National Book Award for Nonfiction

National Book Award logo

National Book Award for Nonfiction

National Book Award logo

The National Book Award for Nonfiction is one of four annual National Book Awards, which are given by the National Book Foundation to recognize outstanding literary work by U.S. citizens. They are awards “by writers to writers”. The panelists are five “writers who are known to be doing great work in their genre or field”. The current Nonfiction award recognizes one book published in the US from December 1 to November 30. The National Book Foundation accepts nominations from publishers until June 15, requires mailing nominated books to the panelists by August 1, and announces five finalists in October with the winner being announced on the day of the final ceremony in November. The award is $10,000 and a bronze sculpture. The sculpture by Louise Nevelson dates from the 1980 awards. Below is a list of the winners from 1980-present. Enjoy!

2017
The Future is History : How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia – Masha Gessen

Masha Gessen follows the lives of four Russians, born as the Soviet Union crumbled, at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children or 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 not only against the machinations of the regime that would seek to crush them all (censorship, intimidation, violence) but also against the war it waged on understanding itself, ensuring the unobstructed emergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state. The Future is History is a powerful and urgent cautionary tale by contemporary Russia’s most fearless inquisitor.

2016
Stamped from the Beginning : The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America – Ibram Kendi

Americans like to insist that they are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues in Stamped from the Beginning, racist ideas in this country have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped from the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W. E. B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America. As Kendi provocatively illustrates, racist thinking did not arise from ignorance or hatred. Racist ideas were created and popularized in an effort to defend deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and to rationalize the nation’s racial inequities in everything from wealth to health. While racist ideas are easily produced and easily consumed, they can also be discredited. In shedding much-needed light on the murky history of racist ideas, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose them-and in the process, gives us reason to hope.

2015
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the ratificiation of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh- it is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up and killed in the streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can America reckon with its fraught racial history? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son – and readers – the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences- immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children’s lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path towards a kind of liberation – a journey from fear and confusion, to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is.

2014
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China – Evan Osnos

A young army captain who risked execution to swim from free-market Taiwan to Communist China. A barber who made $150 million in the gambling dens of Macau. The richest woman in China, a recycling tycoon known as the ‘Wastepaper Queen’. Age of Ambition describes some of the billion individual lives that make up China’s story – one that unfolds on remote farms, in glittering mansions, and in the halls of power of the world’s largest authoritarian regime. Together they describe the defining clash taking place today: between the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control. Here is a China infused with a sense of boundless possibility and teeming romance. Yet it is also riven by contradictions. It is the world’s largest buyer of Rolls Royces and Ferraris yet the word ‘luxury’ is banned from billboards. It has more Christians than members of the Communist Party. And why does a government that has lifted more people from poverty than any other so strictly restrain freedom of expression? Based on years of research, Age of Ambition is a stunning narrative that reveals China as we have never understood it before.

2013
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America – George Packer

American democracy is beset by a sense of crisis. Seismic shifts during a single generation have created a country of winners and losers, allowing unprecedented freedom while rending the social contract, driving the political system to the verge of breakdown, and setting citizens adrift to find new paths forward. In “The Unwinding,” George Packer tells the story of the past three decades by journeying through the lives of several Americans, including a son of tobacco farmers who becomes an evangelist for a new economy in the rural South, a factory worker in the Rust Belt trying to survive the collapse of her city, a Washington insider oscillating between political idealism and the lure of organized money, and a Silicon Valley billionaire who arrives at a radical vision of the future. Packer interweaves these stories with sketches of public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics. Packer’s novelistic and kaleidoscopic history of the new America is his most ambitious work to date.

2012
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum – Katherine Boo

Annawadi is a slum at the edge of Mumbai Airport, in the shadow of shining new luxury hotels. Its residents are garbage recyclers, construction workers and economic migrants, all of them living in the hope that a small part of India’s booming future will eventually be theirs. But when a crime rocks the slum community and global recession and terrorism shocks the city, tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy begin to turn brutal. As Boo gets to know those who dwell at Mumbai’s margins, she evokes an extraordinarily vivid and vigorous group of individuals flourishing against the odds amid the complications, corruptions and gross inequalities of the new India.

2011
The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began – Stephen Greenblatt

Almost six hundred years ago, a short, genial man took a very old manuscript off a library shelf. With excitement, he saw what he had discovered and ordered it copied. The book was a miraculously surviving copy of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, “On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius and it changed the course of history. He found 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. These ideas fuelled the Renaissance, inspiring Botticelli, shaping the thoughts of Montaigne, Darwin and Einstein. An innovative work of history by one of the world’s most celebrated scholars and a thrilling story of discovery, The Swerve details how one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, made possible the world as we know it.

2010
Just Kids – Patti Smith

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.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.

2009
First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt – T.J. Stiles

In this groundbreaking biography, T.J. Stiles tells the dramatic story of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, the combative man and American icon who, through his genius and force of will, did more than perhaps any other individual to create modern capitalism. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, “The First Tycoon” describes an improbable life, from Vanderbilt’s humble birth during the presidency of George Washington to his death as one of the richest men in American history. In between we see how the Commodore helped to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation. Epic in its scope and success, the life of Vanderbilt is also the story of the rise of America itself.

2008
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family – Annette Gordon-Reed

This epic work tells the story of the Hemings family, whose close blood ties to the third president of America had been systematically expunged from history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemingses from their origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family’s dispersal after Thomas Jefferson’s death in 1826. It brings to life not only Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson but also their children and Hemings’ siblings, who shared a father with Jefferson’s wife, Martha. “The Hemingses of Monticello” sets the family’s compelling saga against the backdrop of revolutionary America, Paris on the eve of revolution, 1790s Philadelphia and plantation life at Monticello, Jefferson’s estate in Virginia. Much anticipated, this book promises to be the most detailed history of an American slave family ever written.

2007
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA – AUTHOR

All-powerful, brilliant, decisive, ruthlessly effective…this is the image of the CIA as portrayed in countless films and novels. It is wrong. This shocking book, based on thousands of declassified documents and interviews with agents at all levels, shows the reality behind the glamorous myth: a blundering, chaotic and dangerously incompetent organization, so ineffective it was nicknamed ‘Can’t Identify Anything’ by Nato forces. In a story of botched coups, missed targets, lost operatives and fatal errors, Tim Weiner shows how the CIA now poses a threat not only to the security of the US, but the world.

2006
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl – Timothy Egan

The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan’s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes.

2005
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic 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 suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of 40 years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LA airport, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Centre 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 I ever had about death, about illness …about marriage and children and memory …about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself’. The result is an exploration of an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage, and a life, in good times and bad.

2004
Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age – 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.

2003
Waiting for Snow in Havana – Carlos Eire

A childhood in a privileged household in 1950s Havana was joyous and cruel, like any other – but with certain differences. The neighbour’s monkey was liable to escape and run across your roof. Surfing was conducted by driving cars across the breakwater. Lizards and firecrackers made frequent contact. Carlos Eire’s childhood was a little different from most. His father was convinced he had been Louis XVI in a past life. At school, classmates with fathers in the Batista government were attended by chauffeurs and bodyguards. At a home crammed with artifacts and paintings, portraits of Jesus spoke to him in dreams and nightmares. Then, in January 1959, the world changes: Batista is suddenly gone, a cigar-smoking guerrilla has taken his place, and Christmas is cancelled. The echo of firing squads is everywhere. And, one by one, the author’s schoolmates begin to disappear – spirited away to the United States. Carlos will end up there himself, without his parents, never to see his father again. Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an ode to a paradise lost and an exorcism. 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.

2002
Master Of The Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Robert A. Caro

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.

2001
The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression – Andrew Solomon

The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policy makers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Andrew Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has on various demographic populations — around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness. With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, award-winning author Solomon takes readers on a journey of incom-parable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets. His contribution to our understanding not only of mental illness but also of the human condition is truly stunning.

2000
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex – Nathaniel Philbrick

The sinking of the whaleship Essex by an enraged spermwhale in the Pacific in November 1820 set in motion one of the most dramatic sea stories of all time: the twenty sailors who survived the wreck took to three small boats (one of which was again attacked by a whale) and only eight of them survived their subsequent 90-day ordeal, after resorting to cannibalising their mates. Three months after the Essex was broken up, the whaleship Dauphin, cruising off the coast of South America, spotted a small boat in the open ocean. As they pulled alongside they saw piles of bones in the bottom of the boat, at least two skeletons’ worth, with two survivors – almost skeletons themselves – sucking the marrow from the bones of their dead ship-mates.

1999
Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II – 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.

1998
Slaves in the Family – Edward Ball

Edward Ball tells the story of southern slavery through tracking the history of the Balls, prominent landowners, rice-planters, one or two of them slave traders, and big slave owners in a southern family in dispersal and decline. In 1698, a planter named Elias Ball arrived in South Carolina from Devon, England, to claim an inheritance to one half of a plantation. By 1865, the Ball family of South Carolina owned over a dozen plantations along the Cooper River near Charleston. The crop was Carolina Gold – rice. The empire was grown with seeds from Madagascar and slave labour purchased on the Charleston Docks. By the time the civil war ended, nearly 4,000 people had been enslaved by the Balls. Descendants of the Ball slaves may number as high as 11,000 today.

1997
American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson – Joseph 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, 1896); 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 naivete, 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.

1996
An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us – James Carroll

In this dramatic, intimate, and tragic memoir, James Carroll recovers a time that none of us will ever forget – a time when parents could no longer understand their sons and daughters and when young people could no longer recognize the country they had been raised to love. The wounds inflicted in that time have never fully healed, but healing is something that Carroll accomplishes in telling his family’s remarkable story. The Carroll family stood at the center of all the conflicts swirling around the Vietnam War. Lieutenant General Joseph F. Carroll was the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency through most of the war, a former FBI man who helped choose bombing targets but distrusted his fellow generals who wanted to use the Bomb. His wife, Mary, was a devoted friend of Francis Cardinal Spellman, the hawkish military vicar, yet she felt sympathy for antiwar priests and tried to balance her devotion to her husband with love for her sons. This shattering history takes its shape from the choices made by three of the five Carroll sons. Dennis, marked by fierce conscience, became a draft fugitive and exile. Brian, deeply loyal, joined the FBI and was assigned to track down draft resisters and Catholic radicals. James, wanting to fulfill the dream his father had embraced and then abandoned, became a Roman Catholic priest. But he quickly aligned himself with the very Catholic radicals and draft resisters who were one brother’s target and another brother’s support. While the war in Southeast Asia raged and the streets of America exploded with protest, Joe and Mary saw the precious world of their own family, centered on a gracious house on Generals’ Row, collapse. None of the Carrolls would ever be the same.

1995
The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism – Tina Rosenburg

In four newly democratic countries in Eastern Europe, communism’s former victims and jailers are struggling to make sense of their history – and sometimes rewrite it. In this groundbreaking, stylishly reported book, a journalist travels across the battlefields of memory and asks: Who is guilty? How should they be punished? And who is qualified to judge them in states where almost every citizen was an accomplice?In East Germany, Tina Rosenberg follows the trial of the border guards charged with the last shooting at the Berlin Wall. In the Czech Republic, she meets a heroic dissident who has now been ostracized for having once cooperated with the old regime. In Poland, she speaks with General Wojciech Jaruzelski, the one-time architect of martial law who now presents himself as his country’s savior. Out of these stories of conscience and complicity, courage and optimism, The Haunted Land delivers the final chapter of the greatest moral drama of our time.

1994
How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter – Sherwin B. Nuland

In an age when death occurs in sterile seclusion and is cloaked in euphemi sm and taboo, How We Die is a vital revelation. Clearly, frankly, yet compassionately, it tells us how most of us are likely to die–and in doing so , suggests how we may live more fully and meaningfully. Written by a distinguished surgeon, How We Die succeeds in restoring death to its ancient place in human existence.

1993
United States: Essays, 1952-92 – Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal’s reputation as America’s finest essayist is an enduring one. This collection, chosen by the author from 40 years of work, contains about two-thirds of what he published in various magazines and journals. He has divided the essays into three categories, or states. State of the art covers literature, including novelists and critics, bestsellers, pieces on Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Suetonius, Nabakov and Montaigne (a previosly uncollected essay from 1992). State of the union deals with politics and public life: sex, drugs, money, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, The Holy Family (his essay on the Kennedys), Nixon, and finally Monotheism and its Discontents , a scathing critique of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In state of being, we are given personal responses to people and events: recollections of his childhood, E. Nesbit, Tarzan, Tennessee Williams and Anais Nin.

1992
Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story – Paul Monette

A child of the 1950s from a small New England town, “perfect Paul” earns straight A’s and shines in social and literary pursuits, all the while keeping a secret — from himself and the rest of the world. Struggling to be, or at least to imitate, a straight man, through Ivy League halls of privilege and bohemian travels abroad, loveless intimacy and unrequited passion, Paul Monette was haunted, and finally saved, by a dream of “the thing I’d never even seen: two men in love and laughing”. Searingly honest, witty, and humane, Becoming a Man is the definitive coming-out story in the classic coming-of-age genre.

1991
Freedom: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture v. 1 – Orlando Patterson

This magisterial work traces the history of our most cherished value. Patterson links the birth of freedom in primitive societies with the institution of slavery, and traces the evolution of three forms of freedom in the West from antiquity through the Middle Ages.

1990
The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance – Ron Chernow

A gripping history of banking and the booms and busts that shaped the world on both sides of the Atlantic, The House of Morgan traces the trajectory of the J. P. Morgan empire from its obscure beginnings in Victorian London to the crash of 1987. Ron Chernow paints a fascinating portrait of the private saga of the Morgans and the rarefied world of the American and British elite in which they moved.Based on extensive interviews and access to the family and business archives, The House of Morgan is an investigative masterpiece, a compelling account of a remarkable institution and the men who ran it, and an essential book for understanding the money and power behind the major historical events of the last 150 years.

1989
From Beirut to Jerusalem: One Man’s Middle Eastern Odyssey – Thomas L. Friedman

In this lucid, incisive and memorable book, acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic, Friedman reaches deeper into the traumatic and complex recent history of the conflicts in the Middle East than any previous writer. For this new edition, Friedman has added a further two chapters that bring the book up to 1995 and the unfolding — and stalling — of the Middle Eastern peace process. From Beirut to Jerusalem is wonderully shrewd, surprisingly funny and indispensable to anyone seeking a fuller understanding of the political causes and psychological effects of the seemingly endless strife which besets this embattled region.

1988
A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam – Neil Sheehan

Outspoken and fearless, John Paul Vann arrived in Vietnam in 1962, full of confidence in America’s might and right to prevail. A Bright Shining Lie reveals the truth about the war in Vietnam as it unfolded before Vann’s eyes: the arrogance and professional corruption of the U.S. military system of the 1960s, the incompetence and venality of the South Vietnamese army, the nightmare of death and destruction that began with the arrival of the American forces. Witnessing the arrogance and self-deception firsthand, Vann put his life and career on the line in an attempt to convince his superiors that the war should be fought another way. But by the time he died in 1972, Vann had embraced the follies he once decried. He went to his grave believing that the war had been won. A haunting and critically acclaimed masterpiece, A Bright Shining Lie is a timeless account of the American experience in Vietnam–a work that is epic in scope, piercing in detail, and told with the keen understanding of a journalist who was actually there. Neil Sheehan’ s classic serves as a stunning revelation for all who thought they understood the war.

1987
The Making of the Atomic Bomb – Richard Rhodes

Twenty-five years after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the seminal and complete story of how the bomb was developed, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan. Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly–or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclear energy to the bright glare of Trinity, there was a span of hardly more than twenty-five years. What began as merely an interesting speculative problem in physics grew into the Manhattan Project, and then into the bomb, with frightening rapidity, while scientists known only to their peers–Szilard, Teller, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Meitner, Fermi, Lawrence, and von Neumann–stepped from their ivory towers into the limelight. Richard Rhodes gives the definitive story of man’s most awesome discovery and invention. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a narrative tour de force and a document with literary power commensurate with its subject.

1986
Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape – Barry Lopez

In prose of transparent beauty, Lopez celebrates the Arctic landscape and the animals and people that live there. He recounts massive migrations by land, sea and air, the epic voyages of explorers, distant mountain that is actually a looming mirage. But he also looks deep into our dreams and the strange fascination that the Arctic exerts over our imaginations. Why do we find such a hostile, elemental environment so beautiful, so full of magic, so rich in ideas about how we should live our lives?

1985
Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families – J.Anthony Lukas

The climax of this humane account of 10 years in Boston that began with news of Martin Luther King’s assassination, is a watershed moment in the city’s modern history–the 1974 racist riots that followed the court-ordered busing of kids to integrate the schools. To bring understanding to that moment, Lukas, a former New York Times journalist, focuses on two working-class families, headed by an Irish-American widow and an African-American mother, and on the middle-class family of a white liberal couple. Lukas goes beyond stereotypes, carefully grounding each perspective in its historical roots, whether in the antebellum South, or famine-era Ireland. In the background is the cast of public figures–including Judge Garrity, Mayor White, and Cardinal Cushing–with cameo roles in this disturbing history that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

1984
Andrew Jackson: The Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845 – Robert Vincent Remini

Available in paperback for the first time, these three volumes represent the definitive biography of Andrew Jackson. Volume One covers the role Jackson played in America’s territorial expansion, bringing to life a complex character who has often been seen simply as a rough-hewn country general. Volume Two traces Jackson’s senatorial career, his presidential campaigns, and his first administration as President. The third volume covers Jackson’s reelection to the presidency and the weighty issues with which he was faced: the nullification crisis, the tragic removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi River, the mounting violence throughout the country over slavery, and the tortuous efforts to win the annexation of Texas.

Between 1963-1983 there were at least three award categories for nonfiction books marketed to adult readers. The term “Nonfiction” was used only 1980 to 1983 for General Nonfiction (hardcover and paperback) – only winners in this category are listed below. A complete list of categories and respective winners can be found here.

1983
China: Alive in the Bitter Sea – Fox Butterfield

(Winner: Hardback)

No description available. 🙁

National Defense – James Fallows

(Winner: Paperback)

No description available. 🙁

1982
Naming Names – Victor S Navasky

Half a century later, the investigation of Hollywood radicals by the House Committee on Un-American Activities still haunts the public conscience. Naming Names, reissued here with a new afterword by the author, is the definitive account of the hearings, a National Book Award winner widely hailed as a classic. Victor S. Navasky adroitly dissects the motivations for the investigation and offers a poignant analysis of its consequences. Focusing on the movie-studio workers who avoided blacklists only by naming names at the hearings, he explores the terrifying dilemmas of those who informed and the tragedies of those who were informed on. Drawing on interviews with more than 150 people called to testify – among them Elia Kazan, Ring Lardner Jr., and Arthur Miller – Naming Names presents a compelling portrait of how the blacklists operated with such chilling efficiency.(Winner: Paperback).

The Soul of a New Machine – Tracy Kidder

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

1981
China Men – 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: Hardcover).

The Last Cowboy: Europeans and The Politics of Memory – Jane Kramer

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: Paperback).

1980
The Right Stuff – Tom Wolfe

“What is it, I wondered, that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan, or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse? I decided on the simplest approach possible. I would ask a few of the astronauts and find out.”

The men had it. Yeager. Conrad. Grissom. Glenn. Heroes. The first Americans in space – battling the Russians for control of the heavens, putting their lives on the line. The women had it. While Mr Wonderful was aloft, it tore your heart out that the Hero’s Wife, down on the ground, had to perform with the whole world watching. ‘The Right Stuff’: it’s the quality beyond bravery, beyond courage.(Winner: Hardcover).

The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen

One September, the writer and explorer Peter Matthiessen set out with field biologist George Schaller to journey 250 miles through the Himalayas to the Crystal Mountain on the Tibetan plateau. They wanted to study the wild blue sheep, the bharal, but also hoped to see the snow leopard, a creature so rarely spotted as to be nearly mythical. The Snow Leopard is not only an exquisite book of natural history but an extraordinary account of an inner journey; a ‘true pilgrimage, a journey of the heart’.(Winner: Paperback).

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When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.
Erasmus