NYPL's Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism
The New York Public Library has announced the five finalists for its 37th annual Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism.
The award recognizes nonfiction books written by working journalists that bring attention and transparency to current events or societal issues of global or national significance. The nominees this year all published works highlighting important topics such as the environmental impact of the planet’s ever-increasing road network, the miracle rise and downfall of dialysis and America’s healthcare system, the human devastation of the Philippines’ drug war, the extreme ways in which heat is affecting the world, and a tragedy unraveled as a result of America’s foster care and adoption systems.
Crossings: How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of our Planet by Ben Goldfarb (W.W. Norton)
Some 40 million miles of roadways encircle the earth, yet we tend to regard them only as infrastructure for human convenience. While roads are so ubiquitous they’re practically invisible to us, wild animals experience them as entirely alien forces of death and disruption. A million animals are killed by cars each day in the U.S. alone, but as the new science of road ecology shows, the harms of highways extend far beyond roadkill. Creatures from antelope to salmon are losing their ability to migrate in search of food and mates; invasive plants hitch rides in tire treads; road salt contaminates lakes and rivers; and the very noise of traffic chases songbirds from vast swaths of habitat. In Crossings, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb travels throughout the United States and around the world to investigate how roads have transformed our planet.
Ben Goldfarb is the author of Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, National Geographic, The New York Times, and many other publications and has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing. A recipient of fellowships from the Alicia Patterson Foundation and the Whiting Foundation, he lives in Colorado.
How to Make a Killing: Blood, Death, and Dollars in American Medicine by Tom Mueller (W.W. Norton)
Six decades ago, visionary doctors achieved the impossible: the humble kidney, acknowledged since ancient times to be as essential to life as the heart, became the first human organ to be successfully replaced with a machine. Yet huge dialysis corporations, ambitious doctor-entrepreneurs, and Beltway lobbyists soon turned this medical miracle into an early experiment in for-profit medicine—and one of the nation’s worst healthcare catastrophes. How to Make a Killing reveals dialysis as a microcosm of American medicine and poses a vital challenge: find a way to fix dialysis, and we’ll have a fighting chance of fixing our country’s dysfunctional healthcare system as a whole, restoring patients, not profits, as its true purpose.
Tom Mueller's writing has appeared in The New Yorker, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling Extra Virginity about food fraud, and Crisis of Conscience on whistleblowers and their enemies.
Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in My Country by Patricia Evangelista (Penguin Random House)
Journalist Patricia Evangelista came of age in the aftermath of a street revolution that forged a new future for the Philippines. Three decades later, in the face of mounting inequality, the nation discovered the fragility of its democratic institutions under the regime of strongman Rodrigo Duterte. Some People Need Killing is Evangelista’s meticulously reported and deeply human chronicle of the Philippines’ drug war. For six years, Evangelista documented the killings carried out by police and vigilantes in the name of Duterte’s war on drugs—a crusade that has led to the slaughter of thousands—immersing herself in the world of killers and survivors and capturing the atmosphere of terror created when an elected president decides that some lives are worth less than others.
Patricia Evangelista is a trauma journalist and former investigative reporter for the Philippine news company Rappler. Her reporting on armed conflict and disaster was awarded the Kate Webb Prize for exceptional journalism in dangerous conditions. She was a Headlands Artist in Residence, a New America ASU Future Security Fellow, and a fellow of the Logan Nonfiction Program, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. Her work has earned local and international acclaim. She lives in Manila.
The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet by Jeff Goodell (Hachette)
The world is waking up to a new reality: wildfires are now seasonal in California, the Northeast is getting less and less snow each winter, and the ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctica are melting fast. Heat is the first-order threat that drives all other impacts of the climate crisis. And as the temperature rises, it is revealing fault lines in our governments, our politics, our economy, and our values. The Heat Will Kill You First is about the extreme ways in which our planet is already changing. Masterfully reported, mixing the latest scientific insight with on-the-ground storytelling, Jeff Goodell tackles the big questions and uncovers how extreme heat is a force beyond anything we have reckoned with before.
Jeff Goodell's latest book is The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet. He is the author of six previous books, including The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, which was a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017. He has covered climate change for more than two decades at Rolling Stone and discussed climate and energy issues on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is a Senior Fellow at the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow.
We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America by Roxanna Asgarian (Macmillan)
On March 26, 2018, rescue workers discovered a crumpled SUV and the bodies of two women and several children at the bottom of a cliff beside the Pacific Coast Highway. Investigators soon concluded that the crash was a murder-suicide, but there was more to the story: Jennifer and Sarah Hart, it turned out, were a white married couple who had adopted the six Black children from two different Texas families in 2006 and 2008. Behind the family's loving facade, however, was a pattern of abuse and neglect that went ignored as the couple withdrew the children from school and moved across the country. It soon became apparent that the State of Texas knew very little about the two individuals to whom it had given custody of six children—with fateful consequences. Roxanna Asgarian’s We Were Once a Family is a revelation of vulnerable lives; it is also a shattering exposé of the foster care and adoption systems that produced this tragedy.
Roxanna Asgarian is a Texas-based independent journalist who writes about child welfare and the law. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, New York, and Texas Monthly, among other publications. She received the 2022 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for We Were Once a Family.
All books nominated were published in 2023 and were selected by an 11-person Library Review Committee, which read over 110 books submitted by publishers. The six-member Bernstein Selection Committee, which is composed of professional journalists, will announce the winner in May. The winner will receive a $15,000 cash prize. Previous winners of the award include Ben Rawlence, who won last year for his book The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth (St. Martin's Press), journalists Jill Leovy, Katherine Boo, Charlie Savage, Dan Fagin, and Masha Gessen.
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 Fealy. The award honors journalists and their important role in raising public awareness of current issues, events, or policies.
All book descriptions were provided by the publishers.
Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in accessible formats.
Library Stories from Past Winners
Past winners of the Bernstein Award discuss journalism and democracy.