Monday, December 10, 2007

Cramer Family Planning, Government-Censored Science: Book Buzz

By Edward Nawotka

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- If Jim Cramer, the button-mashing circus barker of the financial world, had his way, preschoolers would be tuning in to his money-management show.

In ``Jim Cramer's Stay Mad for Life'' ($26), which is just out, Cramer suggests buying your tyke Hasbro, Disney and Gymboree stock: ``I would buy one share of these the moment your child is born.... I don't know a soul who is doing this, and that has to change, right now.''

Later he adds, ``If only baby showers would get registered with E*Trade, TD Ameritrade and Schwab!'' Cramer thinks children can grasp the concept of stock ownership as long as they can get excited about the brand. His subtitle is ``Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer).''

Elsewhere in the book he names ``20 Stocks for the Long Term'' (topped by the heavy-machinery manufacturer Caterpillar) and recommends mutual funds.

Publishing a financial-advice book in December is counterintuitive: Who really wants to be reminded to eliminate credit-card debt in the midst of the holiday shopping frenzy? Cramer, though, likes the appearance of not following the crowd.

And he has an established audience: His two previous books, ``Jim Cramer's Real Money'' (2005) and ``Jim Cramer's Mad Money'' (2006), have sold 476,000 copies and 258,000 copies respectively, according to Nielsen BookScan. Simon & Schuster is confident enough to be delivering 350,000 copies to bookstores for a start.

`Bad Samaritans'

The 44-year-old Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang has also established a reputation as a contrarian. In ``Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism'' ($26.95), he repudiates some of the theories championed by Thomas Friedman and other free marketers.

Chang shows how South Korea, the country of his birth, managed to prosper by going against many of the economic prescriptions that ``bad Samaritan'' rich countries demand in return for aid, such as rapid, large-scale trade liberalization.

``Bad Samaritans'' comes with blurbs from lefty luminaries Noam Chomsky and Bob Geldof. The publisher, Bloomsbury, is printing 40,000 copies and using the book to launch a new line of serious nonfiction books edited by Peter Ginna, formerly of Oxford University Press.

``So many books written about globalization are written in a historical vacuum,'' Ginna says. ``This one isn't, which is what makes it so persuasive.''

Expect to see Chang on the talk shows when Davos begins in January.

`Censoring Science'

Another academic likely to be making the January chat-show circuit is James Hansen. Mark Bowen's ``Censoring Science: Inside the Political Attack on Dr. James Hansen and the Truth of Global Warming'' ($25.95) hits the shelves on Dec. 27.

As director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, by 2004 Hansen had compiled some three decades of research underscoring the threat of global warming. The Bush administration stifled the data.

Frustrated, Hansen opened his files to Bowen. The resulting book not only offers a detailed account of the scientist's ordeal; it also shows how an organization like NASA can be reduced to an instrument of partisan politics. Scary stuff -- like climate change itself.

T Is for Timber

The 40,000 copies of ``Censoring Science'' Dutton is publishing will hardly make a dent in the earth's forests -- compared, at least, with the tens of millions of Sue Grafton novels in print. This week, ``T Is for Trespass'' ($26.95), the 20th in Grafton's long-running Kinsey Millhone mystery series, lands in bookstores. Putnam's 724,000 copy first printing ensures it will be stacked high for holiday shoppers.

Also in December fiction, Colleen McCullough's ``Antony and Cleopatra'' ($26.95), the seventh in her ``Masters of Rome'' series, is just out from Simon & Schuster, albeit with a more modest printing of 75,000 copies.

And on Dec. 26, Bloomsbury squeaks 60,000 copies of Walter Mosley's third book this year into stores: ``Diablerie'' ($23.95), an erotic thriller about a philandering computer programmer for a New York City bank. Though Mosley has dropped the ``sexistential'' tag he used for last year's ``Killing Johnny Fry,'' his latest also promises plenty of titillation (and potential big sales).

(Edward Nawotka writes on books and publishing for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)