What are some upcoming trends?
Based on my submissions in the first half of 2017, I’d say we’re going to see a lot more political books, both books explicitly about Donald Trump and the election of 2016—indeed, those are already hitting the bestseller lists—but also ones about how we got here more broadly. I found it touching how many experts—historians, policy people, biographers—saw their work as crucial to understanding what they perceived to be a national crisis in governance. The rush of proposals did not feel opportunistic to me at all. It struck me that people felt moved by a genuine sense of mission.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’ve been heartened by the surge of books that illuminate long-neglected social issues, like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted and White Rage by Carol Anderson. These are books born of rigorous research, rigorous argument, and a heart in the right place. I recently signed Robert Kolker, whose Lost Girls floored me with its compassion, to write a book about a family devastated by six children with schizophrenia, whose genetics unlocked the understanding of the disease. Another favorite is what I think of as “a book the author was meant to write,” because his or her entire life, career, and passion have led up to it, like my recent The Evolution of Beauty by Yale ornithologist and MacArthur Fellow Richard Prum.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
Novel queries! I only acquire nonfiction and yet the fiction queries still come.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
I am at Doubleday, where we have a small, focused list and a culture of editorial excellence. It is a dream job for an editorial interventionist. Not every book needs that, but I love it when my relationship with the writer feels like a true partnership and I feel I’ve added value on the page.
What would you like to change about publishing?
I run the Fellowship Committee for the Women’s Media Group, a networking group for senior women in media. We partner with the Publishing Certificate Program at City College and The Columbia Publishing Course to provide fellowships and mentoring to young women of color to encourage their interest in working in publishing. A more colorful industry would be a stronger, more representative, wonderful thing.
Kristine Puopolo is a senior editor at Doubleday Books, an imprint at Penguin Random House. She has worked at either Penguin or Random House for most of her 25-year publishing career. Her list includes many journalists, historians, and experts, and she has edited three books that have gone on to win the Pulitzer Prize, most recently Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick.