2009 Finalists

Letters, Drama, and Music

Fiction
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins)
A haunting novel that explores racial discord, loss of land and changing fortunes in a corner of North Dakota where Native Americans and whites share a tangled history.

All Souls by Christine Schutt (Harcourt)
A memorable novel that focuses on the senior class at an exclusive all-girl Manhattan prep school where a beloved student battles a rare cancer, fiercely honest, carefully observed and subtly rendered.
Drama
Becky Shaw by Gina Gionfriddo
A jarring comedy that examines family and romantic relationships with a lacerating wit while eschewing easy answers and pat resolutions.

In The Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes
A robust musical about struggling Latino immigrants in New York City today that celebrates the virtues of sacrifice, family solidarity and gritty optimism.
History
The Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust (Alfred A. Knopf)
A deeply researched, gracefully written examination of how a divided nation struggled to comprehend the meaning and practical consequences of unprecedented human carnage.

The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s by G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot (The Penguin Press)
An elegantly written account of a brief period in American history that left a profoundly altered national landscape.
Biography or Autobiography
Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands (Doubleday)
A richly textured and highly readable exploration of the inner Roosevelt, presented with analytical acuity and flashes of originality.

The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll (The Penguin Press)
An epic tale extending far beyond Osama Bin Laden and the calamity of 9/11, rooted in meticulous research and written with an urgency, clarity and flair that entertains as easily as it educates.
Poetry
Watching the Spring Festival by Frank Bidart (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A book of lyric poems that evinces compassion for the human condition as it explores the constraints that limit the possibility of people changing the course of their lives.

What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems by Ruth Stone (Copper Canyon Press)
A collection of poems that give rich drama to ordinary experience, deepening our sense of what it means to be human.
General Nonfiction
Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman (Bantam Books)
An authoritative, deeply researched book that achieves an extraordinary balance in weighing two mighty protagonists against each other.

The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe by William I. Hitchcock (Free Press)
A heavily documented exploration of the overlooked suffering of noncombatants in the victory over Nazi Germany, written with the dash of a novelist and the authority of a scholar.
Music
7 Etudes for Solo Piano by Don Byron (nottuskegeelike music/BMI)
A deft set of studies that display rhythmic inventiveness and irresistible energy, charm and wit.

Brion by Harold Meltzer (Urban Scrawl Music Company)
A sonic portrait of a cemetery in northern Italy painted with the touch of a watercolorist and marked by an episodic structure and vivid playfulness that offer a graceful, sensual and contemplative experience.

Journalism

Public Service
The New York Times
For its comprehensive coverage of the economic meltdown of 2008, setting a standard for depth and sophistication while making the arcane world of finance and banking accessible to an often bewildered public.

St. Petersburg Times
For “PolitiFact,” its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters. (Moved by the Board to the National Reporting category.)
Breaking News Reporting
Staff of Houston Chronicle
For taking full advantage of online technology and its newsroom expertise to become a lifeline to the city when Hurricane Ike struck, providing vital minute-by-minute updates on the storm, its flood surge and its aftermath.

Staff of St. Louis Post-Dispatch
For its creative and aggressive coverage, both online and in print, of a city hall shooting that left six people dead, displaying an exemplary blend of speed and rigor in its reporting.
Investigative Reporting
Paul Pringle of Los Angeles Times
For his meticulously researched stories that, in the face of threats, exposed financial abuses by the head of California’s largest union, leading to investigations, the leader’s departure from office and repayment of misappropriated funds.

Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
For their powerful revelations that the government was failing to protect the public from dangerous chemicals in everyday products, such as some “microwave-safe” containers, stirring action by Congress and federal agencies.
Explanatory Reporting
Adam Liptak of The New York Times
For his lucid exposition of how the cornerstones of the American judicial system differ from those in other democratic nations, awakening readers to the benefits and drawbacks of those differences.

Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Brady Dennis of The Washington Post
For their vivid, richly documented explanation of why AIG, the insurance industry giant, nearly collapsed and what lessons the crisis holds for the nation’s policymakers.
Local Reporting
Brendan McCarthy, Michael DeMocker and Ryan Smith of The Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA
For their multifaceted examination of a murder case that showed deep understanding of the community, its social ills and the often frustrating path to justice.
National Reporting
Amy Goldstein and Dana Priest of The Washington Post
For their relentless exploration of America’s network of immigration detention centers, melding reporting and computer analysis to expose sometimes deadly abuses and spur corrective steps.

John Shiffman, John Sullivan and Tom Avril of The Philadelphia Inquirer
For their exhaustive reports on how political interests have eroded the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency and placed the nation’s environment in greater jeopardy, setting the stage for remedial action.

Staff of The Wall Street Journal
For its highly detailed coverage of the collapse of America’s financial system, explicating key decisions, capturing the sense of calamity and charting the human toll.
International Reporting
Rukmini Callimachi of Associated Press
For her in-depth investigation of the exploitation of impoverished children in West and Central Africa who are often traded like animals by adults who prize their labor.

Staff of The Washington Post
For its sensitive and moving examination of how females in the developing world are often oppressed from birth to death, a reporting project marked by indelible portraits of women and girls and enhanced by multimedia presentations.
Feature Writing
John Barry of St. Petersburg Times
For his concise, captivating story about a rescued baby dolphin that needed a new tail and became a famous survivor, illuminating the mysterious connection between human beings and animals.

Amy Ellis Nutt of The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ
For her poignant, deeply reported story of a chiropractor who suffered a severe stroke following brain surgery and became a wildly creative artist, in many ways estranged from his former self.

Diane Suchetka of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
For her harrowing tale of a mechanic whose arms were reattached after being severed in an accident, a disciplined narrative that takes readers on the man’s painful personal and physical journey to recover.
Commentary
Regina Brett of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
For her range of compelling columns that move the heart, challenge authority and often trigger action while giving readers deeper insight into life’s challenges.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times
For his prophetic columns on economic peril during a year of financial calamity, blending the scholarly knowledge of a distinguished economist with the skill of a wordsmith.
Criticism
Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer
For her fascinating and convincing architectural critiques that boldly confront important topics, from urban planning issues to the newest skyscraper.

Sebastian Smee of The Boston Globe
For his fresh, accessible and energetic reviews on the New England art scene, creating for readers a sense of discovery even as he provides discerning analysis.
Editorial Writing
Charles Lane of The Washington Post
For his succinct and insightful editorials on the nation’s economic collapse, zeroing in on problems and offering solutions with a steady voice of reason.

John McCormick, Marie Dillon and Bruce Dold of Chicago Tribune
For their persistent campaign to reform statehouse ethics, drawing on corruption in the governor’s office to drive home their successful call for legislative action.
Editorial Cartooning
Mike Thompson of Detroit Free Press
For his compelling collection of print and animated cartoons that blend the great traditions of the craft with new online possibilities.

Matt Wuerker of Politico
For his engaging mix of art and ideas, resulting in cleverly conceived cartoons that persuade rather than rant and that sometimes use animation to widen their impact.
Breaking News Photography
Carolyn Cole of Los Angeles Times
For her valorous on-the-spot coverage of political violence in Kenya, capturing the terror as rebellion and reprisals jolted the nation.

Staff of Associated Press
For its haunting chronicle of death, destruction, heartbreak and renewal when an earthquake devastated Sichuan, China.
Feature Photography
Carol Guzy of The Washington Post
For her powerfully intimate coverage of the perils and sorrow of childbirth in Sierra Leone, where women face the world’s highest rate of maternal mortality.

Sonya Hebert of The Dallas Morning News
For her empathetic portrait of palliative care in a Texas medical center as terminally ill patients cope with the end of their lives.