Public Books unites the best of the university with the openness of the internet. The digital magazine was founded in 2012 by Sharon Marcus, a literature professor, and Caitlin Zaloom, an anthropologist. Their mission was simple: to publish writing that is erudite without being esoteric and brings scholarly depth to discussions of contemporary ideas, culture, and politics.
Public Books began with these precepts: that experts who devote their lives to mastering their subjects need to be heard. That it is desirable for academics to speak to a broader audience, and exciting for readers outside of the academy to debate what scholars have to say. Most importantly, that boundaries between disciplines and ways of knowing deserve to be bridged—and that barriers between the academy and the public deserve to be broken.
At Public Books, academics join with other public scholars, critics, and activists to make the life of the mind a public good.
Since its inception in 2012, Public Books has been supported by Columbia University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University’s Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, New York University’s Office of the Provost, New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge, and Northwestern University’s Chabraja Center for Historical Studies.
Editors in Chief
Editors at Large
Kelley Deane McKinney
Caitlin Zaloom (chair)
Ellis Avery (1972–2019)
Gretchen Bakke (Founding Editor)
From Our Readers
Public Books is witty, amazing, and brilliantly edited.
Public Books opens up the space of online reviewing to new voices and forms. It reminds us that great cultural criticism does not require an army of agents, flacks, and insiders.
It is a rare and precious thing to discover such a compelling space for the written word and the thinking reader.
Public Books has the pulse of literary and intellectual culture. It also has a cool website.
Public Books has quickly made itself indispensable and international. The reviews are spirited, unpredictable, and opinionated in all the right ways.
Public Books takes the ancient craft of book reviewing and gives it a long overdue makeover: bright, ruminative, and accessible.
Scholars talk so often about the need for a vibrant forum for intellectual debate on the future of the arts and humanities: Public Books is it.