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Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World [Hardcover]

Jay Nordlinger

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Book Description

March 27 2012
In this book, Jay Nordlinger gives a history of what the subtitle calls “the most famous and controversial prize in the world.” The Nobel Peace Prize, like the other Nobel prizes, began in 1901. So we have a neat, sweeping history of the 20th century, and about a decade beyond. The Nobel prize involves a first world war, a second world war, a cold war, a terror war, and more. It contends with many of the key issues of modern times, and of life itself.

It also presents a parade of interesting people—more than a hundred laureates, not a dullard in the bunch. Some of these laureates have been historic statesmen, such as Roosevelt (Teddy) and Mandela. Some have been heroes or saints, such as Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Some belong in other categories—where would you place Arafat? Controversies also swirl around the awards to Kissinger, Gorbachev, Gore, and Obama, to name just a handful.

Probably no figure in this book is more interesting than a non-laureate: Alfred Nobel, the Swedish scientist and entrepreneur who started the prizes. The book also addresses “missing laureates,” people who did not win the peace prize but might have, or should have (Gandhi?).

Peace, They Say is enlightening and enriching, and sometimes even fun. It has its opinions, but it also provides what is necessary for readers to form their own opinions. What is peace, anyway? All these people who have been crowned “champions of peace,” and the world’s foremost—should they have been? Such is the stuff this book is made on.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 476 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (March 27 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594035989
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594035982
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 15 x 23 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 703 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #388,659 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review


“This delightful book entertained me and enriched my knowledge. How many books do that? If you pick it up, I defy you to put it down until you’ve finished it.”

Lou Cannon, historian and journalist

“In an absorbingly well-researched, well-written and thoughtful history of the Peace Prize . . . Nordlinger looks with a critical but not jaundiced eye at the laureates. . . . In the course of his deliberations he has thought deeply about what genuinely constitutes peace.”

Andrew Roberts, historian

“A masterly book, which dissects its notoriously controversial subject with precision, elegance, and wit. A splendid job!”

Solomon Volkov, Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe

“. . . like a history of the modern world, told through the prism of the prize, full of characters both familiar and unfamiliar, and well written in the style we’ve come to expect.”

John J. Miller, author, director of journalism at Hillsdale College

About the Author

Jay Nordlinger is a senior editor of National Review. He writes about a variety of subjects, including politics, foreign affairs, and the arts. He is music critic for The New Criterion and City Arts (New York), as well as for NR. He has won awards for his work on human rights, in particular. Some 100 pieces are gathered in Here, There & Everywhere: Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger. A native Michigander, the author lives in New York.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and Fair May 12 2012
By LesLein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As far back as 1964 William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote "Any redblooded Westerner should think twice before accepting a Nobel award, precisely because to do so is to lend the recipient's prestige not merely to the idiosyncratic criteria the Committee uses, but to its political relativism." While I admire Jay Nordlinger's work at the magazine Buckley founded, I was concerned that this work would be an extended opinion peace on the Nobel committee's biases.

Fortunately, this isn't the case. Nordlinger is thorough and fair. He provides his own conclusions, but only after summarizing both sides of any controversy. Sometimes he is surprising. For example, Nordlinger doesn't fault the Nobel committee for honoring Yassir Arafat. He understands its motivation to encourage negotiations in the Middle East. In fact Nordlinger notes that the prize is often awarded to works in progress that don't pan out. Occasionally this works out, such as the South African awards.

Another key point is that the Nobel committee often violates Alfred Nobel's will. It is supposed to go to the person who did the most for peace in the preceding year. Instead it is frequently a "lifetime achievement award." One change Nordlinger recommends is to focus less on celebrities. An additional criticism is that the award isn't always directly related to peace between nations. Sometimes the awards are for humantarian or human rights work. These efforts can be very worthwhile, but aren't directly related to peace. A frequent topic is the meaning of "peace." Mr. Nordlinger believes that Nobel believed in deterrence, not pacifism.

Nordlinger provides a brief biography of Alfred Nobel. For each laureate he describes the background of his or her work, the other contenders, debates about the award's merits, and a follow up on what happened later. This last item is sometimes embarrassing. One recipient had falsehoods in her autobiography. Another was undermined by the climategate scandal. Nordlinger also addresses Buckley's concerns about the committee's politics. The committee reflects Norway's politics. This is mostly portrayed positively, but sometimes there's some humbug. For example, the award sometimes reflects ankle-biting against America, yet Norway has no reluctance to live under America's nuclear protection.

The book gets more interesting as it covers more current laureates. I recommend it for those interested in the peace prize and modern international relations.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched history. Feb. 9 2013
By Don L. McCord M.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An outstanding in-depth analysis of history and the setting for the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. It gives a history of Alfred Nobel's life and incentive for establishing the prize. The narrative of the series of awards is detailed. The reactions and acceptance speeches of the recipients are interesting and the variations in the reasons for the awards illustrate the pacifist leanings of the board members. The irony of awarding Yassar Arafat as well as Mother Teresa shows the wide variation in philosophy as well as the changing political climate.
Nordlinger's style is very readable and thought provoking. Highly recommended.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read. June 4 2012
By John B. Farmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very well done. Concise. Engaging writing style. Conservative but liberals would find it fair. Fascinating facts. I like how he interspersed the "parade of laureates" with sections with broader subjects. I highly recommend this book.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Story even better history Nov. 30 2012
By Brian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Nobel Prize! How it has captured our imaginations over the century of its existence and how little I have understood it and the motivations behind it. Nordlinger's book entertains, informs and challenges our thinking and understanding of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Nordlinger's biographical sketches of the early winners are fascinating overview of the early 20th and late 19th century. His more contemporary portraits often do a great job of capturing the times and controversies surrounding these awards. As we find American Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush would never win a peace prize but surely should have the biggest stack of thank you letters from the people who did win. Nearly every single winner in the 21st century owes George Bush a thank you note at the very least.

Mr. Nordlinger's "parade of laureates", his term for his biographical sketches of the winners, could prove tedious in another author's hands but Mr. Nordlinger's wit, good humor and loving attention to his subject carries the day and drives the book along. It left me wishing that he had spent even more time on each laureate instead of less.

By reading this book you will not only have a better understanding of the Prize and how it is given and how it is handled you will have a better idea of the social views, ideas and fads that held sway with Western political elites through the 20th and early 21st centuries. This is book you will come to cherish having in your possession.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peace, They Say July 19 2012
By B. P. Burr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed reading this book. Jay Nordlinger writes in a style that is economical and easy.
I always read his stuff in NR and NRO. Great sense of humor and irony. I particularly have
enjoyed the excerpts of the recipient lectures as well as the recipient introductions.
Although the Nobel committee has embarrassed themselves over the years, who hasn't!
Word to the wise: If you don't think that Ronald Reagan should not have at least been considered
for the Peace Prize, then you probably won't enjoy this book.

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