Above the Line by Urban Meyer: Lessons on leadership and team-building from Ohio State’s head football coach, drawing heavily on the 2014 season and his team’s remarkable run to the championship in the face of adversity
In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park: A harrowing escape from tyranny and into a new life of advocacy, from North Korean defector and human rights activist Yeonmi Park
SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal: A remarkable life plan based on the game the author herself and hundreds of thousands of others have used to leap from ruts and setbacks to recovery and personal growth
Kissinger by Niall Ferguson: The definitive biography of Henry Kissinger, based on unprecedented access to his private papers, by an acclaimed historian at the height of his powers
Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar: How far do you really go to “do unto others”? Renowned New Yorker journalist Larissa MacFarquhar reveals the individuals who devote themselves fully to bettering the lives of strangers, even when it comes at great personal cost
Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman: In her trademark style, wit, and with great sensitivity, Maira Kalman reveals why dogs bring out the best in us.
Felicity by Mary Oliver: A new poetry collection from New York Times bestselling poet and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Mary Olive
Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle: Renowned media scholar Sherry Turkle investigates how a flight from conversation undermines our relationships, creativity, and productivity—- and why reclaiming face-to-face conversation can help us regain lost ground.
America’s Bank by Roger Lowenstein: The tumultuous era and remarkable personalities that unexpectedly birthed the Federal Reserve, from renowned financial writer Roger Lowenstein
Brand Luther by Andrew Pettegree: A revolutionary look at Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the birth of publishing, on the eve of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary
The Ottoman Endgame by Sean McMeekin: An astonishing retelling of twentieth-century history from the Ottoman perspective, delivering profound new insights into World War I and the contemporary Middle East
Black Dragon River by Dominic Ziegler: A remarkable journey down the Amur River, revealing the history and culture of a region which is once again becoming one of the world’s most contested regions
The Blue Line by Ingrid Betancourt: From the extraordinary Colombian French politician and activist Ingrid Betancourt, a stunning debut novel about freedom and fate
Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf: The never-before-reported story of this generation of Arab women, who are questioning authority, changing societies, and leading revolutions.
Their Promised Land by Ian Buruma: A family history of surpassing beauty and power: Ian Buruma’s account of his grandparents’ enduring love through the terror and separation of two world wars
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth Mckenzie: An exuberant, one-of-a-kind novel about love and family, war and nature, new money and old values by a brilliant New Yorker contributor
Download the full catalog here
by Matthew Pearl
Did bookaneers really exist? A few years ago, I stumbled on a stray detail indicating that nineteenth-century publishers would hire agents to obtain valuable manuscripts that were fair game under the laws. Because of their shadowy place in history, I could not find much else about this group, but I was intrigued.
Building on this fragment of legal and publishing history, I tried imagining more fully these freelance literary bounty hunters — the history of their profession, what they might be called on to do, who they were, their backgrounds, how their lives would bring them to this unusual profession and how the profession would shape their personal lives. As far as historical fiction goes, it fit one of my ideals: a bit of gray-area history that cannot be explored very far without the help of fiction.
In this case, it seemed to me to call for informed speculation — what I’d refer to as research-based fiction — plus plenty of imagination. I applied the term bookaneer, one I had noticed had been used in a generic sense in the nineteenth century about literary piracy (the earliest use I find is in 1837 by poet Thomas Hood).
I cast a few bookaneers in supporting roles in an earlier novel, The Last Dickens, in which we encounter Pen’s mentor-lover, Kitten, and hear about Whiskey Bill.
I realized I wanted to see more of these and other bookaneers, and reader feedback on this front encouraged me. This led me to create Pen Davenport and his assistant Edgar C. Fergins, whom I decided to follow on a journey that would test them professionally and personally. I envisioned my fictional characters crossing paths with a number of prominent authors in history, but my compass pointed them to Stevenson. I had been fascinated by Stevenson’s time in Samoa.
It was intriguing and mysterious to his contemporaries to think of a European author at the far reaches of the known world, and I had to imagine it would have been an irresistible quest for my bookaneers — a kind of moment of destiny for both sides in the (still raging) battle over creative property.
Elizabeth, New Jersey
April 17, 1975
It was just after midnight in birthing room 4C and Dr. Sherman, the mustached obstetrician presiding over the delivery, was sweating lightly into his cotton underwear, holding out his hands like a beggar, ready to receive the imminent cranium.
Without warning, the room was plunged into total darkness.
Though he had been delivering babies for more than thirty years now, Dr. Sherman was so taken aback by this complete loss of vision that he briefly considered, and then rejected, the possibility of his own death. Desperate to get his bearings, he wheeled around, trying to locate the sans serif glow of the emergency exit sign across the hall, but this too had gone dark.
“Doctor?” the nurse called next to him.
“The exit!” he hissed into the darkness.
All through the hospital, a wash of panic spread over staff and patients alike as life support machines failed and surgeons were left holding beating hearts in pitch-black operating theaters. None of the backup systems — the two generators in the basement, the giant, deep- cycle batteries outside the ICU, usually so reliable in blackouts such as this one — appeared to be working. It was a catastrophe in the making. Electricity had quite simply vanished.
In birthing room 4C, Dr. Sherman was jolted into action by Charlene, the expectant mother, who gave a single, visceral cry that let everyone know, in no uncertain terms, that the baby was still coming. Maybe the baby had already come, under shroud of darkness. Dr. Sherman instinctively reached down and, sure enough, felt the conical crown of the baby’s skull emerging from his mother’s vagina. He guided this invisible head with the tips of his ten fingers, pulling, gathering, turning so that the head and neck were once again square with the baby’s shoulders, which still lingered in Charlene’s birth canal. He did this pulling, gathering, turning without seeing, with only the memory infused in the synapses of his cortex, and his blindness was a fragile kind of sleep.
As he shepherded the child from its wet, coiled womb into a new kind of darkness, Dr. Sherman heard a distinct clicking sound. At first he thought the sound was coming from the birth canal, but then he located the clicking as coming from just behind him, over his right shoulder. Suddenly his vision was bathed in a syrupy yellow light. The father of the newborn, Kermin Radmanovic, who had earlier brought a transceiver radio and a telegraph key into the birthing room in order to announce his child’s arrival to the world, was waving a pocket flashlight wrapped in tinfoil at the space between his wife’s legs.
“He is okay?” asked Kermin. “He comes now?” His accent was vaguely Slavic, the fins of his words dipping their uvular tips into a smooth lake of water.
Everyone looked to where the beam of light had peeled back the darkness. There glistened the torpedo-like head of the child, covered in a white, waxen substance. The sight encouraged Dr. Sherman back into action. He first slipped his finger beneath the child’s chin, but when he felt no sign of the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck, he yelled, “Push!”
Excerpts and more are available at the links below!
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
A hilarious, thoughtful, and in-depth exploration of the pleasures and perils of modern romance from one of this generation’s most popular and sharpest comedic voices
The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl
The bestselling author of The Dante Club takes us deep into a shadowy era in publishing ruled by a forgotten class of criminals
Jacksonland by Steve Inskeep
A thrilling narrative history of two men–President Andrew Jackson and Cherokee Chief John Ross–who led their respective nations at a crossroads of American history
The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg
A groundbreaking guide to the surprising source of good health
The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
Two sisters are suddenly sent from their home in Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother, in this stunning debut novel
Zero Zero Zero by Roberto Saviano
From the author of the #1 international bestseller Gomorrah comes a groundbreaking investigation of the international cocaine trade, as vicious as it is powerful, and its hidden role in the global economy
A Beautiful Question by Frank Wilczek
A mind-shifting book that braids the age-old quest for beauty and truth into a thrilling synthesis
Barbarian Days by William Finnegan
A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer
Undocumented by Dan-el Padilla Peralta
An undocumented immigrant’s journey from a New York City homeless shelter to the top of his Princeton class
The Man in the Monster by Martha Elliott
An astonishing portrait of a murderer and his complex relationship with a crusading journalist
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
A lonely young woman working in a boys’ prison outside Boston in the early 60s is pulled into a very strange crime, in a mordant, harrowing story of obsession and suspense, by one of the brightest new voices in fiction
The Road Not Taken by David Orr
A cultural “biography” of Robert Frost’s beloved poem, arguably the most popular piece of literature written by an American
Connecticut, 1913– 1920
He arrived in the United States in 1913 on a boat named Trieste. His face open, the brow smooth, eyes with the at once earnest, at once insecure gaze of hopeful, wanting youth. He began work fast. First at the Remington Arms Company, making ammunition for the Russian Imperial Army, rising up the ranks to become an inspector of the Mosin-Nagant rifle, and later working for the Hitchcock Gas Engine Company. In Bridgeport, Connecticut. His early mornings spent among the others. The hordes of men shuttling to and from factories in lines and masses of gray or black through the dim light of winter mornings and in the spring when the morning sun was like a secret, coy and sparkling, the water flashing on the sound.
They found each other, though. Through all of that, they, the Russians, found each other. They learned to spot each other through mannerisms, glances. This was later. In 1919. Then, the restrictions came at work and in the boardinghouse. More…
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. 1977, May 3, six thirty in the morning, no one knows anything but this innocuous fact: Lydia is late for breakfast. As always, next to her cereal bowl, her mother has placed a sharpened pencil and Lydia’s physics homework, six problems flagged with small ticks. Driving to work, Lydia’s father nudges the dial toward WXKP, Northwest Ohio’s Best News Source, vexed by the crackles of static. On the stairs, Lydia’s brother yawns, still twined in the tail end of his dream. And in her chair in the corner of the kitchen, Lydia’s sister hunches moon-eyed over her cornflakes, sucking them to pieces one by one, waiting for Lydia to appear. It’s she who says, at last, “Lydia’s taking a long time today.” More…
Phil Klay is the author of Redeployment. Full Bio
Did you miss Ben Tarnoff‘s Ask Me Anything session on Reddit on April 15? Read the all of the questions and answers here. Ben talks about his favorite Twain story, what most surprised him in researching The Bohemians, why Mark Twain used a pen name, which Bohemian author would he most like to party with, and the role of new technologies such as railroads and the telegraph in getting the Bohemians’ work printed throughout the United States after the Civil War.
Q: Hi Ben, can you talk a bit about the relationship between Bret Harte and Mark Twain and why Twain is remembered so much more fondly than Harte? Was it that, in a scene this small (The Bohemians) only one could emerge as “the face” of the group—perhaps at the expense of the other? Or was Twain just a superior writer?
A: Great question. Twain and Harte are only about a year apart, and are intensely competitive with one another. They’re both Western writers trying to make it on the national scene—and, at first, Harte eclipses Twain. In 1871, Harte is arguably the most famous and certainly the most highly paid writer in America. Shortly afterwards, he completely self-destructs, and within a few short years he’s broke and fading from public view. Twain, on the other hand, continues his rise, and becomes a major national celebrity. Why did Twain succeed so spectacularly while Harte burned brightly for a brief period and then burned out? I’m not entirely sure. I think Harte’s combustible personality had a lot to do with it—once he moved back to the East Coast, he couldn’t find his literary groove again. I’d also credit Twain’s work ethic, which was ferocious. He just kept pushing ahead—experimenting in different genres, promoting himself incessantly, and pushing himself to become a better writer.
Simon Wroe is a freelance journalist, former chef, and author of Chop Chop. Full Bio
They arrive in pairs most weeks, blushing like schoolgirls in the kitchen heat.
Their eyes follow you around the room.
Their tongues loll rudely from their mouths.
Their snouts are rough from rooting.
When you hold one and feel the hair and fat and clammy skin of it you wonder how different a person’s head would feel dead in your hands. Sometimes when you pick one up from the peach paper your fingers get stuck in its nostrils, like a bowling ball. Sometimes you can still feel old boogers up there. A strange feeling, that this head must have been alive once, because only a living thing could produce something as useless as snot.
I’ve heard in fancy places they lather the snouts up and give them a gentleman’s shave with a cutthroat razor. Most kitchens use a blowtorch and burn the hair. It gives off a dark smell, which maybe the fancy places won’t stand for. We throw ours onto the burners and turn them with tongs until their eyes melt. Then we wrap them in a cloth and carry them over to the sink and wash the char off. We do it gently, like an apology. Ramilov, in one of his letters, says that’s what all cooking is: a smart apology for a savage act. More…
Find out about the books we have slated for Summer 14, with excerpts and more available at the links below:
Award-wining chef Dan Barber moves beyond “farm to table” to offer a revolutionary new way of eating in The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.
Drawing on startling new evidence from the mapping of the genome, Nicholas Wade brings us an explosive new account of the genetic basis of race and its role in the human story in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.
From John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, bestselling authors of The Right Nation, comes The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, a visionary argument that our current crisis in government is nothing less than the fourth radical transition in the history of the nation-state. More…