Thursday, July 2, 2015

The National Book Award for Nonfiction is one of four annual National Book Awards, which are given by the National Book Foundation to recognize outstanding literary work by U.S. citizens. They are awards "by writers to writers". The panelists are five "writers who are known to be doing great work in their genre or field".

The original National Book Awards recognized the "Most Distinguished" biography and nonfiction books (two) of 1935 and 1936, and the "Favorite" nonfiction books of 1937 to 1940. The "Bookseller Discovery" and the "Most Original Book" sometimes recognized nonfiction. (See below.)

The general "Nonfiction" award was one of three when the National Book Awards were re-established in 1950 for 1949 publications, which the National Book Foundation considers the origin of its current Awards series. From 1964 to 1983, under different administrators, there were multiple nonfiction categories.

The current Nonfiction award recognizes one book written by a US citizen and published in the US from December 1 to November 30. The National Book Foundation accepts nominations from publishers until June 15, requires mailing nominated books to the panelists by August 1, and announces five finalists in October. The winner is announced on the day of the final ceremony in November. The award is $10,000 and a bronze sculpture; other finalists get $1000, a medal, and a citation written by the panel. The sculpture by Louise Nevelson dates from the 1980 awards. The $10,000 and $1000 cash prizes and autumn recognition for current-year publications date from 1984.

About 200 books were nominated for the 1984 award, when the single award for general nonfiction was restored.

There were 435 books nominated for the 2010 award.

Current rendition

The longlist for 2015 will be announced in September 2015.


National Book Award for Nonfiction

Nonfiction, date to 1984

The winner is listed first followed by the four other finalists (from 1987) or other runners up.

2014: Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

  • Roz Chast, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
  • Anand Gopal, No Good Men Among The Living
  • John Lahr, Tennessee Williams
  • E.O. Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence

2013: George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

  • Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
  • Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields
  • Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832
  • Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

2012: Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

  • Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945â€"1956
  • Robert A. Caro, The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
  • Domingo Martinez, The Boy Kings of Texas
  • Anthony Shadid, House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East

2011: Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

  • Deborah Baker, The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism [bio: Maryam Jameelah]
  • Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution [bio: Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen]
  • Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention [bio: Malcolm X]
  • Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love & Fallout [bio: Marie & Pierre Curie]

2010: Patti Smith, Just Kids [memoir]

  • Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
  • John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq
  • Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade [bio: Samuel Steward]
  • Megan K. Stack, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War

2009: T.J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt [bio: Cornelius Vanderbilt]

  • David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook
  • Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species
  • Greg Grandin, Fordlândia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City [about: Fordlândia]
  • Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy [bio: Mithradates]

2008: Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

  • Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War
  • Jane Mayer, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals
  • Jim Sheeler, Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives
  • Joan Wickersham, The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order

2007: Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

  • Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying
  • Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
  • Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution
  • Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography [bio: Ralph Ellison]

2006: Timothy Egan, The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

  • Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68
  • Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone
  • Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present
  • Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

2005: Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking[memoir]

  • Alan Burdick, Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion
  • Leo Damrosch, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius [bio: Jean-Jacques Rousseau]
  • Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers
  • Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves

2004: Kevin Boyle, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

  • David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing
  • Jennifer Gonnerman, Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett
  • Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare
  • The 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States- Authorized Edition

2003: Carlos Eire, Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

  • Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History
  • George Howe Colt, The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home [memoir]
  • John D'Emilio, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin [bio: Bayard Rustin]
  • Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

2002: Robert A. Caro, Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson[bio: Lyndon Johnson]

  • Devra Davis, When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution [about: Donora Smog of 1948]
  • Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science
  • Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man
  • Steve Olson, Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past through Our Genes

2001: Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression

  • Marie Arana, American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood
  • Nina Bernstein, The Lost Children of Wilder: The Epic Struggle to Change Foster Care
  • David James Duncan, My Story as Told by Water
  • Jan T. Gross, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland

2000: Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

  • Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present
  • Alice Kaplan, The Collaborator: The Trial and Execution of Robert Brasillach [about: Robert Brasillach]
  • David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919â€"1963 [bio: W.E.B. Du Bois, vol.2]
  • Patrick Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon
  • Patrick Tierney's book was later determined to be deliberately fraudulent.

1999: John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II

  • Natalie Angier, Woman: An Intimate Geography
  • Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War
  • John Phillip Santos, Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation [memoir]
  • Judith Thurman, Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette [bio: Colette]

1998: Edward Ball, Slaves in the Family

  • Harold Bloom, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
  • Yaffa Eliach, There Once Was a World: A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok [about: Jewish Eishyshok]
  • Beth Kephart, A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage
  • Henry Mayer, All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery [about: William Lloyd Garrison]

1997: Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson

  • David I. Kertzer, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara [about: Edgardo Mortara]
  • Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother
  • Thomas Lynch, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade [about: Funeral directors]
  • Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography [bio: Whittaker Chambers]

1996: James P. Carroll, An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War that Came Between Us

