Critical Mass

Some Picks for Fall ‘08 Breakthrough Books from University Presses


From my column today at IHE:

Over the past couple of years, Inside Higher Ed has had someone on the floor of whichever cavernous convention center is home to Book Expo America….The scale of this event is difficult take in, let alone describe. You stand in the aisles and hear an ocean of money roaring through the auditorium. Even the most prestigious and powerful university presses — the ones that dominate the exhibit halls at major scholarly conferences — tend to look rather modest at Book Expo. Theirs are the booths without stacks of free books or celebrity appearances. Nobody publishing with Harvard or Princeton will dress in an oversized novelty costume. If you propose the idea, they will tell you no.

BEA ‘08 was held in Los Angeles this year. Given the pace at which fuel prices keep increasing, it was difficult to be sure of affording a cab to the airport, let alone any longer trip — so the best we can do for coverage this time is to point you to a compilation of reports. In a few weeks, I plan to strap myself to the underside of an 18-wheel truck in order to attend the convention of the Association of American University Presses, in Montreal. But for now, here is a brief dispatch from a recent tour of the university press catalogs for the fall — a first look at the books that might break out to attract a nonspecialist audience.

One word that comes to mind to characterize the new lists is “recessionary”….

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