Honor roll: Kiriyama Prize for Nonfiction

Each of these books has been nominated for a Kiriyama Prize for Nonfiction. They are ranked by honors received.

Book:Embracing Defeat

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

John W. Dower

The first definitive history of the transformation of Japanese society under American occupation after World War II. This major new work by America’s foremost historian of modern Japan draws on a vast range of Japanese sources to offer an extraordinarily thorough, complex, and rich analysis of how shattering defeat in World War II followed by over six years of military occupation by the United States affected every level of Japanese society-in ways that neither the victor nor the vanquished could anticipate. Here is the history of an extraordinary moment in the history of Japanese culture, when new values warred with old, and when early ideals of “peace and democracy” were soon challenged by the “reverse course” decision to incorporate Japan into the cold-war Pax Americana. Embracing Defeat chronicles not only the material and psychological impact of utter defeat but also the early emergence of dynamic countercultures that gave primacy to the private as opposed to public spheres-in short, a liberation from totalitarian wartime control. John Dower shows how the tangled legacies of this intense, turbulent, and unprecedented interplay of conqueror and conquered, West and East, wrought the utterly foreign and strangely familiar Japan of today.

Book:Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan

Herbert P. Bix

In this groundbreaking biography of the Japanese emperor Hirohito, Herbert P. Bix offers the first complete, unvarnished look at the enigmatic leader whose sixty-three-year reign ushered Japan into the modern world. Never before has the full life of this controversial figure been revealed with such clarity and vividness. Bix shows what it was like to be trained from birth for a lone position at the apex of the nation’s political hierarchy and as a revered symbol of divine status. Influenced by an unusual combination of the Japanese imperial tradition and a modern scientific worldview, the young emperor gradually evolves into his preeminent role, aligning himself with the growing ultranationalist movement, perpetuating a cult of religious emperor worship, resisting attempts to curb his power, and all the while burnishing his image as a reluctant, passive monarch. Here we see Hirohito as he truly was: a man of strong will and real authority. …[more]

Book:The Golden Spruce

The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed

John Vaillant

As vividly as Jon Krakauer put readers on Everest, John Vaillant takes us into the heart of North America’s last great forest, where trees grow to eighteen feet in diameter, sunlight never touches the ground, and the chainsaws are always at work.

When a shattered kayak and camping gear are found on an uninhabited island, they reignite a mystery surrounding a shocking act of protest. Five months earlier, logger-turned-activist Grant Hadwin had plunged naked into a river in British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands, towing a chainsaw. When his night’s work was done, a unique Sitka spruce, 165 feet tall and covered with luminous golden needles, teetered on its stump. Two days later it fell.

The tree, a fascinating puzzle to scientists, was sacred to the Haida, a fierce seafaring tribe based in the Queen Charlottes. Vaillant recounts the bloody history of the Haida and the early fur trade, and provides harrowing details of the logging industry, whose omnivorous violence would claim both Hadwin and the golden spruce.

Book:Maximum City

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

Suketu Mehta

A brilliantly illuminating portrait of Bombay and its people—a book as vast, diverse, and rich in experience, incident, and sensation as the city itself—from an award-winning Indian-American fiction writer and journalist.

A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us a true insider’s view of this stunning city, bringing to his account a rare level of insight, detail, and intimacy. He approaches the city from unexpected angles—taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs who wrest control of the city’s byzantine political and commercial systems…following the life of a bar dancer who chose the only life available to her after a childhood of poverty and abuse…opening the doors onto the fantastic, hierarchical inner sanctums of Bollywood…delving into the stories of the countless people who come from the villages in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks—the essential saga of a great city endlessly played out. …[more]

Book:The Whale and the Supercomputer

The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change

Charles Wohlforth

Scientists and natives wrestle with our changing climate in the land where it has hit first—and hardest.

A traditional Eskimo whale-hunting party races to shore near Barrow, Alaska—their comrades trapped on a floe drifting out to sea—as ice that should be solid this time of year gives way. Elsewhere, a team of scientists transverses the tundra, sleeping in tents, surviving on frozen chocolate, and measuring the snow every ten kilometers in a quest to understand the effects of albedo, the snow’s reflective ability to cool the earth beneath it.

Climate change isn’t an abstraction in the far North. It is a reality that has already dramatically altered daily life, especially that of the native peoples who still live largely off the land and sea. Because nature shows her footprints so plainly here, the region is also a lure for scientists intent on comprehending the complexities of climate change. In this gripping account,…[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:The Devil's Highway

The Devil's Highway: A True Story

Luis Alberto Urrea

In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, a place called the Devil’s Highway. Twenty-six people—fathers and sons, brothers and strangers—entered a desert so harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it. For hundreds of years, men have tried to conquer this land, and for hundreds of years the desert has stolen their souls and swallowed their blood.

Along the Devil’s Highway, days are so hot that dead bodies naturally mummify almost immediately. And that May, twenty-six men went in. Twelve came back out.

Now, Luis Alberto Urrea tells the story of this modern Odyssey. He takes us back to the small towns and unpaved cities south of the border, where the poor fall prey to dreams of a better life and the sinister promises of smugglers. We meet the men…[more]

Book:White Mughals

White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India

William Dalrymple

From the early sixteenth century, it was common for British colonizers in India to embarrass the Crown by “turning Turk” or “going native.” Few caused greater scandal than James Kirkpatrick, a British resident in the Court of Hyderabad, who converted to Islam and spied on the East India Company in the midst of an affair with Khair un-Nissa, the great-niece of the region’s prime minister.

White Moguls is rich with many eccentric characters, from “Hindoo Stuart,” who traveled with his own team of Brahmins, to Alexander Gardner, an American whose self-invented costume was showcased by a tartan turban with egret plumes.

A remarkable love story set in an exotic and previously unexplored world, White Moguls is full of secrets, intrigue, espionage, and religious disputes and conjures all the resonance of a great nineteenth-century novel.

Book:The Fragile Edge

The Fragile Edge

Julia Whitty

A master diver and filmmaker on the mystery, fragility—and heart-stopping adventure—of underwater life in the South Pacific

Julia Whitty paints a mesmerizing, scientifically rich portrait of teeming coral reefs in the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Society Islands, and off the tiny nation of Tuvalu. The Fragile Edge takes us literally beneath the surface of the usual travel narrative—to the underwater equivalent of an African big-game safari, where hammerhead sharks rule a cascading chain of extraordinary underwater from eagle rays to reef sharks, while the sounds of courting humpback whales reverberate throughout the deep.

Equally inspiring for armchair or expert divers, The Fragile Edge illuminates Eastern-influenced diving techniques that transform our understanding of diving from sport to breath-inspired art. Whitty reports on the latest ways in which science…[more]

Book:Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time

Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin

The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard.

Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story of Greg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit.

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