AAP’s PROSE Awards: The 2024 Top Winners

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The PROSE Awards for academic books names its top winners, with Princeton University Press cinching a second RR Hawkins honor.

An adult male honeyguide in Tanzania. The bird, which leads humans to bees’ nests in order to get to the nests’ honey, is one of the creatures featured in the 2024 RR Hawkins honor in the Association of American Publishers’ PROSE awards. Image: CC-by-SA-2.0 by Dominic Sherony

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

Princeton University Press Wins a Second Hawkins Honor
As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the annual PROSE Awards from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) are a program by which the United States’ publishers’ association honors academic work.

Today (March 27), the program has announced its top wins. As before, the program’s jurors have decided on the top four “category winners” in social sciences; physical sciences and mathematics; biological and life sciences; and the humanities. From those four, one is chosen to receive the uber-honor, the RR Hawkins Award, which is named for the late Reginald Robert Hawkins (1902-1999), who was instrumental in the New York Public Library’s development and the quality and prominence of American scholarship.

The name is drawn from the contest’s focus: PROSE stands for Professional and Scholarly Excellence.

Earlier this month, we featured the winners of the program’s 41 categories—yes, 41—categories. In its 48th year, this competition began with 118 “finalists,” making it one of the three or four largest award efforts in a business awash in prize programs, especially in its English-language markets. This is why it could be so useful for this program to follow the lead of the Booker Prize Foundation and the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction in the United Kingdom and report on the kind of sales impact that can be expected for winning titles.

What is the PROSE program’s prized logo worth beyond prestige and well-earned applause? Can a win here boost sales of a good book? To date, everyone is taking it on faith that “the golden sticker” sells books, and the PROSE program is singularly positioned to test this notion in the scholarly-book sector. Perhaps it’s something the organizers can consider.

Syreeta Swann

In a comment on the release of today’s news, The AAP’s COO, Syreeta Swann, is quoted, saying, “We congratulate this year’s winners from Princeton University Press, Cambridge University
Press, Duke University Press, and The MIT Press. [Those publishers] illustrate the incredible quality and  innovation representative of PROSE Award for Excellence winners.

“Taken as a whole,” she says, “this year’s winners illustrate the power and importance of scholarly publishing, combining detailed research, concise prose, and inventive approaches that make these works truly compelling for both expert and lay readers. We thank our judges for their tireless work in determining our PROSE Award for Excellence Winners, and all who entered for their contributions to the field of scholarly and professional publishing.”

The 2024 PROSE Excellence Award Winners

The 2024 RR Hawkins Award Winner

Nigel Fletcher-Jones

In announcing the Mathevon book as the Hawkins Award winner, Nigel Fletcher-Jones, who leads the PROSE jury again this year, says, “The Voices of Nature: How and Why Animals Communicate, is as inventive as it is trailblazing, combining accessible writing with a unique online audio tie-in to create a truly immersive experience,” commented PROSE Chief Judge Nigel Fletcher-Jones, PhD. “

I have every confidence that this innovative approach will dramatically expand the understanding of bioacoustics, and provide an invaluable tool for scholars and readers of all kinds.”

Christie Henry

Speaking Princeton’s program, which has won the award, the press’ director, Christie Henry, says, “Princeton University Press is honored to accept the RR Hawkins Award, and humbled to do so for a second year in a row.

“We’re grateful to the PROSE judges for their engaged reading—and listening—and to our peer presses for their inspired publishing.

“Nicolas Mathevon entrusted to our team this extraordinary work, which opens all of our senses to the ways in which sounds and communication shape culture, community and environment. It’s a thrill to amplify its impact with this award.”

PROSE Award for Excellence in Social Sciences 

PROSE Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences and Mathematics

PROSE Award for Excellence in Humanities 

From ‘The Voices of Nature’

In an excerpt from The Voices of Nature provided to Publishing Perspectives, we read about a small nonpasserine bird found in Africa, the Himalayas, and the East Indies. This is a bird that on occasion leads people and/or other animals to bees’ nests.

“The honeyguide,” Mathevon writes, is “in the habit of leading hive hunters to the object of their common lust.

“How does it proceed? By calling and flying from one tree to another, patiently waiting for the humans to catch up. When all have arrived at their destination, the hunters, protected from the bees by clothing and equipped with tools, open the hive to extract the honey from it, leaving the wax combs in plain sight, which their winged guide delights in as they leave.”

And there’s a site that accompanies Princeton’s publication of the winning book from Mathevon, allowing you to hear some of the sonic effects that the author documents in his winning book.

You can visit that site here to enjoy hearing “a short sound journey among the animals present in the book. This page will let you in on a hyena’s “giggle,” for example, as well as the sounds of crocodile calls, a bearded seal in good voice, the call of a bonobo, and the whistle of the screaming piha from the Amazon (in Brazil, not Seattle).

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