My Mistake (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

This book had me at the introduction and never let me down.  A delightful memoir of Menaker's years fact checking at The New Yorker and as an editor at Random House, this book could let you check off a lot of names on your gift giving list.  Honest, self-effacing and humorous-a great read!

— From My Mistake

December 2013 Indie Next List

“Being a longtime reader of the New Yorker, I found Menaker's behind-the-scenes account of his career there absolutely riveting. The literary life is gutted and splayed for all to see. Menaker's professional story is interspersed with his personal life, and both fed his writing career. His years at Random House and HarperCollins are also included, with fascinating details about contemporary authors and how a book is created. This is a must-read for booksellers and serious readers.”
— Ellen Jarrett, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA


A wry, witty, often tender memoir by a former New Yorker editor, magazine writer, and book publisher who offers great tales of a life in words

Daniel Menaker started as a fact checker at The New Yorker in 1969. With luck, hard work, and the support of William Maxwell, he was eventually promoted to editor. Never beloved by William Shawn, he was advised early on to find a position elsewhere; he stayed for another twenty-four years.

Now Menaker brings us a new view of life in that wonderfully strange place and beyond, throughout his more than forty years working to celebrate language and good writing.

He tells us his own story, too—with irrepressible style and honesty—of a life spent persevering through often difficult, nearly always difficult-to-read, situations. Haunted by a self-doubt sharpened by his role in his brother’s unexpected death, he offers wry, hilarious observations on publishing, child-rearing, parent-losing, and the writing life. But as time goes by, we witness something far beyond the incidental: a moving, thoughtful meditation on years well lived, well read, and well spent. Full of mistakes, perhaps. But full of effort, full of accomplishment, full of life.

About the Author

DANIEL MENAKER began his career as a fact checker at The New Yorker, where he became an editor and worked for twenty-six years. A former book editor, Menaker is the author of six books; he has written for the New York Times, the AtlanticParents, Redbook, and many others.

Praise For…

“In this insightful memoir, Menaker leads his readers down the hallowed halls of The New Yorker... But the book isn’t all business. Menaker also delves into the ups and downs of his personal life, from summers at his uncle’s camp, to the death of his mother. Tender, smart and witty, this book is truly unputdownable.”  -- Real Simple

"A ruefully funny insider’s tour of the publishing world.” --

"[Menaker] contemplates the origins, happenstance, and consequences of his devotion to literature in a warm, humorous, on-point memoir. Amiably self-deprecating, Menaker is a deft sketch artist, vividly portraying loved ones (especially his older brother, who goaded him to excel and whose early death is the source of depthless sorrow) and colleagues (his portraits of New Yorker staff are hilarious, barbed, and tender). His insider view of publishing is eye-opening and entertaining." -- Booklist

"[Menaker] writes here of his hectic childhood with well-preserved romanticism. The result is charming. [He] is at his best when irreverent: chuckling at aptronyms (people aptly named), or deflating New Yorker legends (William Shawn and Tina Brown, most notably). Still, in this book of years, gossip is secondary to the writer’s own musings and memories. Menaker leaves the reader with a sense of the vast triumph that is a life well lived." —Publishers Weekly

"A well-known editor’s funny and thoughtful memoir of wrong turns, both in and out of publishing. . . Menaker doesn’t just recount experiences; he digs away at them with wit and astute reflection, looking for the pattern of a life that defies easy profit-and-loss lessons."
Kirkus, starred review

"Menaker examines a life lived well if not perfectly. He’s bold enough to explore his years at The New Yorker, where he stayed for 26 years despite discouragement from William Shawn, and the perpetual self-doubt that has dogged him, particularly owing to his role in his brother’s inadvertent death. Certainly of interest to memoir fans and literati."
Library Journal

"How can something written so accurately be so witty? Don't you have to cheat a bit to wring the humor out of life? Daniel Menaker has constructed a compelling tale that irises down to a powerful and emotional climax and is delivered in exacting prose woven into affecting poetry."
—Steve Martin

"My Mistake is only sometimes rueful. It is also frequently funny and splendidly precise as it takes a look back at a life led in the world of magazine editing and book publishing, a behind-the-scenes rumination of a time gone by. Intriguing now, it will be necessary later; readers will be thankful for this quirky and delightful piece of history."
—Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author of Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys

"Daniel Menaker's distinctive journey through his own memories is impossible to resist—and not just for those of us with an appetite for literary anecdote. My Mistake is also the story of literary New York, with keen, vivid impressions from Menaker's Forties childhood, Cold War coming-of-age, and long career at the epicenter of the publishing industry during the onslaught of the Digital Age."
—Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

"I can't remember when I've read a memoir this—let's say 'soulful.' Funny, sad, and wryly self-aware, Menaker shines a bright light on his own background, our literary life, and his own path through it."
—James Gleick, author of The Information

"My Mistake brings to mind the poetic prose of James Agee. Menaker's stories of life as fiction editor at The New Yorker and Random House are a delight, the way he tells them simply perfect. Humorous, thoughtful, heartbreaking and brave. I have not enjoyed a memoir more."
—Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of Please Excuse My Daughter

"Menaker has spent a life with words as an editor at the New Yorker and Random House. Now he takes us behind the scenes with William Shawn (who didn’t like him), Tina Brown (who gets her husband, Harry Evans, to hire him so she can get rid of him) and a parade of writers." -- Bloomberg

"A charming and revealing insider's look at the world of the New Yorker and big-time book publishing." -- Shelf Awareness

"A wild ride that will provide insider glimpses of the New York publishing world from 1969 onward, with the author serving as one of the scene’s principal participants and sharpest observers...Not easy to pigeonhole, this is an amalgam of autobiography and cultural history at its best." - Bookpage

 "My Mistake is a memoir of editor Daniel Menaker's life and long career, including 26 years at The New Yorker, which he calls a "brilliant crazy house." Set in the world of literary New York, it is undeniably insider-y and gossipy. (The stories about Tina Brown are not to be missed.) But the human experiences he describes — especially the hard stuff, like family, illness and death — will be familiar to anyone." --

Product Details
ISBN: 9780547794235
ISBN-10: 0547794231
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: November 19th, 2013
Pages: 256
Language: English