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You Can’t Win Them All

I’ve just returned to my hotel in London, from the inaugural Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, for which Freakonomics was short-listed. Well, you can’t them all. The award was won by Tom Friedman for The World Is Flat. As it turns out, this was the one book for which no author was present — Friedman gave his acceptance speech by videotape from Washington D.C. (Note to self: next time you are nominated for an award, don’t show up; absence is plainly the key to winning.) It was actually a terrifically fun evening, as I got to consort with our British publishers (Stefan McGrath, Will Goodlad, and Sarah Christie of Penguin U.K.) and our British agents (Caroline Michel and Shana Kelly, of the William Morris Agency). Most interestingly, Sarah Christie was hobbled by a sledgehammer injury to her toe — yes, a sledgehammer injury — and I must say that I have never heard of an American publicist being injured by a sledgehammer, this being just one of the many delightful cultural differences I have absorbed here during my trip. Also, I hadn’t been aware that Freakonomics has sold so well in the U.K.: 90,000 copies in hardcover already. This meant that, on the whole, the evening was pretty chipper despite our losing the award. I was quite sure we wouldn’t win — Friedman just seemed the likely choice for an award given by the F.T. and G.S. — and in fact, thirty seconds before the winner was announced, I tried to get Will Goodlad to bet me $100 that Friedman would win, but out of either cowardice or kindness he declined. The evening’s keynote speaker was Gordon Brown, who many say will be the next prime minister. He is an expansive, dramatic, clever speaker, and it was worth the trip just to hear his stalwart British voice curl itself around the word “freakonomics.”