BusinessWeek, Muse for Many

For much of its recent history, BusinessWeek has been an incubator for talented writers and reporters. Under editors Steve Shepard, Steve Adler and now Josh Tyrangiel, the place has been a literary hotbed. Many BW staffers couldn’t limit themselves to the glossy pages, but had to break into books. The remake into Bloomberg Businessweek, with its traumatic turnover in staff, stoked that flame for some, as a recent outpouring of work shows. The trend continues.

Here, in its splendid variety, is a collection of recent (and not so recent) work by this talented bunch:

2014

71rH0OlTe3L._SL1500_Elizabeth Woyke dials up some savvy insights. “A smartphone full monty that will appeal mostly to the device’s users—all 1.75 billion of them.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS “A superior reporter, Woyke brilliantly presents a clear-eyed view of this new communication device that has conquered everything in sight.” — ROBERT W. MCCHESNEY, author “Readers who fully absorb the more disturbing details of Woyke’s report will never be able to download a new app or listen to a podcast without a twinge or two of consumer guilt.”– BOOKLIST

sweetsurvival_275Laura Zinn Fromm serves up a tasty meal. “It’s like sitting in your kitchen with your best friend, talking about life, the loves, births, deaths, longings, failures and joys– and the recipes that go with them. Beautiful, delicious fare.” — JULIE TILSNER, author “Love and divorce, marriage and motherhood, friendship and family; Laura invites you to sit at her kitchen counter as she shares with you the recipes and stories that have seasoned her life.” — JEWISH SCENE

9781591844730Jeff Rothfeder never steers us astray. “The story of one of the most innovative companies in the world: the automobile manufacturer that makes some of the best-selling and longest-lasting cars on the road.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS “Rothfeder writes well and he mostly manages to steer round the pitfalls of getting too technical.” — ANDREW HILL, Financial Times
“Rothfeder’s fluent, concise narrative makes easy reading and also reminds family businesspeople of the sense of partnering with an outsider who can temper the founders’ foibles, and strengthen the company, as Takeo Fujisawa did with Soichiro Honda.” — WILLIAM WADSWORTH, South China Morning Post

unretirement-250x346Chris Farrell speaks to Boomers, with authority. “Farrell’s discussions with experts from academia, finance and research foundations offer support for the view that there will be employment available to those who want it.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS “For older workers at a loss for ideas and eager to postpone the inevitable, Farrell’s how-to-cope book will provide a comforting road map and set of possibilities.” –- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Finally, an author doesn’t think the Baby Boomer generation is going to bankrupt the nation…Farrell makes a great case for a longer working career for many people…What a breath of fresh air here.” — BOOKLOONS.COM.

JunglePaul Barrett dazzles again. “An enthralling true-life courtroom drama…Almost Shakespearean in scope, featuring a flawed protagonist with good intentions but tragically overreaching ambitions.” — BOOKLIST “Here’s a twist: the almost unbelievable tale of a human rights attorney every bit as conscienceless as the multinational he was suing… a true-life, courtroom version of Heart of Darkness. — KIRKUS REVIEWS “This chilling account of the bruising, bare-knuckled conflict between a deeply flawed do-gooder and a well-oiled legal steamrolling machine should give pause to anyone who believes that justice always prevails. Barrett brilliantly shows that in the real world, the law of the jungle—an oxymoron if there ever was one—trumps the rule of law.” — ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Harvard Law School

FathersPaul Raeburn shows his scientific savvy once again. “‘Do Fathers Matter?’ gathers an impressive diversity of studies into a single, highly readable volume, covering such topics as conception, pregnancy, infants, teenagers and aging fathers.” — BRUCE FEILER, Washington Post “It’s stuffed with studies showing the vital role fathers play in their children’s lives from the moment of conception, through the mother’s pregnancy and onward. But there’s still a sense of wonder that comes with it.” — JEFFREY KLUGER, TIME “A zippy tour through the latest research on fathers’ distinctive, or predominant, contributions to their children’s lives, “Do Fathers Matter?” is filled with provocative studies of human dads — not to mention a lot of curious animal experiments . . . [Paul Raeburn] writes clearly, untangling cause from effect, noting probabilities and inserting caveats. . . he is an ideal guide to tricky, uncertain research in a nascent field. . . . father research cuts across disciplines, and Mr. Raeburn excels at mapping the twistiness of the road ahead.” — MARK OPPENHEIMER, The New York Times

EwingBookJack Ewing offers useful lessons. “Jack Ewing dissects German business rules, habits, and procedures with the precise curiosity of an engineer who takes apart and analyses the newest product of a competitor. His approach is hands-on rather than theoretic – and due to dozens of interviews with CEOs, managers, and company owners, as well as employee representatives, he attains an illuminating insight into the inner machinery of the German economy and its success.” – WOLFGANG REUTER, Handelsblatt “Anyone looking to understand what makes Germany tick should read this book. Extraordinarily deft, profoundly human, and yet a deep analysis of how and why Europe’s biggest economy works.” – ALISON SMALE, The New York Times “Jack Ewing’s insightful analysis of Germany’s story shows how Germans built an equation based on historical strengths, adaptation to change, and commitment to competitive excellence. Typical German? Maybe – or maybe not, for those willing to take a look and a lesson from German formulas for success.” – JACKSON JANES, American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, John Hopkins University

RoysterbookChris Roush makes a fresh mark. “Vermont Royster was one of newspaperdom’s truly original voices, and for many crucial years the conscience of the Wall Street Journal. Chris Roush brings him to life, while illuminating his times. This is a significant contribution to the history of journalism in the 20th century.” — RICHARD J. TOFEL, president, ProPublica “Chris Roush’s biography of Vermont Royster is a masterful portrait of one of the most influential editors of the 20th century, a writer who left a mark on American journalism that endures to this day.” — WARREN PHILLIPS, CEO, Dow Jones & Co. “Chris Roush’s rich evocation of the memory of Vermont Royster will, I hope, kindle a revival of interest in him and his work.” EDWIN M. YODER, JR., author

TheBoostStephen Baker charges into fiction. “Baker has written a true delight of a techno-thriller that has deep, dark roots in the present.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS “Highly recommended to sf and techno-thriller fans.” — BOOKLIST REVIEWS “An update to the boost, a revolutionary human-computer interface, threatens to open Americans’ brains like a Facebook account left unattended in Baker’s chillingly possible debut, a futuristic thriller with a few flaws.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

UnknownPardon my flagrant self-promotion, but I am excited to post this one. “Weber brings a journalist’s eye for character and story to this engrossing account of Transcendental Meditation and the town—and lives—it transformed. Along the way he probes religious and cultural questions about tradition and change, healing, community, place, and much more. This book is a lively and eye-opening delight.” — MATTHEW S. HEDSTROM, University of Virginia “Like many other alternative religions that burst onto the American scene in the 1960s and 1970s, Transcendental Meditation attracted thousands of followers but also a fair number of detractors. The interplay of meditators and local residents in the midwestern town of Fairfield, Iowa, where TM established its major American center, makes a fascinating case study of the impact of new religions on traditional American culture.” — TIMOTHY MILLER, editor, Spiritual and Visionary Communities: Out to Save the World

51PHuwJHX8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Alex Beam continues to impress, with remarkable variety in his topic choices. “High drama as one of America’s greatest—and most mystifying—characters, Joseph Smith, meets one our most incisive writers, Alex Beam, at a crossroads of our history.”— author RON ROSENBAUM “If Mormonism is the most American of religions—and it is—then the story of its founding is an American epic. In this gripping book, Alex Beam tells the story of the fate of Joseph Smith amid the Mormons’ rising tensions with ‘gentile’ neighbors—and among themselves. With an acute eye for character, he depicts Smith, Brigham Young, and their enemies as vivid, complicated human beings, immersed in struggles over money, power, survival, and the controversial doctrine of polygamy.” — author T.J. STILES “American Crucifixion is an engrossing, powerful account of the rise and fall of one of the most remarkable figures in American history. Alex Beam’s portrait of Joseph Smith—equal parts P. T. Barnum, Huey Long, and the prophet Jeremiah—captures the man in all of his contradictions and complexities.”— author GARY KRIST

2013

cover250x312Brad Stone offers the inside skinny on Bezos, with little help from the subject, in The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. “… the meticulously reported book has plenty of gems for anyone who cares about Amazon, Jeff Bezos, entrepreneurship, leadership or just the lunacy it took to build a company in less than two decades that now employs almost 90,000 people and sold $61 billion worth of, well, almost everything last year.” — BETHANY McLEAN, WASHINGTON POST “For people seeking to understand what can be an enigmatic company, the book does a great service in explaining the psychology of Amazon, and the company’s role as an extension of Bezos’ brain.” — GEEKWIRE “Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book,” MACKENZIE BEZOS (Jeff’s wife), AMAZON.COM

richpeopleIn the spirit of Reader’s Digest magazine’s popular 13 Things They Won’t Tell You series, Jennifer Merritt and coauthor Roe D’Angelo developed what their publisher calls “the ultimate roadmap for making the most of your money and avoiding the wallet-sucking scams.” They “talked to everyday and not-so-everyday rich folks, and to the experts who helped make them rich, to learn their secrets on what to save for, how much to save—and where to stash cash so that it grows (hint: not that bank savings account).”

Cover_MotherDaughterMeKatie Hafner gets personal. “Her memoir shines a light on nurturing deficits repeated through generations and will lead many readers to relive their own struggles with forgiveness.” —ERICA JONG, PEOPLE “Katie Hafner’s Mother Daughter Me delivers an unusually graceful story, one that balances honesty and tact. . . . Hafner narrates the events so adeptly that they feel enlightening.” — HARPER’S “Heartbreakingly honest, yet not without hope and flashes of wry humor.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS “[An] emotionally raw memoir examining the delicate, inevitable shift from dependence to independence and back again.” — O: THE OPRAH MAGAZINE (Ten Titles to Pick Up Now) “Weaving past with present, anecdote with analysis, Hafner’s riveting account of multigenerational living and mother-daughter frictions, of love and forgiveness, is devoid of self-pity and unafraid of self-blame.” — ELLE

Yankee

Leslie Helm is making an impressive mark with this memoir. “Yokohama Yankee is a marvelous and eloquent work of family history. What makes it more remarkable is this family’s history also sheds light on the political, economic, cultural, and racial interactions and tensions between Japan and the United States for more than a century and a half, right up to the present day. This is a humane and insightful book that will be read many years from now.” — JAMES FALLOWS of The Atlantic. “Like a sword cleaving a bittersweet fruit, Leslie Helm’s saga of his mixed-blood family in Japan cuts to the inescapable isolation of being white in a country where blood still means so much. Yokohama Yankee is a painfully intimate story that spans more than a century and brings the wrenching history of modern Japan into a focus that is both razor sharp and deeply human.” — BLAINE HARDEN, former Tokyo bureau chief of The Washington Post

Perman

Stacy Perman clocks in anew with a timely effort. “A unique competition between two scions of the Gilded Age is the driver for this fresh look at the mores of the rich and powerful. The aim of the competition was to acquire the world’s most complicated timepieces. She effectively combines these different strands, providing a compelling social history…A masterful approach to composition combines with a fascinating plot and makes its subject entertaining as well as compelling.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS (Starred Review ) “Lively” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Nussbaum

Bruce Nussbaum wields his keen mind. “Bruce Nussbaum demystifies one of the most important initiatives of our time — unlocking the creativity within ourselves and our organizations.” — DAVID KELLEY, founder of IDEO and the Stanford d.school “An intriguing mixture of challenging ideas and Utopian solutions to the broader issues regarding social welfare currently under debate.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS “Creative Intelligence lays out the forces that will drive us toward a prosperous future. Read this book if you want to be inspired and provoked to lead the way.” — RICHARD FLORIDA, Univ. of Toronto; Senior Editor, The Atlantic

Dubow

Charles Dubow roars out of the gate with his first effort. “An epic novel of friendship, betrayal and undying love … outstanding” — KIRKUS REVIEWS (Starred Review) “A smart, sensuous, and moving debut. … Delicious. … The characters exude a Jazz Age glamour.” — O MAGAZINE

2012

DylanJon Friedman takes a novel look at Dylan. “… a unique view of Dylan through his actions, his decisions. Friedman took a tried and true formula of “Self Help” advice, turned it on its head by navigating through Dylan’s career to make the case that, despite – or perhaps because – of the chances he has taken, the unorthodox method Dylan has used could, indeed, be inspirational to people in all walks of life, in the workplace and one’s private life.” — HAROLD LEPIDUS, Performing Arts Examiner. “Friedman has produced a clear, passionate case for Dylan’s importance as a personal role model, rather than an artist or a cultural symbol. The lessons that he draws are no less true for being trite. If you love Bob Dylan, and you enjoy self-help literature, you’ll probably like this book.” — RICHARD MCGILL MURPHY, Fortune

Steve Shepard, guru to us all, lays it all out in this memoir. “This is a personal and insightful book about one of the most important questions of our time: how will journalism make the transition to the digital age? Steve Shepard made that leap bravely when he went from being a great magazine editor to the first dean of the City University of New York journalism school. His tale is filled with great lessons for us all.” — WALTER ISAACSON “An insightful and convivial account of a bright, bountiful life dedicated to words, information and wonder.” — KIRKUS REVIEWS (Starred Review)

Peter Galuszka digs deep into the world of coal-mining. “A fascinating—and infuriating—account of the deadliest industry on earth. Deadly for its workers and the people unfortunate enough to live near its mines, but deadlier still for the planet. You can’t understand our moment in time without understanding the coal industry.” — BILL McKIBBEN, author. “Appalachia may be blessed with the ‘world’s best metallurgical coal,’ but as journalist Galuszka’s powerful book shows, this coal is both ‘a curse and a prize…’ He convincingly excoriates the safety record of Massey Energy and its controversial former CEO, Don Blankenship… Drawing on his personal experience of Appalachia, Galuszka offers a sympathetic but unsentimental portrait of the region’s people and their struggles.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Natural gas, renewables, and efficiency are positioned to be the sources of America’s energy expansion, while coal represents the nation’s past. Galuszka’s Thunder on the Mountain highlights the disturbing and often deadly impacts of this highly polluting energy source and why Big Coal might just be losing its power.”– RON PERNICK, managing director of Clean Edge, Inc.

John N. Frank shares insights about life in the job market. He includes a chapter about his time at BW that he says alums might find intriguing.

Julia Lichtblau gives Woody Allen a run for his money. Her story in this collection is “Désolée, Monsieur.” She has work forthcoming in The Florida Review — the story “Foreign Service” — and in Temenos — “May, 1968″ — and has been published in Ploughshares blog, Narrative,The Common Online, Pindelbox, and Tertulia.

Fran Hawthorne takes aim at some longtime faves. “Fran Hawthorne’s illuminating book will delight fans of ‘corporate social responsibility’—and enrage its critics. Her descriptions of Apple, for example, at once beloved and much criticized by the CSR crowd, aptly captures the essence of the debate.”—ADAM LASHINSKY, author. “In assessing corporate performance on social responsibility, Fran Hawthorne digs beneath the surface of some of America’s most beloved companies…. Bravo to Ethical Chic for helping to illuminate which companies are on the right track.”—DANIEL C. ESTY, author. “Hawthorne goes beyond the usual categories of ‘social responsibility’ to offer a remarkably clear-eyed view of what we should really expect from companies—and what we shouldn’t.” —MICHAEL BLANDING, author.

Jennifer Merritt helps the career-minded. “Are you looking for a mere job–the kind where you do virtually the same thing day after day, year after year, and spend the hours counting down the minutes until the clock hits five p.m.? Or are you looking for a “career”–the kind that engages your interests and passions, constantly presents new and exciting opportunities and challenges, and allows you to grow personally and professionally? If you chose the latter, this is the book for you.” — CROWN BUSINESS

Gary Weiss goes for jugular of the Tea Party movement. “Ayn Rand Nation is a fascinating exploration of one of the fastest-growing and most powerful coalitions in American politics….If you want to understand the men and women whose vehement voices are reshaping American government, you must read this book.”—KURT EICHENWALD “The timing of this book couldn’t be better for Americans who are trying to understand where in the hell the far-out right’s anti-worker, anti-egalitarian extremism is coming from. Ayn Rand Nation introduces us to the godmother of such Tea Party craziness as destroying Social Security and eliminating Wall Street regulation.”—JIM HIGHTOWER, author. “Think Ayn Rand is marginal? Think again! Gary Weiss’s powerful new history inscribes the libertarian firebrand at the very center of the American story of the past three decades.”—DAVID FRUM, author

Diane Brady tells an inspiring tale. “Holy Cross, Black Power, and the Sixties could have been an unholy mix. A bold Jesuit priest made it a holy one. The story of Father John Brooks, Clarence Thomas, Ted Wells, and the others rings with power, pride, and human feeling. Fraternity and the saga it retells adds honor to my college.”—CHRIS MATTHEWS, anchor, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews “Diane Brady’s book brilliantly shows how the attention and concern of one man changed not only the course of these individual lives but the course of history.”—WES MOORE, author

Julia Flynn Siler immerses us in some of the ugly history of Paradise. “A sweeping tale of tragedy, greed, betrayal, and imperialism… The depth of her research shines through the narrative, and the lush prose and quick pace make for engaging reading… absorbing.”– LIBRARY JOURNAL “Richly…sourced… [Siler is] able to color in many figures who had heretofore existed largely in outline or black and white… a solidly researched account of an important chapter in our national history, one that most Americans don’t know but should… an 1893 New York Times headline called [the annexation] ‘the political crime of the century.’”– NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

Arms and the man, redux. “Paul Barrett’s Glock is a fascinating and bizarre tale of an entrepreneur, a weapon, and a nation’s love affair with guns.” — JEFFREY TOOBIN, staff writer, The New Yorker. “This book—from a top-notch reporter—will enlighten you about both gun culture and business culture. It’s fascinating, even-handed, and packs considerable punch!” —BILL McKIBBEN, author. Paul has talked about the subject, too.

TrueSisters

Sandra Dallas brings it home again. In a novel based on true events, New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas delivers the story of four women—seeking the promise of salvation and prosperity in a new land—who come together on a harrowing journey.

QuiltWalk

Sandra Dallas tries her fine hand at Young Adult fiction. “Period details, engaging characters and clever plot twists will entice even the most discerning fans of historical fiction. Populated with brave and intelligent women, Dallas story is as much about Emmy s journey toward womanhood as their journey toward the West. Solid writing and a close attention to details make this story more than the sum of its parts.” — KIRKUS

BluntNight

Giles Blunt lands it again. “[Giles Blunt's novels] stand as landmarks in what we might think of as the new Canadian crime wave. . . . John Cardinal is the quintessential modern Canadian crime fiction hero–the northern lawman reimagined.” — THE WALRUS “Blunt writes with the flashing grace of an ice skater skimming over a frozen pond.” — NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

MartindaleRon Lovell adds to his Thomas Martindale mystery series. “I was surprised but so far this is my favorite book out of the Martindale series. This book really showcased his masterful mystery techniques. His writing style reminds me a lot of Tom Clancy. Good Series, Fast paced and an easy read. Worth checking out.” — JLFG (Amazon customer review)

2011

Ellen Neuborne and Orly Sade took on financial literacy for young folks. “Along the way, Ella learns about key business concepts, such as market research, competitive analysis, word-of-mouth marketing, guerilla marketing, costs, revenue, profits, loss, leadership, partnerships… and the list goes on. She also learns about the many types of financial products, including stocks, bonds and loans.” – ERICA SWALLOW “My husband read this to our 9-year-old son, and they both enjoyed the story. My husband is an entrepreneur, and he felt the financial concepts in this book were sound.” – JYOTSNA SREENIVASAN

“Chester Dawson is a Japanese-speaking investigative reporter who has got the inside story of Lexus and made it come alive. – EZRA F. VOGEL, Harvard University. “This is a tale of invention, innovation, consumer insight, dedication and resolve.” – MICHAEL SILVERSTEIN, The Boston Consulting Group “This is a must-read not only for car buffs, but for any manager or executive who wants to understand any manager or executive who wants to understand how to create, sustain and expand an elite brand.” – MICHELINE MAYNARD, author

“In World Changers, John Byrne has assembled a fascinating cast of characters from Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs. Through excerpts from their published interviews and Byrne’s own one-on-one interviews with these entrepreneurs, Byrne pieces together not just a readable volume of personal narratives but a collection of insights into what it takes to change the world. The stories are diverse, but taken as a whole, they are inspirational and educational.”– JOHN COLEMAN “If you loved Jack Welch’s Straight from the Gut, you’ll need to read this new book about how entrepreneurs drive change with passion and vision. Few people have enjoyed a seat at the table with extraordinary entrepreneurs as John has …” — MARK THOMPSON

Larry Light sallied forth against the forces of darkness. “… [P]erfect summer reading fare. The author, a financial reporter and editor, is a skilled storyteller. In this book he explores a range of investment strategies and instruments, traces their development, and in the process profiles some of the best-known investors and academics.” BRENDA JUBIN, Seeking Alpha

Dori Jones Yang waxed historical. “Yang has done an excellent job describing 14th century Mongolia, and by including the familiar character of Marco Polo she has a seamless way to weave all of the amazing facts about this setting into the narrative while rarely dragging down the story. A refreshing change of pace from a lot of the historical fiction/romance out there today! (And a brief aside: a book with a wonderful cover! After the whitewashing controversies of the last few years, 2011 is shaping up to be an amazing year for proudly putting the faces of characters of color on covers!)” BOOKISH BLATHER “The language is believable, and the descriptions of customs, foods, and places during that time period are vivid and engaging…. History is brought alive in this novel, and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of Chinese and Mongolian history mixed with a bit of adventure.” SQUEAKY CLEAN READS

Dori Jones Yang also remained a scribe. “The oral histories in this book provide valuable primary-source material about the so-called ‘lost generation’ of Chinese Americans, those who came as students in the 1940s through 1960s. This book fills a gap in our knowledge and will enrich the studies of academic researchers analyzing the experience of the Chinese diaspora.”EVELYN HU-DEHART, Brown University. “Academics and researchers will find this book of oral history an indispensable resource to study a long overlooked group of Chinese immigrants in America.” PETER KWONG, Hunter College

Celine Keatings’s new novel is piling up the praise: “Céline Keating‘s deftly plotted novel takes readers on a gripping journey along the underground railroad of post-’60s radicalism. . . . Every adult has to reinterpret the story of her childhood. Keating beautifully demonstrates the courage it takes for each of us to face that bittersweet truth.” LARRY DARK, Director of The Story Prize “A beautiful book–at once nostalgic and fresh–that will go straight to your heart and lodge there.” ALETHEA BLACK, author of I Knew You’d Be Lovely “[An] emotional page-turner. Layla’s coming to terms with her parents’ dangerous activism is heart wrenching due to Keating’s delightfully drawn characters. This novel also serves as a compelling lesson in our values and how drastically they’ve changed. It serves as a better history than any essay or screed.” SUSAN BRAUDY, author of Family Circle. Intriguing trailer, too.

