Annal: 2005 Kiriyama Prize for Nonfiction

Results of the Kiriyama Prize in the year 2005.

Book:Maximum City

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

Suketu Mehta

A brilliantly illuminating portrait of Bombay and its people—a book as vast, diverse, and rich in experience, incident, and sensation as the city itself—from an award-winning Indian-American fiction writer and journalist.

A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us a true insider’s view of this stunning city, bringing to his account a rare level of insight, detail, and intimacy. He approaches the city from unexpected angles—taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs who wrest control of the city’s byzantine political and commercial systems…following the life of a bar dancer who chose the only life available to her after a childhood of poverty and abuse…opening the doors onto the fantastic, hierarchical inner sanctums of Bollywood…delving into the stories of the countless people who come from the villages in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks—the essential saga of a great city endlessly played out. …[more]

Book:The Devil's Highway

The Devil's Highway: A True Story

Luis Alberto Urrea

In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, a place called the Devil’s Highway. Twenty-six people—fathers and sons, brothers and strangers—entered a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it. For hundreds of years, men have tried to conquer this land, and for hundreds of years the desert has stolen their souls and swallowed their blood.

Along the Devil’s Highway, days are so hot that dead bodies naturally mummify almost immediately. And that May, twenty-six men went in. Twelve came back out.

Now, Luis Alberto Urrea tells the story of this modern Odyssey. He takes us back to the small towns and unpaved cities south of the border, where the poor fall prey to dreams of a better life and the sinister promises of smugglers. We meet the men…[more]

Book:The Life of Isamu Noguchi

The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders

Masayo Duus

Isamu Noguchi, born in Los Angeles as the illegitimate son of an American mother and a Japanese poet father, was one of the most prolific yet enigmatic figures in the history of twentieth-century American art. Throughout his life, Noguchi (1904-1988) grappled with the ambiguity of his identity as an artist caught up in two cultures.

His personal struggles—as well as his many personal triumphs—are vividly chronicled in The Life of Isamu Noguchi, the first full-length biography of Noguchi. Published in connection with the centennial of the artist’s birth, the book draws on Noguchi’s letters, his reminiscences, and interviews with his friends and colleagues to cast new light on his youth, his creativity, and his relationships.

During his sixty-year career, there was hardly a genre that Noguchi failed to explore. He produced more than 2,500 works…[more]

Book:Pol Pot

Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare

Philip Short

A gripping and definitive portrait of the man who headed one of the most enigmatic and terrifying regimes of modern times.

In the three and a half years of Pol Pot’s rule, more than a million Cambodians, a fifth of the country’s population, were executed or died from hunger. An idealistic and reclusive figure, Pol Pot sought to instill in his people values of moral purity and self-abnegation through a revolution of radical egalitarianism. In the process his country descended into madness, becoming a concentration camp of the mind, a slave state in which obedience was enforced on the killing fields.

How did a utopian dream of shared prosperity mutate into one of the worst nightmares humanity has ever known? To understand this almost inconceivable mystery, Philip Short explores Pol Pot’s life from his early years to his death. Short spent four years traveling throughout Cambodia interviewing the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement, many of whom have never spoken…[more]

Book:The Whale and the Supercomputer

The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change

Charles Wohlforth

Scientists and natives wrestle with our changing climate in the land where it has hit first—and hardest.

A traditional Eskimo whale-hunting party races to shore near Barrow, Alaska—their comrades trapped on a floe drifting out to sea—as ice that should be solid this time of year gives way. Elsewhere, a team of scientists transverses the tundra, sleeping in tents, surviving on frozen chocolate, and measuring the snow every ten kilometers in a quest to understand the effects of albedo, the snow’s reflective ability to cool the earth beneath it.

Climate change isn’t an abstraction in the far North. It is a reality that has already dramatically altered daily life, especially that of the native peoples who still live largely off the land and sea. Because nature shows her footprints so plainly here, the region is also a lure for scientists intent on comprehending the complexities of climate change. In this gripping account,…[more]

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