Special Collections

National Book Award Winners - Non-Fiction

Description: The National Book Awards are presented annually "to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America." Here we present the Non-Fiction medal winners. #award #adults


Showing 26 through 50 of 82 results
 

American Sphinx

by Joseph J. Ellis

For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight--and not only during his active political career. After 1809, his longed-for retirement was compromised by a steady stream of guests and tourists who made of his estate at Monticello a virtual hotel, as well as by more than one thousand letters per year, most from strangers, which he insisted on answering personally. In his twilight years Jefferson was already taking on the luster of a national icon, which was polished off by his auspicious death (on July 4, 1826); and in the subsequent seventeen decades of his celebrity--now verging, thanks to virulent revisionists and television documentaries, on notoriety--has been inflated beyond recognition of the original person.

For the historian Joseph J. Ellis, the experience of writing about Jefferson was "as if a pathologist, just about to begin an autopsy, has discovered that the body on the operating table was still breathing." In American Sphinx, Ellis sifts the facts shrewdly from the legends and the rumors, treading a path between vilification and hero worship in order to formulate a plausible portrait of the man who still today "hover[s] over the political scene like one of those dirigibles cruising above a crowded football stadium, flashing words of inspiration to both teams." For, at the grass roots, Jefferson is no longer liberal or conservative, agrarian or industrialist, pro- or anti-slavery, privileged or populist. He is all things to all people. His own obliviousness to incompatible convictions within himself (which left him deaf to most forms of irony) has leaked out into the world at large--a world determined to idolize him despite his foibles.

From Ellis we learn that Jefferson sang incessantly under his breath; that he delivered only two public speeches in eight years as president, while spending ten hours a day at his writing desk; that sometimes his political sensibilities collided with his domestic agenda, as when he ordered an expensive piano from London during a boycott (and pledged to "keep it in storage"). We see him relishing such projects as the nailery at Monticello that allowed him to interact with his slaves more palatably, as pseudo-employer to pseudo-employees. We grow convinced that he preferred to meet his lovers in the rarefied region of his mind rather than in the actual bedchamber. We watch him exhibiting both great depth and great shallowness, combining massive learning with extraordinary naïveté, piercing insights with self-deception on the grandest scale. We understand why we should neither beatify him nor consign him to the rubbish heap of history, though we are by no means required to stop loving him. He is Thomas Jefferson, after all--our very own sphinx.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1997

James Joyce

by Richard Ellmann

Biography of the Irish author. Listed #73 on Modern Library's top 100 nonfiction books of the century.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1960

Winners & Losers

by Frances Fitzgerald and Gloria Emerson

The National Book Award-winning classic on the Vietnam War, reissued for the war's fiftieth anniversary. Based on interviews with both Americans and Vietnamese, Winners and Losers is Gloria Emerson's powerful portrait of the Vietnam War. From soldiers on the battlefield to protesters on the home front, Emerson chronicles the war's impact on ordinary lives with characteristic insight and brilliance. Today, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, much of the physical and emotional damage from that conflict--the empty political rhetoric, the mounting casualties, and the troubled homecomings of shell-shocked soldiers--is once again part of the American experience. Winners and Losers remains a potent reminder of the danger of blindly applied American power, and its poignant truths are the legacy of a remarkable journalist.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1978

Gandhi's Truth

by Erik H. Erikson

In this study of Mahatma Gandhi, psychoanalyst Erik H. Erikson explores how Gandhi succeeded in mobilizing the Indian people both spiritually and politically as he became the revolutionary innovator of militant non-violence and India became the motherland of large-scale civil disobedience.

Winner of the National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1970

National Defense

by James Fallows

THIS BOOK is designed to give the general reader better ways of thinking about defense. In the first few years of the 1980s, the United States will have to make choices of enormous consequence about the size, purpose, and composition of its military force. These include whether to restore the draft, build new nuclear missiles and bombers, enlarge the Navy, equip a "rapid deployment force" for intervention overseas.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1983

Fire in the Lake

by Frances Fitzgerald

This landmark work, based on Frances FitzGerald's own research and travels, takes us inside Vietnam into the traditional, ancestor-worshiping villages and the corrupt crowded cities, into the conflicts between Communists and anti-Communists, Catholics and Buddhists, generals and monks and reveals the country as seen through Vietnamese eyes.