So, too, is Amy Cortese‘s new effort in nonfiction. “If Michael Pollan changed the way you think about food, let Amy Cortese change the way you think about finance.” JAY LEE “Locavesting uses great storytelling to present a structured analysis of how and why to invest where you live and in the (mostly) small businesses there. Each aspect of Locavesting is brought to life by sketches of real people who impress, amuse, and intrigue.” CLIFFORD J. REEVES “This is one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of financing small business growth.” RODNEY LOGES

As is the effort by Stanley Reed and Alison Fitzgerald. “…the latest, and probably the best, of what one might call the “private sector” books about the BP spill…by a pair of talented and experienced Bloomberg reporters.” FINANCIAL TIMES “The two journalists make a logical team, and their book is often enlightening about the corporate-political nexus that placed enrichment of the already rich and aggrandizement of the already influential above the common good.” USA TODAY

Stephen Baker‘s takeout on the advance of the computer into the game-show realm proved intriguing. “Like Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine (1981), Baker’s book finds us at the dawn of a singularity. It’s an excellent case study, and does good double duty as a Philip K. Dick scenario, too.” KIRKUS REVIEWS “Final Jeopardy not only holds the answers to my … questions, but really delves into the man vs. machine thought. How do we as humans learn a language? How do we measure perception? And then once we know all of this, how do we teach it to a machine? If you are even the slightest bit interested in artificial intelligence this book is for you. At the same time, it is not so down in the computery depths that someone who knows little of data-mining algorithms won’t be able to understand. I think it is a very accessible book.” Julia, THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH

Steve Hamm, with a couple coauthors, weighed in about machines, too. “IBM doesn’t just THINK, it thinks big. The story of these big ideas illustrates how 100 years of innovation have shaped the way we live and work today.” KENNETH CHENAULT, American Express. “Making the World Work Better convincingly documents IBM’s enormous impact on business and the world. Its history provides vital lessons for organizations of all sizes, and IBM’s future promises to continue to innovate the way we work, and even think.” HENRY CHESBROUGH, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley “Innovation, resilience, and great leadership are the key ingredients of the IBM story. Making the World Work Better tells that story exceptionally well. Ultimately, it reveals that IBM is not simply a technology company; it is a company of ideas and the future those ideas have created.” JOHN HOLLAR, Computer History Museum

William J. Holstein takes a look at what ails us. “[A] timely prescription for what our country must do to regain its financial fortitude and reinvigorate our national economy. While many believe that America faces an inevitable decline and loss of global leadership to emerging Asian economies as we exhaust our ability to innovate and compete, Holstein offers a more optimistic assessment of American industry and its ability to rise to the challenge.” PETER G. BALBUS, Pragmaxis LLC “If wishful thinking were dollars, this book would be a gold mine. As it is, Holstein provides an optimistic but not necessarily candy-colored view of a resurgent American economy.” KIRKUS REVIEWS

Alethea Black is winning lots of fans with her fiction. “This debut reads like a dream, with nary a false note…” KIRKUS REVIEWS. “A sense of vulnerable restlessness is betrayed by the otherwise pragmatic characters of Black’s strong debut collection.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Alethea Black is downright brilliant at capturing the restless striving for a self that we all are feeling in this parlous and unsettling age. I Knew You’d Be Lovely is a splendidly resonant debut by an important young writer.” ROBERT OLEN BUTLER, author of A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain

Chris Roush created a must-have text for budding business journalists and updated it nicely with this new edition. I use it in my classes. There can be no stronger endorsement! This is a keeper.

Sandra Dallas extended her long run. “[A] winning combination of solid historical fiction,vivid enduring characters,and an interesting story that pulls the reader right in. Sandra Dallas is at the top of her game with THE BRIDE’S HOUSE…an excellent read.” BOOKREPORTER.COM

2010

Zero_Decibels_book“Overwhelmed by … noise in New York City, NYU creative writing instructor [George Michelsen] Foy

zealously sought out silence … [but it] eluded him: underwater in his bathtub the roaring metropolis was amplified by the denser medium of water; in Paris’s catacombs a distant hum persisted among the stacked skulls and bones; and in his family home on Cape Cod the absence of excessive sound, rather than soothing him, made him conscious of the absence of his recently deceased mother. Yet in a Minneapolis anechoic chamber, he felt rested, relaxed, and triumphant, becoming the first person to stay in the dark and silent chamber alone for 45 minutes. The author’s quixotic quest is quirky, inventive, and alluring …” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Foy’s thinking about quietude began where it never exists: the New York City subway. With an audiometer, he measured the decibels of its deafening cacophony in addition to levels in his apartment, the street, and the former mansion of Joseph Pulitzer, who hated noise…. Foy’s is an adventurous and perceptively ruminative investigation of acoustical annoyances.” — GILBERT TAYLOR, BOOKLIST

Fran Hawthorne explains how real simple is anything but. “With a welcome mixture of facts and humor, Fran Hawthorne highlights the dilemmas of living an environmentally virtuous, healthy life in a fiercely consumption-oriented culture.—MICHAEL F. JACOBSON, Center for Science in the Public Interest “People are quickly learning that living a simple, low-impact life actually isn’t so simple. Thankfully, there’s much-needed relief to be found in Fran Hawthorne’s funny, poignant, and often eye-opening way of sorting through the dilemmas-and solutions—facing socially and environmentally minded consumers.”—GREG MELVILLE, author

Chris Roush, with a colleague, offered a helpful tutorial. “The book is an invaluable guide to helping you get business right, understand it, and explain it. Which is, of course, what we all should be trying to do.” ALLAN SLOAN, Fortune magazine “An essential interpretive guide for business journalists striving to make the arcane clear to readers. Very practical references for today’s changing business climate.” PATRICK SCOTT, Charlotte Observer “A comprehensive reference tool for virtually every phrase a business or economics reporter or editor needs to know. An indispensable guide both for specialists and especially for those who get thrust into covering business or economic stories.” GREG DAVID, Crain’s New York Business

Sandra Dallas kept them coming. “Dallas presents another historical novel about the hardscrabble mining communities of Colorado, set just down the road from her best-selling Prayers for Sale (2009), creating a patchwork of individuals whose lives had not intersected until this singular, transformative event. Readers may find the abrupt transitions and preponderance of flashbacks confusing and distancing. Dallas is well known for her storytelling abilities, but this reads more like a valediction of a time and place faded from memory than her usual vibrant, visceral tale. Still, Dallas is a magnet.” LYNNE WELCH, Booklist

Another standout from Hardy Green. “Taking in textile, coal, oil, lumber and appliance-manufacturing towns, Mr. Green’s survey is a useful one…. [T]he company towns overseen by Milton Hershey, Francis Cabot Lowell and even Charlie Cannon were communities enlivened by quirks and passions and idiosyncratic visions. Edens? Hardly. But they had soul, and you can neither buy nor sell that at the company store.” WALL STREET JOURNAL “Mr. Green sprints – at times breathlessly – through all kinds of company towns, mostly past but some present…. He uses these accounts, in tandem with a clean, engaging voice, to tell story upon story…. Mr. Green has amassed a collection of important, well-told stories about the contradictions, inequities and possibilities of American capitalism.” NEW YORK TIMES “[A] delightful book.” THE ECONOMIST

Andrew Park weighed in on matters of faith. “He discusses his parents’ religious upbringing and the impact it had on him. His father, for instance, was raised in the Church of Scotland, the forebear of Presbyterianism, which left him with unpleasant memories that he passed on to Park; meanwhile, Park’s older brother converted to modern Evangelical Christianity. Whether writing about his family or Rick Warren’s Saddleback megachurch, Park remains a father trying to delicately balance the responsibilities of parenthood and being true to himself. A lovely read.” JUNE SAWYERS, Booklist “Park puts on his journalist’s hat to explore the sociological backdrop of periods in America when religion experienced growth and upheaval. He examines his own inconstant feelings and discovers he has pragmatic reasons to be drawn to faith, including the community it provides. Ultimately his investigations bring Park back where he started, but with new insight. He attends a seminar about how to raise ethical children without religion and seems to have found his own holy grail: It’s OK to be a doubting dad.” MICHELLE BOORSTEIN, Washington Post.

Arlene Weintraub has made some marketers nervous. “Weintraub, a former senior writer for BusinessWeek, portrays the hormone replacement sector as a cesspool of unproven claims, unacknowledged side-effects, and marketing scams. It’s also a zoo of colorful quacks, presided over by actress Suzanne Somers, author of best-selling alternative medicine treatises. Weintraub mixes acute reportage with a censorious tone; she deplores the notion that old age is a disease.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Wrinkles, fat, and low libido start to sound pretty good after reading this unnerving exposé by journalist Arlene Weintraub. Her elixir of deep research and smooth storytelling delivers a sometimes-gag-inducing dose of reality…” FAST COMPANY “Weintraub generates plenty of feverish prose and cautionary tales to highlight this powerfully seductive syllogism of the “anti-aging industry…” AARP Magazine

Chris Farrell caught the sense of the times. “Chris Farrell provides practical guidance about how to manage personal finances. In a nutshell, which is a great disservice to the author, Farrell — who hosts a radio show on NPR– advocates implementing a margin of safety in investing and a return to the frugality that many of us grew up with…the world would be a better place if more people followed his common sense advice.” NEWARK STAR LEDGER “The title of this book hooked me from the start. What am I writing about at The Simple Dollar if I’m not writing about “the new frugality” Chris Farrell, the author of the book, is a name I’m familiar with having been a long-time faithful listener of Marketplace Money (and it’s other Marketplace brethren) on NPR. I expected a well-written book that offered lots of insightful thoughts on the “new frugality” along with some practical tips. That’s precisely what I got. Let’s dig in.” CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR “[The New Frugality] will help you spend less and save more…This book is filled with anecdotes, historical insights, resources and common sense, all of which are designed to teach you how to wisely spend your money while saving for the future.” THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC

Giles Blunt added to a shelf groaning with work. “As distinctively Canadian as a Tom Thomson painting. . . . Crime Machine is as good as Canadian crime fiction gets.” MARGARET CANNON, The Globe and Mail “A marvelously controlled writer, equally confident with characters and narrative.” TORONTO STAR “First-rate series. . . .You can hear the crunch of snowshoes through the bush, smell the buckshot mingling with fresh blood.” NOW (Toronto) “Another winner from one of Canada’s leading crime writers.” THE PETERBOROUGH EXAMINER

Joan Hamilton came to Meg Whitman’s aid. “Meg Whitman doesn’t just talk about important values such as integrity, accountability, authenticity and courage, she lives them…. In this engaging and honest book, Meg shares these values and how she applied them to pioneering a new model for managing a twenty-first-century company. This book only deepens my admiration for Meg’s leadership.” A.G. LAFLEY, Procter & Gamble. “As an eBay board member, I saw firsthand Meg Whitman’s determination to live and manage by the answer to the question ‘What is the right thing to do?’ as she helped eBay develop its character as a company. This book explores the values she brought to eBay and the values she nurtured at eBay – values that ultimately helped her create a remarkable success story and a powerful consumer brand.” HOWARD SCHULTZ, Starbucks “Meg Whitman makes a compelling connection between achieving success and holding firm to high standards of integrity and personal values. It’s clear and effective advice for motivating people to do their very best.” W. JAMES MCNERNEY, JR., Boeing

Anthony Bianco plunged into Silicon Valley. “[A] gripping, well-sourced and illuminating book, “The Big Lie” [is] a gossipy and at times vulgar account of the battle of wills between Dunn and Tom Perkins, one of California’s wealthiest venture capitalists. Think Tyra Banks meets “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell in a televised food fight… A splendid account of the very flawed stars of HP’s sideshow.” SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE “An authoritative account.” NEW YORK TIMES “Bianco’s reporting (and he’s done plenty of it at BusinessWeek) is complete, nasty, with plenty of villains, no heroes, and perhaps one victim… Read this alongside Jeffrey Pfeffer’s recent book, Power, and you will understand much of the dysfunction of Fortune 500 capitalism.” NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS

