The National Book Award - Nonfiction

The National Book Awards are awarded annually for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature. It is sponsored by the National Book Foundation, a consortium of publishing groups.
Award Year Authors(s) Title
2011 Stephen Greenblatt The Swerve: How the World Became Modern Greenblatt transports listeners to the dawn of the Renaissance and chronicles the life of an intrepid book lover who rescued the Roman philosophical text On the Nature of Things from certain oblivion.
2010 Patti Smith Just Kids Musician Patti Smith's memoir and account of her lifelong friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
2009 T.J. Stiles The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt A gripping, groundbreaking biography of the combative man whose genius and force of will created modern capitalism. We see Vanderbilt help to launch the transportation revolution, propel the Gold Rush, reshape Manhattan, and invent the modern corporation.
2008 Annette Gordon-Reed The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family Historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed presents this epic work that tells the story of the Hemingses, an American slave family and their close blood ties to Thomas Jefferson.
2007 Tim Weiner Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Tim Weiner reveals the story behind the CIA in this first definitive history of the organization. This book is based on over 50,000 documents, many from the CIA's own archives.
2006 Timothy Egan The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the American Dust Bowl The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prizewinning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod huts to new framed houses to basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out.
2005 Joan Didion The Year of Magical Thinking Chronicles the year following the death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, while the couple's only daughter, Quintana, lay unconscious in a nearby hospital suffering from pneumonia and septic shock.
2004 Kevin Boyle Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age Ossian Sweet, the grandson of a slave, made a successful life for himself and his family as a physician in Detroit in the 20s. When he was indicted for murder, Clarence Darrow came to defend him - and his wife - in a case that helped ignite the struggle for civil rights.
2003 Carlos Eire Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy Narrated with the urgency of a confession, "Waiting for Snow in Havana" is both an ode to a paradise lost and an exorcism. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times in readers lives when they are certain they have died--and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.
2002 Robert Caro Master of the Senate This third installment of Caro's "The Years of Lyndon Johnson" presents an unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works, how the U.S. Senate works, and how Johnson mastered both on his way to the presidency. Caro relates how Johnson broke southern control of Capitol Hill to pass the first civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction.
2001 Andrew Solomon The Noonday Demon With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, Solomon takes the reader on a journey of incomparable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets.
2000 Martahnial Philbrick In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex The true story behind Melville's masterpiece--a riveting tale of history and true-life adventure with new insights from a long-eyewitness account of the tragedy of the whaleship "Essex".
1999 John W. Dower Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II Dower examines the immediate aftermath of World War II. He draws on a wide range of Japanese sources to illuminate how the shattering defeat and six years of US military occupation affected every level of society in ways no one anticipated.
1998 Edward Ball Slaves in the Family Between 1698 and Emancipation, the Ball family of South Carolina owned 235 plantations and close to 4,000 slaves. Now"Slaves in the Family" tells the true story of the black and white families who lived side by side through 300 years of American history.
1997 Joseph J. Ellis American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson Following his subject from the drafting of the Declaration of Independence to his retirement in Monticello, Joseph Ellis unravels the contradictions of the Jeffersonian character.
1996 James Carroll An American Requiem: God, My Father and the War That Came Between Us Joe Carroll was an Air Force lieutenant general who chose Vietnamese targets for American bombs. Joe's son James began adulthood by fulfilling his father's abandoned dream of joining the priesthood. But soon a father's hopes for his son -- and a son's peace with his father -- were ruined, yet another casualty of a war that changed America forever.
1995 Tina Rosenberg The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism Profiles the personal struggles of the people and leaders of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia as their nations endure the transition from a dictatorship system to popularly elected governments.
1994 Sherwin B. Nuland How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter At once memoir and meditation, this timeless work explores how we die, examinaing the common roads to death, and describing some facets of death's multiplicity.
1993 Gore Vidal United States: Essays, 1952-1992
1992 Paul Monette Becoming a Man: Half a Life (included in an anthology) The author discusses his childhood during the 1950s, the tortures of concealing his homosexuality, the bigotry he has encountered, and much more.
1991 Orlando Patterson Freedom
1990 Ron Chernow The House of Morgan Tells the rich, panoramic story of four generations of Morgans and the powerful, secretive firms they spawned.
1989 Thomas L. Friedman From Beirut to Jerusalem The seminal study of the Middle East conflict.
1988 Neil Sheehan A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and American in Vietnam Sheehan's tragic biography of John Paul Vann is also a sweeping history of America's seduction, entrapment and disillusionment in Vietnam.
1987 Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atom Bomb A gripping, authoritative account of the men, women, science, drama and intrigue behind the single most important event of the century: the discovery of nuclear energy and construction of the atomic bomb.
1986 Barry Lopez Arctic Dreams A passionate tour of the Arctic landscape covers such topics as the aurora borealis, polar bears, killer whales, migrating icebergs, the region's indigenous people, and the author's spiritual experiences there.
