2013 National Book Awards
If you ask me, awarding prizes for works of art--whether they be books, movies or single malt scotches--is pretty silly, if not quixotic. I mean, how can we pretend to objectively declare something as complex as a novel or nuanced as a great pop song to be "better" than another when most of us have our hands full deciding whether M&Ms or Reese's Pieces would go better with our Double Dutch Chocolate frozen yogurt?
I'm convinced these awards serve some Darwinian function. They tickle some mean little nub in our vestigial reptilian brains that demands winners and losers for everything from beauty pageants and presidential debates to thermonuclear wars. When it comes to the National Book Awards, I find it helpful to think of the process as cultural--rather than natural-- selection. Basically, we're choosing the writer with the most colorful plumage to ensure the continued survival of the species.
Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin / Jill Lepore
Hitler's Furies / Wendy Lower
The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 / Alan Taylor
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief / Lawrence Wright
Nonfiction winner: The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America / George Packer
Poetry winner: Incarnadine / Mary Szybist