Annal: 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2007.

Book:Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point

Soldier's Heart: Reading Literature Through Peace and War at West Point

Elizabeth D. Samet

Elizabeth D. Samet and her students learned to romanticize the army “from the stories of their fathers and from the movies.” For Samet, it was the old World War II movies she used to watch on TV, while her students grew up on Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan. Unlike their teacher, however, these students, cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, have decided to turn make-believe into real life.

West Point is a world away from Yale, where Samet attended graduate school and where nothing sufficiently prepared her for teaching literature to young men and women who were training to fight a war. Intimate and poignant, Soldier’s Heart chronicles the various tensions inherent in that life as well as the ways in which war has transformed Samet’s relationship to literature. Fighting in Iraq, Samet’s former students share what books and movies mean to them—the poetry of Wallace Stevens, the…[more]

Book:The Father of All Things

The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam

Tom Bissell

In April 1975, as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army, John Bissell, a former Marine officer living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, was glued to his television. Struggling to save his marriage, raise his sons, and live with his memories of the war in Vietnam, Bissell found himself racked with anguish and horror as his country abandoned a cause for which so many of his friends had died.

Opening with a gripping account of the chaotic and brutal last month of the war, The Father of All Things is Tom Bissell’s powerful reckoning with the Vietnam War and its impact on his father, his country, and Vietnam itself. Through him we learn what it was like to grow up with a gruff but oddly tender veteran father who would wake his children in the middle of the night when the memories got too painful. Bissell also explores the many debates about the war, from whether it was winnable to Ho…[more]

Book:A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

Ishmael Beah

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived.

In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty.

Book:The Second Civil War

The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America

Ronald Brownstein

From one of America’s most respected political commentators, an epic, shrewd, and important big-picture analysis of the forces that have made this era in American politics as divisive and bitterly partisan as any since the Civil War.

Few don’t appreciate that in recent years American politics has seemingly become much more partisan, more zero-sum, more vicious, more willing to make mountains out of molehills, and less able to confront the mountains of real problems we face. And yet in poll after poll, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as either “very conservative” or “very liberal” hasn’t budged in more than a generation. What has happened? In The Second Civil War, Ronald Brownstein brilliantly diagnoses the electoral, demographic, and institutional forces that have brought such change over the American political landscape, pulling politics to the margins and leaving precious little common ground for compromise. …[more]

Book:The Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Naomi Klein

In her groundbreaking reporting over the past few years, Naomi Klein introduced the term “disaster capitalism.” Whether covering Baghdad after the U.S. occupation, Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami, or New Orleans post-Katrina, she witnessed something remarkably similar. People still reeling from catastrophe were being hit again, this time with economic “shock treatment,” losing their land and homes to rapid-fire corporate makeovers.

The Shock Doctrine retells the story of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman’s free market economic revolution. In contrast to the popular myth of this movement’s peaceful global victory, Klein shows how it has exploited moments of shock and extreme violence in order to implement its economic policies in so many parts of the world from Latin America and Eastern Europe to South Africa, Russia, and Iraq. …[more]

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