Annal: 2002 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2002.

Book:Master of the Senate

Master of the Senate: Volume 3 of The Years of Lyndon Johnson

Robert A. Caro

Book Three of Robert A. Caro’s monumental work, The Years of Lyndon Johnson—the most admired and riveting political biography of our era—which began with the best-selling and prizewinning The Path to Power and Means of Ascent.

Master of the Senate carries Lyndon Johnson’s story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. At the heart of the book is its unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done.

It was during these years that all Johnson’s experience—from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine—came to fruition. Caro…[more]

Book:Complications

Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science

Atul Gawande

A brilliant and courageous doctor reveals, in gripping accounts of true cases, the power and limits of modern medicine.

Sometimes in medicine the only way to know what is truly going on in a patient is to operate, to look inside with one’s own eyes. This book is exploratory surgery on medicine itself, laying bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is—complicated, perplexing, and profoundly human.

Atul Gawande offers an unflinching view from the scalpel’s edge, where science is ambiguous, information is limited, the stakes are high, yet decisions must be made. In dramatic and revealing stories of patients and doctors, he explores how deadly mistakes occur and why good surgeons go bad. He also shows us what happens when medicine comes up against the inexplicable: an architect with incapacitating back pain for which there is no physical cause; a young woman with nausea that won’t go away; a television…[more]

Book:The Last American Man

The Last American Man

Elizabeth Gilbert

In The Last American Man, acclaimed journalist and fiction writer Elizabeth Gilbert offers a fresh cultural examination of contemporary American male identity and the uniquely American desire to return to the wilderness.

Gilbert explores what pushed men to settle the frontier West in the nineteenth century and delves into the history of American utopian communities. But her primary focus is on the fascinating true story of Eustace Conway, who left his comfortable suburban home at the age of seventeen to move into the Appalachian Mountains, where for the last twenty years he has lived off the land.

Conway’s romantic character challenges all our assumptions about what it means to be a man today; he is a symbol of much that we feel our men should be, but rarely are. From his example, Gilbert delivers an intriguing exploration into the meaning…[more]

Book:Mapping Human History

Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes

Steve Olson

In this sweeping narrative of the past 150,000 years of human history, Steve Olson draws on new understandings in genetics to reveal how the people of the world came to be.

Traveling across four continents, Olson describes the African origins of modern humans and the migration of our ancestors throughout the world. He offers a genealogy of all of humanity, explaining, for instance, why everyone can claim Julius Caesar and Confucius as their forebears and how the history of the Jewish people jibes with, and diverges from, biblical accounts. He shows how groups of people differ and yet are the same, exploding the myth that human races are a biological reality while demonstrating how the accidents of history have resulted in the rich diversity of people today.

Celebrating both our commonality and our variety, Mapping Human History is a masterful synthesis of the human past and present that will forever change how

we think about ourselves and our relations with others.

Book:When Smoke Ran Like Water

When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution

Devra Lee Davis

From one of the leading public-health experts of our time, a passionate call to arms to protect ourselves from environmental pollution—and an astonishing revelation of how it’s already affected our health.

In When Smoke Ran Like Water, the world-renowned epidemiologist Devra Davis confronts the public triumphs and private failures of her lifelong battle against environmental pollution.

By turns impassioned and analytic, she documents the shocking toll of a public-health disaster—300,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and Europe from the effects of pollution—and asks why we remain silent. She shows how environmental toxins contribute to a broad spectrum of human diseases, including breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and emphysema—all major killers—and in addition how these toxins affect the health and development of the heart and lungs, and even alter human reproductive…[more]

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