Annal: 2003 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2003.

Book:Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

Carlos Eire

In 1962, at the age of eleven, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba, his parents left behind. His life until then is the subject of Waiting for Snow in Havana, a wry, heartbreaking, intoxicatingly beautiful memoir of growing up in a privileged Havana household—and of being exiled from his own childhood by the Cuban revolution.

That childhood, until his world changes, is as joyous and troubled as any other—but with exotic differences. Lizards roam the house and grounds. Fights aren’t waged with snowballs but with breadfruit. The rich are outlandishly rich, like the eight-year-old son of a sugar baron who has a real miniature race car, or the neighbor with a private animal garden, complete with tiger. All this is bathed in sunlight and shades of turquoise and tangerine: the island of Cuba, says one of the stern monks at Carlos’s school, might have been the original Paradise—and it is tempting to believe. …[more]

Book:The Big House

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home

George Howe Colt

In this intimate and poignant history of a sprawling century-old summer house on Cape Cod, George Howe Colt reveals not just one family’s fascinating story but a vanishing way of life. Faced with the sale of the treasured house where he had spent forty-two summers, Colt returned for one last August with his wife and young children. The Big House, the author’s loving tribute to his one-of-a-kind family home, interweaves glimpses of that elegiac final visit with memories of earlier summers spent at the house and of the equally idiosyncratic people who lived there over the course of five generations.

Built by Colt’s great-grandfather one hundred years ago on a deserted Cape Cod peninsula, the house is a local landmark (neighboring children know it as the Ghost House): a four-story, eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, sloped roofs, and dormers. The emotional home of the Colt family, the Big House has watched over five weddings, four divorces, and three deaths, along with…[more]

Book:The Devil in the White City

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Erik Larson

Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is…[more]

Book:Gulag: A History

Gulag: A History

Anne Applebaum

The Gulag—the vast array of Soviet concentration camps—was a system of repression and punishment whose rationalized evil and institutionalized inhumanity were rivaled only by the Holocaust.

The Gulag entered the world’s historical consciousness in 1972, with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s epic oral history of the Soviet camps, The Gulag Archipelago. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, dozens of memoirs and new studies covering aspects of that system have been published in Russia and the West. Using these new resources as well as her own original historical research, Anne Applebaum has now undertaken, for the first time, a fully documented history of the Soviet camp system, from its origins in the Russian Revolution to its collapse in the era of glasnost. It is an epic feat of investigation and moral reckoning that places the Gulag where it belongs: at the center of our understanding of the troubled history of the twentieth…[more]

Book:Lost Prophet

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

John D'emilio

Bayard Rustin is one of the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement. Before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, Bayard Rustin was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America’s consciousness. A teacher to King, an international apostle of peace, and the organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington, he brought Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence to America and helped launch the civil rights movement. Nonetheless, Rustin has been largely erased by history, in part because he was an African American homosexual. Acclaimed historian John D’Emilio tells the full and remarkable story of Rustin’s intertwined lives: his pioneering and public person and his oblique and stigmatized private self.

It was in the tumultuous 1930s that Bayard Rustin came of age, getting his first lessons in politics through the Communist Party and the unrest of the Great Depression. A Quaker and a radical pacifist, he went to prison for refusing to serve in World…[more]

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