By now you’ve read the result, Toni Morrison’s A Mercy edged out Tom Piazza’s City of Refuge to win The Tournament of Books. Now, if I were a betting man, and it were possible to bet on the Pulitzer winner, I’d bet on A Mercy. Why? The Tournament of Books has called the Pulitzer winner the last two years running. In 2008, Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao took home the Pulitzer on the heels of the Rooster. And in 2007, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road saw its Pulitzer win presaged by not just a Rooster, but also its unlikely companion, an Oprah’s book club pick. On April 20th, we’ll see if the Rooster still has the jump on America’s oldest literary prize.
The 2016 National Book Award winners were announced tonight in New York City. The big prize for Fiction went to Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. The #1 bestseller has drawn praise from both Obama and Oprah, and in his review for our site, Greg Walkin noted how “Whitehead’s brilliance is on constant display” throughout:
After five previous novels, each very different, this is the only thing we can count on. It’s hard to imagine a new novel farther from Whitehead’s last, the zombie thriller Zone One. The Underground Railroad shares some features with his debut work, The Intuitionist, and his second novel, John Henry Days; both novels confront issues of race and American history through less-than-straightforward methods — a Whitehead signature.
The Nonfiction award went to Ibram X. Kendi for Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. The Poetry award was won by Daniel Borzutzky for The Performance of Becoming Human. The winners in the Young People’s Literature category were John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell for March: Book Three. See our review of Book One in the series.
Longtime readers will recall my interest in a fairly obscure literary prize called the Lettre Ulysses Award, which recognizes works of book-length journalism from around the world. I wrote about the shortlist and winner in 2005 and the longlist and winner in 2006. Thinking it might be time for this year’s installment of the Lettre Ulysses, I recently visited the award’s website and was dismayed to discover that the award is on hiatus, perhaps permanently:The Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage will not be presented in 2007. The only world prize for literary reportage was brought to life by the cultural quarterly Lettre International in 2003 with the financial support of the Aventis Foundation and was presented annually up until 2006. The Goethe-Institut has been a partner of the project from the very beginning. Since the contract with the Aventis Foundation expired the Foundation Lettre International Award has not succeeded so far in finding a new partner to finance the award. The organizers hope to be able to present the award again annually from 2008.I’m hoping that Lettre Ulysses is successful in finding backing for next year. Though not a well-known prize, it highlighted the work of reporters around the world who shed light on conflicts and cultures that deserve global attention.
Last night, the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Award were announced in New York City. The award is voted on by critics and considers all books in English (including in translation), no matter the country of origin. The winners in the various categories and some supplementary links:
Nonfiction: Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration (excerpt)
Criticism: Clare Cavanagh, Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West
Biography: Sarah Bakewell, How To Live: Or, A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (at The Millions, excerpt)
Poetry: C. D. Wright, One with Others
Previously: The finalists
As others have mentioned, the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced last night. Here they are with some links to excerpts and/or reviews if you want to know more about the books:Fiction: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – excerpt, reviewNonfiction: The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch – excerpt, reviewBiography: De Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan – reviewPoetry: The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004 by Adrienne Rich – listen to Rich readCriticism: Where You’re at: Notes from the Frontline of a Hip Hop Planet by Patrick Neate – excerpt
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.”)The Boat by Nam Le (see Edan’s interview with Nam)America, America by Ethan CaninFine Just the Way It Is by Annie ProulxIndignation by Phillip RothThe Good Thief by Hannah TintiEdan 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”)Home by Marilynne RobinsonThe Lazarus Project by Aleksandar HemonAtmospheric Disturbances by Rivka GalchenA Better Angel by Chris AdrianLush Life by Richard Price (a “sleeper” pick)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:Max:Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa LahiriThe Monsters of Templeton by Lauren GroffPeople of the Book by Geraldine BrooksCity of Thieves by David BenioffHome by Marilynne RobinsonShare 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.