..Lese Dunton..

Books for a Better Life
Inside the Annual Awards Ceremony
Fabulous Comments from Incredible People

The MS Society and Scott Manning presented the 14th Annual Books for a Better Life Awards on February 22, 2010 in New York City, hosted by Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC News' "Good Morning America."

The categories are: Childcare/Parenting, First Book, Green, Inspirational Memoir, Motivational, Personal Finance, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, and Wellness. Plus awards for "Hall of Fame" and "MS Awareness."

This ceremony and its mission are a powerful mix of intertwining goals. It's a "book club" of very smart and very compassionate people, which just gets bigger and more successful each year.

Scott Manning, founder

"...By supporting these awards you not only recognize and pay tribute to the fascinating works of our talented finalists but also support the tireless efforts of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society..." says Scott.

"...These awards have given us in the publishing industry a unique opportunity to partner with one of the top healthcare organizations in the world because at the end of the day our missions are the same: creating better lives for people through self-improvement and care. And I'm glad to report that since the inception of this event we have raised over $1.6 million dollars.

"...Doris Michaels, one of our great supporters, was telling me about a friend who's been in a wheelchair with MS for 10 years, I think. Then all of a sudden, we don't know what to attribute it to, but she's walking again. One of the things seems to be water therapy that's helping her... That's one of the things you're funding tonight. The MS Society provides programs like that for people with MS, as well as funding much, much-needed research..."

Robin Roberts, host of ceremony and co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America."

"...5,000 book submissions come in and are reviewed by magazine and website editors, television producers and librarians to determine the top 5 books in each of the 10 categories. We then send the judges all around the world who range from doctors to rabbis, from marriage counselors to writers — many of them former Books for a Better Life finalists themselves.

"They count those, which are tabulated, and then we reveal the to you tonight the results to you tonight... In addition to the nominating committee, and our judges, there is also the executive committee comprised of publishing industry executives who work throughout the year on the logistics and the all important fundraising aspects of the event, along with all the fabulous people at the MS Society."

Mehmet Oz, presenter, doctor, and television host of "Dr Oz"

He leaps on stage swiftly and with great enthusiasm to introduce Hall of Fame winner Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

"...She knows all the details but she wants to know the inside scoop, the dirt, as well. She also has an uncommon grasp of the big picture, and she knows how to take that information and craft wonderful books, but also run a large business...She cares. She gives a darn. She has a whole-hearted commitment to all the people who work in the organization, and she has a remarkable knack for paying attention to detail..."

Carol Reidy, Hall of Fame winner

"...For me, one of the great pleasures of publishing is that we get to take each new book on its own terms and then we're challenged to figure out how to help that book find its audience. For my money, inspirational books are some of the most important books we publish because once we help that book find its reader, the book then helps the reader find what he or she is looking for..."

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, Twelve Books/Hachette Book Group

Ashley says: "...If we knew that praising kids for how smart they were led to less achievement, instead of inspiring more, well, I've been tutoring kids for 10 years, I would have done things differently... what else is there in child development that everyone in the scientific community knows about but that hasn't made it to the general public? That really became a catalyst for this book...bringing science to peoples real lives."

Just Food by James E. McWilliams, Little, Brown and Company

"...I wanted to make sure I thought about and wrote about sustainable agriculture from a global perspective. It's very common these days to pursue improvements in agriculture on a local level...there's a global dimension to this problem that our emphasis on eating local is not effectively addressing...

"...the second thing I wanted to do with my book is make sure I didn't preach to the choir...I'm temperamentally and also intellectually more inclined to take some of the perceived wisdom and scrutinize it and ask some tough questions about it..."

Throw Out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke, Grand Central Publishing

"...Not long ago I was interviewed by a magazine writer who was 11 years-old — no, they're not 11-years-old, but I mean they seemed like they were 11 years-old — she asked me, 'What exactly is your coaching methodology?' I could tell she was thinking of one of those HR instruments, like Myers-Briggs and 360 Feedback and all those things. I said, 'Oh, well actually I use the Michael Angelo Method'... (Gail explains chiseling away everything that's not you.)...

"...It's not about a well-organized life, but rather for you to be free. For you to step into the clearing and be everything you're meant to be with all flags flying..."

Inspirational Memoir
Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder, Random House

"It wasn't that I wanted to tell readers the news that human beings are capable of great resilliance or that charity happens. I didn't want you just to receive those truisms, but I wanted you to experience them again, the way we experience those things in our lives — through the story of this guy, Dale. I think this is what all the writers I admire do. They make the world new, again...if a reader takes away nothing else from my book, I'd like the reader to go to villagehealthworks.org."

Personal Finance
The Difference by Jean Chatzky, The Crown Publishing Group

Shortly after she wrote her first personal finance book, "...I started hearing from people who told me they couldn't do it, because they couldn't get past step one. It made me wonder, what was that? What was the difference between the people who could truly succeed and the ones who couldn't? And so I sat down with my wonderful editor — yay for Richard Pine again — and we sketched out to put The Difference together, and so this book was formed..."

