The National Book Foundation (NBF) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced selected titles for the third year of the Science + Literature program. The initiative identifies three books annually, across genres, that deepen readers’ understanding of science and technology, and focuses on highlighting the diversity of voices in contemporary science and technology writing. Authors receive a $10,000 cash prize, are celebrated at a public ceremony in March, and will be featured in associated national public programming. The titles are selected by a committee of five scientific and literary experts, also announced today. Science + Literature is made possible by a three-year, $525,000 grant from the Sloan Foundation.
The three selected titles include narrative nonfiction, a decades-spanning poetry collection, and a cosmos-inspired novel. Brad Fox’s The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths recounts the history of the first deep-sea exploration alongside full-color images and original logbooks. Fox paints a detailed portrait of scientists, and the lasting effects of discovering the unknown. The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems by National Book Award Winner Arthur Sze covers five decades of Sze’s poetry, blending Chinese, Japanese, Native American, and Western traditions. Sze’s sweeping body of work considers the beauty of the natural world, the intricacies of time and space, and invites readers to reimagine our legacy on this endangered planet. In Digging Stars, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma explores the complexities of identity and scientific ethics—in the US and globally—through the coming-of-age story of a Zimbabwe-born astronomer following in her father’s footsteps.
“Since 2022, Science + Literature has highlighted exceptional, diverse, and accessible scientific writing, ultimately aimed at creating a greater understanding of how science and technology intersect with the world around us,” said Ruth Dickey, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. “This year’s deeply researched and inventive selections by Brad Fox, Arthur Sze, and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma exemplify why science and technology are so important to the arts, and to our daily lives. We’re so grateful to the 2024 Science + Literature Committee for elevating these works, and to the Sloan Foundation for their tireless support of books, authors, and community.”
“We are delighted to join the National Book Foundation in recognizing these three powerful and unique writers engaging with scientific themes and characters across poetry, fiction, and nonfiction,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “Science seeks to uncover universal truths about nature, but every human being’s experience is different and these gifted storytellers shine a light on the complex inner lives of their characters as they explore the mysteries of the external world, from the ocean to the cosmos, from Japan to Zimbabwe. We’re proud to add these outstanding authors to Sloan’s nationwide book program, which has supported over 200 books from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winner American Prometheus, the basis of Christopher Nolan’s hit film Oppenheimer, and Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures to this year’s The Quickening by Elizabeth Rush and How Infrastructure Works by Deb Chachra.”
An in-person ceremony will be held on Wednesday, March 27, 2024, returning to The Cooper Union’s Rose Auditorium for readings and conversation with the selected authors; the event will be livestreamed for readers eveywhere. The program is free and open to the public, and is presented in partnership with The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a distinguished private college of art, architecture and engineering founded in 1859 by inventor, industrialist, and philanthropist Peter Cooper. Register for the ceremony here.
“The Cooper Union is thrilled to co-present the National Book Foundation’s Science + Literature Ceremony for the second year running,” said Demetrius L. Eudell, Vice President of Academic Affairs at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. “Science + Literature aligns with our goal to foster dialogue at the intersection of the humanities and sciences, and to introduce our community to timely and engaging books and speakers.”
The 2024 selection committee includes authors and scientists whose work across fields explores—and facilitates public understanding of—the innumerable connections between science, technology, and the humanities. Shane Campbell-Staton is an evolutionary biologist, science communicator, and host of Human Footprint and Evolution Earth on PBS; Priyamvada Natarajan is an astrophysicist and author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas that Reveal the Cosmos; Ricardo Nuila (Chair) is the author of The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine and director of the Humanities Expression and Arts Lab (HEAL) at Baylor College of Medicine; Brian Teare is the author of Doomstead Days, which was Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry, and is a publisher, editor, and designer at the poetry micropress Albion Books; and Christina Vizcarra is a researcher and Assistant Professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Barnard College in New York.