Jay Greene cast a designing eye. “A series of case studies of attractive and efficient design, from journalist Greene, makes a persuasive case for regarding design as an essential component of the development process of any product, which must be attended to at all stages, not just at the end….Through case studies of design-savvy companies like Porsche, Nike, LEGO, OXO, Clif bars, and Virgin Atlantic, Greene discusses the brands’ origins and presses home the point that successful companies turn their customers into cultists of a sort, admirers of both the form and function of the products they’re using.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Greene provides valuable information and insight for companies in all businesses as he explains the importance of design thinking. He quotes Apple’s Steve Jobs in discussing the iPod, ‘It’s design’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’” MARY WHALEY, Booklist

Suzanne Robitaille checked out cutting-edge tech. “Suzanne’s book combines research and personal insight to help even the most novice user make better, more informed choices about assistive technology.” FRANCIS W. WEST, IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center “This comprehensive, practical, and detailed guide gives you all the information you need to choose the right options for you or your loved one.” KIM DORITY, Vice President, Disaboom “Using a lively narrative style, Suzanne Robitaille takes the reader on a fascinating tour of the latest and best in assistive technology…” NICK LaROCCA, National Multiple Sclerosis Society

 

2009

 

Evan Schwartz surprises with his Oz tale.”Author and former business journalist Schwartz (The Last Lone Inventor) presents the life story of L. Frank Baum, focusing on the invention and development of his classic 1900 children’s tale, The Wizard of Oz. Schwartz reveals how Baum’s early interest in theatre, tall tales, and entertaining an audience led the restless young man through a string of doomed careers, including actor, playwright, castor oil salesman, and shop owner (trading in knickknacks and toys)…. A dad himself, Schwartz tells Baum’s story with understanding and wit, perfect for anyone with fond memories from over the rainbow.–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Joan Hamilton also offered sage counsel to a lawyer. “Well written and engaging, this book opens a door into big city crime and how to address it. A must-read for any would-be prosecutor and urban resident, in particular. It dispels myths about the impact of crimes with a balanced eye on the one wronged, the perpetrator and law enforcement, and should make any California resident comfortable–and hopeful–about seeing Harris in higher office. Hamilton does an excellent job of capturing the prosecutor’s perspective without letting this drift into hagiography. M. DUNKERLY, Texas attorney “This book, so clearly and well written, describes a comprehensive and sensible approach for actually reducing crime. Kamala Harris is a no-nonsense prosecutor who has thought about how to address the actual causes of crime, as well as appropriate punishments. Everyone who is concerned about the safety of our neighborhoods, now and in the future, needs to read this book and ask our friends in law enforcement and the judiciary to carefully consider her proposals for reform of the criminal justice system.” JANE HICKIE, Stephenville, Texas

Check out Linda Himelstein‘s much-praised work. “…a colorful chronicle of the rise of a business. Ms. Himelstein, a veteran journalist, keeps her narrative moving neatly along, distilling complex matters of commerce into a clear and readable form.” JOSEPH TARTAKOVSKY, The Wall Street Journal. “Himelstein makes Russian history and even current politics come alive through an unlikely narrative thread — the creation of a fortune and the eventual demise of a vodka-producing family.” STEVE WEINBERG, USA Today “The book is an impressive feat of research, told swiftly and enthusiastically, and brings depth and substance to a product that is otherwise bereft.” JORDAN MACKAY, San Francisco Chronicle

Giles Blunt hit again. “An utterly vivid, completely disturbing account of how thugs with authority unrestrained by the rule of law and untempered by the quality of mercy can go about the physical, mental and emotional destruction of a person.” THE GAZETTE “Giles Blunt writes with uncommon grace, style and compassion and he plots like a demon.” JONATHAN KELLERMAN, author “A tour de force, sorrowing and direct, sharp as a knife blade, beautifully written — an unforgettable window into the human capacity for cruelty and courage.” THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Howard Gleckman, long a pillar of the D.C. bureau, was moved to write about his elders. “Compelling personal stories, helpful information about where to turn for assistance, and ideas for ways to strengthen the safety net that too often fails families facing crisis.” JOHN ROTHER, AARP “Howard Gleckman knows first hand about caring for his elderly parents. In his illuminating Caring for Our Parents, Gleckman shines a spotlight on the financial and physical price we pay to help our loved ones in a fractured and inadequate network of long-term care services. As he profiles families who meet those challenges with love, determination, and grace, he raises important questions about how our nation will cope as the enormous Baby Boomer generation ages. Caring for our Parents is a wake-up call to a graying nation.” MARY BETH FRANKLIN, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance “By telling his personal story and those of others, Howard Gleckman helps us understand why caring for our parents is such a challenge. This is a must read for every Baby Boomer.” SUZANNE MINTZ, National Family Caregivers Association

Count Stacy Perman in, too. “Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: [A] chronicle of how a family-run California hamburger joint went on to become an American pop culture icon…. If you’ve never had an In-N-Out burger, Perman’s book just might inspire you to find a good reason to get yourself to Southern California and seek out an off-the-menu 3×3 with a side of Animal Style fries.” BRAD THOMAS PARSONS Intriguing video of Stacy, too.

Sandra Dallas wowed ‘em. “In her charming new novel, Dallas (The Persian Pickle Club; Tallgrass; etc.) offers up the unconventional friendship between Hennie Comfort, a natural storyteller entering the twilight of her life, and Nit Spindle, a naïve young newlywed, forged in the isolated mining town of Middle Swan, Colo., in 1936…. This satisfying novel will immediately draw readers into Hennie and Nit’s lives, and the unexpected twists will keep them hooked through to the bittersweet denouement.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “*Starred Review* Like the lives narrated, this novel, by the author of Tallgrass (2007), runs the gamut of heartache, hardship, and happiness as Dallas skillfully weaves past into present and surprises everyone at the end. Fans of Lee Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies, 1988), Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees, 2002), and Kaye Gibbons (Charms for the Easy Life, 2003), will love this book.” JEN BAKER, Booklist

2008

Sandra Dallas nailed another. “An ugly murder is central to this compelling historical, but the focus is on one appealing family, the Strouds, in the backwater town of Ellis, Colo. Soon after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government rounded up all the Japanese residents of the West Coast and shipped them off to “internment camps” for the duration of the war. One of the camps is Tallgrass, based on an actual Colorado camp, as Dallas (The Chili Queen) explains in her acknowledgments. The major discomforts and petty indignities these (mostly) American citizens had to endure are viewed through the clear eyes of a young girl who lives on a nearby farm, Rennie Stroud…. Dallas’s terrific characters, unerring ear for regional dialects and ability to evoke the sights and sounds of the 1940s make this a special treat.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Dallas has made a major contribution to a growing body of literature about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Based on the one camp in Colorado (named Amache, and renamed Tallgrass by the author), the story focuses on the impact it had on the local farmers and townspeople….Part mystery, part historical fiction, part coming-of-age story, Tallgrass has all the elements of a tale well told: complex characters, intriguing plot, atmospheric detail, pathos, humor, and memorable turns of phrase. But most of all, the book offers a fresh look at a theme that can never be ignored: the interplay of good and evil within society and within people.” ROBERT SAUNDERSON,Berkeley Public Library, CA, School Library Journal

Alex Beam has made quite a mark, too. “Alex Beam’s colourful history narrates how this extraordinary project got off the ground at the University of Chicago, under the stewardship of chalk-and-cheese duo Robert Hutchins (who, a friend said, “made homosexuals of us all”) and Mortimer Adler (who “often added his own works to Great Books reading lists for courses he taught”).” STEVEN POOLE, Guardian “Boston Globe columnist Beam looks at how and why this multi-year project took shape, what it managed to accomplish (or not), and the lasting effects it had on college curricula (in the familiar form of Dead White Males). Beam (Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America’s Premier Mental Hospital) describes meetings endured by the selection committee, and countless debates … but tells it like it is regarding the Syntopicon they devised-at “3,000 subtopics and 163,000 separate entries, not exactly a user-friendly compendium”-and the resulting volumes, labeling them “icons of unreadability-32,000 pages of tiny, double-column, eye-straining type.” By lauding the intent and intelligently critiquing the outcome, Beam offers an insightful, accessible and fair narrative on the Great Books, its time, and its surprisingly significant legacy.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Steve Hamm pursued the ideal. “This is a really remarkable book! Covering past, present, and-most excitingly-the future of mobiles, it brings back extremely vivid memories to me and puts in context the many challenges and great opportunities still out there.” JOHN ELLENBY, creator of the GRiD Compass, the first laptop computer “If you have a couple of mobile devices in your pocket and wonder why there isn’t a perfect single device, this book is for you.” ROBERT SCOBLE, the Scobleizer blog and former chief blogger for Microsoft

Giles Blunt ventured into the youth market. “Blunt presents readers with a well-crafted plot and lovable, eccentric characters who are magnetizing from page one. Teens will fall in love with this handsome, insightful 18-year-old and his questionable girlfriend, and will be charmed by this quirky, fast-paced tale.” ELLEN BELL, Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA

Steve Baker did some close counting on this one. “In this captivating exploration of digital nosiness, business reporter Baker spotlights a new breed of entrepreneurial mathematicians (the numerati) engaged in harnessing the avalanche of private data individuals provide when they use a credit card, donate to a cause, surf the Internet—or even make a phone call…. An intriguing but disquieting look at a not too distant future when our thoughts will remain private, but computers will disclose our tastes, opinions, habits and quirks to curious parties, not all of whom have our best interests at heart.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “This is a fascinating outing of the hidden yet exploding world of digital surveillance and stealthy intrusions into our decision-making processes as we buy food, make a date, or vote for president. Yet, as Baker assures us, we are not helpless. For one thing, machines still can’t process sarcasm. Read and resist.” DONNA SEAMAN, Booklist

Michael Mandel waxed academic. Another text I use in my biz-econ journalism class. Need you know more?

