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
 

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

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

The New Negro

by Jeffrey C. Stewart

Winner of the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

A tiny, fastidiously dressed man emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence and call them the New Negro -- the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness.

In The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, Jeffrey C. Stewart offers the definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance, based on the extant primary sources of his life and on interviews with those who knew him personally. He narrates the education of Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor at Howard University. Locke also received a cosmopolitan, aesthetic education through his travels in continental Europe, where he came to appreciate the beauty of art and experienced a freedom unknown to him in the United States. And yet he became most closely associated with the flowering of Black culture in Jazz Age America and his promotion of the literary and artistic work of African Americans as the quintessential creations of American modernism. In the process he looked to Africa to find the proud and beautiful roots of the race. Shifting the discussion of race from politics and economics to the arts, he helped establish the idea that Black urban communities could be crucibles of creativity. Stewart explores both Locke's professional and private life, including his relationships with his mother, his friends, and his white patrons, as well as his lifelong search for love as a gay man.

Stewart's thought-provoking biography recreates the worlds of this illustrious, enigmatic man who, in promoting the cultural heritage of Black people, became -- in the process -- a New Negro himself.

Date Added: 01/22/2019


Year: 2018

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 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 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

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

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

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 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 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

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

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

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

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

by Edmund Morris

This is Morris's highly acclaimed account of Theodore Roosevelt's life, encompassing the years from Roosevelt's birth to his service in the White House. He was one of our most vibrant presidents; his image still haunts our past and our present. This fascinating and comprehensive biography of the extraordinary naturalist, adventurer, soldier, and politician, tells the improbable, but very real, story of a man determined to get what he wanted, an American who helped define our century and our very character.

Winner of the Publitzer Prize

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1980

The Path Between the Seas

by David Mccullough

The National Book Award–winning epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal, a first-rate drama of the bold and brilliant engineering feat that was filled with both tragedy and triumph, told by master historian David McCullough.

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Truman, here is the national bestselling epic chronicle of the creation of the Panama Canal. In The Path Between the Seas, acclaimed historian David McCullough delivers a first-rate drama of the sweeping human undertaking that led to the creation of this grand enterprise.

The Path Between the Seas tells the story of the men and women who fought against all odds to fulfill the 400-year-old dream of constructing an aquatic passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a story of astonishing engineering feats, tremendous medical accomplishments, political power plays, heroic successes, and tragic failures. Applying his remarkable gift for writing lucid, lively exposition, McCullough weaves the many strands of the momentous event into a comprehensive and captivating tale.

Winner of the National Book Award for history, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award (for the best book of the year on international affairs), The Path Between the Seas is a must-read for anyone interested in American history, the history of technology, international intrigue, and human drama.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1978

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

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

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

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

Naming Names

by Victor S. Navasky

Considered by many to be the definitive account of the Army-McCarthy hearings, Victor S. Navasky’s Naming Names rivetingly documents one of the most shameful eras in American history

Drawing on interviews with over one hundred and fifty people who were called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee—including Elia Kazan, Ring Lardner Jr., and Arthur Miller—award-winning author Victor S. Navasky reveals how and why the blacklists were so effective and delves into the tragic and far-reaching consequences of Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts.

A compassionate, insightful, and even-handed examination of one of our country’s darkest hours, Naming Names is at once a morality play and a fascinating window onto a searing moment in American cultural and political history.

Winner of the National Book Award

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1982

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 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

Arctic Dreams

by Barry Holstun Lopez

This National Book Award winner examines the Far North - its terrain, wildlife, and history of the Eskimo natives and intrepid explorers who arrived on its icy shores. What turns this compendium of biology, anthropology and history into a breathtaking study of profound originality is Lopez's unique meditation on how the landscape can shape our imagination, desires and dreams.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1986

Anarchy, State, and Utopia

by Robert Nozick

In this brilliant and widely acclaimed book, winner of the 1975 National Book Award, Robert Nozick challenges the most commonly held political and social positions of our age?liberal, socialist, and conservative.

Date Added: 05/25/2017


Year: 1975


Showing 1 through 25 of 82 results