About

Public Books is an online multimedia site affiliated with the print journal Public Culture. Like that journal, Public Books supports an international community of emerging and established intellectuals and artists committed to vigorous debate about works and ideas that deserve timely, intensive discussion.

Our model contributors: scholars who write accessibly without sacrificing sophistication or depth; artists energized by research; and activists engaged with serious ideas. Our ideal readers: the brainy, bookish, or insatiably curious, who share our passion for connecting to the world through ideas. Our goal: to make reading Public Books feel like sitting in on a great seminar, or being at a party where people are talking about books they have actually read.

Why call a review Public Books when new publics and platforms are changing how we read and revolutionizing the book form? Even as many bemoan its decline, the book is gaining new life as a symbol both for deep engagement and for the inventions transforming reading into an increasingly shared, fast-paced experience. The title Public Books encapsulates our goal of combining the liveliness, timeliness, and communality of public life with the craft, reflection, and care associated with books at their best. 

Each month Public Books selects a small number of adventurous works: serious nonfiction, literary fiction, memoirs, bestsellers, genre fiction, comics and graphic novels, young adult and children’s books. We review writers already in the public eye alongside those who deserve more prominent coverage. We resuscitate significant publications that speak to the present. We feature multilingual reviewers who introduce us to material from all over the world, including books not yet translated into English.

 Because books themselves take readers beyond the page, our outlook is ecumenical and experimental. Recognizing that print, audio, and visual cultures have long intersected, we include within our purview e-books, audiobooks, and apps, feature films and viral videos, art exhibits and performances. In addition to short and long essays, we publish interviews and conversations with authors and artists; field notes from ethnographers; snapshots from artistic and intellectual scenes around the world; reports from exhibits, conferences, and book festivals; and excerpts from work published exclusively in Public Culture.

 Public Books publishes online in order to take advantage of the Internet’s ability to move instantaneously across borders, to promote interaction among readers and writers, and to combine word, image, and sound. Our web-based format allows contributors to give new works critical attention at a quicker pace than scholarly publishing allows, while still allowing time for reflection. Our site’s cutting-edge commenting features connect reviewers to readers and readers to one another. Participants are the organic core of any public sphere, and our online format allows the review to develop in tandem with the uses that its readers and authors make of it. We look forward to conversing with you on the site and to shaping and reshaping Public Books together.


Public Books is a nonprofit cultural institution serving a global community of readers. We rely on your generosity to continue and to thrive. To make a tax-free donation to Public Books, please write to us at donate@publicbooks.org.