The Washington Monthly magazine proudly announces the finalists for the 2023 Kukula Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Book Reviewing—the only journalism prize dedicated to highlighting exemplary reviews of serious, public affairs-focused books. The award honors the memory of Kukula Kapoor Glastris, the magazine’s longtime and beloved books editor. The winners will be announced on 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 illuminate gender and identity politics, the fraught history of abortion rights in America, and the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency on questions of truth and lies, among other issues. Several of this year’s finalists explored literary subjects and personal memoirs—reviewing biographies of Herman Melville and John Donne, for instance. No matter the topic, “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 100 outstanding submissions published across a range of print, online, and broadcast outlets in 2022, the finalists are honored for their clear and artful exposition; original and persuasive theses; and ability to enlighten readers with new and valuable information.
Finalists were chosen in two categories based on the size of the publication. In the smaller category, the finalists are:
- Zachary Fine in The Nation, for his review of Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Steven G. Kellman in The American Scholar, for his review of Up from the Depths: Herman Melville, Lewis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times by Aaron Sachs (Princeton University Press)
- Linda Kinstler in Jewish Currents, for her review of People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn (W.W. Norton & Company) and Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel (Harper Collins)
- Katha Pollitt in Dissent, for her review of The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century by Amia Srinivasan (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
- Scott W. Stern in the Los Angeles Review of Books, for his review of Bad Gays: A Homosexual History by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller (Verso).
Among larger news outlets and publications, finalists are:
- Maureen Corrigan on National Public Radio, for her review of The Facemaker by Lindsey Fitzharris (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and other reviews
- Deborah Friedell in the London Review of Books, for her review of The Family Roe: An American Story by Joshua Prager (W.W. Norton & Company)
- Charles King in The Washington Post, for his review of Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History by Lea Ypi (W.W. Norton & Company)
- Carlos Lozada in The New York Times, for his commentary on several recent works exploring the Trump presidency, its relationship with the truth, and its effect on democracy, as well as other pieces
- Rebecca Onion in Slate, for her review of Profiles in Ignorance: How America’s Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber by Andy Borowitz (Simon & Schuster)
- Zephyr Teachout in the New York Review of Books, for her review of four recent books exploring intertwined themes of employees’ rights, surveillance of workers, artificial intelligence, and COVID.
Six judges—veteran and award-winning writers, reviewers, and publishers themselves—selected this year’s winning submissions. In our smaller category:
Clara Bingham is a freelance journalist, former Newsweek White House correspondent, and the author of, among other books, Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost its Mind and Found its Soul. She is currently at work on a book about the Women’s Liberation Movement.
Suzannah Lessard is one of the original editors of 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 engaged in Consensus, an initiative to support innovative reportorial nonfiction.
Michael O’Donnell is the author of the forthcoming novel Above the Fire and a longtime National Book Critics Circle member. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and The Economist. He lives in the Chicago area, where he practices law. From 2009 to 2017, he wrote regular review-essays for Kukula Glastris at the Washington Monthly.
Judging entries in our larger category:
Jason DeParle, a reporter for The New York Times, has written extensively about poverty and immigration. His book, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare was a New York Times Notable Book and won the Helen Bernstein Award. His 2019 book, A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves, was called “one of the best books on immigration written in a generation.” He was an Emerson Fellow at the New America Foundation, a recipient of the George Polk Award, and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Peter Osnos is a veteran journalist and founder of PublicAffairs Books, where he served as Publisher and CEO until 2005. At PublicAffairs, the guiding mission was—and remains—to publish “good books about things that matter.” Osnos is the author of Would You Believe…The Helsinki Accords Changed the World?, and currently writes Peter Osnos’s Platform on Substack.
Amy Waldman, author and journalist, was co-chief of the South Asia bureau for The New York Times. Before that, she covered Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the aftermath of 9/11 for the newspaper. The author of two award-winning novels, The Submission (2011) and A Door in the Earth (2019), Waldman was a national correspondent for The Atlantic and is a contributing editor at the Washington Monthly.
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.