National Book Award Finalists


This just in: National Book Award Finalists, winners to be announced November 19 in New York City.

The Lazarus Project is an epic narrative born from a historical event:  the 1908 killing of Lazarus Averbuch, a 19-year-old Jewish immigrant who was shot dead by the Chicago chief of police when he showed up at the chief’s home to deliver a note.

Born in Sarajevo, Aleksander Hemon was visiting Chicago in 1992 when fighting erupted in Bosnia.  Stranded in the U.S. with only a limited understanding of English, he was given political asylum and adopted Chicago as his new home. He completed his first short story within three years of learning to write in English, and since then his work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, and The Paris Review. He is the author of a collection of short stories, The Question of Bruno, and a previous novel, Nowhere Man, which was a finalist for the NBCC fiction award. 

This first novel, set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro’s revolution, tells the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958.

Rachel Kushner was an editor at Grand Street and Bomb and now co-edits Soft Targets.  A frequent contributor to Artforum, she has a BA from the University of California at Berkeley and an MFA from Columbia University.  She lives in Los Angeles.

In Snow Country, Matthiessen consolidates his Watson trilogy into one novel to tell the legendary story of Florida sugarcane farmer and infamous murderer, Edgar J. Watson.

Peter Matthiessen was born in New York City in 1927.  Among his books are At Play in the Fields of the Lord, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1966, and six other works of fiction, including Far Tortuga and Killing Mr. Watson.  His parallel career as a naturalist and explorer has resulted in numerous works of nonfiction, including The Tree Where Man Was Born, a National Book Award Finalist in 1973, and The Snow Leopard, which won the National Book Award in 1979.

MARILYNNE ROBINSON, HOME (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
In her third novel, Home, Robinson tells the story of a wayward son coming home and trying to make peace with his past.

Marilynne Robinson is the author of the novels Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the NBCC award in ficiont, and Housekeeping, a National Book Award finalist as a paperback in 1983.  She is also the author of two books of nonfiction, Mother Country, a National Book Award Finalist in 1989, and The Death of Adam.  She teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Part novel, part epic prose poem, The End is about a single day in 1953 as lived by six people in an Ohio carnival crowd.

Salvatore Scibona’s fiction has been published in The Threepenny Review and the Pushcart Prize anthology.  A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is the writing coordinator at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  The End is his first novel.

DREW GILPIN FAUST, THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING: Death and the American Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf)
Historian Gilpin Faust’s sixth book is an illuminating study of the American struggle to comprehend the meaning and practicalities of death in the face of the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War.

Drew Gilpin Faust is president of Harvard University, where she also holds the Lincoln Professorship in History.  Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study from 2001 to 2007, she came to Harvard after twenty-five years on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania.  Among her previous books is Mothers of Invention:  Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, which won the Francis Parkman Prize and the Avery Craven Prize.  She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This is the multigenerational story of Thomas Jefferson’s hidden slave family.

Annette Gordon-Reed is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University.  She is the author of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings:  An American Controversy.  She lives in New York City.

JANE MAYER, THE DARK SIDE:  The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals (Doubleday)
The Dark Side chronicles the terrible decisions made by the United States in the pursuit of terrorists around the world and relates the incalculable losses in terms of our country’s moral standing and place in the world.

Jane Mayer is the co-author of Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988 and Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award in 1994.  She is currently a Washington-based staff writer for The New Yorker, specializing in political and investigative reporting.  Before that she was a senior writer and front-page editor for The Wall Street Journal, as well as the Journal’s first female White House correspondent.  She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

JIM SHEELER, FINAL SALUTE:  A Story of Unfinished Lives (Penguin)
Based on his Pulitzer-prize winning story, Final Salute takes us into the mind of a casualty notification officer and offers an unprecedented look at the way our country honors its dead.

Jim Sheeler is a scholar in residence at the University of Colorado and a freelance reporter.  He won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing while reporting for the Rocky Mountain News.  He is the author of one previous book, Obit.  He has a BA in journalism from Colorado State University and an MA in journalism from the University of Colorado.

JOAN WICKERSHAM, THE SUICIDE INDEX:  Putting My Father’s Death in Order (Harcourt)
Sixteen years ago, Wickersham’s father shot himself in the head.  This book is her philosophical and deeply personal exploration of this chaotic and incomprehensible fact – and a loving elegy to her father.

