Annal: 2005 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2005.

Book:The Year of Magical Thinking

The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion

From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage—and a life, in good times and bad—that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later—the night before New Year’s Eve–the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain…[more]

Book:102 Minutes

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers

Jim Dwyer, Kevin Flynn

At 8:46 am on September 11, 2001, 14,000 people were inside the twin towers-reading e-mails, making trades, eating croissants at Windows on the World. Over the next 102 minutes, each would become part of a drama for the ages, one witnessed only by the people who lived it-until now.

Of the millions of words written about this wrenching day, most were told from the outside looking in. New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have taken the opposite-and far more revealing-approach. Reported from the perspectives of those inside the towers, 102 Minutes captures the little-known stories of ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to save themselves and others. Beyond this stirring panorama stands investigative reporting of the first rank. An astounding number of people actually survived the plane impacts but were unable to escape, and the authors raise hard questions about building safety…[more]

Book:Bury the Chains

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire's Slaves

Adam Hochschild

In 1787, twelve men gathered in a London printing shop to pursue a seemingly impossible goal: ending slavery in the largest empire on earth. Along the way, they would pioneer most of the tools citizen activists still rely on today, from wall posters and mass mailings to boycotts and lapel pins. This talented group combined a hatred of injustice with uncanny skill in promoting their cause. Within five years, more than 300,000 Britons were refusing to eat the chief slave-grown product, sugar; London’s smart set was sporting antislavery badges created by Josiah Wedgwood; and the House of Commons had passed the first law banning the slave trade.

However, the House of Lords, where slavery backers were more powerful, voted down the bill. But the crusade refused to die, fueled by remarkable figures like Olaudah Equiano, a brilliant ex-slave who enthralled audiences throughout the British Isles;…[more]

Book:Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius

Leo Damrosch

Motherless child, failed apprentice, autodidact, impossibly odd lover, Jean-Jacques Rousseau burst unexpectedly onto the eighteenth-century scene as a literary provocateur whose works electrified readers from the start. Rousseau’s impact on American social and political thought remains deep, wide, and, to some, even infuriating. Leo Damrosch beautifully mines Rousseau’s books—The Social Contract, one of the greatest works on political theory and a direct influence on the French and American revolutions; Emile, a ground breaking treatise on education; and The Confessions, which created the genre of introspective autobiography—as works still uncannily alive to us today.

Damrosch’s triumph is to integrate the story of Rousseau’s extraordinarily original writings with the tumultuous life that produced them. Rousseau’s own words and those of people who knew him help create an accessible, vivid portrait of a questing…[more]

Book:Out of Eden

Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion

Alan Burdick

Now as never before, exotic animals and plants are crossing the globe, borne on the swelling tide of human traffic to places where nature never intended them to be. Bird-eating snakes from Australia hitchhike to Hawaii in the landing gear of airliners; disruptive European zebra mussels, riding in ships’ ballast water, are infiltrating aquatic ecosystems across the United States; parasitic flies from the U.S. prey on Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos. Predatory American jellyfish in Russia; toxic Japanese plankton in Australia; Burmese pythons in the Everglades-biologists refer fearfully to “the homogenization of the world” as alien species jump from place to place and increasingly crowd native and endangered species out of existence. Never mind bulldozers and pesticides: the fastest-growing threat to biological diversity may be nature itself.

Out of Eden is a journey through this strange and shifting landscape. The author tours the front lines of ecological…[more]

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