What Was So Great About Catherine the Great?

Catherine the Great was by any definition a political success story.  Baptized Sophia Augusta Frederica, she rose from a young German girl to later take the name of Catherine II and become the most powerful woman in the world.  Moving to Russia at just fourteen years old, with no knowledge of the language and no hereditary claim to the throne, she later ascended to power in a coup.  The people of Russia loved her and she became one of the greatest benevolent despots ever known.

How she achieved such power is a fascinating study in leadership whether you agree with her methods or not.  Robert K. Massie now chronicles her extraordinary life in his new book, Catherine the Great.  Massie is a superlative author, historian and biographer.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for Peter the Great:  His Life and World.  His many books are loved for his ability to bring his characters to life.

What were some of the personal qualities serving Catherine’s goals?

Tom Perrotta Talks Leftovers (Not Last Night’s Meal)

Tom Perrotta has written seven novels: The Leftovers, The Abstinence Teacher, Little Children, Joe College, Election, The Wishbones, and Bad Haircut.  Both Little Children and Election were made into award-winning films.

Tom’s latest book, The Leftovers, has won numerous awards and mentions from almost every publication from Oprah’s O magazine to the New York Times.  The cover of the book was featured as one of the best book covers of 2011.

Maile Meloy — Literature’s Newest Apothecary

I first met Maile Meloy in the pages of her first novel for young readers, The Apothecary.  Aimed at middle-schoolers, it’s a wonderfully entertaining story set in the 1950s and full of magic, spies, nuclear disaster, science and suspense.  It’s also beautifully illustrated by Ian Schoenherr.

Though new to young readers, Maile is far from a new writer.  Her work includes short stories and novels:Liars and Saints, A Family Daughter, and Half in Love.  She also wrote Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, which the New York Times named one of the 10 Best Books of 2009.  Her family is creative, too.  For example, her brother, Colin, is the lead singer of the folk rock group the Decemberists.

If you’re looking for a book to interest a young reader, look no further.  The Apothecary is a perfect gift.  But, if you’re like me, you may want to sit down and read it first before you pass it on.

A Conversation With Neil Abramson

Friend and publisher Rolf Zetterson had breakfast with me a few months ago, and told me about a great new book called Unsaid by Neil Abramson. What a captivating story and beautifully written debut novel. It’s been a favorite pick of independent booksellers and received praise from many publications and authors. All of Neil’s biographical information is important when you read the book.  Neil is an attorney in Manhattan who is married to a veterinarian.  Not only does he own 29 animals, but he works on behalf of animals.  He has served as a board member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and was a founding member of the New York City Bar Association Committee on Legal Issues relating to Animals.

Notes on Creativity and Success from Diana Gabaldon

Diana Gabaldon is the bestselling author of the Outlander series and the Lord John novels. (Outlander fans, she is currently working on the eighth of the series Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. The latest Lord John novel was recently released.) She is a fascinating person with a diverse background.  I’ve known Diana for a few years and, when I visited Scottsdale, I interviewed her about her insights on her successful writing career. I quickly realized that some of her suggestions are applicable not just for authors, but also for all of us.  Here are a few success tips that I gleaned from Diana Gabaldon: