The Costa Book Awards announced the shortlist for the 2017 season. The award, which honors works by authors based in the UK and Ireland, is given in five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry, and Children's Book. The shortlist included four writers in each category. This year, Orange prize-winning writer Helen Dunmore's poetry collection, Inside the Wave, was named posthumously to the Poetry shortlist. In the First Novel category, the following authors were shortlisted for their debut works of fiction: The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks; Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary; Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman; and The Haunting of Henry Twist by Rebecca F. John. In the Novel category, the following authors were nominated: Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (who has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize twice); Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney (who won the 2006 First Novel category and Costa Book of the Year); Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (featured in our 2017 Second-Half Book Preview); and Tin Man by Sarah Winman. Winners in each category, as well as the overall Costa Book of the Year, will be announced in January.
The Baillie Gifford Prize (previously the Samuel Johnson Prize), which celebrates the best non-fiction writing, awarded the 2017 prize to How to Survive a Plague by David France. How to Survive a Plague chronicles the AIDS epidemic from 1981 to 1996 when there was not an effective treatment for HIV and diagnosis meant almost certain death. A witness account—which revealed the often grueling, heartbreaking work and research done by patients and activists—brings to light the people who helped make HIV survivable. About the book, Sarah Whitley—partner of Baillie Gifford and Chair of its Sponsorship Committee—said: "I am pleased to award the second Baillie Gifford Prize to a book that combines a very important piece of social history, unforgettable to those of us who were young adults in the early 1980s, describes collective action in the face of official intransigence and also outlines the ultimate achievement of controlling a modern plague.” Bonus Links: How to Survive A Plague was featured in Richard Russo‘s 2016 year in reading. The Shortlist announcement which included our own Mark O'Connell.
The 2017 National Book Award winners were announced tonight in New York City. The big prize for Fiction went to Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. In her review for our site, Nur Nasreen Ibrahim wrote, "All of Ward’s characters in Sing, Unburied, Sing live with trauma." She continues: The dead in Sing, Unburied, Sing are needy because they have no choice. Trauma demands attention, yet that attention brings chaos into the characters’ lives. The act of writing and reading such stories also demands that oppressor and oppressed address their positions in an unjust society. Literature and history occupy the same role, as record-keepers of injustice, and of experiences. In her remarks beginning the awards ceremony, host Cynthia Nixon observed that 15 of the 20 finalists this year were women – the most ever – and when it was all was said and done, that 75% ratio held for the winners as well. For the record, male authors swept last year's awards. The award in the Young People's Literature category went to Robin Benway for Far from the Tree. The Nonfiction award went to Masha Gessen for The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. (Bonus: Our interview with Gessen from last February.) The Poetry award was won by Frank Bidart for Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016, which our own Nick Ripatrazone previewed in his monthly poetry column for our site: A massive book that covers 50 years of words, Bidart’s collected contains enough routes and themes to produce years of reading. His style—capitalized words, italics, shifting speakers, personae, autobiography—result in a modern mythmaker who channels the old masters. A poet finely attuned to the contours of sensuality, he can simultaneously be spare and weighty. Bonus Links: Earlier in the year we dove into both the Shortlist and the Longlist to share excerpts and reviews where available.
On Friday October 20th the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy awards were held in Washington DC at the Washington Plaza hotel. Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad won for fiction and Kali Nicole Gross won the non fiction award for Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America. The debut fiction award went to Damnificados by J.J. Amaworo Wilson and Donika Kelly's Bestiary won the award for poetry. "The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award honors the best in Black literature in the United States and around the globe. Introduced in 2001, the Legacy Award was the first national award presented to Black writers by a national organization of Black writers. " The shortlist and winners are selected by several judges. The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, received the North Star Award which is given to those with outstanding writing careers and a commitment to helping the writing community. Rep. John Lewis received the Ella Baker Award which is given to artists and writers who advocate for social justice. Third World press founder Haki Madhubuti won the Madam C.J. Walker Award which honors businesses that have shown exceptional innovation in supporting and sustaining Black literature. For more information you can visit the Hurston/Wright website or follow them on Twitter. There's also a feature on the winners in the Washington Post.
