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 51 through 75 of 83 results
 

Eleanor and Franklin

by Joseph P. Lash

In his extraordinary biography of the major political couple of the twentieth century, Joseph P. Lash reconstructs from Eleanor Roosevelt's personal papers her early life and four-decade marriage to the four-time president who brought America back from the Great Depression and helped to win World War II. The result is an intimate look at the vibrant private and public worlds of two incomparable people.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1972

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

Lives of a Cell

by Lewis Thomas

Elegant, suggestive, and clarifying, Lewis Thomas's profoundly humane vision explores the world around us and examines the complex interdependence of all things. Extending beyond the usual limitations of biological science and into a vast and wondrous world of hidden relationships, this provocative book explores in personal, poetic essays to topics such as computers, germs, language, music, death, insects, and medicine. Lewis Thomas writes, "Once you have become permanently startled, as I am, by the realization that we are a social species, you tend to keep an eye out for the pieces of evidence that this is, by and large, good for us."

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1975

Embracing Defeat

by John W. Dower

Drawing on a vast range of Japanese sources and illustrated with dozens of astonishing documentary photographs, Embracing Defeat is the fullest and most important history of the more than six years of American occupation, which affected every level of Japanese society, often in ways neither side could anticipate. Dower, whom Stephen E. Ambrose has called "America's foremost historian of the Second World War in the Pacific," gives us the rich and turbulent interplay between West and East, the victor and the vanquished, in a way never before attempted, from top-level manipulations concerning the fate of Emperor Hirohito to the hopes and fears of men and women in every walk of life. Already regarded as the benchmark in its field, Embracing Defeat is a work of colossal scholarship and history of the very first order. John W. Dower is the Elting E. Morison Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for War Without Mercy.

Winner of the National Book Award.

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1999

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

The Year of Magical Thinking

by Joan Didion

Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later, the night before New Year's Eve, the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

This powerful book is Didion's attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea she ever had about death, about illness, about marriage and children and memory, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2005

The Armies of the Night

by Norman Mailer

October 21, 1967. Washington DC. Protesters are marching to end the war in Vietnam, Mailer among them. From his perception of the day comes a work that shatters traditional reportage.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1969

Lucy

by Maitland A. Edey and Donald C. Johansen

The dramatic discovery of our oldest human ancestor and the controversial change it makes in our view of human origins

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1982

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

by William L. Shirer

Before the Nazies could destroy the files, famed foreign correspondent and historian William L. Shirer sifted through the massive self-documentation of the Third Reich, to create a monumental study that has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of one of the most frightening chapters in the history of mankind--now in a special 30th anniversary edition.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1961

All God's Dangers

by Theodore Rosengarten

Classic of oral history tells the life story of Nate Shaw, an illiterate black sharecropper who stood up against white farmers in the 1930's and spent time in prison for it. Includes much folklore and information about rural life.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1975

Slaves in the Family

by Edward Ball

The Ball family hails from South Carolina―Charleston and thereabouts. Their plantations were among the oldest and longest-standing plantations in the South. Between 1698 and 1865, close to four thousand black people were born into slavery under the Balls or were bought by them. In Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball recounts his efforts to track down and meet the descendants of his family's slaves. Part historical narrative, part oral history, part personal story of investigation and catharsis, Slaves in the Family is, in the words of Pat Conroy, "a work of breathtaking generosity and courage, a magnificent study of the complexity and strangeness and beauty of the word ‘family.'"

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1998

The Oysters of Locmariaquer

by Eleanor Clark

On the northwest coast of France, just around the corner from the English Channel, is the little town of Locmariaquer (pronounced "loc-maria-care"). The inhabitants of this town have a special relationship to the world, for it is their efforts that maintain the supply of the famous Belon oysters, called les plates ("the flat ones"). A vivid account of the cultivation of Belon oysters and an excursion into the myths, legends, and rich, vibrant history of Brittany and its extraordinary people, The Oysters of Locmariaquer is also an unforgettable journey to the heart of a fascinating culture and the enthralling, accumulating drama of a unique devotion.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1965

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

A Thousand Days

by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

As special assistant to the president, Arthur Schlesinger witnessed firsthand the politics and personalities that influenced the now legendary Kennedy administration.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1966

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality

by John Boswell

John Boswell's study of the history of attitudes toward homosexuality in the early Christian West was a groundbreaking work that challenged preconceptions about the Church's past relationship to its gay members--among them priests, bishops, and even saints--when it was first published twenty-five years ago. The historical breadth of Boswell's research (from the Greeks to Aquinas) and the variety of sources consulted make this one of the most extensive treatments of any single aspect of Western social history. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, still fiercely relevant today, helped form the disciplines of gay and gender studies, and it continues to illuminate the origins and operations of intolerance as a social force.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1981

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

Bruce Catton's Civil War

by Bruce Catton

Infinitely readable and absorbing, Bruce Catton's "The Civil War" is one of the best-selling, most widely read general histories of the war, now available in a single ominbus volume. The Civil War vividly traces one of the most moving chapters in American history, from the early division between the North and the South to the final surrender of Confederate troops. Catton's account of battles is carefully interwoven with details about the political activities of the Union and Confederate armies and diplomatic efforts overseas.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1954

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

Passage to Ararat

by Michael J. Arlen

In Passage to Ararat, Michael J. Arlen goes beyond the portrait of his father, the famous Anglo-Armenian novelist of the 1920s, that he created in Exiles to try to discover what his father had tried to forget: Armenia and what it meant to be an Armenian, a descendant of a proud people whom conquerors had for centuries tried to exterminate. But perhaps most affectingly, Arlen tells a story as large as a whole people yet as personal as the uneasy bond between a father and a son, offering a masterful account of the affirmation and pain of kinship.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1976

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

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

Just Kids

by Patti Smith

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous- the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years. Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2010

Common Ground

by J. Anthony Lukas

Two working-class families and a middle-class family in Boston are portrayed, starting with Martin Luther King Jr's assassination.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1985

Herman Melville

by Newton Arvin

One of America's most enigmatic literary figures, Herman Melville lived a life full of adventure, hardship, and moral conflict. Known for his nautical escapades, Melville first went to sea in his early twenties, sailing to England and then Polynesia where he found himself fleeing from cannibals, joining a mutiny, and frolicking with naked islanders. His novels were, for the most part, unsuccessful and misunderstood, and later in life he had to accept work as a low-level customs agent to support his wife and children. His only close friend was Nathaniel Hawthorne to whom he dedicated Moby-Dick. Newton Arvin's biography captures the troubled, often reclusive man whose major works include Typee, Omoo, Bartleby the Scrivener, Billy Budd, and his indisputable masterpiece, Moby-Dick.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1951

The Classical Style

by Charles Rosen

This book treating the three most beloved composers of the Vienna School is considered basic to any study of classical-era music. Drawing on his rich experience and intimate familiarity with the works of these giants, Charles Rosen presents his keen insights in clear and persuasive language.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1972


Showing 51 through 75 of 83 results