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The Ambassador Book Award is awarded annually by the English Speaking Union. It recognizes important literary works that contribute to the understanding and interpretation of American life and culture. Winners of the award are considered literary ambassadors who provide, in the best contemporary English, an important window on America to the rest of the world. A panel of judges, currently chaired by author Maureen Howard, selects books out of new works in the fields of fiction, biography, autobiography, current affairs, American studies and poetry.


The award was established in 1986. Since then, winners have included books by such notable authors as Tom Wolfe (1988), Joan Didion (1988), Raymond Carver (1989), Gore Vidal (1989), John Cheever (1992), John Updike (1997), Don Delillo (1998), Philip Roth (1999), and Annie Proulx (2000).

2010 Winners

American Studies: The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the End of the Cold War ; James Mann (Viking)
American Studies: Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression ; Morris Dickstein (W.W. Norton)
Biography and Autobiography: Louis D. Brandeis: A Life (Pantheon);
Melvin Urofsky (Pantheon)
Fiction: Let the Great World Spin; Colum McCann (Random House)
Poetry: Mercury Dressing; J. D. McClatchy(Alfred A. Knopf)
SPECIAL DISTINCTION AWARD: Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original; Robin D.G. Kelley (Free Press)

2009 Winners

American Studies: A Summer of Hummingbirds; Christopher Benfey
(Penguin Group)
Biography and Autobiography: A Passion for Nature:The Life of John Muir;
Donald Worster (Oxford University Press)
Current Affairs: The Dark Side; Jane Mayer (Doubleday Publishing)
Fiction: Dangerous Laughter; Steven Millhauser (Alfred A. Knopf)
Poetry: Old War; Alan Shapiro (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
SPECIAL AWARD: Toni Morrison
2008 Winners
American Studies: Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics; Rebecca Solnit (University of California Press)
Autobiography: Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties;Robert Stone (HarperCollins Publishers)
Biography Edith Wharton; Hermione Lee (Alfred A. Knopf)
Fiction: The Reluctant Fundamentalist; Mohsin Hamid (Harcourt, Inc.)
Poetry: Blackbird and Wolf; Henri Cole (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: John Ashbery

Past Winners 1986 -2007

2006
2005
2004
2003
2002

AMERICAN STUDIES: Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climatic Battle of Civil Rights Revolution, Diane McWhorter (Simon & Schuster)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: John Adams, David McCullough (Simon & Schuster)
DRUE HEINZ AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Hortsense Callisher
FICTION: Empire Falls, Richard Russo (Knopf)
POETRY: The Darkness and the Light, Anthony Hecht (Knopf)
2001
AMERICAN STUDIES: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Warship Essex, Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst, David Nasaw (Houghton Mifflin)
DRUE HEINZ AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Arthur Schlesinger
FICTION: Angel on the Roof: The Stories of Russell Banks, Russell Banks (HarperCollins)
POETRY: American Poerty: The Twentieth Century, 2 vols., Hass, Hollander, Kizer, Mackey, Perloff, eds (Library of America)
2000
AMERICAN STUDIES: Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, David M. Kennedy (Oxford University Press)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Morgan: American Financier, Jean Strouse (Random)
FICTION: Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Annie Proulx (Scribner)
POETRY: Vita Nova, Louise Glück (Harper Collins)
THE DRUE HEINZ AWARD FOR LITERARY ACHIEVEMENT: The Best Short Stories of the Twentieth Century, John Updike ()
1999
AMERICAN STUDIES: Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: N.C. Wyeth, David Michaels (Knopf)
FICTION: I Married A Communist, Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin)
POETRY: The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren, John Burt (Louisiana Sate University)
1998
AMERICAN STUDIES: American Visions, Robert Hughes (Knopf)
AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Burning the Days: Recollection, James Salter (Random House)
BIOGRAPHY: American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Joseph E. Ellis (Knopf)
FICTION: Underworld, Don DeLillio (Scribner)
POETRY: Black Zodiac, Charles Wright (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
SPECIAL PRIZE: God and the American Writer, Alfred Kazin (Knopf)
1997
AMERICAN STUDIES: Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West, Stephen E. Ambrose (Simon & Schuster)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Taking on the World: Joseph and Stewart Alsop- Guardians of the American Century, Robert W. Merry (Viking)
FICTION: In the Beauty of the Lilies, John Updike (Knopf)
POETRY: The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966 - 1996, Robert Pinsky (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
1996
AMERICAN STUDIES: Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence, John Hockenberry (Hyperion)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Walt Whitman's America: A Cultural Biography, David S. Reynolds (Knopf)
FICTION: All the Days and Nights, William Maxwell (Knopf)
POETRY: Atlantis, Mark Doty (HarperCollins)
SPECIAL AWARD: The Liar's Club, Mary Carr (Viking)
1995
AMERICAN STUDIES: Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South, John Egerton (Knopf)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: No Ordinary Time Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon Schuster)
FICTION: The Collected Stories, Grace Paley (Farrar, Straus Giroux)
POETRY: Like Most Revelations, Richard Howard (Pantheon Books)
1994
AMERICAN STUDIES: Around the Cragged Hill A Personal and Political Philosophy, George F. Kennan (W.W. Norton)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: W.E.B. Du Bois Biography of Race 1868-1919, David Levering Lewis (Henry Holt)
FICTION: The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court, Peter Taylor (Alfred A. Knopf)
POETRY: Tesserae & Other Poems, John Hollander (Alfred A. Knopf)
1993
AMERICAN ARTS & LETTERS: Up in the Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell (Pantheon Books)
AMERICAN STUDIES: Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Worlds That Remade America, Gary Wills (Simon & Schuster)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Archibald MacLeish: An American Life, Scott Donaldson (Houghton Mifflin)
FICTION: Outerbridge Reach, Robert Stone (Ticknor & Fields)
1992
AMERICAN ARTS & LETTERS: The Journals of John Cheever, John Cheever (Knopf)
AMERICAN STUDIES: The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev : 1960 - 1963, Michael S. Beschloss (HarperCollins)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Woodrow Wilson, August Hecscher (Scribner)
FICTION: A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (Knopf)
SPECIAL PRIZE: American Views: Essays on American Art, John Wilmerding
1991
AMERICAN ARTS & LETTERS: The House of Barrymore, Margot Peters (Random House)
AMERICAN STUDIES: A New York Life, Brendan Gill (Poseidon Press)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: The House of Morgan, Ron Chernow (Atlantic Monthly Press)
FICTION: Killing Mr. Watson, Peter Matthiessen (Random House)
1990
AMERICAN ARTS & LETTERS: The Writing Life, Annie Dillard (Harper & Row)
AMERICAN STUDIES: Among Schoolchildren, Tracy Kidder (Houghton Mifflin)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: This Boy's Life: A Memoir, Tobias Wolff (Atlantic Monthly Press)
FICTION: Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Allan Gurganus (Knopf)
1989
AMERICAN ARTS & LETTERS: At Home: Essays 1982-1988, Gore Vidal
AMERICAN STUDIES: A Bright Shining Lie John Paul Vann in Vietnam, Neil Sheehan (Vintage)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963, Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster)
FICTION: When I'm Calling From: New & Selected Stories, Raymond Carver (Atlantic Monthly Press)
1988
AMERICAN ARTS & LETTERS: Collected Prose, Robert Lowell (Farrar Straus & Giroux)
AMERICAN STUDIES: Miami, Joan Didion (Simon & Schuster)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright, Brendan Gill (Putnam)
FICTION: The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (Farrar Straus & Giroux)
SPECIAL CITATION: Blues, John Hennesy (Knopf)
1987
AMERICAN STUDIES: Cities on a Hill: A Journey Through Contemporary American Cultures, Frances Fitzgerald (Simon & Schuster)
AMERICAN STUDIES: The Cycles of American History, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr (Houghton Mifflin)
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: The Life of Langston Hughes, Volume I: 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America, Arnold Rampersad (Oxford University Press)
FICTION: Roger's Vision, John Updike (Knopf)
HONORABLE MENTION: 1986 Volumes of the Library of America
SPECIAL CITATION: The Story of English, Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil (Viking)
1986
FICTION: Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor (Viking)
FICTION: The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler (Knopf)
HONORABLE MENTION: 1985 Volumes of the Library of America

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