Finalist: The Tiger, by John Vaillant

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

by John Vaillant (Alfred A. Knopf)

Any good thriller has a moment wherein the stalker suddenly becomes the stalked, and John Vaillant’s The Tiger is no exception. In almost every other way, however, Vaillant’s book is exceptional. In this intense chronicle, we learn about an age-old balance between humans and tigers in Russia’s Far East, a sort of code of conduct whereby the two species have lived side by side without conflict for hundreds of years. But this would be a very different story had not the interspecies pact been broken. Vaillant has written a painstaking portrait of a particular Siberian tiger that appears to have gone rogue, and of the poachers, hunters, and trackers who walk the same stretches of taiga in search of resolution. There is plenty of trudging through snow, crime-scene forensics, and at least one particularly spine-chilling encounter, about which Vaillant writes: “Nothing exists now but the tiger, filling his field of vision like a bad accident, like the end of the world: a pair of blazing yellow lanterns over a temple door framed with ivory columns.” John Vaillant’s The Tiger is a staggering work that will have you turning pages like mad.

–Jennifer Sahn, Selection Committee

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