The AAG is pleased to announce the recipients of the three 2019 AAG Book Awards: the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize, the AAG Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography, and the AAG Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography. The AAG Book Awards mark distinguished and outstanding works published by geography authors during the previous year, 2019. The awardees will be formally recognized at the Awards Luncheon during the 2020 AAG Annual Meeting in Denver, CO.

The John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize

This award encourages and rewards American geographers who write books about the United States which convey the insights of professional geography in language that is both interesting and attractive to lay readers.

Robert Lemon, The Taco Truck: How Mexican Street Food Is Transforming the American City(University of Illinois Press, 2019)

Robert Lemon’s The Taco Truck is an evocative and penetrating look at a fascinating, often underappreciated part of urban America. The book is based on extensive field work, participant observation, and in-depth interviews in Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Columbus, Ohio. The immigrant Mexican origins of the taco truck are described and the author demonstrates how these moveable features on the urban scene have become important parts of Latino identity.

In this engaging, clearly written, and well-illustrated book, Lemon also explores some of the controversial urban politics that have surrounded, shaped, and sometimes limited the taco truck’s access to parts of the city. Lemon’s book marks a creative intersection of food geography, ethnic studies, and urban political geography and the result is a readily digestible, yet meaty appreciation for how taco trucks and their informal cuisine have created new, fluid, and mobile places in the cities we live in.

Simply put, Lemon’s appealing exploration of the taco truck—crafted in a wonderfully Jacksonian narrative—demonstrates the author’s success in making these street-side eateries a more legible part of the vernacular urban landscape and in highlighting where millions of Americans meet for lunch.

The AAG Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography

This award is given for a book written or co-authored by a geographer that conveys most powerfully the nature and importance of geography to the non-academic world.

Adam Moore, for his book, Empire’s Labor: The Global Army that Supports U.S. Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019).

Empire’s Labor conveys powerfully the nature and importance of geography to audiences beyond  academic geography. Clearly written and accessible to readers without training in specialist theory and vocabulary, the book nevertheless shows how extensive fieldwork and a critical geographical imagination can re-map the abstract and violently inhuman logistics of war-fighting in a profoundly humanizing way. As former AAG President John Agnew noted: “[Moore’s book]… displays the very best qualities of contemporary geographical scholarship in its synthesis of first-person experiences, wide reading of specialized literature across a range of fields, and a sophisticated but clearly expressed theoretical framing, particularly with its emphasis on the transfer of risk onto the shoulders of foreigners even as the objectives pursued are defined in Washington DC.”

Further, the prominent use of maps in the book helps to document a global geography of military infrastructure that is commonly ignored or obscured. What is especially impressive is the way in which Empire’s Labor conveys the human geographies and voices of the workers who toil in ‘someone else’s war’. This is a book that geographers will be able to recommend to non-geographers with pride.

 The AAG Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography

This award is given for a book written by a geographer that makes an unusually important contribution to advancing the science and art of geography.

Julie GuthmanWilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry  Industry (University of California Press, 2019)

Julie Guthman has earned the 2019 AAG Meridian Book Award for her innovative, timely and terrific tome, Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry.  This in-depth analysis of the California strawberry assemblage is about so much more than strawberries; it is about the socioecological consequences of corporate domination of scientific practice and the limits of chemical plantation agriculture. Based on extensive research that represents the best of the art and science of geography, Guthman’s masterful examination of the co-evolution of strawberry monocultures, soils, chemicals, climate, and labor, reveals that decades of narrowly-focused one-off solutions to pathogens and pests has had the effect of breeding ever more hostile growing conditions and requiring ever more extreme measures to perpetuate a deeply destructive agricultural practice on which ever more extensive food markets depend. Thus, the work exposes the limitations privatized science.  Moreover, the book not only documents the strawberry assemblage in exquisite detail, but also proposes solutions to “repair the repair”.

With lessons that resonate far beyond strawberries to the complex of industries and institutions involved in global chemically-intensive commercial food production, this book constitutes an unusually important contribution to geography as well as an empirically-grounded clarion call to fundamentally reorganize how we produce food, conduct research, and organize land and labor markets.  Wilted, then, will seem a “Silent Spring for our present moment” to many readers.