Acquisition editorJudith Jones

(Reading Time: 2 minutes)

A book editor, Jones got her start at Doubleday when still in school. After college, she stayed with Doubleday, and spent time in Paris as a reader — checking out submitted books to see if they had potential. Her boss gave her a stack with instructions to send rejection letters to all of them, but one caught her attention. “I started reading that book and I didn’t stop all afternoon. I was in tears when my boss came back,” she said years later. “I said, ‘This book is going to New York and has got to be published.’ And he said: ‘What? That book by that kid?!’” Yes, she said, and that’s how The Diary of a Young Girl — which Doubleday titled Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl — came to be published in the United States in 1952.

In 1957, Jones moved to the Alfred Knopf publishing house, where she quickly rose to editor. Among her first authors was a young guy named John Updike; she ushered his Rabbit, Run to press in 1960, and Updike became one of only three writers to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once (for the sequels Rabbit Is Rich in 1982, and 1990’s Rabbit at Rest). Jones, meanwhile, found she had been spoiled by the good food in Paris, so she took on an unknown author writing about how to cook French food, even though the author had been rejected by a Knopf competitor, and even though the author was already looked at with suspicion since she was (gasp!) a woman! — Julia Child, who had also come to love good cooking while living in Paris, and whose Jones-edited 1961 book Mastering the Art of French Cooking not only launched the United States into a food revolution (helped along by several other Jones-edited books for other cuisines, such as Italian), it launched Child to TV chef stardom. Jones also wrote her own cookbooks, and received the 2006 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award — a bit of an irony, since James Beard was one of her authors too. Jones retired from Knopf in 2011, after more than 50 years with the company, and died August 2 at her Vermont home, from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 93.

Author’s Note: There’s much more about Jones in Uncommon Sense, the This is True Podcast, The Best of Humanity. You can listen to it right from that page, if you don’t use a Podcast app.

From This is True for 6 August 2017