Annal: 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2005.

Book:Voices from Chernobyl

Voices from Chernobyl

Svetlana Alexievich

On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe.

Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of what happened to the people of Belarus, and the fear, anger, and uncertainty that they still live with. In order to give voice to their experiences, Svetlana Alexievich—a journalist by trade who now suffers from an immune deficiency developed while researching this book—interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown: from innocent citizens, to firefighters, to those called in to clean up the disaster.

Voices from Chernobyl is a crucial document of a disaster and how the government has masked its seriousness, making the event even more tragic through deception and lies. Presenting her interviews in monologue form, Alexievich gives readers a harrowing view inside the minds of those affected, untempered by government rhetoric; the reader if left with the shattering pain of living through such an event and its aftermath.

Book:Eating Stone

Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild

Ellen Meloy

An inspired reflection on the bond between wild creatures and the human imagination, told as a chronicle of four seasons with a band of rare desert bighorn sheep.

Among the steep cliffs of Utah’s canyonlands a band of rare desert bighorn sheep simply vanished. Although the word “extinct” was bandied about, their passing seemed to fit the downward spiral of native wildlife in the Southwest that began in the early twentieth century. Remote, isolated, and elusive, this band slipped through the cracks. The bighorns were gone. Then they came back.

We have allowed ourselves few places and scant ways to witness other species in their own world, Ellen Meloy writes, an estrangement that has left us lonely and spiritually hungry. Now, with generous empathy and wry humor, the award-winning author…[more]

Book:The Great War for Civilisation

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East

Robert Fisk

During the thirty years that award-winning journalist Robert Fisk has been reporting on the Middle East, he has covered every major event in the region, from the Algerian Civil War to the Iranian Revolution, from the American hostage crisis in Beirut (as one of only two Western journalists in the city at the time) to the Iran-Iraq War, from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to Israel’s invasions of Lebanon, from the Gulf War to the invasion and ongoing war in Iraq. Now he brings his knowledge, his firsthand experience and his intimate understanding of the Middle East to a book that addresses the full complexity of its political history and its current state of affairs.

Passionate in his concerns about the region and relentless in his pursuit of the truth, Fisk has been able to enter the world of the Middle East and the lives of its people as few other journalists have. The result is a work of stunning reportage.…[more]

Book:Human Cargo

Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees

Caroline Moorehead

The word refugee is more often used to invoke a problem than it is to describe a population of millions of people forced to abandon their homes, possessions, and families in order to find a place where they may, quite literally, be allowed to live. In spite of the fact that refugees surround us-the latest UN estimates suggest that 20 million of the world’s 6.3 billion people are refugees-few can grasp the scale of their presence or the implications of their growing numbers.

Caroline Moorehead has traveled for nearly two years and across four continents to bring us their unforgettable stories. In prose that is at once affecting and informative, we are introduced to the men, women, and children she meets as she travels to Cairo, Guinea, Sicily, the U.S./Mexico border, Lebanon, England, Australia, and Finland. She explains how she came to work and for a time live among refugees, and why she could not escape the pressing need to understand and describe the chain of often terrifying events that mark their lives. Human Cargo is a work of deep and subtle sympathy that completely alters our understanding of what it means to have and lose a place in the world.

Book:Night Draws Near

Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War

Anthony Shadid

Like her country, Karima—a widow with eight children—was caught between America and Saddam. It was March 2003 in proud but battered Baghdad. As night drew near, she took her son to board a rickety bus to join Hussein’s army. “God protect you,” she said, handing him something she could not afford to give—the thirty-cent fare.

The Washington Post’s Anthony Shadid also went to war in Iraq although he was neither embedded with soldiers nor briefed by politicians. Because he is fluent in Arabic, Shadid—an Arab American born and raised in Oklahoma—was able to disappear into the divided, dangerous worlds of Iraq. Day by day, as the American dream of freedom clashed with Arab notions of justice, he pieced together the human story of ordinary Iraqis weathering the terrible dislocations and tragedies of war.

Through the lives of men and women, Sunnis and Shiites, American sympathizers and outraged young jihadists newly transformed…[more]

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