The Good Lord Bird: A Novel

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The Millions Top Ten: June 2014


We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for June.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
2.

Beautiful Ruins
4 months

2.
9.

A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World
2 months

3.
4.

The Son
3 months

4.
3.

Bark: Stories
3 months

5.
8.

The Good Lord Bird

3 months

6.
7.

Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines
3 months

7.
5.

Just Kids
6 months

8.


Americanah

1 month

9.
6.

Eleanor & Park
3 months

10.
10.

Jesus’ Son: Stories
3 months

 

As I predicted in last month’s write-up, the ascension of The Beggar Maid to our Hall of Fame means that Alice Munro has now officially graduated to the “Top Ten Two Timers Club” (working title) — a nine-member cohort of authors who’ve reached the Hall of Fame for more than one book.

Consequently, space on the Top Ten has opened up for a new number one — Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter — and for a new addition to the list: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which saw a sales bump after it was released in paperback last March, and then again after it was announced that a film adaptation could be on the way. (Of course, being featured on a surprise Beyoncé album never hurts, either.) Millions readers looking for an additional Adichie fix are welcome to check out her contribution to our Year in Reading series, as well.

Meanwhile, Rachel Cantor’s A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World continues to enjoy breakout success among Millions readers. The book takes place in the not-too-far-off future, where “competing giant fast food factions rule the world.” (One could be forgiven for wondering how, exactly, that’s different from the way things are right now.)

Next month, I expect to see multiple books from our recent Most Anticipated list to make it into our Top Ten. After all, two Millions staffers did just publish books last week, you know

Near Misses: Little Failure: A MemoirStories of Anton Chekhov, My Struggle: Book 1, The Fault in Our Stars, and Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: May 2014


We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for May.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
6 months

2.
2.

Beautiful Ruins
3 months

3.
5.

Bark: Stories
2 months

4.
3.

The Son
2 months

5.
4.

Just Kids

5 months

6.
8.

Eleanor & Park
2 months

7.
6.

Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines
2 months

8.
9.

The Good Lord Bird

2 months

9.


A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World
1 month

10.
10.

Jesus’ Son: Stories
2 months

 

In order to graduate to our Hall of Fame, books must remain on the Millions Top Ten for more than six months. The feat has only been accomplished by 82 books in the series’s five year history. Within that subset of hallowed tomes, though, eight authors have attained an even higher marker of success: they’ve reached the Hall of Fame more than once. This accomplishment is remarkable for two reasons: 1) the Top Ten typically favors heavily marketed new releases, so it means that these eight authors have more than once produced blockbusters in the past few years; and 2) because Top Ten graduates must remain on our monthly lists for over half a year before ascending to the Hall of Fame, that means their books must be popular enough to have sustained success. (In other words, marketing only gets you far.)

The names of these eight authors should be familiar to Millions readers, of course. They belong to some of the most successful writers of the past 25 years: David Foster Wallace* (Infinite Jest, The Pale King), Junot Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, This Is How You Lose Her), Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet), Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies), Jonathan Franzen (The Corrections, Freedom), George Saunders (Tenth of December, Fox 8), and — as of this month — Dave Eggers (Zeitoun, The Circle).

(*David Foster Wallace has the unique distinction, actually, of having two of his own books in our Hall of Fame in addition to a biography written about him.)

Even money would seem to indicate that Alice Munro is poised to join this esteemed group next. Her Selected Stories graduated to the Hall of Fame shortly after her Nobel Prize was awarded in 2013, and her collection, The Beggar Maid, has been holding fast ever since. Meanwhile, the surprise re-emergence of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, which has been hovering at the bottom of the Top Ten lists these past two months, indicates that maybe he’ll reach that group soon as well. His novella, Train Dreams, graduated in August of 2012.

Changing gears a bit: the lone new addition to our Top Ten this month in the form of Rachel Cantor’s mouthful of a novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World. The book, which was published last month, was featured in our Great 2014 Book Preview, during which time Millions staffer Hannah Gersen posed the eternal question, “It’s got time travel, medieval kabbalists, and yes, pizza. What more can you ask for?”

What more, indeed?

Near Misses: Little Failure: A MemoirAmericanahStories of Anton Chekhov, My Struggle: Book 1, and Tampa. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: April 2014


We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for April.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
6.

The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
5 months

2.
9.

Beautiful Ruins
2 months

3.


The Son
1 month

4.
8.

Just Kids
4 months

5.


