It's that time again, as the literary world recognizes the best efforts of authors around the country.
The National Book Awards, (along with the Pulitzer Prizes), have held my interest for many years. When I started reading in earnest again, after 9/11, the lists of winners and finalists from both Literary Awards helped me identify quality writing. From these, I identified favorite authors, read more of their work, which helped me branch out into other works in similar genres.
As I read more, I gained confidence in my evaluations of quality, and relied less on the award itself as anything more than a way of locating serious new work. I began writing more, too, so I was less intimidated by the opinions of "experts". I thought more about what I was reading, and honed my critical skills, asserting my own opinion of a work, good or bad.
More and more each year, I am unfamiliar with some of the authors of the books that are chosen as finalists and winners. That, to me, is a good thing, because it says that publishers are accepting new work, and submitting excellent work from new voices. That gives new hope to writers like myself. It also provides readers like myself an introduction to original writing, and is endlessly inspiring and enlightening. I have my reading material for the winter!
Movie lovers, too, might enjoy picking out which books could have the makings of an Oscar-winning film!
The diverse and interesting subjects of this year's 5 selected works of Fiction include: an adventure set in the Italian Alps in World War One; a Balkan woman's search through "the Jungle Book" for clues to her Grandfather's death; an epic about Japanese "picture brides" in San Francisco circa 1900; classic and contemporary short stories spanning the globe and four decades; and a tale of a motherless Mississippi family's survival in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The cited Non-Fiction works include: a young New York Jewish woman converts to Islam and embraces her exile in Pakistan; the little-known love story between Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen as he works on his book Kapital; a Renaissance book hunter in 1417 locates a book by Poggio Bracciolini that predicted the existence of atoms and disputed the existence of God; a newly-researched biography that chronicled the constant re-invention of Malcolm X; and he story of Nobel-Prize scientist Marie Curie, her work, and her bittersweet marriage.
The 2011 Award page from the National Book Award web site appears below. Match the book with its capsule description, and see which books won the prize. Click on the book cover to learn more about the book, its author, and read excerpts. (The books to the far right may be cut off...just click on the left edge!)
2011 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALISTS ANNOUNCED
WINNER: Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones
(Bloomsbury USA) - Interview coming soon.Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife
(Random House) - Interview coming soon.Edith Pearlman, Binocular VisionFiction Judges: Deirdre McNamer (Panel Chair), Jerome Charyn,
(Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington) - Interview
John Crowley, Victor LaValle, Yiyun Li
WINNER: Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
(W. W. Norton & Company) - InterviewMary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution
(Little, Brown and Company) - InterviewManning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
(Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Group USA) - InterviewLauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and FalloutNonfiction Judges: Alice Kaplan (Panel Chair), Yunte Huang,
(It Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) - Interview
Jill Lepore, Barbara Savage