this November, El Monstruo, an epic lovesong to the urban monstrosity that is Mexico City. Attached is a little flier they drew up to spread the early word. If you’ve got a place to display it, that would be marvelous. Even if you don’t, please salute Mr. Ross and his uniquely distinguished career…and consider once again displaying his backlist.

Murdered By Capitalism (Nation Books, 9781560255789)

Zapatistas!: Making another World Possible (Nation Books, 9781560258742)

El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City (Nation Books, 9781568584249 - available November, 2009)

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Hot Five from Perseus - Unbridled Spirit edition

It’s late on a Friday afternoon, so I’ll keep this quick: our major publicity hits upcoming – prepare yourselves!

1. Frank Partnoy will be on “The Daily Show” on May 11 to promote The Match King (PublicAffairs, 9781586487430). This comes on the heels of some great review attention, including from PW (Starred review), The Huffington Post, Slate, The Economist, and BusinessWeek. I’ll just quote this last: “An absorbing tale and a poignant reminder that every boom has its scoundrels…Partnoy gives us a rich account of the Roaring Twenties' most astounding confidence man.” The story is uncannily appropriate to our times, and the book is picking up steam.

2. Richard Dowden’s Africa (PublicAffairs, 9781586487539) will be reviewed in this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review – Nicholas D. Kristof will have this to say: “We journalists tend to cover Africa in stark and simple contrasts, but countries live and grow and falter in grays. So it’s refreshing to encounter not only Dowden’s hopefulness, but also his reliance on shading and nuance, on the recognition that the world does not have to feel sorry for Africa to care about it.”

3. We’ve just received word that Bryant Terry’s interview on American Public Media’s “The Splendid Table” will air tomorrow, 5/2! Mr. Terry is the author of Vegan Soul Kitchen (Da Capo, 9780738212289), which was our #10 selling book last week. The program airs on stations KAZU (Monterey / Santa Cruz), KPCC (Pasadena), KOPB (Portland / Corvallis / Eugene), and KUOW and KSER (Seattle / Tacoma). And the current issue of VegNews provides a strong endorsement: “With 150 recipes, this can’t-miss classic will have you kissing your Collard Confetti without missing a beat.”

4. Here’s what being a former New York Times correspondent gets you: plenty of national media is lining up for Neil MacFarquhar and The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday (PublicAffairs, 9781586486358). To wit:


5/7 CNN “Situation Room” / interview

5/13 PBS “Charlie Rose” / interview


5/4 NPR’s “Morning Edition” / interview

5/4 WBUR’s “On Point” (nationally syndicated) / interview

5/4 PRI’s “The World” / interview

Additionally, it has been assigned for review at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

5. And last but in no way least, the Donald. Think Like a Champion (Vanguard, 9781593155308) will be #8 on this Sunday’s New York Times Bestseller List. Last night, Mr. Trump visited with Bill O’Reilly, and Papa Bear proclaimed the book “perfect for Dads.” We have two national publicity hits within the next week, and hopefully they will decree the book perfect for Moms and for Grads: He’ll be on Letterman on Monday (May 4), reading the Top 10 List, and the next morning he’ll have an audience with the ladies of “The View.” Please, do not disappoint the Donald.

That’s all for this week’s edition (brought to you by the Bluegrass State); stay tuned next week, for the Trotsky special. (No kidding.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

a substitute among the Hot 7 from Perseus

Sometimes it happens, your trombonist goes on tour with King Oliver, say, and you’ve got to fill a spot in the lineup….

Well, here’s the note I got from the Running Press publicity department earlier today:

Due to extenuating circumstances, the authors of Smart Girls Marry Money (9780762435173) will not be on The Oprah Show today. However, we have received great feedback from the Oprah team. They are actively pursuing other opportunities for the authors in the next four weeks before the show goes on hiatus.

We will keep everyone informed.

Blast. I’ll let you know should anything materialize.

But there’s always an old standby you can count on to step in (or, to think of it slightly differently, The New York Times giveth what Oprah taketh away): Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, Skinny Bastard (Running Press, 9780762435401 – c’mon, you can’t tell me you’re surprised…). It’s just landing in stores now, and Motoko Rich is first on the scene with a feature article – which helpfully includes the marketing roadmap. “All along, the plan was to target both men and women,” Ms. Freedman told her interviewer. “It was just: Let’s get Skinny Bitch out there and establish it because women are more prone to buying diet books and books in general.” To which Ms. Barnouin added: ““I think the guys will enjoy it once they have it. But I think it’s going to be the wives and girlfriends and sisters buying these books.” Which is to say: be sure to stack this one and the original next to each other. Much more national publicity is on the way (and that Skinny Bitch sitcom is still in development…).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Queen of queens, &c.

