Finalists for Kukula Awards For Excellence in Nonfiction Book Reviewing

From Washington Monthly on the 2022 Kukula Awards:

The Washington Monthly is pleased to announce the finalists for its 2022 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 Tuesday, June 7. The winners are scheduled to be interviewed on the C-SPAN Book TV program About Books on June 23.

“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 Monthlyeditor in chief Paul Glastris, Kukula’s husband of 31 years. This year’s finalists illuminated many such issues—from criminal justice reform to the ongoing reckoning with racial injustice in America, from human rights abuses in China to a reassessment of Asian American identity, and from corporate malfeasance to one family’s painful struggle with mental illness. 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 80 outstanding submissions published across a range of print and online media outlets in 2021, 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 public affairs and policy, politics, history, and biography.

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

·       Deborah Friedell in the London Review of Books, for her review of Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family, by Robert Kolker
·       Carlos Lozada in The Washington Post, for his review of The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman and Jake Silverstein
·       Laura Miller in Slate, for her review of Lucky, by Alice Sebold
·       Andre Ricardo Diniz Pagliarini in The New Republic, for his review of Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Serhii Plokhy, and
·       Katy Waldman in the New Yorker, for her review of Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s ‘Girl Stunt Reporters’, by Kim Todd
Among smaller publications, finalists are:
·       Aidan Forth in the Los Angeles Review of Books, for his review covering In the Camps: China’s High-Tech Penal Colony and Terror Capitalism: Uyghur Dispossession and Masculinity in a Chinese City, both by Darren Byler
·       Zoe Hu in Jewish Currents, for her review of The Loneliest Americans, by Jay Caspian Kang
·       Robert Allen Papinchak in the Los Angeles Review of Books, for his review of Rock Me On The Water: 1974—The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics, by Ronald Brownstein
·       Becca Rothfeld in the Boston Review, for her review covering three new books on feminism, sexual ethics, and sexual desire, Citadels of Pride, The Right to Sex, and Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again, by Martha C. Nussbaum, Amia Srinivasan, and Katherine Angel, respectively.

·       Maureen Tkacik in The American Prospect, for her review of Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing, by Peter Robison

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

Debra Dickerson, essayist, Washington Monthly editorial advisory board member, and author most recently of The 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 and a Washington Monthly contributing editor. He was a staff writer, national correspondent or contributing editor of The Atlantic for nearly forty years, and is the author of more than a dozen books, including his most recent, The Blue Age: How the US Navy Created Global Prosperity–And Why We’re in Danger of Losing It.

Markos Kounalakis, president and publisher emeritus of the Washington Monthly, and an award-winning, nationally-syndicated foreign affairs columnist, analyst, author and scholar. He is a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a Senior Fellow at the Center on Media, Data, and Society at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. His latest collection of essays, Freedom Isn’t Free: The Price of World Order, is out now from Anthem Press. Markos also currently serves as the “Second Gentleman” of California.

Christina Larson, an award-winning science writer and foreign correspondent. Previously based in Beijing, she covered China’s science and technology industries and increasing political repression. She began her journalism career as an editor and writer 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 and is engaged in Consensus, an initiative to support innovative reportorial nonfiction.

Walter Shapiro, a veteran political journalist, and currently a staff writer at The New Republic and a columnist for Roll Call. He is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a lecturer in political science at Yale. He is the author of Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Fuhrer, about his con-man great-uncle.

Amy Sullivan, an award-winning journalist who has written about politics, religion, and women as a senior editor for national outlets including TIME, National Journal, Yahoo, and The Washington Monthly.


  1. anonymous says

    It was surprising to see two reviews from the Los Angeles Review of Books in the “smaller publications” category yet again. As in previous years, the judges seem to have overlooked the fact that the LARB is, even by the Kukula criteria, not a “small publication.” If you use the Wayback machine, you’ll see that what counts as a small publication is: “fewer than 25 staff (or full-time equivalents)” when the LARB has over 70 editors and writers on its masthead and has expanded since two years ago. The list of editors and writers alone is more than twice as large as the London Review of Books, which had a finalist in the “large publications” category, presumably more than 25 staff or full-time equivalents. There are 47 section editors, in editorial and in staff at LARB, not including the full-time staff who work on podcasts, the special correspondents, copyeditors, and dozens of contributing editors, who work part-time.

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