Annal: 2000 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2000.

Book:Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Herbert P. Bix

In this groundbreaking biography of the Japanese emperor Hirohito, Herbert P. Bix offers the first complete, unvarnished look at the enigmatic leader whose sixty-three-year reign ushered Japan into the modern world. Never before has the full life of this controversial figure been revealed with such clarity and vividness. Bix shows what it was like to be trained from birth for a lone position at the apex of the nation’s political hierarchy and as a revered symbol of divine status. Influenced by an unusual combination of the Japanese imperial tradition and a modern scientific worldview, the young emperor gradually evolves into his preeminent role, aligning himself with the growing ultranationalist movement, perpetuating a cult of religious emperor worship, resisting attempts to curb his power, and all the while burnishing his image as a reluctant, passive monarch. Here we see Hirohito as he truly was: a man of strong will and real authority. …[more]

Book:The Chief

The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst

David Nasaw

David Nasaw’s magnificent, definitive biography of William Randolph Hearst is based on newly released private and business papers and interviews. For the first time, documentation of Hearst’s interactions with Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, and every American president from Grover Cleveland to Franklin Roosevelt, as well as with movie giants Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, and Irving Thalberg, completes the picture of this colossal American. Hearst, known to his staff as the Chief, was a man of prodigious appetites. By the 1930s, he controlled the largest publishing empire in the country, including twenty-eight newspapers, the Cosmopolitan Picture Studio, radio stations, and thirteen magazines. As the first practitioner of what is now known as synergy, Hearst used his media stronghold to achieve political power unprecedented in the industry. Americans followed his metamorphosis from populist to fierce opponent of Roosevelt and the New Deal, from citizen to congressman, and we are still fascinated today by the man…[more]

Book:I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945

I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945

Victor Klemperer

Victor Klemperer risked his life to preserve these diaries so that he could, as he wrote, “bear witness” to the gathering hor-ror of the Nazi regime. The son of a Berlin rabbi, Klemperer was a German patriot who served with honor during the First World War, married a gentile, and converted to Protestantism. He was a professor of Romance languages at the Dresden Technical Institute, a fine scholar and writer, and an intellectual of a somewhat conservative disposition.

Unlike many of his Jewish friends and academic colleagues, he feared Hitler from the start, and though he felt little allegiance to any religion, under Nazi law he was a Jew. In the years 1933 to 1941, covered in the first volume of these diaries, Klemperer’s life is not yet in danger, but he loses his professorship, his house, even his typewriter; he is not allowed to drive, and since Jews are forbidden to own pets, he must put his cat to death. Because of his military record and marriage to a “full-blooded…[more]

Book:Marcel Proust: A Life

Marcel Proust: A Life

Jean-Yves Tadie

One of the twentieth century’s towering literary figures comes to life in this definitive biography by the world’s premier authority on Proust.

A bestseller in France, where it was originally published to great critical acclaim, Jean-Yves Tadie’s monumental life of Proust is the first to make use of a wealth of primary material only recently made available. With profound intelligence, analytical perspicuity, and wit, Tadie gives us a masterful portrait of a great artist in his time. Marcel Proust: A Life provides a scrupulously researched and engaging picture of the intellectual and social universe that fed Proust’s art, along with an indispensable critical reading of the work itself. The result is authoritative, magisterial, and a beautiful example of the art of biography.

Book:The Monk in the Garden

The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel

Robin Marantz Henig

Most people know that Gregor Mendel, the Moravian monk who patiently grew his peas in a monastery garden, shaped our understanding of inheritance. But people might not know that Mendel’s work was ignored in his own lifetime, even though it contained answers to the most pressing questions raised by Charles Darwin’s revolutionary book, On Origin of the Species, published only a few years earlier. Mendel’s single chance of recognition failed utterly, and he died a lonely and disappointed man. Thirty-five years later, his work was rescued from obscurity in a single season, the spring of 1900, when three scientists from three different countries nearly simultaneously dusted off Mendel’s groundbreaking paper and finally recognized its profound significance. The perplexing silence that greeted Mendel’s discovery and his ultimate canonization as the father of genetics make up a tale of intrigue, jealousy, and a healthy dose of bad timing. Telling the story as it has never been told before, Robin Henig crafts…[more]

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