Today's New York Times featured an Op-Ed piece by the author Stacy Schiff, ruminating on what we'd find were we to stumble across (or into) the tomb of Cleopatra -- the lady or the legend. Ms. Schiff is evidently working on a biography of the great queen. It makes one wonder if there is something in the air -- after all, just last month, Diana Preston published her take on this august personage, Cleopatra and Antony: Power, Love and Politics in the Ancient World.

Ms. Schiff and Ms. Preston are both wonderful writers of serious but accessible history. So I mean them no disrespect when I say that they are treading over ground already surveyed, masterfully, by Joyce Tyldesley, in last year's Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt (Basic, 9780465009404). This was the first, and to this point, really, still the only study of this mythic figure that chose to see her as an Egyptian, and not through the lens of her overbearing Roman neighbors. In this it was a serious contribution to scholarship. But as the reviews upon publication made clear, it was equally a revelation for the general reader. Publishers Weekly, for example, gave it a starred review:

This entertaining biography hits the elusive sweet spot between scholarship and readability…. Writing with an easy mastery of her subject, Tyldesley always seems to be able to lay her hands on the perfect lively detail, whether an excerpt from an obscure bureaucratic document or a description of a kind of giant robot that paraded through the streets of Alexandria pouring libations of milk from a gold bottle. Though she makes it clear we’ll never know what Cleopatra was ‘really’ like, Tyldesley provides a memorable journey through the rich and contradictory sources of our knowledge about her.

It won similar praise from outlets ranging from the Tucson Citizen to the Feminist Review -- and at greatest length from, of all places, Newsweek: "In the year of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, untangling the legend of Cleopatra has special urgency…. To regard Cleopatra as an Egyptian ruler instead of a male myth, and to assess her using scholarly and archeological tools, is a worthy goal. It seems long overdue."

I'm moved to mention all of that not just out of pride that we got there first. More, it's because noticing these other, similar works on Cleopatra has given me an even greater appreciation of what it is that Basic Books does best. Publisher John Sherer once went so far as to call it the Basic "formula": they look for recognized experts, conducting original research in support of unconventional ideas (or unconventional approaches to conventional subjects). They have a particularly keen eye for scholars who have developed outstanding academic reputations, but who are poised to address a wider (i.e. trade) audience.

Ms. Tyldesley is an excellent example. Others among our current authors would include:

Dean Falk, whose Finding Our Tongues (9780465002191) proposes a unique theory concerning the origin of language;

Richard Wrangham, whose forthcoming Catching Fire (9780465013623) makes some extraordinary claims regarding cooked food and human evolution;

and Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek, whose The Lightness of Being (9780465003211) proposes little short of a Grand Unification Theory.

I just noticed those are all scientists -- but we've also introduced several incredibly talented historians, including James Palmer (author of The Bloody White Baron (9780465014484), "a fascinating portrait of an appalling man" - PW's starred review) and Timothy Snyder (The Red Prince (9780465002375), which "captures in shimmering colors the death of old Europe and the continent's descent into barbarism" - Shelf Awareness). It is great fun to get to magpie around in these lists-- whole worlds of new ideas, and of fresh approaches to old questions await.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Hot Seven from Perseus

It is too hot out. The heat is frying my brain, and bringing me shamefully close to some cheesy, morning-radio-caliber metaphors for the publicity hits we’ve been getting this week. So with very little fanfare, let me give you the “Hot 7” from Perseus (that’s not a weather reference!) – a quick list of titles that are seeing some good action:

Eduardo Galeano, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (Nation Books, 9781568584232): we’re thrilled to be getting a boost from that unlikeliest of Oprahs, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez. Since he gave President Obama a copy of The Open Veins of Latin America, interest in this great writer has spiked. Justifiably: as the LA Times assessed, he “deserves mention alongside John Dos Passos, Bernard DeVoto, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” Pleased to be able to pounce on the interest, Nation Books has pushed up its publication of Mr. Galeano’s newest opus, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, for an early release, May 5; we’ve also confirmed that Mr. Galeano will appear on “Bill Moyers’ Journal” on PBS. I’ve attached a little sell sheet the folks at Nation have put together, highlighting Mr. Galeano’s superb reputation and some of the new publicity. We’ve been getting a lot of interest from the national accounts (including, astoundingly, airports!), and have just gone back to press for another 10,000 copies – as many of those as you like can be yours! I’ve also got a couple galleys still lying around - let me know if you’d like one.