1985 J. Anthony Lucas Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families
1984 Robert V. Remini Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-45, Vol. 5 Covers Jackson's reelection to the presidency and the weighty issues with which he was faced: the nullification crisis, the tragic removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi River, the mounting violence throughout the country over slavery, and the tortuous efforts to win the annexation of Texas.
1983 Fox Butterfield China: Alive in the Bitter Sea An overview of the political turmoil and tragedy of the cultural revolution.
1982 Tracy Kidder The Soul of a New Machine Data General was in danger of losing its edge in the high technology war. Thirty wiz kids--design engineers--were given the job of building a computer more advanced than anything that then existed--and under an absolutely impossible deadline.
1981 Maxine Hong Kingston China Men The author chronicles the lives of three generations of Chinese men in America, woven from memory, myth and fact. Here's a storyteller's tale of what they endured in a strange new land.
1980 Tom Wolfe The Right Stuff The Right Stuff. It's the quality beyond bravery, beyond courage. It's men like Chuck Yeager, the greatest test pilot of all and the fastest man on earth. Pete Conrad, who almost laughed himself out of the running. Gus Grissom, who almost lost it when his capsule sank. John Glenn, the only space traveler whose apple-pie image wasn't a lie.
1979 Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Robert Kennedy and His Times Schlesinger's account vividly recalls the forces that shaped Robert Kennedy, from his position as the third son of a powerful Irish Catholic political clan to his concern for issues of social justice in the turbulent 1960s.
1978 Walter Jackson Bate Samuel Johnson
1977 Bruno Bettleheim The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
1976 Paul Fussell The Great War and Modern Memory Fussell's landmark study of World War I remains as original and gripping today as ever before: a literate, literary, and illuminating account of the Great War, the war that changed a generation, ushered in the modern era, and revolutionized how we see the world.
1975 Richard B. Sewall The Life of Emily Dickinson Fussell's landmark study of World War I remains as original and gripping today as ever before: a literate, literary, and illuminating account of the Great War, the war that changed a generation, ushered in the modern era, and revolutionized how we see the world.
1974 Lewis Thomas The Lives of a Cell Essays which appeared in the New England journal of medicine, 1971-73.
1973 Frances Fitzgerald Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam This landmark work, based on Frances FitzGerald's own research and travels, takes us inside Vietnam -- into the traditional, ancestor-worshiping villages and the corrupt crowded cities, into the conflicts between Communists and anti-Communists, Catholics and Buddhists, generals and monks -- and reveals the country as seen through Vietnamese eyes.
1972 Joseph P. Lash Eleanor and Franklin The story of their relationship based on Eleanor Roosevelt's private papers.
1971 James MacGregor Burns Roosevelt, The Soldier of Freedom The concluding volume of the first complete biography of FDR, 1940-1945.
1970 Lillian Hellman An Unfinished Woman, A Memoir An Unfinished Woman is a rich, surprising, emotionally charged portrait of a bygone world -- and of an independent-minded woman coming into her own.
1969 Normoan Mailer The Armies of the Night
1968 Jonathan Kozol Death at an Early Age
1967 Justin Kaplan Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain
1966 Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House As special assistant to the president, Arthur Schlesinger witnessed firsthand the politics and personalities that influenced the now legendary Kennedy administration. Schlesinger's close relationship with JFK, as a politician and as a friend, has resulted in this authoritative yet intimate account.
1965 Louis Fisher The Life of Lenin
1964 Aileen Ward John Keats: The Making of a Poet
1963 Leon Edel Henry James: Vol. 2 & 3
1962 Lewis Mumford The City in History
1961 William L. Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich Since its publication in 1960, William L. Shirer's monumental study of Hitler's German Empire has been widely acclaimed as the definitive record of this century's blackest hours. "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" offers an unparalleled and thrillingly told examination of how Adolf Hitler nearly succeeded in conquering the world. With millions of copies in print around the globe, it has attained the status of a vital and enduring classic.
1960 Richard Ellman James Joyce
1959 J. Christopher Herold Mistress to an Age
1958 Catherine Drinker Bowen The Lion and the Throne
1957 George F. Kennan Russia Leave the War
1956 Herbert Kubly An American in Italy
1955 Joseph Wood Krutch The Measure of a Man
1954 Bruce Catton A Stillness at Appomattox
1953 Richard DeVoto Course of Empire
1952 Rachel Carson The Sea Around Us Here is the strange story of the seas - how they were born, how life emerged from them, and the marine world within them. Rachel Carson's writing teems with images - the newly-formed Earth cooling beneath an endlessly overcast sky; volcanic action throwing up huge masses on the ocean floor to create immense mountains and desolate canyons; giant squid battling sperm-whales hundreds of fathoms below the surface.
1951 Newton Arvin Herman Melville Newton Arvin's eminently readable biography beautifully captures the troubled, often reclusive man whose major works include Typee, Omoo, Bartleby the Scrivener, Billy Budd, and his indisputable masterpiece, Moby-Dick.
1950 Ralph L. Rusk Ralph Waldo Emerson