When you love books as much as I do, University Press Week, happening this year from November 13 to 17, is kind of like the Oscars. Not only is it a great time to reflect on the work that university presses are doing to advance scholarship around the world, but there are also dozens of events around the country with university press authors. Best of all, the Association of University Presses puts out a new reading list of books that I can’t wait to get my hands on.
This year’s reading this list comprises 103 publications, each submitted by a member of the Association of University Presses, chosen because they exemplify the Speak UP theme for this year’s University Press Week. We hope they will inform and shape conversations around the world.
As a longtime university press editor, the current director of Cornell University Press, and the president of the Association of University Presses, I can attest to the dedication of university press staffers in amplifying research of the highest quality. Ideas matter, and you can see ample evidence of that in this list, including books about everything from the environment and climate change to race, LGBTQ issues, Indigenous studies, science, philosophy, feminism, education, poetry, fiction and more.
If you love reading books that expand your mind and inspire you to think about issues in new ways, I know you will find something that will grab your attention and edify you. Below is a sample of 24 representative books. And visit the UP Week 2023 Gallery to explore more in each category!
Activism & Social Justice
Archive Activism: Memoir of A “Uniquely Nasty” Journey by Charles Francis
Available from University of North Texas Press
A gay Texan born in the 1950s, Charles Francis always knew that Research = Activism. When Francis help George W. Bush become President by reaching out to gay supporters, he becomes inspired to engage with deleted LGBTQ history by forming the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., a historical society with an edge. Archive Activism is both a memoir and a roadmap for activists armed only with library cards.
Everyday War provides an accessible lens through which to understand what noncombatant civilians go through in a country at war. What goes through the minds of a mother who must send her child to school across a minefield or the men who belong to groups of volunteer body collectors? In Ukraine, such questions have been part of the daily calculus of life. Greta Uehling engages with the lives of ordinary people living in and around the armed conflict over Donbas and shows how conventional understandings of war are incomplete.
This complex and powerful memoir by a biracial Japanese American adoptee takes on themes of racial and cultural identity, shared generational trauma, reproductive choice, and everyone’s right to understand their own origins.
The Sisterhood: How a Network of Black Women Writers Changed American Culture by Courtney Thorsson
Available from Columbia University Press
The Sisterhood tells the story of how a remarkable community of Black women writers (Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Paule Marshall, Margo Jefferson, and others) transformed American writing and cultural institutions.
The Black Ceiling: How Race Still Matters in the Elite Workplace by Kevin Woodson
Available from University of Chicago Press
The Black Ceiling speaks up about workplace inequality by offering a revelatory assessment of office culture that presents a new explanation for understanding a pernicious problem in many work environments: racial discomfort.
Dispatches from Disabled Country by Catherine Frazee
Available from University of British Columbia Press
Change requires all of us to #SpeakUP, to unshackle from dominant narratives that equate disability with incapacity, tragedy, and loss. Catherine Frazee’s writings kickstart that process by revealing what has been unfolding for decades just under the radar of ableist society.
Whatever It Is, I’m Against It: Resistance to Change in Higher Education by Brian Rosenberg
Available from Harvard Education Press
Whatever It Is, I’m Against It exposes the entrenched structures, practices, and cultures that inhibit meaningful postsecondary educational reform.
Planet Work: Rethinking Labor and Leisure in the Anthropocene, edited by Ryan Hediger
Available from Bucknell University Press
Planet Work: Rethinking Labor and Leisure in the Anthropocene will appeal to overworked people everywhere. Its topic is urgent, at the center of contemporary life and the environment. The book’s crucial question deserves much more attention: Should we change how and why we work?
Ethnicity & Race
Mean Girls Feminism: How White Feminists Gaslight, Gatekeep and Girlboss by Kim Hong Nguyen
Available from University of Illinois Press
In this book, Kim Hong Nguyen argues that mean girl feminism encourages girls and women to be sassy, sarcastic, and ironic as feminist performance. Yet it co-opts its affect, form, and content, from racialized oppression and protest while directing meanness toward people in marginalized groups.
First Meal by Julie Green and Kirk Johnson
Available from Oregon State University Press
Set against the backdrop of a flawed criminal justice system, First Meal is a combined work of imagination and reporting, showing and telling the stories of 25 wrongfully convicted people and what they chose as their first meals after exoneration and release from prison.
A feminist philosopher argues that consent is not only a highly imperfect legal threshold but also an underappreciated complement of good sex. Manon Garcia deftly reveals the hidden complexities of consent and proposes how to reconceptualize it as a tool of liberation.
