Letter from the Publisher

Posted by – March 25, 2020
Categories: General

A few years ago, NAB author and thinker Bayo Akomolafe told me, “The times are urgent, so let us slow down.” I sensed right away what he meant by this apparent contradiction: that it is during acute periods of tumult that we most need spaciousness, patience, and circumspection. After all, it can be tempting in periods of rapid change to “rush in” out of fear that an extra pause or moment of hesitation will spell doom. Yet history has ample examples where this very thinking has actually led us into deeper harm.

Over the years, I drew upon Bayo’s axiom in fairly specific ways: convincing an author with an urgent message to be patient with themselves and us in keeping to longer publishing timelines in the interest of putting out the most resonant book possible; reminding my teenage son to slow down as he rushed to get everything he needed in the minutes before his bus to school arrived (otherwise he always seemed to forget his lunch); and even repeating the mantra to myself as I was tempted to rush through stop signs as I sped to a work meeting I might be late for.

Little did I know then that Bayo’s maxim would be a fitting one for the entire world in the wake of the Coronavirus. The virus has forced all of the earth’s citizens into an unexpected Great Slow Down. When nearly everything is canceled, it’s hard to justify rushing, multitasking, and our habitual reflex of “I don’t have time for that.” The great question now is what we will do with our precious time. It’s a very different kind of bucket list. As NAB author and teacher Martín Prechtel told me yesterday on the phone, “The universe has plenty of time. No shortage there. It is just that the people don’t always know what to do with it.”

Of course the Coronavirus carries with it grave consequences, both in terms of loss of life and the profound deterioration in financial, mental, and emotional health it will likely bring, especially for our least resourced and most vulnerable. I am also aware that there are countless people on the front lines of change—nurses, teachers, cleaners, cashiers, doctors, among others—for whom life has been a whirlwind of work and is nothing like a slow down.

And so I want to be careful with talk about silver linings.

And yet, there are many people and organizations, including North Atlantic Books, that have been developing readiness for times like these. Not in a Doomsday sense, but more from a growing knowing that our modern lifestyle and economic and political systems are not sustainable, both for the planet and for ourselves, and that another way of being is not only necessary but possible. In this way, all of the greater-good-minded people and organizations—who for decades have been embodying and populating our consciousness with both practical and visionary views of how we might live differently—have together been building a cosmology for times like these.

In that spirit, we have assembled a list of 21 of our ebooks, both new and old, that we believe will be useful to people during this time, from books on making your own plant medicine to ones on staying fit at home to tomes taking a broad view of societal and personal change. Every three days until April 21st, we will offer, for free download, three new ebooks as part of this care package. You can check our website daily to receive the next three (or view the past ones), or you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram to receive notifications of that day’s offerings.

Additionally, in an effort to support the lifeblood of our particular industry and a cultural cornerstone of our society, we are supporting the independent bookstores of the East Bay by purchasing gift cards from them and giving away those cards on our social media pages as gifts to readers. Again, more information on this giveaway will be available on our sites over the next three weeks.

The staff at North Atlantic Books is currently working at home, where we are each adjusting to our new reality while simultaneously continuing our steadfast service to the books we publish. We are keeping connected through virtual coffee klatches, long phone calls, and the usual group email threads. We miss seeing each other in person, but we are making do, and in some ways finding new levels of intimacy.  We have the time. We are honored to be in community with you and hope our renewed sense of mutual aid continues to flourish during a moment when humans need it the most.

—Tim McKee, Publisher of North Atlantic Books

About the Author

Tim came to NAB in 2013 and is honored to serve as publisher. Born in New York City, McKee grew up in Los Angeles and received a BA from Princeton University and an MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. He has worked in the nonprofit sector for his entire career, including serving as the long-time managing editor of The Sun magazine, the grants director for a social-justice foundation in San Francisco, and as a writer for several community-based organizations in California. He has also taught college-level writing and journalism. His book No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa (Dorling Kindersley) was an Honor Book for the Jane Addams Book Award and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is happiest when bringing necessary stories to the page.