2015 National Book Awards: Nonfiction

The National Book Award nonfiction longlist
The National Book Award nonfiction longlist was released on Sept. 16.
Courtesy of National Book Foundation

The National Book Foundation unveiled the longlist for its nonfiction prize this morning.

Many of the longlist authors have made their names in other artistic genres, be it poetry or photography. The selected books touch on history, science, race and the writers' own personal journeys.

The finalists will be announced Oct. 14, and the winner will be announced Nov. 18.

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National Book Awards longlist: Nonfiction

"Rain" by Cynthia Barnett

This is the first book to tell the story of rain. It weaves together science and history, describing everything from how rain drops get their signature shape to the surprising origins of the raincoat.

"Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates' book describes his experiences as a black man growing up and coming of age in modern America. Toni Morrison proclaimed it "required reading."

"Mourning Lincoln" by Martha Hodes

Working from diaries, letters and other personal writing from the spring and summer of 1865, Hodes explores how the country grieved — or celebrated — the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

"Hold Still" by Sally Mann

Mann is best known for her photography, but in her new memoir, she lets the audience in behind the pictures. She writes about her Southern childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and how she came into her own as a mother and a photographer.

"The Soul of an Octopus" by Sy Montgomery

In 2011, Montgomery wrote an article about her friendship with an octopus. It quickly became a sensation. In "Soul," she returns to the subject, exploring the emotional and physical world of the octopus and how they can connect with humans.

"Paradise of the Pacific" by Susanna Moore

Moore unspools the rich and tangled history of Hawaii in "Paradise." Formed by oceanic volcanoes, the island chain has greeted new arrivals over the centuries. First came birds, then Polynesian adventurers, then Spanish explorers. The book focuses on Hawaii's 18th century dramas, when cultures and countries clashed.

"Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays" by Michael Paterniti

In this collection of essays, Paterniti explores happiness, grief, memory and the power of human connection as he travels the globe. He picks apples with a real-life giant in Ukraine, confronts a jumper on a suicide bridge in China and watches racial tensions unfold in Kansas.

"If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran" by Carla Power

Power's book explores her longtime friendship with a madrasa-trained sheikh. As a secular journalist who grew up in the Midwest and the Middle East, Power writes about her spirited debates with her friend regarding religion and culture.

"Ordinary Light" by Tracy K. Smith

Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, shines a light on her own past in her new memoir. She writes about her suburban California childhood, her time at Harvard and her struggle as a young woman to understand what it means to be black in America.

"Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir" by Michael White

When White found his personal life falling apart, he turned to the paintings of Vermeer — an artist obsessed with romance. In "Travels," he writes about finding solace in art as he visited Vermeer's paintings in Amsterdam, London, New York and other locales.