Cabells’ Best Reads (and Listens) of 2021

As another turbulent year draws to a close, the Cabells team has been inspired by our friends and colleagues at The Scholarly Kitchen and other blogs and shared our thoughts on our favorite books we’ve read in 2021. We’d love to hear about your favorite books as well, so please feel free to leave your suggestions on the chat at the bottom. In the meantime, best wishes over the holidays to all our readers and a Happy New Year for 2022!


By Honor Bound by Tom Norris and Mike Thornton, with Dick Couch

By Honor Bound tells the harrowing true stories of two heroes and Medal of Honor recipients, Tom Norris and Mike Thornton, Navy SEALs who served together during the Vietnam War. Norris was awarded the Medal of Honor for repeatedly leading a team of South Vietnamese Sea Commandos behind enemy lines to extract two downed American pilots. Just months later, in the waning days of the war, Norris and Thornton led a reconnaissance mission deep into enemy territory where they encountered a vastly superior force. Norris was shot in the head and presumed dead by a South Vietnamese soldier who alerted Thornton once at their extraction point. Without a second thought, Thornton fought his way back to Norris (who was in fact not dead and went on to a long career in the F.B.I.) and out again, an unbelievable act of courage and loyalty that resulted in his being awarded the Medal of Honor. This represents the only time in modern history the most prestigious military decoration was awarded in a combat action where one recipient saved the life of another. These inspiring firsthand accounts, told by Norris and Thornton to fellow Navy SEAL Dick Couch, are as remarkable as the men who lived them. ~ Mike Bisaccio

Not Just the Tudors by Professor Suzannah Lipscomb


I have a confession to make. I haven’t read a book from cover to cover since the onset of the pandemic and realise that browsing around a bookshop figures highly in my enjoyment of the printed word. I have instead become a devotee of the podcast and would like to recommend Professor Suzannah Lipscomb’s ‘Not Just the Tudors’. It isn’t necessary to have an in-depth knowledge of the 1500s and the 1600s or its protagonists to enjoy this podcast. The style is such that you can be forgiven for thinking that you’re eavesdropping on a couple of expert historians discussing their research. The enthusiasm and passion for the subject is always evident while the experts make sure to provide background and context. Subjects are international and range widely through fashion, food, art and culture but even the very niche topics are brought to life. Quite a surprising amount of source material has survived in private collections so it’s thought-provoking to see how historians are using this to blow away some modern- day misconceptions, for example about Tudor and Elizabethan interactions with the Muslim world and with people of African descent. This podcast is a fascinating and thought-provoking listen but at the end of the day, if plain old intrigue, politics, sex and power play in the Tudor royal court is your thing, there’s still plenty of it to discover here. ~ Sarah Pollard

o caledonia by elspeth barker

This is a gem of a book, it largely takes place in a draughty old castle in Scotland and begins with the murder of the 16 year old protagonist Elspeth. Despite this grisly start, the beautiful, rich and witty writing make this book a joy to read. The story covers Elspeth’s short life and her misfit status both within her family and at boarding school. Elspeth finds solace in books, the landscape, animals and her relationship with her unconventional whisky-loving, Aunt Lila who is an expert on all things Fungi. Imbued with a feel of the gothic and more than a little of the strange, this is the perfect winter read. ~ Ruth Bailey

The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown

This book tells the deliciously horrifying true story of the Donner Party in the mid-1840s. Distasteful pun intended. As was that one. The story gives great insight into the unimaginable difficulties, pain, and decisions the members of the Donner Party faced as they trekked across the American wilderness from Illinois to California. They walked alongside wagons pulled by oxen across plains, desert, and through mountains before finally getting caught in unusually cold and snowy weather in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s a heartbreaking story of death and loss, but underneath it all is a story of survival – of doing whatever it takes to overcome the odds and live another day. Throughout the book are real accounts from letters written by survivors and explanations of how and why the victims’ own biological processes failed them. This was a riveting story – despite widespread knowledge of how it would end – but much like the early American emigrants’ journey, it’s to die for. (Final pun intended.) ~ Kathleen Berryman

matrix: a novel by lauren groff

I actually have 17 favorite books this year, so far (the year’s not over yet). In the interest of brevity, I have painfully narrowed the list to three.

Literary Fiction: Matrix: A Novel by Lauren Groff – I was devastated when this novel did not win the National Book Award last month. It is set in the 12th century and centers around Marie de France. She is the first known female writer of francophone verse, but very little is known of her actual life. At its heart, the novel is a thematic exploration of how suppression foments righteous rage which can be used to fuel defiance, devotion, determination, and ultimately power. Bonus points for the novel’s title which highlights the Latin origin, meaning “mother”.

