The 20 finalists for this year’s National Book Awards in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature were announced yesterday. Many regard the National Book Awards as the most prestigious literary prize, and equally, if not more influential than the Pulitzer!
This illustrious group of finalists includes some of the most critically acclaimed authors in the United States. We’re very excited to see that almost half of this year’s finalists are women. However, that is due in large part to the poetry category, where women are dominating the finalist pool four to one. When you look at the fiction and nonfiction categories, the representation isn’t nearly as robust. In fact, only one woman was selected for the nonfiction category.
Women have won the fiction and nonfiction categories in the past, and as one critic put it, “Talent and excellence happen where they happen.”
Winners will be announced at an event in New York on November 19th. Winners or not, we are looking forward to adding several of these books to our ever-growing must read list.
Here are the 9 women you should know vying for this year’s awards:
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel was born in British Columbia, Canada. She is the author of three previous novels: Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet. Her work has appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories 2013 and Venice Noir and she is a staff writer for The Millions.
About the book: One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people.
Marilynne Robinson, Lila
Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels Home, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award, Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Housekeeping, which was also a Finalist for the National Book Award, and four books of nonfiction. She teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
About the book: The third of the author’s three novels set in the fictional Plains town of Gilead, Iowa, Lila tells the story of a young girl, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, who steps inside a small-town church and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life.
Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Roz Chast is the author of Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast, a compilation of her favorite cartoons. She also illustrated The Alphabet from A to Y, with Bonus Letter, Z, the bestselling children’s book by Steve Martin. Chast’s awards and honors include honorary doctorates from Dartmouth College, Lesley University/Art Institute of Boston, and Pratt Institute. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. Ms. Chast represents the first cartoonist ever to be honored in an adult category in the history of the National Book Awards!
About the book: Told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.
Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night
Louise Glück was a National Book Award Finalist three times: in 1992 for The Wild Iris, which also won the Pulitzer Prize, in 1999 for Vita Nova, and in 2006 for Averno. She is the author of ten books of poems and a collection of essays. Her many awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Bollingen Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. A former Poet Laureate of the United States, she teaches at Yale University and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
About the book: You enter the world of this spellbinding book through one of its many dreamlike portals. Each time you enter, it’s the same place but it has been arranged differently. Faithful and Virtuous Night tells a single story, but the parts are mutable and the great sweep of its narrative mysterious and fateful, heartbreaking, and charged with wonder.
Fanny Howe, Second Childhood
Fanny Howe is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and prose, including most recently Come and See, The Lyrics, and The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation. A recipient of numerous awards, in 2009 she received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation for lifetime achievement. She lives in New England.
About the book: The author’s poetry is known for its lyricism, fragmentation, experimentation, religious engagement, and commitment to social justice. In Second Childhood, the observing poet is an impersonal figure who accompanies Howe in her encounters with chance and mystery.
Maureen N. McLane, This Blue
Maureen N. McLane is a critic and author of the poetry collections, Same Life and World Enough, as well as My Poets – an experimental hybrid of memoir and criticism, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography. A contributing editor at Boston Review, her articles on poetry, fiction, teaching, and sexuality have appeared in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Review, The Washington Post, American Poet, and on the Poetry Foundation website. She is a professor of English at New York University.
About the book: From lichens to malls to merchant republics, it’s “another day in this here cosmos,” in Maureen N. McLane’s third poetry collection, This Blue. Here are songs for and of a new century, poems both archaic and wholly now.
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric
Claudia Rankine is the author of four collections of poetry, including Nothing in Nature is Private, which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. A judge for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2006, Rankine is a winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize and a recipient of fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lannan Foundation. She is the Henry G. Lee Professor of English at Pomona College.
About the book: The poet recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives.
YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE
Deborah Wiles, Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy
Deborah Wiles is the author of two picture books and six YA novels, including Each Little Bird That Sings, which was a 2005 National Book Award Finalist. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
About the book: In Wiles’s second installment of The Sixties Trilogy, readers are offered two alternate viewpoints from very different worlds within the same Greenwood, Mississippi town during the tumultuous Freedom Summer of 1964.
Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming
Jacqueline Woodson was a National Book Award Finalist in 2002 for Hush and in 2003 for Locomotion. She has received many awards, including two Newbery Honors. In 2006, Woodson received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement honoring her outstanding contributions to young adult literature.
About the book: Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.