Robin Roberts, host

"...MS Society has 10,000 members in 42 countries...The MS Awareness Award honors an author whose work helps moves us closer to creating a world free of MS by increasing people's understanding of this disease that affects 400,000 Americans. So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome...

Cami Walker, MS Awareness Award winner and New York Times bestselling author of 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life.

"...I would not have ever imagined I'd be standing up here because two years ago I couldn't stand up. I couldn't walk. If it weren't for the MS Society and the help that I've gotten through them, as well as whatever divine force brought this divine 29 Gifts project...

"When I got this diagnosis, I thought it was the end of everything but little did I know it was just the beginning of everything that I wanted in my life..."

You were Always Mom's Favorite: Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives by Deborah Tannen, Random House  

"...My field is Linguistics, which is usually not associated with books that are practical in terms of people's everyday lives, so I'm especially honored when I realize that books I've written, although they're about language, are truly about improving relationships..."

Writing in the Sand by Thomas Moore, Hay House

"...It's interesting that The Books for a Better Life Awards organization embodies some of the ideas that I've found in the Gospels and, therefore, my book. One of them, in business or in our daily lives, could and should be a healing process. Everything we do could heal the world in some way. Heal people. Heal nature. Heal organizations..."

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David A. Kessler, M.D., Rodale

"...As someone who has struggled with weight my entire life, my goal in writing The End of Overeating was to explain the real reasons why we have such a complicated relationship with food. I'm thrilled that it has received such a wide audience and that Books for a Better Life has recognized it for having a real impact on people's lives..."

First Book
Josie's Story: A Mother's Inspiring Crusade to Make Medical Care Safe by Sorrel King, Grove/ Atlantic, Inc.

"...98,000 people die every year from medical errors. It's the 4th leading cause of death in our country. It's like a jumbo jet crashing every day...Writing has been therapeutic for me. I've always been kind a journal-y person. I wrote while I was in the hospital with Josie. I wrote when she died...

"The book has many threads. There's the thread of grief. There's the thread of anger. There's the thread of searching for religion. There's the thread of finding what it means to forgive.

"The most important thread of the book, and what I really hope people take away from is that notion of taking loss or disappointment, which all suffer from at some point in our lives....and somehow working really, really hard to find a way to make something good come out of it."

Robin Roberts, in closing
"...There's something that my Mom has always told us, and it was the last chapter, an additional chapter to my book after I overcame cancer: 'Make Your Mess Your Message.' Don't steal that as a title for a book...make your mess your message — that's what we do. That's how we lift people, and to make what we have gone through mean something. To know that there is purpose in all that we do."

After all the awards were given out, the evening turned into a picture-taking gathering in front of the stage, involving lots of smiling and laughing people getting to know each other better. Next year will arrive before you know it. Enjoy the journey!

(l to r) Event emcee, Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America"; Winner Gail Blanke (Throw Out Fifty Things); Winner Sorrel King (Josiešs Story); Winner Ashley Merryman (NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children); MS Awareness Award Recipient Cami Walker, bestselling author of 29 Gifts; Hall of Fame inductee Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; Chairman of the Books for a Better Life executive committee Scott Manning; winner Jean Chatzky (The Difference); Carol Fitzgerald of the Book Report Network; and Ester Margolis of Newmarket Press.

For more information about the awards, visit nationalmssociety.org.

About the Books for a Better Life Awards
Since their inception in 1996, the Books for a Better Life Awards have recognized more than 456 self-improvement authors, raising more than $1.6 million for the New York City - Southern New York Chapter's comprehensive support services and educational programs for people living with MS, their friends and families. The Awards recognize self-improvement authors whose messages are aligned with the chapter's mission of inspiring people to live their best lives. Five finalists were selected from nearly 500 entries for each of ten categories, including childcare/parenting, first book, green, inspirational memoir, motivational, psychology, relationships, spiritual, wellness and, back by popular demand, personal finance. An esteemed panel of book sellers and magazine, book club and television book editors selects the finalists and the winners are chosen by secret ballot of three expert judges for each category.

About the New York City ­ Southern New York Chapter
The New York City ­ Southern New York Chapter of the National MS Society is committed to helping the 10,000 people living with multiple sclerosis in the five boroughs and Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Sullivan counties continue moving their lives forward. The chapter raises funds locally to support the Society's critical research initiatives and to provide hundreds of comprehensive support services and educational programs for people living with MS, their family and friends. Visit www.MSnyc.org for more information.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
MS stops people from moving.  The National MS Society exists to make sure it doesn't.  We help each person address the challenges of living with MS. In 2008 alone, through our national office and 50 state network of chapters, we devoted over $148 million to programs that enhanced more than one million lives. To move us closer to a world free of MS, the Society also invested over $45 million to support 440 research projects around the world. 

About Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, interrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body. Every hour in the United States, someone is newly diagnosed with MS.  Symptoms range from reduced or lost mobility to numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease.  MS affects more than 400,000 people in the U.S., and 2.1 million worldwide.

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