Two Princeton University Press books named National Book Critics Circle Award finalists

Two Princeton University Press books have been named as finalists for 2024 National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Awards. The Chapter: A Segmented History from Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century, by Nicholas Dames, and Pleasure and Efficacy: Of Pen Names, Cover Versions, and Other Trans Techniques by Grace Elisabeth Lavery are two of five titles nominated for the criticism category.

The Chapter begins with the seemingly simple question: why do books have chapters? From here Dames, the Theodore Kahan Professor of Humanities at Columbia University and an editor in chief of Public Books, embarks on a journey across millennia, revealing how an ancient editorial technique became a universally recognized component of narrative art and a means to register the sensation of time. Celebrated as “at once learned and delightful” (Merve Emre) and “the masterwork we did not know we needed …. Dames’s prose is lucid and elegant while his brilliantly chosen examples are legion without being overwhelming” (John Plotz), The Chapter was recognized by the New Yorker as one of the best books of the 2023. 

In Pleasure and Efficacy, Grace Lavery, a leading trans scholar and activist, investigates gender transition as it has been experienced and represented in the modern period. Considering examples that range from the novels of George Eliot to the psychoanalytic practice of Sigmund Freud to marriage manuals by Marie Stopes, Lavery explores the skepticism found in such works about whether it is truly possible to change one’s sex. The book has been praised for “smoothly alternating between high and low cultures, Twitter and the archives of Victorian life, highbrow horror and lowbrow comedy, Lavery demonstrates complete mastery of the essay form while disavowing mastery itself. Prepare to be vexed, outraged, seduced, and entertained” (Jack Halberstam).

This year marks the second in a row that a Princeton University Press title has been among the NBCC finalists, with Aaron Sachs’ Up From The Depths: Herman Melville, Louis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times nominated for the 2023 biography category. The Chapter and Pleasure and Efficacy are two of nine university press books included among the 2024 NBCC finalists. We extend our congratulations to peers at Ohio State University Press, NYU Press, Yale University Press, University of Georgia Press, Duke University Press, University of Nebraska Press, and Cornell University Press. Winners will be announced on March 21st, in New York.