Picador Turns 20!
With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates Picador's 20th anniversary--and its tremendous backlist and invigorated original publishing program.
With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates Picador's 20th anniversary--and its tremendous backlist and invigorated original publishing program.
Picador was founded in the U.K. in 1972, with the U.S. division opening its doors in 1995. Originally founded as both a literary hardcover imprint under St. Martin's Press and as a quality paperback reprint imprint for some of SMP's titles, it later added reprint titles from other Macmillan imprints Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Henry Holt and Company.
Twenty years later, the backlist now includes 1500-plus titles, with a yearly reprint output of around 100 paperbacks and with a stellar list of authors drawn from Picador's sister imprints, including: Paul Auster, Jeff Chang, Michael Cunningham, Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Atul Gawande, Elizabeth Kolbert, Ann Leary, Hilary Mantel, Marilynne Robinson, Robin Sloan, Olen Steinhauer, Hector Tobar and Adelle Waldman, among others.
Much has changed in Picador's publishing approach in the past two decades--for a time, the imprint stopped publishing hardcovers, but it has stayed true to its reprinting focus, and in the last two years it has returned to the second piece of its original mission: original publishing.
After current v-p and publisher Stephen Morrison joined Picador in 2012 from Penguin Books, "We decided to do more original publishing," he said. "We're two years into a full program, and it's proving to be a lot of fun. We're finding our original voice, and figuring out what we do well. By following our editorial noses, we've found exciting new voices, great storytellers and writers with provocative ideas, and we're working hard to introduce them with vigor and enthusiasm."
Picador publishes some 20-30 originals a year, mostly in hardcover. Given that so much "wonderful fiction" comes to Picador from its sister imprints, Picador is currently keeping its original fiction list small, choosing authors very carefully, while the majority of its originals are turning out to be nonfiction. Many of the titles are about topics "bubbling around in the culture," Morrison said. This makes publishing the books "particularly fun" for editorial, publicity and marketing. And like Picador's paperbacks, its original titles are resonating with independent bookstores.
Recent Picador original titles that have provoked conversation, bookseller support and multiple printings have delved into all sorts of topics: from the rise of South Korean "soft power" (The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture by Euny Hong ($16, 9781250045119)); to our fascination with all things Scandinavian (The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth ($26, 9781250061966)); to Nation columnist Katha Pollitt's provocative Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights ($16, 9781250072665); Meghan Daum's much discussed anthology Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids; and in the last few weeks, Damon Tweedy's Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine ($26, 9781250044631), which was both a BEA Buzz panel pick and an instant New York Times bestseller.
Picador's upcoming winter list includes these major hardcover releases:
The Yid by Paul Goldberg
The Yid by Paul Goldberg ($26, 9781250079039) comes out February 2, 2016. James Meader, executive director of publicity at Picador and also the book's editor, calls it "Inglorious Basterds crossed with Ocean's Eleven by way of the Coen Brothers."
It's February 1953 in Moscow, and elderly actor Solomon Shimonovich Levinson, once a member of the banned State Jewish Theater, is about to become a victim of Stalin's final pogrom. Levinson, a military veteran, manages to escape the three intruders who come to his apartment in the middle of the night. He assembles a disparate group: a former Red Army comrade turned surgeon, an African-American engineer, and an enigmatic woman, with one impossible goal--to save Russia's remaining Jews by assassinating Stalin. The Yid mixes lofty intellectual concepts with violence and humor, creating an alluring piece of tragicomic historical fiction.
The Yid is Paul Goldberg's debut novel; it came to Meader's attention through an indie bookseller connection. Meader commented: "The Yid does something we always look for in fiction but rarely find: it takes something we think we know and twists it a few degrees."
Born in Moscow in 1959, Goldberg emigrated to the United States as a 14-year-old. He is the editor of the Cancer Letter, which explores the business and politics of cancer every week. He has written two books about the Soviet human rights movement and co-authored a book about the American healthcare system called How We Do Harm.
100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le
100 Million Years of Food: What Our Ancestors Ate and Why It Matters Today by Stephen Le ($26, 9781250050410) is another major Picador release, coming February 2, 2016. 100 Million Years of Food explores the history of human diets, our evolution, modern eating habits and how all this information can be used to make the best food choices for our health.
