Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

April 19, 2006:

Yadin Kaufmann ’80

Yadin Kaufmann ’80 created a series of self-help books. (Courtesy Hundreds of Heads Books Inc.)

Lots of advice
Yadin Kaufmann ’80 puts hundreds of heads together

Yadin Kaufmann ’80 is happy to help. About three years ago, Kaufmann teamed up with a longtime friend to launch Hundreds of Heads Books, a publishing company that is home to a series of guidebooks that proffer snippets of advice and information culled from hundreds of people across the country. Titles in his “How to Survive” series range from How to Survive Dating to How to Survive Your Teenager. Hundreds of Heads has published 11 books to date; later this year the company will release books on surviving your in-laws, retirement, volunteering, and getting into college.

Kaufmann got the idea for the series from his son, who was applying to colleges at the time. “I was thinking about how I could advise him and convey to him some of the experiences I had,” says Kaufmann, who is a founding partner of a venture capital firm in Herzliya, Israel, and helps oversee Hundreds of Heads on the side. The result was How To Survive Your Freshman Year, which became the best-selling college-life guide in 2004 and in 2005. For the project, the publishing team assembled a network of experienced journalists, whom they call “headhunters,” to interview people across the country. Each book in the series is a collection of short quotes organized by topic. In the book on surviving freshman year, for example, there are chapters on choosing roommates, selecting classes, and dating.

“We started out by putting an ad on a journalism Web site,” says Kaufmann. Connections at CNN, where his partner had worked, and word of mouth did the rest. Kaufmann and his partner generate the ideas for the books and hire editors to help pull them together.

The books lack narrative and overarching messages. That was “a conscious decision,” says Kaufmann. “We thought that there were enough books out there that give the ‘philosophy’ or the ‘system’ or the ‘answer’ from any one so-called expert.”

Ever since his days at Princeton, Kaufmann, who majored in Romance languages and literatures and earned a J.D. and a master’s in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard, has been offering guidance and advice. As an undergraduate, he collaborated with Lori Banov Kaufmann ’81, now his wife, to publish Summer ’79 in France, a guide to studying, working, and traveling in that country, and to establish the Student Travel Information Agency at Princeton. The book’s success prompted the duo to follow up with a second publication, The Boston Ice Cream Lover’s Guide. Kaufmann also wrote for the Press Club.

Kaufmann concedes that “there is contradictory advice within each book,” because “people’s experiences can be so different.” For example, in How to Survive Your Baby’s First Year, one mother says her baby didn’t sleep unless he was “on a warm body,” and another mother advises, “Don’t put the baby in your bed.” The editors of each book, says Kaufmann, “want to give people a maximum variety of experiences and advice and let each reader choose what things resonate with them.”

By Agatha E. Gilmore ’04

Agatha E. Gilmore ’04 is a paralegal and writer in Chicago.