Ellen Kadin, Executive Editor
In this past year I wish I could have published Grain Brain (Little, Brown and Co.). Written by an esteemed neurologist, this remarkable book explains in easy-to-understand fashion the science behind the enormous damage that so-called “healthy whole grains” (especially wheat) and other carbs do to our brains and neurological systems—and how changing one’s diet to one that’s dominated by good fats (Fats!! Thank you, doctor!) and very low in carbs can not only relieve many common ailments and diseases—without drugs!—but also dramatically decrease our risk for many catastrophic illnesses. I consider this book so important that I’ve already bought half a dozen copies for friends and family—with no end to purchases in sight. (I was also compelled to write to the book’s agent, Bonnie Solow—with whom I hadn’t corresponded in years—just to congratulate her on this magnificent work and its well-deserved bestselling success.)
For 2014, my publishing wish is that fine chefs will get with the program and create gourmet cookbooks whose recipes exclude the common, toxic ingredients that I and my fellow Grain Brain believers are now strongly determined to avoid.
Bob Nirkind, Senior Editor
If there were one business book I wished I could have published in 2013, it would be Brad Stone’s The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Little, Brown and Co.). It’s hard to think of any contemporary founders and companies outside of Steve Jobs/Apple and Bill Gates/Microsoft who’ve had the impact on business on a global scale as Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. Setting aside MacKenzie Bezos’ one-star review on her husband’s site, criticizing Stone’s “numerous factual inaccuracies” and his ‘lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon,” the book provides an authoritative, in-depth, and utterly fascinating look at a business visionary and the company whose innovations such as the Kindle, third-party selling, cloud computing, overnight delivery, and a customer-first sensibility have been a godsend to millions, if not billions, of consumers worldwide while at the same time striking fear into the hearts and $ouls of companies such as Apple, Google, Walmart, and Barnes & Noble—not forgetting the publishing industry as a whole. While I don’t agree with Astra Taylor’s assertion in the December/January issue of BOOKFORUM that the book “is written for all the wannabes who dream of starting a company and getting rich,” her point is well taken that for a more critical evaluation, “We will have to look elsewhere if we want to understand Amazon’s cultural and economic significance.” In the meantime, this is a good place to begin.
The one book I would have liked to have seen published this year was a definitive study of the urban nightmare that is Detroit, the first major American city (but likely not the last) to have declared bankruptcy. There have been a number of books over the past few years, and especially in 2013, that have offered a combination of historical perspective and personal views of the city, including Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: An American Autopsy, Mark Binelli’s Detroit City is the Place to Be, Scott Martelle’s Detroit: A Biography, and Paul Clemen’s Made in Detroit, whose book was ahead of the curve when published in 2006, but no one yet has gotten to the core of what happened there and where the blame lies (there’s plenty to go around, from auto company execs to self-serving politicians to the city’s white residents who were well on their way to the suburbs before the ’67 riot sent its tax base out of town). Was Thomas J. Sugrue to bring his incisive The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit up to date and widen his focus, this would be the book many Detroiters and ex-Detroiters like me have been waiting to read.
Stephen S. Power, Senior Editor
My choice is simple: Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones (Ballantine Books). The author had incredible access to the Henson archives, and he’s a great writer. Jim Henson is the equal of Charles Schultz in his effect on American popular culture. And when was a kid I watched the Muppet Show every night. When I met Alice Cooper, I said, “You were awesome on the Muppet Show” (as the Devil’s proxy, he tries to get Kermit to sign over his soul). He laughed, clearly not expecting such a comment, and said the show was a lot of fun. I was the underbidder for the biography. I was very glum after I lost, but I’m glad I did. If I hadn’t, the project would have been caught up in my former employer’s sale of my line to another publisher, and I think the publication would have been seriously compromised.
William Helms, Associate Acquisitions Editor
Although it was published in 2012, I came across Economix: How Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work), in Words and Pictures by Michael Goodwin, illustrated by Dan E. Burr at Abrams’ booth at BEA this past year, it’s the sort of book I wish I could have published this year. Obviously, over the past 4 or 5 years, the economy and how it impacts the job market has consistently been on almost everyone’s minds; but how much does the regular person actually know about economics and how the American economic system works — or sometimes doesn’t really work? The book manages to explain the historical and intellectual foundations of our current economy and of our current economic problems through the use of comic books – oops, “graphic novels.” I remember taking economics courses back in college, and thinking that it was probably the dullest and most difficult thing I had ever bothered to take but the book excels at making economics fun and approachable, all while, making a valuable connection — that knowing how our economic system works will make you a better, more informed citizen.