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Books They Write – Celebration of Scholarship 2022

Planning to attend the Celebration of Scholarship at New Brunswick Libraries? To be held in Douglass Library on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 from 4 pm to 6 pm, this event highlights accomplishments of Rutgers authors with displays of books, book chapters, journal articles, recordings, and more published in 2020-2022.

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Pictured here is my choice for a teaser and book recommendation, a tiny book that eventually made it to Douglass Library after its six-month, adventurous journey from Hungary to the United States, keeping colleagues at New Brunswick Libraries on the lookout for the package the whole time.

Cover art“Ott kívül a magyarázat…” Társadalomkritikai beszélgetések Böröcz Józseffel” (Critical Social Conversations with József Böröcz). 2021, Budapest, Eszmélet zsebkönyvtár.

Abstract: Hungarian edition of eight conversations of social critique with József Böröcz, edited by József Böröcz and Ágoston Fáber. The book, published in the pocketbook series of the journal Eszmélet, is intended as an act in public sociology. (Source: author’s page on, download available.)

A collection of interviews with Dr. József Böröcz related to his research, views, experience, and more, this volume is only the tip of the iceberg as the Rutgers sociology professor shares his vast knowledge of global history, sociology, culture, languages, and more, all in Hungarian.

Having the privilege of editing one of his books translated from English into Hungarian, I was a little bit cautious, or, let’s admit it, even afraid, that I wouldn’t be able to understand half of what he is talking about, not because of the language, but the content. A historical sociologist fluent in several languages and cultures, the author talks about any topic from a global perspective with such a depth of local knowledge that might make educated natives feel embarrassed.

What a delightful read! A collection of thoughtful, perceptive, and inspiring interviews, the book is still not an easy weekend read. But neither is most of the scholarly publications showcased in a Celebration of Scholarship events. What sets this volume apart is the intrinsic motivation it provides to scholars to share their scholarly activities widely, in a language that remains scientific, but reaches broader audiences, while prompting reflections, dialogues, and, ultimately, a desire to learn more.

Speaking of language, what’s the point of publishing in an obscure one such as Hungarian for an accomplished and sharp-witted Rutgers scholar, one may wonder. In general, these publications, even the ones in peer-reviewed journals, barely count towards somebody’s citation metrics, right?  As another author who doesn’t write out of the necessity of the good old “publish or perish,” but because I happen to have something to say, I’d argue that these works are just as impactful and important. You have a topic to elaborate and an audience to address. You have content to share with people you care about. You did the research, visited libraries all over the world. You’ll figure out the language – or create one if necessary.

What’s the point of collecting previously published text, let alone interviews, in one volume, would be the next question. If you ever followed somebody’s work over a period of time, it’s fascinating to watch a young scholar grow into an established expert in any field. Picking a few representative texts from the different periods of a scholar can nicely represent the trajectory of a career. Organizing them into a self-sustaining volume continues the dialogue started in the individual pieces, often fulfilling a void for the reader and (almost always) being rewarding for the author.

Spanning current Hungarian affairs and the European Union from a global perspective (if one needs a CliffNotes version), the interviews he gives in Hungarian and English for various media outlets move back and forth between worlds, history, and disciplines with ease in a language that’s witty, sometimes ironic, but always professional, a refreshing choice in Hungarian. The examples that the author uses are always on the spot, but still meaningful in the given context for the reader from a different culture too. My personal favorite, if I may, is a brave interview, first published four days before the 2020 presidential elections, shedding light into the intricacies of the American electoral system for Hungarians while weighing the outcomes from a U.S. perspective, big-picture global politics and the average Joe included.

When advising students, librarians often recommend encyclopedias to get started on a topic unfamiliar to them. These reference entries are a perfect way to familiarize ourselves with a new area or discipline, and learn a bit about the basics. What’s missing from an encyclopedia is the passion, the personal interest, and the individual motivation that leads to a scholar to delve deeper in their discipline, a great plus that only interviews can provide. Based on this tiny book and the interviews I have done with outstanding scholars in alcohol studies, I hope I am not the only one who thinks that it would be worth the time recording oral history interviews with prominent Rutgers professors for prosperity and to inspire our students.

Select interviews with József Böröcz in English