I'm scraping myself away from the NCAA basketball tournaments (men's and women's division 1 – go Huskies!) and attending sales conference this week, getting ready for the Fall season. But while I'm there I hope you'll take a few moments to consider the success we're having so far this spring – behold, another round of publicity highlights.
If I'm to be guided by print runs, I've got to start with A Different Life, by Quinn Bradlee (PublicAffairs, 9781586481896). There's certainly a lot to recommend this memoir of growing up with a severe learning disability…but the family connections certainly can't hurt. The book was plugged in Elissa Schappell's "Hot Type" column in Vanity Fair, and this week the rollout begins in earnest: there is a first serial in Newsweek, and Mr. Bradlee (the younger) will be on "Good Morning America" on Thursday (April 3). He will also check in with Diane Rehm on April 13, and will join the ladies on "The View" on April 21. Promotion for the book also ties in with the launch of http://www.friendsofquinn.com/, a resource and social networking site for learning-disabled youth. I suspect that there will be even more to come.
I've mentioned it elsewhere, but would like to say again, congratulations to Mark Thompson, for making the shortlist for this year's Orwell Prize with his fantastic The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919 (Basic, 9780465013296). The prize is awarded annually to that book judged best to accomplish Orwell's stated goal of making political writing an art. This is a well-earned accomplishment – but not entirely a surprise, at least if you've seen the reviews that it's been getting. For example, Hugh MacDonald, in the
On the subject of short lists, and a little closer to home: congratulations to Rick Wartzman, whose Obscene in the Extreme: The Burning and Banning of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (PublicAffairs, 9781586483319) is a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize for History. In their review, they called it "a skillfully drawn reminder of the human toll of deep poverty, intolerance and the unfettered whims of those who control the purse strings." It's a great piece of dust-bowl history, and a great lesson on censorship. The winners will be announced at the Los Angeles Times Festival of the Book in late April.
And another one! Congratulations to Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o for making the list of contenders for this year's Man Booker International Prize. This prize (not to be confused with the Man Booker Prize for Fiction) "highlights one writer's continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage." You can learn more about the prize here: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/man-booker-international. (The two previous winners are Chinua Achebe in 2007, and Ismail Kadare in 2005.) Earlier this month Basic Civitas published Mr. Ngugi's nonfiction book of essays on preserving African cultures by preserving African languages, Something Torn and New: an African Renaissance (9780465009466).
All of those contenders were leading up to this: a winner! Lawrence Freedman has been awarded the 2009 Lionel Gelber Prize for A Choice of Enemies:
Consider Sir Lawrence's book the first part of a one-two punch in the area of Middle East Studies, to be followed by Neil MacFarquhar's rather less formal The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday (PublicAffairs, 9781586486358). In advance of its publication in April, Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review: "While a glut of recent books on the Middle East have addressed Western perspectives on the region, this excellent book emphasizes questions Arabs ask themselves…MacFarquhar's approach is well-rounded…If America is to overcome Arabs' deep distrust, MacFarquhar suggests, it must abandon policies 'too often based on expediency' and listen, not to its own domestic politics but 'to the concerns of the people in [Arabs'] own countries.'" Similarly praise-filled reviews appeared in Booklist and Kirkus, and it's been assigned for review at the San Francisco Chronicle. (On top of which, the consensus seems to be that it has the best title of the season.)
Okay, I'll lighten up a bit. We'll be getting a great ForeWord magazine review for Love As Always, Kurt: Vonnegut as I Knew Him (Da Capo, 9780306818035) by Loree Rackstraw: "As only one who knew him well could, Rackstraw conjures a robust portrait of this paradoxical legend, drawing on their voluminous correspondence to provide singular insights that both contradict and celebrate his iconic status…Rackstraw's forte is finding that satisfying balance of objectivity and subjectivity that memoirists must bring to their work…Artfully blending her confidante's understanding of Vonnegut's kaleidoscopic personality with an academician's assessment of his timeless and universal themes, Rackstraw manages to offer both a dignified testimonial to a literary master and a loving tribute to a lifelong friend." And wasn't he everyone's friend? Entertainment Weekly seemed to think so: "When Love as Always, Kurt is at its best, the 'love' in Rackstraw's title seems to refer not just to Vonnegut's love for her, but his love for all of us."
You know who else has an abiding love for all of us? Sure you do – The Donald! He's here to show you: you'll find a Q&A with Mr. Trump in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. His advice to them? "You should make this interview a five-page deal. Because of me, everybody will read it." Well, they didn't make it five pages, alas. Still, they did manage to mention his forthcoming book, Think Like a Champion (Vanguard, 9781593155308). And you'll be hearing more from him on the subject: he'll be on "Good Morning America" on April 14, and an interview and review are also scheduled for USA Today. He just wants to share his wisdom with you.
An early note about Walter Staib's City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine (Running Press, 9780762434176). This one is truly unique – a return to and reinvention of the food of our Founding Fathers. The book is coming in May, and we've just learned that beginning in June it will be the basis for a new PBS cooking show, A Taste of History, which will also star Mr. Staib. The book will be featured prominently at the end of each show. I haven't heard yet what PBS markets are picking the show up…but it will be available everywhere through the interwebs (http://tasteofhistory.com/).
(Speaking of founding fathers: I was pleased this week to see that Ray Raphael's forthcoming Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation (New Press, 9781595583277) got a starred review in Kirkus. They call it "[A] highly readable history about the messy work of revolution and nation-building. . . . Raphael's scholarship and scrupulously fair treatment deepens our understanding and appreciation, of what our ancestors wrought. Splendid storytelling that effectively captures and humanizes the tumult of the Revolutionary Era." It will be releasing next week.)
Back in the online kitchen, I'll mention that Da Capo has launched a new website focusing on their cookbooks – http://www.dacapopresscookbooks.com/. (Running Press, by the way, has had one for a while: http://www.runningpresscooks.com/.) Have a look – they've done a nice job, and there are some real gems there, including recipes and instructional videos. The lead feature this month is Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen (9780738212289). We've been getting a lot of great attention for this book, by the way: NPR's "News & Notes" aired a segment with Mr. Terry early in the month (you can listen to it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101378668). He also appeared on the syndicated NPR show "Here & Now," and local radio shows in
The New York Times Book Review has been so consistently supportive of Basic books recently you might think it was a house organ. It's nice to see. A couple weeks ago it was Mike Rapport's 1848: Year of Revolution (9780465014361): "In 1848: Year of Revolution, a lively, panoramic new history, Mike Rapport describes the uprising of that year while making clear their modern resonance…. He tells a good yarn, with a keen eye for ground-level details… It's hard to read this book without feeling a deepening reverence for successful postrevolutionaries like Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel, who first made revolution and then made the unheroic compromises that are the lifeblood of actual democratic government." That was a strong enough assessment to make it an Editor's Choice in the Book Review last weekend, and echoes the great reviews it received upon its initial publication in the UK – viz., The Literary Review: "Based on unsentimental judgements and presented in colourful writing. Descriptions of the street fighting in
In his foreword to Richard Dowden's
Wedged somewhere in Rush Limbaugh's recent tirades against Barack Obama and Michael Steele and all the other namby-pambies who don't see the truth as he declares it was a serious assault on Frank Schaeffer. The modest and reluctant leader of the conservative movement was not at all pleased with Mr. Schaeffer's critique of the religious right. Immediately at issue was Mr. Schaeffer's recent appearances on MSNBC and on CNN's "DL Hughley Show," but behind all of this lay his book, Crazy for God (Da Capo, 9780306817502) – and the subtitle will tell you all you need to know about why Mr. Limbaugh might find it objectionable: "How I Grew up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back." (Whew!) All the controversy has led to some great radio bookings, including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.,'s show, "Ring of Fire". Consequently, we've seen a nice uptick in sales. (It bodes well, too, for Mr. Schaeffer's next book, which we'll publish in the fall. Details TK.)
We began to suspect we had something of a gem in Jo Marchant's Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer – and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets (Da Capo, 9780306817427) when the pre-pub trade reviews came in – starred reviews, in fact, in both PW and Kirkus. The latter called the book it "a riveting look at the mysterious Antikythera mechanism…The book's early sections, describing the mechanism's discovery by sponge divers, read almost like a sea-adventure story…Marchant does not shy away from the science involved—astronomy, mathematics, engineering and radiology—but the material is consistently accessible. A valuable, fast-moving look at the history—and mystery—of the world's first analog computer." Well, we're starting to see it get wider recognition. To wit, the recent great review in the Los Angeles Times: Ms. Marchant "deftly handles technical material…[A] marvelous first book…[A] busy, elegant narrative…Marchant's account is the most up-to-date and the first to document the full story…In her hands, a book that could have been a historical autopsy for tech nerds blossoms into an epic of forgotten geniuses, lost treasure, death-defying underwater exploration and egomaniacal scientists…It takes a disciplined brain and a talented writer to explain so many processes with such painless lucidity."
For a couple years now I've been sharing my enthusiasm for Cathy's Book and Cathy's Key by Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart (Running Press, 9780762433469 and 9780762435777 respectively). Aside from being great reads, with engaging characters and, if I may say, impeccable structure, they are amazingly inventive in their use of non-print media. Messrs. Weisman and Stewart have created an incredibly detailed world, which you can access online or via your mobile phone – all the phone numbers in the book are active, and allow readers to engage by exchanging messages. (And yes, Cathy is on Facebook, MySpace, and just about any other social networking groove you can think to mention.) The thoroughness of the online world is one of the things that have made these books excellent choices for so-called reluctant readers. Well, TeenReads.com recently named Cathy's Key one of their 10 favorite books of the year – the citation is here: http://www.teenreads.com/features/2008_best_books.asp. This sets us up nicely for Cathy's Ring, the final volume of the trilogy, which will be coming this May (9780762435302). The latter, by the way, is being published with a monumental marketing plan (dwarfing by far what they did for Cathy's Key). The details are still top secret…but they involve lots of teen magazine advertising, plus a ton of MySpace & Twitter action, gizmo contests,…and music downloads! (And think about it – was there ever a book better suited to the Twitter revolution? I'm telling you, Jordan Weisman and Sean Stewart were way ahead of the curve on this one – we're just catching up to them now.)
One of the great pleasures of the spring season was selling in Secret Identities: The Asian-American Superhero Anthology, edited by Jeff Yang, Parry Shen, Keith Chow and Jerry Ma (New Press, 9781595583987). This is an incredibly cool project, and it should be in stores now for you to have a look. But if you want to learn more about it – or, even better, if you'd like a way to let your customers know about it – check out the series of video trailers that the good people at The New Press have created. Begin here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TuX-xJ4MlI. But there's a whole series of them. They're nicely done, and I encourage you to embed them on your websites, in your blogs, etc.
And finally, just a quick word of thanks from everyone at The New Press for making Henning Mankell's newest novel, Italian Shoes (9781595584366), an Indie NextList notable book for May! The only downside is that the book is out now, so it will be a while before you have the IndieBound marketing materials. Oh well – I'm sure you'll manage.