Public events featuring the selected authors will take place in cities across the country in Spring 2024 following the March ceremony, including with partners in Houston, TX at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Humanities Expression and Arts Lab—the hub for arts and humanities education at Baylor College of Medicine, Inprint, a literary arts nonprofit that fosters the art of creative writing, and the Hermann Park Conservancy’s Garden and Nature Series; Bookmarked Literary Arts Festival, an annual book festival that connects local and national writers with local readers in Lander, WY; Roanoke Public Libraries, which aims to create a climate of lifelong learning and community enrichment in Roanoke, VA, and the Virginia Festival of the Book, which brings together writers and readers to promote and celebrate books, reading, literacy, and literary culture. Event details will be announced alongside the NBF Presents spring season on Wednesday, January 31, 2024.
Brad Fox, The Bathysphere Book: Effects of the Luminous Ocean Depths
Astra House / Astra Publishing House
Arthur Sze, The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems
Copper Canyon Press
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Digging Stars
W. W. Norton & Company
Brad Fox is a writer, journalist, translator, and former relief contractor living in New York. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review Daily, Guernica, and other venues. His novel To Remain Nameless was a finalist for the Big Other Book Award for Fiction and a staff pick at The Paris Review.
Arthur Sze has published 11 books of poetry, including The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems and Sight Lines, which won the 2019 National Book Award for Poetry. A new collection, The Silk Dragon II: Translations of Chinese Poetry, is forthcoming. Sze is the recipient of many honors, including a 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a 2021 Shelley Memorial Award, and the Jackson Poetry Prize. He is Professor Emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma’s latest novel is Digging Stars. Her first novel, House of Stone, won the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award and the Bulawayo Arts Award for Outstanding Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the Balcones Fiction Prize, and was longlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize. A recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, Tshuma has taught graduate fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches at Emerson College.
Shane Campbell-Staton is an evolutionary biologist and assistant professor at Princeton University. His research combines a wide array of techniques to explore how human activity drives evolution in species across the globe, from urban adaptation of Caribbean lizards to the evolution of tuskless elephants in response to poaching. In addition to his research, Shane is a passionate science communicator. Most recently, he is the host and narrator of two television series, Human Footprint and Evolution Earth, airing on PBS.
Priyamvada Natarajan is an astrophysicist, and the inaugural Joseph S. and Sophia S. Fruton Professor in Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. She has made seminal contributions to our understanding of the nature of dark matter using gravitational lensing studies; and the assembly history of supermassive black holes over cosmic time. The recipient of many awards and honors, including fellowships from the American Physical Society (APS), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Guggenheim Foundation, and Radcliffe Institute; she was recognized with the Liberty Science Center’s Genius Award. She is the author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas that Reveal the Cosmos.
Ricardo Nuila (Chair) is a writer and practicing doctor at Houston’s largest public hospital. His work has been featured in The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, The New England Journal of Medicine, and Best American Short Stories. His first book, The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air. In its review, the New York Times notes that Ricardo is a “skillful writer who humanizes his points in meticulous and compassionate detail.” He is the Director of the Humanities Expression and Arts Lab (HEAL) at Baylor College of Medicine.
A 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, Brian Teare is the author of seven critically acclaimed books, including Doomstead Days, winner of the Four Quartets Prize, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry. His most recent publications are a pair of book-length ekphrastic projects exploring queer abstraction, chronic illness, and collage: the reissue of The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven, and Poem Bitten by a Man. An Associate Professor of Poetry at the University of Virginia, Brian lives in Charlottesville, where he makes books by hand for his micropress, Albion Books.
Christina Vizcarra is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Barnard College in New York City, where she teaches chemistry and biochemistry and leads a research group focused on protein biochemistry. The Vizcarra group is particularly interested in the cytoskeleton, the network of protein filaments that is essential to many cellular processes. Prior to Barnard, Dr. Vizcarra received a PhD from California University of Technology and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles.