World renowned journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker Adam Gopnik spoke yesterday on his new book Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life at the Brookline Booksmith. Coming into the reading after the bookstore coordinator joked how Rush Limbaugh was the first speaker of the night, Gopnik switched up the program on the packed room. Instead of reading an excerpt from his book as he had planned (and most authors do at these events), he would summarize the entire book, chapter by chapter. The reasoning was the book itself "read well" but each excerpt as stand-alone beings did not give the full book justice. And when you are talking about two of the most influential and intriguing people of the 19th century, you want to do them justice.
Gopnik painted a very detailed and humanizing picture of what it was to be Darwin, or Lincoln, as a child. Their perspectives on life, religion, and death. He gave the audience a great taste for what the book represents and didn't wind up spoiling the book. Not that this is was a mystery novel; we all know how it ends for these men. What Gopnik did by summarizing the entire book was satiate the audience's desire to know how and why he wrote the book, give them a peek inside, and then leave them wanting more -- and that equals book sales. The Brookline Booksmith was selling Angels and Ages for 20 percent off the sale price last night (something they said they will continue to do for the next couple months) and said they sold 40 books after the reading.
DOWNLOAD: Adam Gopnik on Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life [mp3]
Listen to Gopnik's reading at the Brookline Booksmith.