Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 2010.
How to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love—such questions arise in most people’s lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: how do you live? How do you do the good or honorable thing, while flourishing and feeling happy?
This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Monatigne, perhaps the first truly modern individual. A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them “essays,” meaning “attempts” or “tries.” Into them, he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog’s ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling events of the religious civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller and, over four hundred years…[more]
This is the first biography of the cinematic hero Charlie Chan, whose character was inspired by the real-life story of Chang Apana, a bullwhip-wielding, five-foot-tall Chinese immigrant detective whose raids on opium dens and gambling parlors made him into a legend. Emerging against the backdrop of racially riven early-twentieth-century Hawaii, Apana’s bravado inspired mystery writer Earl Derr Biggers, a Harvard graduate, to write six best-selling Charlie Chan novels. The resulting Hollywood character was not a stereotypical “Chinaman” but a wisecracking sleuth with a knack for turning Oriental wisdom into soup-alley Chinatown blues.
Yunte Huang’s exploration of this remarkable story asks whether Chan is a “Yellow Uncle Tom” or a “swell dish of chop suey mystery.” Examining Charlie Chan in fact and fiction, Huang follows this untold story from the glittering beaches of Waikiki to the movie studios of Hollywood.
He was the greatest Indian warrior of the nineteenth century. His victory over General Custer at the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 was the worst defeat inflicted on the frontier Army. And the death of Crazy Horse in federal custody has remained a controversy for more than a century.
The Killing of Crazy Horse pieces together the many sources of fear and misunderstanding that resulted in an official killing hard to distinguish from a crime. A rich cast of characters, whites and Indians alike, passes through this story, including Red Cloud, the chief who dominated Oglala history for fifty years but saw in Crazy Horse a dangerous rival; No Water and Woman Dress, both of whom hated Crazy Horse and schemed against him; the young interpreter Billy Garnett, son of a fifteen-year-old Oglala woman and a Confederate general killed at Gettysburg; General George Crook, who bitterly resented newspaper reports that…[more]
He was a brilliant teller of tales, one of the most widely read authors of the twentieth century, and at one time the most famous writer in the world, yet W. Somerset Maugham’s own true story has never been fully told. At last, the fascinating truth is revealed in a landmark biography by the award-winning writer Selina Hastings. Granted unprecedented access to Maugham’s personal correspondence and to newly uncovered interviews with his only child, Hastings portrays the secret loves, betrayals, integrity, and passion that inspired Maugham to create such classics as The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage.
Hastings vividly presents Maugham’s lonely childhood spent with unloving relatives after the death of his parents, a trauma that resulted in shyness, a stammer, and for the rest of his life an urgent need for physical tenderness. Here, too, are his adult triumphs on the stage and page, works that allowed him a glittering social life in which he befriended and sometimes fell…[more]
This first fully documented biography of Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary Nazi hunter, is also a brilliant character study of a man whose life was part invention but wholly dedicated to ensuring both that the Nazis be held responsible for their crimes and that the destruction of European Jewry never be forgotten.
Like most Jews in Eastern Europe on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, twenty-four-year-old Simon Wiesenthal did not grasp the nature of the Nazi threat. But six years later, when a skeletal Wiesenthal was liberated from the concentration camp at Mauthausen, he fully fathomed the crimes of the Nazis. Within days he had assembled a list of nearly 150 Nazi war criminals, the first of dozens of such lists he would make over a lifetime as a Nazi hunter. A hero in the eyes of many, Wiesenthal was also attacked for his unrelenting pursuit of the past, when others preferred to forget. …[more]