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Recommended Reading: National Book Awards Winners and Finalists

by Becky C | Nov 28, 2018

"Books and literature are for everyone, no matter where the reader is situated geographically, economically, racially, or otherwise."  This is just one of the guiding principles of the National Book Foundation, the nonprofit organization which presents the National Book Awards.

Established in 1950, the Awards currently honor the best Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People's Literature.  To be eligible for consideration, there are a few criteria:

  • The book must be written by an American citizen (or approved via a petition process)
  • The book must have been published by a U.S. publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year
  • The submission must come from a publisher

The number of titles typically submitted for each category ranges from around 150 titles in Poetry to 500+ titles in nonfiction.  Each panel, having read the nominated books in its category, narrows the field to a Longlist of ten titles announced in mid-September.  The field is further narrowed to five Finalists, announced in mid-October.  The winners are announced mid-November.  For more detail about the process, please click here

Below is the list of winners for 2018:  the summaries are taken from ACPL's catalog descriptions.  See a title you're interested in?  Click the book cover to check availability -- and, remember, you can always place a hold if you'd like a copy sent to your favorite branch location for pickup.

 The Friend A moving story of love, friendship, grief, healing, and the magical bond between a woman and her dog. When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself with the unwanted dog he has left behind.
 The New Negro Alaine Locke, the first African American to be named a Rhodes Scholar, emerged from Black Philadelphia around the turn of the century to mentor a generation of young artists including Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jacob Lawrence.  He called them "the New Negro--the creative African Americans whose art, literature, music, and drama would inspire Black people to greatness".
 Indecency Political and personal, tender, daring, and insightful--the author unpacks his intimacies, weaponizing poetry to take on masculinity, sexuality, exploitation, and the prison industrial complex and unmask all the failures of the structures into which society sorts us.
 Translated Literature
 The Emissary Japan, after suffering from a massive irreparable disaster, cuts itself off from the world. Children are so weak they can barely stand or walk: the only people with any get-go are the elderly. Yoshiro concentrates on nourishing his grandson, Mumei, a strangely wonderful boy who offers "the beauty of the time that is yet to come."
 Young People's Literature  
 The Poet X Ever since her body grew into curves, Xiomara Batista has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. She pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers.  A novel-in-verse by an award-winning slam poet.

I've scanned both the Longlist and the Finalists list and there are some intriguing titles in the mix.  I've also scanned the lists of past winners:  while each year is represented by only one cover, if you click that cover, you will see all of the winners for that year. There is no end in sight for my To Read list!

Becky CBecky likes to read … A LOT. When she’s not reading, she likes to pretend that she can garden. Her favorite books are The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman..
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