The action at TMN’s Tournament of books continues. Judge Marcus Sakey shocked the world by selecting The Emperor’s Children over The Echo Maker, which was, to my mind, the presumptive favorite having taken down the National Book Award and all manner of praise from critics spanning the globe. But this, folks, is why we play the games. The Echo Maker going down early hurts our chances to win this thing as we had it going all the way (my pdf bracket). Luckily, a number of other folks had the book going far as well, so the damage is somewhat limited. In other news, the little rat that could, Firmin, made it through round one, selected by judge Sarah Hepola over Brookland, which she found to be “so boring.”
This year's "Genius grant" winners have been announced. The MacArthur grant awards $625,000 “no strings attached” to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Alongside scientists, artists and scholars are some newly minted geniuses with a literary focus. This year’s literary geniuses are: Maggie Nelson is known best for her non-fiction. Often described as some combination of "lyrical" and "philosophical," Nelson's five book-length works of nonfiction have won her a steadfast following. She might be described as a "writer's writer." The evidence is in how often her books are named by other writers in our annual Year in Reading series. Bluets, a meditation on the color blue, won praise from David Shields ("utterly brilliant"), Stephen Elliott ("excellent"), Haley Mlotek ("I read Bluets twice in the same plane ride."), Leslie Jamison, Jaquira Díaz, and Margaret Eby. Meaghan O'Connell wrote of Nelson, "She is one of those people for me, writers who I want to cross all boundaries with, writers from whom I ask too much. She makes me want more than, as a reader, I deserve. She already gives us more than we deserve. It isn’t fair." Many of the above writers also praised Nelson's more recent The Argonauts, "a genre-bending memoir," as did Bijan Stephen, Olivia Laing ("It thinks deeply and with immense nuance and grace"), Karolina Waclawiak ("I found myself underlining on nearly every page"), and Parul Sehgal. Nelson herself appeared in our Year in Reading last year, shining light on books by Eileen Myles and Ellen Miller, among others. Claudia Rankine, poet, has received especially wide acclaim for her "provocative meditation on race" Citizen: An American Lyric, a book that (perhaps along with Between the World and Me by last year's "Genius" Ta-Nehisi Coates) that can be pointed to as a literary catalyst. Many may have first become aware of Rankine earlier this year, when her book -- wielded as an object of protest -- was caught by cameras behind a ranting Donald Trump at one of his rallies. MacArthur rightly describes Rankine as "a critical voice in current conversations about racial violence." Ed Simon named Citizen this moment's best candidate in his search for America's great epic poem. In its announcement, MacArthur says artist and writer Lauren Redniss "is an artist and writer seamlessly integrating artwork, written text, and design elements in works of visual nonfiction. Redniss undertakes archival research, interviews and reportage, and field expeditions to inform every aspect of a book’s creation, from its text, to its format and page layout, to the design of the typeface, to the printing and drawing techniques used for the artwork." Redniss is probably best-known for 2011 National Book Award finalist Radioactive, a vibrantly illustrated biography of pioneering scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. Our own Hannah Gersen described it as "elaborately beautiful." Gene Luen Yang has smashed stereotypes with his vibrant graphic novels, American Born Chinese, The Eternal Smile (with Derek Kirk Kim), and Boxers & Saints. Our 2010 interview with Yang explored his influences and his work. The lone playwright to be named a "genius" this year is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. "Many of Jacobs-Jenkins’s plays use a historical lens to satirize and comment on modern culture, particularly the ways in which race and class are negotiated in both private and public settings." Sarah Stillman has become a byline to look for in The New Yorker, carrying out journalistic investigations that have raised public outrage and spurred recalcitrant politicians into action. "Taken" is perhaps her best-known article. It investigates how local police forces have used the principal of "civil asset forfeiture" to plunder citizens and enrich themselves.
