UC Berkeley, Daily Californian alumnus named Pulitzer Prize finalist for biography

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UC Berkeley alumnus and renowned author Max Boot was named a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for biography or autobiography.

Boot, a former columnist for The Daily Californian, is well-known for his work on the Council on Foreign Relations, his national security column in the Washington Post and his global affairs analysis for CNN.

During his time at the Daily Cal, Boot covered Berkeley City Hall as a news reporter, later transitioning to write the first opinion column of his career. His relatively conservative column became a source of controversy in the more liberal Berkeley community — a community member once threw a brick through a window of the Daily Cal office with a discourteous note attached because Boot’s column had upset them. Another time, Boot received a bullet in the mail with his name on it.

“Being on the Daily Cal was a great learning experience for me,” Boot said. “It was not your usual college experience.”

Since graduating from UC Berkeley, Boot has served as the senior foreign policy adviser for several Republican presidential candidates, though he said he no longer identifies himself as conservative. Boot received the opportunity to become a foreign policy adviser through  his work on the Council on Foreign Relations. He was later named a fellow for the council after working at the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal.

Boot’s transition from writing opinion articles to working on foreign policy resulted from his 2002 book, “The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power.” The book prompted the then-president of the Council on Foreign Relations to give him an opportunity to join the council, according to Boot.

The most recent book written by Boot, “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam,” took five years to make and helped him clinch his Pulitzer Prize recognition. In the biography, Boot takes a unique look at the life of American Maj. Gen. Edward Lansdale during the Vietnam War and uncovers documents that have never before been written about.

“(Boot) is a lot like Lansdale — he’s a bit of a contrarian, but knows what’s right,” said Robert Weil, Boot’s editor. “He has a clearer vision than most.”

Boot is one of seven UC Berkeley alumni and one of three Daily Cal alumni who were recognized this year by the Pulitzer Prize Board for their work, either by winning or being named as finalists.

“I think it’s incredible that, first of all, three alumni this year were either winners or finalists … in such a diverse range of specialties and areas,” said Daily Cal Editor in Chief Harini Shyamsundar. “I think that’s a testament to how much we do at the Daily Cal.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.