Annal: 1998 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 1998.

Book:A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash

Sylvia Nasar

How could you, a mathematician, believe that extraterrestrials were sending you messages?” the visitor from Harvard asked the West Virginian with the movie-star looks and Olympian manner.

“Because the ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way my mathematical ideas did,” came the answer. “So I took them seriously.”

Thus begins the true story of John Nash, the mathematical genius who was a legend by age thirty when he slipped into madness, and who—thanks to the selflessness of a beautiful woman and the loyalty of the mathematics community—emerged after decades of ghostlike existence to win a Nobel Prize and world acclaim. The inspiration for a major motion picture, Sylvia Nasar’s award-winning biography is a drama about the mystery of the human mind, triumph over incredible adversity, and the healing power of love.

Book:Everybody Was So Young

Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story

Amanda Vaill

Handsome, gifted, wealthy Americans with homes in Paris and on the French Riviera, Gerald and Sara Murphy were at the very center of expatriate cultural and social life during the modernist ferment of the 1920s. Gerald Murphy—witty, urbane, and elusive—was a giver of magical parties and an acclaimed painter. Sara Murphy, an enigmatic beauty who wore her pearls to the beach, enthralled and inspired Pablo Picasso (he painted her both clothed and nude), Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The models for Nicole and Dick Diver in Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night, the Murphys also counted among their friends John Dos Passos, Dorothy Parker, Fernand Leger, Archibald MacLeish, Cole Porter, and a host of others. Yet none of the artists who used the Murphys for their models fully captured the real story of their lives: their Edith Wharton childhoods, their unexpected youthful romance, their ten-year secret courtship, their complex and enduring marriage—and the tragedy that struck them, when the world…[more]

Book:King of the World

King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero

David Remnick

On the night in 1964 that Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) stepped into the ring with Sonny Liston, he was widely regarded as an irritating freak who danced and talked way too much. Six rounds later Ali was not only the new world heavyweight boxing champion: He was “a new kind of black man” who would shortly transform America’s racial politics, its popular culture, and its notions of heroism.

No one has captured Ali—and the era that he exhilarated and sometimes infuriated—with greater vibrancy, drama, and astuteness than David Remnick, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lenin’s Tomb (and editor of The New Yorker). In charting Ali’s rise from the gyms of Louisville, Kentucky, to his epochal fights against Liston and Floyd Patterson, Remnick creates a canvas of unparalleled richness. He gives us empathetic portraits of wisecracking sportswriters and bone-breaking mobsters;…[more]

Book:Rocket Boys

Rocket Boys: A Memoir

Homer Hickam

Looking back after a distinguished NASA career that fulfilled his boyhood ambition, Hickam shares the story of his youth, taking readers into the life of the little mining town and the boys who came to embody both its tensions and its dreams. With the help—and sometimes hindrance—of the people of Coalwood, the Rocket Boys learn not only how to turn mine scraps into rockets that soar miles into the heavens, but how to find hope in a town that progress is passing by. A uniquely American memoir, Rocket Boys is at once an inspiring chronicle of triumph and a luminous story of a mother’s love, a father’s fears, and a young man’s coming of age. With the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Homer Hickam beautifully captures a moment when a dying town, a divided family, and a band of teenage dreamers dared to look beyond their differences and set their sights on the stars—and saw a future that the nation was just beginning to imagine.

Book:Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Ron Chernow

The landmark biography of a true American original—and the first written since the opening of Rockefeller’s papers—masterfully rendered by the National Book Award-winning author of The House of Morgan. John D. Rockefeller, Sr.,—history’s first billionaire and the patriarch of America’s most famous dynasty—is an icon whose true nature has eluded three generations of historians. Titan is the first full-length biography based on unrestricted access to Rockefeller’s exceptionally rich trove of papers. Born the son of a flamboyant, bigamous snake-oil salesman and a pious, straightlaced mother, Rockefeller rose from rustic origins to become the world’s richest man by creating America’s most powerful and feared monopoly, Standard Oil. Branded ‘the Octopus’ by legions of muckrakers, the trust refined and marketed nearly 90 percent of the oil produced in America. …[more]

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