composite of award-winning faculty books

Book smart: Faculty recognized for writing achievements

June 24, 2024


Looking for a new page turner this summer? Here are some of the books by University of Richmond faculty that received national awards and acclaim within the past year.

American Visions: The United States 1800-1860 by Edward L. Ayers

Selected for the Wall Street Journal’s Best Reading of 2023 list, Edward L. Ayers’ book delves into a turbulent but fascinating American past, where visionaries like Frederick Douglass, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau challenged the status quo on slavery and other moral concerns. “A dynamic portrait of a country in transition,” said the New Yorker. Ayers, president emeritus and Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities, is a past winner of the Bancroft Prize and Beveridge Prize and a finalist for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize.

The Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse, translated by Kurt Beals

Visiting German Professor and Humanities Fellow in Literary Translation Kurt Beals has created “a sharp, erudite new translation of Hesse’s moody classic,” according to one reviewer. His rendering of Harry Haller’s hallucinatory quest for self-discovery has been nominated for the 2024 Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize (results pending). According to the publisher, “This revolutionary translation is the only way to experience the novel as Hesse envisioned it nearly one hundred years ago.”

The House is on Fire by Rachel Beanland

English Writer in Residence Rachel Beanland’s historical novel concerns the tragic theater fire in Richmond of 1811 which claimed 72 lives, including Virginia Governor George William Smith. Told through the perspective of four characters who were there that night, Beanland’s book has been named a New Yorker and NPR Best Book of 2023, a Kirkus Prize Finalist, and a Good Morning America Buzz Pick. Reviewers describe it as a “wildly entertaining” (NPR) and “gripping” (The Washington Post) tale.

Wartime Suffering and Survival by Jeffrey K. Hass

Sociology Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology Jeffrey K. Hass received the 2023 Mirra Komarovsky Book Award from the Eastern Sociological Society for his book on the Blockade of Leningrad from 1941 to 1944 that claimed an estimated 1.5 million lives. Hass drew from hundreds of personal accounts of the time, including diaries, police records, and interviews. The book, a past co-winner of the Outstanding Book Award for the Peace, War, and Social Conflict Section of the American Sociological Association, “goes to the heart of human resilience and fragility and to the core of the human condition,” according to the publisher.

American Caliph by Shahan Mufti

Journalism Professor and Chair Shahan Mufti tells this story of a little-remembered Muslim terror attack — the 1977 Hanafi siege of Washington, D.C., which resulted in the taking of hundreds of hostages, the killing of a reporter, and the shooting of Marion Barry, later to become the city’s mayor. Named a 2023 finalist for the Edgar Allen Poe Award, “`American Caliph’ is a fascinatingly detailed retelling of one of the most mystifying American dramas of the 1970s,” said Jon Lee Anderson, staff writer for The New Yorker. 

The Breaks by Julietta Singh

“In a letter to her six-year-old daughter, Julietta Singh writes toward a tender vision of the world, offering children’s radical embrace of possibility as a model for how we might live,” said the publisher. Singh, an English professor and Stephanie Bennett-Smith Chair in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies, envisions a future beyond climate catastrophe, extractive capitalism, and legacies of racism and patriarchy in this essay. “The Breaks” received an honorable mention from the Association for Asian American Studies in the Creative Writing: Prose category in 2023 and was previously selected as a New York Public Library Best Book of the year and Best Genre-Bending Nonfiction by Book Riot.