With a clarity and authority unrivaled by any book before it or since, Fire in the Lake shows how America utterly and tragically misinterpreted the realities of Vietnam.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1973

From Beirut to Jerusalem

by Thomas L. Friedman

"Friedman, who twice garnered the Pulitzer as a New York Times correspondent in Lebanon and Israel, further delineates the two countries in this provocative, absorbing memoir cum political and social analysis. A condensed, incisive history of the Middle East is proffered, as well as personal reflections on his 10-year sojourn: the issue of Friedman's Jewishness in Beirut, the fact that he was the Times 's first Jewish reporter in Israel, the bombing of his apartment in Beirut by the PLO, which took the lives of his Lebanese news assistant's children." -From Publishers Weekly

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1989

The Great War and Modern Memory

by Paul Fussell

Fussell writes: This book is about the British experience on the Western Front from 1914 to 1918 and some of the literary means by which it has been remembered, conventionalized, and mythologized. It is also about the literary dimensions of the trench experience itself. Indeed, if the book had a subtitle, it would be something like "An Inquiry into the Curious Literariness of Real Life."

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1976

The Enlightenment

by Peter Gay

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment marks the beginning of the modern age, when the scientific method and belief in reason and progress came to hold sway over the Western world. In the twentieth century, however, the Enlightenment has often been judged harshly for its apparently simplistic optimism. Now a master historian goes back to the sources to give a fully rounded account of its true accomplishments.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1967

The Future Is History

by Masha Gessen

Longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in NonfictionPutin’s bestselling biographer reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy. Hailed for her “fearless indictment of the most powerful man in Russia” (The Wall Street Journal), award-winning journalist Masha Gessen is unparalleled in her understanding of the events and forces that have wracked her native country in recent times. In The Future Is History, she follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own—as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths against the machinations of the regime that would crush them all, and against the war it waged on understanding itself, which ensured the unobstructed reemergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state. Powerful and urgent, The Future Is History is a cautionary tale for our time and for all time.

Date Added: 11/21/2017


Year: 2017

The Hemingses of Monticello

by Annette Gordon-Reed

Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize

This epic work tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2008

The Panda's Thumb

by Stephen Jay Gould

Were dinosaurs really dumber than lizards? Why, after ?all, are roughly the same number of men and women born into the world? What led the famous Dr. Down to his theory of mongolism, and its racist residue? What do the panda's magical "thumb" and the sea turtle's perilous migration tell us about imperfections that prove the evolutionary rule? The wonders and mysteries of evolutionary biology are elegantly explored in these and other essays by the celebrated natural history writer Stephen Jay Gould.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1981

The Swerve

by Stephen Greenblatt

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction

Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Non-Fiction

One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius--a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.

The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2011

Mistress To An Age

by J. Christopher Herold

J. Christopher Herold vigorously tells the story of the fierce Madame de Stael, revealing her courageous opposition to Napoleon, her whirlwind affairs with the great intellectuals of her day, and her idealistic rebellion against all that was cynical, tyrannical, and passionless. Germaine de Stael's father was Jacques Necker, the finance minister to Louis XVI, and her mother ran an influential literary-political salon in Paris. Always precocious, at nineteen Germaine married the Swedish ambassador to France, Eric Magnus Baron de Stael-Holstein, and in 1785 took over her mother's salon with great success. Germaine and de Stael lived most of their married life apart. She had many brilliant lovers. Talleyrand was the first, Narbonne, the minister of war, another; Benjamin Constant was her most significant and long-lasting one. She published several political and literary essays, including "A Treatise on the Influence of the Passions upon the Happiness of Individuals and of Nations, " which became oneof the most important documents of European Romanticism. Her bold philosophical ideas, particularly those in "On Literature, " caused feverish commotion in France and were quickly noticed by Napoleon, who saw her salon as a rallying point for the opposition. He eventually exiled her from France.

