Publisher's Perspective: Metropolitan's Sara Bershtel on Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei's New Memoir

Since January 25, all eyes have been on Egypt as citizens take to the streets to demand a new government. Hence, all eyes have been on Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, three-term director general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), emerging force in the protests, and possible presidential candidate. Coincidentally, ElBaradei’s The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times, a memoir focusing on his work with the IAEA, was scheduled for release this June from Henry Holt’s Metropolitan Books imprint. Publication has since been moved up to April. To see what The Age of Deception can tell us about ElBaradei and ongoing events in the Middle East, Prepub talked with Sara Bershtel, publisher of Metropolitan Books.

Tell us briefly about Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei’s forthcoming book and why you chose to sign it up.
It is about his 25 years in the center of the most explosive international conflicts and negotiations, from Iraq to North Korea to Iran. He has a unique vantage point on the world and has demonstrated again and again an extraordinary ability to maintain independence of mind under conditions of great pressure, just the qualities we’ve seen him display in Egypt today.
We signed this book up because it gives remarkable insight into what was going on behind the scenes during major world crises. Also, because he was an international diplomat, ElBaradei had never been able to speak out and so we’ve only had glimpses of him and his thinking in newspaper reports here and there.

What can this memoir tell us about the author as a leader, as he could have a significant role in the next Egyptian government and will certainly remain prominent in current protests?
ElBaradei is a person of great principles and independence who believes in diplomacy and the necessity of engagement. He is committed to the resolution of conflict through peaceful means, has a great capacity to consider broad ramifications of policy and decisions, and has unparalleled knowledge of international issues.

In the library world, we’ve noticed a sea change in the attitude of American readers toward books on politics/current events, which are now among the biggest circulators in nonfiction. Do you sense that your audience is more informed and interested, and does that affect what you choose to sign?
This has been one of our primary publishing areas since our founding. So our decisions haven’t changed‚ we’re encouraged to continue doing what we’ve always done.

Finally, we’re seeing so many books on the Middle East now that we could use some guidance. Any advice on judging the quality of the books coming out and which we should be reading?
Books from people with deep knowledge, experience, and a stake in the region‚ it helps if they speak the language.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.