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NYPL Announces Five Finalists In Its Annual Helen Bernstein Book Award For Excellence In Journalism


Finalists to Discuss Long-form Journalism In A Free Public Program at The Library’s Landmark Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on May 27

APRIL 23 -- Five important and revelatory works of long-form journalism – spanning topics such as the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, pollution in New Jersey, the lives of soldiers after they return home, and the tenure of David Petraeus – have been named finalists in The New York Public Library’s acclaimed Helen Bernstein Book Award For Excellence in Journalism.

This year’s finalists are:

Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation  by Dan Fagin (Bantam Books) – An astounding piece of investigative journalism by science and environmental reporter Dan Fagin, this winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction recounts the 60-year history of industrial pollution and its devastating impact on one New Jersey town.

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital  by Sheri Fink (Crown Publishers) – Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and physician Sheri Fink investigates patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The detailed and riveting account won several prizes, including the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Finkel follows up The Good Soldiers (a Bernstein Award winner) with the gripping stories of many of the same men, now home from their deployments, coping with everyday life and healing from the emotional wounds suffered overseas.

The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War  by Fred Kaplan (Simon and Schuster) – Military journalist Fred Kaplan's deeply-researched, intellectual thriller chronicles the story of a small group of soldier-scholars led by David Petraeus and how they attempted to revolutionize the US military.

The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster  by Jonathan Katz (Palgrave Macmillan) – Jonathan Katz blends Haiti's history, people and politics with detailed reporting in a riveting, fast-moving, first-hand account of the 2010 earthquake and its aftermath. Katz was the only full-time American correspondent in Haiti at the time, and his books is widely considered to be the definitive account of the event.    

The books – all published in 2013 and written by working journalists – were selected by an eight-member Library Review Committee, which received and read over 100 nominations from publishers.

Most of the finalists – who have written for prestigious news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Slate and others – will join together at the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on May 27 for a free public program called, “Uncovering the Truth: Long-form Journalism in the Age of Twitter.” There is limited seating; the public must RSVP here

The winner will be announced at a reception and award ceremony on May 28.

“The way we access news in an increasingly digital world is no doubt changing, but the need for talented, passionate journalists dedicated to unearthing critical information and educating the public remains as important as ever,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “The Library is thankful to the Bernstein family for the opportunity to honor reporters who, like NYPL, are devoted to the spread of knowledge."

Since 1988 the annual award, which includes a $15,000 cash prize, has been given to journalists whose books have brought clarity and public attention to important issues, events, or policies.  Previous winners of the award include Shane Harris, Jane Mayer, Charlie Savage, Philip Gourevitch, and Lawrence Wright. Katherine Boo won last year for her National Book Award winning work, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity.

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).

Media Contact: Angela Montefinise |

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