Last week one of our most important book awards, the Nationals, were announced. This award is one of the best. The awards are very valuable to writers because the books are nominated by fellow writers.
Often the awards are accompanied by controversy. There have been complaints that the winners are from small publishers or all females, or little-known literary works. This year’s controversy focused around a stated nomination that was then withdrawn.
Nevertheless, the National Book Awards are one of our most prestigious awards and readers still pay attention to them. I thought you’d like to know which books won. There are four categories. And the winners are:
Fiction: Jesmyn Ward for Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury USA)
A poor family in Mississippi prepares for Hurricane Katrina. Fourteen-year-old Esch and her three brothers try to stock food but there is much to begin with. As the twelve days that make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty
Nonfiction: Stephen Greenblatt for The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W. W. Norton & Company)
Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions.
The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson. 16 pages full-color
Young People’s Literature: Thanhha Lai for Inside Out & Back Again (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.
Poetry: Nikky Finney for Head Off & Split (TriQuarterly, an imprint of Northwestern University Press)
The poems in Nikky Finney’s breathtaking new collection Head Off & Split sustain a sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African American life: from civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, from a brazen girl strung out on lightning to a terrified woman abandoned on a rooftop during Hurricane Katrina. Finney’s poetic voice is defined by an intimacy that holds a soft yet exacting eye on the erotic, on uncanny political and family events, like her mother s wedding waltz with South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, and then again on the heartbreaking hilarity of an American president s final State of the Union address.
I’m excited about a couple of these books. I’ve already purchased Salvage the Bones and I put my name on the others at the library. I know the National Book Awards will give me some interesting reading.
Have you read any of these books yet?
Any you are looking forward to?