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 1 through 25 of 82 results
 

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

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

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

Samuel Johnson

by Walter Jackson Bate

W. Jackson Bate's Samuel Johnson has been hailed as a supreme example of the biographer's art and the first great modern life of Johnson. Bate's work is literary biography at its finest, delving into the character that formed Johnson's awesome intellect and fueled his prodigious output.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1978

The Uses of Enchantment

by Bruno Bettelheim

Bruno Bettelheim was one of the great child psychologists of the twentieth century and perhaps none of his books has been more influential than this revelatory study of fairy tales and their universal importance in understanding childhood development.

Analyzing a wide range of traditional stories, from the tales of Sindbad to “The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “The Sleeping Beauty,” Bettelheim shows how the fantastical, sometimes cruel, but always deeply significant narrative strands of the classic fairy tales can aid in our greatest human task, that of finding meaning for one’s life.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1977

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

by Katherine Boo

In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope.

Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams.

But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.

Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today • New York • The Miami Herald • San Francisco Chronicle • Newsday NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • The Boston Globe • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Foreign Policy • The Seattle Times • The Nation • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Denver Post • Minneapolis Star Tribune • Salon • The Plain Dealer • The Week • Kansas City Star • Slate • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Date Added: 03/15/2019


Year: 2012

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

Arc of Justice

by Kevin Boyle

An electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided a city and ignited the civil rights struggle

In 1925, Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies, assembly lines and fistfights. The advent of automobiles had brought workers from around the globe to compete for manufacturing jobs, and tensions often flared with the KKK in ascendance and violence rising. Ossian Sweet, a proud Negro doctor-grandson of a slave-had made the long climb from the ghetto to a home of his own in a previously all-white neighborhood. Yet just after his arrival, a mob gathered outside his house; suddenly, shots rang out: Sweet, or one of his defenders, had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homes.

And so it began-a chain of events that brought America's greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, into the fray and transformed Sweet into a controversial symbol of equality. Historian Kevin Boyle weaves the police investigation and courtroom drama of Sweet's murder trial into an unforgettable tapestry of narrative history that documents the volatile America of the 1920s and movingly re-creates the Sweet family's journey from slavery through the Great Migration to the middle class. Ossian Sweet's story, so richly and poignantly captured here, is an epic tale of one man trapped by the battles of his era's changing times.

Arc of Justice is the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2004

Voices of Protest

by Alan Brinkley

This is a book about two remarkable men--Huey P. Long, a first-term United States Senator from the red-clay, piney-woods country of north­ern Louisiana; and Charles E. Coughlin, a Catholic priest from an industrial suburb near Detroit. From modest origins, they rose together in the early years of the Great Depression to become the two most successful leaders of national political dissidence of their era.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1983

The Yellow House

by Sarah Broom

In 1961, Sarah M. Broom's mother Ivory Mae bought a shotgun house in the then-promising neighborhood of New Orleans East and built her world inside of it. It was the height of the Space Race and the neighborhood was home to a major NASA plant--the postwar optimism seemed assured. Widowed, Ivory Mae remarried Sarah's father Simon Broom; their combined family would eventually number twelve children. But after Simon died, six months after Sarah's birth, the Yellow House would become Ivory Mae's thirteenth and most unruly child.

A book of great ambition, Sarah M. Broom's The Yellow House tells a hundred years of her family and their relationship to home in a neglected area of one of America's most mythologized cities. This is the story of a mother's struggle against a house's entropy, and that of a prodigal daughter who left home only to reckon with the pull that home exerts, even after the Yellow House was wiped off the map after Hurricane Katrina. The Yellow House expands the map of New Orleans to include the stories of its lesser known natives, guided deftly by one of its native daughters, to demonstrate how enduring drives of clan, pride, and familial love resist and defy erasure. Located in the gap between the "Big Easy" of tourist guides and the New Orleans in which Broom was raised, The Yellow House is a brilliant memoir of place, class, race, the seeping rot of inequality, and the internalized shame that often follows. It is a transformative, deeply moving story from an unparalleled new voice of startling clarity, authority, and power.

Date Added: 11/21/2019


Year: 2019

White Over Black

by Winthrop D. Jordan and Christopher Leslie Brown and Peter H. Wood

In 1968, Winthrop D. Jordan set out in encyclopedic detail the evolution of white Englishmen's and Anglo-Americans' perceptions of blacks, perceptions of difference used to justify race-based slavery, and liberty and justice for whites only. This second edition, with new forewords by historians Christopher Leslie Brown and Peter H. Wood, reminds us that Jordan's text is still the definitive work on the history of race in America in the colonial era. Every book published to this day on slavery and racism builds upon his work; all are judged in comparison to it; none has surpassed it.

