Book Awards

New Jersey Council for the Humanities 2013 Book of the Year

Killing the Poormaster: A Saga of Poverty, Corruption, and Murder in the Great Depression by Holly Metz (Chicago Review Press)

The New Jersey Council for the Humanities is pleased to announce that from the twenty-six nominated titles for the 2013 Book Award, Killing the Poormaster: A Saga of Poverty, Corruption, and Murder in the Great Depression by Holly Metz has been selected. This book was chosen, not merely because it is wonderfully accessible, written as it is in clear and readable prose, not merely because it is rich in New Jersey connections, but it was chosen primarily because of the trove of humanistic themes that imbue its vivid narrative with questions of justice both broad and narrow, of honor, of power, of law, of civil disobedience, and of social resolve. All of the themes are played out in Killing the Poormaster as in a Shakespearean drama of human frailty and high ideals.

2013 Honor Books

Justin Wolff, Thomas Hart Benton: A Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Hendrik Hartog, Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age (Harvard University Press)

Recent Book of the Year Award Winners

  • 2012 Kenneth Slawenski, J. D. Salinger: A Life (Random House, Inc., 2011)
  • 2011 Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen,
    (W. W. Norton & Company, 2010)
  • 2010 John V. Fleming, The Anti-Communist Manifestos: 4 Books That Shaped the Cold War,
    (W. W. Norton & Company, 2009)
  • 2009 Annette Gordon-Reed , The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,
    (W. W. Norton & Company, 2008)
  • 2008 Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present
    (W. W. Norton & Company, 2007)
  • 2007 Jonathan Alter, The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope
    (Simon and Schuster, 2006)
  • 2006 Patricia Tyson Stroud, The Man Who Had Been King: The American Exile of Napoleon’s Brother Joseph (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005)
  • 2005 David Hackett Fisher, Washington’s Crossing (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • 2004 Suzanne Lebsock, A Murder in Virginia: Southern Justice on Trial
    (W.W. Norton & Company, 2003).
  • 2003 Arthur Hertzberg, A Jew in America: My Life and People’s Struggle for Identity
    (Harper San Francisco, 2002)

Recent NJCH Honor Books

2012 NJCH Honor Books

  • Stephen Baker, Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Cathy D. Knepper, Jersey Justice: The Story of the Trenton Six, Rutgers University Press
  • Melissa Lane, Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Tell Us About Ethics, Virtue and Sustainable Living, Princeton University Press

2011 NJCH Honor Books

  • Thomas Belton, Protecting New Jersey’s Environment: From Cancer Alley to the New Garden State, Rutgers University Press
  • Ann Fabian, The Skull Collectors: Race, Science, and America’s Unburied Dead, University of Chicago Press
  • Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People, W.W. Norton & Company
  • Michael Perino, The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora’s Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance, The Penguin Press

Award Criteria and Application Instructions

Each year NJCH selects for its Book Award a work of nonfiction in the humanities that encourages critical reflection and makes scholarly knowledge accessible to a general audience. The award will be presented at ceremony in the fall. Publishers are invited to nominate books that fulfill the following criteria.


  1. The author has a New Jersey connection either by birth, residence, or occupation at the time of submission, or the book is concerned primarily with a significant New Jersey subject. In either case, the author must clearly possess and display knowledge of the subject.
  2. The subject of the book is in one or several of the Humanities fields as defined by the National Endowment for the Humanities, including, but not limited to: literature, language, aesthetics, jurisprudence, history, philosophy, archaeology, comparative religion, ethics, and those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods.
  3. The book is a work of nonfiction that encourages critical reflection and/or makes scholarly knowledge available and exciting to a general audience.
  4. The deadline for nominations is April 1, 2014 for books published between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013.
  5. Normally, edited or multiple authored works are not eligible.
  6. A book published in a foreign language is eligible only if it is available in English translation.
  7. Reprints may be nominated only if they were not nominated in the year that they were originally published.
  8. The winning author will attend the presentation ceremony.

Note:  The Award is annual and is granted to a single book. The NJCH reserves the right to make no award in a year in which no book is considered worthy of the Award. Likewise, the Council reserves the right to select up to five books as “Honor Books” during the competition, or to make no such designation in a year in which no books are considered worthy of this designation.

For each title nominated, please submit the following:

Completed application
6 reading copies of the book
A brief description of the book and a statement of why it deserves this award
Press kit for nominated title, including author photograph(s)
Important reminder: Publishers may nominate more than one title.

Award: $1,000 to the author

Download the nomination form here

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