Joan Wickersham is the author of a novel, The Paper Anniversary.  Her work has appeared in the Best American Short Stories series.  An excerpt from The Suicide Index earned her the 2007 Ploughshares Cohen Award for Best Short Story.  She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Best known for his long, book-length poems, Bidart here writes in the short lyric form for the first time.  The poems are preoccupied with the imminence of death and feature such subjects as Marilyn Monroe, the Russian ballerina Ulanova, and the 8th century Chinese Imperial Court as described by the poet Du Fu.

Frank Bidart’s most recent collections of poetry are Star Dust (2005), Music Like Dirt (2002), a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and Desire (1997), which was a Finalist for the National Book Award.  Bidart came to national attention in the 1970s with his collections, Golden State (1973) and The Book of the Body (1977).  In 2007, he received Yale University’s Bollingen Prize for lifetime achievement in poetry.  He is a professor at Wellesley College.

MARK DOTY, FIRE TO FIRE (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Fire to Fire collects the best of Doty’s seven books of poetry, along with a generous selection of new work.

Mark Doty is the author of seven previous books of poems, including School of the Arts, Source, and My Alexandria, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award in 1993.  He has also published four volumes of nonfiction prose.  He lives in New York City and Houston, Texas, where he is a professor in the graduate program at the University of Houston.

REGINALD GIBBONS, CREATURES OF A DAY (Louisiana State University Press)
This new collection includes five odes woven from interactions with others, thirteen shorter poems, and “Fern-Texts,” a biographical and autobiographical essay in syllabic verse on the parallel decades of the English 1790s and the American 1960s.

Reginald Gibbons is the author of seven previous volumes of poetry, translations of Spanish and Mexican poetry and ancient Greek tragedy, a short story collection, and a novel.  He served as editor of TriQuarterly from 1981 to 1997.  A native of Texas, he now lives in Evanston, Illinois, where he is professor of English and classics at Northwestern University.

In this collection, Howard returns to the kinds of poems for which he is best known – elaborate dramatic monologues, impersonations and dialogues that are intricately alert to literary history and sexual desire.

Richard Howard has been nominated for a National Book Award seven times and won the award in 1983 for his translation, Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal.  He was nominated in the poetry category in 1975 for Two-Part Inventions and again in 1994 for Like Most Revelations.  Other volumes of poetry include Trappings (1999), No Traveller (1989), and Untitled Subjects (1969), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize.  He has published more than 150 translations from the French.  He is a former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and lives in New York City, where he teaches in the Writing Division of the School of the Arts, Columbia University.

These poems chronicle the physical, emotional and psychological toll exacted by Hurricane Katrina.

A record-setting poetry slam champion, Patricia Smith has performed at the Sorbonne, in Carnegie Hall, on tour with Lollapalooza, in the film “Slamnation,” and on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam.”  Her other books are: Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns, Big Talk, and Life According to Motown.  She is also the author of a children’s book, Janna and the Kings, and the history book, Africans in America. 

Young People’s Literature

In Chains, a thirteen-year-old slave girl during the American Revolution goes to extraordinary lengths to win her freedom.

Laurie Halse Anderson was a Finalist for the National Book Award in 1999 for her first novel, Speak. More recent novels for young people include Fever 1793 and Twisted. She writes chapter books for elementary age children and picture books for the pre-school set. She lives in central New York.

A kitten’s curiosity sets off an astonishing chain of events.

Kathi Appelt is the author of numerous books for children and young adults, but The Underneath is her first novel.  She is on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Texas.

A teenage girl becomes involved in a complicated and deceptive relationship with an ex-GI solider who served in her father’s company during World War II. 

Judy Blundell lives in Katonah, New York.  Under her pen name, Jude Watson, she has written several bestselling books in the Star Wars and Ghostwriter series as well as two teen psychological thrillers, Premonitions and Disappearance.

Frankie Landau-Banks is a high school sophomore who falls in love with one of the cool seniors, but does not lose her sense of self.

E. (Emily) Lockhart is the author of numerous books, including The Boyfriend List, Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, How to Be Bad, and The Boy Book. She graduated from Vassar and received her doctorate in English from Columbia.  She lives in New York City.

Party guy Sutter Keely’s life changed forever when he meets Aimee and finds he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life – or ruin it forever.

Tim Tharp is also the author of the YA novel Knights of the Hill Country, an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults.  He lives in Midwest City, Oklahoma and teaches at Rose State College.