Honor roll: Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest

Each of these books has been nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest. They are ranked by honors received.

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:Just Kids

Just Kids

Patti Smith

It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max’s Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled…[more]

Book:Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

Steve Coll

In Private Empire Steve Coll investigates the largest and most powerful private corporation in the United States, revealing the true extent of its power. ExxonMobil’s annual revenues are larger than the economic activity in the great majority of countries. In many of the countries where it conducts business, ExxonMobil’s sway over politics and security is greater than that of the United States embassy. In Washington, ExxonMobil spends more money lobbying Congress and the White House than almost any other corporation. Yet despite its outsized influence, it is a black box.

Private Empire pulls back the curtain, tracking the corporation’s recent history and its central role on the world stage, beginning with the Exxon Valdez accident in 1989 and leading to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The action spans the globe, moving from Moscow, to impoverished African capitals, Indonesia, and elsewhere…[more]

Book:Is That a Fish in Your Ear?

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything

Alex Bellos

Funny and surprising on every page, Is That a Fish in Your Ear? offers readers new insight into the mystery of how we come to know what someone else means—whether we wish to understand Astérix cartoons or a foreign head of state. Using translation as his lens, David Bellos shows how much we can learn about ourselves by exploring the ways we use translation, from the historical roots of written language to the stylistic choices of Ingmar Bergman, from the United Nations General Assembly to the significance of James Cameron’s Avatar. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across human experience to describe why translation sits deep within us all, and why we need it in so many situations, from the spread of religion to our appreciation of literature; indeed, Bellos claims that all writers are by definition translators. Written with joie de vivre, reveling both in misunderstanding and communication, littered with wonderful asides, it promises any reader new eyes through which to understand the…[more]

Book:Thinking Fast and Slow

Thinking Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields—including economics, medicine, and politics—but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research and thinking in one book.

In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence…[more]

Book:The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Michael Lewis

Truth really is stranger than fiction. Who better than the author of the signature bestseller Liar’s Poker to explain how the event we were told was impossible—the free fall of the American economy—finally occurred; how the things that we wanted, like ridiculously easy money and greatly expanded home ownership, were vehicles for that crash; and how shareholder demand for profit forced investment executives to eat the forbidden fruit of toxic derivatives.

Michael Lewis’s splendid cast of characters includes villains, a few heroes, and a lot of people who look very, very foolish: high government officials, including the watchdogs; heads of major investment banks (some overlap here with previous category); perhaps even the face in your mirror. In this trenchant, raucous, irresistible narrative, Lewis writes of the goats and of the few who saw what the emperor was wearing, and gives them, most memorably, what they deserve. He proves yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our times.

Book:Nature Wars

Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds

Jim Sterba

This may be hard to believe but it is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history.  For nature lovers, this should be wonderful news—unless, perhaps, you are one of more than 4,000 drivers who will hit a deer today, your child’s soccer field is carpeted with goose droppings, coyotes are killing your pets, the neighbor’s cat has turned your bird feeder into a fast-food outlet, wild turkeys have eaten your newly-planted seed corn, beavers have flooded your driveway, or bears are looting your garbage cans.

For 400 years, explorers, traders, and settlers plundered North American wildlife and forests in an escalating rampage that culminated in the late 19th century’s “era of extermination.”  By 1900, populations of many wild animals and birds had…[more]

Book:On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines—and Future

Karen Elliott House

From the Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter who has spent the last thirty years writing about Saudi Arabia—as diplomatic correspondent, foreign editor, and then publisher of The Wall Street Journal—an important and timely book that explores all facets of life in this shrouded Kingdom: its tribal past, its complicated present, its precarious future.

Through observation, anecdote, extensive interviews, and analysis Karen Elliot House navigates the maze in which Saudi citizens find themselves trapped and reveals the mysterious nation that is the world’s largest exporter of oil, critical to global stability, and a source of Islamic terrorists.

In her probing and sharp-eyed portrait, we see Saudi Arabia, one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, considered to be the final bulwark against revolution in the region, as threatened by multiple fissures and forces, its levers of power controlled…[more]

Book:The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor

The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor

Jake Tapper

The heartbreaking and inspiring story of one of America’s deadliest battles during the war in Afghanistan, acclaimed by critics everywhere as a classic.

At 5:58 AM on October 3rd, 2009, Combat Outpost Keating, located in frighteningly vulnerable terrain in Afghanistan just 14 miles from the Pakistani border, was viciously attacked. Though the 53 Americans there prevailed against nearly 400 Taliban fighters, their casualties made it the deadliest fight of the war for the U.S. that year. Four months after the battle, a Pentagon review revealed that there was no reason for the troops at Keating to have been there in the first place.

In The Outpost, Jake Tapper gives us the powerful saga of COP Keating, from its establishment to eventual destruction, introducing us to an unforgettable cast of soldiers and their families, and to a place and war that has remained profoundly distant to most Americans. A runaway bestseller, it makes a savage war real, and American courage manifest.

Book:El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency

El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency

Ioan Grillo

The world has watched stunned at the bloodshed in Mexico. Thirty thousand murdered since 2006; police chiefs shot within hours of taking office; mass graves comparable to those of civil wars; car bombs shattering storefronts; headless corpses heaped in town squares. And it is all because a few Americans are getting high. Or is it? The United States throws Black Hawk helicopters and drug agents at the problem. But in secret, Washington is confused and divided about what to do. Who are these mysterious figures tearing Mexico apart? they wonder. What is El Narco?

El Narco draws the first definitive portrait of Mexico’s drug cartels and how they have radically transformed in the last decade. El Narco is not a gang; it is a movement and an industry drawing in hundreds of thousands from bullet-ridden barrios to marijuana-growing mountains. And it has created paramilitary death squads with tens of thousands of men-at-arms from Guatemala…[more]

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