  • Melissa Fay Greene, The Temple Bombing
  • Paul Hendrickson, The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War [about: Robert McNamara]
  • Cary Reich, The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908â€"1958 [bio: Nelson Rockefeller]
  • Anne Roiphe, Fruitful: A Real Mother in the Modern World

1995: Tina Rosenberg, The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism

  • Dennis Covington, Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia
  • Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life
  • Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action [about: Anderson v. Cryovac]
  • Maryanne Vollers, Ghosts of Mississippi

1994: Sherwin B. Nuland, How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter

  • John Demos, The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America
  • Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas [about: Clarence Thomas]
  • John Edgar Wideman, Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers, Sons, Race and Society [memoir]
  • Tobias Wolff, In Pharoah's Army: Memories of the Lost War [memoir]

1993: Gore Vidal, United States: Essays 1952â€"1992

  • William Leach, Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture
  • David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868â€"1919 [bio: W.E.B. Du Bois, vol.1]
  • Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America
  • Peter Svenson, Battlefield: Farming a Civil War Battleground

1992: Paul Monette, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story

  • Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South
  • James Gleick, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman [bio: Richard Feynman]
  • David McCullough, Truman
  • Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

1991: Orlando Patterson, Freedom, Vol. 1: Freedom in the Making of Western Culture

  • E.J. Dionne, Jr., Why Americans Hate Politics
  • Melissa Fay Greene, Praying for Sheetrock
  • R.W.B. Lewis, The Jameses: A Family Narrative [bio: Henry James and William James]
  • Diane Wood Middlebrook, Anne Sexton: A Biography [bio: Anne Sexton]

1990: Ron Chernow, The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance

  • Samuel G. Freedman, Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students and Their High School
  • Roger Morris, Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician [bio: Richard Nixon]
  • Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Jackson Pollock: An American Saga
  • T.H. Watkins, Righteous Pilgrim: The Life and Times of Harold L. Ickes, 1847â€"1952 [bio: Harold L. Ickes]

1989: Thomas L. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem

  • Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954â€"63
  • McGeorge Bundy, Danger and Survival: Choices about the Bomb in the First Fifty Years
  • William Pfaff, Barbarian Sentiments: How the American Century Ends
  • Marilynne Robinson, Mother Country: Britain, the Welfare State and Nuclear Pollution

1988: Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam

  • Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863â€"1877
  • Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time [bio: Sigmund Freud]
  • Brenda Maddox, Nora: The Real Life of Molly Bloom [bio: Molly Bloom]
  • Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder [about: Thomas Jefferson and Monticello]

1987: Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb

  • David Herbert Donald, Look Homeward: The Life of Thomas Wolfe [bio: Thomas Wolfe]
  • James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science
  • Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland
  • Robert A.M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin, and Thomas Mellins, New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars

1986: Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape

  • John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War
  • Richard Kluger, The Paper: The Life and Times of the New York Herald Tribune [about: New York Herald Tribune]
  • Michael S. Reynolds, The Young Hemingway [bio: Ernest Hemingway]
  • Theodore Rosengarten, Tombee: Portrait of a Cotton Planter

1985: J. Anthony Lukas, Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families

  • Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Use of Human Heredity
  • Walter A. McDougall, The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age

1984: Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833â€"1845

  • Howard M. Feinstein, Becoming William James [bio: William James]
  • Richard Marius, Thomas More: A Biography [bio: Thomas More]
  • Ernst Pawel, The Nightmare of Reason: A Life of Franz Kafka [bio: Franz Kafka]
  • Eudora Welty, One Writer's Beginnings [autobiography]

Multiple nonfiction categories, 1964 to 1983

For the 1963/1964 cycle, three new award categories replaced "Nonfiction": Arts and Letters; History and Biography; Science, Philosophy and Religion. For the next twenty years there were at least three award categories for nonfiction books marketed to adult readers and the term "Nonfiction" was used only 1980 to 1983 ("General Nonfiction", hardcover and paperback).

From 1980 to 1983 there were dual awards for hardcover (hc) and paperback (ppb) books in all nonfiction subcategories and some others. Most of the paperback award winners were second and later editions that had been previously eligible in their first editions. Here the first edition publication year is given parenthetically except the calendar year preceding the award is represented by "(new)".

Nonfiction finalists, 1984 to date


1983 entries were published during 1982, the pattern established for 1949 books in 1950. Winners in 27 categories were announced April 13 and privately celebrated April 28, 1983.

The awards practically went out of business that spring. Their salvation with a reduced program to be determined was announced in November. The revamp was completed only next summer, with an autumn program recognizing books published during the award year (initially, preceding November to current October). There were no awards for books published in 1983 before November.

By this time the awards were sponsored by the book publishers alone. From 1980 (for 1979 books) they were termed "American Book Awards", and the National Book Awards were considered to have been discontinued after 1979.

1984 entries for the "revamped" awards in merely three categories were published November 1983 to October 1984; that is, approximately during the award year. Eleven finalists were announced October 17. Winners were announced and celebrated November 15, 1984.

Nonfiction, 1950 to 1963

1963: Leon Edel, Henry James, volumes II and III  (biography of Henry James)

  • 8 other finalists.

