One-Minute Book Reviews

October 15, 2009

Late Night With Jan Harayda – The World’s Best Acknowledgments in a Book

Yesterday Deborah Heiligman made the shortlist for the 2009 National Book Award for young people’s literature for her captivating dual biography, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Holt, 268 pp., $18.95, ages 9 and up). And she might win in a walk if the judges gave the prize for the acknowledgments section of a book alone. Heiligman amusingly tweaks the clichés of the genre in her thanks to her husband, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jonathan Weiner:

“You put up with a lot as I wrote this book. You owed me, sure, but you have paid me back in spades. I’m ready for your next one. Jon read the book front to back in many drafts, and if there are any mistakes, blame him.”

Wouldn’t acknowledgements be more fun if everybody wrote like this?

October 14, 2009

Complete List of 2009 National Book Award Finalists for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature

Here is the complete list of finalists for the 2009 National Book Awards. You can learn more about the books and authors on the shortlist by visiting on the site for the prizes:

FICTION

Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (Random House)
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf)
Marcel Theroux, Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

NONFICTION

David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt)
Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press)
T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
(Alfred A. Knopf)

POETRY

Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again (Viking Penguin)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon: Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop: Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)
T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
(Alfred A. Knopf)

YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE

Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen, HarperCollins)

October 13, 2009

Late Night With Jan Harayda – National Book Awards Finalists to Be Announced Tomorrow

Just a reminder: The shortlist for the 2009 National Book Awards will be announced at noon Eastern Time tomorrow. The list will consist of five finalists in each of four categories — fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature – and should be posted by early afternoon on the site for the sponsor of the prizes, the National Book Foundation, and on www.twitter.com/nationalbook.

The winners will be announced on Nov. 18, well before those for the Pulitzer Prizes and National Book Critics Circle Awards, both of which will be handed out in 2010. Some finalists for the young people’s literature award may also be considered for American Library Association’s Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children, which will be given out in January. Only Americans are eligible for the National Book Awards, the Pulitzer Prizes, and Newbery Medal, but authors of any nationality may win NBCC awards.

I haven’t read enough of the candidates predict who might turn up on tomorrow’s list. But two of the 2009 books that I read are as strong as many past National Book Awards finalists — Aleksandar Hemon’s short story collection, Love and Obstacles, and Brad Gooch’s biography, Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on list. And Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs – which I hope to review soon – seems to have gained the kind of unstoppable momentum that, rightly or wrongly, often precedes major awards.

Jacqueline Woodson’s novel for ages 12 and under, Peace, Locomotion – which I’ll review Saturday, Oct. 17 or Oct. 24 — isn’t as strong in its category as Hemon’s and Gooch’s books are in theirs. But it’s a sequel to Locomotion, which was a National Book Awards finalist. And Woodson also made the shortlist for Hush. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see her among the finalists, either.

Whom would you like to see win in November?

www.twitter.com/janiceharayda

November 19, 2008

Late Night With Jan Harayda — So You Think Writing Is the Way to Fame? How Many of These National Book Awards Finalists Have You Heard Of?

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:02 am
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Ever heard of the novelists Savatore Scibona and Aleksandar Hemon? How about the historian Annette Gordon-Reed and the memoirist Joan Wickersham? Do I even need to ask about the poets Patricia Smith and Richard Howard?

All are finalists for the 2008 National Book Awards, the winners of which will be announced tonight. As their low profile suggests, this year’s shortlist is a quiet one www.nationalbook.org/nba2008.html.

The few stars include finalists Peter Matthiessen and Marilynne Robinson in fiction and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust in nonfiction. Even they lack the fame of the some of the better-known winners or finalists of the past decade: Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Joyce Carol Oates, E. L. Doctorow, Robert Caro, Jonathan Franzen, Susan Sontag, Sherman Alexie. This is not a complaint – I’d rather see a shortlist like this one than one that appears driven by sales figures instead of merit.

But the group raises the possibility in some circles, the best-known finalist is a children’s author: Laurie Halse Anderson, whose historical novel Chains made the shortlist in the young people’s literature category. Halse Anderson wrote the picture book Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, widely used in schools and the library equivalent of a bestseller at this time of year.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

November 14, 2007

Alexie, Hass, Johnson and Weiner Win 2007 National Book Awards — Women Shut Out in Sweep for Male Authors

A tidal wave of testosterone at the National Book Awards ceremonyOne-Minute Book Reviews normally doesn’t cover breaking news. But the National Book Award winners announced tonight have been slow enough to appear on the Web that the policy is bending today. Here’s a complete list of the winners and finalists for the awards from the National Book Foundation site www.nationalbook.org. SNAP preview is always enabled on One-Minute Book Reviews, so you can put your cursor on aLiny of the links below and see an image of the page you’ll reach by clicking on it.FICTION

WINNER: Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) – Interview

Mischa Berlinski, Fieldwork (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) – Interview
Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) – Interview
Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End (Little, Brown & Company) – Interview
Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) – Interview
Jim Shepard, Like You’d Understand, Anyway (Alfred A. Knopf) – Interview

Fiction judges: Francine Prose (chair), Andrew Sean Greer,
Walter Kirn, David Means, and Joy Williams.NONFICTION

WINNER: Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (Doubleday) – Interview

Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I’m Dying (Alfred A. Knopf) – Interview
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
(Twelve/Hachette Book Group USA) – Interview
Woody Holton, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution
(Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – Interview
Arnold Rampersad, Ralph Ellison: A Biography (Alfred A. Knopf) – Interview

Nonfiction judges: David Shields (chair), Deborah Blum,
Caroline Elkins, Annette Gordon-Reed, and James Shapiro.

POETRY
WINNER: Robert Hass, Time and Materials (Ecco/HarperCollins) – Interview

Linda Gregerson, Magnetic North (Houghton Mifflin Company) – Interview
David Kirby, The House on Boulevard St.
(Louisiana State University Press) – Interview
Stanley Plumly, Old Heart (W.W. Norton & Company) – Interview
Ellen Bryant Voigt, Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006
(W.W. Norton & Company) – Interview

Poetry Judges: Charles Simic (chair), Linda Bierds, David St. John,
Vijay Seshadri, and Natasha Trethewey.

YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE
WINNER: Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
(Little, Brown & Company) – Interview

Kathleen Duey, Skin Hunger: A Resurrection of Magic, Book One
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers) – Interview
M. Sindy Felin, Touching Snow (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) – Interview
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic Press) – Interview
Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl (Little, Brown & Company) – Interview
Young People’s Literature Judges: Elizabeth Partridge (chair),
Pete Hautman, James Howe, Patricia McCormick, and Scott Westerfeld

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