The Pulitzer Prize for Letters - General Nonfiction

The Pulitzer Prize is named in honor of Joseph Pulitzer a newspaper publisher in the late 19th century. The awards were established in 1917 and are governed by the Pulitzer Prize Board and awarded by Columbia University. Awards are given in 21 categories for journalism, drama, music, and letters.
Award Year Authors(s) Title
2012 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.
2011 Siddhartha Mukherjee The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer An elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal, into the long history of an insidious disease that, despite treatment breakthroughs, still bedevils medical science.
2010 David E. Hoffman The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy A well documented narrative that examines the terrifying doomsday competition between two superpowers and how weapons of mass destruction still imperil humankind.
2009 Douglas A. Blackmon Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II A sobering account of a little-known crime against African Americans, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today. From the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II, under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these "debts," prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations.--From publisher description
2008 Saul Friedländer The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939 - 1945 This multifaceted study - at all levels and in different places - enhances the perception of the magnitude, complexity, and interrelatedness of the many components of this history. Based on a vast array of documents and an overwhelming choir of voices - mainly from diaries, letters, and memoirs - Saul Friedlander avoids domesticating the memory of these unprecedented and horrific events. The convergence of these various aspects gives a unique quality to The Years of Extermination. ~Book jacket
2007 Lawrence Wright The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Explores both the American and Arab sides of the September 11th terrorist attacks in an account of the people, ideas, events, and intelligence failures that led to the attacks.
2006 Caroline Elkins Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya Thousands of Kenyans fought alongside the British in World War II, but just a few years after the defeat of Hitler, the British colonial government detained nearly the entire population of Kenya's largest ethnic minority, the Kikuyu--some one and a half million people. The story of the system of prisons and work camps where thousands met their deaths has remained largely untold, because of a determined effort by the British to destroy all official records of their attempts to stop the Mau Mau uprising, the Kikuyu people's ultimately successful bid for Kenyan independence.
2005 Steve Coll Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion of September 10, 2001 Ghost Wars answers the questions so many have asked since the horrors of September 11: To what extent did America's best intelligence analysts grasp the rising threat of Islamist radicalism? Who tried to stop bin Laden and why did they fail?
2004 Anne Applebaum Gulag: A History Using new resources as well as her own original historical research, Ann 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.
2003 Samantha Power "A Problem From Hell": America and the Age of Genocide Based on her study of various well publicized incidents of genocide during the 20th century, Power (human rights policy, Harvard U.) concludes that Americans are slow to respond to it, and that the battle to generate US government intervention is lost in the realm of domestic politics. She does not mention American Indians.
2002 Diane McWhorter Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution "The Year of Birmingham." 1963, was a cataclysmic turning point in America's long civil rights struggle. Diane McWhorter, journalist and daughter of a prominent Birmingham family, weaves together police and FBI documents, interviews with black activists and former Klansmen, and personal memories into an extraordinary narrative of the city, the personalities, and the events that brought about America's second emancipation.
2001 Herbert Bix Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan In this 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.
2000 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.
1999 John McPhee Annals of the Former World Collects several pieces which originally appeared in The New Yorker along with a new chapter, completing McPhee's 20-year geological exploration of a cross-section of North America. Traveling piecemeal along the 40th parallel, he explores the knowledge and personalities of his various companions.
1998 Jared Diamond Guns, Germs, and Steel Diamond offers a convincing explanation of the way the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.
1997 Richard Kluger Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, The Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris A definitive history of America's controversial tobacco industry that focuses on Philip Morris traces the development of the cigarette, revelations of its toxicity, and the impact of political and corporate shenanigans on the battle over anti-smoking.
1996 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.
1995 Jonathan Weiner The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time The Beak of the Finch tells the story of two Princeton University scientists - evolutionary biologists - engaged in an extraordinary investigation. They are watching, and recording, evolution as it is occurring - now - among the very species of Galapagos finches that inspired Darwin's early musings on the origin of species.
1994 David Remnick Lenin's Tomb In the tradition of John Reed's classic Ten Days That Shook the World, this bestselling account of the collapse of the Soviet Union combines the global vision of the best historical scholarship with the immediacy of eyewitness journalism.
1993 Garry Wills Lincoln at Gettysburg By examining both the Gettysburg Address and Abraham Lincoln in their historical monument and cultural frame, Wills reveals much about a President so mythologized but often misunderstood.
1992 Daniel Yergin The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, & Power Tells the history of oil-and the struggle for wealth and power that has always surrounded oil.
1991 Bert Holldobler, Edward O. Wilson The Ants This landmark work, the distillation of a lifetime of research by the world's leading myrmecologists, is a thoroughgoing survey of one of the largest and most diverse groups of animals on the planet. Holldobler and Wilson review in exhaustive detail virtually all topics in the anatomy, physiology, social organization, ecology, and natural history of the ants.
1990 Dale Maharidge, Michael Williamson And Their Children After Them
1989 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.
1988 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.