When former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich e-mailed a select circle of friends and colleagues last December to say that he intended to throw his hat in the ring as a contender for governor of Massachusetts, Beacon Press editorial director Deborah Chasman immediately hit the reply button. She suggested that the candidate synthesize his ideas for the electorate, and the nation as a whole, in a new book.

Reich agreed. As a result, his ninth book, I'll Be Short: Essential Ideas for Getting America to Work, will not be published by his usual hard and softcover team, Knopf and Vintage, which just issued the paperback of his The Future of Success: Working and Living in the New Economy (Jan.), but locally instead by Boston's Beacon Press. The pub date will coincide with the Massachusetts Democratic convention in May. Although that is a short lead time for a relatively small press, Beacon is up to the challenge. This fall it did an even quicker turnaround for Poems to Live By in Uncertain Times, edited by Joan Murray, which was signed up, compiled and published within a two month period.

The title for the book, as those in Massachusetts who have seen Reich speak can attest, refers to the candidate's diminutive stature—four feet 10 inches—as well as the book's length—just 128 pages. Although it will include some previously published essays that have been updated and reworked into a cohesive narrative, much of the book has never been published before. At its core, I'll Be Short lays out Reich's philosophy—anyone who wants a job should have one; anyone who works should be able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty; and everyone should have access to an education.

Reich—University Professor at Brandeis, in Waltham, Mass., and Maurice B. Hexter professor of social and economic policy at Brandeis's Heller Graduate School—told PW that "the world is changing very, very rapidly, but the issues that people care about—education, health care and better jobs—continue to be at the forefront of the public agenda." Looking back over his career in government, he observed, "I have spent almost half of my life in public service and half in writing and teaching. The blend for me has been ideal, because I can test my ideas in the real world."

For her part, Chasman said, "I was delighted that Reich wanted to support a local independent. It's an important book for voters in Massachusetts. But Reich's also a national figure, and his basic political vision hasn't been out there in an easy-to-read way." She views I'll Be Short as part of a continuum of short books that contain a thinker's essential ideas, beginning with Beacon's bestselling Race Matters by Cornel West (2001), which she also edited.