Friday, November 27, 2009

National Book Awards 2009

On Wednesday November 18, the winners of the 2009 National Book Awards were announced at a ceremony in New York City. This is the award's 60th anniversary year, and the books recognized have something to offer everyone.

The winning author in Fiction, for a novel centered around Philippe Petit's famous tightrope walk between the Twin Towers, was Irish-born Colum McCann. Other contributing authors add further international appeal, tracing their origins to Uganda and Pakistan. The Nonfiction category includes biographies of some of history's heavy-hitters, alongside works illuminating the natural world. Two Poetry finalists have already received multiple honors from the National Book Foundation. The Young People's Literature category had some surprises, as well. Three of its five finalists were nonfiction titles, including a graphic novel and the biography of little-known civil rights activist, Claudette Colvin.

I confess, I have yet to read any of these books. But just reading the list of finalists is like standing first in line at a literary smorgasbord. There's so much to choose from, I'm not sure where to begin. I believe I'll start with Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. Little known points of history fascinate me. Peruse the titles below. Like I said, there's something here for everyone.

What would you read first?


Winner: Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin

Finalists: Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
Jayne Ann Phillips, Lark and Termite
Marcel Theroux, Far North


Winner: T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Finalists: David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook
Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in Search of the Origins of Species
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy


Winner: Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy

Finalists: Rae Armantrout, Versed
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again
Carl Phillips, Speak Low
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval


Winner: Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

Finalists: Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith
David Small, Stitches
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped


Gore Vidal

Born October 3 1925, Gore Vidal is a playwright, novelist, essayist, journalist, screenwriter, actor, and political activist. His extensive body of work spans several artistic genres over sixty years, beginning with his first novel in 1946 and continuing to the present day. He has had a powerful impact on American writing.


Dave Eggers

This prolific author, editor, and philanthropist is well known for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, The Wild Things - a novel based on Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, and Zeitoun. He has edited many publications and founded the independent publishing house, McSweeney's. He also co-founded 826 Valencia, a non-profit tutoring and writing center for children.


Linda K. said...

I must admit I tend to steer clear of award winners. There's just something about them that cry out - beware, boring read ahead!. I know it's irrational (or is it?) but, there it is. This is not a new issue for me. As a kid the school librarian always pushed award winners and I always took them home and then didn't read them. It's a childhood thing I guess.

Jeanne said...

I have to agree with Linda. I've read three of the nominees (Lark and Termite, Jumped, and Stitches), and I was not thrilled with any of them. What is with those award committees?

Laura A. said...

I want to read the Colum McCann book--I've meant to read him for years but never got around to it. And anyone who dedicates his award to Frank McCourt as charmingly he did scores point with me!

I haven't read any of the nominated books, although I did try to read a short story collection by Jayne Ann Phillips many years ago. (Although I enjoy short stories, I didn't finish the collection as I didn't particularly enjoy it.)

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