Biological anthropologist (and current biology professor at the University of Ottawa) Stephen Le decided to investigate human diets when he noticed the discrepancy between his grandmother and mother's lifespans. His Vietnamese grandmother died at age 92; his Vietnamese-Canadian mother at 66. Le wondered if diseases prevalent in the First World, like heart disease and the cancer that killed his mother, could be explained by the foods we eat. He traveled to Vietnam, Kenya and India, among other places, to see how local diets and adaptations correspond to health.
Woven into his deep reporting and global explorations, Le presents concrete steps, based on his scientific findings, to achieve better health. Le expands on the Michael Pollan concept of eating foods only your grandmother would recognize. Anna deVries, the book's editor, said that the book should reach different readers, interested in "health, history, sociological studies, like the sweet spot [achieved by] Jared Diamond." That sweet spot is not coincidental: Le studied under Diamond at UCLA, who provides a glowing blurb for the book.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing ($26, 9781250039576) will be published on March 1, 2016. One of the first authors to be published in Picador's revived original program, Laing's The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking was an immediate hit with reviewers and booksellers, launching with the front cover of the New York Times Book Review. Laing's editor Morrison said, "Olivia's work is absolutely brilliant and this new book is deeply moving, fascinating and multilayered."
An expertly crafted work of reportage, memoir and biography told through the lives of iconic artists, Laing seeks answers to the questions of: What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we're not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? Moving fluidly between works and lives--from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, and from Henry Darger's hoarding to the depredations of the AIDS crisis--Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone, illuminating not only the causes of loneliness but also how it might be resisted and redeemed.
City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence
City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence ($26, 9781250067630) is the first of Picador's major titles coming next year, appearing on January 5, 2016. What Katherinee Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers did for the slums of Mumbai, India, City of Thorns does for a massive refugee camp in Kenya, near the border with Somalia.
Situated in the middle of Kenya's northern desert, the Dadaab refugee camp was founded in 1991 as a temporary camp for 30,000 people. Almost 25 years later, it is now home to 500,000-plus civilians and is Kenya's third most populous city, albeit it a seemingly temporary one. Rawlence spent four years in this desperate makeshift city, chronicling the stories of nine residents.
Rawlence is a British writer and former researcher for Human Rights Watch. He studied under Barack Obama at the University of Chicago, received a Soros Foundation scholarship and speaks Swahili. With the refugee crisis in Europe saturating the news media, City of Thorns is sure to draw major attention, and Rawlence will be touring in January under the auspices of Human Rights Watch, the Open Society Foundation and the U.S. State Department.
The Golden Condom: And Other Essays on Love Lost and Found by Jeanne Safer, Ph.D.
There is no subject more terrible, complicated or thrilling than love. Despite its universality, love remains a great mystery. Enter psychotherapist Jeanne Safer and her provocative and compelling collection of essays, The Golden Condom: And Other Essays on Love Lost and Found ($26, 9781250055750, April 5, 2016). In The Golden Condom, Safer interweaves her own experiences with those of her patients to explore the frustration, humiliation, sadness and happiness that accompanies love. Keenly sensitive and vulnerable, Safer follows in the tradition of Stephen Grosz's The Examined Life while maintaining her distinctive identity as a fearless, relatable and trustworthy guide. Readers will need to delve in to discover the reason for the title.
Safer, PhD, a psychotherapist in New York City, is the author of a number of books on taboo topics and has been on the Daily Show and Good Morning America as well as many NPR broadcasts. She was most recently a contributor to Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed (Picador, 2015).
Shelter by Jung Yun
Shelter by Jung Yun ($26, 9781250075611) promises to be a big release for Picador when it comes out March 1, 2016. The novel's editor, Elizabeth Bruce, noted that 100 people at Macmillan, including CEO John Sargent, have read the book. "Everyone has a different takeaway, some call it The House of Sand and Fog with Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) pacing. It leaves you hanging until the last chapter." Darin Keesler, Picador marketing director, agreed: "Shelter will appeal to people who like crime fiction as much as literary fiction."
In the book, professor Kyung Cho is a second-generation Korean-American with a mountain of debt and an underwater mortgage. He and his wife, Gillian, daughter of an Irish police chief, face a financial crisis. Meanwhile, in an affluent area across town, Kyung's parents, Jin and Mae, enjoy the wealthy lifestyle Kyung desires for his own family. Kyung's familial and financial problems collide when a violent act leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own. He takes them in, and in the process learns what it means to be a good husband, son and father.
