Taking a look at Nonfiction for the next installment of our pre-National Book Awards coverage (and don't forget our poll), of the five NBA finalists this year, PW starred three and included two in our 2007 Best Books list (Brother, I’m Dying; Legacy of Ashes).
Great writing, provocative, and a bestseller. But despite the overwhelming popularity of Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Twelve/HBG USA) it seems unlikely that the NBA will select a book that some critics felt perhaps missed the point. (“Barely disguised misanthropy” is what we said in our overall favorable, but not starred, review.)
Ralph Ellison: A Biography (Knopf) by Arnold Rampersad, author of Langston Hughes and Jackie Robinson bios, is an excellent portrait of the author of a single great American novel. This is a solid bio, but we felt (again, in our overall favorable though unstarred review) Rampersad left important questions unanswered.
Woody Holton’s Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (Hill and Wang/FSG) could be the sleeper winner, a democratic choice. A truly wonderful read (PW gave it a starred review) about the framers of the Constitution.
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Doubleday) by Pulitzer Prize winner Tim Weiner is balanced, timely, and riveting—this bestselling history is a strong contender.
Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf) by Edwidge Danticat is lyrical, topical and heartbreaking. Danticat was a 1995 NBA finalist in Fiction for Krik?Krak! The smart money says she’s taking home the award.