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Books Fall like Rain for Prof. Ian Ayres

On May 11, 2005, Ian Ayres's new book, Insincere Promises will be released--an exciting moment for any author. Less than three weeks later, his next new book, Straightforward, will come out, relegating Insincere Promises to the heap where his five other old books sit. Then, after only a month, yet another Ayres tome, Optional Law, will make its debut, bumping its two siblings down. "It's an amazing time for me," says Ayres.

While all three books are falling to earth so close together, they represent years of work for Ayres, the William K. Townsend Professor of Law. Optional Law is based on articles that he's written over the last seven years, while all three have been evolving to their final shape over the last two years.

Ayres's proven, if difficult to reproduce, system for managing several ideas at once: "Whichever fire is raging out of control most, I try to turn my attention to that and take it off the to-do list, and then move to the next fire. And hopefully they don't burn me down," he says. Two of the books were written with co-authors (Jennifer Gerarda Brown, a senior research scholar at YLS and professor at Quinnipiac Law School, co-wrote Straightforward, and Gregory Klass co-wrote Insincere Promises): "Thank God, they have been doing lots of work." Ayres also credits the help of five research assistants, without whom, "I would have cracked up."

With the publication dates so close together, he has had to proofread hundreds and hundreds of pages. "It's just been another day, another turn-around of galleys," he says. And adding to the crush, Ayres has five articles appearing in law reviews at Yale, the University of Chicago, Stanford, and the University of Michigan in the next few months. Another few hundred pages to review.

Each book deals with different ideas. "They're on three very different parts of the law, and they're also three very different types of analysis and methodology," says Ayres. Optional Law applies the math of option finances to theories of entitlement law. Insincere Promises, which analyzes contract law, "is more philosophical and more doctrinal than anything I've ever done," says Ayres. Finally, Straightforward applies economically informed public policy to a civil rights issue, specifically, how to mobilize heterosexual support for gay rights. "Compare that to a math book.... I'm not narrow," Ayres says about his academic interests.

Ayres also pictures a different life for each book after it's published. He hopes that Insincere Promises can be useful to practicing lawyers and judges, and plans to develop a continuing legal education video to accompany the book. Straightforward, on the other hand, contains pragmatic ideas for advancing gay rights, and Ayres plans to begin to implement some of them in the coming months (stay tuned).

Despite the clear differences between his works, Ayres won't pick a favorite. "At this point in gestation, I think of these as my academic children. You've just, in a sense, asked me which of my children is my favorite."

Related Links:
Prof. Ian Ayres's Homepage