Conservative Book of the Year Award

ISI’s Conservative Book of the Year award recognizes thoughtful books that contribute to the rich debate about important conservative ideas. The winner receives a $10,000 cash prize along with ISI’s Paolucci Book Award.

On June 25, ISI presented the 2021 Conservative Book of the Year award to Yuval Levin for his acclaimed work A Time to Build.

Yuval Levin Receives the 2021 Conservative Book of the Year award

Yuval Levin, A Time to BuildOn Friday, June 25, ISI presented the 2021 Conservative Book of the Year award to Yuval Levin, author of the acclaimed work A Time to Build

A distinguished panel of eight judges chose Levin’s book from among six outstanding finalists.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan says, A Time to Build is “exactly what America needs right now”—“a moving call to recommit to the great project of our common life.” First Things editor R. R. Reno calls A Time to Build a “perceptive and important book” that “sets an agenda for renewing the institutions we need in order to live and flourish together as Americans.”

Yuval Levin has been called “one of the two or three most influential young writers in politics today” (David Brooks, New York Times), “one of the most influential conservative writers in the United States” (Foreign Affairs), and “one of conservatism’s most sophisticated and measured explicators” (George F. Will). 

At the June 25 dinner, Levin received ISI’s Paolucci Book Award as well as a $10,000 cash prize.

About Yuval Levin and A Time to Build, winner of the 2021 Conservative Book of the Year award

[A Time to BuildAmerica is in crisis. Our politics are bitterly divided.

You’ve seen it. The evidence is everywhere: on campuses, in social media, in the traditional media.

More and more Americans feel alienated—and the isolating effects of COVID-19 have made the problem even worse.

So what do you do?

It’s tempting to fall into despair—or anger. And no doubt we see anger on both left and right these days. 

But there’s another way . . .

In A Time to Build, acclaimed political thinker Yuval Levin shows that rage and violence need not mark the path forward.

The social crisis we confront is not defined by an oppressive presence, he shows. No, the problem is a debilitating absence—an absence of the forces that unite us.

Now is not the time to tear down. It is time to build and rebuild—to rebuild the vital institutions that have shaped American life, from families to schools, from churches to the military.

The Wall Street Journal declares that A Time to Build offers “trenchant” analysis that is “at once simpler, more generous and more cogent” than what you typically hear from left or right. 



Yuval Levin Speaker bio

Yuval Levin is the editor of National Affairs and the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). A former member of the White House domestic policy staff under President George W. Bush, he has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. His previous books include The Fractured Republic and The Great Debate. He holds an MA and a PhD from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.



A Time to Build is exactly what America needs right now. A moving call to recommit to the great project of our common life. And from Yuval Levin, one of the most thoughtful and pertinent of our public intellectuals, who writes like a dream if dreams were always clear. What an encouraging book this is, and what an important one.”
—Peggy NoonanWall Street Journal

“Crisply written and characteristically thoughtful.”

“Excellent . . . Levin discusses how we’ve degraded our institutions by not letting them shape and constrain us, but instead using them as mere platforms.”
Rich Lowry, National Review

“A Time to Build diagnoses the decline of institutions as the source of many social ills, including loneliness and despair, that have been attributed to other causes.”
—Mona Charen

“A provocative, inspiring look at the underlying cause of our polarization and dysfunction.”

“There is a great deal of ruin in our society. Yuval Levin does not shrink from taking the full measure of our woes. But his counsel is not despair. This perceptive and important book sets an agenda for renewing the institutions we need in order to live and flourish together as Americans.”
R. R. Reno, editor of First Things

The Award

ISI honors the Conservative Book of the Year with the Paolucci Book Award. The award is named in memory of Henry and Anne Paolucci, distinguished scholars, teachers, and writers who exemplified the ideal of the public intellectual.
The award winner’s lecture is routinely aired on C-SPAN’s Book TV. See links below for previous broadcasts. Past winners of the award include:

Award Requirements

To be considered for the Conservative Book of the Year award, a book must:

  • Be a work of nonfiction that was first published in, and carries a copyright date of, 2020
  • Advance our understanding of conservative principles
  • Make an outstanding contribution to the literature of the subject
  • Avoid factional or partisan argumentation

About Henry and Anne Paolucci

Henry Paolucci
Henry Paolucci, PhD (1921–1999)

Henry Paolucci was a prolific scholar of classical politics and literature. He was a professor of government and politics at St. John’s University and also taught ancient Greek and Roman history at Iona College, Brooklyn College, and the City College of New York, as well as a graduate course on Dante and medieval culture at Columbia University. Dr. Paolucci wrote or edited more than 30 books and was a frequent contributor to national magazines and newspapers. He is well known for his studies of the political thought of Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Machiavelli, and Hegel.

The founding president of the Walter Bagehot Council on National Sovereignty, Dr. Paolucci served for many years as vice chairman of the Conservative Party of New York State. In 1964 he ran as the Conservative candidate for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Robert F. Kennedy and the Republican incumbent, Kenneth Keating.

Anne Paolucci
Anne Paolucci, PhD (1926–2012)

Anne Paolucci displayed a wide range of intellectual interests in her long and distinguished scholarly career. Born in Rome, she settled with her family in New York at the age of eight and went on to earn a PhD from Columbia University. Dr. Paolucci taught English at the City College of New York before joining the faculty of St. John’s University as its first University Research Professor. A prolific writer on Renaissance drama, dramatic theory, Hegelian aesthetics, Spenser, Dante, Machiavelli, and classical and Shakespearean tragedy, she was perhaps best known for her work on the plays of Pirandello and Edward Albee.

Dr. Paolucci was the founding president of the Council on National Literatures. For nearly a decade, she served on the National Council on the Humanities, and she became the first woman to chair the Board of ­Trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY).