Conversation: T.J. Stiles, National Book Award Winner for Nonfiction

BY Tom LeGro  November 25, 2009 at 11:24 AM EST

The winner of this year’s National Book Award for nonfiction tells the story of Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt, who rose from humble means to amass a vast fortune, build the country’s largest fleet of steamships, erect the original Grand Central Depot in New York and control a railroad empire. Simply put, Vanderbilt helped to shape our modern corporate economy, often ruthlessly.

The author of “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt” is T.J. Stiles, who also wrote “Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War,” a finalist for the 2003 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Stiles joined us by phone earlier this week: