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Tufts Historian Up For National Book Award

Tufts Historian Up For National Book AwardTufts history professor Martin Sherwin’s biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer – the man behind the atomic bomb – is a finalist for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Awards.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.27.06] The critics are in agreement: "American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer," a biography co-authored by Tufts history professor Martin Sherwin, was one of the best reads of 2005. And this year, the book The New York Times calls “rich in new revelations” is up for the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Awards.

Related Coverage:

The Man Behind The Bomb


“The story has been told many times, but [Kai] Bird and Sherwin capture all its drama and exhilaration and ironic glory,” The Washington Post reported about the biography, which the newspaper recently named as one of the top books of the year. Sherwin’s book, described by the Post as “comprehensive, finely judged and sometimes revelatory,” chronicles the life of Oppenheimer, one of the physicists who created the atomic bomb.

The Times agreed that Sherwin hit a homerun with “the first full biography of the atom bomb’s father.” “American Prometheus” landed on the newspaper’s list of the year’s best non-fiction works.

AmericanPrometheusThe book also ranked high on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s list of must-reads from 2005.

“This year’s nonfiction crop of outstanding books brought us drama, heartbreak, suspense, insight, information and a few laughs,” the newspaper reported in an article entitled “2005 Between the Covers: The Best.”

“American Prometheus,” according to the Post-Gazette, is one of “two titles [that] should stand as the definitive Oppenheimer text.”

Critics from Newsday praised Sherwin’s book, listing it among their favorite books of 2005. For Scott McLemee, who reviewed the book for Newsday, “American Prometheus” shattered his belief that “both biographies and current-affairs books now often tend to be more or less cubical … or perhaps algebraic.”

“The story of how Oppenheimer guided the creation of the atomic bomb, then later became the object of Cold War paranoia, is important enough to merit the 736 pages that Bird and Sherwin devote to it,” McLemee wrote in Newsday. “But experience suggests that a book of such length is often a set of research notes reshuffled via the cut-and-paste function.

“Not so, in this case,” he added. “’American Prometheus’ is true to its title: the really titanic biography of a figure whose motives and legacy were incredibly complex. I couldn’t imagine the book being any shorter.”



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