Best Books of 2020

We are always excited when our books land on some of the many best-of-the-year lists published by various media outlets. This year we have over a dozen books honored this way. 

LatinxArtThis year we are especially thrilled that Duke University Press landed on ARTnews’s Deciders 2021 list, featuring people and institutions that will shape the next year in art. They write, “many a university press publishes worthy books about art—but none engages the subject and all it can mean quite like Duke University Press.” 

ARTnews also selected Latinx Art: Artists, Markets, Politics by Arlene Dávila for their Best Art Books of 2020 list. Maximilíano Durón says, “that this book exists is itself an important milestone in the struggle for equity in the art world.” Latinx Art also landed on the New York Times‘s list of the best art books in 2020. Critic Holland Cotter calls it an “important broadside of a book.” And Latinx Art made Smithsonian Magazine‘s best books of the year list. Curator Taína Caragol calls it “an outstanding contribution to the field of Latinx art.”

ARTnews also selected José Esteban Muñoz’s posthumous book The Sense of Brown for their best of 2020 list. Maximilíano Durón says it is “expertly edited” by Joshua Chambers-Letson and Tavia Nyong’o, and says the book is “a true testament to an intersectional project.”

Artforum featured two of our titles in their Best of 2020 list. Michele Wallace selected Picasso’s Demoiselle’s: The Untold Origins of a Modern Masterpiece by Suzanne Preston Blier, saying “as a Black feminist, I found most persuasive Blier’s proposition to table the idea of Les demoiselles as a brothel scene and see it, rather, as a reference to the turn-of-the-century fascination with the portrayal of racial types.” And Aria Dean wrote about reading Necropolitics by Achille Mbembe with a book group this year: “Before Covid-19, Mbembe’s picture of a world enchanted by its own practice of mass murder-suicide in the name of democracy and liberal values seemed accurate enough. After, or during, or whenever we are, Mbembe’s prescience is horrifying, comforting, and absolutely necessary.”

Everything ManNPR’s music critic Ann Powers selected Shana L. Redmond’s Everything Man: The Form And Function Of Paul Robeson as one of her best books of the year for NPR’s Book Concierge. She says Redmond’s “deeply innovative” book “returns Robeson to his rightful place at the center of the American conversation.”

Writing in Report Door, Sharon Ross named The Queer Games Avant-Garde by Bonnie Ruberg one of the year’s best video game books. She called it “a special book,” featuring conversations that “are a reminder of the breath of the medium, and also the steps we must take collectively for a healthier, safer, and more vibrant future.”

EcoLit Books chose Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm by Alex Blanchette and Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador by Thea Riofrancos for their best environmental books of 2020 list.

blackdiamondqueensBlack Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll by Maureen Mahon was chosen by Pitchfork for their Best Music Books of 2020 list. Jillian Mapes calls it “the kind of illuminating scholarship that rock really needs.”

Black Diamond Queens also landed on No Depression‘s Best Music Books of 2020 list, along with The Meaning of Soul: Black Music and Resilience since the 1960s by Emily J. Lordi. Henry Carrigan says, “The Meaning of Soul is essential reading for anyone interested in history of soul music and in the deep ways that culture and music shape each other, and it helps us to think deeply about music and its reflections of and impact on society.”

Author Dennis Cooper selected The Voice in the Headphones by David Grubbs for his best poetry titles of the year list.

We always look forward to the Seminary Co-op’s Notable Books of the Year catalog, and this year we were pleased that they featured The Play in the System: The Art of Parasitical Resistance by Anna Fisher, AFRICOBRA: Experimental Art toward a School of Thought by Wadsworth A. Jarrell, Hindutva As Political Modernism by Anustup Basu, and José Esteban Muñoz’s The Sense of Brown, edited by Joshua Chambers-Letson and Tavia Nyong′o.

Popmatters includes Poor Queer Studies by Matt Brim on their best nonfiction books of 2020 list.  Reviewer Rhea Rollmann says, “Brim’s powerful and excoriating critique of Queer Studies reveals, paradoxically, just how vital and essential the discipline truly is.” Popmatters also includes Her Stories: Daytime Soap Opera and US Television History by Elana Levine. Reviewer Linda Levitt says Levine “has crafted a comprehensive history that is about so much more than daytime dramas.”

We hope you have a chance to read some of these great books. And stay tuned for so many more in 2021.

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