AAP PROSE Awards: The 2021 Category Finalists

In News by Porter Anderson

From ‘Macbeth in Harlem’ to ‘Nitrogen Overload,’ and from ‘The Plasticity of Sex’ to ‘The Alchemy of Us,‘ the 2021 PROSE Awards longlist spotlights 130 titles in scholarly publishing.

In the main hall of Vienna’s Austrian National Library. Image – iStockphoto: Cristiano Alessandro

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Swann: ‘An Extraordinary Group of Finalists’
A month earlier this year than last, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) has provided Publishing Perspectives with the finalists in its 2021 PROSE Awards. Despite the name, these awards are not focused on prose but on scholarly publishing—the name stands for Professional and Scholarly Excellence.

Last year’s ultimate winner was Carmen C. Bambach’s Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered from Yale University Press (July 2019), a four-volume work honored with the 2020 RR Hawkins Award.

In bringing you this year’s PROSE saga, we’ll again go through several stages of the competition, of course. And today’s installment of the process presents you with what may be the longest longlist in all of publishing awards.

There are 130 finalists here, in 45 subject categories in the 45th annual doing of the PROSE Awards. Watching these books march by, year after year, yields glimpses of trends, too.

Last year, for example, Marfa Garden: The Wonders of Dry Desert Plants by Martha Hughes, Jim Martinez, and Mary Lou Saxon was longlisted from Trinity University Press. This year, you’ll find that we’ve left those wonders behind in desert studies and moved on to insects in Desert Navigator: The Journey of an Ant by Rüdiger Wehner from Harvard University Press.

Indeed, ants are big this year. There’s also Army Ants: Nature’s Ultimate Social Hunters by Daniel J. C. Kronauer, also from Harvard.

And here’s Ancient Maya Politics: A Political Anthropology of the Classic Period 150–900 CE by Simon Martin from Cambridge University Press. Surely our politics today would scare the Mayans to death.

Speaking of that and pertinent to this week’s sea-change in American leadership, you’ll find Diagnosing from a Distance: Debates over Libel Law, Media, and Psychiatric Ethics from Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump by John Martin-Joy from Cambridge University Press. That might go well with You Talkin’ to Me? The Unruly History of New York English by E. J. White from Oxford University Press. 

The sheer range here is bracing. Here are Earth-shaking forces in Iceland: Tectonics, Volcanics, and Glacial Features by Tamie J. Jovanelly from John, Wiley & Sons Inc. And that’s balanced by some of the most exquisite aesthetics of our history in The Art of Sculpture in Fifteenth Century Italy edited by Amy R. Bloch and Daniel M. Zolli, also from Cambridge.

Syreeta Swann

In a prepared statement on today’s release, Syreeta Swann, AAP’s vice-president of programs and administration, is quoted, praising “an extraordinary group of finalists, representing the full range of scholarly publishing.

“We look forward to announcing the subject category and excellence award winners, as well as the PROSE Awards’ top honor, the RR Hawkins Award in the weeks ahead.”

The entries this year are being juried by 23 judges, and they have reviewed what we’re told was more than 590 entries in this year’s competition.

What will come next is an announcement of a subject category winner in each of the 45 categories.

Then five titles will be chosen for each of the super-categories:

  • Biological and Life Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Physical Sciences and Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
  • Reference Works

And finally the RR Hawkins Award will be chosen from those five. It’s named for the late Reginald Robert Hawkins (1902 to 1999) , who was at the New York Public Library from 1926 to 1957. From 1942, he headed up the science and technology division.

2021 PROSE Biological and Life Sciences Finalists

Biological Science 

  • Army Ants: Nature’s Ultimate Social Hunters, Daniel J. C. Kronauer, Harvard University Press
  • Chimpanzee Lessons from our Sister Species, Kevin D. Hunt, Cambridge University Press
  • Desert Navigator: The Journey of an Ant, Rüdiger Wehner, Harvard University Press


  • Cognition and Addiction, Antonio Verdejo García, Elsevier
  • The Plasticity of Sex: The Molecular Biology and Clinical Features of Genomic Sex, Gender Identity and Sexual Behavior, Marianne J. Legato, Elsevier
  • Tumor Vascularization, Domenico Ribatti and Francesco Pezzella, Elsevier

Clinical Medicine

  • Case Studies in Geriatric Primary Care and Multimorbidity Management, Karen Dick and Terry Mahan Buttaro, Elsevier
  • Diagnosing from a Distance: Debates over Libel Law, Media, and Psychiatric Ethics from Barry Goldwater to Donald Trump, John Martin-Joy, Cambridge University Press
  • Managing Health in the Genomic Era: A Guide to Family Health History and Disease Risk, Vincent Henrich, Lori Orlando, and Brian Shirts, Elsevier

Clinical Psychology & Psychiatry 

  • Liberation Psychology: Theory, Method, Practice, and Social Justice, Lillian Comas-Díaz and Edil Torres Rivera, American Psychological Association
  • The Wiley Handbook of Healthcare Treatment Engagement, Andrew Hadler, Stephen Sutton, and Lars Osterberg, John Wiley & Sons 


  • Brain Fables: The Hidden History of Neurodegenerative Diseases and a Blueprint to Conquer Them, Alberto Espay and Benjamin Stecher, Cambridge University Press
  • Music and the Aging Brain, Lola Cuddy, Sylvie Belleville, and Aline Moussard, Elsevier
  • Handbook of Amygdala Structure and Function, Janice Urban and J. Amiel Rosenkranz, Elsevier
  • The Highly Sensitive Brain, Bianca Acevedo, Elsevier

Nursing and Allied Health

  • Handbook of Perinatal and Neonatal Palliative Care: A Guide for Nurses, Physicians, and Other Health Professionals, Rana Limbo PhD, RN, CPLC, FAAN; Charlotte Wool PhD, RN; and Brian Carter MD, FAAP, Springer Publishing Company
  • Pediatric Nursing: A Case-Based Approach, 1st Edition, Catherine Gannon Tagher and Lisa Marie Knapp, Wolters Kluwer
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Substance and Behavioral Addictions, Steve Sussman, Cambridge University Press
2021 PROSE Humanities Finalists

Architecture and Urban Planning 

  • Frederick Law Olmsted: Plans and Views of Communities and Private Estates, edited by Charles E. Beveridge, Lauren Meier, and Irene Mills, Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Painting in Stone: Architecture and the Poetics of Marble from Antiquity to the Enlightenment, Fabio Barry, Yale University Press
  • Remaking Berlin: A History of the City through Infrastructure, 1920–2020, Timothy Moss, The MIT Press

Art Exhibitions

  • Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins, edited by Ariane Thomas and Timothy Potts, J. Paul Getty Museum
  • ¡Printing the Revolution!: The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now, Claudia E. Zapata, Terezita Romo, E. Carmen Ramos, and Tatiana Reinoza, edited by E. Carmen Ramos, Princeton University Press
  • Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde, edited by Starr Figura, Isabelle Cahn and Philippe Peltier, with contributions by Cécile Bargues, Yaelle Biro, Anna Blaha, Isabelle Cahn, Starr Figura, Megan Fontanella, Claudine Grammont, Joan U. Halperin, Charlotte Hellman, Béatrice Joyeux-Prunel, Patricia Leighten, Philippe Peltier, Léa Saint-Raymond, Élodie Vaudry, and Marnin Young, The Museum of Modern Art 

Art History & Criticism

  • A History of Arab Graphic Design, Bahia Shehab and Haytham Nawar, American University in Cairo Press
  • Making Art Work: How Cold War Engineers and Artists Forged a New Creative Culture, Patrick McCray, The MIT Press
  • The Art of Sculpture in Fifteenth Century Italy, edited by Amy R. Bloch and Daniel M. Zolli, Cambridge University Press 

Biography & Autobiography

  •  At the Risk of Thinking: An Intellectual Biography of Julia Kristeva, Alice Jardine, Bloomsbury
  • Crystal Eastman: A Revolutionary Life, Amy Aronson, Oxford University Press
  • Goya: A Portrait of the Artist, Janis A. Tomlinson, Princeton University Press
  • Naoroji: Pioneer of Indian Nationalism, Dinyar Patel, Harvard University Press

Biological Anthropology, Ancient History & Archaeology

  •  Ancient Maya Politics: A Political Anthropology of the Classic Period 150–900 CE, Simon Martin, Cambridge University Press
  • New World Monkeys: The Evolutionary Odyssey, Alfred L. Rosenberger, Princeton University Press
  • Sex, Skulls, and Citizens: Gender and Racial Science in Argentina (1860-1910), Ashley Elizabeth Kerr, Vanderbilt University Press 


  • Empire of the Black Sea: The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic World, Duane W. Roller, Oxford University Press
  • Scale, Space and Canon in Ancient Literary Culture, Reviel Netz, Cambridge University Press
  • The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History, Greg Woolf, Oxford University Press 

European History 

  • Porcelain: A History from the Heart of Europe, Suzanne L. Marchand, Princeton University Press
  • Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, Judith Herrin, Princeton University Press

Language & Linguistics

  • Forty Narratives in the Wyandot Language, John L. Steckley, McGill-Queen’s University Press
  • The Handbook of Asian Englishes, Kingsley Bolton, Werner Botha, and Andy Kirkpatrick, Wiley Blackwell
  • You Talkin’ to Me? The Unruly History of New York English, E. J. White, Oxford University Press 


  • How to Think like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education, Scott Newstok, Princeton University Press
  • Impostures, By al-Hariri, Translated by Michael Cooperson, New York University/Library of Arabic Literature
  • The Ferrante Letters: An Experiment in Collective Criticism, Sarah Chihaya, Merve Emre, Katherine Hill, and Jill Richards, Columbia University Press

Media and Cultural Studies 

  • The Decisive Network: Magnum Photos and the Postwar Image Market, Nadya Bair, University of California Press
  • The Process Genre: Cinema and the Aesthetic of Labor, Salomé Aguilera Skvirsky, Duke University Press
  • Who Invented Oscar Wilde?: The Photograph at the Center of Modern American Copyright, David Newhoff, University of Nebraska Press

Music and the Performing Arts

  • Macbeth in Harlem: Black Theater in America from the Beginning to Raisin in the Sun, Clifford Mason, Rutgers University Press
  • Switched On Pop: How Popular Music Works, and Why It Matters, Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding, Oxford University Press
  • To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America, Felicia Angeja Viator, Harvard University Press 

Nonfiction Graphic Novels

  • Light in Dark Times, Alisse Waterston and Charlotte Corden, University of Toronto Press
  • Witness to the Age of Revolution: The Odyssey of Juan Bautista Tupac Amaru, Charles F. Walker and Liz Clarke, Oxford University Press 

North American History 

  • A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War, William G. Thomas III, Yale University Press
  • Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War, Vincent Brown, Harvard University Press
  • The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants, Adam Goodman, Princeton, University Press 

Outstanding Works by a Trade Publisher

  • Reconsidering Reagan, Daniel S. Lucks, Beacon Press
  • The Last American Aristocrat, David S. Brown, Scribner
  • The Turnaway Study, Diana Greene Foster, Scribner


  • Freedom: An Unruly History, Annelein de Dijn, Harvard University Press
  • No Refuge: Ethics and the Global Refugee Crisis, Serena Parekh, Oxford University Press
  • Sick Souls, Healthy Minds: How William James Can Save Your Life, John Kaag, Princeton University Press

 Theology & Religious Studies

  • How God Becomes Real: Kindling the Presence of Invisible Others, T. M. Luhrmann, Princeton University Press
  • Meaning and Method in Comparative Theology, Catherine Cornille, Wiley Blackwell
  • Motherhood: A Confession, Natalie Carnes, Stanford University Press

World History

  • Forging a Unitary State, John P. LeDonne, University of Toronto Press
  • Inca Apocalypse: The Spanish Conquest and the Transformation of the Andean World, R. Alan Covey, Oxford University Press
  • Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities, Mahmood Mamdani, Harvard University Press
2021 PROSE Physical Science and Mathematics Finalists

Computing & Information Sciences

  • Data Feminism, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, The MIT Press
  • The Ethical Algorithm: The Science of Socially Aware Algorithm Design, Michael Kearns and Aaron Roth, Oxford University Press


