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09.18.13

The National Book Awards Longlist for Nonfiction

Nine of the 10 nominated authors for nonfiction are receiving the recognition for the first time.

The National Book Foundation announced Wednesday the 2013 National Book Awards longlist for nonfiction; nine of the 10 authors are receiving National Book Award recognition for the first time. They include historians, journalists, an arts critic, and a travel writer, and they have won the Bancroft Prize, the Lincoln Prize, the Beveridge Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. 

The National Book Awards are running longlists for its four categories for the first time in the prize’s history, and they are being announced exclusively on The Daily Beast this week. The longlist for young people’s literature was revealed at 9 a.m. Monday, September 16; for poetry, on Tuesday, September 17; and for fiction, nominees will be announced September 19.

The 2013 nonfiction longlist:

Finding Florida: The True Story of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman, Atlantic Monthly Press.

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What’s the matter with Florida? The state seems to have more than its fair share of outlandish crimes, hilarious frauds, and bizarre history. But thanks to T.D. Allman’s epic, it’s all down for posterity. Allman, a veteran reporter and native Floridian, wraps it all together with verve and style, writing on one of the few states whose whole you’d actually want to read. Allman, author of Miami: City of the Future, was an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. A former Vanity Fair foreign correspondent, Allman has reported from more than 90 countries.

Excerpt: How the CIA Helped Disney Conquer Florida

Review at The Daily Beast

Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich, Pantheon Books/Random House.

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Things can get a bit dicey when we begin to speak of “national character,” but in Japan’s response to the 2011 triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, the world saw a people react to biblical hardship with inspiring decency, dignity, and resolve. There to document the recovery and bear witness to the human suffering was Gretel Erlich, returning to a land she loves to pay it tribute by recording one of its darkest and also most triumphant hours. The power of this book is derived from such contrasts: the worst imaginable physical devastation, which remade the landscape, met with unflinching humanity. The book is a haunting song for the dead. Ehrlich is an American travel writer, fiction writer, poet, and essayist. Her nonfiction books include This Cold Heaven, The Future of Ice, and The Solace of Open Spaces.

Review: The Daily Beast

The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. Johnson, W.W. Norton & Co.

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When your father admits one day that he’s been a CIA agent your whole life, what’s a son to do? That is the question that propels Scott C. Johnson’s moving and gripping account of coming to terms with his father’s history through his own work as a journalist—a job, it turns out, not all that different from being spy, except the answers to your questions are meant to go public. Johnson served as a Newsweek foreign correspondent for 12 years, reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fronts in the Middle East. He lives in Oakland.

Excerpt: Foreign Policy

Excerpt: Newsweek

Review: The Daily Beast

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

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Benjamin Franklin was a voracious reader, a gifted writer, and a shrewd political commentator. So was his sister Jane, but she spent her life caring for her 12 children. Making use of a cache of little-studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life and illuminates an era and an unknown history. Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker. Lepore was awarded a Bancroft Prize for her book The Name of War and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for New York Burning. She served as a National Book Awards judge in 2011 and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Essay: The New Yorker

Interview: The New Yorker

Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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In all the masses written about the Nazis and Hitler, relatively little attention has been paid to the experience of women under the Third Reich. Now historian Wendy Lower has written a book that depicts with grim detail the 500,000 women who directly took part in the genocide. Out in October, this book is sure to cause a storm. Lower is a historical consultant for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She has published numerous articles and books on the Holocaust and has conducted archival research and fieldwork in central and Eastern Europe since 1992. Lower is the John K. Roth Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College and a research associate at the Ludwig Maximilians Universitat in Munich. She lives in Los Angeles and Munich.

Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865 by James Oakes, W.W. Norton & Co.

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Freedom National, which won the 2013 Lincoln Prize, shatters the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery. The destruction of slavery and the preservation of the Union were Lincoln’s initiatives and intertwined in Republican policy from the very start of the war. Oakes, a history professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center, also won the Lincoln Prize in 2008 for The Radical and the Republican. He lives in New York City.

Review: The New York Review of Books

Review: New Statesman

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

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The unwinding of this book’s title is the dissolution of old civic bonds, and the steady work and ticket to middle-class security those bonds provided for two or three postwar generations of Americans. The unwound are some citizens George Packer found and spent time with, people who symbolize this American nightmare. Packer is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, which received several prizes and was named one of the 10 best books of 2005 by The New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of Blood of the Liberals, which won the 2001 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and The Village of Waiting. He lives in Brooklyn.

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The New York Times

Review: The Guardian

The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 by Alan Taylor, W.W. Norton & Co.

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In 1813 hundreds of Virginian slaves paddled out to British warships in the Chesapeake Bay, seeking protection for their families from the ravages of slavery. The runaways pressured the British admirals into becoming liberators. As guides, pilots, sailors, and marines, the former slaves used their intimate knowledge of the countryside to transform the war, and they helped the British capture and burn Washington, D.C. Slavemasters had long dreaded their slaves as "an internal enemy." Drawn from new sources, Alan Taylor's re-creates the events that inspired black Virginians and haunted slaveholders in this strange episode in American history. Taylor is the author of a number of books about colonial America, the American Revolution, and the early American republic. In 1996 he won the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and the Beveridge Award for William Cooper’s Town. Taylor is the Thomas Jefferson Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

Review: The Wall Street Journal

Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington by Terry Teachout, Gotham Books/Penguin Group USA.

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Cultural critic and historian Terry Teachout is a meaty thinker, and as he tackles the life of the man who brought jazz into Carnegie Hall, he makes the case that one cannot understand modern America without contending with the sophisticated and complex legacy of Duke Ellington. It’s hard to argue with that. Teachout, the author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, is the drama critic at The Wall Street Journal, the critic-at-large at Commentary, a blogger at About Last Night, and a contributor to many other magazines and newspapers. Teachout served as a National Book Awards judge in 2003 and lives in New York City.

Review: Publishers Weekly

Terry Teachout on Twitter

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

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From L. Ron Hubbard possibly forging his war documents to the church incarcerating hundreds of members in a pitch-black basement, investigation reporter Lawrence Wright takes on the Church of Scientology, and crafts a page-turning history of one of the strangest organizations ever founded in America. Wright was a National Book Award finalist in 2008 for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and the author of six previous books of nonfiction. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Review: The Daily Beast

Review: The New York Times

Speedread: 15 Scientology Revelations

Interview: How I Write

Lawrence Wright on Twitter


The 2013 nonfiction judges:

Jabari Asim is the author of The N Word and What Obama Means. For many years, he was a book reviewer and columnist for The Washington Post. He is an associate professor of writing, literature, and publishing at Emerson College.

André Bernard is vice president and secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

M.G. Lord writes on popular culture, society, and technology. She is the author of The Accidental Feminist, Forever Barbie, and Astro Turf, a family memoir of Cold War aerospace culture, for which she received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant. She teaches writing at the University of Southern California.

Lauren Redniss was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction in 2011 for Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout. Her writing and drawing has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, which nominated her work for the Pulitzer Prize. She is the recipient of a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship and is currently artist in residence at the American Museum of Natural History. She teaches at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City.

Eric Sundquist is the author of To Wake the Nations, winner of the James Russell Lowell Prize from the Modern Language Association for best book published during the year, the Christian Gauss Award from Phi Beta Kappa for the best book in the humanities, and the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award. He is chair of the department of English and Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.

The National Book Award finalists will be announced October 16, and the winners will be named at a gala dinner and ceremony in New York on November 20. Visit The Daily Beast on Thursday for the fiction longlist.