The National Book Award - Fiction

The National Book Awards are awarded annually for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and young people's literature. It is sponsored by the National Book Foundation, a consortium of publishing groups.
Award Year Authors(s) Title
2011 Jesmyn Ward Salvage the Bones Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups.
2010 Jaimy Gordon Lord of Misrule A small town horse trainer dreams up a scam to win big in this novel about horse racing and its lore. This novel won the National Book Award the same week it was released.
2009 Colum McCann Let the Great World Spin A small town horse trainer dreams up a scam to win big in this novel about horse racing and its lore. This novel won the National Book Award the same week it was released.
2008 Peter Matthiessen Shadow Country This landmark one-volume reworking of Matthiessen's Watson trilogy--"Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man's River," and "Bone by Bone"--reveals one of America's finest writes at the peak of his career.
2007 Denis Johnson Tree of Smoke This is the story of William "Skip" Sands, CIA - engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong - and the disasters that befall him. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert and into a war where the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, this is a story like nothing in our literature.
2006 Richard Powers The Echo Maker After a near-fatal car accident, 27 year old Mark Schluter's sister reluctantly comes to nurse him back to health. Upon waking from a coma, Mark thinks his sister is an identical imposter.
2005 William T. Vollmann Europe Central Vollmann turns his eye to the warring authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century. The result is a perspective on human actions during wartime. Vollmann compares and contrasts the moral decisions made by various figures from this period - some famous, some infamous, some unknown.
2004 The News from Paraguay A historical epic that tells an unusual love story, The News from Paraguay offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of nineteenth-century Paraguay, a largely untouched wilderness where Europeans and North Americans intermingle with both the old Spanish aristocracy and native Guaraná Indians. The urgency of the narrative, the imaginative richness of its intimate detail, and the wealth of characters whose stories are skillfully layered and unfolded recall the epic novels of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. The News from Paraguay captures the devastating havoc wrought on both a country's fate and a woman's heart by ruthless ambition and war.
2003 Shirley Hazzard The Great Fire The conflagration of her title is the Second World War. In war-torn Asia and stricken Europe, men and women must reinvent their lives and expectations, and learn, from their past, to dream again.
2002 Julia Glass Three Junes A vividly textured symphonic novel set on both sides of the Atlantic during three fateful summers in the lives of a Scottish family. Paul McLeod, the recently widowed patriarch, becomes infatuated with a young American artist while traveling through Greece and is compelled to relive the secret sorrows of his marriage.
2001 Jonathan Franzen The Corrections A comic, tragic masterpiece of an American family breaking down in an age of easy fixes, Franzen's third novel brings an old-time America into wild collision with the era of home surveillance and New Economy speculation.
2000 Susan Sontag In America In 1876, a group of Poles led by Maryna Zalezowska, Poland's greatest actress, travels to California to found a "utopian" commune. "In America" is a big, juicy, surprising book about a woman's search for self-transformation, about the fate of idealism, and about the world of the theater.
1999 Ha Jin Waiting Lin Kong is a devoted doctor in love with a modern young woman--a nurse who is educated, clever, and vivid. The only complication is the wife to whom he was married when they were very young--a tiny woman, humble and touchingly loyal, whom he visits in order to ask, again and again, for divorce.
1998 Alice McDermott Charming Billy Everyone loved him. If you knew Billy at all, then you loved him. The late Billy Lynch's family and friends, a party of forty-seven, gather at a small bar and grill somewhere in the Bronx to remember better times in good company, and to redeem the pleasure of a drink or two from the miserable thing that a drink had become in Billy's life.
1997 Charles Frazier Cold Mountain Based on local history and family stories passed down by the author's great-great-grandfather, Cold Mountain is the tale of a wounded soldier Inman, who walks away from the ravages of the war and back home to his prewar sweetheart, Ada. Inman's odyssey through the devastated landscape of the soon-to-be-defeated South interweaves with Ada's struggle to revive her father's farm, with the help of an intrepid young drifter named Ruby.
1996 Andrea Barrett Ship Fever and Other Stories The love of science, the science of love--and the struggle to reconcile the two--are the subjects of this remarkable collection, stories and a novella. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, these stories move between past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams.
1995 Philip Roth Sabbath's Theater The death of his mistress sends Mickey Sabbath, an audacious libertine and onetime puppeteer, on a psychic journey into his past.
1994 William Gaddis A Frolic of His Own A satirically jaundiced view of modern law and justice chronicles the fortunes of Oscar Crease, a middle-aged college instructor and playwright, as he sues a Hollywood producer for pirating a play.
1993 E. Annie Proulx The Shipping News An unsuccessful newspaperman, his aunt, and his two young daughters experience delicately evoked changes in a poignant novel set in a Newfoundland fishing town.
1992 Cormac McCarthy All the Pretty Horses Cut off from the life of ranching he has come to love by his grandfather's death, John Grady Cole flees to Mexico, where he and his two companions embark on a rugged and cruelly idyllic adventure.
1991 Norman Rush Mating While in Africa to work on her thesis project, an American anthropologist falls for Nelson Denoon, the charismatic intellectual who is rumored to have founded a highly secretive utopian society.
1990 Charles Johnson Middle Passage The year is 1830, and Rutherford Calhoun, a roguish, newly freed slave, ships out of New Orleans as a stowaway to escape an undesirable marriage. To his shock and horror, he discovers that this vessel is a slave clipper bound for Africa. One of the most daring and compassionate works of fiction in recent years.
1989 John Casey Spartina Dick Pierce, the flawed hero of Spartina, is torn by his love for his wife and sons, his passion for his mistress and his obsession with his 54-foot boat, Spartina.
1988 Pete Dexter Pete Dexter A respected white citizen of Cotton Point, Georgia, Paris Trout is a shopkeeper, a money-lender, and a murderer of blacks. And his friends, family and foes do not realize the danger they face in a man who simply will not see his own guilt.
1987 Larry Heinemann Paco's Story In a story of a Vietnam veteran haunted by the ghost of war, Heinemann tells of Paco, the lone survivor of a brutal attack on his company. His story puts forth endless ironies that capture the ordinary and unthinkable horrors of a GI's life.
1986 E.L. Doctorow World's Fair This wonderfully poignant story leads irresistibly to the glittering, futuristic promise of the New York World's Fair of 1939, where the young protaganist at the age of nine crosses over into a future of his own.
1984 Ellen Gilchrist Victory Over Japan A collection of 14 short stories.
1983 Alice Walker The Color Purple This landmark work is Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that also won the American Book Award and established her as a major voice in modern fiction. The New York Times Book Review hailed its "intense emotional impact," and the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a work to stand beside literature of any time and place."
1982 John Updike Rabbit is Rich Rabbit, basically decent but no intellectual, is ten years down the road from Rabbit Redux. Updike's hero, now a middle-aged Toyota dealer, still seeks peace and contentment -- items not standard equipment in his life.
1981 Wright Morris Plains Song for Female Voices
1980 William Styron Sophie's Choice Three stories are told: a young Southerner wants to become a writer; a turbulent love-hate affair between a brilliant Jew and a beautiful Polish woman; and of an awful wound in that woman's past--one that impels both Sophie and Nathan toward destruction.
1979 Tim O'Brien Going After Cacciato O'Brien captures the peculiar blend of horror and hallucinatory comedy that marked the Vietnam War.
1978 Mary Lee Settle Blood Tie
1977 Wallace Stegner The Spectator Bird Joe Allston is a retired literary agent whose parents and only son are dead, and who feels that he has been a mere spectator through life. Than a postcard from a friend causes him to return to the journals of a trip he took to his mother's birthplace to search for his roots; memories of that journey reveal tha t he is not quite spectator enough.
1976 William Gaddis 1976
1975 Robert Stone Dog Soldiers In Saigon during the waning days of the Vietnam War, a small-time journalist named John Converse thinks he'll find action - and profit - by getting involved in a big-time drug deal. But back in the States, things go horribly wrong for him. Dog Soldiers perfectly captures the underground mood of America in the 1970s, when amateur drug dealers and hippies encountered profiteering cops and professional killers - and the price of survival was dangerously high.
1974 Thomas Pynchon Thomas Pynchon A convoluted, allusive novel about a metaphysical quest.
1973 John Barth Chimera Barth retells the tales of Scheherezade of the Thousand and One Nights, Perseus, the slayer of Medusa, and Bellerophon, who tamed the winged horse Pegasus from varying perspectives, examining the myths relationship to reality and their resonance with the contemporary world.
