2015 AAG Book Awards
The AAG’s three annual book awards recognize outstanding works written by geographers and published by during the previous year.
The Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography goes to a volume that makes an unusually important contribution to advancing the science and art of geography. This year’s winner is Concrete Revolution: Large Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and US Bureau of Reclamation by Christopher Sneddon. It was published in 2015 by the University of Chicago Press.
The story of the Bureau of Reclamation and the damming of America’s rivers has been told before, but never from the fresh and provocative perspective found in Concrete Revolution. As told by Sneddon, this is a story that transcends the United States and led to the redesign of drainage systems across the developing world, as American dam building became an instrument of Cold War rivalry for the affection of peoples in the emerging economies of the non-aligned world. It is also a story that takes us to the philosophical heart of modernity and its radical reimagining of human relations with the natural world. All of this Sneddon does in a style that is accessible and engaging, but also serious and masterly.
The Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography is for a book that conveys most powerfully the nature and importance of geography to the non-academic world. This year’s winner is the Historical Atlas of Maine, edited by Stephen J. Hornsby and Richard W. Judd, with the Cartographic Design by Michael J. Hermann. It was published by the University of Maine Press in 2015.
This is one of the most significant atlases to appear in the United States in recent decades. It covers the period from the end of the last ice age to AD 2000, telling the history of Native peoples, European exploration and settlement, the American Revolution, Maine statehood, industrial development, and the rise of tourism and environmental awareness. Almost every plate in the atlas is based on new research. The creation of the atlas, which took 18 years from conception to publication, was envisioned as an outreach project from the University of Maine to the state’s residents, visitors, and the general public. The result is not only a unique interpretation of Maine, but also a splendid visual record of the state’s history.
The John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize is awarded to a serious but popular book about the human geography of the contemporary United States that conveys the insights of professional geography in language that is interesting and attractive to a lay audience.
This year’s winner is Hispanic and Latino New Orleans: Immigration and Identity since the Eighteenth Century by Andrew Sluyter, Case Watkins, James P. Chaney, and Annie M. Gibson. It was published in 2015 by Louisiana State University Press.
The four authors of this book seamlessly combined their expertise and varied perspectives to produce a well-written account of a little-known aspect of New Orleans’ cultural and historical geography. Thanks to their careful study of census records, archival research, interviews, and other sources, we now know that Hispanic and Latino individuals and communities have been part of the city throughout its history. Previous assumptions about the basic similarities of Latino and Hispanic immigrants become much more nuanced in this study, as the authors explain the diversity of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico, Latin America, South America, and the Caribbean – people who made distinct impressions on their respective neighborhoods and contributions to the city’s rich culture. These immigrants’ experiences also varied significantly depending on many factors, not least when they came. The book also contributes to the emerging literature on Hispanics in the South and the cultural diversity of Hispanic and Latino immigration from the period of early European contact up to the present.
The AAG congratulates each of the winners and would like to thank the three book award committees who considered this year’s nominations.
The AAG Book Awards will be conferred during the AAG Awards Luncheon on April 2, 2016, at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco.