Ajai Singh "Sonny" Mehta is editor-in-chief of Alfred A Knopf and chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Born in 1942, the son of Amrik Singh Mehta among the first of independent India's diplomats, 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. He 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 like 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 Kapuscinski, Angela Carter, Brett 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. Under him, Knopf has published 5 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 Steig Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and James Ellroy's work to the Fifty Shades of Grey books. Sonny 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.
The addition of Pantheon, Vintage Books, Schocken and Everyman's Library to the Knopf Publishing Group, and later the Doubleday group—all working under Sonny Mehta's direction—have led him to be described as the world's most important anglophone publisher.
Sonny Mehta has won Lifetime Achievement Awards for publishing in India, the U.K., 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.
He is married to the documentary film-maker and writer Gita Mehta.
Entertainment Weekly, The 101 Most Powerful People in Entertainment. November, 1991, October 1995, October 1996, October 1997
"New Publishing Star, Sonny Mehta, Talks Profits As Well As Art" by Roger Cohen. New York Times November 13, 1990
"After A Year, Knopf Shows the Impact of Its New Publisher" by Edwin McDowell. The New York Times, March 26, 1988
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- 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 2015-09-09.
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