Daniela Drake and Elizabeth Ford, Smart Girls Marry Money (Running Press, 9780762435173): I’d love to see Eduardo Galeano on Oprah; until that happens, though, I’ll settle for Ms. Drake and Ms. Ford. They’ll visit with Ms. Winfrey on Friday, April 24, through the magic of Skype. They will be the focus of the “Hot Topics” segment – this is the same segment that launched the hysteria over Oprah Twittering. It gets attention. Ideally, this would have come next week, but Ms. Winfrey is not a woman to be kept waiting, so it’s turning into a big publicity hit before the book is quite available. Some of you might have it in time; the rest will get it next week. But this gives the book a good push out of the gate, and gives the Running Press publicity department a good springboard – as you’ll see on the attached sheet. Please don’t be shy on this one.

Alec Russell, Bring Me My Machine Gun: the Battle for the Soul of South Africa, from Mandela to Zuma (PublicAffairs, 9781586487386): South Africa holds elections Wednesday. Alec Russell has been the recent point person for a rundown on what lies in store under the leadership of the controversial Jacob Zuma, who is sure to win in a landslide. Mr. Russell had an op-ed piece in Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook; he was interviewed yesterday on NPR’s “Morning Edition;” he was interviewed today (Tuesday) on PRI’s “The World;” and, of course, he has written this fine book. The Economist raves: “It is a relief to view South Africa’s past two decades through Alec Russell’s gentler, insightful, sometimes humorous, sometimes bleak, but always kaleidoscopic prism. He robustly addresses the doleful issues of governance…. But his portrait of South Africa, alive with delicious vignettes across a range of humanity, is more nuanced—and more readable.” And in the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Kaminski calls it “an engaging chronicle of the post-apartheid years… nuanced.”

Dara Chadwick, You’d Be So Pretty If…: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies Even When We Don’t Love Our Own (Da Capo, 9780738212586): the producers at the “Today Show” were so impressed with Ms. Chadwick that they’ve bumped their segment on her book up from May 1 to April 29 (next Wednesday). They’ll be interviewing Ms. Chadwick and her daughter, and introducing the segment with a longer string of interviews with Moms on the Street. It should be a good segment, and will definitely raise the profile of this paperback original. Please check to be sure you have it in stock.

Mark Arax, West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders and Killers in the Golden State (PublicAffairs, 9781586483906): a great weekend out of the gate for this. Item 1, the San Francisco Chronicle review: “As a native Californian with deep roots in both Northern and Southern California, Arax is the perfect cicerone through the heavenly and hellish landscapes and historical evolutions he has chosen to chronicle. He does not shy away from the gritty or the infernal, but is also alive to the incredible riches of this continually unfolding promised land. A longtime newspaper and magazine feature writer, he has a nose for a good story, and in this book, freed from the constraints dictated by those media, he has the time and space to follow up on multiple angles where they will be fruitful. So the tales here are never hurried but unfolded in a measured, controlled manner for maximum context and texture.” Item 2, the LA Times review: “Arax is trying to put his finger on the shifting nature of the place where he grew up and to which, as an adult, he returned…. [L]ike all good reporters, he has the knack of putting us there, fixing an era and making us reassess our relationship to an economic and geographic landscape that never stops changing.” Item 3, a feature article in the San Diego Union Tribune, praising its mix of “the rigor of investigative journalism and the personal voice of a memoir.” And if you want a better taste of what exactly they mean, you can listen to Scott Shafer’s interview with Mr. Arax on “The California Report,” airing on a public radio station near you (and online: And to all of you who got this on the SCIBA Bestseller List last week, our hearty thanks!

Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran, 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution (Basic, 9780465002214): Saturday’s LA Times ran a feature article on Drs. Harpending and Cochran, and the research that is chronicled in this book. The article focused on one of the more attention-getting claims – in the Times’s words, “Ashkenazi Jews have a higher rate of some deadly genetic diseases -- and of high IQs. Scientists Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending say that's no coincidence.” (You can see the entire piece here:,0,2228388.story.) For a while, this was the most e-mailed article on the website, and it has since been picked up by papers across the country. Yahoo news ran a similar article from McClatchy newspapers.

Francis Wrangham, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human (Basic, 9780465013623): the “Science Times” section of the New York Times ran an outstanding Q & A with Dr. Wrangham this morning…and I subsequently got some galley requests! (I choose to believe that that’s because the book sounds interesting, not because Dr. Wrangham mentioned that Jane Goodall once prohibited him from running around naked with a bunch of chimpanzees.) The book is to be published in May (at the same time as Mirrors), and has been assigned for review at numerous papers and magazines. I think it will get noticed. Get ready!

So there you have it – a strong lineup indeed. Let me know if you can use more of anything…and stay cool.