Coyote’s Swing: A Memoir and Critique of Mental Hygiene in Native America by David Edward Walker
Available from Washington State University Press
David Edward Walker exposes how the U.S. mental health system — especially the Indian Health Service — dramatically fails Native Americans. Many end up re-traumatized by practices that echo historical injustices and are foreign to Native values, and he wants that to change.
The Jews of Summer: Summer Camp and Jewish Culture in Postwar America by Sandra Fox
Available from Stanford University Press
The Jews of Summer looks at how postwar summer camps for Jewish youth were an expression of adult hopes about the Jewish future. But adult plans did not embody everything that occurred at camp: children and teenagers also shaped these camps to mirror their own desires and interests.
Speak of It is a testament to the healing power of language, books, and identity. Marcos Villatoro recounts channeling his Latino roots to come to terms with childhood sexual abuse suffered in his home in Appalachia, along with his ensuing struggle with trauma and mental illness.
Ill-understood by most until the case of pop star Britney Spears, the state-run guardianship system has become an epicenter of exploitation and abuse. We’re Here to Help draws attention to the humans behind these headlines and their ongoing fight for justice in an unjust world.
The U.S.-China Trade War: Global News Framing and Public Opinion in the Digital Age, edited by Louisa Ha and Lars Willnat
Available from Michigan State University Press
The U.S.-China Trade War sheds light on the media’s role in the 21st century’s most high-profile contest over global trade to date.
Middle East Studies
An Exodus From Turkey: Tales of Migration and Exile, edited by Ahmet Erdi Öztürk and Bahar Baser
Available from Edinburgh University Press
Exodus from Turkey gives a voice to those in exile, featuring interviews with former politicians, artists, journalists, academics and activists. Both heartbreaking and informative, this book provides a snapshot of a new layer of intellectual diaspora in the making.
Beyond Ridiculous: Making Gay Theatre with Charles Busch in 1980s New York by Kenneth Elliott
Available from University of Iowa Press
This book by theatre director Kenneth Elliot illuminates the artistic landscape of 1980s New York during the AIDS epidemic, as well as the struggle for mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ+ theatre during the reign of President Ronald Reagan, and the exploration of new ways of being a gay theatre artist.
Incorporating elements of magical realism and myth, GHOST :: SEEDS puts a queer spin on the Persephone myth to explore conceptions of gender and identity. In a unique approach to storytelling, the book features a dialogue between a trans speaker and the “girl-ghost” of the self he left behind to become the man he is today.
Politics & Culture
To Build a Black Future: The Radical Politics of Joy, Pain, and Care by Christopher Paul Harris
Available from Princeton University Press
When #BlackLivesMatter emerged in 2013, it ushered in the most consequential Black-led mobilization since the civil rights and Black power era. Drawing on his own experiences as an activist and organizer, Christopher Paul Harris takes readers inside the Movement for Black Lives to chart the propulsive trajectory of Black politics and reveals how the radical politics of joy, pain, and care, in sharp contrast to liberal political thought, can build a Black future that transcends ideology and pushes the boundaries of our political imagination.
The Tilson Case: Church and State in 1950s’ Ireland by David Jameson
Available from Cork University Press
The Tilson Case tells the story of an extraordinary Irish legal dispute, which followed the marriage of Ernest Tilson, a Protestant, to Mary Barnes, a Catholic, in 1941. Although the couple had pledged to raise their children as Catholics, nine years later, Ernest decided to educate his sons as Protestants. Mary took a case to the high court and won. Based on archival material, previously unseen documentary sources and oral testimonies, this engaging book offers fresh perspectives on the vexed issue of mixed marriages in Ireland, and the intimate relationship between the Catholic Church and the state at the time.
The Deadly Rise of Anti-science: A Scientist’s Warning by Peter J. Hotez, MD, PhD., edited by Robin Coleman
Available from Johns Hopkins University Press
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, renowned scientist Dr. Peter Hotez appeared daily on major news networks to keep the public informed. During that time, he was one of the most trusted voices on the pandemic and was even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his selfless work, yet he became a target of the anti-vaccine movement. In this book, Hotez shows how the dangerous anti-vaccine movement gained traction and offers solutions for how to combat science denialism.
The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History by Ned Blackhawk
Available from Yale University Press
Hailed as “a sweeping, important, revisionist work of American history that places Native Americans front and center” (New York Times Book Review), this national bestseller acknowledges the essential role Indigenous peoples played in shaping the United States. Named a finalist for the National Book Award for non-fiction.
Childfree and Happy: Transforming the Rhetoric of Women’s Reproductive Choices by Courtney Adams Wooten
Available from Utah State University Press
Delving into how childfree women position their decision not to have children and the different types of interactions they have with others about this choice, Childfree and Happy also explores the formation of communities between childfree women and those who support them.
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