Bark: Stories

1 month

6.


Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines
1 month

7.
10.

The Circle
2 months

8.


Eleanor & Park

1 month

9.


The Good Lord Bird
1 month

10.


Jesus’ Son: Stories
1 month

 

Major shakeups to the April Top Ten were wrought by the graduation of six (count ’em) titles to our Millions Hall of FameThe Goldfinch, Selected Stories, The Flamethrowers, The Luminaries, Draw It With Your Eyes Closed, and The Lowland. This “March 2014” class of ascendants is noteworthy not only for being the biggest single-month Hall of Fame class ever, but also for being one of the most highly-decorated classes in series history. How decorated? Let’s run the tape: Donna Tartt’s novel won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Alice Munro won the last Nobel Prize for Literature. Rachel Kushner’s novel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Eleanor Catton was the winner of last year’s Man Booker Prize. And Jhumpa Lahiri’s work was shortlisted for that same Man Booker Prize. Objectively speaking, this is the biggest and best class to date.

Of course, here at The Millions, our readers have plenty of decorated authors on their “to be read” shelves, and as a result, our Top Ten doesn’t so much rebuild — to borrow the parlance of a college football team — as it reloads.

To wit: we’re replacing a National Book Award finalist, a Pulitzer winner, and a Man Booker winner with two National Book Award winners, a Pulitzer finalist, and Lorrie Moore.

Heading off this new crop of titles is Philipp Meyer’s The Son, which was a Pulitzer finalist this past year, and which was met with critical acclaim for weeks after it was first published. It’s a book that John Davidson described for our site as being, “a sprawling, meticulously researched epic tale set in southern Texas,” and one that “leverages” a “certain theory of Native American societies … to explore the American creation myth.” Indeed, Meyer himself noted in his Millions interview that, “If there’s a moral purpose to the book, it’s to put our history, the history of this country, into a context.”

Additionally, the April Top Ten welcomes James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, which blew past the field at last year’s National Book Awards to claim top prize overall. (The announcement of a movie deal soon followed.) For The Millions, our own Bill Morris sang the work’s praises and he sang them loudly. The book, Morris wrote in his latest Year in Reading piece, is “one of the most astonishing, rollicking, delightful, smart and sad books I’ve read in all my life.” Evidently you listened.

New(ish) releases weren’t the only new additions to our list this month, either. Sneaking into the tenth spot on our list was a classic collection from Denis Johnson, the winner of the National Book Award in 2007. It’s a pity they no longer print the version that fits in your pocket.

And what to say of Lorrie Moore, whose addition to the Vanderbilt faculty last Fall was overshadowed by news of Bark‘s imminent publication? Perhaps it’s best if I let the final paragraph from Arianne Wack’s profile of the author speak for itself:
Exploring the demands of a life is the heart of Moore’s work, and the resonate truth of her prose has fueled a fevered desire for her books. Her characters don’t so much adventure through life as they do drift and stumble through it, making it a map of emotional landmarks, places you keep finding yourself in. One suspects that Moore is not simply writing a life, but cleverly recording yours. There is a commonality linking reader with character, an elastic boundary between her fiction and our reality that both reinforces and subverts one’s own sense of uniqueness. Coming away from one of her stories, one is reminded that we are all just doing this the best we know how.
Or better yet, perhaps I should point you toward our own Edan Lepucki’s summation of Moore’s influence on a generation of American short story writers:
We all came out of Lorrie Moore’s overcoat–or her frog hospital, her bonehead Halloween costume.  If you’re a young woman writer with a comic tendency, and you like similes and wordplay, and you traffic in the human wilderness of misunderstanding and alienation, then you most certainly participate in the Moore tradition.
Lastly, the April Top Ten welcomes two other newcomers as well. Entering the field in the eighth spot is Eleanor & Park, of which Janet Potter proclaimed, “Rarely is a realistic love story a page-turner, but when I got to the end I tweeted: ‘Stayed up til 3 finishing Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Would have stayed up forever.'” (The book is being made into a movie, by the way.) Meanwhile, a collection of portraits entitled Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines enters the list in sixth place, likely owing to its prominence on Hannah Gersen’s list of gift ideas from last year.

Near Misses: AmericanahLittle Failure: A MemoirStories of Anton ChekhovA Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World: A Novel, and Tampa. See Also: Last month’s list.

The Millions Top Ten: March 2014

We spend plenty of time here on The Millions telling all of you what we’ve been reading, but we are also quite interested in hearing about what you’ve been reading. By looking at our Amazon stats, we can see what books Millions readers have been buying, and we decided it would be fun to use those stats to find out what books have been most popular with our readers in recent months. Below you’ll find our Millions Top Ten list for March.

This
Month
Last
Month

Title
On List

1.
1.

The Goldfinch
6 months

2.
2.

Selected Stories
6 months

3.
3.

The Flamethrowers
6 months

4.
4.

The Luminaries
6 months

5.
5.

Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment
6 months

6.
6.

The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose
4 months

7.
8.

The Lowland
6 months

8.
10.

Just Kids
3 months

9.


Beautiful Ruins
1 months

10.


The Circle
1 month

 

The first six spots in the March Top Ten are unchanged from February, and only two newcomers — Beautiful Ruins and The Circle — managed to crack this month’s list. Their arrival was made possible by the ascension of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge to the hallowed ground of our Millions Hall of Fame.

It may come as a surprise to faithful Millions readers that this is the first time Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins has made our Top Ten. First published in 2012, Walter’s novel has been a mainstay in our Year in Reading series ever since. First came the estimable trio of Emma StraubRoxane Gay, and Robert Birnbaum, who by turns referred to the book as “precise, skilled, quick-witted, and warm-hearted,” “one of my favorite books of the year,” and “especially special.” More recently, Kate Milliken commented on how it seems the entire world has read the book already, and that she was late to the party when she got to it in 2013. Of course, that didn’t stop her from diving in, later confirming what others have said all along: “Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins is indeed bumpin’.”

(If you still need more convincing, then know this: the book is on its way to the big screen, too.)

On the other hand, Dave Eggers’s The Circle has hovered outside of the Top Ten ever since Lydia Kiesling identified it as “occup[ying] an awkward place of satire and self-importance.” It wasn’t the most positive review she’s written, but it wasn’t altogether negative, either: “There are noble impulses behind this novel — to prophesy, to warn, and to entertain — and it basically delivers on these fronts.” And if nothing else, Kiesling notes that the book provides a reliable glossary of “awful techno-cum-Landmark Forum-cum-HR-cum-feelings-speak,” which should prove useful for anyone hoping to understand the language of blog posts on TechCrunch, ValleyWag, and other sites devoted to the latest digital secretions from Silicon Valley.

Stay tuned next month for the likely graduation of six titles to our Millions Hall of Fame. Which books will take their places? Will surprises emerge? As with March Madness, the only certainty is uncertainty, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Near Misses: Eleanor & Park, Bark: StoriesThe Son, The Unwinding, Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines, and The Good Lord Bird. See Also: Last month’s list.

Final Round of the Tournament of Books

This year’s Tournament of Books comes to an end today, after nearly a month of analyses, debates and thoughtful arguments. In the final round, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life squares off with James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird, both of which are, in Héctor Tobar’s words, “unorthodox, historical novels.” Now that the verdicts are in, the only question is: who won? (You could also read the quarterfinal judged by our own Lydia Kiesling.)

A Year in Reading: Bill Morris

1.
I went to the National Book Awards ceremony in New York last month for a very simple reason.  I wanted to tell James McBride, in person, what I’m going to tell you now: his novel, The Good Lord Bird, one of five finalists for the fiction award, is the most astonishing book I read all year.  It’s one of the most astonishing, rollicking, delightful, smart and sad books I’ve read in all my life.

“Why, thank you very much,” McBride said from under the brim of his porkpie hat when I bumped into him at the pre-awards cocktail party and told him how I felt about his book.  When I wished him luck at the awards ceremony later in the evening and told him I was pulling for him to win, he waved his arm at the cavernous banquet room and said, “At this point it doesn’t really matter.  It’s all good.”

I didn’t expect McBride to win the National Book Award that night because he was up against bigger names — Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Rachel Kushner — and I long ago stopped believing that artistic awards are based solely on artistic merit.  McBride obviously didn’t expect to win, either, because when his name was called out as the winner for fiction, he stepped to the podium without a prepared speech, visibly surprised.  “I didn’t think I would win today,” he told the crowd of 700.  Then, echoing what he had said to me earlier at the cocktail party, he added, “If any of the others writers had won I wouldn’t feel bad because they’re all fine writers.  But it sure is nice to win.”

And it sure is nice to see such a deserving winner.  The Good Lord Bird is narrated by Henry Shackleford, a young slave in the Kansas territory who is freed by the abolitionist John Brown, then, passing as a girl, follows Brown on his various military and political campaigns, all the way to the disastrous raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, a major catalyst for the Civil War.  (The book’s title refers to the red-headed woodpecker, a bird whose feathers serve as charms, a bird so beautiful that when people see one, they cry, “Good Lord.”)  Henry, known as Henrietta or “Onion” to Brown and his ragtag army, narrates the story in a frontier vernacular that is by turns hilarious, bawdy, and wise.  Her sharpest insights are on race and slavery, and they’re as valid today as they were a century and a half ago.  No one, black or white, slave or free, gets a free ride from Henrietta Shackleford, including Henrietta Shackleford.  Here, for instance, are her thoughts on the lies black people tell themselves: “Fact is, I never knowed a Negro from that day to this but who couldn’t lie to themselves about their own evil while pointing out the white man’s wrong, and I weren’t no exception.”  And here’s Henrietta on what it means to be black: “Being a Negro means showing your best face to the white man every day.  You know his wants, his needs, and watch him proper.  But he don’t know your wants.  He don’t know your needs or feelings or what’s inside you, for you ain’t equal to him in no measure.  You just a nigger to him.  A thing: like a dog or a shovel or a horse.”

The novel has obvious antecedents in the works of Twain and Cervantes, James Baldwin and William Styron.  But its framing device — even its opening lines — owe a debt to another tall tale insinuated from American history, Thomas Berger’s indelible epic of the Indian wars, Little Big Man.  That novel purports to be the tape-recorded reminiscences of 111-year-old Jack Crabb, a white man who was snatched by Cheyenne Indians as a boy and grew up straddling the racial divide, living with both Indians and whites, finally fighting alongside Gen. George Armstrong Custer and becoming the only white survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn.

The Good Lord Bird purports to be the reminiscences of 111-year-old Henry Shackleford, written down by a preacher in 1942, then locked away and finally salvaged from a church fire in 1966.  Instead of straddling the racial divide, Henry crosses other lines — between male and female, freeman and slave, country rube and city slicker — and he winds up in the heat of battle alongside John Brown, becoming the only black survivor of the raid on Harpers Ferry.

Here’s the opening of The Good Lord Bird: “I was born a colored man and don’t you forget it.  But I lived as a colored woman for seventeen years.”  And here’s the opening of Little Big Man: “I am a white man and never forget it, but I was brought up by the Cheyenne Indians from the age of ten.”  Even the climactic battle scenes share a chapter title: McBride’s is “Last Stand”; Berger’s is “The Last Stand.”  (In a follow-up e-mail, McBride acknowledged Berger’s influence, adding that he also drew on the writings of Leon Litwack and Daryl Cumber Dance.)

I don’t buy books or movie tickets based on awards, and I’m proud to be able to say that I bought my copy of The Good Lord Bird before it was nominated for the National Book Award and I finished reading it before the awards ceremony.  That’s not to say I’m opposed to book awards.  As they long as they connect readers with writers — and sell books — I’m all for them.  McBride’s publisher, Riverhead Books, announced that it was printing an additional 45,000 copies of The Good Lord Bird as soon as the award was announced, bringing the number in print to more than 82,000.  I hope they sell like Krispy Kremes.  James McBride is an important and thrilling writer, and he deserves to be widely read.

2.
None of the above is to denigrate the other four fiction finalists for this year’s National Book Award.  As McBride put it, they are all fine writers.  Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, in particular, struck me as a book that announced the arrival of a major talent.  The novel, which roams from the Bonneville salt flats to the downtown New York art scene of the 1970s to the political barricades in Italy, was a stirring expansion of the promise Kushner showed in her 2008 debut, Telex From Cuba, which was also a National Book Award finalist.  Both novels exhibit Kushner’s outsized gifts: her ambition, her narrative dexterity, her ability to paint complex characters and put them in motion in vividly imagined historical settings.  Whether she’s writing about the First World War, pre-revolutionary Cuba, or the 1970s art scene, Kushner succeeds because she understands how to handle her prodigious historical research.  As she told an interviewer, “Just because something is true does not mean it has a place.”

3.
There were other delights this year.  One of the chiefest, because it was so personal, was the publication of Keystone Corruption: A Pennsylvania Insider’s View of a State Gone Wrong, a sweeping history of the chicanery that has been festering under the state capitol’s green dome in Harrisburg, Pa., for more than a century.  It was written by a veteran shoe-leather reporter named Brad Bumsted, who happens to be the man who took me under his wing and taught me the reporter’s craft at the daily newspaper in nearby Chambersburg, Pa., back in the 1970s.  As I wrote in my essay about Keystone Corruption, “Brad is an important reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Good journalism still matters, it still happens, and it is still built on what it was originally built on — not technological innovations, but on the ability of dogged, savvy, intelligent reporters to gather information and quickly turn it into factual, even-handed, and engaging prose. Few people have done it longer than Brad Bumsted. Few do it better.”

4.
Though it was published late last year, I’ve got to mention a gem of a book that should burnish the reputation of a writer who has written five novels that are classics, even though too few people have read them.  Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, edited by Jay Jennings, is a great teeming smorgasbord of Portis’s journalism, travel writing, short stories, drama and memoir.  The book also includes a rare interview with Portis and tributes from admirers, including Roy Blount Jr., Ed Park, and Donna Tartt.  In addition to its abundant wit and wisdom, this book is virtually a connect-the-dots diagram of how Portis the novelist was forged in newspaper city rooms in Tennessee, Arkansas and New York.  I hope it will attract new readers to Portis’s novels, Norwood, True Grit, The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, and Gringos.

5.
Another writer who deserves a wider audience is Nick Turse, who produced a magisterial work of history this year called Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.  Turse argues, persuasively and chillingly, that the mass rape, torture, mutilation ,and slaughter of Vietnamese civilians was not an aberration — not a one-off atrocity called My Lai — but rather the systematized policy of the American war machine.  This book’s lessons, like James McBride’s insights on race, are as valid today as they were when America was blundering its way to a shameful military disaster four decades ago.

6.
A pleasant surprise landed in my mailbox in April — a handsome new paperback edition of They Don’t Dance Much, the only novel James Ross published in his lifetime, now widely regarded as the progenitor of “country noir.”  This new edition, published by Mysterious Press, includes a foreword by Daniel Woodrell, a Ross acolyte who says he first read the novel in the 1970s because George V. Higgins “vouched for it as both literature and a good time.”  A funny, bloody, world-wise tale of violent doings at a North Carolina roadhouse during the Depression, the book was published in 1940 to high praise from Flannery O’Connor, among others, but it sold poorly and soon disappeared.  A new edition appeared in the 1970s, attracting a new generation of fans, including Woodrell.  And now, another three and a half decades after the second edition, we have a third.  As Woodrell writes, “They Don’t Dance Much, a novel that was often declared dead but has never been successfully buried, offers a persuasive portrait of a rough-and-ready America as seen from below, a literary marvel that is once again on its feet and wending its way toward the light.”

7.
Last but far from least, this year the Irish writer Kevin Barry followed up his blistering novel, City of Bohane, with an equally strong collection of stories called Dark Lies the Island.  The man uses the English language like a musical instrument.  I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: You must read Kevin Barry.

More from A Year in Reading 2013

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

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Writing on Mute

Even though James McBride (new National Book Award winner for The Good Lord Bird) is an accomplished jazz musician, he doesn’t listen to any music while writing. “Because I’m a musician, listening to music is…it’s a bit like work for me,” he told The Daily Beast for the “How I Write” series.

2013 National Book Award Winners Announced

The 2013 National Book Award winners were announced tonight in New York City. The big prize for Fiction went to James McBride for The Good Lord Bird. Upon arriving at the podium to accept his honor, the noticeably shocked author quipped, “I didn’t think I would win today. … If any of the other writers had won, I wouldn’t feel bad because they are all fine writers, but it sure is nice to win.” His novel, a “literary rendering of John Brown,” the white abolitionist who led an unsuccessful raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859, deploys an artfulness and an irreverence that, according to one critic, “becomes not a lampooning of champions and calamities but a new kind of homage.”

The Nonfiction award went to George Packer for his “awe-inspiring X-Ray of the modern American soul,” The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. Don’t miss our full review.

The Poetry award was won by Mary Szybist for Incarnadine. During her acceptance, the poet remarked that, “Poetry is the place where speaking differently is the most prevalent.” The winner in the Young People’s Literature category was Cynthia Kadohata for The Thing About Luck.

Earlier in the presentation, E.L. Doctorow accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. As our own Bill Morris attests, the award was well-deserved.

 

Bonus Links: Earlier in the year we dove into both the Shortlist and the Longlist to share excerpts and reviews where available.

