Lisa Lucas is leaving her position as executive director of the National Book Foundation at the end of the year to become senior v-p, publisher of Pantheon and Schocken Books at Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Since joining the Foundation in 2016, she revitalized and expanded its programs and the National Book Awards. Before that, she was publisher of the online magazine Guernica from 2012 to 2016. She has also served as co-chair of the Brooklyn Book Festival's nonfiction programming, consultant for the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Literature, and juror for the United States Artists Fellowships, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts.
Lucas said, "The National Book Foundation gave me the opportunity to simultaneously celebrate great literature and imagine just how big the audience for excellent books could be if we only dared to dream bigger. In this same spirit, I look forward to joining Pantheon and Schocken, with an aim of building on the rich publishing history of those imprints and judiciously remixing their lists. I am excited to work alongside [v-p, editorial director] Dan Frank and the entire Pantheon and Schocken team. Together, we will publish thoughtfully and creatively, elevate a community of established and new writers, and consider who our next readers can and will be."
Reagan Arthur, executive v-p, publisher, Knopf, Pantheon, and Schocken, who hired Lucas, commented: "I've loved watching Lisa deploy her formidable skills and boundless energy on behalf of the National Book Foundation; her work as an advocate for writers and readers has been truly inspiring. When I thought about Pantheon's rich legacy and imagined ways to build on that for the future, the first name that came to mind was Lisa's. I'm delighted to know that Pantheon will continue to thrive and evolve under her leadership, in concert with our incredible team of editors, marketers, and publicists."
David Steinberger, chair of the National Book Foundation's board, said, "Lisa has significantly increased the visibility and impact of the National Book Awards, and substantially expanded all of the Foundation's programs. She has been the energetic heartbeat of the Foundation, and we are deeply appreciative of her years of leadership. We congratulate Lisa on this exciting new career opportunity, and look forward to her continuing to make a difference in the years ahead. The board will soon begin a national search for her replacement."
While executive director, Lucas launched the National Book Award for Translated Literature, the first new award in more than two decades, and revamped the longstanding citizenship requirements of the National Book Awards to include non-U.S. citizens and those with particularly complex immigration status. She also oversaw jury panels that awarded National Book Awards and lifetime achievement awards to John Lewis, Ibram X. Kendi, Colson Whitehead, Robert A. Caro, Masha Gessen, Elizabeth Acevedo and László Krasznahorkai, among many others.
She also produced many educational programs and public programs that connect readers in every community to books and was instrumental in securing a $900,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for national public programming at colleges, libraries, and performing houses. She expanded existing public programs and pioneered new efforts including Literature for Justice, which distributed thousands of books into prisons this year. Under her leadership, and in partnership with the United States Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development, the Urban Libraries Council, and the National Center for Families Learning, the National Book Foundation launched the Book Rich Environments program, which over the past four years has provided 1.4 million books to young people and families in public housing across the country.
In a New York Times article called "In Publishing, 'Everything Is Up for Change,' " Lucas said, "I always joke that I'm like a house renovator. You go into a classic old beautiful house that's totally fine, and you figure out how to bring it into the future and make sure it's steady and strong and modern. The idea is loving tradition but also loving the future."