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UMN Press Wins Record Number of Awards in 2018

Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley

Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley receiving the award for Best American Cookbook at the James Beard Foundation Awards ceremony. Photo: UMN Press

By Eric Lundgren

The University of Minnesota Press has long been valued for publishing innovative, cutting-edge scholarship, leading it to become one of the most internationally respected university presses. It seems that public recognition is starting to reflect this reputation, as the Press has received a growing number of scholarly and trade book awards for excellence in recent years. And in 2018, the Press reached a new height, collecting an impressive 56 awards across most of the major disciplines in which it publishes.

Producing over 100 titles annually, well known for its work in Native studies, environmental studies, medicine and health, and disability studies, among other fields, the Press has been receiving more acclaim for its books than at any point in its 94-year history. The past five years have seen a steady uptick in recognition, from 26 book awards in 2014, to 46 in 2016, to 56 in 2018. (To provide some perspective, the Press received 16 awards in 2008, meaning that the total number of prizes has nearly quadrupled in the past decade.)

The Press regularly wins awards from important scholarly organizations, and 2018 was no exception. Led by the success of C. Riley Snorton’s Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity, which won six awards, including the William Sanders Scarboro Prize from the Modern Language Association and the John Boswell Prize from the American Historical Association, the Press’s scholarly titles picked up 30 awards across a wide variety of disciplines. Other key academic honors came from the American Educational Research Association, the Center for Historic Preservation, and the Society for Social Studies of Science (from which the Press won both major awards this year).

“Book awards, especially from the major academic associations, are one way we can confirm that we’re meeting our goals of publishing high-quality scholarship,” said Douglas Armato, director of the Press.

But the achievements of 2018 were not limited to scholarly titles, as the growing regional and trade list also took home its share of prizes. The biggest excitement of the year came with the James Beard Foundation Award for Best American Cookbook, which went to the bestselling title The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman and Beth Dooley, leading all trade and regional titles with six awards. It was an unprecedented achievement for Minnesota, as was winning the National Book Critics’ Circle Award two years before. Other significant trade honors came from the Garden Writers of America, the Native American Literature Symposium, and the Minnesota Book Awards, of which the Press won two this past year. The children’s list was also recognized with an American Museum of Natural History/John Burroughs Association Riverby Award, given to excellent natural history books for young readers.

Despite the headiness of these recent accolades, the Press has no plans to rest on its laurels. As Armato added: “The awards are also a reminder that, with the current list gaining recognition, we need to keep moving the discussion forward and pushing boundaries so that our program is just as relevant in the future.”

The momentum shows no signs of slowing: as of this writing, the Press had already won five awards in 2019.

For a complete list of the book awards, please visit the University of Minnesota Press website.

Gold block M

Contributing Writer

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