Fran Hawthorne shares retirement worries. “Will retirement security be an oxymoron for most Americans? Fran Hawthorne’s Pension Dumping offers a clear-eyed, provocative look at the critically important world of pensions.”
—BARBARA RUDOLPH, author. “Having lived through the S&L crisis, I can’t help but wonder what policy makers might have done had they been presented with a concise, cogent description of the gathering of the perfect storm before events unfolded. Fran Hawthorne has written such a book for pension policy makers.”—OLENA BERG LACY, former Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration. “With clarity and even humor at times, Hawthorne examines a complicated, multifaceted, and often troubling phenomenon with broad current and future implications for companies, workers, retirees, taxpayers, and society as a whole.”—PHYLLIS C. BORZI, former Counsel for Employee Benefits, U.S. House of Representatives

2007

51m1cMU2SvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Jeff Rothfeder sizzles.”Despite the company’s ebbing sales and profits even in the midst of a hot-sauce craze, Rothfeder’s tale is balanced and always entertaining, and may please at least some of those who shake a few drops of Tabasco on whatever they’re eating.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Reading this piquant history means you can never again reach for that little bottle without recalling the amazing history fraught within.” – MARK KNOBLAUCH, Booklist

Tony Bianco went shopping. “[The Bully of Bentonville]…is filled with direct quotations from current and former Wal-Mart employees, paraphrased anecdotes from Wal-Mart lore, Sam Walton legends, data from government documents and studies from academic researchers such as Basker. Not a single page…is boring, whether the reader is a Wal-Mart lover, Wal-Mart hater, or a conflicted in-between sometimes shopper.” THE KANSAS CITY STAR “In The Bully of Bentonville Bianco produces the most penetrating examination of Wal-Mart’s business practices and their ripple effects in American society that has been published since Wal-Mart watching became a serious pursuit of the business press and academia.” THE STAR TELEGRAM

Ann Therese Palmer, a devoted grad of Notre Dame, showed her fealty to alma mater. “This book is a great read. It includes letter from early Notre Dame female grads along with other famous ND folks who were there when coeducation began. Included are letters from sports coaches and the first female ND undergraduate.” PAUL BLILEY JR. “This book is amazing! Reading all the stories and experiences of Notre Dame women pioneers, famous Notre Dame graduates, and various administrators is inspiring! Read the book, it’s wonderful!” R. O’CONNOR, BingoBooks

Paul Barrett wrapped this one up on Steve Adler‘s watch at BW. “Paul M. Barrett has written a rich book full of insights into a religion many Americans don’t know enough about.” CHICAGO TRIBUNE “A thoughtful exploration that is both comforting and alarming . . . American Islam reveals the variety of Muslim experience in the U.S., as well as profound aspects of Islam that are underappreciated in this country.” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL “Well wrought and engaging . . . A welcome antidote to the wide spread Islamophobia that has infected so many Americans over the last five years . . . The book makes a compelling argument that the greatest tool in America’s arsenal in the ‘war on terror’ may be its own thriving and thoroughly assimilated Muslim community.” THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD

Julia Flynn Siler knows a bit about wine, it seems. “Call it Greek tragedy or Shakespearean drama, Biblical strife, Freudian acting out or even soap opera. You wouldn’t be exaggerating, and you wouldn’t be wrong….” ERIC ASIMOV, The New York Times “[A] lesson in business, family, greed and hubris that reads like a thriller novel. You will never look at a glass of wine the same way again.” GEOFF OLDFATHER, Treasure Coast Palm “With stellar reporting and clear, enjoyable writing Julia Flynn Siler… describes the long rise and sharp descent of California’s most iconic vintner … her research is simply outstanding. She captures the scope of Mondavi’s story, which amounts to King Lear in wine country.” W. BLAKE GRAY, Vinography

Larry Light and his bride, Meredith Anthony, proved versatile in fiction. “Ladykiller is an intriguing, compelling and suspenseful crime novel packed with enticing twists and turns to keep you on the edge. The authors have created a powerful thriller that tantalizes with a sense of suspense and a steady flow of action. The characters are believable, finely developed and engaging. Ladykiller is superbly crafted with vivid detail that draws you into the story.” TERRY SOUTH, Quality Reviews

Janet Rae-Dupree and Pat DuPree got physical with this one. “I’m a middle age woman who returned to college and needed help with my Anatomy class this book was a very big help. I couldn’t have passed the class without this book.” — CHRISTY BURKE  “I am starting my first year of nursing school and needed some brushing up on my A&P. This book breaks everything down for you. It is simple enough to easily understand but doesn’t become so easy that you are actually learning nothing. I would totally recommend it!” — LILMISSNURSE

Mettle

Under the pseudonym G.F. Michelsen [George Michelsen Foy] “pits a commercial sea captain against a broken ship and an insubordinate crew in his disappointing new novel. Lorenzo Fuller captains the Pacific Debenture, a grain freighter, off the coast of southeast Africa and tries to get the wayward and ailing ship back on track. But the memories of the woman he has loved and lost haunt him…. Fans of nautical tales will enjoy the climactic scene, but anyone not enamored of salty dog stories will have a tough time getting their sea legs here.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “Michelsen has written deftly about men struggling with their jobs, their marriages, and society in general, and his latest novel addresses similar themes…. Michelsen’s strong characterizations of Lorenzo, his son, and several crew members inject heightened pathos into the climactic, though not unexpected, conclusion.” — DEBORAH DONOVAN, BOOKLIST

2006

Larry Light addressed timeless topics. “Light brings back intrepid reporter Karen Glick, feature writer for Profit magazine, for a second outing (following Too Rich to Live) with largely satisfying results. The three Reiner sisters, Linda, Ginny and Flo, have created a computer program called Goldring that accurately predicts the stock market, and have used it to make themselves incredibly wealthy. But the digital goose that lays the golden eggs proves deadly…. Light is skillful setting the multiple and complicated plots spinning, and despite the body count he manages to keep the tone light and quick; however, the story—nicely tied up though it is—relies heavily on coincidence and overly talky characters, and much of the supporting cast feel stock. That said, Glick remains a strong, witty heroine; her latest adventure should please fans of Wall Street thrillers.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Giles Blunt chilled ‘em with this. “Set in remote Algonquin Bay, Ontario, Blunt’s compelling fourth crime novel to feature John Cardinal (after Blackfly Season) finds the police detective mourning the death of his wife, an apparent suicide. Then Cardinal starts receiving cold, hate-filled notes gloating over his loss…. An unexpected yet utterly realistic twist lifts this novel into extremely interesting (and entertaining) territory. Sharp dialogue, complex characters and a satisfying conclusion should help Blunt, who has won Britain’s Silver Dagger and Canada’s Arthur Ellis Award, win new readers in the U.S. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “The fourth crime novel featuring Detective John Cardinal may give acclaimed Canadian author Blunt the popular recognition he is due.” ALLISON BLOCK, Booklist

Steve Hamm rode the tiger. “Business Week senior writer Hamm, who has focused on the emergence of India and China as global economic powers, chose to profile Wipro to tell the story of India’s rising technology industry. Founder Azim Premji built the company from a failing vegetable oil company into a high-tech engineering lab serving clients such as Aviva and Texas Instruments. Premji (who has been called the Bill Gates of India) pioneered the “Wipro Way,” which, much like the famed HP Way, emphasizes ethical values, process excellence, and a central focus on customer relations. On track to become the Wal-Mart of IT services, Wipro is already a fierce global competitor and will be a company to keep an eye on. DAVID SIEGFRIED, Booklist

Gary Weiss found the fraudsters — again. “Never mind Enron—corruption, fraud and towering incompetence are Wall Street’s daily bread and butter, insists this lively j’accuse. Ex-BusinessWeek reporter Weiss (Born to Steal: When the Mafia Hit Wall Street) details the myriad ways the financial industry preys on small investors… He also pillories the industry’s toothless watchdogs—the New York Stock Exchange, a business media addicted to hype and puffery, and a do-nothing Securities and Exchange Commission.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “If you’re like half of America, and you own stocks, either directly or through mutual funds, IRAs, or 401(k)s, you may not want to hear what Weiss has to say about the industry–but you’d better read it anyway, for your own good. Weiss, an award-winning investigative journalist, formerly with Business Week, refuses to toe the party line. He describes practices we thought were confined to the fringe dark side of The Street, such as boiler room fraud; overpaid, uncaring fund managers; ineffectual SEC regulations; and Wild West-style hedge funds. The wall that is supposed to separate CEOs, analysts, underwriters, and the media has long disappeared, according to Weiss, as these forces cozy up to form a coalition designed to separate you from your money.” DAVID SIEGFRIED, Booklist

2005

Sandra Dallas struck a chord. “Old fans will recognize Dallas’ trademark leisurely pace in a new setting, a gothic-tinted South instead of the wide-open Midwest, and be pleasantly surprised. The languid pacing will not keep readers from eagerly turning pages to discover why Amalia was murdered and the reasons behind Nora’s failed marriage. Dallas has crafted a honey-and-Spanish-moss-tinged tale certain to please gentle fiction readers who don’t mind a little mystery.” KAITE MEDIATORE, Booklist

Giles Blunt stung. “Silver Dagger–winner Blunt spins a highly disturbing but truly memorable tale about a Canadian cult’s murder spree…. Based on a true crime, the pulsing, tightly plotted narrative again shows why Blunt (Forty Words for Sorrow) should be considered among the new practitioners of crime drama’s elite.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “His characters, even to the lonely guy sitting by himself at the end of the bar, are wonderfully realistic; his pacing never flags; his knowledge of police procedure is accurate without being show-offy; and he leaves the reader not so much with a story as with a glimpse into a perfectly realized world. First-rate.” CONNIE FLETCHER, Booklist

Sheridan Prasso made a mark early with this effort. “Prasso’s ambitious agenda focuses on both Asian women and our perceptions of them, exploring the historical and pop cultural roots of the ‘Asian Mystique’ and ending with a ‘reality tour of Asia.’ Her stories about the lives of Asian women from diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds are compelling.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY “… Prasso explains the symbiotic nature of Western fantasy and Asian fulfillment–often to great profit–of that fantasy, the roles that Asian women play and defy in the West, even the dangerous implications of this still-active fantasy upon global politics. Especially interesting are her observations on the emasculated role of Asian men in Western media–picture, for instance, Jackie Chan even kissing a Western woman.” ALAN MOORES, Booklist

Paul Raeburn shared some tough material. “Raeburn fully discloses the daily struggles he faces with his children — one bipolar, the other chronically depressed — but what emerges is less about them than about him. He is the center of the narrative — a pragmatic journalist with an anger problem and a failed marriage who wants what’s best for his children, but like most parents is groping in the dark for what that is…. Raeburn’s greatest gift is his brave honesty. He challenges all parents to take responsibility and claim their part in their children’s pain.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Larry Light took readers inside. “Light draws us into a Wall Street world full of well-chosen and telling details that only someone who’s had inside access would know. TOO RICH TO LIVE melds humor and suspense in this entertaining mystery that explores the heady worlds of some very rich men from the point of view of one feisty investigative journalist.”CARROLL JOHNSON, Reviewing the Evidence.

“A clear-eyed, thoughtful look at an agency that regulates a quarter of the U.S. economy and, more than any other, has the safety of the American public in its hands. Inside the FDA makes plain how powerful and controversial the Food and Drug Administration has become.”—ELIZABETH MACBRIDE,former managing editor of Crain’s New York Business. “Controversy lives on the FDA’s doorstep, and it knocks loudly— as it did recently with Vioxx—when a drug it approves is involved in consumer deaths. Fran Hawthorne has written a vivid and compelling account of the pressures from politicians, industry, and consumers; the scientific uncertainties; the risk-reward compromises; and the constantly changing legal landscape that influences the agency’s life-and-death decisions.”—CLEM MORGELLO, former senior editor and columnist at Newsweek, former senior editor at Dun’s Review

mommyyoga-amz Julie Tilsner stretches the point, hilariously. “I just had my first baby in June and I was given this book by my grandmother. I cannot think of a more perfect book!” — A. NEWKIRK “This book is absolutely charming and very very funny. I laughed, and boy did I need it. :) — GRACE “When this book arrived, I sat down on my comfy chair and read each and every “mommy asana” in one sitting. Then I read it again. And again. Then I shared the book with my neighbors and friends. We’ve never laughed so much. It was wonderful.” — D. TUSZKE

Will the Net Save Books?

BookshelfArtSo, the Net is supposed to be fatal for books, right? Why plow through a couple hundred dead-tree remnants when you can just watch a 1:15 video? And, if you want to wade through a lot of prose, can’t you do that online through Nook, Kindle, etc., even if such outfits kill profit margins for publishers and savage bookstores?

Well, such questions seem reasonable nowadays. But, as a first-time author I’m discovering how the Net also opens the world – literally, the world – to writers and publishers to develop audiences for their work. No longer is book marketing a matter of running around the country and lecturing or just reaching out to reviewers. It’s a far, far better thing than that.

UnknownOccasionally, I Google my book title – “Transcendental Meditation in America: How a New Age Movement Remade a Small Town in Iowa.” It’s amazing what comes up. The book doesn’t come out until May, but already Amazon and online retailers all over the globe list it.

