Annal: 1999 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 1999.

Book:Annals of the Former World

Annals of the Former World

John McPhee

Twenty years ago, when John McPhee began his journeys back and forth across the United States, he planned to describe a cross section of North America at about the fortieth parallel and, in the process, come to an understanding not only of the science but of the style of the geologists he traveled with. The structure of the book never changed, but its breadth caused him to complete it in stages, under the overall title Annals of the Former World.

Like the terrain it covers, Annals of the Former World tells a multilayered tale, and the reader may choose one of many paths through it. As clearly and succinctly written as it is profoundly informed, this is our finest popular survey of geology and a masterpiece of modern nonfiction.

Book:Crime and Punishment in America

Crime and Punishment in America

Elliott Currie

There are five times as many Americans behind bars today as in 1970. The national incarceration rate in 1997 was twice that in 1985. California’s prison system has become the third largest in the world. And despite some limited recent declines in crime rates, we remain by far the most violent industrial society on earth.

Though our massive investment in the prison system has not resulted in enduring public safety, politicians and the media continue to insist that America’s unique problem of violence is the result of a lenient society “soft” on criminals; that incarcerating an ever-larger proportion of our population is a “social program that works;” and that all other approaches to crime—from prevention to rehabilitation—have failed. Nationally acclaimed criminologist Elliott Currie dissects these myths in a groundbreaking book that is already changing the terms of the current debate.

Book:The Nurture Assumption

The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do

Judith Rich Harris

How much credit do parents deserve when their children turn out welt? How much blame when they turn out badly? Judith Rich Harris has a message that will change parents’ lives: The “nurture assumption”—the belief that what makes children turn out the way they do, aside from their genes, is the way their parents bring them up—is nothing more than a cultural myth. This electrifying book explodes some of our unquestioned beliefs about children and parents and gives us a radically new view of childhood.

Harris looks with a fresh eye at the real lives of real children to show that it is what they experience outside the home, in the company of their peers, that matters most, Parents don’t socialize children; children socialize children. With eloquence and humor, Judith Harris explains why parents have little power to determine the sort of people their children will become.

The Nurture Assumption is an important and entertaining work that brings together insights from psychology, sociology, anthropology, primatology, and evolutionary biology to offer a startling new view of who we are and how we got that way.

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