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Brown University Book Award

2020-2021 Book Award


The Alchemy of Us

What is the Brown University Book Award?


The Brown University Book Award is presented to an outstanding junior, at annual school book award presentations across the country.  It is awarded to a student who exhibits excellent verbal and written communication skills.


The program was started by the Brown Alumni Association in 1960, with 100 books being awarded, and continues to grow through the generosity of Brown alumni who sponsor individual awards. The administration of the Brown University Book Award is now managed by the Brown Bookstore. However, the award itself is most often sponsored by a Brown University alumnus, although sometimes the high school, or one of its faculty or staff, sponsors the award.


The goal of the Book Award program is twofold: to reward promising young scholars while promoting Brown University's name among high school and preparatory school students.


The award itself is a book written by a Brown University faculty member or alumnus, and is determined annually by committee.

This year the Brown University Book Award will be The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another by Ainissa Ramirez, Class of '90.

In The Alchemy of Us, scientist and science writer Ainissa Ramirez, Ph.D., examines eight inventions—clocks, steel rails, copper communication cables, photographic film, light bulbs, hard disks, scientific labware, and silicon chips—and reveals how they shaped the human experience.

Ramirez shows not only how materials were shaped by inventors but also how those materials shaped culture, chronicling each invention and its consequences—intended and unintended. Filling in the gaps left by other books about technology, Ramirez showcases little-known inventors—particularly people of color and women—who had a significant impact but whose accomplishments have been hidden by mythmaking, bias, and convention. These fascinating and inspiring stories offer new perspectives on our relationships with technologies and innovation.


The cost of the Brown University Book Award is $37.00, which includes shipping and handling.

Sample Bookplate:


Book Plate
Size: 5"W x 7"H

Past Book Award Selections:


  • 2020-2021 - The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another by Ainissa Ramirez '90 - $37.00
  • 2019-2020 - Proving Einstein Right: The Daring Expeditions that Changed How We Look at the Universe by S. James Gates, Jr. (Ford Foundation Professor of Physics) and Cathie Pelletier - $37.95
  • 2018-2019 - The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness, and Free Will by Kenneth R. Miller '70 - $35.95
  • 2017-2018 - It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World's Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs '90 - $35.95
  • 2016-2017 - Defying the Nazis by Artemis Joukowsky III - $35.00
  • 2015-2016 - Liberty's Torch by Elizabeth Mitchell '88 - $36.00
  • 2014-2015 - The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun '06 - $35.00
  • 2013-2014 - Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick '78 - $39.00
  • 2012-2013 - Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt with Timothy Snyder '91 - $40.00

Sponsors & Participating Schools

Sponsors choose the school(s) they would like to sponsor.  The school then must agree to present the Brown University Book Award at the their awards ceremony.  The sponsor may choose the degree of participation, while most just sponsor the book award and let the school handle the selection and presentation of the book award, others attend or even present the book award at the awards ceremony.  A select few even help with the selection of the recipient.

Participating Schools for 2018-19 Book Award

Order Sponsorship

Brown University Book Award Administrator
Contact: Trade Customer Service
Ph: 401-863-3168
Email:  [email protected]

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