The book that got me off the bad news train

It seems like every magazine and newspaper I pick up these days has an article delivering what I find to be depressing news on the fate of books. Here’s the recent lot:

"The Time of Their Lives" by Al SilvermanFor a book lover, it’s a bit like watching crime & murder TV news day after day.  Eventually you punch the remote to a sitcom or the nature channel for relief. 

In this scenario, I reached for The Time of Their Lives by Al Silverman on My Reading Table. It revisits the golden age of book publishing from1946 to the early 1980s, “when books were most beloved by a reading public” and before “the great old-line book people began to be replaced by bottom-line businessmen.” 

Stories about authors are the book’s behind-the-scenes, entertaining gems, such as the one about “Jerry” Salinger approaching Harcourt with The Catcher in the Rye. Harcourt had a textbook division, and  the “crazy” prep school protagonist, Holden Caulfield, was inappropriate for their publishing house. And so it was rejected. 

And then there’s the story about James Herriot’s books first published in England: If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet.  St. Martin’s Press combined the American version into one memoir about the Yorkshire veterinarian. It became the best-selling  All Creatures Great and Small. That title is thanks to a British man in St. Martin’s marketing department. Americans in editorial wanted to call the book Cow in the Waiting Room.