Avidly Reads

Avidly Reads is a 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 will 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 will 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 will be attractive to readers whether in the coffee shop, classroom, book club, or bar.

Forthcoming projects

In Avidly Reads: Theory, Jordan Alexander Stein tells his own personal history of “reading theory in the 90s” by confronting a seeming contradiction:  that the abstract and often anxiety- and frustration-producing rigors of “theory,” created, for him and his friends, an entirely different range of emotions: intimate, tender, nourishing. Organized around five ways that reading theory makes you feel — silly, stupid, sexy, seething, stuck — this book travels back to the late-90s to tell a story of friends coming of age at a particular but still resonant moment in the emotional life of American ideas.

Writer and critic Eric Thurm’s Avidly Reads: Board Games is also about the strange ways communities get made and unmade around an activity — playing board games, rather than reading books — that nominally serves a different function. Thurm digs deep into his own experience as a gamer to limn the borders of the emotional and social rules that board games create and reveal, and tells a series of stories about the pastime that’s closest to his own family, thinking through his ongoing rivalries with his siblings and parsing the ways games both upset and enforce hierarchies, values, and relationships on multiple scales, from the familial to the geopolitical.

Kathryn Bond Stockton’s Avidly Reads: Making Out is the most intimate of our first batch of books. Stockton tells a story about kissing — as she fantasized about it in her childhood and finds pleasure in it in her adulthood. Her story merges the multiple valences of the phrase “making out”: kissing, interpreting, and surviving, as a young queer person growing up without models of what it meant to be intimate, be a queer self, in the world. Tracing her experiences as a child at the nascence of the modern queer movement but substantially prior to its contemporary recognition of trans life, allows Stockton, a leading scholar of queer studies, to offer a personal history of how the emerging concepts of queer social and intellectual life trickled into human experience through the act and witnessing of the kiss.

More here!


Sarah Mesle, University of Southern California
Sarah Blackwood, Pace University

Submissions can be sent here.

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