Monday, April 29, 2013

My FYE Pick: Patti Smith's JUST KIDS

Just Kids By Patti SmithI receive daily desk copy requests for Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids for smaller classes, but I think it would actually be a wonderful choice for a first-year common read in colleges (especially those in New York). This is Patti Smith’s account of the epochal days of New York City and the Chelsea Hotel in the late sixties and seventies. But mostly, it is a tribute to her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe—two kids who promised to take care of each other—through their evolution as artists in a new city. I just finished the National Book Award winner and have been recommending it to everyone I know. It’s the best thing I’ve read in a very long time.

While Just Kids might seem like an out-of-the-box choice for Common Read programs, I think it would be really wonderful because it is an inspirational ode to creativity in all its forms, and a fascinating coming-of-age story regardless of students’ acquaintance with the era (though, Smith interacts with Jimi Hendrix, Allen Ginsburg, Andy Warhol, and Sam Shepard along the way, so I’d be surprised if there was no student familiarity). I wish I had been given something like this to read in any college course, and I know that it will spark the imaginations of many college students, who will find a dreamy compatriot in Smith.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Popular Course Adoption: Stephen Prothero's GOD IS NOT ONE

God Is Not One By Stephen ProtheroWhen HarperCollins hired me in October, I suddenly became very aware of the logos of HarperCollins imprints in stores, in libraries, and especially at home. And it quickly became obvious that of the religious books I took from college to my apartment in the city, the overwhelming majority were published by HarperCollins. Our religion catalog is really amazing in its depth and scope, featuring titles that are among our most adopted across all genres.

Today I received a desk copy request for one of our most popular (and controversial) religious books that I'd like to share: God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World by Stephen Prothero for a class on the history of the world’s religions.

I’ve often heard, in efforts to minimize the differences and conflicts between the world’s major religions, that they all have the same origin—some early belief in transcendent unity—and so, they are all just different paths to the same God. Well, in Stephen Prothero’s view, this is minimizing and flat out wrong. In God is Not One, he contends that each of the world’s great religions is trying to solve a very different human problem, casting them inherently at odds:
Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening
Judaism: the problem is exile / the solution is to return to God
His arguments make this text a necessary foil to the Traditionalist School of religious thinking, popularized by scholars like Huston Smith and Karen Armstrong.

Please check out our religion catalog here if you would like to see more great books by HarperCollins authors.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Course Adoption for SNAKES IN SUITS

Snakes in Suits By Dr. Paul Babiak, Dr. Robert D. HareIt's rare when a book becomes more relevant after its publication date, but that seems to be the case with  Dr. Paul Babiak and Dr. Robert D. Hare' Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work, which just got adopted into a psychology of criminal behavior course.  

This book was published in early 2007—just before the Global Financial Crisis and worldwide recession. In the months after the crash in 2008, I remember hearing a lot of people flippantly compare Wall Street big-wigs to sociopaths or psychopaths. But in Snakes and Suits, we learn that these comparisons may not be as outrageous as we originally thought.

When most people think “psychopath,” images of Hannibal Lecter or some other mass murderer come to mind. But Dr. Babiak and Dr. Hare share that many psychopaths just want money or power or fame. And to achieve that, they often head to the corporate world. The authors reveal the ways that psychopaths use greed culture to their advantage, and often emerge as rising corporate stars because of their willingness to take big risks and their instinctual skills of manipulation. Learning the warning signs of such behavior will not only allow your students to put the recent economic crisis and some of its key players in perspective, but also protect themselves in their future career endeavors.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Check out HarperAcademic on Tumblr

On Truth and Untruth By Friedrich NietzscheDon't forget to follow our Tumblr page (, where I recount the best desk copy requests of the day and regale everyone with the more depressing thoughts of dead philosophers to kickstart the weekend.

Disclaimer: That was today. The dead philosopher was famous human-enthusiast and "lovable grump", Nietzsche. Enter at your own risk.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Does Jesus Really Love Me? By Jeff ChuA wonderful review of Jeff Chu's Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review this Sunday, written by Dan Savage.

Jeff Chu, a gay man who was raised a Baptist, has always grappled with one question: Does Jesus really love me, sexuality and all? He set out across America, consulting everyone from the ultra-conservative, vehemently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church to uber-liberal Episcopal bishop Mary Glasspool, proclaimer of divine love and liberation. His journey exposes the infinitely divided and increasingly combative branches of Christian America, a faith and a nation at odds.

Chu’s insightful book is essential for any classroom debate on contemporary religion and politics. In his review, Savage raves, “Chu has written a fascinating, thoughtful and important book. He captures the fractures and conflict at a moment when the issue of what to do with L.G.B.T. people is tearing Christian denominations apart. Does Jesus Really Love Me? deserves to be widely read.”

To read the full review, please click here.

Gilbert King's DEVIL IN THE GROVE Wins Pulitzer Prize!

A gripping true story about murder, rape, racism, and the law, Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove follows one of America’s most heated court cases, and paints a rare, unparalleled portrait of Thurgood Marshall, arguably the greatest American lawyer of 20th century. Just as he was about to bring the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education to the Supreme Court, Marshall risked his life to save a young black man slated for the electric chair—exonerating him, against all odds, from dying for a crime he did not commit.  

