Peter Dougherty reflects on the latest crop of textbooks from Princeton University Press

Dear Readers,

As summer moves (perhaps too swiftly) from July to August, and soon enough to September, we are celebrating our new array of excellent advanced textbooks, titles crucial to research and teaching in the academy. A scholar once characterized an outstanding text as a book that brings “point, verve, and a sense of general acceptance” to the field which it defines—a worthy objective, among others, of a scholarly publisher such as Princeton University Press.  (Please don’t ask me to identify the source; I came across this quote about 30 years ago).

Textbooks of a scholarly stripe have long held a proud place on Princeton’s list, dating back many decades, and have complemented our monographs and more general interest titles in serving up robust accounts of the fields in which we publish.  This year is no exception, featuring as it does the impressive cluster of advanced texts we’ve published since last fall.  In fact, this is arguably the best set of new texts we have published in years.  And this bumper crop of texts is unusual in that spans most of the fields in which we publish, not just one or two.  As we approach some of the big annual academic meetings, and with fall semester only a month away, it’s worth our reviewing some of these outstanding offerings.

Most notable in this year’s crop are the new science texts.  The earliest of our new science texts appeared last August in the form of Wally Broecker and Charles Langmuir’s new edition of the classic work, How to Build a Habitable Planet.  Habitable Planet was quickly followed by Biophysics: Searching for Principles by William Bialek, and an innovative new book on the physics of sound and music, Why You Hear What You Hear by Harvard’s Eric Heller.  Our science offerings concluded this past spring with Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell by Anthony Zee, author of the modern classic Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell, now in its second edition, and Climate Dynamics, an exciting new book by Texas-based scholar Kerry Cook.  Rounding out the spring flock of science texts are the second edition of Steven Vogel’s Comparative Biomechanics, and Whitney Cranshaw and Richard Redak’s exciting Bugs Rule! An Introduction to the World of Insects.  Collectively, these texts are helping to turn a new page in PUP’s science publishing.

While launching the new science texts, we added handsomely to our world-leading list of economics texts with new offerings by two of our most successful and celebrated textbook authors: Stanford’s David Kreps, whose 1990 book, A Course in Microeconomic Theory, marked the rise of the modern PUP economics list, is back with his new text, Microeconomic Foundations I: Choice and Competitive Markets, while MIT’s Robert Gibbons, author of the widely admired 1992 book, Game Theory for Applied Economists, joined Stanford’s John Roberts in editing the path-breaking Handbook of Organizational Economics. In addition, we published Berkeley economist Steven Tadelis’s long-awaited Game Theory: An Introduction, and an important edited volume by Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir, Behavioral Foundations of Public Policy.  Shafir’s volume touched a nerve at The New York Times when columnist David Brooks used it as the basis for a January 2013 column. These books and more will be on display later this month at the European economics meetings in Sweden.

The list of 2012-13 textbooks extends from science and economics into various other regions of the social sciences.  We began the academic year with Phillip Bonacich and Philip Liu’s Introduction to Mathematical Sociology, and finished the year on an equally quantitative note with Moore and Siegel’s new book, A Mathematical Course for Political and Social Research, two titles we will feature prominently at this month’s meetings of the American Political Science Association and the American Sociological Association. In anthropology we added two new teaching titles in Ethnography and Virtual Worlds by Tom Boellstorff and his colleagues, and Nikolas Rose and Joelle Abi-Rachid’s Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind.

Returning to the earliest months of the past academic year, it’s worth recalling that we published the fourth edition of the famed Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics in a low-priced paperback edition, thereby making it course adoption-ready in seminars on poetics and advanced classes on poetry.

For more on these and other textbooks, please check out Princeton Pretexts where we will be posting additional information about these titles over the coming weeks or our dedicated textbooks web site.


Peter Dougherty
Director of Princeton University Press