Annal: 2011 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 2011.

Book:The Swerve

The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began

Stephen Greenblatt

A riveting tale of the great cultural “swerve” known as the Renaissance.

One of the world’s most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it.

Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was…[more]

Book:The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism

The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism

Deborah Baker

What drives a young woman raised in a postwar New York City suburb to convert to Islam, abandon her country and Jewish faith, and embrace a life of exile in Pakistan? The Convert tells the story of how Margaret Marcus of Larchmont became Maryam Jameelah of Lahore, one of the most trenchant and celebrated voices of Islam’s argument with the West.

A cache of Maryam’s letters to her parents in the archives of the New York Public Library sends the acclaimed biographer Deborah Baker on her own odyssey into the labyrinthine heart of twentieth-century Islam. Casting a shadow over these letters is the mysterious figure of Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi, both Maryam’s adoptive father and the man who laid the intellectual foundations for militant Islam.

As she assembles the pieces of a singularly perplexing life, Baker finds herself captive to questions raised by Maryam’s…[more]

Book:Love and Capital

Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution

Mary Gabriel

Brilliantly researched and wonderfully written, Love and Capital is a heartbreaking and dramatic saga of the family side of the man whose works would redefine the world after his death.

Drawing upon years of research, acclaimed biographer Mary Gabriel brings to light the story of Karl and Jenny Marx’s marriage. We follow them as they roam Europe, on the run from governments amidst an age of revolution and a secret network of would-be revolutionaries, and see Karl not only as an intellectual, but as a protective father and loving husband, a revolutionary, a jokester, a man of tremendous passions, both political and personal.

In Love and Capital, Mary Gabriel has given us a vivid, resplendent, and truly human portrait of the Marxes—their desires, heartbreak and devotion to each other’s ideals.

Book:Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Manning Marable

Years in the making—the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins’ bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of…[more]

Book:Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout

Lauren Redniss

In 1891, 24-year-old Marie Sklodowska moved from Warsaw to Paris, where she found work in the laboratory of Pierre Curie, a scientist engaged in research on heat and magnetism. They fell in love. They took their honeymoon on bicycles. They expanded the periodic table, discovering two new elements with startling properties, radium and polonium. They recognized radioactivity as an atomic property, heralding the dawn of a new scientific era. They won the Nobel Prize. Newspapers mythologized the couple’s romance, beginning articles on the Curies with “Once upon a time…” Then, in 1906, Pierre was killed in a freak accident. Marie continued their work alone. She won a second Nobel Prize in 1911, and fell in love again, this time with the married physicist Paul Langevin. Scandal ensued. Duels were fought.

In the century since the Curies began their work, we’ve struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role…[more]

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