12 September 2014

Imprint Friday: Twelve

Have you heard of Hachette Book Group's unique imprint Twelve? The amazing range of books and the singularity of the imprint's philosophy put Twelve on my favorite imprint list. Twelve was founded in 2005 with the idea of publishing a single, significant book each month. As the publisher explains, their goal is to offer:

Works that explain our culture; that illuminate, inspire, provoke, and entertain. We seek to establish communities of conversation surrounding our books. Talented authors deserve attention not only from publishers, but from readers as well. To sell the book is only the beginning of our mission. To build avid audiences of readers who are enriched by these works – that is our ultimate purpose.
I love the concept of finding twelve books that deserve individual attention and that belong on everyone's reading list. The books I'm featuring today (from the 2014 list) meet and exceed the imprint's desire to publish books that will make you think and that will prompt wide discussion. I haven't finished reading all of these titles yet, so look for full reviews in the coming weeks.

The Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPhersonThe Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPherson introduces us to two woman who were brazen enough to stand up for what they believed in. Women didn't have many choices in the late 19th century, but sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin were not easily subdued. Among their many claims to fame, singularly and together, were being the first women to open a brokerage firm, the first woman to run for president, and the first women to publish a right-wing weekly. They were, in fact, considered too radical and scandalous for the U.S. women's movement, so the sisters eventually moved to the UK, where they continued their fight for equality. Author MacPherson is no stranger to gender inequalities or to the repercussions of being a strong, smart, opinionated woman in a man's world. Well-researched and based on firsthand accounts and historical documents, The Scarlet Sisters is as easy to read as a novel but will have you proudly waving your feminist flag.

Living with a Wild God by Barbara EhrenreichI love the subtitle of Barbara Ehrenreich's Living with a Wild God: "A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything." How does a mature scientist turned objective journalist reconcile her view of the world with a long-repressed spiritual moment experienced by her teenage self? In this frank and thought-provoking memoir, Ehrenreich looks back on her family's difficulties, her lifelong search for the answers to the big questions (What does it all mean?), and her solid atheist beliefs, all colored by a singular mystical moment early on a California morning. Balancing her personal visions with her scientific background, Ehrenreich struggles to find explanations. Her insistence on entering the blurry space between the religious and secular spheres gives her coming-of-age journey an individual slant. In the end, readers will wonder where their own beliefs fall in Ehrenreich's world and whether the author found the peace she was seeking. I bet this would make a great book club selection.

The End of Always by Randi DavenportRandi Davenport's novel The End of Always explores tough issues, particularly domestic violence in a Midwest family at the turn of the last century. All young Marie Reehs wants is to escape the fate of her mother and grandmother and leave the fear, cruelty, and beatings behind her. Between the unwanted attentions of an older man and her sister's equally strong desire to maintain the status quo, Marie finds it difficult to sustain hope. When she meets the charming August, she is sure she has found her happy future at last. But like her foremothers, she may have misjudged the man and the brand of love he was able to give. Although fiction, The End of Always is based on the true-life story of the author's great-grandmother and the very real threat of violence women felt then and still feel today. The juxtaposition of the beautiful prose with the ugliness of Marie's situation makes this an engaging read. The fact that the events and people are, for the most part, true will make you cringe. Are women really any safer today than they were then?

What Is Visible by Kimberly ElkinsHave you ever heard of Laura Bridgman? She was once one of the most famous women in the world. What were her accomplishments? She caught scarlet fever at the age of two, which left her deaf and blind. Five years later, she enrolled in the Perkins Institute and became the first deaf, blind person to learn language--decades before Helen Keller entered the spotlight and history to create an enduring legacy. What Is Visible by Kimberly Elkins gives Bridgman her well-deserved due. The novel opens with a meeting between a very young Helen Keller and an elderly Bridgman. Keller wants to know everything about the older woman, who begins to tap out her tale. I am fascinated with Bridgman's journey to learn to communicate and the circumstances of her rise to fame. Thanks to Elkins's thorough research and deep empathy, the world will once again remember the woman who found a way to preserve her humanity and dignity by learning to spell her thoughts onto the palms of others.

Shadows in the Vineyard by Maximillian PotterTrue crime meets wine connoisseur in Maximillian Potter's Shadows in the Vineyard. Who knew that the wine industry could lead to poisoning, suicide, and a full-blown criminal investigation? When the proprietor of the Domaine de al Romanee-Conti vineyard, origin of the most expensive and most coveted wines in the world, received a note demanding that he pay €1 million or the vines would be destroyed, he regretfully failed to take immediate action. Sticking to the facts of the case, Potter weaves a tale that is as well-paced and gripping as any thriller novel. From the history of the famous wine to the details of the French detectives' operations and from the major players to the local traditions and culture, Potter draws us into the drama, building the tension up to and through the perpetrator's confession. The book started out as an article for Vanity Fair, but after interviews, tours, wine tastings, and newfound friendships, Potter knew there was much more to say. Wine lovers and teetotalers alike will love Shadows in the Vineyard.

Glass Jaw by Eric DezenhallEvery day the news is filled with some kind of scandal: from sports (the latest is the Ray Rice) to politics (most famously Nixon) to business (remember Enron). In Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal, Eric Dezenhall talks about how events spin out of control and offers sage advice on what to do when you find yourself embroiled in controversy. You don't have to be among the rich and famous to benefit from his lessons: We can all use some tips on how to avoid stabbing ourselves in the foot, how to think before tweeting, and how to offer a sincere public apology. I'm particularly interested in how social media can be used (or maybe should not be used) to calm the waters, what makes a scandal, and what roles the entertainment industry and twenty-four-hour news channels play in augmenting every little mistake. Dezenhall uses familiar events, from many sectors to illustrate the do's and don'ts of surviving the media heat. The discussion is broken down into easy-to-digest, short sections, and each chapter ends with a succinct takeaway thought. Important reading for everyone who has an on-line presence.

I hope you have found at least a couple of books to add to your wish list. There is so much good reading here, you might want to consider marking your calendar so you never miss the monthly offering from Twelve.

To learn more about the Twelve imprint and to see the complete list of books they've published, visit their website. You can also follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook page, and check out their YouTube channel (be sure to watch the What Is Visible video).


bermudaonion 9/12/14, 7:58 AM  

I love Twelve Books and need to get my hands on Shadows in the Vineyard!

(Diane) bookchickdi 9/12/14, 8:25 AM  

I have not read many books from Twelve, but your list here has me wondering what I am missing. I will be looking for some of these, they all look wonderful.

Heather 9/12/14, 9:15 AM  

The Scarlet Sisters and Shadows in the Vineyard sound absolutely amazing!!! What is Visible does as well. Wow, Twelve is shaping up to be a fantastic imprint! Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

JoAnn 9/12/14, 9:18 AM  

Several more books for my wish list here... thanks!

Beth Hoffman 9/12/14, 10:13 AM  

I'm really drawn to Barbara Ehrenreich's book! It's going on my list.

Daryl 9/12/14, 10:35 AM  

interesting … thanks!!!!

Vasilly 9/12/14, 10:54 AM  

I'm putting The End of Always on my tbr list. It sounds like a very thoughtful read. Nice spotlight!

Anonymous,  9/12/14, 4:32 PM  

I LOVE Twelve. I will buy books just because they were published by this imprint! I haven't actually read any of these.

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