2012 Finalists

Letters, Drama, and Music

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
A novella about a day laborer in the old American West, bearing witness to terrors and glories with compassionate, heartbreaking calm.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf)
An adventure tale about an eccentric family adrift in its failing alligator-wrestling theme park, told by a 13-year-old heroine wise beyond her years.

The Pale King, by the late David Foster Wallace
A posthumously completed novel, animated by grand ambition, that explores boredom and bureaucracy in the American workplace.
Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz
A taut, witty drama about an affluent California couple whose daughter has written a memoir that threatens to reveal family secrets about her dead brother.

Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam
A masterly play about a Lebanese-American family that blends comedy and tragedy in its examination of how suffering capriciously rains down on some and not others.
Empires, Nations & Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 by Anne F. Hyde (University of Nebraska Press)
A fresh work tracing how people created families and conducted business in a vast, fur-trading region newly part of an expanding United States.

The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan (Ballantine Books)
A painstaking look at a catastrophic act of terrorism and the nagging questions that have swirled around it.

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White (W.W. Norton & Company)
A myth-shattering book that shows how reckless but influential railroad corporations in the late 19th century often profited by failure as well as success.
Biography or Autobiography
Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown and Company)
An enlightening, richly researched book on the saga of Marx, his family and the ideas and historical events they helped to shape.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by the late Manning Marable (Viking)
An exploration of the legendary life and provocative views of one of the most significant African-Americans in U.S. history, a work that separates fact from fiction and blends the heroic and tragic. (Moved by the Board to the History category.)
Core Samples from the World by Forrest Gander (New Directions)
A compelling work that explores cross-cultural tensions in the world and digs deeply to identify what is essential in human experience.

How Long by Ron Padgett (Coffee House Press)
An enchanting collection of poems that juggle delight, wit and endless fascination with language.
General Nonfiction
One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman (W.W. Norton & Company)
A resilient author’s account of caring for a stricken husband, sharing fears and insights as she explores neurology and ponders the gift of words.

Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men by Mara Hvistendahl (Public Affairs)
An evocative, deeply researched book probing the causes and effects of a global imbalance in the gender ratio.
Death and the Powers by Tod Machover (Boosey & Hawkes)
An inventive opera that uses electronic music as it explores a dying billionaire’s attempt to transcend mortality through technology, raising significant questions about human existence. Libretto by Robert Pinsky.

The Companion Guide to Rome by Andrew Norman (Schott Music)
An impressive musical portrait of nine historic churches, written for a string trio but sometimes giving the illusion of being played by a much larger group, changing mood and mode on a dime.


Public Service
The Miami Herald
For its exposure of deadly abuses and lax state oversight in Florida’s assisted-living facilities for the elderly and mentally ill that resulted in the closure of dangerous homes, punishment of violators and creation of tougher laws and regulations.

The New York Times
For the work of Danny Hakim and Russ Buettner that revealed rapes, beatings and more than 1,200 unexplained deaths over the past decade of developmentally disabled people in New York State group homes, leading to removal of two top officials, movement to fire 130 employees and passage of remedial laws.
Breaking News Reporting
The Arizona Republic Staff, Phoenix
For its comprehensive coverage of the mass shooting that killed six and wounded 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, an exemplary use of journalistic tools, from Twitter to video to written reports and features, to tell an unfolding story.

Staff of the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison
For its energetic coverage of 27 days of around-the-clock protests in the State Capitol over collective bargaining rights, using an array of journalistic tools to capture one breaking development after another.
Investigative Reporting
Gary Marx and David Jackson of the Chicago Tribune
For their exposure of a neglectful state justice system that allowed dozens of brutal criminals to evade punishment by fleeing the country, sparking moves for corrective change.
Explanatory Reporting
Tom Frank of USA Today
For his sharply focused exploration of inflated pensions for state and local employees, enhancing stories with graphic material to show how state legislators pump up retirement benefits in creative but unconscionable ways.

