Annal: 2012 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

Results of the Pulitzer Prize in the year 2012.

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:One Hundred Names for Love

One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing

Diane Ackerman

Everyone who cherishes the gift of language will cherish Diane Ackerman’s narrative masterpiece, an exquisitely written love story and medical miracle story, one that combines science, inspiration, wisdom, and heart.

One day Ackerman’s husband, Paul West, an exceptionally gifted wordsmith and intellectual, suffered a terrible stroke. When he regained awareness he was afflicted with aphasia—loss of language—and could utter only a single syllable: “mem.” The standard therapies yielded little result but frustration. Diane soon found, however, that by harnessing their deep knowledge of each other and her scientific understanding of language and the brain she could guide Paul back to the world of words. This triumphant book is both a humane and revealing addition to the medical literature on stroke and aphasia and an exquisitely written love story: a magnificent addition to literature, period.

Book:Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men

Mara Hvistendahl

Lianyungang, a booming port city, has China’s most extreme gender ratio for children under four: 163 boys for every 100 girls. These numbers don’t seem terribly grim, but in ten years, the skewed sex ratio will pose a colossal challenge. By the time those children reach adulthood, their generation will have twenty-four million more men than women.

The prognosis for China’s neighbors is no less bleak: Asia now has 163 million females “missing” from its population. Gender imbalance reaches far beyond Asia, affecting Georgia, Eastern Europe, and cities in the U.S. where there are significant immigrant populations. The world, therefore, is becoming increasingly male, and this mismatch is likely to create profound social upheaval.

Historically, eras in which there have been an excess of men have produced periods of violent conflict and instability. Mara Hvistendahl has written a stunning, impeccably-researched book that does not flinch from examining not only the consequences of the misbegotten policies of sex selection but Western complicity with them.

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