Winner of the 1959 National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1959

Gödel, Escher, Bach

by Douglas R. Hofstadter

This groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize-winning book sets the standard for interdisciplinary writing, exploring the patterns and symbols in the thinking of mathematician Kurt Gödel, artist M.C. Escher, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

Winner of the National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1980

World of Our Fathers

by Irving Howe

This book tells the story of those east European Jews who, for several decades starting in the 1880's, undertook a massive migration to the United States. There were two million of them, and they settled mostly in the large American cities, where they attempted to maintain their own Yiddish culture; then, as a result of both external pressures and their own desires, they made their way into American society.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1977

Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain

by Justin Kaplan

Mark Twain, the American comic genius who portrayed, named, and in part exemplified America's "Gilded Age," comes alive -- a presence felt, an artist understood -- in Justin Kaplan's extraordinary biography.

With brilliant immediacy, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain brings to life a towering literary figure whose dual persona symbolized the emerging American conflict between down-to-earth morality and freewheeling ambition. As Mark Twain, he was the Mississippi riverboat pilot, the satirist with a fiery hatred of pretension, and the author of such classics as Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. As Mr. Clemens, he was the star who married an heiress, built a palatial estate, threw away fortunes on harebrained financial schemes, and lived the extravagant life that Mark Twain despised. Kaplan effectively portrays the triumphant-tragic man whose achievements and failures, laughter and anger, reflect a crucial generation in our past as well as his own dark, divided, and remarkably contemporary spirit.

The book begins as the thirty-one-year-old Mark Twain, carrying bottled within himself the experience of his boyhood in Hannibal and his coming-of-age on the Mississippi and on Nevada's silver-rush frontier, quits San Francisco and the old elemental America of the open spaces. He is heading east for the burgeoning new urban America of commerce, invention, finance, and status, where he is destined to marry well, hobnob with the rich and influential, throw away fortunes on tragically alluring schemes...and produce literary works that fulfill and go beyond the vocation he has already acknowledged: "to excite the laughter of God's creatures." He is heard, seen, made palpable. The texture of his marriage with Olivia Langdon, the protean presence of Mark Twain on the lecture platform, his friendships and enmities -- virtually all his closest relationships partook of both -- spring to life. His writing and publishing experience is organically re-created. His endurance in the face of personal tragedy, his unrivaled charm, his compulsion to quarrel, his humility and his vanity are evoked and felt. His wit rings through the book. "Honest poverty is a gem that even a King might be proud to call his own, but I wish to sell out. I have sported that kind of jewelry long enough." Thus the young Mark Twain, on the eve of world fame, spoke his disgust at a money-centered society in that blatantly philistine voice that he chose for his most savage satirical declarations. But all his life -- racked by his own ambivalences -- he was to embrace the values of that society. Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain brilliantly conveys this towering literary figure who was himself a symbol of the peculiarly American conflict between moral scrutiny and the drive to succeed. Mr. Clemens lived the Gilded Life that Mark Twain despised. The merging and fragmenting of these and other identities, as the biography unfolds, results in a magnificent projection of the whole man; the great comic spirit; and the exuberant, tragic human being, who, his friend William Dean Howells said, was "sole, incomparable, the Lincoln of our literature."

Winner of the National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1967

Walt Whitman

by Justin Kaplan

Whitman's genius, passions, poetry, and androgynous sensibility entwined to create an exuberant life amid the turbulent American mid-nineteenth century. In vivid detail, Kaplan examines the mysterious selves of the enigmatic man who celebrated the freedom and dignity of the individual and sang the praises of democracy and the brotherhood of man.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1981

The Briar Patch

by Murray Kempton

American justice...and the violent fears that underscore it...is the theme of Murray Kempton's brilliant examination of the landmark trial of a group of young men and women who came to be called the Panther 21.

At five o'clock in the morning of April 2, 1969, approximately 100 members of the Special Services Division of the New York City Police Dept. were dispatched to capture 19 of the 21 persons,' many of them Black Panthers,' who had been indicted for arson, conspiracy and attempted murder.

The narrative of 'The Briar Patch' explores both the mechanics of the police undercover operations that brought the Panthers to the bar, and those of their highly publicized trial. What especially distinguishes this book is the way Kempton illustrates each of the contending forces...prosecution, defense, member of the jury...acting out this great human drama from their own angle of alienation.

