The New Press Turns 20

Posted by on Mar 13, 2012 in Commentary | No Comments

Today is the 20th anniversary of The New Press, the not-for-profit publisher that has smartly bridged the gap between academic and trade founded by Andre Schiffrin, after leading Pantheon Books for three decades, and current Executive Director Diane Wachtell.

I was an intern at The New Press the summer after my freshman year and to this day recall how fully involved the entire staff was in integrating even us lowly book-peons into all aspects of the press, including editorial meetings, marketing, PR, and yes, reading slush.

The interns worked in the same room as the in-house inventory, and it was impossible not to feel inspired by what lay on the shelves. The New Press commissioned most of its non-fiction selections, highlighted by piercing works from the likes of Studs Terkel and James Loewen. They also publish a selection of quality non-US fiction.

Happy birthday to a rare and important curator of ideas and words (and sounds and sights) that have pushed forward the way we contemplate education, law, social justice, and storytelling across cultures. Here are five works you should know:

Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen

Its title says it all, ranging from the apotheosis of Christopher Columbus to the first Thanksgiving, it’s a scathing critique of the most important history textbooks of the time, selling over 1 million copies to date and winner of the American Book Award.

May It Please the Court: Live Recordings and Transcripts of Landmark Oral Arguments Made Before the Supreme Court Since 1955, ed. Peter Irons and Stephanie Gutton

At a time when we called it “multimedia”, The New Press unveiled the primary text itself: recordings of history-changing arguments on CD, including Miranda v. Arizona and Roe v. Wade.

The People’s History of the United States: The Wall Charts, by Howard Zinn

In an era before “data visualization” was a thing , Zinn and The New Press brought us a vast visual representation of a vastly important book (and not just for being name-checked by Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting).

Other People’s Children, by Lisa Delpit

MacArthur “Genius Grant” Award winner Delpit dissects how deliberately unstructured teaching strategies like “whole language” instead put low-income students at an even greater disadvantage.

The Thought Gang, by Tibor Fischer

A personal favorite of mine from that summer of interning. A raucously hilarious British novel about a starving philosopher wandering around the south of France, robbing banks with a one-armed partner.