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 81 results
 

The First Tycoon

by T. J. Stiles

A gripping, groundbreaking biography of the combative man whose genius and force of will created modern capitalism.

Founder of a dynasty, builder of the original Grand Central, creator of an impossibly vast fortune, Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt is an American icon. Humbly born on Staten Island during George Washington's presidency, he rose from boatman to builder of the nation's largest fleet of steamships to lord of a railroad empire. Lincoln consulted him on steamship strategy during the Civil War; Jay Gould was first his uneasy ally and then sworn enemy; and Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president of the United States, was his spiritual counselor. We see Vanderbilt help to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation--in fact, as T. J. Stiles elegantly argues, Vanderbilt did more than perhaps any other individual to create the economic world we live in today.

In The First Tycoon, Stiles offers the first complete, authoritative biography of this titan, and the first comprehensive account of the Commodore's personal life. It is a sweeping, fast-moving epic, and a complex portrait of the great man. Vanderbilt, Stiles shows, embraced the philosophy of the Jacksonian Democrats and withstood attacks by his conservative enemies for being too competitive. He was a visionary who pioneered business models. He was an unschooled fistfighter who came to command the respect of New York's social elite. And he was a father who struggled with a gambling-addicted son, a husband who was loving yet abusive, and, finally, an old man who was obsessed with contacting the dead.

The First Tycoon is the exhilarating story of a man and a nation maturing together: the powerful account of a man whose life was as epic and complex as American history itself.

Winner of the National Book Award

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2009

Freedom in the Making of Western Culture

by Orlando Patterson

The projected two-volume history of freedom traces the evolution of freedom from Greece in the sixth and fifth centuries BC through the permutations wrought by imperial Rome and the Middle Ages. Unsurprisingly, the Jamaican- born Patterson, long-concerned with the problems of oppression in both his early novels and later analytic studies, is particularly good on the relationship between the birth of freedom and the institution of slavery.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1991

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 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

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

The Gnostic Gospels

by Elaine Pagels

Discussion of early church writings discovered in 1945, and of how Christianity evolved.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1980

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

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 Haunted Land

by Tina Rosenberg

The Haunted Land is a look at how four newly democratic eastern European nations are dealing with the memories of forty years of communism. As one official orthodoxy replaces another, the people and governments of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia face ethical dilemmas as complex and wrenching as anything out of Kafka or Orwell. In the greatest moral drama of our time, Communist totalitarianism drew well-intentioned, even idealistic people into horrible crimes. Now, as formerly Communist nations attempt to atone for the past, there is the everpresent temptation to rewrite history to suit the demands of the present. Tina Rosenberg s journalistic triumph is to put a human face on the abstractions of intrigue and betrayal, memory and ideology. The stories in this book take place not just in the highest councils of government and courts of law, but also in smoky pubs and the most private chambers of the soul. The Haunted Land shows how people struggle with their own definitions of guilt as they learn their betrayers were their husbands, fathers, and best friends.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1995

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

Henry James

by Leon Edel

This is the one-volume edition of a famous biography of Henry James. Born in America, Henry James was educated both there and in Europe before settling in London, where he was to spend most of his life, in 1876. His novels represent the culmination of the 19th-century realist tradition of Austen, George Eliot, Flauberty and Balzac, and a decisive step towards the experimental modernism of Woolf and T.S. Eliot. His works often focus upon an innocent American in Europe, and assess the qualities and dangers of both American and European culture at the time, as well as showing their vast differences. "A Portrait of a Lady", "The Ambassadors" and "The Golden Bowl" all explore this subject, whilst Honore de Balzac's "Eugenie Grandet" was so admired by James that he was inspired to write "Washington Square", his own version of the tale. James's works explore sexual roles, feminism and class conflict.

Winner of the National Book Award

Pulitzer Prize Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1963

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

How We Die

by Sherwin B. Nuland

Attempting to demythologize the process of dying, Nuland explores how we shall die, each of us in a way that will be unique. Through particular stories of dying--of patients, and of his own family--he examines the seven most common roads to death: old age, cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer's, accidents, heart disease, and strokes, revealing the facets of death's multiplicity. "It's impossible to read How We Die without realizing how earnestly we have avoided this most unavoidable of subjects, how we have protected ourselves by building a cultural wall of myths and lies. I don't know of any writer or scientist who has shown us the face of death as clearly, honestly and compassionately as Sherwin Nuland does here."--James Gleick.

*** Originally published in 1994 and on the New York Times bestseller list for weeks, this reprint includes an in-depth 2010 post-epilogue epilogue by the author.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1994

In the Heart of the Sea

by Nathaniel Philbrick

"With its huge, scarred head halfway out of the water and its tail beating the ocean into a white-water wake more than forty feet across, the whale approached the ship at twice its original speed--at least six knots. With a tremendous cracking and splintering of oak, it struck the ship just beneath the anchor secured at the cat-head on the port bow..."

