Speaking Freely

My Life in Publishing and Human Rights

A delightful memoir from the man the New York Times called “among the most powerful men in the book industry” and the New Republic called “a clear-sighted and even heroic founder of the Human Rights movement”

“Bob Bernstein has engaged life; evil does not awe or paralyze him; civic life is enhanced by his presence in it.” —Toni Morrison

What do William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Andrei Sakharov, James Michener, and Dr. Seuss have in common? They were all published by Bob Bernstein during his twenty-five-year run as president of Random House, before he brought the dissidents Liu Binyan, Jacobo Timerman, Natan Sharansky, and Václav Havel to worldwide attention in his role as the father of modern human rights.

In a charming and self-effacing work, Bernstein reflects for the first time on his fairy tale publishing career, hobnobbing with Truman Capote and E.L. Doctorow; conspiring with Kay Thompson on the Eloise series; attending a rally for Random House author George McGovern with film star Claudette Colbert; and working with publishing luminaries including Dick Simon, Alfred Knopf, Robert Gottlieb, André Schiffrin, Peter Osnos, Susan Petersen Kennedy, and Jason Epstein as Bernstein grew Random House from a $40 million company to an $800 million–plus company. In a book sure to be savored by anyone who has worked in the publishing industry, fought for human rights, or wondered how Theodor Geisel became Dr. Seuss, Speaking Freely beautifully captures a bygone era in the book industry and the first crucial years of a worldwide movement to protect free speech and challenge tyranny around the globe.

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Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus calls Speaking Freely "a well-written book for lovers of book publishing and supporters of human rights" in their review

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