1962: Lewis Mumford, The City in History: Its Origins, its Transformations and its Prospects

  • 12 other finalists.

1961: William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

  • 11 other finalists.

1960: Richard Ellmann, James Joyce  (biography of James Joyce)

  • 28 other finalists.

1959: J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël

  • 12 other finalists.

1958: Catherine Drinker Bowen, The Lion and the Throne  (see Edward Coke)

  • 13 other finalists.

1957: George F. Kennan, Russia Leaves the War

  • 17 other finalists.

1956: Herbert Kubly, An American in Italy

  • 12 other finalists.

1955: Joseph Wood Krutch, The Measure of Man

  • 11 other finalists.

1954: Bruce Catton, A Stillness at Appomattox

  • No runners up.

1953: Bernard De Voto, The Course of Empire

  • 20 other finalists.

1952: Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

  • 16 other finalists.

1951: Newton Arvin, Herman Melville  (biography of Herman Melville)

  • No runners up.

1950. The first awards in the current series were presented to the best books of 1949 at the annual convention dinner of the booksellers, book publishers, and book manufacturers in New York City, March 16, 1950. There were honorable mentions ("special citations") in the non-fiction category only.

1950: Ralph L. Rusk, The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson  (biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson)

  • Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein
  • Harry Allen Overstreet, The Mature Mind
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, This I Remember (memoir)
  • Lillian Smith, Killers of the Dream
  • Kenneth P. Williams, Lincoln Finds a General [Volume 1]

Early awards won by nonfiction books

The National Book Awards for 1935 to 1940 annually recognized the "most distinguished" or "favorite" book of General Nonfiction or simply Nonfiction. In 1935 and 1936 there was distinct award to the most distinguished Biography; both winners were autobiographies. Meanwhile, four of the six general nonfiction winners were autobiographical and one more was a biography. Furthermore, all books were eligible for the "Bookseller Discovery" and "Most Original Book" (two awards); nonfiction winners are listed here. In 1937 and 1939 alone, the New York Times reported close seconds and runners up respectively.

There was only one National Book Award for 1941, the Bookseller Discovery, which recognized a novel; then none until their 1950 revival for 1949 books in three categories including general Nonfiction.


1935: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, North to the Orient (flight memoir)

Biography: Vincent Sheean, Personal History (autobiography)

1936: Van Wyck Brooks, The Flowering of New England: 1815â€"1865

Biography: Victor Heiser (see Leprosy), An American Doctor's Odyssey: Adventures in Forty-Five Countries (autobiography)

1937: Ève Curie, Madame Curie (biography of Marie Curie)

  • Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living

1938: Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Listen! The Wind (flight memoir)

1939: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars (flight memoir)

  • Pierre van Paassen, Days of Our Years (autobiography)

1940: Hans Zinsser, As I Remember Him: The Biography of R.S. (autobiography)

Bookseller Discovery, 1936 to 1941
Nonfiction books constituted two winners and no other known finalist (both were novels).

1936: see fiction

1937: see fiction

1938: David Fairchild, The World Was My Garden: Travels of a Plant Explorer

1939: see fiction

1940: Perry Burgess, Who Walk Alone (1942 subtitle, Life of a Leper)

1941: see fiction

Most Original Book, 1935 to 1939
Nonfiction books constituted three winners and no other known finalist (both were novels).

1935: see fiction

1936: Della T. Lutes, The Country Kitchen (autobiography & cookbook)

1937: Carl Crow, Four Hundred Million Customers: The Experiencesâ€"Some Happy, Some Sad, of an American Living in China, and What They Taught Him (nonfiction)

  • see fiction

1938: Margaret Halsey, With Malice Toward Some (humor, satire)

1939: see fiction

Repeat winners

National Book Award for Nonfiction
See also Winners of multiple U.S. National Book Awards

Three books have won two literary National Book Awards (that is, excluding graphics), all in nonfiction subcategories of 1964 to 1983.

  • John Clive, Thomas Babington Macaulay: The Shaping of the Historian
1974 Biography; 1974 History
  • Peter Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard
1979 Contemporary Thought; 1980 General Nonfiction, Paperback
  • Lewis Thomas, The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher
1975 Arts and Letters; 1975 Science

Matthiessen and Thomas won three Awards (as did Saul Bellow, all fiction). Matthiessen won the 2008 fiction award. Thomas is one of several authors of two Award-winning books in nonfiction categories.

  • Justin Kaplan, 1961, 1981 (Arts and Letters, Biography/Autobiography)
  • George F. Kennan, 1957, 1968 (Nonfiction, History and Biography)
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1936, 1939 (Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction)
  • David McCullough, 1978, 1982 (History, Autobiography/Biography)
  • Arthur Schlesinger, 1966, 1979 (History and Biography, Biography and Autobiography)
  • Frances Steegmuller, 1971, 1981 (Arts and Letters, Translation)
  • Lewis Thomas, 1975, 1981 (Arts and Letters and Science, Science)

See also

  • List of winners of the National Book Award, winners only.



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