Annal: 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2001.

Book:Double Fold

Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper

Nicholson Baker

Since the 1950s, our country’s greatest libraries have, as a matter of common practice, dismantled their collections of original bound newspapers and so-called brittle books, replacing them with microfilmed copies. The marketing of the brittle-paper crisis and the real motives behind it are the subject of this passionately argued book, in which Nicholson Barker pleads the case for saving our recorded heritage in its original form while telling the story of how and why our greatest research libraries betrayed the public trust by auctioning off or pulping irreplaceable collections. The players include the Library of Congress, the CIA, NASA, microfilm lobbyists, newspaper dealers, and a colorful array of librarians and digital futurists, as well as Baker himself — who eventually discovers that the only way to save one important newspaper is to buy it. Double Fold is an intense, brilliantly worded narrative that is sure to provoke discussion and controversy.

Book:The Brother

The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case

Sam Roberts

In 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried for and convicted of conspiring to steal atomic secrets. In 1953, their execution tore American apart. Fifty years later, the acrimonious debate over the Rosenbergs’ guilt, and the raw emotions unleashed by a case that fueled McCarthyism and the cold war, still reverberate.

One man doomed the Rosenbergs: David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, the young army sergeant who spied for the Soviets at Los Alamos during World War II and whose testimony later sealed his sister and brother-in-law’s fate. After serving ten years in prison, he was released in 1960 and vanished.

But Sam Roberts, a New York Times editor, found David Greenglass and, after fourteen years, finally persuaded him to talk. Drawn from the first unrestricted-access interviews ever granted by Greenglass and supplemented by revelations from dozens…[more]

Book:The Lost Children of Wilder

The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care

Nina Bernstein

In 1973 Marcia Lowry, a young civil liberties attorney, filed a controversial class-action suit that would come to be known as Wilder, which challenged New York City’s operation of its foster-care system. Lowry’s contention was that the system failed the children it was meant to help because it placed them according to creed and convenience, not according to need. The plaintiff was thirteen-year-old Shirley Wilder, an abused runaway whose childhood had been shaped by the system’s inequities. Within a year Shirley would give birth to a son and relinquish him to the same failing system.

Seventeen years later, with Wilder still controversial and still in court, Nina Bernstein tried to find out what had happened to Shirley and her baby. She was told by child-welfare officials that Shirley had disappeared and that her son was one of thousands of anonymous children whose circumstances are concealed by the veil of confidentiality that hides foster care from public…[more]

Book:Neighbors

Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland

Jan Tomasz Gross

One summer day in 1941, half of the Polish town of Jedwabne murdered the other half, 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town’s Jews. Neighbors tells their story.

This is a shocking, brutal story that has never before been told. It is the most important study of Polish-Jewish relations to be published in decades and should become a classic of Holocaust literature.

Jan Gross pieces together eyewitness accounts and other evidence into an engulfing reconstruction of the horrific July day remembered well by locals but forgotten by history. His investigation reads like a detective story, and its unfolding yields wider truths about Jewish-Polish relations, the Holocaust, and human responses to occupation and totalitarianism. It is a story of surprises: The newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre, and Jedwabne’s Jews and Christians had previously enjoyed…[more]

Book:Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes: Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

Author Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.

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