The Wall Street Journal Staff
For its tenacious exploration of how personal information is harvested from the cellphones and computers of unsuspecting Americans by corporations and public officials in a largely unmonitored realm of modern life.
Local Reporting
Staff of California Watch, founded by the Center for Investigative Reporting
For its rigorous probe of deficient earthquake protection in the construction of public schools across the state, telling the story with words, graphics, videos and other tools.

A.M. Sheehan and Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling of Advertiser Democrat, Norway, Maine, a weekly
For their tenacious exposure of disgraceful conditions in federally-supported housing in a small rural community that, within hours, triggered a state investigation.
National Reporting
Jeff Donn of the Associated Press
For his diligent exposure of federal regulators easing or neglecting to enforce safety standards as aging nuclear power plants exceed their original life spans, with interactive data and videos used to drive home the findings.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg of The Wall Street Journal
For her compelling examination of aggressive debt collectors whose often questionable tactics, profitable but largely unseen by the public, vexed borrowers hard hit by the nation’s financial crisis.
International Reporting
The New York Times Staff
For its powerful exploration of serious mistakes concealed by authorities in Japan after a tsunami and earthquake devastated the nation, and caused a nuclear disaster.

Thomson Reuters Staff
For its well-crafted reports on the momentous revolution in Libya that went beyond battlefield dispatches to tell the wider story of discontent, conflict and the role of outside powers.
Feature Writing
John Branch of The New York Times
For his deeply reported story of Derek Boogaard, a professional hockey player valued for his brawling, whose tragic story shed light on a popular sport’s disturbing embrace of potentially brain-damaging violence.

Corinne Reilly of The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk
For her inspiring stories that bring the reader side-by-side with the medical professionals seeking to save the lives of gravely injured American soldiers at a combat hospital in Afghanistan.
Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times
For his valorous columns that transport readers into dangerous international scenes, from Egypt to Kenya to Cambodia, often focusing on the disenfranchised and always providing insight.

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times
For his engaging commentary on death and dying, marked by pieces on his own father’s rapid physical and mental decline, that stir readers to address end-of-life questions.
Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post
For his ambitious and insightful cultural criticism, taking on topical events from the uprisings in Egypt to the dedication of the Ground Zero memorial, causing readers to reflect on the world around them.

Tobi Tobias of ArtsJournal.com
For work that reveals passion as well as deep historical knowledge of dance, her well-expressed arguments coming from the heart as well as the head.
Editorial Writing
Paula Dwyer and Mark Whitehouse of Bloomberg News
For their analysis of and prescription for the European debt crisis, dealing with important technical questions in ways that the average readers could grasp.

Tim Nickens, Joni James, John Hill and Robyn Blumner of Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times
For editorials that examined the policies of a new, inexperienced governor and their impact on the state, using techniques that stretched the typical editorial format and caused the governor to mend some of his ways.

Aki Soga and Michael Townsend of Burlington (Vt.) Free Press
For their campaign that resulted in the state’s first reform of open government laws in 35 years, reducing legal obstacles that helped shroud the work of government officials.
Editorial Cartooning
Matt Bors, syndicated by Universal Uclick
For his pungent work outside the traditional style of American cartooning.

Jack Ohman of The Oregonian, Portland
For his clever daily cartoons and a distinctive Sunday panel on local issues in which his reporting was as important as his artistic execution.
Breaking News Photography
Carolyn Cole and Brian van der Brug of the Los Angeles Times
For their illumination of epic disasters in Japan, documenting the brutality of nature as well as the durability of the human spirit.

John Moore, Peter Macdiarmid and the late Chris Hondros of Getty Images
For their brave coverage of revolutionary protests known as the Arab Spring, capturing the chaos and exuberance as ordinary people glimpsed new possibilities.
Feature Photography
David Guttenfelder, Ng Han Guan and Rafael Wober of the Associated Press
For their extraordinary portrayal of daily life inside the reclusive nation of North Korea, including scenes after the death of Kim Jong Il.

Francine Orr of the Los Angeles Times
For her poignant portrait of the suffering by desperate families and misunderstood children who live with autism.