Folks in New Zealand, for instance, can pre-order on fishpond. And fans of Albany Books Ltd., “your neighbourhood bookstore” in Delta, British Columbia, Canada, can find a listing on the outlet’s site. So, too, can Canadians in London, Ontario, by checking out the Creation Bookstore site. Amazon sites in the U.S., U.K. and India are carrying it, as well.

Others round the globe are on the bandwagon. Angus & Robertson, a “Proudly Australian” site, intrigues me, as do Landmark Ltd. an Indian site, and Loot Online in Tokai, South Africa. Then there’s Waterstones in the U.K.

And some sites are segmented by market, with intriguingly different prices. eCampus will let folks buy or rent the book ($15.30 to buy, $14.40 to rent, so you make the call on the difference). Another college-oriented site, knetbooks, rents it for $14.26 if you return it by June 20 (slightly higher if you keep it til the end of July). FreshmanExperience retails it for $15.30. Amazon carries it for $13.71, marked down from the $18 jacket price. (One suspects all these prices will bounce around over time.)

AnaLouise Keating

AnaLouise Keating

But it’s not just retailers who have discovered the book. AnaLouise Keating, a professor at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, tweeted about it in early March, linking to a review she posted on goodreads, where she gave it five of five stars. Her review: “”Iowa” and “New Age”…the terms can seem like quite a juxtaposition, and Weber provides an interesting, useful discussion. Definitely worth reading.” (Thank you, Dr. Keating!)

Back in January, the book made a splash at Before It’s News, a blog by “a community of individuals who report on what’s going on around them, from all around the world.” The folks there listed it as one of 35 noteworthy new books. Hey, I’m not complaining.

UIPAnd bloggers with special interests in the area are plugging it. Evolutionary_Mystic Post runs a long description of the book and (now I’m blushing) of me. Looks like the material came from the University of Iowa folks, to whom I am much indebted, as well as from my bio material on our university site.

The folks in Iowa, no doubt, get the credit for loosing this stuff on the world. I must especially thank editors Catherine Cocks and William Friedricks, Managing Editor Charlotte Wright and Marketing Manager Allison Means. But I’ve been doing my part, too, as they counseled. I’ve developed my own website for the book, at transcendentalmeditationinamerica.com, as well as a Facebook site. The FB site is a handy spot to post newsy things that pop up around the topic, such as a recent riot among Indian meditators whom the TM Movement brings to Iowa to meditate for world peace. (Interesting irony there).

So, there will be lectures and book-signings and the traditional stuff. But, thanks to the Net, there’s so much more. Will the Net kill books? Not on this evidence.

So what is your doctorate in?

hey-honeyNot long ago, newspaper editors thought the idea of a reporter getting a college education was about sensible as horns on a horse. Applying a slightly different comparison, New York Tribune founding editor Horace Greeley displayed a notice in his paper’s office saying: “No college graduates or other horned cattle need apply.”

Nowadays, of course, college degrees are basic requirements for journalists. Indeed, a former city editor of mine who had left our little New Jersey daily was denied advancement at Newsday a decade or two ago because he lacked such a degree, never mind his ample skills as an editor. The thinking, one presumes, is that only someone who has been broadly schooled in the textbook-learning on offer at university can bring to bear the intellectual breadth needed in a modern news operation.

Fair enough (except, of course, to my frustrated former editor). But what are the limits to creeping credentialism? Should a master’s degree now be the threshold requirement for a journalist? Beyond that, what should the credentials of a teacher of journalism at a university be? How about a dean? Is a Ph.D. a minimal requirement for a professor or a J school administrator?

DeanImageThis all comes to mind as we at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln ponder five candidates for the deanship at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Three boast doctorates, while one stopped at his master’s degree and another topped out academically with a bachelor’s. While the first three earned advanced degrees, the latter got their educations on the job, leading impressive advertising and news operations, respectively. (Indeed, all are impressive for differing reasons.)

So which one is best equipped to run a J school? Naturally, one cannot judge them on paper alone. To their credit, the members of our school’s selection committee did not toss the resumes lighter on academic credentials. Instead, they invited the contenders to pitch us on their ideas for how to run a school that aims to supply talented, well-rounded journalists and advertising and PR people to industry – a particular challenge as the industry changes fast around us and the demands for technical skills grow.

The open-mindedness of the committee members may reflect the makeup of our college faculty, a wondrous blend of sheepskin and shoe-leather. All of us have master’s degrees, but relatively few have doctorates. Those without the high-level academic pedigrees honed their craft in years of experience in such places as the New York Times, Newsday, The Miami Herald, The Detroit News, The Denver Post, The St. Petersburg Times (and Politifact), BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal and TV stations in markets such as Detroit and Omaha, as well as ABC News. Nebraska is a place where students learn from people who’ve gotten their schooling in the trenches as well as the classroom.

big10-11-nav-logoThe decision, of course, on who will take our mantle won’t really be made by that faculty. We get to weigh in. But, ultimately, the choice will be made by top officials at UNL, most of whom have earned Ph.D.s (though our chancellor’s degree is a juris doctor). Will they demand the Ph.D. union card, consciously or otherwise? Should they, in fact, given that research is a growing requirement for J schools to shine? And, does Nebraska’s entry into the Big Ten demand the credential, not only of our dean but of more faculty members over time, as well? Will the college be taken seriously alongside the likes of Northwestern if we don’t go toe-to-toe on the credentials front? What does it take to run with the big dogs these days?

For wisdom, readers might turn to a report issued last October by the Columbia Journalism School. It traces the growth of professionalism in the field and details longstanding tensions between industry and academia, along with the strains between journalism programs and the higher reaches of universities. “Very few schools are dominated by faculty members who have either journalism degrees or PhDs in communication. And many dean searches turn into contests between a journalist and an academic,” says the report, “Educating Journalists: A New Plea for the University Tradition.”

A.J. Liebling

A.J. Liebling

The authors argue for boosting the quality and quantity of graduate professional education in journalism. They say they hope this would lead to a master’s degree in journalism or a doctorate in communication becoming a standard credential for a journalism faculty member. Taking care to argue for top-quality instruction, they remind readers of Greeley’s thoughts and those of another journalistic icon, A.J. Liebling. The latter blasted his J school training (at Columbia) as boasting “all the intellectual status of a training school for future employees of the A&P.”

On requirements for deans, however, the authors punt. That may be fitting since one of the three authors, Nicholas Lemann, led Columbia for a decade even though his formal education didn’t go past a bachelor’s degree (he was busy cutting a deep swath at the Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker). Indeed, Lemann’s successor at Columbia, Steve Coll, likewise didn’t spend more time in a classroom than needed for a BA, but instead put in his time writing seven books while laboring at The Washington Post and The New Yorker. Coll took the helm at Columbia just this year.

So what qualities will prevail at CoJMC? Will the Ph.D. be the price of entry to the deanship here and, increasingly, at J schools across the country (except at that titan in Morningside Heights, which improved a lot since Liebling’s day)? In time, will a doctorate be mandatory for tenure-track positions at all such schools, as it is already at many that are not as enlightened as CoJMC?

Stay tuned.

Hello sweetheart, get me rewrite

3-aa349c4b3bNorman Mailer once said, “writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” Well, at long last my baby is nearing delivery.

The University of Iowa Press, midwife in this blessed event, just released its Spring 2014 catalog. It’s hard to describe how fulfilling it is for my book, “Transcendental Meditation in America: How a New Age Movement Remade a Small Town in Iowa,” to be the lead title out of the 23 the press is bringing out.

It’s been a long and exciting time coming. To get this book started, I started visiting the good folks of Fairfield, Iowa, in 2010. I had grown intrigued about them a few years earlier, when I first heard of the migration a couple thousand of them had made there some 35 years or so before. To borrow a useful lyric, they were Baby Boomers chasing a dream of peace, love and understanding as they followed their guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Some had left Ivy League colleges where they seemed headed for conventional careers. Others didn’t know what their prospects were. All, however, had found a spiritual home in the TM Movement and they were out to change the world. By simply meditating in groups, many believed, they could lower the temperature on an overheated, tortured world. How much could they change things if their numbers grew?

UIP small banner_yellowThey bought a bankrupt Presbyterian college in Fairfield and set up their own school, now called Maharishi University of Management. They founded a school for their children, making it possible for someone to study the guru’s teachings from pre-K to Ph.D., all in the same little farm town whose culture they transformed.

Interesting place, it seemed to me. It would be even more intriguing to look into how that dream was playing out in the wake of the guru’s death, in 2008. Would this movement go on and thrive under other leaders, much as other Utopian efforts such as Mormonism have? Or would it wither and fade, as the Oneida Community and Brook Farm did? Would it be riven by in-fighting and misdirection? Or would it get its act together? The story of that place and those people, it seemed, would be a rich and surprisingly American tale.

fairfield-open-signSo, this is what the book is about. The folks in Fairfield, while focused on the stars, have often been brought back to earth with a shock. A murder on campus, suicides in the community, infidelity, scamsters, some tensions with neighbors – all that has been a part of their community life. But they’ve also rebuilt a sleepy little town into a lively place with vegetarian restaurants, a smorgasbord of religious practices, thriving businesses and, with the help of nonmeditating locals, a vibrant arts scene. They’ve even developed their own style of architecture, dotting the town and campus with striking buildings and homes.

Along the way, they’ve attracted the famous and celebrated. Among them are such rock luminaries as Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and a few of the Beach Boys, radio shock-jock Howard Stern, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, newspeople George Stephanopoulos, Candy Crowley and Soledad O’Brien and talk-show diva Oprah. Plenty of A-listers have practiced TM over the years and some have popped into Fairfield at times.

The story of TM, seen through its potent and mixed effect on this little town, is a winding and intriguing one. Certainly, my patient and astute editors, Catherine Cocks and William Friedricks, and I found it be so. (I’m much indebted to them for their advocacy and guidance.) I hope readers find this account as interesting as we did. Look for the book in May.

The college hunt gets personal — open letter to a niece

BelushiDear Sam,

So, senior year is hard upon you. That means prom, a top spot in the cheering squad, maybe a full-court press in calc to buff up that transcript. And, of course, it’s time for you and colleges to get serious about one another.

You’ve checked out a few places already. A couple big state universities, a few state colleges – most of the places touchingly within 50 miles or so of home. You’ve probably pored over their websites, talked to folks there and maybe chatted with a teacher, coach or guidance counselor about your options. You and your parents may have checked out finances to figure out what you can afford, perhaps gotten some info about aid and scholarships.

It’s a good start, Sam, but – with any luck – not the end of the game. Let me lob a few thoughts your way. Take these from a grizzled uncle who has been around the academic block a bit, between attending a few schools, teaching at three universities and, most important, seeing three of your cousins go through the same sleuthing sessions you now are involved in.

 First, talk to more people. Start with your extended family. At least nine of your cousins have been through the mill already, in undergrad and grad schools. Some went to big, private, urban or suburban schools (Boston University, Columbia, Stanford). Some opted for smaller private schools (Bucknell, Stevens, Pomona). And some chose big public schools (West Virginia, Rutgers, Michigan State, University of Oklahoma). Some went to community colleges for a while. Find out what they liked, what they hated. They’ll tell you, in spades.

 Think about your aunts and uncles. Shockingly, they can be helpful and they’d probably talk with you. Their alma maters include Rutgers, Columbia, Colorado State and the University of Toronto, among other places. One is now pursuing a Ph.D. Even if they natter on about goldfish-swallowing, panty raids and ukulele-playing, they might have a few useful pointers to share.

