Honor roll: National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction

Each of these books has been nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for General 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:Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Katherine Boo

From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities.

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful…[more]

Book:Parting the Waters

Parting the Waters: Volume 1 of America in the King Years, 1954-1963

Taylor Branch

Hailed as the most masterful story ever told of the American civil rights movement, Parting the Waters is destined to endure for generations. Moving from the fiery political baptism of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the corridors of Camelot where the Kennedy brothers weighed demands for justice against the deceptions of J. Edgar Hoover, here is a vivid tapestry of America, torn and finally transformed by a revolutionary struggle unequaled since the Civil War.

Taylor Branch provides an unsurpassed portrait of King’s rise to greatness and illuminates the stunning courage and private conflict, the deals, maneuvers, betrayals, and rivalries that determined history behind closed doors, at boycotts and sit-ins, on bloody freedom rides, and through siege and murder.

Epic in scope and impact, Branch’s chronicle definitively captures one of the nation’s most crucial passages.

Book:The Making of the Atomic Bomb

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Richard Rhodes

Here for the first time, in rich, human, political, and scientific detail, is the complete story of how the bomb was developed, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan.

Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly—or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclear energy to the bright glare of Trinity there was a span of hardly more than twenty-five years. What began as merely an interesting speculative problem in physics grew into the Manhattan Project, and then into the Bomb with frightening rapidity, while scientists known only to their peers—Szilard, Teller, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Meitner, Fermi, Lawrence, and yon Neumann—stepped from their ivory towers into the limelight. …[more]

Book:Common Ground

Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families

J. Anthony Lukas

The climax of this humane account of 10 years in Boston that began with news of Martin Luther King’s assassination, is a watershed moment in the city’s modern history—the 1974 racist riots that followed the court-ordered busing of kids to integrate the schools. To bring understanding to that moment, Lukas, a former New York Times journalist, focuses on two working-class families, headed by an Irish-American widow and an African-American mother, and on the middle-class family of a white liberal couple. Lukas goes beyond stereotypes, carefully grounding each…

Book:Gulag: A History

Gulag: A History

Anne Applebaum

The Gulag—the vast array of Soviet concentration camps—was a system of repression and punishment whose rationalized evil and institutionalized inhumanity were rivaled only by the Holocaust.

The Gulag entered the world’s historical consciousness in 1972, with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s epic oral history of the Soviet camps, The Gulag Archipelago. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, dozens of memoirs and new studies covering aspects of that system have been published in Russia and the West. Using these new resources as well as her own original historical research, Anne Applebaum has now undertaken, for the first time, a fully documented history of the Soviet camp system, from its origins in the Russian Revolution to its collapse in the era of glasnost. It is an epic feat of investigation and moral reckoning that places the Gulag where it belongs: at the center of our understanding of the troubled history of the twentieth…[more]

Book:The Age of Wonder

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

Richard Holmes

A riveting history of the men and women whose discoveries and inventions at the end of the eighteenth century gave birth to the Romantic Age of Science.

When young Joseph Banks stepped onto a Tahitian beach in 1769, he hoped to discover Paradise. Inspired by the scientific ferment sweeping through Britain, the botanist had sailed with Captain Cook on his first Endeavour voyage in search of new worlds. Other voyages of discovery—astronomical, chemical, poetical, philosophical—swiftly follow in Richard Holmes’s original evocation of what truly emerges as an Age of Wonder.

Brilliantly conceived as a relay of scientific stories, The Age of Wonder investigates the earliest ideas of deep time and space, and the explorers of “dynamic science,” of an infinite, mysterious Nature waiting to be discovered. Three lives…[more]

Book:Legacy of Ashes

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

Tim Weiner

For the last sixty years, the CIA has managed to maintain a formidable reputation in spite of its terrible record, burying its blunders in top-secret archives. Its mission was to know the world. When it did not succeed, it set out to change the world. Its failures have handed us, in the words of President Eisenhower, “a legacy of ashes.”

Now Pulitzer Prize–winning author Tim Weiner offers the first definitive history of the CIA—and everything is on the record. Legacy of Ashes is based on more than 50,000 documents, primarily from the archives of the CIA itself, and hundreds of interviews with CIA veterans, including ten Directors of Central Intelligence. It takes the CIA from its creation after World War II, through its battles in the cold war and the war on terror, to its near-collapse after 9/ll.

Tim Weiner’s past work on the CIA and American intelligence was hailed as “impressively reported” and “immensely…[more]

Book:A Problem from Hell

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

Samantha Power

A character-driven study of some of the darkest moments in our national history, when America failed to prevent or stop 20th-century campaigns to exterminate Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Bosnians, and Rwandans .

Drawing upon declassified cables, private papers, exclusive interviews with Washington’s top policy-makers, and her own reporting from the modern killing fields, Samantha Power tells the story of American indifference and American courage in the face of the worst massacres of the twentieth century.

In this masterful work of social history, Power examines how, in the five decades since the Holocaust, Americans have very rarely marshaled their might to stop genocide and mass terror. Indeed, she shows how the U.S. response to recent genocides bears striking resemblance to the American response to reports of Hitler’s Final Solution. By paying particular attention to the last…[more]

Book:Fordlandia

Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City

Greg Grandin

The stunning, never before told story of the quixotic attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon.

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets.

Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford’s early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia’s…[more]

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