In the late 1990s John Pollack was working as a Washington speechwriter when, frustrated by the cynicism and hypocrisy on Capitol Hill, he quit his job to pursue a boyhood dream: to build a boat made entirely of wine corks and take it on an epic journey.

Cork Boat tells the story of this improbable quest. Overcoming one obstacle after another, he persuades skeptical bartenders to save their corks, corrals a brilliant but headstrong partner, and eventually cajoles more than 100 volunteers to help build the boat — many until their fingers bleed.

Ultimately, Pollack completes his vessel of 165,321 corks and sets sail on what becomes a challenging voyage down the Douro River in Portugal, where the Cork Boat becomes a national sensation.

Praise for Cork Boat:

"As the boat bobs down the Douro River to the cheers of the crowd, Pollack's absurd quest seems not merely charming but heroic."  

— The New Yorker

"Irresistible...This  adventurous memoir is the perfect...escape. It is a hearty affirmation that dreams can — and sometimes do — come true."

The Tuscon Citizen

"Written in a style of singular grace and impact..."

The Washington Times

When we decide to blow the whistle,  spill the beans, take a rain check or get the hell out of Dodge, we’re using analogies whose original meanings rarely enter our consciousness. But beneath their surface, all of them convey a complex network of ideas that shape our thinking in analogous situations. Unfortunately, not every analogy that rings true is true.

Do neighboring countries really topple like dominoes? Is DNA evidence the fingerprint of the 21st century? Is the marketplace a battlefield? Surprisingly, most of us don’t realize just how often analogies slip in under the radar to mislead or deceive — often with serious consequences.

But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, because analogy also plays a catalytic role in the discovery and spread of good ideas. Loose coins gave Johannes Gutenberg the idea for moveable type. Meatpacking plants inspired Henry Ford’s first moving assembly line. And the “bicycle for the mind” that Steve Jobs first envisioned as a friendly Mac not only democratized computing, but ushered in the information age. 

In Shortcut, former Presidential Speechwriter John Pollack reveals just how pervasive analogies really are  and how powerful. He also explains how to evaluate the “truth” of any analogy, and explores why people who hone their ability with analogy become more creative, perceptive and persuasive.


Some people dismiss puns as the lowest form of humor, but this attitude is relatively recent in the sweep of history. In The Pun Also Rises, former Presidential Speechwriter John Pollack — a winner of the O. Henry World Pun Championship  — explains how punning revolutionized language and enabled the rise of modern civilization.

Integrating evidence from history, pop culture, literature, comedy, science, business and everyday life, this book forces  readers to reconsider everything they think they know about puns.

Provocative and fun, The Pun Also Rises illuminates the powerful role that puns play in sparking human creativity and progress, and why they will always be more than some antics.

Praise for The Pun Also Rises:

"The best books on language are the ones that encourage us to reexamine what we think we know, and The Pun Also Rises...does exactly that." 

The Boston Globe

"[Pollack] tells us, with a clarity unusual for the subject, how the mind works."

— The New York Times

"Anyone with an interest in language is going to find this book fascinating."

— David Crystal, Author of  How Language Works