College101 Visit more places. You must pick up the vibe on a campus to figure out whether you’d like to spend four years and lots of Mom and Dad’s money there. One cousin visited Georgetown and was turned off. Why? The girls dressed like they were at a fashion show or were stalking husbands, not like they were there to learn. Blue jeans, please, and forget the makeup. For her, Harvard’s holier-than-thou attitude was fatal for it. Another thought Berkeley’s refusal to let her stow her luggage in the visitor center for the tour was a killer sign that it wasn’t all that user-friendly. A much smaller, more indulgent school outside LA couldn’t have been more obliging, by contrast.

 Think broadly. Why limit yourself to a tiny corner of the country you’ve known all your life? The U.S. is a big place and on- and off-campus life, socially and intellectually, in the South, West and East differ. Want to climb mountains and ski on your weekends? Think about Denver or Fort Collins. Want to learn really good manners? Think about Atlanta. Want to hear people talk funny? Think Boston. Why just New Jersey, Delaware or even Pennsylvania? Sidenote to Mom and Dad: It took us a while to accept the idea of our youngest in far-off California, until we realized it was just a plane ride away, just as Massachusetts and New York were for the other two.

 Look at the US News and World Report rankings, but look deeper. Some schools rank high overall but may not be so strong in the discipline that interests you. If you really want to dig into schools, check out the websites for particular departments. Are the faculty distinguished? Indeed, will you ever see the senior faculty or, as often happens, will you be taught by grad students?

Collegemaze Figure out what you want. Visits are crucial. Big urban schools are great for some folks (one cousin went to a small high school, so wanted thousands of classmates.) Smaller, more intimate colleges are better for others (after a big public high school, another cousin craved a small liberal-arts spot). Want Division One athletics? Could be exciting, but how much time do you really want to spend on the field? Unless you are quarterbacking the football team, it won’t be all there is to life in school (one cousin quit the D1 track team she’d pined for when she learned it meant no other after-school activities and not all that much time for schoolwork). Small fish in big pond or vice-versa – what works for you?

 Think about life after class. If you pick a big school, a sorority can make a cold and daunting place more intimate. It can also give you lifelong friends, the chance to learn leadership and offer great academic and social support, not to mention a nice place to live. At a smaller school, the dorms may be just fine.

 If you like the idea of a big place, find one that offers “learning communities.” These groups, which bring together like-minded students to study and sometimes live together, make a sprawling campus smaller. You might find lifelong friends there, too.

Sam, there’s a lot more to picking a place where you’ll spend some important years than just popping in on a few nearby campuses. Would you buy the first blouse you see on a rack? Would you limit yourself to just a few stores in the mall? How about the first CD in the bin? (Oh, I forgot. Nobody does that anymore).

Times do change, of course, Sam. But find out what wrong turns (and right ones) others who’ve been down the road have taken. And, whatever you do, shop around. One last thing — don’t sell yourself short. Pick a range of schools, but make sure to aim high. To mix metaphors (something a good English teacher will mark your down for), cast your net wide. Once you’ve applied to a lot of places, you can still go to the school down the block. It won’t move, but in coming months your hopes may.

Love,
Your uncle.

Time to be smart, not a smartass

HedgeFundFlouting convention has its uses. An outrageous image can provoke debate, prompt action or, at a minimum, win attention. And all those things are vital to any media organization in our infoglutted age. When so many magazines vie for notice, after all, it takes a lot to grab a reader’s eye on a crowded newsstand, stand out in a towering mail pile or merit a crucial split-second’s notice on a computer screen.

But does that mean sacrificing taste? Sure, Penthouse gets a second glance every time. But will that translate into lasting buzz or just a dismissive, “ah, there they go again?” Does a magazine want to be known as smart and sassy or as juvenile and sassy? What happens to the “smart” when a puerile cover image sullies the book’s impact?

So this brings us to Bloomberg Businessweek. There’s no question the magazine has done impressive work since 2009, when McGraw-Hill sold BusinessWeek after thinning its journalism ranks over several financially troubled years. One would expect no less than excellence from Bloomberg, the preeminent business-news operation of the day. A friend who toils abroad for the news service points out that BB won the 2012 National Magazine Award for General Excellence – the magazine world’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize — something the magazine hadn’t done since 1996, an earlier time of superb journalism at BW.

InfidelityBut one must wonder whether BB has won despite some of its new approaches, rather than because of them. Much of the reporting and writing remains superb – its economic coverage, for instance, has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and I know from serving as a judge that the work was best in class. Some of BB’s contrarian ideas, fleshed out well in text that intelligently challenges conventional wisdom, are compelling. At its best, its work is as good as the best material BW was known for over decades, work that won 10 National Magazine Awards in various categories from 1973-2008, all before the latest general excellence prize. BW and its staffers won a slew of other prizes for foreign and domestic work over those years, too.

MatingJetsThe risk for BB is that its drive to be edgy, particularly in its cover imagery, could easily thrust it over a cliff’s edge. It could all too easily slip from provocative to prurient, as it has at times already. Disturbingly, the distance from smart to smartass is not all that great.

Already, the editors have had to apologize for the art in a cover piece. They ran a smart housing story, only to have its impact undercut by racial insensitivity in the cover art. At best, the drawing seemed goofy anyway.Housing

BB today, like BW before it, does have to distinguish itself both in its journalism and in the artwork it uses to make its points. And, as my friend from Bloomberg points out, the magazine has been recognized for its design successes by such outfits as Britain’s Design and Art Direction. Apparently, though, what caught the eye of folks at D&AD was one of the more elegant covers, which used a stark and simple photo of Steve Jobs. This seems a case of BB earning recognition for being classy rather than déclassé. That’s something any editor should feel proud of.

JobsBB has had some impressive successes. It has held onto 4.7 million readers worldwide when so many others have lost the readership battle. It can draw on the work of 2,300 journalists in 72 countries, a couple thousand more journalists and support staffers than BW ever had. If it is to keep up its record of success in readership and influence, the book should work to be known for top-flight economic and business coverage and high-quality artwork that makes the coverage come alive. This is its inheritance, its bloodline. The editors shouldn’t be weighed down by the magazine’s stellar list of alumni and their work as they sort out what to put in the book each week, what imagery to adorn its cover with. But, if they do pause for a second to consider the book’s distinguished history, they might feel a useful nudge in the right direction.

What do the editors, staffers and art folks want the book to be known for anyway? What do they want their legacy to be? Flout convention, sure. Be provocative. Kick up dust. But do it with style and intelligence. A little grace can carry you a lot farther than an adolescent smirk or an unwelcome dollop of snark.

How much are your ethics worth?

Hookerscartoon“Would you sleep with me for $25?,” the man asked the woman he had just met. “No!,” she said indignantly. “Well, how about $500?,” he responded. “Mmm,” she said. “Well, let me think about that.” Then he said, “how about $250?” Her furious answer: “What do you think I am?”

“My dear, we know what you are at this point,” he countered. “Now, we’re just negotiating price.”

This old story came to mind as I thought about the $38 undercharging episode I went through last night. My daughter, son-in-law and I bought several items at Target and the clerk told us the sum, which seemed low. My daughter questioned the figure, but he insisted all was right. So we went on our way.

Later, we looked at the receipt and, sure enough, he undercharged us by $38, apparently failing to scan a board game we bought.

So, what do we do? Return to the store and, possibly, get the clerk in trouble? Rationalize our windfall by grousing about how much Target has made on us over the last few months (the equivalent of a small country’s GDP)? Do we say to ourselves, “well, the game was absurdly overpriced anyway?”

Or, do we just take malicious joy, savoring the illicit thrill of getting away with something?

theftI was reminded of a couple incidents that, for decades, have stuck with me. First, when I was a kid, my aunt and I passed the candy bin in a grocery store and she filched a few chocolate malt balls or some such treat. When I asked whether that was stealing, she came up with some cockamamie rationalization for why it was okay. It didn’t seem right to me then and doesn’t now.

I shared this story with my daughter and son-in-law. I also thought, “what kind of example do I want to set for them? How do I want them to see me?” Since they are both lawyers whose job requires a high-minded sense of ethics – a sense they have anyway — the questions were especially sharp for me.

On the flip side, I once went into a shop with a friend and, when I told the counterman he had undercharged me, my friend asked me: “So, are you new to this country?” Only someone hopelessly naïve would not try, at every turn, to get away with whatever he could. Property is theft, right? And isn’t that the American way?

After we got home and played our board game last night, it was past closing time and too late to return to the clerk. But, as I awoke this morning, the undercharge was eating at me. It just wasn’t right. Those malted milk balls weren’t free. And I didn’t want my kids to look on me in an ugly light, whether the sum was for $38 or $3,800. I didn’t like feeling guilty. Right direction

So, this morning, I popped in on the Target. The clerk, a different fellow than our cashier of last night, said most people wouldn’t bring up such an undercharge. Sadly, that may be right. Indeed, I did have to suppress a twinge of feeling foolish, a sense that I was the altar boy who never grew up, the Boy Scout whom others scoff at for being oh so righteous. I even thought, “well, I’m just a middle-class guy who, thankfully, can afford to do the right thing. How different things would be if I were just scraping by, like so many others do.”

Still, I know who I am. My kids do, too. That’s well worth $38, wouldn’t you say? It would be worth $3,800 or $38,000.

Prosecute Snowden, not the press

article-0-1A78A5A4000005DC-767_634x362As Edward Snowden wings his way toward whoever he thinks will shield him from American prosecutors, his bizarre story keeps metastasizing. This noxious growth is now tainting the press. The latest turn: the suggestion that not only should the former NSA contractor be prosecuted but so should a recipient of his leaks, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald.

NBC “Meet the Press” host David Gregory today asked Greenwald: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” So, was Gregory siding with some politicians who have called for a journalist to be prosecuted for doing his job? Certainly seemed so, though the TV host did later say he was merely asking a question, however pointedly.

Have we come to that in journalism? Are we now dining on our own? Would Gregory have raised the same question to the late Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, and his editors when in mid-1971 they decided to publish the Pentagon Papers? Then, as now, national security concerns were at issue in the publication of explosive secret material — in that case classified material dealing with the ongoing Vietnam War.

Sulzberger

Sulzberger

The Snowden case is a knotty one. There’s no question for me that the former trusted intelligence analyst should be prosecuted for his crime. He betrayed his employers and violated his oaths. His acts could be considered treasonous in a time of war, albeit an undeclared war with terrorists. He should be brought to account for them.

But it’s also clear that he brought to light a practice that deserves national scrutiny. Indeed, the shame of it is that the debate hasn’t happened until now. Do we want the government reading our email or, however much buried in massive data-collection practices, scanning our phone calls? Certainly, we want it rooting out terrorist plots, using wiretapping or whatever technology works. But should it cast its net so wide that it ropes in everyone? These are important questions and, sadly, it took Snowden’s actions to bring them forward.

Snowden, however, didn’t have to blow his whistle quite the way he did. He had alternatives for bringing his case forward. He could have found a friendly congressman or senator, perhaps a libertarian who might have found the NSA practices just as dubious as he did. Questions then could have been asked and debated, perhaps behind closed doors in deference to national security. Policy could have been changed quietly. Is it naïve to think so? Perhaps. But Snowden didn’t even try this route.

Would he have broken laws in talking with an elected government official about a government program? That’s one for the lawyers to decide. Certainly, he would have spared the government the international black eye it has suffered from his leaks. To much of the world now, the U.S. respects its citizens’ rights to privacy no more than China does. But, if Snowden found a courageous legislator to work with, he might have forced changes to happen without making the U.S. look like a global snoop, hardly a beacon of freedom.

TimeIf Snowden got nowhere with the legislators, he could then have turned to the press, it seems. That was the route former military analyst and ex-Pentagon staffer Daniel Ellsberg took. He shared copies of the Pentagon Papers first with legislators and moved beyond them only when none would make them public in the halls of the Capitol. He felt they had to be exposed. Ultimately – two weeks after the Times began printing the Papers and was enjoined temporarily from doing so – a senator, Mike Gravel, did publish the documents in the official record of the Senate.

