Annal: 1995 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1995.

Book:The Haunted Land

The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism

Tina Rosenberg

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.

Book:A Civil Action

A Civil Action

Jonathan Harr

Two of the nation’s largest corporations stand accused of causing the deaths of children. Representing the bereaved parents, the unlikeliest of heroes emerges: a young, flamboyant Porsche-driving lawyer who hopes to win millions of dollars and ends up nearly losing everything—including his sanity.

A Civil Action is the searing, compelling tale of a legal system gone awry—one in which greed and power fight an unending struggle against justice. Yet it is also the story of how one man can ultimately make a difference. With an unstoppable narrative power reminiscent of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, A Civil Action is an unforgettable reading experience that leaves the reader both shocked and enlightened.

Book:Darwin's Dangerous Idea

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Daniel C. Dennett

In a book that is both groundbreaking and accessible, Daniel C. Dennett, whom Chet Raymo of The Boston Globe calls “one of the most provocative thinkers on the planet,” focuses his unerringly logical mind on the theory of natural selection, showing how Darwin’s great idea transforms and illuminates our traditional view of humanity’s place in the universe. Dennett vividly describes the theory itself and then extends Darwin’s vision with impeccable arguments to their often surprising conclusions, challenging the views of some of the most famous scientists of our day.

Book:Ghosts of Mississippi

Ghosts of Mississippi: The True Story

Maryanne Vollers

The civil rights movement was just beginning to catch fire in Mississippi on the night in 1963 when white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith crouched in the honeysuckle across the street from NAACP leader Medgar Evers’s house and shot him in the back. Three trials and thirty years later, a jury convicted Beckwith of murder and sent him to prison for life, finally concluding one of the most rankling cases of the civil rights era.

In Ghosts of Mississippi, journalist Maryanne Vollers tells the inside story of that state’s struggle to confront the ghosts of its violent past in order to bring a killer to justice, weaving a compelling narrative that captures the journey from the old South to the new. Drawing on her rare access to prosecutors, Evers’s family, and Beckwith himself, Vollers re-creates the events of Evers’s life and death, while bringing to light new facts and insights into the assassination case and the conspiracy theories that surround it. The result is a thrilling tale of racism, murder, courage, redemption, and the ultimate triumph of justice.

Book:Salvation on Sand Mountain

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia

Dennis Covington

Glendel Buford Summerford, pastor the Church of Jesus with Signs Following, was convicted of trying to kill his wife with posinous snakes. As Dennis Covington covered the murder trial, he discovered the bizarre, mysterious, ultimately irresistible world of holiness snake handling—a world of unshakable faith, where pepole handle poisonous snakes, drink strychnine, speak in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and, some claim, raise the dead. As Covington explored the lives and beliefs of the poor white Southerners who practice this strange form of religion, he gradually began to explore his own soul.

With an admirable balance of objectivity and passion, he writes of his ancestors, who came down from the hills of Appalachia only two generations ago, of the riveting power of the faith he witnesses, and finally, of his own spiritual transformation, which leads him to join those he is writing about and take up the snakes.

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