Acclaimed short story writer George Saunders has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. Following in Paul Beatty's footsteps, Saunders—who was the favorite to win—is the second American writer to receive the award since its inception 49 years ago. In our review of the novel, The Millions' said "Saunders elevates the status of the in-between; the in-between is everything." For a larger portrait of the esteemed author, read our own Elizabeth Minkel on Saunders and the "Question of Greatness." Here are the authors who were on this year's shortlist.
The winners of this year's MacArthur Fellowship "Genius grant" have been announced. The grant awards $625,000 with “no strings attached” to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Along with scientists, artists, community leaders, and social justice organizers, there are new geniuses from the literary world. Here are this year's literary fellows: Viet Thanh Nguyen—the cultural critic, scholar, and fiction writer—won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his debut novel, The Sympathizer. In Claire Mussad's 2015 Year in Reading, she described Nguyen's first novel as "rich, surprising, and often darkly funny." Nguyen often writes about the Vietnam War—attempting to portray a more balanced, complete portrait of it and its aftermath—and the way war reverberates in our lives and memory. You can read Nguyen's Year in Reading which included works by Helen Macdonald, Vu Tran, and 2016 MacArthus Genuis Claudia Rankine (he felt "pinned down by the power of [her] language, politics, and vision"). His 2016 nonfiction book, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, was a National Book Award Finalist. His newest book, a collection of short stories called The Refugees, was included in our Great 2017 Book Preview. Jesmyn Ward, novelist, writes extensively about the lives of African Americans in the rural south. Ward's newest novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, is a 2017 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (her previous novel Salvage the Bones (2011) won the same award). The novel, which mixes the real and magical in rural Mississippi, follows Jojo—a 13-year-old of mixed race—and his drug addicted mother as they drive to pick his father up from prison. Our review described Ward's newest novel as an exploration of the "legacy of trauma" in a deeply divided society "where the oppressor and the oppressed share a legacy." In an interview with The Millions, Ward said that she is constantly thinking about the intersection of race, violence, the South, and the ways history "bears on the present." She said, "I’m always thinking about how black people survive. How people are marginalized in the South and the way they still survive that oppression." The single playwright among the fellows is Annie Baker, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "The Flick," which follows three employees at a run-down movie theater in Massachusetts. The foundation describes her work as "exploring the complexities of human behavior and the ways in which language is often inadequate to build true understanding between people." Nikole Hannah-Jones works as a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine where she investigates racial injustice. In 2015, she helped found the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which seeks to increase investigative opportunities for reporters and editors of color. She writes extensively about segregation and integration, particularly in education, for ProPublica, NPR, and The New York Times Magazine. Her piece, "Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City," is part-memoir, part-reported piece that reveals "school segregation is not an isolated phenomenon but rather a defining factor of most cities across the country."
