Every year since 1987, The New York Pubic Library has given the Helen Bernstein Book Award to a journalist whose book-length investigative journalism has brought “clarity and public attention to important issues, events, or policies.”
This year the Bernstein Award was given to Jane Mayer for her book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. The rest of the nominees included, The Morning They Came for Us by Janine di Giovanni, Cast Away by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson, Pandemic by Sonia Shah, and Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge.
Dark Money by Jane Mayer
Why is America living in an age of profound economic inequality? Why, despite the desperate need to address climate change, have even modest environmental efforts been defeated again and again? Why have protections for employees been decimated? Why do hedge-fund billionaires pay a far lower tax rate than middle-class workers? The conventional answer is that a popular uprising against “big government” led to the ascendancy of a broad-based conservative movement. But as Jane Mayer shows in this powerful, meticulously reported history, a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.
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The Morning They Came for Us by Janine di Giovanni
Doing for Syria what Imperial Life in the Emerald City did for the war in Iraq, The Morning They Came for Us bears witness to one of the most brutal, internecine conflicts in recent history. Drawing from years of experience covering Syria for Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and the front pages of the New York Times, award-winning journalist Janine di Giovanni gives us a tour de force of war reportage, all told through the perspective of ordinary people–among them a doctor, a nun, a musician, and a student. What emerges is an extraordinary picture of the devastating human consequences of armed conflict, one that charts an apocalyptic but at times tender story of life in a jihadist war zone. Recalling celebrated works by Ryszard Kapus’cin’ski, Philip Gourevitch, and Anne Applebaum, The Morning They Came for Us, through its unflinching account of a nation on the brink of disintegration, becomes an unforgettable testament to resilience in the face of nihilistic human debasement
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Cast Away by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson
In 2015, more than one million migrants and refugees, most fleeing war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East, attempted to make the perilous journey into Europe. Around three thousand lost their lives as they crossed the Mediterranean and Aegean in rickety boats provided by unscrupulous traffickers, including over seven hundred men, women, and children in a single day in April 2015. In one of the first works of narrative nonfiction on the ongoing refugee crisis and the civil war in Syria, Cast Away describes the agonizing stories and the impossible decisions that migrants have to make as they head toward what they believe is a better life: a pregnant Eritrean woman, four days overdue, chooses to board an obviously unsafe smuggler’s ship to Greece; a father, swimming from a sinking ship, has to decide whether to hold on to one child or let him go to save another.
Pandemic by Sonia Shah
Scientists agree that a pathogen is likely to cause a global pandemic in the near future. But which one? And how?
Over the past fifty years, more than three hundred infectious diseases have either newly emerged or reemerged, appearing in territories where they’ve never been seen before. Ninety percent of epidemiologists expect that one of them will cause a deadly pandemic sometime in the next two generations. While we can’t know which pathogen will cause the next pandemic, by unraveling the story of how pathogens have caused pandemics in the past, we can make predictions about the future. In Pandemic, prizewinning journalist Sonia Shah interweaves history, original reportage, and personal narrative to explore the origins of contagions, drawing parallels between history’s most deadly and disruptive pandemic-causing pathogens, and the new diseases that stalk humankind today. By delving into the convoluted science, strange politics, and checkered history of the world’s deadliest diseases, Pandemic reveals what the next global contagion might look like – and what we can do to prevent it.
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they fell at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. From the rural Midwest to the barrios of Texas, the narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the gun-violence statistics and the brief mentions in local papers of lives lost. This powerful and moving work puts a human face – a child’s face – on the “collateral damage” of gun deaths across the country. What emerges in these pages is a searing and urgent portrait of youth, family, and firearms in America today.
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