  • A Philosophical Approach to MOND: Assessing the Milgromian Research Program in Cosmology, David Merritt, Cambridge University Press
  • Cosmology’s Century: An Inside History of Our Modern Understanding of the Universe, P.J.E. Peebles, Princeton University Press

Earth Science

  • Deep Carbon: Past to Present, edited by Beth N. Orcutt, Isabelle Daniel, and Rajdeep Dasgupta, Cambridge University Press
  • Drought Early Warning and Forecasting: Theory and Practice, Chris Funk and Shraddhanand Shukla, Elsevier
  • Geological Records of Tsunamis and Other Extreme Waves, Max Engel, Jessica Pilarczyk, Simon Matthias May, Dominik Brill, and Ed Garrett, Elsevier
  • Iceland: Tectonics, Volcanics, and Glacial Features, Tamie J. Jovanelly, John, Wiley & Sons Inc. 

Engineering & Technology

  • Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need, Sasha Costanza-Chock, MIT Press
  • Modern Control: State-Space Analysis and Design Methods, Arie Nakhmani, McGraw Hill

Environmental Science

  • River Networks as Ecological Corridors: Species, Populations, Pathogens, Andrea Rinaldo, Marino Gatto, and Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe, Cambridge University Press
  • Tree Story: The History of the World Written in Rings, Valerie Trouet, Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Nitrogen Overload: Environmental Degradation, Ramifications, and Economic Costs, Author Brian G. Katz, edited by Dr Ritu Bose, John Wiley & Sons Inc.

History of Science, Medicine, and Technology

  • Diabetes: A History of Race and Disease, Arleen Marcia Tuchman, Yale University Press
  • The Scientific Method: An Evolution of Thinking from Darwin to Dewey, Henry M. Cowles, Harvard University Press
  • War Against Smallpox: Edward Jenner and the Global Spread of Vaccination, Michael Bennett, Cambridge University Press 


  • Lumen Naturae: Visions of the Abstract in Art and Mathematics, Matilde Marcolli, MIT Press

Popular Science/Math

  • Neutron Stars: The Quest to Understand the Zombies of the Cosmos, Katia Moskvitch, Harvard University Press
  • On Task: How Our Brain Gets Things Done, David Badre, Princeton University Press
  • The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, Ainissa Ramirez, The MIT Press
2021 PROSE Social Science Finalists

Business, Finance & Management

  • Stuck: Why Asian Americans Don’t Reach the Top of the Corporate Ladder, Margaret M. Chin, New York University Press
  • The Catalyst, Jonah Berger, Simon & Schuster
  • The Power of Experiments: Decision Making in a Data-Driven World, Michael Luca and Max H. Bazerman, MIT Press 

Cultural Anthropology and Sociology

  • Ballad of the Bullet: Gangs, Drill Music, and the Power of Online Infamy, Forrest Stuart, Princeton University Press
  • The Lives of Amish Women, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, Johns Hopkins University Press
  • The Tragedy of Heterosexuality, Jane Ward, New York University Press


  • Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Princeton University Press
  • Journal of Public Economics Plus, John Friedman and Wojciech Kopczuk, Elsevier B.V.
  • The Free-Market Family: How the Market Crushed the American Dream (and How It Can Be Restored), Maxine Eichner, Oxford University Press 

Education Practice and Theory

  • Mind Over Media: Propaganda Education in a Digital Age, Renee Hobbs, forward by Douglas Rushkoff, WW Norton & Company, Inc.
  • Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There: Understanding Diversity, Opportunity Gaps, and Teaching in Today’s Classrooms, Second Edition, H. Richard Milner IV, Harvard Education Press
  • The Power of Student Agency: Looking Beyond Grit to Close the Opportunity Gap, Anindya Kundu, Teachers College Press

Government and Politics

  •  Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump, Jennifer Mercieca, Texas A&M University Press
  • Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior, Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird, Princeton University Press
  • The Loud Minority: Why Protests Matter in American Democracy, Daniel Q. Gillion, Princeton University Press

