In honor of the AAUP's "University Press Week," Stanford University Press is delighted to join 25 of our fellow presses in a blog tour celebrating the importance of university presses. Here is Steve Levingston, Nonfiction Editor at the Washington Post Book World; stay tuned for the next post as Claire Bond Potter, author and Tenured Radical Blogger, writes for Georgia University Press on "Small is Better: Why University Presses Are Sustainable Presses."
"Several years ago when I started The Washington Post’s books blog Political Bookworm (now sadly
defunct), I quickly learned how compelling and truly indispensible university press books are. University press books cover topics of pressing social and cultural interest, and they make the perfect fit for curious readers hoping to engage in the national conversation.
On the Political Bookworm, we were lucky to find many eager university press authors to provide posts, and we benefited enormously from the insights and conversations generated by these authors. They wrote for us on a range of issues across the political spectrum. Their postings, typically based on their own books, often caused a flurry of comments and were tweeted and retweeted in large numbers.
With so many past postings to choose from, I can randomly click through the Political Bookworm site and hit on fascinating topics. (And I encourage readers to take a stroll through the Political Bookworm, check the archives, and see what I mean.) Here is just a quick sampling among the many topics that inspired me from university press books.
- We discussed whether or not there is a place for religion in the classroom in Emile Lester’s post developed from his book Teaching About Religions: A Democratic Approach for Public Schools (The University of Michigan Press).
- We probed the tricky question of how not only to improve health care, but also to bring down healthcare costs in John E. Wennberg’s post based on his book Tracking Medicine: A Researcher's Quest to Understand Health Care (Oxford University Press).
- We looked at how political leaders have tried, quite inappropriately, to influence scientists in Raymond S. Bradley’s post drawing on his book Global Warming and Political Intimidation: How Politicians Cracked Down on Scientists as the Earth Heated Up (University of Massachusetts Press).
- We introduced readers to a great writer's perspective on war. Offering many revelatory insights,
Thomas E. Barden, the editor of Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War (University of Virginia Press), shared Steinbeck’s statement from February 1967: “The enemy is in front of us, behind us and often among us. They strike, retreat, disperse, and regroup.”
In addition to featuring university press books on our blog, we’ve given them a prominent place in The Washington Post Book World review pages where we’ve showcased these books’ mastery of a subject, or fine storytelling, or both. A particular favorite of mine jumps to mind: Marigold: The Lost Chance for Peace in Vietnam by James G. Hershberg (Stanford University Press/Woodrow Wilson Center). Our reviewer, Gordon Goldstein, called the book "a staggering exercise in historical scholarship," noting that “Hershberg has achieved his presumptive goal of writing the definitive study of a hidden history that had been the subject of intense speculation over the years but never comprehensively told.” Not only that, Marigold is a fluid, dramatic read. To me, it represents—as indeed do all these books and the conversations they’ve since inspired—what is invaluable about university presses."
The Washington Post