Edan Lepucki Interviews the NBA Finalists

Our own Edan Lepucki (who has a novel coming out soon, by the way…) interviewed four of the finalists for this year’s National Book Awards: Tenth of December author George Saunders, The Lowland author Jhumpa Lahiri, The Good Lord Bird author James McBride, and The Flamethrowers author Rachel Kushner. We reviewed both Saunders and Kushner’s works here and here, respectively, and you can also take a look at the rest of the NBA finalists over here.

2013 National Book Award Shortlists Released

| 4

The contenders for the 2013 National Book Award were pared down to a five nominees in each category today. Winners will be announced in New York City on November 20.

Fans of Jhumpa Lahiri will be excited to know that after missing out on yesterday’s Man Booker Prize, the Lowland author is still squarely in the running for the National Book Award. Of course, in order to attain the honor she’s going to have to beat out former Millions Top Ten member George Saunders and Millions favorite Rachel Kushner – as well as previous NBA winner Thomas Pynchon. On the nonfiction list, Millions readers should recognize George Packer’s The Unwinding, which Chris Barsanti called an “awe-inspiring X-Ray of the modern American soul.”

At the final awards ceremony on November 20, each finalist will receive $1,000, and each winner will receive an additional $10,000. Additional awards will also be goven to E.L. Doctorow and Maya Angelou, who will be receiving the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters and the Literarian Award for Outstanding Contribution to the American Literary Community, respectively. The National Book Foundation has also announced that free e-books will be released containing excerpts from each of the works on the shortlist. (We’ll have more on that when it’s available.) Edit: The new e-books are now available for the Fiction Finalists, Nonfiction Finalists, Poetry Finalists, and Young People’s Literature Finalists. (E-books for other platforms are available here.)

Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:

Fiction:

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Millions review, Millions interview)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (excerpt)
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (excerpt)
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (first page, excerpt)
Tenth of December by George Saunders (Millions review)

Nonfiction:

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore (review)
Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer (Millions review)
The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 by Alan Taylor (review)
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright (reviewexcerpt)

Poetry:

Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart (review)
Stay, Illusion by Lucie Brock-Broido (review)
The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka (excerpt)
Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
Incarnadine by Mary Szybist (review)

Young People’s Literature:

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (review)
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata (review)
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (review)

2013 National Book Award Longlists Released

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This year the National Book Award finalists were released in a series of four longlists consisting of ten books apiece. Five finalists in each category will be selected by October 16, and winners will be announced in New York City on November 20.

Last year, the fiction finalists included far more male authors than female, however the count is even in 2013. Millions readers will be delighted to find George Saunders’s latest story collection on the fiction list. The former Top Ten member was reviewed on our site last May. Saunders is joined by Rachel Kushner, whose second novel “operates outside — above? — many of the current arguments about the novel,” according to our own Bill Morris. Likewise, Millions readers should be familiar with George Packer’s “awe-inspiring X-Ray of the modern American soul” on the nonfiction list.

Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available:

Fiction:

Pacific by Tom Drury (excerpt)
The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver (excerpt)
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Millions review, Millions interview)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (excerpt)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (excerpt)
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (excerpt)
Someone by Alice McDermott (excerpt)
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (first page, excerpt)
Tenth of December by George Saunders (Millions review)
Fools by Joan Silber (Millions interview)

Nonfiction:

Finding Florida: The True Story of the Sunshine State by T.D. Allman (excerpt, audiobook excerpt)
Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich (excerpt)
The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. Johnson (excerpt)
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore (review)
Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower
Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861–1865 by James Oakes (review)
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer (Millions review)
The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772–1832 by Alan Taylor (review)
Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington by Terry Teachout (review)
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright (review, excerpt)

Poetry:

Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart (review)
Bury My Clothes by Roger Bonair-Agard (excerpt)
Stay, Illusion by Lucie Brock-Broido (review)
So Recently Rent a World, New and Selected Poems: 1968–2012 by Andrei Codrescu (interview)
Seasonal Works With Letters on Fire by Brenda Hillman (author reading)
The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka (excerpt)
American Amnesiac by Diane Raptosh (excerpt)
Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
Transfer of Qualities by Martha Ronk
Incarnadine by Mary Szybist (review)

Young People’s Literature:

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (review)
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (review)
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff (excerpt)
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (review, excerptaudiobook excerpt)
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata (review)
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, illustrated by Erin McGuire
Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (review)

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