The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award has unveiled its massive 2013 longlist. Recall that libraries around the world can nominate books for the prize, and these nominations, taken together, comprise the longlist. This year there are 154 novels on the list, nominated by 120 libraries in 44 countries. All of the books must have been published in English in 2011 (including translations). Because of the award’s global reach and egalitarian process, it’s always interesting to dig deeper into the longlist. Taken as a whole, the literary tendencies of various countries become evident, and a few titles recur again and again, revealing which books have made a global impact on readers. Overall favorites: books that were nominated by at least seven libraries. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (15 libraries representing Australia, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United States) The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (9 libraries representing Belgium and the United States) The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (9 libraries representing Canada, Ireland, and the United States) The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (9 libraries representing Austria, Ireland, Norway, and the United States) The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (7 libraries representing Belgium, Canada, and the United States) The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst (7 libraries representing Belgium, the Czech Republic, England, Greece, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States) You can also look at the list and see which books are favorites in different countries. Several books were nominated by multiple libraries in the same country. Here’s a few: In Canada, Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan In Australia, Autumn Laing by Alex Miller In New Zealand, The Conductor by Sarah Quigley In the Netherlands, Julia by Otto de Kat, The Book of Doubt by Tessa de Loo, and Caesarion by Tommy Wieringa There were also several countries with only one library nominating just one or two books. Here are a few of those: From Iceland, The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma From India, The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya From Jamaica, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay by Gillian Royes From Mexico, My Two Worlds by Sergio Chejfec From Sweden, The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson
This year's Costa (renamed from the Whitbread thanks to a change in sponsorship) Award winners have been named in several categories. The prize typically plays second fiddle to the heavyweight Booker, but some might appreciate its refreshing lack of fanfare, drama, and controversy (which seem to accompany the Booker and which some consider part of its charm). Still, the Costa consistently comes up with solid winners, and its "first novel" category is good at "discovering" new writers. This year's winners across five categories are:Novel: Restless by William BoydFirst Novel: The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef PenneyChildren's Book: Set in Stone by Linda NewberyPoetry: Letter to Patience by John HaynesBiography: Keeping Mum: A Wartime Childhood by Brian Thompson
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The winners and finalists for the Pultizer Prize were announced today. I had recently speculated that The Road wasn't a "typical Pulitzer candidate" in that the Pulitzer typically recognizes books that are less post-apocalyptic, but The Road suddenly appears unstoppable. (Note as well that we now officially have a book that was picked by Oprah before it won the Pulitzer. I bet that surprises some people.) Here are this year's Pulitzer winners and finalists with excerpts where available:Fiction:Winner: The Road by Cormac McCarthyAfter This by Alice McDermott - excerptThe Echo Maker by Richard Powers - excerptGeneral Nonfiction:Winner: The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright - excerptCrazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness by Pete EarleyFiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks - excerptHistory:Winner: The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff - excerptMiddle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005 by James T. CampbellMayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick - excerptBiography:Winner: The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher by Debby Applegate - excerptJohn Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty by Arthur H. Cash - excerpt (pdf)Andrew Carnegie by David NasawWinners and finalists in other categories are available at the Pulitzer Web site.
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Forget the longlist. The Booker Prize shortlist is here, and favorites Peter Carey and David Mitchell didn't make the cut, clearing the field for lesser known writers as the Guardian describes. Those that did make the list are:The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai - ExcerptThe Secret River by Kate Grenville - ExcerptCarry Me Down by M.J. Hyland - ExcerptIn the Country of Men by Hisham Matar - ExcerptMother's Milk by Edward St. Aubyn - ExcerptThe Night Watch by Sarah Waters - ExcerptBonus Links: The new favorite? According to the oddsmakers, it's Sarah Waters by a wide margin. Maud collects reviews and interviews to accompany the shortlist.
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The National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced last night and the hardware keeps piling up for Hilary Mantel. Wolf Hall has already taken home the Booker Prize (and is in the running for the Rooster). Mantel's book has also held a spot in our Top Ten of late. In the non-fiction category, the prize went to The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes. In the criticism category, the prize went to Eula Biss' Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays, which was endorsed by both Nick Flynn and Cristina Henríquez in our Year in Reading last year. Rounding out the rest of the winners, autobiography went to Diana Athill for Somewhere Towards the End, biography to Blake Bailey for Cheever, and poetry to Rae Armantrout for Versed.
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Back in January I briefly made mention of something called the WHSmith Award. It's a British award that is determined by public opinion. People vote from a list of nominated finalists to determine the best book of the year. After 148,000 votes cast, they have announced the winners in eight categories, including the latest Harry Potter in the fiction category, Brick Lane by Monica Ali for best debut novel, Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It by Geoff Dyer for travel books, and Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?, in something called the "factual" category. So as not turn over complete control to the masses, the also give out an award called the "Judges' Choice," which was awarded to the American writer, Richard Powers for his dense critical favorite, The Time of Our Singing. As I said when I first found out about this award, I would be very interested to see the results of an American award determined by popular vote. A lot more Americans read than people think, so an astute businessperson could, in my opinion, do quite well creating an award like this to fill the void. Here are the complete results of the 2004 WHSmith Awards.