Books of Lasting Value: A conversation

“One cannot drive through life without looking in the rearview mirror.”

At the beginning of the new year, publishing legend Jane Friedman, Co-founder and CEO of Open Road Integrated Media met with Regeen ‘Ginger’ Kiernan Najar, proprietor of the Philosophical Library and publisher of iconic thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. The conversation went from A to Z, with one phrase continually coming up: books of lasting value.

In the publishing industry, there is a sales term for books that aren’t recent releases. They’re called ‘backlist,’ and Jane and Ginger strongly object to this.

“A colleague once said to me, ‘A book is not backlist if you haven’t read it.’ Truer words were never spoken. And yet, the word backlist seems to indicate that a

book is no longer relevant,” Jane said.

“Yes, the book comes from the past. But irrelevant? Absolutely not.

As we know, many things from the past are completely relevant and necessary and also lead to the future. So when we talk about Ginger’s publishing list, there is virtually nothing dated about the books. Great minds think great thoughts, and those great thoughts continue to be great thoughts.

So it’s a perfect combination, Open Road and Philosophical Library. We think alike, we believe — both of us believe — that we should be bringing these books to the attention of the next generation.”

This perfect combination results from Open Road’s unconventional publishing model. A combination of aggressive retail placement, social media strategy, conventional marketing, and a growing network of book and pop culture web communities allows Open Road to acquire authors from the “backlist” and pull them back into the limelight and the bestseller lists. This focus makes them ideally situated to help Philosophical Library bring the wisdom of the past to the 21st century.

But are today’s readers interested in the great thinkers of the past? All signs point to yes, as evidenced by the unexpected popularity of Philosophical Library’s release of Simone De Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity. Though based on a lecture series from 1945, De Beauvoir’s words are startlingly timeless.

Ginger and Jane spoke about this phenomenon, and how young people today are often surprised by the wisdom of the past.

G:“[De Beauvoir) was one of the original modern day feminists…The book is taking off, and it’s become part of the core reading for women’s literature at a university level…They all are saying: ‘Oh my goodness, that’s really true!’”

J:“ We are being validated. I think that’s a good word to use. A lot of what these books do is validate what young people are thinking and doing today.”

Ginger was quick to bring up Philosophical Library author André Gide, as a perfect example of a man whose thoughts are relevant and revolutionary today. Gide was publically homosexual in the era that saw Oscar Wilde imprisoned for his sexuality, and he fought for social justice and against the exploitation of the third world.

J: “What I like so much about Philosophical Library books is that they confirm that there is nothing new under the sun; that everything old is new again. “

G: “Yeah I love that phrase.”

J: “And I think that one could be a very civilized, educated, smart individual if one just read through the Philosophical Library.”

Both women have strong feelings about books and civilization in general. We are what we read, and if we don’t read our past, we can’t know it and we can’t learn from it.

G: “You and I had talked before that books are our civilization.”

J: “They are. Books are not only our civilization, but civilization itself.”

To learn more about Philosophical Library, visit

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