Up from the Depths nominated for a 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award

Up from the Depths: Herman Melville, Lewis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times by Aaron Sachs has been named a Finalist for the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award, one of five books included in the Biography category.

A double portrait of two of America’s most influential writers—the novelist and poet Herman Melville (1819–1891) and literary critic and historian Lewis Mumford (1895–1990)—Up from the Depths reveals the surprising connections between the two men and their uncanny relevance to our own age of crisis. Sachs—professor of history and American studies at Cornell University and the author of The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism and Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition—shows how Mumford spearheaded Melville’s revival after World War I and the 1918–1919 flu pandemic, when American culture needed a forebear with a suitably dark vision. Ultimately succeeding in canonizing the author of Moby Dick as the nation’s greatest tragedian, one Mumford’s key insights, largely forgotten but illuminated here, is that Melville’s darkness was balanced by an inspiring determination to endure.

Reviewing the book for the Wall Street Journal, critic Sam Sacks noted that Up from the Depths takes up the dialectic method so central to Melville’s writing for its unique investigation of parallel lives… . chapters interweave periods of the two men’s lives, creating a dappled effect of shared shadows and light.” Praised elsewhere as “excellent…a braided account…aimed at exploring the strange resonance between their time and ours” (Slate), “incisive…well-informed” (Kirkus, starred review), and “an inspired study” (American Scholar), Up from the Depths illustrates how powerfully history can be in offering hope in dark times.

The National Book Critics Circle Awards are presented annually across six categories for, “the finest books published in English.” This year’s list of nominees includes four university press books. Two titles published by University of Pittsburgh PressHello I Must Be Going by David Hernandez and banana [ ] by Paul Hlava Ceballos—are finalists for Poetry. Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age by Timothy Bewes, published by Columbia University Press, is a Finalist for Criticism.

Winners of the 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award will be announced on March 23rd at an awards ceremony in New York City.