As Mr. Kempton states, 'A man's spirit can be marked most clearly in its passage from the reform to the revolutionary impulse at the moment when he decides that his enemy will no longer write his history.' The furious heroics and posturings of the defendants in this extraordinary trial grew out of one such moment of self-determination. That moment, a watershed of American history, is recorded in 'The Briar Patch.'

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1974

Stamped From The Beginning

by Ibram X. Kendi

Some Americans cling desperately to the myth that we are living in a post-racial society, that the election of the first Black president spelled the doom of racism. In fact, racist thought is alive and well in America--more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, if we have any hope of grappling with this stark reality, we must first understand how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and anti racists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.

Contrary to popular conceptions, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Instead, they were devised and honed by some of the most brilliant minds of each era. These intellectuals used their brilliance to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial disparities in everything from wealth to health. And while racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them--and in the process, gives us reason to hope.

Winner of the National Book Award

A New York Times Bestseller

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2016

Memoirs (1925-1950)

by George F. Kennan

The American diplomat's reflections of his years of government service provide insight into four decades of U.S. policy

Winner of the National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1968

The Soul of a New Machine

by Tracy Kidder

Computers have changed since 1981, when Tracy Kidder memorably recorded the drama, comedy, and excitement of one company's efforts to bring a new microcomputer to market. What has not changed is the feverish pace of the high-tech industry, the go-for-broke approach to business that has caused so many computer companies to win big (or go belly up), and the cult of pursuing mind-bending technological innovations. The Soul of a New Machine is an essential chapter in the history of the machine that revolutionized the world in the twentieth century.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1982

China Men

by Maxine Hong Kingston

The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1981

White House Years

by Henry Kissinger

Kissinger's invaluable and lasting contribution to the history of this crucial time. One of the most important books to come out of the Nixon Administration, White House Years covers Henry Kissinger's first four years (1969-1973) as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Among the momentous events recounted in this first volume of Kissinger's timeless memoirs are his secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese in Paris to end the Vietnam War, the Jordan crisis of 1970, the India-Pakistan war of 1971, his back-channel and face-to-face negotiations with Soviet leaders to limit the nuclear arms race, his secret journey to China, and the historic summit meetings in Moscow and Beijing in 1972. He covers major controversies of the period, including events in Laos and Cambodia, his "peace is at hand" press conference and the breakdown of talks with the North Vietnamese that led to the Christmas bombing in 1972. Throughout, Kissinger presents candid portraits of world leaders, including Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Golda Meir, Jordan's King Hussein, Leonid Brezhnev, Chairman Mao and Chou En-lai, Willy Brandt, Charles de Gaulle, and many others. White House Years is Henry Kissinger's invaluable and lasting contribution to the history of this crucial time.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1980

The Last Cowboy

by Jane Kramer

Portrays the life of a man who strives to be "a proper cowboy" despite radical changes which have propelled the Old West into a New Southwest characterized by industrialized agribusiness.

'The West that Henry mourned belonged to the Western movie, where the land and the cattle went to their proper guardians and brought a fortune in respect and power. It was a West where the best cowboy got to shoot the meanest outlaw, woo the prettiest schoolteacher, bed her briefly to produce sons, and then ignore her for the finer company of other cowboys - a West as sentimental and as brutal as the people who made a virtue of that curious combination of qualities and called it the American experience.' From the Introduction: Henry Blanton is the 'last cowboy' of Jane Kramer's classic portrait, the failed hero of his own mythology, the man who ends an era for himself. His story - his flawed, funny, and in the end tragic efforts to be a proper cowboy, 'expressin' right' in a world where the range is a feed yard and college boys run ranches from air-conditioned Buicks -is the story of a country coming of age in great promise and greater disappointment. A hundred and fifty miles up the highway from agri-business Amarillo, Henry claimed the extravagant prerogatives of a free man on a horse. He rode his own frontier, decked out in his vigilance and his honour, until the shocking moment when in the person of Henry Blanton the West and the Western had a showdown.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1981


Showing 26 through 50 of 82 results