But Snowden chose otherwise, rushing outside government to make his case. He broke the laws and violated the trust of his colleagues. Whether he is prosecuted or not, history will judge whether his acts were heroic or merely treasonous. Ellsberg has largely been judged a hero. But Ellsberg had the guts to face the consequences of his actions. Unlike Snowden, he stayed in the U.S. and was tried for espionage in court. The charges were dismissed, as it turned out, because of governmental misconduct that, ironically, included illegal wiretaps on the former analyst. But the risk for Ellsberg’s act of conscience was very real.

Now Snowden will live as a fugitive, likely to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. Is that heroic? Ellsberg also tried at first to stay out of the limelight, leaking his documents anonymously until he was outed. By contrast, Snowden seems to crave the attention, lionizing himself for his actions. Again, heroic? The more apt word might be narcissistic.

As for the press, the Times was right to print the Pentagon Papers. They proved invaluable to understanding how dishonest the politicians were in pursuing a war that was foul and doomed from the start. Similarly, the Guardian and the Washington Post were right in publishing Snowden’s leaked documents, even though the war we are currently fighting – the battle against terrorists – is just, is impossible to avoid and is one we must win.

The argument this time is over whether the government’s intrusions are massive overkill. Are the security services deploying a nuclear bomb when well-aimed rifles might work better? Certainly, we all want them stopping terrorist plots. But can they not just ID the bad guys and go and get ‘em without ensnaring all Americans and plenty of foreigners in their net? Do the terrorists win when we give up something as precious as privacy, the cherished right of all Americans to be left alone?

Snowden went about this all wrong. But the debate he triggered is necessary and vital and so, too, are the journalists who have brought his story to light. Gregory’s pointed question to Greenwald deserves a loud answer: no, the journalist should not be prosecuted for doing his job. Instead, the policymakers need to be held to account for falling down on theirs.

Academic journals: not The New York Times, but sometimes better

UtS_covSI.inddFor journalism profs who hail from the mainstream media – or the public prints, as they were once known – academic journals seem foreign, a bit intimidating and, maybe, a touch esoteric. If one has written for, say, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal or Time magazine, small, densely written and heavily footnoted quarterly, biannual or annual pubs with modest audiences seem a world apart.

But I am learning that such journals, like good poetry magazines, can be more fascinating and engaging than pubs that cater to the mass market. Rather like Indie music compared with the mainstream stuff, the world of the academic specialist can be a rich and intriguing place. It’s a welcome alternative to the fluff, panic and tawdry gabble that dominates Big Media.

Consider Utopian Studies, a biannual edited by Nicole Pohl of Oxford Brookes University and produced by folks at the Penn State University Press. Its latest issue includes a piece by Alireza Omid Bakhsh, an assistant professor at the University of Tehran, called “The Virtuous City: The Iranian and Islamic Heritage of Utopianism.” Bakhsh discusses the Shiite Utopian vision of Abu Nasr, who lived approximately from 870-950 and wrote about cosmology, man’s physical and spiritual nature and the structure of society. Who knew? And, if not for Utopian Studies, who outside of Iran would?

But the journal is also modern. Another piece, “The Business of Utopia: Estidama and the Road to the Sustainable City,” by London-based King’s College geography researcher Federico Cugurullo, argues that eco-cities can be bad socially and ecologically. Cugurullo probes current development strategies in Abu Dhabi to make his case.

Still another contribution looks to the past to shed light on the present. “’New Year’s Dream’: A Chinese Anarcho-cosmopolitan Utopia” examines a 1904 story by intellectual Cai Yuanpei that designs a better world. The piece, by UCLA Ph.D. candidate Guangyi Li, analyzes the theme of national and world revolution in the tale to broaden our understanding of utopianism and anarchism. Hear echoes of Mao and the less starry-eyed visions of modern Chinese leaders?

hjmr20.v012.i01.coverUniversity presses and houses such as Routledge produce a bevy of such journals. Academic groups such as the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication produce still others, ranging in their focus from advertising education and electronic news to international communication and magazines and new media research. Such journals can look at their topics with a wide lens or a narrow one, and both can be intriguing.

Consider the Journal of Media and Religion, co-edited by Daniel A. Stout of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and published four times a year by Routledge. A piece in its latest issue is titled “Mapping the Landscape of Digital Petitionary Prayer as Spiritual/Social Support in Mobile, Facebook, and E-mail.” Authors E. James Baesler and Yi-Fan Chen, both of Old Dominion University, examine how people pray, surprisingly, in the three media. Another piece, “Seeing the Light: Mormon Conversion and Deconversion Narratives in Off- and Online Worlds,” probes the online discussions of “questioning and former Mormons,” comparing them with testimonies of the faithful. Author Rosemary Avance is a doctoral candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania who also hangs her hat at the University of Utah as a Mormon studies fellow.

Fascinating stuff.

specializationUnless one is focused on certain specializations, of course, one is unlikely to ever hear of such journals. I learned of the two I’ve mentioned, along with many others, from Signe Boudreau, a delightful reference librarian and associate professor at the University of Nebraska. Signe is helping me plumb the journal world to see where my academic interests might find outlets.

Thanks to Signe, I now have pieces under consideration in both these journals. They spring from my research on a Utopian community of meditators in Fairfield, Iowa. My book on the group, titled “Transcendental Meditation in America: How a New Age Movement Remade a Small Town in Iowa,” is slated for publication next year by the University of Iowa Press.

The work published in such journals sometimes goes mainstream, of course. Making economics journal articles accessible to a mass audience, in fact, was a favorite assignment for me in grad school, thanks to my journalist-turned-economist professor, Ron Krieger. That exercise helped me in writing both at newspapers and magazines. More typically, of course, journal authors wind up quoted as experts on some topic timely enough to make headlines. Savvy journalists, it’s clear, do well to pay attention to this corner of publishing – and they are likely to find it pretty darn intriguing.

Free speech in China — an impossible dream?

tienanmentank-395No one really knows how many people died, were permanently hurt or lost their livelihoods 24 years ago today in Tiananmen Square. The government may have records on the casualties, believed to total more than 155 killed and 65 wounded, but it hasn’t made them public. Indeed, Chinese history books barely acknowledge the event, known in China simply as June Fourth. Sadly, few Chinese have seen the iconic AP photo of the lone man standing up to tanks in Beijing.

This extraordinary moment in recent Chinese history, though, echoes among those aware of the events at the time, both in the West and in China. Rising expectations for democracy and such freedoms as the right to free expression thrust hundreds of students into the streets on June 3 and 4. The country had thrown off the stultifying yoke of Maoism, had embraced the liberating force of capitalism and seemed to be on a road toward wider choice in everything from consumer goods to politics.

And then, of course, the road came to a dead end with tanks, bullets and tears in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The sprawling area of monuments, museums and government offices, which today draws thousands of Chinese and Western tourists, became synonymous with oppression.

It’s hard for us in the West to grasp how disillusioning this massacre must have been for the Chinese. First, many of the pro-democracy demonstrators killed were students at the nation’s top universities; these were the best and brightest in a Confucian system that ranks intellectuals high in the pecking order. I’m sure they were students much like the bright and eager young people I taught at Tsinghua University in the fall of 2011, innocent idealists who love their country and want only to make it better. Thus, their interest in journalism.

More important, the June Fourth protesters couldn’t have been more precious to their families. Because of China’s one-child policy, these students – some still in their teens – each carried the weighty hopes and aspirations of parents and grandparents on their shoulders. Little could be more alienating or tragic for those families, who today still bear the burden of grief and fury.

Ding Zilin, 2010

Ding Zilin, 2010

”Since my son died in 1989, there’s nothing more that can scare me,” Ding Zilin, a retired professor whose 17-year-old, Jiang Jielian, was killed on the night of June 3, told the New York Times in 1999. ”I do what I choose to do according to my own conscience.”

Ding, a retired professor of philosophy at People’s University who had once been a loyal Communist Party member, led a drive then to open a criminal investigation into the events of June Fourth. It went nowhere. Ding, who had attempted suicide repeatedly after the death of her son, wound up leading bereaved parents who have continued to demand the right to mourn their children in public and to end persecution of June Fourth victims. In response, she and her husband, former People’s University Aesthetics Institute head Jiang Peikun, have been constantly harassed. Ding’s nomination for the Nobel Prize in 2003 must have been a major embarrassment for Party leaders.

Since the massacre, some at the demonstrations or — like Ding — related to demonstrators have endured house arrests, loss of work and ongoing medical problems. Qi Zhiyong, a construction worker who went to the demonstrations out of curiosity, not activism, lost a leg, his occupation and any good feelings he had toward the Party, as the Washington Post reported. The paper reported that Zhang Lin, who organized protests in 1989 in Anhui Province, has spent much of the last 20 years under house arrest or in jail, as an advocate for labor rights and democracy. Some protesters who went on to have good careers now stay quiet about their youthful activism, fearing retribution.

Chinese leaders crushed the Tiananmen demonstrations nearly a quarter-century ago out of fear that they could trigger nationwide uprisings. Since then, however, riots, protests and mass incidents have only grown, with some 180,000 in 2010 alone, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Instability, driven by economic grievances or dissatisfaction with corruption, has worsened and is a major source of worry for the government. Chinese leaders today are desperate to manage societal transformation – which includes everything from urbanization to economic growth — while keeping a lid on the discontent and maintaining Party control.

Xi Jinping and other new leaders of China are walking a narrow and treacherous path. As economic expansion slows, disparities in wealth grow and upheaval from the migrations of millions to crowded cities worsens, they will surely find it increasingly difficult to keep order. That challenge to preserve order may underlay recent directives barring discussion of such topics as freedom of the press in universities and concerns in some Party quarters about too much Westernization.

Peter Herford

Peter Herford

Peter Arnett

Peter Arnett


The Party’s worries have hit home for some distinguished Western journalists recently. Peter Herford and Peter Arnett, longtime Asia hands who have taught for years at Shantou University’s journalism school, were just pink-slipped. Ostensibly, this is because they passed a mandatory retirement age of 70 for foreigners teaching in China. Herford, however, finds this puzzling because each of them passed that milestone about eight years ago.

Far less momentously, the government’s worries also hit home for me. In the last few weeks, I wanted to survey Chinese journalism students about freedom of expression and censorship, as well as the biases they see in both Western and Chinese media. I scuttled the project, however, after colleagues in China warned that the students’ answers, even in an anonymous Web-based study, might be tracked by state monitors. The survey wasn’t worth putting the students at risk.

tiananmen_square_original_t_shirts-ra2e852c4ad79491598dbbf9530e70006_va6lr_512Chinese leaders seem to have learned the wrong lessons from June Fourth. Suppressing speech is like clamping a lid on a pot of boiling water. As the heat grows, the chances of an explosion just grow with it. No doubt, the leaders worry that the more apt comparison is to the Arab Spring, and they are determined to avoid similar tumult. Not heeding – or even hearing — the demands and discontents of the people, however, seems like a losing strategy for a government. Certainly, plenty of Chinese dynastic leaders up to Empress Dowager Longyu, ousted in 1912, learned that the hard way.

Suppressing the history of June Fourth, barring free speech and banning even discussion of a free press, won’t keep Chinese people from learning about these things. Even keeping June Fourth off the Internet in China won’t do the trick. Do leaders really not think the 190,000 Chinese now studying in the U.S. won’t hear about it? What of those studying elsewhere, including in Hong Kong or other parts of Asia? Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of the tragic event. An even brighter spotlight will be shone on the massacre then. Facing up to that dark history in the coming year might be a far better approach than tightening the lid on that bubbling pot even more.