The 2021 Kukula Award Finalists

This first-of-its-kind prize honors the best nonfiction book reviewing in America and honors Kukula Kapoor Glastris, the magazine’s longtime and beloved books editor.

The Washington Monthly magazine is pleased to announce the finalists for its 2021 Kukula Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Book Reviewing—the only journalism prize dedicated to highlighting and encouraging high-quality reviews of serious, public affairs–focused books. The award honors the memory of Kukula Kapoor Glastris, the magazine’s longtime and beloved books editor. Two top prize winners will be announced on Monday, June 7.

“Nonfiction book reviewing plays a key role in transmitting hard-won reporting, research, and ideas on major issues of the day to policymakers and citizens who can’t possibly read more than a fraction of the important books being published each year,” said Washington Monthly editor in chief Paul Glastris, Kukula’s husband of 31 years. This year’s finalists illuminated many such issues—from racial injustice to the dangers of tech monopolies, from political party realignment and political grievance to America’s entanglement in a cycle of endless wars. Across these issues, “the aim of the award is to highlight the work of the talented individuals who practice this undervalued craft—work Kukula devoted herself to publishing,” said Glastris.

Selected from more than 125 outstanding submissions published across a range of print and online media outlets in 2020, the finalists were honored for their clear and artful exposition; original and persuasive thesis; and ability to enlighten readers with new and valuable information. Judges gave priority to works of politics, public affairs, history, and biography.

Finalists were chosen in two categories based on size of the publication. In the larger category, finalists are:

  • Maggie Doherty in The New Yorker, for her review of “The Power of Adrienne Rich” by Hilary Holladay
  • Patrick Iber in The New Republic, for his review of “Reaganland” by Rick Perlstein
  • Daniel Immerwahr in The Nation, for his review of “The United States of War” by David Vine
  • Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post, for his review of “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo
  • Nick Romeo in The Washington Post, for his review of “Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory” by Claudio Saunt

Among smaller publications, finalists are:

  • Morten Høi Jensen in Commonweal, for his review of “On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives” by Andrew H. Miller
  • Sophie Haigney in High Country News, for her review of “Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country” by Sierra Crane Murdoch
  • Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein in The Baffler, for his review of “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention” by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer
  • Emma Larkin in Mekong Review, for her review of “Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok” by Thongchai Winichakul
  • Melvyn Leffler in Foreign Affairs, for his review of “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq” by Robert Draper

Seven judges selected this year’s finalists and winners. They are:

Debra Dickerson, essayist, Washington Monthly editorial advisory board member, and author most recently ofThe End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners.”

Gregg Easterbrook, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Washington Monthlycontributing editor, and author of “Better Than It Looks: Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear”and 12 other books.

Christina Larson, global science & environment correspondent for the Associated Press. During seven years in Beijing, she served as a contributing China correspondent for Science magazine and technology reporter for Bloomberg. Previously, she was an editor and writer at Foreign Policy magazine and at the Washington Monthly.

Suzannah Lessard, one of the original writers at the Washington Monthly, and the author of “The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family” and “The Absent Hand: Reimagining our American Landscape.” She is  currently at work on her next book, “The Body Politic,” and engaged in Consensus, an intiative to support innovative reportorial nonfiction.

Phillip Longman, senior editor at the Washington Monthly, policy director at the Open Markets Institute, and a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of “The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to do About It” and numerous other books.

Amy Sullivan, a journalist who has written about women, politics, and religion for national outlets including TIME, National Journal, and the Washington Monthly. She is the author of “The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap.”

Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, editorial operations director of Mother Jones andformer senior writer at U.S. News & World Report. She has ghost written seven memoirs as well as her own family memoir, “I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary.”

About Kukula Kapoor Glastris

The beloved and brilliant books editor of the Washington Monthly, Kukula (“Kuku” to her legions of friends and fans) made the book review section the home of some of the magazine’s best thinking and writing. A keen editor and diplomatic manager of writers, she served as den mother and provisioner of delicious late-night home-cooked meals to a generation of young Washington Monthly journalists. “I’ve never met anyone whose combination of personal goodness, plus intellectual and professional abilities, exceeded Kukula’s,” the journalist James Fallows wrote in The Atlantic.

To learn more about Kukula’s life, please read Kuku: A Love Story. For more on the Kukula Award, go here.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works —and how to make it work better. More than fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

YES, I'LL MAKE A DONATION