Shelter weaves a bloody mystery with domestic drama into a layered portrait of race, class, money, marriage and more. Author Jung Yun explores what parents owe their children and vice versa. Yun was born in South Korea and raised in North Dakota. Her short stories have appeared in Tin House, The Best of Tin House: Stories edited by Dorothy Allison and the Massachusetts Review. This is her first novel.
Just two weeks ago, in a fortuitous event, the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Belarusian journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich, whose best-known title in the United States is Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, translated by Keith Gessen and published by Picador in 2006. "This stroke of good fortune is the type of good turn backlist and reprint publishers hope for everyday," said Morrison, "and the challenge is to build upon those lucky breaks and keep growing books and authors' audience over their long backlist paperback lives."
Other major reprints that have been drawing attention lately include:
Lila by Marilynne Robinson ($16, 9781250074843) is Robinson's latest award-winning novel and was first published in hardcover by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In Lila, Robinson returns to the town of Gilead, to revisit the beloved characters and settings of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Gilead and Home. Robinson's work continues to ripple outward, finding ever more fans. In recent weeks, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks chose Robinson's Gilead for the Wall Street Journal's Book Club, while a two-part series of conversations between Robinson and President Obama is appearing in the New York Review of Books.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert ($16, 9781250062185) explores the detrimental impacts of human activity and climate change on the environment. Published in hardcover by Henry Holt, the book won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction and began as a piece for the New Yorker, where Kolbert has worked as a staff writer since 1999. She is also the author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change and The Prophet of Love: And Other Tales of Power and Deceit.
Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates ($16, 9781250075550) is a psychological thriller about six Oxford University students whose game of dares escalates into tragedy. A series of rave reviews, including from NPR's All Things Considered, necessitated multiple printings to keep wholesalers and indies from running out of stock.
On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman ($16, 9781250065667) was originally published in hardcover last year by University of Chicago Press. It explores the devastating consequences of the country's tough-on-crime policies in a Philadelphia neighborhood. Sociologist/urban ethnographer Alice Goffman, daughter of influential sociologist Erving Goffman, spent six years among young black men caught in cycles of legal trouble, poverty and violence. Goffman has promoted her book on Fresh Air and in a TED talk. Recent public discussions on policing and poverty in the United States have helped make On the Run a success for Picador.
Picador's backlist continues to be especially popular at independent bookstores, where "a high percentage" of Picador's books are sold.
In 2015, Picador is also celebrating its 20th anniversary with the introduction of a new format for its Picador Modern Classics line, which was started in 2013.
The first Picador Modern Classics titles being published in November--The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse and Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson--will appear in a pocket-size format that resembles a Moleskine journal, a classics format used by some of the German imprints of Macmillan parent company von Holtzbrinck. "Indies are gung-ho" about the books," said Stephen Morrison, adding that the format fits what many book buyers seem to be wanting: a book that is not only a great read but also "a beautiful object and something to collect."
For now, Picador will do limited editions of the titles in the new format, but if they sell out, it's likely they will do more printings--and more titles will appear in the series. Marketing director Darin Keesler emphasized that the books have "a wonderful feel and are the perfect size to fit in your pocket or your bag so that you can read them anywhere."
Major upcoming Picador movie tie-ins are:
The 33: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar ($16, 9781250088949) comes out October 13, a month ahead of the film The 33, which opens November 13 in 2,000 theaters nationwide. The book (originally titled simply Deep Down Dark, also published by Picador) follows the 33 Chilean miners who spent 69 days trapped underground in 2010. The film's cast includes Antonio Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips and Juliette Binoche. Ann Patchett selected Deep Down Dark as the first pick for NPR's Morning Edition book club in 2014.
The Revenant by Michael Punke ($16, 9781250101198) inspired the upcoming film (January 8, 2016) directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose Birdman won four Oscars last year (including Best Picture). Leonardo DiCaprio stars as an 1820s frontiersman seeking revenge against the comrades who left him for dead after he was mauled by a bear. Carroll & Graf originally published the hardcover 12 years ago, and the book then fell out of print, with Picador first rereleasing it in hardcover early this year and now available in a trade paperback edition. The tie-in releases December 29, 2015 ($16, 9781250072689).
