From the NYPL:
The New York Public Library has named five nonfiction books finalists in the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The Bernstein Award honors working journalists whose books bring clarity and public attention to important issues, events or policies and the 2017 finalists’ works cover gun violence in America, Syria, the spread of cholera, plutocrats, and the refugee crisis.
“In a fractured world where many no longer trust facts, the goal of the Library’s Bernstein Award — to honor in-depth, investigative journalism — is arguably more important than ever,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “For 30 years the award has supported open and free access to information, and I applaud this year’s finalists. I look forward to the next 30 years of celebrating the important role journalism plays in our democracy.”
This year’s finalists and their works are:
The Morning They Came for Us, by Janine di Giovanni (WW Norton/Liveright) – Drawing from years of experience covering Syria for Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and the front pages of The New York Times, di Giovanni delivers war reportage as told through the perspective of ordinary people. 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.
Dark Money, by Jane Mayer (Doubleday) – Mayer illuminates the history of an elite cadre of plutocrats who have bankrolled a systematic plan to fundamentally alter the American political system. Drawing from hundreds of exclusive interviews, as well as extensive scrutiny of public records, private papers, and court proceedings, Mayer provides portraits of the secretive figures behind the new American oligarchy and a look at the carefully concealed agendas steering the nation.
Cast Away, by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson (New Press) – 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. 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.
Pandemic, by Sonia Shah (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – A deep-dive into the convoluted science, strange politics, and checkered history of cholera, Shah’s book tracks each stage of the disease’s dramatic journey from harmless microbe to world-changing pandemic. She reports on the pathogens following in cholera’s footsteps, from the MRSA bacterium that besieges her own family to the never-before-seen killers emerging from China’s wet markets, the surgical wards of New Delhi, the slums of Port-au-Prince, and the suburban backyards of the East Coast.
Another Day in the Death of America, by Gary Younge (Nation Books) – Younge’s work tells the stories of the gun-related deaths of children and teens in America during a single day in 2013. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they died at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. The narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the statistics and the brief mentions in local papers.
The books, all published last year, were selected by a seven-member Library Review Committee, which received and read 99 nominations from publishers.
A six-member Bernstein Selection Committee, chaired by veteran journalist and editor Jim Hoge, will choose a winner; their decision will be announced at an awards ceremony and reception on May 22 at the Library’s iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
To further mark the 30th anniversary of the Award and this year’s finalist, NYPL will present a series of free public programs that will further explore the role of long-form journalism in the world today.
The first program in this series will take place on February 27, moderated by Bill Moyers and featuring Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of The New York Times, Shawna Thomas, DC Bureau Chief of VICE News, Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder of Define American, and Jacob Weisberg, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Slate Group.
Additional programs featuring the finalists will be announced in the coming weeks.
Previous winners of the award, which includes a $15,000 cash prize, include such acclaimed journalists as George Packer, Ellen Schultz, David Finkel, Katherine Boo, Dan Fagin, Anand Giridharadas. In 2016, Jill Leovy won for her groundbreaking book, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, which addresses broad issues of history, race, violence, and justice.
The Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism was established in 1987 through a gift from Joseph Frank Bernstein, in honor of journalist Helen Bernstein (now Helen Bernstein Fealy). The gift was in two parts and also endows the position of the Helen Bernstein Librarian for Periodicals & Journals. This position curates The New York Public Library’s internationally-renowned Periodicals Division, housing one of the largest collections of past and present newspapers, magazines, and journals from around the world. The position is currently held by Librarian Karen Gisonny.
Direct to Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism Web Page