1972 Flannery O'Connor The Complete Stories The complete short stories.
1971 Saul Bellow Mr. Sammler's Planet To escape the European horror, Mr Sammler was obliged to crawl from his own grave, and to kill. He is assured by Dr Lal that a perfect society is attainable, on the moon. Meanwhile on Mr Sammler's planet, so recognizably our own, there seems little chance of attaining it.
1970 Joyce Carol Oates them A sprawling novel about the sparkling grit of post-war urban life, them (please note that the title is not capitalized) is the story of Maureen Wendall, daughter of working class parents, and her struggle to survive the economic and social straits into which she is born.
1969 Jerzy Kosinski Steps Kosinski captures the disturbing undercurrents of modern politics and culture. Distinctions are eroded between oppressor and oppressed, perpetrator and victim, narcissism and anonymity.
1968 Thorton Wilder The Eighth Day The lives of the two southern Illinois families become entwined after John Barrington Ashley is convicted for the murder of his employer, Breckenridge Lansing.
1967 Bernard Malamud The Fixer Yakov Bok is an ordinary man accused of "ritual murder" and persecuted by agents of a remote and all-powerful state. But when he is at last pushed too far, he triumphs over almost incredible brutality and becomes a moral giant.
1966 Katherine Anne Porter Collected Stories Four complete stories from one of America's most anthologized writers. Includes: "The Cracked Looking Glass", "The Grave", "Magic", and "Flowering Judas".
1965 Saul Bellow Herzog A multifaceted portrait of a modern-day hero, a man struggling with the complexity of existence and longing for redemption.
1964 John Updike The Centaur In a small Pennsylvania town in the late 1940s, schoolteacher George Caldwell yearns to find some meaning in his life. Alone with his teenage son for three days in a blizzard, Caldwell sees his son grow and change as he himself begins to lose touch with his life. The story is interwoven with the myth of Chiron, the noblest centaur, and his relationship to the Titan Prometheus.
1963 J.F. Powers Morte D'Urban Father Urban is a man of the cloth who is also a man of the world. Banished by the envious provincial head of his dowdy religious order to a decrepit retreat house in the Minnesota hinterlands, Urban soon bounces back, carrying God's word with undaunted enthusiasm through the golf courses, fishing lodges, and backyard barbecues of his new turf.
1962 Walker Percy The Moviegoer Kate's desperate struggle to maintain her sanity forces her cousin Binx to relinquish his dreamworld.
1961 Conrad Richter The Waters of Kronos
1960 Philip Roth Goodbye, Columbus Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love. The novella is accompanied by five short stories.
1959 Bernard Malamud The Magic Barrel A collection of 13 short stories.
1958 John Cheever The Wapshot Chronicle John Cheever follows the destinies of the impecunious and wildly eccentric Wapshots of St. Botolphs, Massachusetts.
1957 Wright Morris The Field of Vision Winner of the National Book Award "Wright Morris seems to me the most important novelist of the American middle generation. Through a large body of work --which, unaccountably, has yet to receive the wide attention it deserves--Mr. Morris has adhered to standards which we have come to identify as those of the most serious literary art. His novel The Field of Vision brilliantly climaxes his most richly creative period. It is a work of permanent significance and relevance to those who cannot be content with less than a full effort to cope with the symbolic possibilities of the human condition at the present time."--John W. Aldridge
1956 John O'Hara Ten North Frederick
1955 William Faulkner A Fable An allegorical story of World War I set in the trenches in France and dealing ostensibly with a mutiny in a French regiment.
1954 Saul Bellow The Adventures of Augie March Following the pursuits of a lifelong dreamer, this National Book Award winner written on a grand scale is a heroic comedy that celebrates life, both fantastic and realistic.
1953 Ralph Ellison Invisible Man An African-American man's search for success and the American dream leads him out of college to Harlem and a growing sense of personal rejection and social invisibility.
1952 James Jones From Here to Eternity In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier's life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair...in the most important American novel to come out of World War II, a masterpiece that captures as no ther the honor and savagery of men.
1951 William Faulkner Collected Stories of William Faulkner This magisterial collection of short works by Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner reminds readers of his ability to compress his epic vision into narratives as hard and wounding as bullets. Among the 42 selections in this book are such classics as "A Bear Hunt", "A Rose for Emily", Two Soldiers", and "The Brooch".
1950 Nelson Algren The Man With the Golden Arm Chicago card dealer and junkie Frankie Machine is as tough as anyone in the Windy City's underworld--but not tough enough to break his habit.