In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex--an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In a harrowing page-turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American history.

In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.

In the Heart of the Sea tells perhaps the greatest sea story ever. Philbrick interweaves his account of this extraordinary ordeal of ordinary men with a wealth of whale lore and with a brilliantly detailed portrait of the lost, unique community of Nantucket whalers. Impeccably researched and beautifully told, the book delivers the ultimate portrait of man against nature, drawing on a remarkable range of archival and modern sources, including a long-lost account by the ship's cabin boy. At once a literary companion and a page-turner that speaks to the same issues of class, race, and man's relationship to nature that permeate the works of Melville, In the Heart of the Sea will endure as a vital work of American history.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2000

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

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

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

Legacy of Ashes

by Tim Weiner

With shocking revelations that made headlines in papers across the country, Pulitzer-Prize-winner Tim Weiner gets at the truth behind the CIA and uncovers here why nearly every CIA Director has left the agency in worse shape than when he found it; and how these profound failures jeopardize our national security.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2007

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

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

Making of the Atomic Bomb

by Richard Rhodes

Twenty-five years after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the definitive history of nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. From the turn-of-the-century discovery of nuclear energy to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan, Richard Rhodes’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the science, the people, and the socio-political realities that led to the development of the atomic bomb.

This sweeping account begins in the 19th century, with the discovery of nuclear fission, and continues to World War Two and the Americans’ race to beat Hitler’s Nazis. That competition launched the Manhattan Project and the nearly overnight construction of a vast military-industrial complex that culminated in the fateful dropping of the first bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Reading like a character-driven suspense novel, the book introduces the players in this saga of physics, politics, and human psychology—from FDR and Einstein to the visionary scientists who pioneered quantum theory and the application of thermonuclear fission, including Planck, Szilard, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Teller, Meitner, von Neumann, and Lawrence.

From nuclear power’s earliest foreshadowing in the work of H.G. Wells to the bright glare of Trinity at Alamogordo and the arms race of the Cold War, this dread invention forever changed the course of human history, and The Making of The Atomic Bomb provides a panoramic backdrop for that story.

Richard Rhodes’s ability to craft compelling biographical portraits is matched only by his rigorous scholarship. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail that any reader can follow, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a thought-provoking and masterful work.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1987

Master of the Senate

by Robert A. Caro

The most riveting political biography of our time, Robert A. Caro's life of Lyndon B. Johnson, continues. Master of the Senate takes Johnson's story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 through 1960, in the United States Senate. Once the most august and revered body in politics, by the time Johnson arrived the Senate had become a parody of itself and an obstacle that for decades had blocked desperately needed liberal legislation. Caro shows how Johnson's brilliance, charm, and ruthlessness enabled him to become the youngest and most powerful Majority Leader in history and how he used his incomparable legislative genius--seducing both Northern liberals and Southern conservatives--to pass the first Civil Rights legislation since Reconstruction. Brilliantly weaving rich detail into a gripping narrative, Caro gives us both a galvanizing portrait of Johnson himself and a definitive and revelatory study of the workings of legislative power.

Winner of the National Book Award

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2002

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

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

Mornings on Horseback

by David Mccullough

The National Book Award-winning biography that tells the story of how young Teddy Roosevelt transformed himself from a sickly boy into the vigorous man who would become a war hero and ultimately president of the United States, told by master historian David McCullough.Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as "a masterpiece" (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography.

Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and almost fatal asthma attacks, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household in which he was raised. The father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake.

The mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and a celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, TR's first love. All are brought to life to make "a beautifully told story, filled with fresh detail" (The New York Times Book Review). A book to be read on many levels, it is at once an enthralling story, a brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. It is a book about life intensely lived, about family love and loyalty, about grief and courage, about "blessed" mornings on horseback beneath the wide blue skies of the Badlands scholarship, which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground.

For the first time, for example, Roosevelt's asthma is examined closely, drawing on information gleaned from private Roosevelt family papers and in light of present-day knowledge of the disease and its psychosomatic aspects. At heart it is a book about life intensely lived...about family love and family loyalty...about courtship and childbirth and death, fathers and sons...about winter on the Nile in the grand manner and Harvard College...about gutter politics in washrooms and the tumultuous Republican Convention of 1884...about grizzly bears, grief and courage, and "blessed" mornings on horseback at Oyster Bay or beneath the limitless skies of the Badlands. "Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough," Roosevelt once wrote. It is the key to his life and to much that is so memorable in this magnificent book.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1982


Showing 26 through 50 of 81 results