Click here if you would like to read more about this amazing book.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hurston's DUST TRACKS ON A ROAD in E-Reader Ad

You may not be able to tell based on my stellar photography skills (it's the phone's fault, I swear!), but this is a picture of a e-reader advertisement I saw in the subway yesterday, featuring mostly new titles, along with Dust Tracks on a Road, Zora Neale Hurston's wonderful autobiography. As you may have noticed, we've been crafting course suggestions for all of Hurston's books for the past few months, and her revealing memoir is one of our favorites, so it was very exciting for me to see this ad. If you would like to check out our course suggestions for this title, please click here!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's THIS CHILD WILL BE GREAT

This Child Will Be Great By Ellen Johnson SirleafI just received a desk copy request for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President to be used in a course on “Black Women History and Cultures.”

In January 2006, after the Republic of Liberia had been racked by fourteen years of brutal civil conflict, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—Africa's "Iron Lady"—was sworn in as president, an event that marked a tremendous turning point in the history of the West African nation. This is her personal memoir, a story that leads from her childhood to her amazing rise to power, an  inspirational tale that encourages women everywhere to shatter the proverbial glass ceiling, and pursue the highest leadership roles previously deemed unattainable.  

It comes as a surprise to me that this book doesn’t get adopted more often. As a sophomore in college, I watched Pray the Devil Back to Hell, the award-winning documentary about the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace movement, which led to the end of the Liberian Civil War, and the eventual election of Sirleaf as Africa’s first woman president. Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee (the movement’s organizer) won Nobel Peace prizes for their work, which started as a Muslim-Christian female prayer coalition, and expanded to other non-violent protests (including a sex strike). Sirleaf’s life story is truly as remarkable as the title suggests, overcoming abuse, imprisonment, and exile to become a powerful political advocate for social justice and peace. Click here if you’d like to read more about her journey in her own words.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

WENCH as Composition Common Read

Wench By Dolen Perkins-ValdezWe just received happy news from Francis Marion University: Dolen Perkins-Valdez's Wench has been chosen as the common read in fourteen composition classes. Congratulations, Dolen!

Wench is a wholly original novel based on a little known historical fact. Lizzie, Reenie and Sweet have forged a strong friendship over their summers spent to Tawawa House–the pre-Civil War Ohio resort where southern White men go to take their enslaved black mistresses when the South becomes unbearably hot. But when the self-assured Mawu shows up, speaking of freedom and escape, Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet must confront what it would mean to leave their loved ones behind, and break the psychological and emotional bonds that tie them to their masters—whom they love in spite of unspeakable brutality. With an unflinching eye, Wench explores the moral complexities of slavery as the four women witness the end of this dark era of American history.

A number of people who came to our booth at the First-Year Experience conference told us that Wench had been recommended to them based on the strength of Perkins-Valdez’s writing and her ability to bring this overlooked area of history to light. It offers so much material for classroom discussion, and we’re very happy that schools are starting to take notice.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Serving Victoria By Kate HubbardA self-professed anglophile, I was very excited to see Kate Hubbard’s Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household in Diane’s inbox. And I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you may be interested as well, because it bears some resemblance to a little show called Downton Abbey, and its predecessor, Upstairs Downstairs. Though set during the notoriously conservative 63-year reign of Queen Victoria (and, admittedly, there were no Turkish gents dying in the bed of Princess Beatrice), Hubbard’s book serves to shatter a number of our misconceptions about the Queen and her household.

Drawing on many previously unpublished letters and diaries, Hubbard follows six members of Victoria’s inner household circle, ranging from her maid of honor to her personal physician, throughout her reign. The result is a more vulnerable portrait of the Queen history has painted as austere. Here is a woman prone to giggling fits, selfishness, behavior that ran from controlling to comical to kind. Through her staff’s eyes, we witness the debilitating heartbreak of her husband’s death, and the sympathy she showed to others during their own tragedies.

Serving Victoria offers a fresh view of a monarch we thought we knew, and illuminates what it truly meant to serve the Queen. It will be on sale April 30. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Common Read Adoption for Sophia Al-Maria's THE GIRL WHO FELL TO EARTH

The Girl Who Fell to Earth By Sophia Al-MariaWe just got word of an exciting Common Read adoption: Northwestern University has chosen Sophia Al-Maria’s The Girl Who Fell to Earth for their 2013 "One Book" program, making it required reading for all students and faculty next year—on both their Evanston and Qatar campuses. Congratulations, Sophia!
Award-winning filmmaker and writer Sophia Al-Maria’s The Girl Who Fell to Earth is a funny and wry coming-of-age memoir about growing up in between American and Gulf Arab cultures. With poignancy and humor, Al-Maria shares the struggles of being raised by an American mother and Bedouin father while shuttling between homes in the Pacific Northwest and the Middle East. Part family saga and part personal quest, The Girl Who Fell to Earth traces Al-Maria’s journey to make a place for herself in two different worlds.
Sophia’s book has been on our minds a lot lately, as it received a lot of positive attention at the Conference on College Composition and Communication that Diane attended in Las Vegas. While her life growing up may have been unusual, Al-Maria’s story is marked by subtlety and relatability, and insightfully examines cultural differences without delving into the dramatic.
You can browse inside her book here