Steve Wasserman to run publisher Heyday

stevewassermantruthdig.jpgHeyday has its successor to founder Malcolm Margolin. It's Steve Wasserman, the Yale University Press editor and literary agent who was the books editor of the Los Angeles Times. Heyday’s board of directors announced today that Wasserman will become publisher and executive director of the Berkeley-based press in July. Margolin retired in December after 41 years.

Heyday seems to be taking pains to assure fans that the transition will be graceful.

“I met Malcolm twenty years ago when I was editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review,” Wasserman says in a statement from the Heyday board. “I greatly admired his vision for Heyday and his knack for inviting nearly everyone he encountered to join him on his voyage of discovery and joy. Malcolm showed that what really counts in life is the number of stars on your forehead. Sure, resources matter, but passion and audacity matter more.”

“His shoes will be hard to fill,” Wasserman added. “I'm honored to have been given the chance to try. I look forward to assuming the post of chief cartographer of Heyday as it seeks to map the still-to-be-discovered riches of California in the years ahead.”

Margolin also was supportive in return. “I can’t imagine anyone with better professional skills, more depth and variety of experience, and a more impressive record of accomplishment and public service,” he wrote. “He knows California and its many cultures with intimacy, associates easily with the best writers and deepest thinkers everywhere, and his ample playfulness and wit have always been at the service of a humane social vision. More than that, he’s great fun to be around.”

Wasserman grew up in Berkeley. He was a key architect of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books when it was at UCLA, and Margolin has been a fixture of the April festival both there and in its later iteration at USC.

Author and journalist Frances Dinkelspiel writes at the Berkeleyside news site that the naming of Wasserman "represents a monumental shift."

The selection of Wasserman, who is well respected in the book world, represents a monumental shift for the 41-year old company, which was founded by Malcolm Margolin in 1971. Margolin, a brilliant and idiosyncratic man whose book, The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, was named as one of the 100 most important books of the twentieth century by a western writer by the San Francisco Chronicle, shaped the press through his humor and interest in nature, native culture, and California history. Margolin was famous for “adopting” people, inviting those he found interesting into the family of Heyday. He would mine everyone for their thoughts on what was important in the world and the state and he often converted those thoughts into books.

Wasserman also has deep roots in the West, although he has spent the last decade on the East Coast. He was editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review and was a chief architect of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, considered one of the most prestigious book festivals in the country. Wasserman is happy to be returning with his family to California, according to a release put out by Heyday.


Wasserman, 63, moved with his family to Berkeley in 1963 and became active in the Free Speech and anti-war movements at UC Berkeley shortly thereafter, when he was just 13, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. There is a famous photo of him taken in 1969 when he was student body president of Berkeley High School. He is standing with a cigar in his mouth that has a “Nixon is the 1,” pin on the end while he holds up Mao’s “Little Red Book.”

“I was a mischievous Yippee,” he said.

Previously on LA Observed:
Malcolm Margolin retiring from Heyday Books and the job is posted
Steve Wasserman moves to Yale Press, signs Greil Marcus book

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