The Baillie Gifford Prize (previously the Samuel Johnson Prize), which celebrates the best of non-fiction writing, announced their shortlist on October 5. The nominees' works explored topics such as Islam, AIDS, immigration, technology, and Jewish history through narrative reporting and/or memoir. This year's shortlist includes the following six titles: The Islamic Enlightenment: The Modern Struggle Between Faith and Reason by Christopher de Bellaigue How to Survive A Plague by David France (Featured in Richard Russo's year in reading) Border: A Journey to The Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova (Listed in the second half of our 2017 Great Book Preview) An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn (Read our 2012 interview with Mendelsohn) To Be A Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death by Mark O’Connell (An interview with O'Connell, who is one of our staff writers) Belonging: the Story of the Jews, 1492-1900 by Simon Schama
The 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature and its 9m Swedish krona purse ($1,095,939.52) was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro in a ceremony broadcast live online. The British author has written seven novels, most recently The Buried Giant, and in 1989 he won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for The Remains of the Day. As of this morning's standings on popular British betting site Ladbrokes, Ishiguro was not in the top-three most likely Nobel laureates, and so his victory comes as a surprise – albeit a much more mild one than last year's left field selection of Bob Dylan. Ishiguro's novels have long been favorites of Millions readers. His name has popped up in many of our Year in Reading entries, and his sixth novel, Never Let Me Go, earned a spot on our 2009 "Best of the Millennium" series. "They say that most novelists end up writing the same book over and over again: a truth which manifests itself differently in the work of different novelists," wrote Elif Batuman. "In the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro, it takes the form of an incredibly elegant formal unity." His work also takes the form of surprise, as noted by Millions editor Lydia Kiesling: It is a great thing to be surprised by a novelist. ... The surprise in a large part of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work is that he changes the very quality of the world in some subtle but deeply alarming way; suddenly the sky is a gray shade, your own voice vibrates at a slightly different frequency, and an atonal humming sound wafts on the breeze. The bar for participating in post-Nobel activities was set unbelievably low last year, when surprise winner Bob Dylan went two months before even acknowledging his honor. It's doubtful this year's winner will continue that trend.
It's officially fall, so that means it's officially book award season, and nothing marks its advent like naming the National Book Award finalists. Winners will be announced in New York City on November 15. The short list is headlined by Jesmyn Ward, whose Sing, Unburied, Sing appeared in two recent essays on our site. Four of the five Fiction finalists made appearances in our indispensable first-half and second-half previews. Here’s a list of the finalists in all four categories with bonus links and excerpts where available: Fiction: Dark at the Crossing by Elliot Ackerman (excerpt) The Leavers by Lisa Ko (excerpt; A Most Anticipated Book) Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (People Without a Home: On Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko; A Most Anticipated Book) Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado (A Most Anticipated Book) Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Literature’s Inherited Trauma: On Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing; Searching for Complexity: Motherhood in Fiction; A Most Anticipated Book) Nonfiction: Never Caught: The Washingtons' Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (excerpt) The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald (excerpt) The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen (Surviving Trump: Masha Gessen Wants You to Remember the Future) Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (excerpt) Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean (Surviving Koch: Nancy MacLean Wants You to Ignore Donald Trump) Poetry: Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart (The Poet and the Movie Star: An Evening with Frank Bidart and James Franco) The Book of Endings by Leslie Harrison WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier (Start With These Five New Books of Poetry) In the Language of My Captor by Shane McCrae Don't Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith (The Nu-Audacity School of Poetry) Young People's Literature: What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold Far from the Tree by Robin Benway (excerpt) I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (excerpt) Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia (excerpt) American Street by Ibi Zoboi (excerpt)
The National Book Foundation announced the 2017 Honorees for "5 under 35," an annual prize that recognizes five debut fiction writers whose work will "leave an indelible mark" in literature. Honorees are writers from all around the world, under the age of 35, who have published their first (and only) book of fiction—short story collection or novel—in the last five years. Each honoree is chosen by a National Book Award Winner or Finalist, or writers who have previously been an "5 under 35" honoree. Here are this year's winners of the "5 under 35" prize: Lesley Nneka Arimah, author of What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky, who was chosen by Chris Bachelder. (Arimah's short story collection was featured in our Great 2017 Book Preview.) Halle Butler, author of Jillian, who was chosen by Lydia Millet. Zinzi Clemmons, author of What We Lose, who was chosen by Angela Flournoy. Clemmons' debut novel was featured in the second-half of this year's Great Book Preview. Leopoldine Core, author of When Watched: Stories, who was chosen by Karan Mahajan. Weike Wang, author of Chemistry, chosen by Sherman Alexie. Wang's coming-of-age debut novel was featured in our 2017 Great Book Preview.