Ask a Book Question: The 66th in a Series (A Little NBA Speculation)

October 1, 2008 | 15 books mentioned 8 2 min read

Chall writes in with this question:

Any National Book Award predictions?

Awards season is upon us. The Booker shortlist is out, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced in the next week or so, and the National Book Award finalists will be named on October 15th. Chall’s question gives us an excuse to engage in a bit of speculation, though we’ll stick with fiction for the most part. Offering up some guesses at who might make the NBA cut are Garth and Edan, our two contributors most plugged in to the latest in contemporary fiction.

Edan: (some of whose guesses were “completely pulled from thin air, for no reason.”)

Edan also likes An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken and The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston in non-fiction.

Garth: (“Edan’s got some good stuff going on with her picks. I think there will be at least one debut author and one book of short stories, and The Boat is a good call. The Canin is interesting, too, as he’s well-regarded and this book hasn’t gotten as much ink as it might have. For the sake of doing something different, I’m going to go another way”)

Incidentally, both also wanted to pick Netherland by Joseph O’Neill, which was recently snubbed by the Booker. But I don’t think O’Neill is a U.S. citizen, and that would disqualify him from the NBA. And here are a few of my guesses:


Share your picks in the comments below. Name up to five books, and the whoever is closest will get bragging rights. Remember: only books with “scheduled publication dates between December 1, 2007 and November 30, 2008” are eligible. And the author must be a U.S. citizen.

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  1. Two books that I didn't see on your lists: Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, which is my favorite book of the year, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which got a lot of hype this summer and is now an Oprah pick (I liked it a lot, but I do think it is overpraised.)

    Would love to see The Good Thief and Unaccustomed Earth make the list.

  2. The Lahiri is a great pick, Max. I really enjoyed City of Thieves, and considered adding it to my list, but ultimately I think it's entertaining above all else, and the NBA tends to nominate works that are perhaps bolder in structure, voice and theme. Am I wrong? Also, since books that I can't get through always seem to be cherished (i.e., The Remainder by Tom McCarthy), maybe Atmospheric Disturbances has a shot.

  3. I second both "The Boat" and "Unaccustomed Earth." For nonfiction, "Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unraveling of Life in Iraq" by Farnaz Fassihi certainly deserves a slot on the short list.

  4. Lush Life will probably be nominated, and even though it's not his best novel to date, Paul Auster's Man in the Dark might have a chance.

  5. Thanks for the positing.

    *Netherland* was near the top of my list as well. Liked *Atmospheric Disturbances*, but also got bored at times–an almost identical reaction to *Fieldwork* last year, so who knows.

    *Serena* by Ron Rash, who lives near me here in North Carolina, might also be a sleeper pick.

    I just got the feeling that we didn't have any really headscramblingly good books from the US this year, no *Tree of Smoke*'s or *The Road*'s, et al. Guess we'll just have to wait–I hear that there's a good chance of a new Cormac book coming down the pipe late next summer…something to look forward to I reckon…


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