Annal: 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2006.

Book:James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

Julie Phillips

James Tiptree, Jr. burst onto the science fiction scene in the 1970s with a series of hard-edged, provocative short stories. Hailed as a brilliant masculine writer with a deep sympathy for his female characters, he penned such classics as Houston, Houston, Do You Read? and The Women Men Dont See. Then the cover was blown on his alter ego: James Tiptree, Jr. was really a sixty-one-year old woman named Alice Sheldon. As a child, she explored Africa with her mother. Later, made into a debutante, she eloped with one of the guests at the party. She was an artist, a chicken farmer, a World War II intelligence officer, a CIA agent, an experimental psychologist. Devoted to her second husband, she struggled with her feelings for women. In 1987, her suicide shocked friends and fans. This fascinating biography, ten years in the making, is based on extensive research, exclusive interviews, and full access to Alice Sheldons papers.

Book:At Canaan's Edge

At Canaan's Edge: Volume 3 of America in the King Years, 1965-68

Taylor Branch

At Canaan’s Edge concludes America in the King Years, a three-volume history that will endure as a masterpiece of storytelling on American race, violence, and democracy. Pulitzer Prize-winner and bestselling author Taylor Branch makes clear in this magisterial account of the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King, Jr., earned a place next to James Madison and Abraham Lincoln in the pantheon of American history.

In At Canaan’s Edge, King and his movement stand at the zenith of America’s defining story, one decade into an epic struggle for the promises of democracy. Branch opens with the authorities’ violent suppression of a voting-rights march in Alabama on March 7, 1965. The quest to cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge engages the conscience of the world, strains the civil rights coalition, and embroils King in negotiations with all three branches of the U.S. government. …[more]

Book:Flaubert: A Biography

Flaubert: A Biography

Frederick Brown

Gustave Flaubert, whose Madame Bovary outraged the right-thinking bourgeoisie when it was first published in 1856, is brought to life here in all his singularity and brilliance. Frederick Brown’s portrayal is of an artist fraught with contradictions, his wit and bravado merging into vulnerability. A sedentary man by nature, Flaubert undertook epic voyages through Egypt and the Middle East. He could be flamboyantly uncouth but was fanatically devoted to beautifully cadenced prose. While energized by his camaraderie with male friends, who included Turgenev, the Goncourt brothers, Zola, and Maupassant, he depended for emotional nurture upon maternal women, notably George Sand. His assorted mistresses—French, Egyptian, and English—fed his richly erotic imagination and found their way into his fictional characters.

Flaubert's time and place caused him to be literally put on trial for portraying lewd behavior in Madame Bovary.…[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:A Sense of the World

A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History's Greatest Traveler

Jason Roberts

He was known simply as the Blind Traveler—a solitary, sightless adventurer who, astonishingly, fought the slave trade in Africa, survived a frozen captivity in Siberia, hunted rogue elephants in Ceylon, and helped chart the Australian outback. James Holman (1786-1857) became “one of the greatest wonders of the world he so sagaciously explored,” triumphing not only over blindness but crippling pain, poverty, and the interference of well-meaning authorities (his greatest feat, a circumnavigation of the globe, had to be launched in secret). Once a celebrity, a bestselling author, and an inspiration to Charles Darwin and Sir Richard Francis Burton, the charismatic, witty Holman outlived his fame, dying in an obscurity that has endured—until now.

A Sense of the World is a spellbinding and moving rediscovery of one of history’s most epic lives. Drawing on meticulous research, Jason Roberts ushers us into the Blind Traveler’s uniquely vivid sensory realm, then sweeps us away on an extraordinary journey across the known world during the Age of Exploration. Rich with suspense, humor, international intrigue, and unforgettable characters, this is a story to awaken our own senses of awe and wonder.

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