My top ten University Press books

Posted by Rebecca Mortimer - Monday, 14 Nov 2016


By Chris Hart – Head of Marketing




To celebrate University Press Week, I’ve listed my top 10 books published by University Presses. I’ve tried to arrange them in chronological order, starting with my first exposure to a University Press book through to the present day.



Marcel Proust: A Life by William Carter (Yale University Press)

This is one of the first books I ever read at aged eighteen (admittedly a latecomer to reading books). I was undereducated and totally without awareness of existing canons and literary quality. The single shelf in my bedroom consisted of this book, Bukowski poetry and Nick Hornby’s About a Boy. It seems a bit odd that I would read a biography on Proust without first sampling his work or any nineteenth-century literature, but it was literally the result of a bored evening at home with nothing to do but watch television, in particular this gem of a programme about the virtues of Proust in our modern age, starring Ralph Fiennes –


The Work of Fire by Maurice Blanchot (Stanford University Press)

I was a disciple of Blanchot from the moment I first ever picked up his work as an undergraduate and I have never looked back. Heartily recommended.



Remembering James Agee by David Madden and Jeffrey Folks (The University of Georgia Press)

I was blown away with James Agee’s Let us now praise famous men and subsequently rushed headlong into devouring Agee’s small literary output. The search also brought me to this book. There’s not a lot of criticism on Agee’s work, so it was nice to find a book where Agee friends and critics speak openly about the writer and film critic and about his legacy on the American literary scene.



Chateaubriand -Atala/Rene (University of California Press)

If you love Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Wether, you’ll probably love this book. It is a classic that deserves more attention.



Essays on the blurring of art and life by Allan Kaprow (University of California Press)

I was introduced to this book by a flatmate who was studying fine art in London. It is not something that I would have picked up and yet I found it a brilliant book. From the opening pages, it offers a very honest, stripped down assessment of contemporary art and the movement that become known as ‘happenings’. For an esoteric subject, it is surprisingly easy to read.



The Intellectual Life of the Working Classes by Jonathan Rose (Yale University Press)

A superb book covering the working classes and their attempts at community education through organisations like the WEA. Lots of good stats and individual stories about the thirst for knowledge of self-improvement. A must for autodidacts everywhere. This book is up there with Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy.



Why not socialism – G. A. Cohen (Princeton University Press)

A beautifully produced little book. A must for anyone who wants a concise understanding of the merits of socialism. Fits nicely in a back pocket.



Academically adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Roska (University of Chicago Press)

A very influential book when it came out at a time when people were starting to take notice of the drift in student  engagement and interest at undergraduate level, not to mention the general shift to the student as consumer. There are a lot of good books looking at the purpose of universities and their perceived values to society/economy etc – this book focused squarely on the apathy of the student consumer.



Black mountain: an exploration in community by Martin Duberman (Northwestern University Press)

Interesting and detailed book about the unorthodox liberal art college and community, Black Mountain, including luminaries such as Allan Kaprow, John Cage and Buckminster Fuller. Anyone interested in the Avant Garde and artistic movements/schools, should enjoy this book.



Good times, Bad times by John Hills (Policy Press)

A good book published by Policy and a decent supplement to the popular Chavs by Owen Jones. The book attempts to salvage the respect of the ‘underclass’ through analysis of welfare provision, working patterns, tax contributions and withdrawals from the public purse. Will appeal to anyone interested in social inequality and welfare.

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