Legal Studies and Criminology

  •  Criminality in Context: The Psychological Foundations of Criminal Justice Reform, Craig Haney, American Psychological Association
  • Defend the Sacred: Native American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment, Michael D. McNally, Princeton University Press
  • New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI, Frank Pasquale, Harvard University Press
  • Whitelash: Unmasking White Grievance at the Ballot Box, Terry Smith, Cambridge University Press 

Psychology and Applied Social Work 

  • A Theory of System Justification, John T. Jost, Harvard University Press
  • Introduction to Social Neuroscience, Stephanie Cacioppo and John T. Cacioppo, Princeton University Press
  • The Origins of You: How Childhood Shapes Later Life, Jay Belsky, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt, and Richie Poulton, Harvard University Press
2021 PROSE Reference Work Finalists

Best E-Product

  • Bloomsbury International Encyclopedia of Surrealism, Bloomsbury Digital Resources, Bloomsbury
  • Cambridge Shakespeare, edited by Brian Gibbons, A.R. Braunmiller, J.S. Bratton, Julie Hankey, Bruce Smith, Katherine Rowe, and Emma Smith, Cambridge University Press
  • i used to love to dream, A.D. Carson, University of Michigan Press

Best New Journal in Science, Technology and Medicine

  • Harvard Data Science Review, Xiao-Li Meng, MIT Press
  • iScience: ‘i’ stands for interdisciplinary, Stefano Tonzani and Simona Fiorani, Cell Press
  • One Earth, Lewis Collins, Izzy Andrew, Erika Freimuth, and Shanshan Zhang, Cell Press

Best New Journal in Humanities and Social Sciences

  • Journal of Public Economics Plus, John Friedman and Wojciech Kopczuk, Elsevier B.V.
  • Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, editor-in-chief: Charlene Villaseñor Black; associate editor: Emily Engel, University of California Press
  • Technology | Architecture + Design, Caryn Brause, Chris Ford, Chad Kraus, Gregory Luhan, Scott Murray, Winifred Elysse Newman, Clare Olsen, Jeana Ripple, Anne-Catrin Schultz, Marci Uihlein, Julian (Jialiang) Wang, and Andrzej Zarzycki, Taylor & Francis Group

Single- and Multivolume Reference, and Textbooks in the Biological and Life Sciences 

  • Frogfishes: Biodiversity, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology, Theodore W. Pietsch and Rachel J. Arnold, Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Freshwater Fishes of North America, Volume 2: Characidae to Poeciliidae, edited by Melvin L. Warren, Jr., and Brooks M. Burr, with Anthony A. Echelle, Bernard R. Kuhajda, and Stephen T. Ross and illustrated by Joseph R. Tomelleri, Johns Hopkins University Press 

Single- and Multivolume Reference, and Textbooks in the Humanities 

  • A Companion to World Literature, Ken Seigneurie, Wiebke Denecke, Christine Chism, Ilaria Ramelli, Christopher Lupke, Evan Nicholl-Johnson, Frieda Ekotto, Abigail Celis, and B. Venkat Mani, Wiley Blackwell
  • A Cultural History of Disability, David Bolt and Robert McRuer, Bloomsbury
  • The Cambridge World History of Violence, general editor Phillip Dwyer and Joy Damousi, Cambridge University Press 

Single- and Multivolume Reference, and Textbooks in the Social Sciences 

  • Seasonal Sociology, Tonya K. Davidson and Ondine Park, University of Toronto Press
  • The Bloomsbury Handbook of Global Education and Learning, Douglas Bourn, Bloomsbury
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Psychology and Human Rights, edited by Neal S. Rubin and Roseanne L. Flores, Cambridge University Press 

Textbook in the Physical Sciences and Mathematics

  • Lectures on Astrophysics, Steven Weinberg, Cambridge University Press
  • Mathematics for Machine Learning, Marc Peter Deisenroth, A. Aldo Faisal, and Cheng Soon Ong, Cambridge University Press
  • Probability and Random Processes, Fourth Edition, Godfrey Grimmett and David Stirzaker, Oxford University Press

In some years, this list of 45 categories swells to 64. The Association of American Publishers has produced the PROSE Awards since 1976.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Association of American Publishers is here, more on digital publishing is here, and more on publishing and book awards is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.