One Book Enthusiast’s Industry Must-Reads

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Are you new to the publishing world? Trying to get your foot in the door? Maybe you’re fully immersed in the illustrious world of publishing books, but want to know more, more, more. Or perhaps all your friends work in the biz and you’re sick of hearing words like “stet,” “on press,” “the big six,” and “Peeta”* and not having a clue what anyone’s really saying.
Fear not, dear readers, for I’ve compiled—with the help of crowdsourcing on Twitter, of course—a list of publishing must-reads. May you never again find yourself wondering why people keep talking about wild things running around the Plaza wearing a Kleenex box as a hat with purple crayons in hand. I mean, what?

Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, by Boris Kachka – The title may be a mouthful, but the book is a quick read, filled with juicy tidbits, important history, and new perspectives on renowned authors, like T.S. Eliot and Jonathan Franzen, and the entire industry. You might think you know…but you have no idea. Luckily, Kachka lets us all in on the secret thanks to five years of research and 200+ interviews.

Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus – Nordstrom created and ran Harper’s Department of Books for Boys and Girls, and she is nothing less than a legend. This collection of letters to her authors and illustrators, whom she often called “geniuses,” displays her own genius (and wit) on every page. Nordstrom worked with greats such as Maurice Sendak, Ruth Strauss, E.B. White, Shel Silverstein, and more, and Dear Genius is a must-read for anyone, particularly those interested in children’s publishing.

Another Life: A Memoir of Other People by Michael Korda – Korda’s memoir combines the allure of Hollywood with the who’s who of publishing, and the result is a page-turner of a story that just happens to be true. When he chose a career in publishing over following his father’s footsteps in Hollywood, Korda set his life on a different path, and yet he still found—and reveals here—the kind of glitz and glamour that lives between the pages of a book.

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe – Jaffe’s novel holds the honor of being the only fiction on this list. A revolutionary tale when it was first published in 1958, Jaffe’s story still hits close to home today, especially if you’re a woman trying to make it in New York–in publishing or otherwise. Book publishing may be a female-dominated field now, but it wasn’t always this way—and that’s important to remember.

From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books by Kathleen T. Horning – Written by one of the respected librarians in the children’s book world, From Cover to Cover is the ultimate guide to understanding children’s literature on both a micro and macro level. You may think the skill of reviewing children’s book is only necessary if you’re, you know, a professional reviewer, but it’s actually applicable to nearly every job in The Industry.

Stet: An Editor’s Life by Diana Anthill – Diana Anthill’s memoir of the publishing industry in postwar London was called “wryly humorous” by the New York Times Book Review and the Sunday Telegraph noted that, “all would-be authors and editors should have a copy.” While at Andre Deutsch Ltd., Anthill edited Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, and many more—and if that’s not enough to convince you, perhaps the exotic setting will do it. London + books? Sign me up.

How A Book is Made, written and illustrated by Aliki – After all that heavy reading, you might need something light to finish out your publishing education. What’s more up to the task than Aliki’s picture book tutorial on the book-making process? While a few things have changed, technology-wise, since Aliki wrote this adorable book, the basics are all there. And who knew publishing was secretly run by human-like cats?

Of course, there are a ton of great books out there about publishing, so I bet you’re shaking your head at the computer right now because I missed one (or a few). This list is really just a jumping off point, so send in your suggestions to @youngtopub and using the hashtag #pubmustread. We’re all ears—and personally, I can’t wait to add your suggestions to my “to read” pile, which is threatening to take over my apartment as I type!

*I feel it’s my duty to tell you that you may actually be living under a rock if you don’t know that “Peeta” does not refer to a delicious pocket of bread.

Jess MacLeish is an Associate Editor of children’s books at HarperCollins, an all-around word person, and a big believer in karma. Call her, beep her, tweet her: @jessmacleish.

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