Annal: 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2006.

Book:Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

Neal Gabler

From Neal Gabler, the definitive portrait of one of the most important figures in twentieth-century American entertainment and cultural history.

Seven years in the making and meticulously researched—Gabler is the first writer to be given complete access to the Disney archives—this is the full story of a man whose work left an ineradicable brand on our culture but whose life has largely been enshrouded in myth.

Gabler shows us the young Walt Disney breaking free of a heartland childhood of discipline and deprivation and making his way to Hollywood. We see the visionary, whose desire for escape honed an innate sense of what people wanted to see on the screen and, when combined with iron determination and obsessive perfectionism, led him to the reinvention of animation. It was Disney,…[more]

Book:The Librettist of Venice

The Librettist of Venice: The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte

Rodney Bolt

The operatic life of the librettist for Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro.

In 1805, Lorenzo Da Ponte was the proprietor of a small grocery store in New York. But since his birth into an Italian Jewish family in 1749, he had already been a priest, a poet, the lover of many women, a scandalous Enlightenment thinker banned from teaching in Venice, the librettist for three of Mozart’s most sublime operas, a collaborator with Salieri, a friend of Casanova, and a favorite of Emperor Joseph II. He would go on to establish New York City’s first opera house and be the first professor of Italian at Columbia University. An inspired innovator but a hopeless businessman, who loved with wholehearted loyalty and recklessness, Da Ponte was one of the early immigrants to live out the American dream.

In Rodney Bolt’s rollicking and extensively researched biography, Da Ponte’s picaresque life takes readers from Old World courts and the back streets of Venice, Vienna, and London to the New World promise of New York City. Two hundred and fifty years after Mozart’s birth, the life and legacy of his librettist Da Ponte are as astonishing as ever.

Book:The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million

Daniel Mendelsohn

In this rich and riveting narrative, a writer’s search for the truth behind his family’s tragic past in World War II becomes a remarkably original epic—part memoir, part reportage, part mystery, and part scholarly detective work—that brilliantly explores the nature of time and memory, family and history.

The Lost begins as the story of a boy who grew up in a family haunted by the disappearance of six relatives during the Holocaust—an unmentionable subject that gripped his imagination from earliest childhood. Decades later, spurred by the discovery of a cache of desperate letters written to his grandfather in 1939 and tantalized by fragmentary tales of a terrible betrayal, Daniel Mendelsohn sets out to find the remaining eyewitnesses to his relatives’ fates. That quest eventually takes him to a dozen countries on four continents, and forces him to confront the wrenching discrepancies between the histories we live and the…[more]

Book:The Most Famous Man in America

The Most Famous Man in Amerca: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

Debby Applegate

Henry Ward Beecher was, for much of the nineteenth century, America's most widely known public figure. In place of his own preacher father’s fire-and-brimstone theology, Beecher preached a gospel of unconditional love and forgiveness, giving us the Christianity we have today. Men such as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Twain befriended—and sometimes parodied—him.

And then it fell apart. Beecher was accused by feminist firebrand Victoria Woodhull of adultery with his best friend’s wife, and the cuckolded Theodore Tilton brought charges of “criminal conversation,” leading to a salacious trial that was the most widely covered event of the nineteenth century, garnering, by some counts, more headlines than the entire Civil War.

Book:Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide

Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide

Jeffrey Goldberg

They met in 1990 during the first Palestinian uprising—one was an American Jew who served as a prison guard in the largest prison in Israel, the other, his prisoner, Rafiq, a rising leader in the PLO. Despite their fears and prejudices, they began a dialogue there that grew into a remarkable friendship—and now a remarkable book. It is a book that confronts head-on the issues dividing the Middle East, but one that also shines a ray of hope on that dark, embattled region.

Jeffrey Goldberg, now an award-winning correspondent for The New Yorker, moved to Israel while still a college student. When he arrived, there was already a war in his heart—a war between the magnetic pull of tribe and the equally determined pull of the universalist ideal. He saw the conflict between the Jews and Arabs as the essence of tragedy, because tragedy is born not in the collision of right and wrong, but of right and right. …[more]

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