2011 National Book Awards Finalists

National Book Award medal - courtesy of the National Book FoundationThe finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards were announced on October 12. As usual the list is a mix of relative unknowns and old reliables, critically acclaimed bestsellers and small press prestige titles. The NBA, along with the Pulitzer, is the most coveted prize awarded to American writers. The roster of past winners reads like a Who's Who of the last half century in American letters. They include Jonathan Franzen, Ha Jin, Cormac McCarthy and Alice Walker for fiction; Patti Smith, Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe and Maxine Hong Kingston for nonfiction; Galway Kinnell, Elizabeth Bishop, W. H. Auden and William Carlos Williams for Poetry; and Sherman Alexie and Jeanne Birdsall for young people's literature.

Winners will be announced at the Foundation's big shindig in New York City on November 16.Cover Art: Buddha in the Attic

The Sojourn / Andrew Krivak
The Tiger’s Wife / Tea Obreht
The Buddha in the Attic / Julie Otsuka
Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories / Edith Pearlman
Salvage the Bones / Jesmyn Ward

The Convert: A Tale of  Exile and Extremism
/ Deborah BakerCover Art: The Convert
Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution / Mary Gabriel
Swerve / Stephen Greenblatt
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention / Manning Marable
Radioactive: Marie & Peirre Curie. A Tale of Love and Fallout / Lauren Redniss

Head Off & Split / Nikky Finney
Chameleon Couch / Yusef Komunyakaa
Double Shadow / Carl Phillips
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve / Adrienne RichCover Art: Inside Out & Back Again
Devotions / Bruce Smith

Young People's Literature
My Name Is Not Easy / Debby Dahl Edwardson
Inside Out and Back Again / Thanhha Lai
Flesh and Blood So Cheap / Albert Marrin
Shine / Lauren Myracle
Okay for Now / Gary D. Schmidt
Chime / Franny Billingsley

(Right about now you are saying, "Why are there six finalists for Young People's Literature and only five for the others?" Answer: somebody made a mistake, and not wanting cause a furor by yanking one of the already announced titles off the list, the Foundation just added the sixth.

Addendum: Well, our friends at the Nat'l Book Foundation have made a mess of things.





As a full voting member of

As a full voting member of the National Book Critics Circle (cf. http://bookcritics.org/), I wish to add our NBCC awards to the list of prestigious literary honors available. We make awards in the following categories: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, and general nonfiction. Please see our list of 2011 winners at http://bookcritics.org/awards. I have a funny story meeting Junot Diaz at an author event sponsored by Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA in September 2007. After the event was over, Diaz was signing his first novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." As he was signing my copy I introduced myself stating that I was an NBCC member. Diaz stopped signing my book and wanted to make my acquaintance, perhaps hoping for my vote for the NBCC Fiction prize for his first novel. I joked that since at that time I was not reviewing fiction, I could not hurt the sales of his novel which had just appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List. Ironically my non-review of Diaz's novel led to its winning both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the NBCC Fiction award in 2008!! The next time I meet Mr. Diaz I will remind him of the positive effect of my non-review and see if he thanks me!! -- Pius Charles Murray

Thank you for writing to us

Thank you for writing to us and for the Diaz story. I will certainly try to write up a post for the NBCC prizes with links to our catalog. I'm sure Mr. Diaz understands the power of the non-review.