The Brothers Karamazov

Classic Fiction: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – One of the greatest novels ever written. Maybe the greatest? As I read it for the first time this year (why did I wait so long?), I found myself wishing over and over that I could read it in the original Russian. If Dostoyevsky’s genius can peek all the way though the translation, imagine the glory that must be present in the original language text. I found myself stopping to cross-reference various translations trying to extract as much meaning and elegance as possible. The novel is a tour de force of insight into human nature and psychology.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir


Popular Fiction: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – Such a fun, life-affirming read! Amid the difficulties and despair of 2020 and 2021, it is a sheer pleasure to read a novel that highlights the best attributes of humanity: intelligence, determination, devotion and kindness. A science-fiction tale of survival that highlights the stellar power of friendship. ~ Lacey Earle

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Perhaps more suited for the 1886 Book of the Year, I explored the literary classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. The modern adaptations we grew up with, from film to Looney Tunes cartoons, managed to streamline the narrative and soften out all the rough edges that make the original so rich. The duality of man theme is at the story’s core, but it’s explored, in full psychological depth, through a sort of mystery whodunit. Watching helplessly as our neighbors struggle and slowly transform into dangerous new forms without the ability to rationalize or stop it feels just as relevant of an idea today as it ever was. Add to that the after-dark backdrop of 19th century London, and you feel like you’re in a Victorian-themed escape room. Unravel the mystery, revel in scientific discovery, and watch in horror as one “man” terrorizes a small community. ~ Ricky Colson

The Propitious Esculent: The Potato in World History by John Reader (aka The Untold History of the Potato and Potato: A History of the Propitious Esculent)
Propitious Esculent

In John Reader’s book that goes by many names, the central focus is our favorite nightshade: the potato. Though it discusses the history of the potato itself, including its cultivation in its original soil and its expansion to into every corner of the world, the book really shines in its examination on the potato’s role as a catalyst that stoked the furnace of urbanization and, ultimately, the industrial revolution. It explores how the potato has been used to variably feed the hungry, exploit workers, create whole economies and shepherd socioeconomic class systems into the modern era. This book is worth a read for anyone who likes to eat potatoes or has been taking part in post-industrial civilization. Suffice to say, that’s most of us. ~ Lucas Toutloff

Cabells launches new SDG Impact Intensity™ journal rating system in partnership with Saint Joseph’s University’s Haub School of Business

Following hot on the heels of Cabells’ inclusion in the United Nations SDG Publishers Compact, we are also announcing an exclusive partnership with Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) for a new metric assessing journals and their engagement with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Simon Linacre explains the origins of the collaboration and how the new metric could help researchers, funders, and universities alike.

If you can remember way back to the halcyon days when we went to academic conferences, you will remember one of the many benefits we enjoyed was to meet a kindred spirit, someone who shared your thoughts and ideas and looked forward to seeing again at another event. These international friendships also had the benefit of enabling you to develop something meaningful with your work, and went some way to justifying the time and expense the trips often entailed.

I was lucky enough to have one such encounter at the GBSN annual conference in Lisbon, Portugal at the end of 2019 when I met professor David Steingard from Saint Joseph’s University in the US. He was at the event to present some of the work he had been doing at SJU on its SDG Dashboard – an interactive visualization and data analytics tool demonstrating how university programmes align with the 17 SDGs. At the gala dinner I sought Dr. Steingard out and asked him something that had been buzzing inside my head ever since I heard him speak:

What if we applied your SDG reporting methodology to journals?

An animated conversation then followed, which continued on the bus home to the hotel, at the conference the next day and ultimately to the lobby of a swanky hotel in Davos (there are no other kinds of hotels there, to be honest) a year ago. From then on, small teams at SJU and Cabells have been working on a methodology for analysing and assessing the extent to which a journal has engaged with the UN’s SDGs through the articles it has published over time. This has resulted in the new metric we are releasing shortly – SDG Impact Intensity™ – the first academic journal rating system for evaluating how journals contribute to positively impacting the SDGs.

Using data collated from Cabells’ Journalytics database and running it through SJU’s AI-based methodology for identifying SDG relevance, SDG Impact Intensityprovides a rating of up to three ‘SDG rings’ to summarise the SDG relevance of articles published in the journals over a five-year period (2016-2020). For the first pilot phase of development, we chose 50 of the most storied business and management journals used for the Financial Times Global MBA ranking as well as 50 of the most dynamic journals from Cabells’ Journalytics database focused on sustainability, ethics, public policy and environmental management.

It may come as no surprise to learn that the so-called top journals lagged way behind their counterparts when it came to their levels of SDG focus. For example, none of the top 26 journals in the pilot phase are from the FT50, and only four of the top ten are from the world’s five biggest academic publishers. In contrast, the journals traditionally ranked at the very top of management journal rankings from the past 50 years in disciplines such as marketing, accounting, finance and management languish at bottom of the pilot phase ratings. While these results are hardly surprising, it perhaps shows that while governments, funders and society as a whole have started to embrace the SDGs, this has yet to filter through to what has been published in journals traditionally regarded as high impact. There has long been criticism that such titles have been favoured by business school management structures over more innovative, real-world relevant journals, and this very much seems to be borne out by the results of Cabells’ research with SJU. The very notion of what academic journal “quality” means is fundamentally challenged in light of considering how journals can make an ”impact” through engaging the SDGs.

