Taking stock, looking towards the future with Director and Publisher Amy Brand

After a difficult 2021, we honor the enduring power of good books to convey knowledge, enlighten minds, and change the world

As a difficult 2021 draws to a close, most of us are eager to put it in the rearview mirror and focus on our hopes and dreams for a better 2022. Yes, but what if we also pause to embrace the chaos we are living through, in order to appreciate what we’re learning, how we’re evolving, and what is being created now that can only be created in the midst of radical crisis? 

Rising to the challenges of life during a global pandemic is teaching us what needed to change in our pre-pandemic lives and cultures, and forcing us as individuals to take the higher path of courage, kindness, and compassion. In our work as academic publishers, we have the privilege of a front-row view into how current crises are accelerating research and invigorating creative work across the arts and sciences.

Indeed, university presses play an invaluable but under-celebrated role within the modern media landscape. We look beyond transitory market forces to publish works that elevate knowledge to inform and empower. Since its launch 60 years ago, the MIT Press has provided a unique lens on the interplay among science, design, technology, and culture in order to accelerate problem solving, social progress, and human understanding. 

Our solutions to the world’s challenges in these pivotal times have the most impact when they are effectively communicated and widely understood. As publishers, we help change the world for the better by enlightening minds—spreading knowledge in the form of new discoveries and bold ideas. As media channels proliferate, the difference between unfiltered content and curated knowledge is starker than ever, as is the urgent need for trustworthy stewardship in a growing sea of unreliable information.

So, looking back on 2021, let’s recall the journal Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, launched at the start of the pandemic to provide peer review of early release research findings that clinicians, researchers, and the public need to make sound judgments about the impact of, and treatments for, the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Let’s celebrate MIT Press authors who shape public policy and offer action plans to combat climate change, such as inventor Saul Griffith. His book Electrify: An Optimist's Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future shows how to transform our energy supply into clean renewables as quickly as possible and, crucially, also how to pay for it. So too, let’s honor humanists like Tina Campt and her widely hailed book A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See, which opens our minds and eyes to some of today's most transformative Black art and artists.

As we look ahead to 2022, a year in which we’ll be celebrating 60 years of excellence at the MIT Press, let’s honor the enduring power of good books to convey knowledge, enlighten minds, and change the world, and our unique place as a publisher situated within STEAM-centered university and a global innovation hub.

Indeed, the MIT Press has deep roots in Kendall Square, from our very first offices in building E19 (MIT-speak for the large administrative building on the corner of Main and Ames streets) and our original bookstore near the T stop on Main Street. Kendall has become one of the world’s most vital innovation hubs and the official portal to MIT itself. With our elegant new bookstore at 314 Main Street and 12th floor offices at 1 Broadway with dazzling views of Boston and Cambridge, we are part of a vibrant post-pandemic awakening. Viewed from Kendall Square, the future looks very bright indeed.

It is therefore fitting that our Spring 2022 catalog leads with books that shed historical light on this moment, including Robert Buderi’s Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub; Karen Weintraub and Michael Kuchta’s Born in Cambridge: 400 Years of Ideas and Innovators; and Maia Weinstock’s biography of an MIT science icon, Carbon Queen: The Remarkable Life of Nanoscience Pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus.

Several titles on this list are equally true to our roots and our drive to cross disciplinary boundaries and eschew orthodoxies. Power On!, by Jean J. Ryoo and Jane Margolis, is lively YA graphic novel follows a diverse group of teenage friends as they discover that computing can be fun, creative, and empowering.

Our legacy of bold, socially-engaged publishing is reflected in books like The Most Human Right: Why Free Speech Is Everything by Eric Heinze; and Mary Ellen Iskenderian’s There's Nothing Micro about a Billion Women: Making Finance Work for Women, on how microloans to empower women and promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

Our mission to publish the best boundary-defying works is equally evident in Michelle Drouin’s new book on the impact of modern technologies on human touch and belonging (Out of Touch: How to Survive an Intimacy Famine), and Julio Ottino’s The Nexus: Augmented Thinking for a Complex World on why today's complex problems demand a radically new way of thinking—one in which art, technology, and science converge. 

Wishing everyone the best for 2022. Read, be inspired, and feel free to send us 60th anniversary cheer, at happy60mitp@mit.edu!


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