Annal: 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2004.

Book:Generation Kill

Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America, and the New Face of American War

Evan Wright

In the tradition of Black Hawk Down and Jarhead comes a searing portrait of young men fighting a modern-day war.

A powerhouse work of nonfiction, Generation Kill expands on Evan Wright’s acclaimed three-part series that appeared in Rolling Stone during the summer of 2003. His narrative follows the twenty-three marines of First Recon who spearheaded the blitzkrieg on Iraq. This elite unit, nicknamed “First Suicide Battalion,” searched out enemy fighters by racing ahead of American battle forces and literally driving into suspected ambush points.

Evan Wright lived on the front lines with this platoon from the opening hours of combat, to the fall of Baghdad, through the start of the guerrilla war. He was welcomed into their ranks, and from this bird’s-eye perspective he tells the unsettling…[more]

Book:Blue Blood (Edward Conlon)

Blue Blood

Edward Conlon

The life of a New York City police officer, with the NYPD running through his veins: a highly anticipated nonfiction epic—destined to be a classic.

Blue Blood is an important book about what it means to protect, to serve, and to defend among the ranks of New York’s finest. Conlon’s canvas is great and complicated—he is fourth generation NYPD—and the story he tells is impossibly rich: it presents an anecdotal history of New York through its police force, and depicts a vivid portrait of the teeming street life of the city in all its horror and splendor. It is a story about fathers and sons, partners who become brothers, old ghosts and undying legacies. Here you will see terms like loyalty, commitment, and honor come to life, in action, on a daily basis. With brio and a thrilling literary style, Conlon depicts his life on the force—from his first days walking a beat in the South Bronx, to his ascent to detective. The pace is relentless, the stories hypnotic, the scope nothing less than grand. Blue Blood is a bona fide literary masterpiece.

Book:Bound to Please

Bound to Please

Michael Dirda

Among the most enjoyable of literary critics, Michael Dirda combines erudition with enthusiasm, a taste for the outré and the forgotten, and a playful, understated wit. Like George Orwell or Gore Vidal, Dirda delights in popular genres, such as the detective novel and the ghost story, without neglecting the deeper satisfactions of sometimes-overlooked classics. This new work features scores of Dirda’s most engaging essays, never previously collected in book form, all intended to introduce readers to wonderful writers, from the anecdotal Herodotus and James Boswell to the sensuous Colette and Steven Millhauser to such European masters as Joseph Roth, Flann O’Brien, and Penelope Fitzgerald. With his trademark enthusiasm, Dirda also explores The Arabian Nights, the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, the crime novels of Chester Himes and K. C. Constantine, and the worlds of Tarzan, Cormac McCarthy, and Proust. Bound to Please is a glorious celebration of just how much fun reading can be.

Book:The Spiral Staircase

The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness

Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong begins this spellbinding story of her spiritual journey with her departure in 1969 from the Roman Catholic convent she had entered seven years before—hoping, but ultimately failing, to find God. She knew almost nothing of the changed world to which she was returning, and she was tormented by panic attacks and inexplicable seizures.

Armstrong’s struggle against despair was further fueled by a string of discouragements—failed spirituality, doctorate, and jobs; fruitless dealings with psychiatrists. Finally, in 1976, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, given proper treatment, and released from her “private hell.” She then began the writing career that would become her true calling, and as she focused on the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, her own inner story began to emerge. Without realizing it, she had embarked on a spiritual quest, and through it she would eventually experience moments of transcendence—the profound fulfillment that she…[more]

Book:Truth & Beauty

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

Ann Patchett

What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren’t bound to by blood? What happens when the person you promise to love and to honor for the rest of your life is not your lover, but your best friend? In Truth & Beauty, her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Ann Patchett shines a fresh, revealing light on the world of women’s friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work was. In her critically acclaimed and hugely successful memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, the years of chemotherapy and radiation, and then the endless reconstructive surgeries. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s…[more]

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