“I cannot live without books,” writes Perry Pidgeon Hooks at the end of each email she sends. The quote comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams on June 10, 1815.
“Jefferson’s remark says it all,” insists the CEO and co-founder of the popular book events firm, Hooks Book Events. She found the citation when she and her business partner, Loretta Yenson, were helping promote the 2009 book by TV journalist Cokie Roberts, “Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.”
Power to the people
Roberts is but one of the celebrity authors and entrepreneurs that Hooks and Yenson have lined up to speak at corporations, government agencies, and public forums in Baltimore, Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC, since founding Hooks Book Events in 2007.
“We have had the privilege of hosting nearly 500 events with well-known authors who have written about everything from business to politics, the environment, entertainment, and other aspects of life,” says Yenson, who grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, where books provided a window to the outside world.
Her Chinese parents encouraged reading, mostly British authors, and stressed education. When it came time for Yenson to attend college, they jumped at the opportunity to send her to school in the United States. Yenson easily landed a spot at Wellesley College for her BA in Political Science and at Columbia University, where she received a master’s degree in International Relations.
She chose banking and work in the not-for-profit world before founding Hooks Books Events, where she is the chief financial officer. Yenson eagerly books authors such as James D. Wolfensohn, who wrote “A Global Life: My Journey Among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank.” But she also is happy to promote the ideas of rapper Jay-Z, who recently published “Decoded.”
Spreading the word
“Our goal is to share the big ideas that authors write about to the people who are making the decisions about the direction in which our country, and our world, is moving,” explains Hooks, who had a brainstorm about books about a decade ago.
An avid reader, whose love affair with books started when she was 4, she decided that she could change the way policy was being made by bringing bestselling authors and their ideas to the decision makers.
“It was a situation of, ‘If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain,’ “ Hooks explains today. “The bottom line is that my partner Loretta and I know that by bringing the most important authors of our age into your organization, employees and constituents will be stimulated and inspired to develop new insights on important topics.”
With the help of a handful of members of friends and colleagues that Hooks and Yenson refer to as the “moms corps,” they have packed the Lisner Auditorium at The George Washington University with a crowd eager to meet microfinance guru Muhammad Yunus and spiritual guide Deepak Chopra.
They also host events with handfuls of other noteworthy speakers such as “Drive” author Daniel Pink, financial news TV icon Maria Bartiromo, and Fast Company magazine founder Alan Weber.
Behind the big ideas
A self-proclaimed Southern belle, Hooks is more like a steel magnolia. Through her years at the University of Virginia to her post-college adventures in England then New York City, she always found time to check out the local bookstores. Hooks decided early on to share her passion, so she founded book clubs wherever she went.
In the mid-1990s, she began working with independent bookstores as a marketing director to promote authors and bring them to nontraditional book venues. She also spent time working in the financial services and advertising industries, and with trade associations.
Each experience has helped her hone her skills in designing programs and author series that fit her clients’ needs. She came up with the concept for Hooks Book Events in 2000, and worked toward her goal by helping small bookstores bring authors in to speak.
“It took a while, but I was determined to bring world-renowned authors into some of the most well-known organizations in the country,” she says. “I want to get people thinking about the country, the world, the environment, the future. If I can do that, I believe we will be helping to create solutions to problems — big and small.”
Check out these 2011 Events by Hooks Book Events. Note: Many of these events have been booked for private clients. If you’d like to have these authors speak to your employees and clients when they are in town, contact Perry Hooks and Loretta Yenson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is on Hooks’ and Yenson’s bookshelves?
Beyond the Great Wall, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, 2008). Visit the high, open spaces and sacred spaces of Tibet, the Silk Road, and more. The magnificent photos, enticing recipes, and warm stories of real people make this a must-read.
Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton (Scribner, 2003). This book should be required reading for all. It is the deeply moving story of a black pastor and his son, set in South Africa during the height of apartheid, who fight against the injustice of racial prejudice. Published almost 60 years ago, much (unfortunately) still rings true.
Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman (Vintage, 1993). An oldie but a goodie. This fictionalized account is about the dreams young Einstein might have had while working in the patent office in 1905.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (Knopf, 2008). A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue. It’s about the disappearance 40 years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden, and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.
The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009). In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new strategy for Iraq that he called “the surge.” Among those listening were the young, optimistic Army infantry soldiers of the 2-16, the battalion nicknamed the Rangers. As they headed into a vicious area of Baghdad, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Finkel was with them nearly every grueling step of the way.
Hello, Cupcake!, Alan Richardson and Karen Tack (Houghton Mifflin, 2008). A cookbook of irresistibly playful creations anyone can make. It’sis fun for adults and children, and easily kept two 13-year-old girls occupied for more than two hours. The end result was almost too cute to eat, but we managed to get over that.
Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Free Press, 2007). This is a true tale of a lovely African woman who surmounts unthinkable odds, escaping an arranged marriage by fleeing to the Netherlands — where she winds up serving in the Parliament. Wonderfully empowering for women. The new forward by Christopher Hitchens is also worth a read.
Macrowikinomics, by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams (Portfolio Hardcover, 2010). From finance to health care, science to education, the media to the environment, we have reached a historic turning point. Will we cling to the old industrial-era paradigms, or use collaborative innovation to revolutionize not only the way we work, but how we live, learn, create, govern, and love.
My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor (Viking, 2008). Read this.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, (Penguin, 1976). Still one of our favorites.
The Second Book of the Tao, by Stephen Mitchell (Penguin Press HC, 2009). This book offers Western readers a path to truth that has nothing to do with Taoism or Buddhism.
Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (Mariner Books, 2007). Yet another war. This book, originally published by Houghton Mifflin in 1962, was one of the first calls for public awareness and environmental action. It examines the way dangerous chemicals have been used without sufficient research or regard for the potential to harm wildlife, water, soil, and humans. More than 45 years after its initial publication, this book is timely.
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (Penguin, 2006). The NY Times bestseller chronicles Mortenson’s amazing and successful adventure building schools and delivering education to Pakistani and Afghani girls.
War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq, by Richard Engel (Simon & Schuster, 2008). A dramatic and intimate account of battle reporting in Iraq. As a young journalist with $2,000 in this pocket, fluent in Arabic and a sense of adventure, Engel took off to Iraq in 2003 at the start of the war. He has witnessed nearly every major milestone — what it was like to go into the hole where U.S. Special Forces captured Saddam Hussein, watching as Iraqis voted in their first election, and tracking the successes and setbacks of the war.
Wife in the North, by Judith O’Reilly (PublicAffairs, 2008). A successful journalist and mother of three agreed to leave London for rugged Northumberland, and a test-run to weigh the benefits of country living. No sooner do they arrive than her husband leaves to return to work in London. She swaps her high heels for rubber boots and life-long friends for cows, sheep, and strange neighbors. Her hilarious account struck a chord for women trying to find a balance between career and family.
Zorro, by Isabel Allende (HarperCollins, 2005). A swashbuckling adventure story that reveals for the first time how Diego de la Vega became the masked man we know so well.