How Can You Not Buy Books When Reading the NYRB?

by Beth McAuley

Published at 2015-08-05


A good question to ask, especially when reading the University Press Issue, which was released on July 9. I happened to be at Book City on the Danforth and couldn't resist picking up a copy. The New York Review of Books is, of course, an undisputed source of information for all books literary, poetic, academic, geographic, historical, and the list goes on, which makes for incredibly engaging reading.


But in this issue, not only are the articles calling out to be read but so too the advertisements.


And that is what caught my attention first: the university press announcements of new and forthcoming titles and bestsellers. There are no less than 22 ads representing academic presses in the US and Canada. Plus ads from the British Library and The Getty and non-academic presses. The blurbs are exciting stuff all on their own. It’s like visiting a bookstore and spending hours reading the back covers of books simply for the pleasure of it.


Here is how the enticements play out.

The Full-Page Academic Press Ads

The issue opens with a number of full-page ads. For example:


The U of Chicago Press introduces new titles that range from A Historical Atlas of Tibet by Karl E. Ryavec to Wolves on the Hunt by L. David Mech et al. to The High Performing PreSchool by Gillian Dowley McNamee. One that stands out for me is The Beauty of the Social Problem in which Walter Benn Michaels looks at how contemporary artists are incorporating contemporary social problems and conditions into their work.


Next is Yale UP, whose titles take you from Stalin: A New Biography of a Dictator by Oleg V. Khlevniuk to Hawthorn: The Tree that Has Nourished, Healed, and Inspired through the Ages by Bill Vaughn to The House of Owls by Tony Angell.


The MIT Press appears on page 7 and features Umberto Eco’s How to Write a Thesis (that would be great reading!) along with an Atlas of Knowledge Anyone Can Map by Katy Börner, and The Container Principle by Alexander Klose (trans. Charles Marcrum II) that takes a look at how the box has changed the way we think.


Next is U of California whose titles feature photography in India, the life of Zen poet Philip Whalen, and an autobiography of Mark Twain. There is also the Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate by Abdel Barl Atwan that looks at the global jihadi movement.


Oxford UP’s new titles include subjects that range from Baptists in America, a history of folk music culture, along with an encyclopedia of delectable desserts.  


Other full pagers include Columbia UP – take your pick from Genealogy of American Finance by Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla, or Symbols of Power: The Coins that Changed the World edited by Thomas Hockehull. Princeton UP, whose tag line is “conversations that change the world,” features titles ranging from a new history of Europe in the 20th century, how four big ideas shaped the modern world, the dynamics of urban violence, to the complete works of W.H.Auden.


For more adventurous reading, Johns Hopkins’s full page ad features field guides and travel guides from the birds of New York City and the natural world of Washington, D.C., to a Travel Guide to the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake by Ralph E. Eshelman.


Cornell UP is featured on page 19 and requires at least half an hour to enjoy the blurbs describing their 21 award-winning titles. A few examples include Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the world, 1950–1992 by Charles K. Armstrong; Resister: A Story of Protest and Prison during the Vietnam War by Bruce Dancis, along with titles focusing on history of the Russian Empire, women’s history, language and culture.


Stanford UP follows with titles touching on the American death penalty and forensic science, as well as poetry, fiction, and this must-have, ¡Tequila!: Distilling the Spirit of Mexico by Marie Sarita Gaytán


McGill-Queen’s UP is on page 23 with explorations of the modern household in Breaking and Entering: The Contemporary House Cut, Spliced, and Haunted, edited by Bridget Elliott, or a history of Black Canadian writing in The Black Atlantic Reconsidered, edited by Winfried Siemerling.

The Smaller Academic Press Ads

The smaller ads that fill the sidebars and that run between the front and back covers feature fewer but as attractive titles.


NYU Press offers Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America by F. Michael Higginbotham, Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men by Jane Ward, and other selections focusing on the United Nations, contemporary television, and relationships in the globalizing world.


U of Illinois includes Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal, 1882–1939 by Roger Daniels, and Acid Hype: American News Media and the Psychedelic Experience by Stephen Siff.


Identifying as “the worlds’ oldest publisher,” Cambridge titles feature the third volume of The Letters of Ernest Hemmingway, 1926–1929, edited by Rena Sanderson et al., and Lincoln’s Ethics by Thomas L. Carson.


Among the four titles featured in the ad from U of Georgia Press are Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777–1865 by Patrick Rael, and Sounding the Color Line: Music and Race in the Southern Imagination by Erich  Nunn.


And last but not least (I want to include everyone):


West Virginia UP features three titles that focus on hippie homesteaders, George Washington, and California dreaming; Brandeis UP introduces a collection of essays by James Wood and Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies by David Nirenberg; Penn Press includes medieval robots and a history of consumption; UP Kansas features an anthology of African American writers in Harlem and history of Native American icon, Will Rogers; U of Minnesota introduces a translation of Michel Foucault’s Language, Madness, and Desire; Duke U features a photographic collection of the Russian North; and Louisiana State UP introduces The Rising Water Trilogy: Plays by John Biguenet, that focuses on the ongoing aftermath of Katrina, and a biography of George Washington Carver.

The Back Cover Ad

Bringing this enthralling edition to a close is the full-page ad on the back cover announcing new titles from the University of Toronto Press. These include The Pope’s Dilemma: Pope Pius XII Atrocities and Genocide of the Second World War by Jacques Kornberg, Reading Václav Havel by Davis S. Danaher, and Modernism in Kyiv, edited by Irena R. Makaryk and Virlana Tkacz.

Going Shopping Now …

So, how many books am I going to buy? Well, here’s the list so far: Eighty-Eight Years, Reading Václav Havel, and Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies. Since I have been invited to the book launch of The Pope’s Dilemma, there is no question that I will pick up a copy while there.


Enjoy the browsing, and I hope this review of the NYRB will inspire you to seek out a few titles at your local bookstore. And even if this blog is read by only a few, it was a pleasure to write!



While not totally related to book shopping, our recent The Importance of Archiving Your Academic Sources does relate to the writing of scholarly works. If you’re wondering how to build your own digital archive of sources, be sure to download a copy here.