Sonny Mehta, the literary savant who guided the reading hours of millions of people and the fortunes of the venerable publisher Alfred A. Knopf for 32 years at a time of changing tastes, aggressive merchandising and demands for profits, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 77.
The cause was complications of pneumonia, a Knopf spokesman said.
In an age of blockbuster best sellers by presidents and prime ministers, of sometimes surreal and shocking literary breakthroughs, and of cutthroat competition in a shrinking industry, Mr. Mehta was an almost ideal editor and publishing executive: a voracious reader and instinctive decision maker who could spot great books and, coming from a paperback world, had no qualms about aggressively marketing them.
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