George Packer

Guillermo Riveros

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century

Published by Alfred A. Knopf

This book recounts the life of the American diplomat Richard Holbrooke and, especially, the three wars in which he was deeply involved—Vietnam at the start of his career, Bosnia at its height, and Afghanistan at its end. Using a fictional narrator to tell a strictly factual account, drawing on exclusive access to Holbrooke’s rich personal papers, the book provides an intimate character study of idealism and egotism, humanitarian purpose and self-blindness, to trace the waxing and waning of America's democratic health and global leadership during the later years of what’s called the American Century. 


George Packer has been a New Yorker staff writer since 2003. His book The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq was named one of the ten best books of 2005 by the New York Times, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award. He has contributed numerous articles, essays, and reviews to The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Harper’s, and other publications. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and has taught writing at Harvard, Bennington, and Columbia. His most recent book, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, won the National Book Award. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

The grant jury: Irreverent, fast-paced, and unfailingly rigorous, this is nonfiction writing that breaks new ground.  In choosing to relate the staunchly accurate biography of an "almost-great man" from the point of view of a fictional narrator, George Packer has given himself many degrees of freedom not usually available to an authorized biographer. This masterly account reads like a literary novel of the highest order while providing an insightful look into the deeper nature of power and the lives of those who hold it. Packer realized that to tell the story of this giant of diplomacy, whose diaries reflect his involvement in three wars, was also to draw a map of our successes and failures. As Holbrooke, so America. He has created an enthralling nonfiction picaresque that offers incisive clues to the complexities this country faces today.