Sometimes it seems like all there is to write about is book awards. The National Book Awards are handed out, but wait, here are the Whitbread finalists. The Whitbread, Britain’s second most prestigious prize after the Booker, is, it seems to me, at a disadvantage. Since the Whitbread comes out only a couple of months after the Booker, the selections are compared in the press. If the Whitbread too closely mirrors the Booker, it loses some of its punch, but if the judges pick a shortlist with no overlap with the Booker, the Whitbread is criticized for being too obscure. This year, the only overlap with the Booker is that they have both shortlisted Ali Smith’s The Accidental. As was much remarked when the Booker list was announced, many well-known authors have books out this year: Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Zadie Smith and Julian Barnes, among others. None of those made the Whitbread list, a fact that seems likely to have prompted head judge Philippa Gregory’s defensive sounding remark in the Guardian: “Our shortlist may confuse the book trade. We are not saying these are the only good books. They are books which happened to resonate powerfully with the judges of the moment.” The list does include two notable names: Salman Rushdie for Shalimar the Clown and Nick Hornby for A Long Way Down. Rounding out the fiction list is Cotton by Christopher Wilson (which, since it is going by a different title in England, has been much misrepresented in the press, as the Literary Saloon points out.) For the finalists in all the categories, visit the Whitbread site.
The finalists for the annual National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award are now out. The fiction list includes four books by women, three of which have already gotten some award love from the National Book Award and the Booker Prize. The other two books have received strong notices from reviewers and buzz from bloggers. Here are the finalists for fiction and non-fiction with excerpts and other links where available. As a side note, the NBCC award is particularly interesting in that it is one of the few major awards that pits American books against overseas (usually British) books. Fiction Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (excerpt, NBA shortlisted) Marlon James, The Book of Night Women (excerpt) Michelle Huneven, Blame (excerpt, Huneven's writing at The Millions) Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (excerpt, Booker winner) Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (excerpt, NBA shortlisted) Nonfiction Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (excerpt, NBA shortlisted) Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (excerpt) Tracy Kidder, Strength in What Remains (excerpt) William T. Vollmann, Imperial (excerpt, a Millions Most Anticipated book) For more on the NBCC Awards and the finalists in the other categories, check out the NBCC's blog.
You may have heard. In a surprise upset, the Booker Prize was awarded to Alan Hollinghurst for Line of Beauty. Oddsmakers, literary professionals, and speculating bloggers all considered David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas to be a lock, but the Booker, as is so often the case, proved too wily to predict. The award will lead to many newspaper write-ups (NYT reg req'd), and a big boost in sales, although, from the looks of things, I would expect relatively modest Vernon God Little numbers rather than blockbuster best seller list Life of Pi numbers. With the Booker overwith, all eyes turn towards the National Book Awards, which will be announced on November 17th. A look at the non-fiction finalists.Bookspotting on the ElI meant to link to this post from Conversational Reading a while ago as it really captures the particular afflictions of many book lovers. His first question caught my eye: "Do you surreptitiously observe what people are reading on public transit?" Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows that I have the odd habit of posting about the books I spot people reading during the course of my day. (Bookspotting I call it.) Some might find this odd, but I think it's fascinating, and better than any newspaper article or bestseller list at seeing what books people are interested in. Sure you lots of people reading the bestsellers, but you also see a delightfully random sampling of the books that our fellow citizens bury their noses in each day. Some my find this to be an odd hobby, but I it manages to affirm my faith in civilization. Here are the three books that I noticed from my seat on the Red Line today: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (Morrison is an essential of American lit), The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (I'd wager that this book has been a huge seller here in Chicago), and Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare (I love seeing people casually reading Shakespeare on their way to work).
The Pulitzer jury named Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer this year's winner in the fiction category. Here are this year's Pulitzer winners and finalists with bonus links: Fiction: Winner: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Nguyen's Year in Reading 2015) Get in Trouble: Stories by Kelly Link (Memory is a Mysterious Machine: The Millions Interviews Kelly Link) Maud's Line by Margaret Verble General Nonfiction: Winner: Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran by Carla Power History: Winner: Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War by Brian Matthew Jordan Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor by James M. Scott Biography or Autobiography: Winner: Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander Poetry: Winner: Ozone Journal by Peter Balakian Alive: New and Selected Poems by Elizabeth Willis Four-Legged Girl by Diane Seuss Winners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.
● ● ●
A year after declining to present the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the jurors went ahead and named a winner this year. Perhaps nudged by the North Korea's mad, headline-grabbing sabre-rattling, the award has gone to Adam Johnson's novel of the hermit kingdom, The Orphan Master's Son. Nathan Englander and Eowyn Ivey were the other fiction finalists. Here are this year's Pulitzer winners and finalists with bonus links: Fiction: Winner: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson - (excerpt) What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander (Englander's Year in Reading, excerpt) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey General Nonfiction: Winner: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (The Millions Interview) The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature by David George Haskell (excerpt) History: Winner: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall (excerpt) The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn (excerpt) Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History by John Fabian Witt (excerpt) Biography: Winner: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss (excerpt) Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece by Michael Gorra (excerpt) The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy by David Nasaw (excerpt) Winners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.
● ● ●
The winners of the 2004 National Book Awards have been announced:Fiction: The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck (excerpt)Non-fiction: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle (excerpt)Young People's Literature: Godless by Pete Hautman (excerpt)Poetry: Door In The Mountain: New And Collected Poems, 1965-2003 by Jean Valentine (poems)
Even though it was undoubtedly the work of literary fiction that engendered the most excitement during 2008, by dint of its South American pedigree Roberto Bolaño's 2666 wasn't eligible for most of the English-speaking world's literary awards. However, the National Book Critics Circle, which doesn't place many limits on who is eligible for its annual award, saw fit to recognize the book. The full slate of winners:Fiction: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (Why Bolaño Matters, excerpt)Poetry (two winners): Sleeping it Off in Rapid City by August Kleinzahler and Half of the World in Light by Juan Felipe HerreraCriticism: Children's Literature: A Reader's History by Seth Lerer (Lerer's Year in Reading at The Millions)Biography: The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul by Patrick French (a Year in Reading pick)Autobiography: My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq by Ariel SabarNonfiction: The Forever War by Dexter Filkins (excerpt)
Australian novelist Richard Flanagan has won this year's Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The book begins: Why at the beginning of things is there always light? Dorrigo Evans’ earliest memories were of sun flooding a church hall in which he sat with his mother and grandmother. A wooden church hall. Blinding light and him toddling back and forth, in and out of its transcendent welcome, into the arms of women. Women who loved him. Like entering the sea and returning to the beach. Over and over. The book is the story of an Australian prisoner of war, among more than 9,000 who were forced to build a railway through Burma and Thailand. Michael Gorra for the New York Times Book Review drew comparisons to Conrad and Zola and called it formally demanding but also "carefully and beautifully constructed." Revisit this year's Booker Shortlist.
● ● ●