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The 68-year-old Foner called the award a capstone for his career. He has won multiple honors for work focused on the Lincoln era and Reconstruction.

“The Pulitzer has a kind of broader importance and stature suggesting that your book is appreciated by a wider audience, a non-scholarly audience,” Foner said.

He said it can be intimidating approaching a book on Lincoln, who has been written about so much before.

But he said that many Lincoln books either try to put the Civil War president on a pedestal or tear him down, and that he was trying to get a balanced view on a specific topic seen through the lens of that period in history.


BIOGRAPHY: “Washington: A Life,” by Ron Chernow (The Penguin Press).

Chernow, 62, called the nation’s first president “the most famously elusive figure in American history.”

The Pulitzer committee called his book “a sweeping, authoritative portrait of an iconic leader learning to master his private feelings in order to fulfill his public duties.”

He said he sought to bring that figure to life, so people today could understand what made Washington such a popular figure in his time.

A frequent lecturer who has made several television appearances on historical topics, Chernow has also written biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John D. Rockefeller. He won the National Book Award in 1990 for “The House of Morgan.”


POETRY: “The Best of It: New and Selected Poems,” by Kay Ryan (Grove Press).

Born in San Jose, Calif., in 1945, Ryan has remained in California’s Marin County, where she lives with her longtime partner, Carol Adair.

Ryan taught remedial English part-time at the College of Marin, but over time she would establish herself as one of the country’s most original poets.

“I suppose it sounds like a cliche, but poetry came and got me,” Ryan said. “I came to it very reluctantly, but it insisted. It just was going to have me, that’s all there is to it. Therefore, I was going to have to find out how to do it. I didn’t seem to have any aptitude for doing it the popular ways at the time.”

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