Dame Maggie Smith headlines The Lady in the Van, and is already generating Oscar buzz for her titular role in this adaptation of playwright Alan Bennett's much loved story of the woman who camped out in a van in his front driveway for years. This edition of the story--The Lady in the Van: And Other Stories by Alan Bennett, ($14, 9781250089724)--includes a number of other gems by Bennett as well as an introduction by the film's director Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George). The tie-in edition publishes on December 2, with a New York and Los Angeles release on December 4 and a nationwide rollout on January 15.
Picador will be reissuing Japanese master Shusaku Endo's classic novel Silence ($16, 9781250082244, January 5), which follows the story of three Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan during a time of Christian persecution. Twenty years in development, Martin Scorsese's film adaptation, starring Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield, opens in fall 2016. The first Picador edition comes with stunning wraparound original artwork by Yuko Shimizu and art directed by Picador creative director Henry Yee and with an introduction by Scorsese. A tie-in edition releases in Fall 2016. Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) was a Japanese Roman Catholic and a major figure in 20th-century Japanese literature. Endo's works have a cult following, author David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) among them.
|photo: Stephanie Craig|
On your nightstand now:
The beautiful Picador U.K. edition of Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, which was a gift from Ravi Mirchandani, my publisher in London. I only have 70 pages left, and I'm reading them slowly--sometimes only two or three pages at a time--because I don't want to let these people go. (And notice that I called them "people" instead of "characters." There really is a difference.)
Favorite book when you were a child:
The librarian at my primary school encouraged me to read Little Women when I was 10 or 11. As soon as she pulled the book off the shelf, I remember thinking it was huge and I'd never finish it, but I checked it out because I didn't want to disappoint her. You have to hand it to librarians--many of them just have this sixth sense about what people will like. I did my first all-nighter reading under the covers with a flashlight because I was so desperate to find out what happened to Laurie and Jo.
Your top five authors:
I think my answer changes every time someone asks me this question. Today, it's J.M. Coetzee, A.M. Homes, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chang-Rae Lee and Richard Yates.
Book you've faked reading:
Infinite Jest. I've tackled the first 50 or 60 pages or so, but I could never fully commit to the rest. My husband still gives me a lot of grief about this.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I don't think Matthew Salesses needs an evangelist for The Hundred Year Flood, but I can't and won't shut up about his book, which is just stunning. I tend to write and read very slowly, so when I inhale a novel in a few sittings as I did with this one, it's really something special.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I picked up Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbook, Plenty, because of the photograph of eggplants on the cover--four of them in a row, all perfectly roasted and covered with yogurt and herbs. I decided that any book that could make me want to cook eggplants was worth having in our kitchen.
Book that changed your life:
I could probably name at least one book for every decade of my life. In my 20s, it was The Peaceable Kingdom by Francine Prose. I was working at the New York Public Library back then, and Francine was in one of several writers in residence at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. We never spoke once while she was there, but I remember being completely fascinated by her whenever we crossed paths. It was so foreign to me, the idea that someone could make a living by writing beautiful books. I really loved the possibility of that.
Favorite line from a book:
The last line (well, last two lines) of William Styron's Sophie's Choice just destroy me every time: "This was not judgment day--only morning. Morning: excellent and fair."
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I thought the opening of Zadie Smith's White Teeth was electric. It made me feel like I was in such capable narrative hands, and I was about to experience something new as a reader. I'm always on the lookout for books that can make me sit up and take notice like that.
How happy are you that you finished?
The word "happy" doesn't quite do justice to how I feel these days. Publishing a debut novel, especially with the team from Picador, is an incredibly exciting experience. And it's also exciting to be able to work on something new for the first time in years. People often ask if I wish it was March 2016 (my publication date) already, and I always say "no." I have no desire to rush this stage or any other. I'm genuinely having a good time right now.
What are your writing habits?
I write in the morning, so I'm usually up between 4:30 and 5:00. I make a pot of coffee and do the New York Times mini-crossword to clear the cobwebs, and I'm usually at my desk by no later than 5:15. If I'm drafting, I try to write a minimum of 500 new words a day. (If I'm editing, I'm lucky to net 50 new words.) Usually, I have about three hours of writing time before I have to throw myself into the shower and get ready for work. I've been known to arrive at the office in January with dripping wet hair because I really wanted to get one last sentence down.