Ajai Singh "Sonny" Mehta (born 1942) is the current editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf and chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Born in 1942, Sonny Mehta is the son of Amrik Singh Mehta among the first of independent India's diplomats. As a child Mehta lived all over the world including Prague, New York, Nepal and Geneva. Sonny Mehta was educated at Sanawar School, India, and Sevenoaks School, UK, where he won an open scholarship to Cambridge University, acquiring two degrees, in History and English Literature, while also editing the magazine Granta.
Mehta began his publishing career in 1965 in London at Rupert Hart-Davis, then joined Granada Publishing in 1966 to co-found a new publishing house, Paladin, where he commissioned such seminal books as Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch and brought iconic American writers to the UK public with books such as Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Moving to Pan Books in 1972, he added to its list of best-selling authors by publishing writers who went on to become household names such as Jackie Collins and Douglas Adams but where he also relaunched the storied Picador imprint, publishing a host of Booker Prize winners, among them Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Edmund White, Julian Barnes, Graham Swift as well as such iconic writers as Ryszard Kapuściński, Angela Carter, Bret Easton Ellis, and Michael Herr, among many others, leading The Times of London to describe his tenure as producing "the Picador Generation".
In 1987 Mehta moved from London to New York to head the legendary American literary imprint Alfred A. Knopf as President and Editor-in-Chief. Mehta was hand-picked by Robert Gottlieb who was leaving Alfred A. Knopf to edit the New Yorker. Under Mehta, Knopf has published six Nobel literature laureates, numerous Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize and National Book Award winners, and continued the tradition of publishing important French, German, Italian, Spanish, Scandinavian, South American, African, Asian writers as well as work by such contemporary leaders as U.S. presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton; UK Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair; and Pope John Paul II. Mehta's tenure has also been known for important new translations of books by Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Robert Musil, and Albert Camus, as well as its wildly popular bestsellers, from Ken Burns's history of the Civil War to Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, from Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and James Ellroy's work to the Fifty Shades trilogy. Mehta was also among the first to recognize the importance of the new genre of graphic novels, publishing prize-winning titles such as Maus and Persepolis.
Although Alfred A. Knopf has been publishing books for over one hundred years—Mehta is only the third editor-in-chief. Mehta told Vanity Fair, "Oh a good day, I am still convinced I have the best job in the world."
The addition of Pantheon, Vintage Books, Schocken and Everyman's Library to the Knopf Publishing Group, and later the Doubleday group—all working under Mehta's direction—have led him to be described as the world's most important anglophone publisher.
On Alfred A. Knopf surviving threats to the publishing business and the tumult of acquisitions and mergers, Mehta said, "We're part of something that is very large but we concentrate on our way of doing things. It may be illusory to insulate oneself from it all, but we try."
Awards and recognition
Mehta has won Lifetime Achievement Awards for publishing in India, the UK, and the United States. He has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Bard College, He is in the Hall of Fame in Vanity Fair′s Best-Dressed Men in the World list.
- Entertainment Weekly, "The 101 Most Powerful People in Entertainment". November 1991, October 1995, October 1996, October 1997
- Roger Cohen, "New Publishing Star, Sonny Mehta, Talks Profits As Well As Art", The New York Times November 13, 1990
- Edwin McDowell, "After A Year, Knopf Shows the Impact of Its New Publisher", The New York Times, March 26, 1988
- Eggers, Dave. "Why Knopf Editor in Chief Sonny Mehta Still Has the "Best Job in the World"". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
- Wallace, Christine (1999). Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew. Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571199341.
- Picador. "History - Picador". www.picador.com. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- Jack, Ian (May 1987). "The King of the Heap". Vanity Fair.
- Durden-Smith, Jo (June 1987). "Top of the Heap". Connoisseur.
- "A Century of Alfred A. Knopf". Retrieved 2015-09-09.
- "All Nobel Prizes in Literature". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- Tarun J. Tejpal (June 19, 2013). "The Unknown Prince of Publishing". India Today.
- Katie Allen (March 8, 2011). "Sonny Mehta to receive LBF Lifetime Achievement Award". The Bookseller.
- "Nobel winner Venkatraman Ramakrishnan is India Abroad Person of [the year]". Bloomberg. March 6, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- College, Bard. "Bard Press Release | Congressman Charles B. Rangel To Deliver Commencement Address at Bard College's 148th Commencement On Saturday, May 24". www.bard.edu. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- "The International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame 2015". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
- Rachel Deahl, "Sonny Mehta: 2015 PW Person of the Year", Publishers Weekly, December 4, 2015.