What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
I wish I knew! Publishing is such a whimsical beast, and the industry is in a state of flux. That said, I think Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has made such a big splash that a fair number of economists will try to capture some of that readership by writing similarly elaborate, theoretical books. I also think that the pullout of Afghanistan and pivot to Asia is going to really focus public attention on the aftermath of our behavior in one geographic arena and our elevated presence/emphasis on another.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Well, I’m a little AC/DC when it comes to books I’d like to acquire. On the one hand, I love books about the behavioral and social sciences—psychology, anthropology, sociology, behavioral economics, etc. On the other hand, the desire to work with writers like Diana Athill, Rebecca Solnit, Sheila Heti or Caroline Knapp—feminist, intensely personal and brilliantly able to make their experiences a lens onto a common, uniquely female struggle—is what drove me into publishing. But I guess the common theme to both of these is parsing human behavior, with one set of books using the scientific method and the other using personal experience as their data sets. And an exploration of what makes people tick is the first function of a really good book, whether it’s Bleak House or The Black Swan.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I wouldn’t go so far as to say “never again,” but at this point, books on neuroscience feel extremely familiar. And although it is a fascinating science, the fact that many of the books already out there are excellent only makes it harder for a new one to distinguish itself. Also, this kind of heavy emphasis on neuroscience has the side effect of promoting a slightly reductive view that one particular organ is the key to understanding all of humanity. Maybe it’s time to let books on the appendix or the thumb take center stage.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Working for one of the Big Five publishing houses is definitely a privilege—I still get a kind of rush when I realize that I work where so many great books have been, and continue to be, made. More specifically, working with a lot of nonfiction is thrilling because many experts—giants who are at the forefronts of their respective fields—want to write books. As a result, I get to read cutting-edge ideas, theories and presentations of research straight from the horse’s mouth. It’s the best education imaginable.
Mika Kasuga is an assistant editor at Random House. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a dual major in English and government after dabbling in psychology, international relations and—very briefly—philosophy.