Cabells and SJU are hoping to further their partnership and broaden their coverage of journals to enable more researchers and other interested parties to understand the type of research their target journals are publishing. With more information and greater understanding of the SDGs at hand, it is to be hoped we see a move away from a narrow, single-focus on traditional quality metrics towards a broader encouragement of research and publication that generates a positive impact on bettering the human condition and environmentally sustaining the Earth as detailed in the SDGs. In turn, we should see academia and scholarly communications play their part in ensuring the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development moves forward that much quicker.

Cabells becomes a member of United Nations SDG Publishers Compact

Cabells is proud to announce its acceptance as a full member of the United Nations SDG Publishers Compact, becoming one of the first U.S. organizations and non-primary publishers globally to be awarded membership. Cabells joined the initiative as part of its ongoing commitment to support research and publications focused on sustainable solutions.

The SDG Publisher Compact was launched at the end of 2020 as a way to stimulate action among the scholarly communications community. It was launched in collaboration with the International Publishers Association (IPA) with the aim of speeding up progress towards the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

As a signatory of the Publishers Compact, Cabells commits to developing sustainable practices and playing a key role in its networks and communities as a champion of the SDGs during what is becoming known as the ‘Decade of Action‘ from 2020–2030. As such, Cabells is developing a number of solutions designed to help identify SDG-relevant journals and research for authors, librarians, funders, and other research-focused organizations.

Cabells’ Director of International Marketing & Development, Simon Linacre, said: “The UN SDGs have already done a remarkable job in directing funding and research to the most important questions facing our planet at this time. Becoming part of the UN SDG Publishers Compact will inspire Cabells into further playing our part in meeting these grand challenges.”

For more information, visit www.cabells.com or read the UN’s original press release.

Cabells and scite partner to bring Smart Citations to Journalytics

Cabells, a provider of key intelligence on academic journals for research professionals, and scite, a platform for discovering and evaluating scientific articles, are excited to announce the addition of scite’s Smart Citations to Cabells Journalytics publication summaries.

Journalytics summary card with scite Smart Citations data

Journalytics is a curated database of over 11,000 verified academic journals spanning 18 disciplines, developed to help researchers and institutions optimize decision-making around the publication of research. Journalytics summaries provide publication and submission information and citation-backed data and analytics for comprehensive evaluations.

scite’s Smart Citations allow researchers to see how articles have been cited by providing the context of the citation and a classification describing whether it provides supporting or disputing evidence for the cited claim.

The inclusion of Smart Citations adds a layer of perspective to Journalytics metrics and gives users a deeper understanding of journal activity by transforming citations from a mere number into contextual data.

Lacey Earle, executive director of Cabells, says, “Cabells is thrilled to partner with scite in order to help researchers evaluate scientific articles through an innovative, comparative-based metric system that encourages rigorous and in-depth research.”

Josh Nicholson, co-founder and CEO of scite says of the partnership, “We’re excited to be working with Cabells to embed our Smart Citations into their Journalytics summaries. Smart Citations help you assess the quantity of citations a journal has received as well as the quality of these citations, with a focus on identifying supporting and disputing citations in the literature.”


about cabells

Cabells generates actionable intelligence on academic journals for research professionals.  On the Journalytics platform, an independent, curated database of more than 11,000 verified scholarly journals, researchers draw from the intersection of expertise, data, and analytics to make confident decisions to better administer research. In Predatory Reports, Cabells has undertaken the most comprehensive and detailed campaign against predatory journals, currently reporting on deceptive behaviors of over 14,000 publications. By combining its efforts with those of researchers, academic publishers, industry organizations, and other service providers, Cabells works to create a safe, transparent and equitable publishing ecosystem that can nurture generations of knowledge and innovation. For more information please visit Cabells or follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

about scite

scite is a Brooklyn-based startup that helps researchers better discover and evaluate scientific articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or disputing evidence. scite is used by researchers from dozens of countries and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health. For more information, please visit scite, follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, and download our Chrome or Firefox plugin. For careers, please see our jobs page.

Announcement regarding brand-wide language changes, effective immediately

Since late last year, Cabells has been working on developing new branding for our products that better embody our ideals of integrity and equality in academic publishing and society as a whole. We set out to ensure that the changes represent a total departure from the symbolism inextricably tied to the idea of blacklists and whitelists. In support of, and in solidarity with, the fight against systemic racism that our country is facing, Cabells is implementing brand-wide language changes, effective immediately. The changes implemented today represent only a fraction of those that we will be launching in 2020, but it is an important start.

Users may experience temporary outages as the changes roll out, but normal operations should resume quickly. Customer access will function identically as before the changes, but look for the term “Journalytics” in place of “whitelist” and “Predatory Reports” in place of “blacklist.”

Please contact Mike Bisaccio at michael.bisaccio@cabells.com or (409) 767-8506 with any questions or for additional information.

Cabells thanks the entire community for their support of this effort.

Sincerely,
The Cabells Team