Avidly Reads is an NYU series of short books about how culture makes us feel. Each volume in this series will explore the surprising or counterintuitive pleasures and revulsions of a single cultural experience, phenomenon, or artifact.
Written in the “Avidly voice,” a charismatic blend of knowledge, affect, and enthusiasm, the books offer narratives in which authors account for, and even savor, their own emotional relationships to the subjects they explore. These emotional relationships — enthusiast, apologist, idealist, grouch — are central cultural forces that are difficult to capture within the objective tone of most academic writing. Avidly Reads, on the other hand, invites writers to indulge feelings, and to tell stories, in the casual idioms that distinguish the best conversations about culture.
The Avidly Reads volumes not only account for pleasure but will themselves be pleasurable — for their authors to write, as well as for others to read. Emotions enliven the writing we support, propel it towards wider audiences, and kindle more luminous reader experiences. Slim volumes of around 30,000 words featuring a signature design, books in the Avidly Reads series aim to be attractive to readers whether in the coffee shop, classroom, book club, or bar.
What might you read avidly? Gospel Music, Seventh Grade, Wedding Dresses, Skate Parks, Break-up Songs, Bourbon, Gossip Mags, Leotards, Online Dating, Mixtapes, Prom, The New Yorker, Key Parties, Suburbia, High Heels, Spelling Bees, Gynecology, Murals, Astrology, Pastels, Empire Waists. Once you start, it’s hard to stop.
The Avidly Reads series grows out of the work published on Avidly, which since 2012 has been a venue featuring short form cultural criticism written “with intense eagerness.” Avidly Reads will offer a more expansive context for writing in a similar mode to the Avidly essays listed below.
To get started, first send a query paragraph to [avidlyreads AT gmail.com] briefly describing your subject and envisioned approach. We don’t need a full CV, but give us some sense of who you are and what expertise and perspective you’ll bring to your project. If we would like to see more, we’ll ask for a more developed proposal.
Keep in mind that these books need to balance cultural insight and personal perspective. They are not “argumentative” in the conventional sense: they should tell a story about the subject and about your intellectual and emotional relationship to it, with the aim of using your own experience to make your subject meaningful and compelling to your readers. Proposals should be written in the “Avidly voice,” which combines deep knowledge of a subject with personal feeling and a charismatic writerly style.
What cultural phenomenon do you want to write about?
- Audience Potential
What is it about this topic that will attract a wide, general audience? (150 words or less)
- Author Fit
What makes you the right author for this book? What do you want us to know that wouldn’t otherwise be captured by your CV or other materials?
- Book Summary
Give a bird’s eye view of the project: what are its central claims about its topic? Please write this “in voice” — that is, in the style you’ll use for the book. (250 words or less)
- Table of Contents
Proposed chapter/section titles plus brief descriptions. The ideal chapter titles are catchy, provocative, and will resonate immediately with readers who care about your topic. Remember that Avidly Reads books are short: about 30,000 words long.
- Audience: Who are your imagined ideal readers for this book, and what will influence how they respond to it? 200 words
- Sample: Please share a brief sample of writing (500-1000 words) that conveys a sense of the style of the book.
Image: Courtesy of the NYPL