Annal: 1992 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1992.

Book:Becoming a Man

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story

Paul Monette

The critically and popularly acclaimed coming of age/coming out story from the author of Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. “Witty as it is anguished and as full of understanding as of anger, this is Monette’s best book.” —Booklist

Book:Genius

Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

James Gleick

Richard Feynman’s life encompassed the most important discoveries and changes in science in this century. As a boy he tinkered with radios and as a scientist he looked at all things from an unusual and unique perspective. Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize, was an eccentric and hard-driven perfectionist—a genius indeed. Feynman’s career touched on every area of modern science: from the Manhattan Project to quantum mechanics, to the Space Shuttle Commission. Beyond the importance of the physicist, we learn of a man whose emotional demons made him all the more human. In the hands of gifted writer James Gleick, Richard Feynman is a man worth knowing.

Book:Lincoln at Gettysburg

Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

Garry Wills

The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead, he gave the whole nation “a new birth of freedom” in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training, and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece.

By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world and to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

Book:The Promise of the New South

The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction

Edward L. Ayers

At a public picnic in the South in the 1890s, a young man paid five cents for his first chance to hear the revolutionary Edison talking machine. He eagerly listened as the soundman placed the needle down, only to find that through the tubes he held to his ears came the chilling sounds of a lynching. In this story, with its blend of new technology and old hatreds, genteel picnic and mob violence, Edward Ayers captures the history of the South in the years between Reconstruction and the turn of the century—a combination of progress and reaction that defined the contradictory promise of the New South.

Ranging from the Georgia coast to the Tennessee mountains, from the power brokers to tenant farmers, Ayers depicts a land of startling contrasts—a time of progress and repression, of new industries and old ways. Ayers takes us from remote Southern towns, revolutionized by the spread of the railroads, to the statehouses where Democratic “Redeemers” swept away the legacy…[more]

Book:Truman

Truman

David McCullough

Hailed by critics as an American masterpiece, David McCullough’s sweeping biography of Harry S. Truman captured the heart of the nation. The life and times of the thirty-third President of the United States, Truman provides a deeply moving look at an extraordinary, singular American.

From Truman’s small-town, turn-of-the-century boyhood and his transforming experience in the face of war in 1918, to his political beginnings in the powerful Pendergast machine and his rapid rise to prominence in the U.S. Senate, McCullough shows a man of uncommon vitality and strength of character. Here too is a telling account of Truman’s momentous decision to use the atomic bomb and the weighty responsibilities that he was forced to confront on the dawning of a new age.

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