NEW YORK — Jason Epstein was a prolific publisher innovator and bon vivant. He co-founded the New York Review of Books, and collaborated with novelists such as E.L. Doctorow and Vladimir Nabokov.

Epstein, a former journalist for the New York Times, died Friday “surrounded” by his books at his Sag Harbor home. She said that congestive heart failure was the cause.

Epstein is one of many accidental lifers in the book industry. He was a young bohemian, who wanted to read and had enough money. He started at Doubleday in 1950, then joined Random House in 1958, where he remained as the editorial director for many decades. He was one of the most respected executives in the industry, earning lifetime achievement awards from both the National Book Foundation in 1988 and the National Book Critics Circle 2002.

Epstein was more than a man of letters. He was also a man of food and drink. His books included the memoir Eating. His dining companions included Jacqueline Kennedy, Buster Keaton, Roy Cohn, and Jacqueline Kennedy, an attorney-political operative. Norman Podhoretz, a 1967 bestseller about the literary world, wrote lovingly about Epstein’s love for imported shoes and first-class travel.

Podhoretz observed, “He was beautiful and easy to observe.”

He was as intelligent and well-read as his colleagues, as well as being opinionated. Mailer joked that he had to adapt to an editor who was “a lot brighter than he”. Epstein published an excerpt from Nabokov’s Lolita and tried unsuccessfully to get Doubleday to publish the shocking novel about a professor’s obsession with a 12-year-old girl. Epstein also feuded with Gore Vidal, and became a critic of The Library of America. He believed that the imprint he helped to establish had become bloated. Bennett Cerf, co-founder of Random House, would refer to him as the “cross I bear” while Epstein called Cerf “the bear that I cross.”

Epstein edited many books, including Doctorow’s Depression-era novel Billy Bathgate and Jane Jacobs’ urban studies classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Mailer’s CIA epic Harlot’s Ghost.

Epstein admitted to passing over the occasional best seller, but he was proud to reject Shirley MacLaine’s New Age favorite On a Limb.

“We were friends, and she actually wrote much (on New York’s Long Island) of that book at our house in Sag Harbor. Epstein said to the AP that she had never revealed what it was about. “I read this, and I said, “Come on Shirley, you’re crazy.”

Epstein was the son of a successful textile seller. He grew up in Maine, Massachusetts and eventually moved to New York City. He entered Columbia University in the 1940s when Dwight D. Eisenhower was the school’s president. Epstein made an impression on the future president of the United States when he met him once.

Epstein said that he had been downtown for the night with a girl. Epstein said that he could not stand. He thought I was bright, young and upbeat after I’d been up all night. He smiled and shaken my hand.

His quest for affordable classics in his 20s inspired him to create Anchor Books, which is now part of Penguin Random House. Two other important and long-lasting projects were also launched by him. One was in the 1960s, when a newspaper strike, and general tedium of literacy critic, led Epstein and Barbara to help found the New York Review of Books. Along with Elizabeth Hardwick, a critic, and Robert Silvers, among others. He was one of the founders of Library of America in the late 1970s. It offers hardcover editions of some of the most influential writers of the country.

Two children he had with Barbara Epstein were Helen Epstein, a contributor for The New York Review of Books, and Jacob Epstein. Jacob Epstein was a TV writer whose time in book publishing was short and unfavorable. His novel The Wild Oats, published in 1979, was quickly compared to Martin Amis’ The Rachel Papers.

Amis stated that Epstein was not influenced by “The Rachel Papers.”

Jason Epstein, a publishing veteran, was an early adopter of technology. Epstein was a firm advocate for in-store machines that could print or bind books on demand. He also looked into ways to sell books online prior to the advent of e-books. Epstein advocated for a system that allowed authors to bypass the industry. He was reminiscent of the days when Parson Weems could simply sell books about George Washington from under a tree while hitting on a drum.

Epstein wrote Book Business in 2001, a memoir. “Soon writers will be able meet again on a global green where writers may once again beat their drums and hire a Weems in order to drum up business for themselves,” Epstein said. Future storytellers can meet their readers on the World Wide Web and have long conversations.