National Book Award Winner

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1969

Roosevelt

by James Macgregor Burns

The second entry in James Macgregor Burns’s definitive two-volume biography of Roosevelt begins with the president’s precedent-breaking third term election in 1940, just as Americans were beginning to face the likelihood of war. Here, Burns examines Roosevelt’s skillful wartime leadership as well as his vision for post-war peace. Hailed by William Shirer as “the definitive book on Roosevelt in the war years,” and by bestselling author Barbara Tuchman as “engrossing, informative, endlessly readable,” The Soldier of Freedom is a moving profile of a leader gifted with rare political talent in an era of extraordinary challenges, sacrifices, heroism, and hardship.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1971

China

by Fox Butterfield

In 1979 Fox Butterfield became the first New York Times correspondent in China in 30 years. He wrote this book about his experiences during the two years he was a correspondent there.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1983

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

An American Requiem

by James Carroll

An American Requiem is the story of one man's coming of age. But more than that, it is a coming to terms with the conflicts that disrupted many families, inflicting personal wounds that were also social, political, and religious. Carroll grew up in a Catholic family that seemed blessed. His father had abandoned his own dream of becoming a priest to rise through the ranks of Hoover's FBI and then become one of the most powerful men in the Pentagon, the founder of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Young Jim lived the privileged life of a general's son, dating the daughter of a vice president and meeting the pope, all in the shadow of nuclear war, waiting for the red telephone to ring in his parents' house. He worshiped his father until Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, turmoil in the Catholic Church, and then Vietnam combined to outweigh the bond between father and son. These were issues on which they would never agree. Only after Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer and husband with children of his own did he come to understand fully the struggles his father had faced. In this work of nonfiction, the best-selling novelist draws on the skills he honed with nine much-admired novels to tell the story he was, literally, born to tell. An American Requiem is a benediction on his father's lief, his family's struggles, and the legacies of an entire generation.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1996

The Sea Around Us

by Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson’s National Book Award–winning classic effortlessly mingles detailed fieldwork and inspiring prose to reveal a deep understanding of the earth’s most precious, mysterious resource—the ocean

With more than one million copies sold, Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us became a cultural phenomenon when first published in 1951 and cemented Carson’s status as the preeminent natural history writer of her time. Her inspiring, intimate writing plumbs the depths of an enigmatic world—a place of hidden lands, islands newly risen from the earth’s crust, fish that pour through the water, and the unyielding, epic battle for survival. Firmly based in the scientific discoveries of the time, The Sea Around Us masterfully presents Carson’s commitment to a healthy planet and a fully realized sense of wonder.

This ebook features an illustrated biography of Rachel Carson including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1952

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

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

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

Winner of the National Book Award

Winner of the 2016 Alex Award (10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences)

Nominee for the 2018 Young Reader's Choice Award (Pacific Northwest Library Association)

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2015

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

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

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

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 Worst Hard Time

by Timothy Egan

The author, Timothy Egan, tells a touching story of the individuals and families that survived the depression and the great American dust bowl during the 1930's through walking the land, diaries of survivors and talking with those individuals who lived through Black Sunday and still live in the high plains, which came to be known as the dust bowl. These stories focus around the towns of Dalhart and Boise in the Texas panhandle and how, when the soil of the plains took to the air, after millions of acres of prairie grass was plowed under and for months blew 20 plus days out of 30, with temperatures in the 120 degree range or dropped below zero while farmers huddled in dugouts in the ground, mothers watched their children die of dust pneumonia, they still held to the land. As the decade wore on, FDR's new deal programs attempted to assist the families of the high plains and struggled with the greatest ecological disaster of our country.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2006

Waiting for Snow in Havana

by Carlos Eire

"Have mercy on me, Lord, I am Cuban." In 1962, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Havana--exiled from his family, his country, and his own childhood by Fidel Castro's revolution. Winner of the National Book Award, this stunning memoir is a vibrant and evocative look at Latin America from a child's unforgettable experience.Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. For the Cuba of Carlos's youth--with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas--becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President Batista on January 1, 1959. Suddenly the music in the streets sounds like gunfire. Christmas is made illegal, political dissent leads to imprisonment, and too many of Carlos's friends are leaving Cuba for a place as far away and unthinkable as the United States. Carlos will end up there, too, and fulfill his mother's dreams by becoming a modern American man--even if his soul remains in the country he left behind. Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is a eulogy for a native land and a loving testament to the collective spirit of Cubans everywhere. lost. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times in our lives when we are certain we have died -- and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 2003


Showing 1 through 25 of 82 results