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National Book Award finalists announced

Nonfiction:

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The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, by Jane Mayer

The Dark Side is a riveting narrative account of how the U.S. made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terrorists–decisions that not only violated the Constitution, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda.

This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, by Drew Gilpin Faust

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.

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed

An epic work about Thomas Jefferson’s hidden slave family that will be viewed as the most important history of an American slave family ever written.

Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives, by Jim Sheeler

They are the troops that nobody wants to see, carrying a message that no military family ever wants to hear. It begins with a knock at the door. “The curtains pull away. They come to the door. And they know. They always know,” said Major Steve Beck.

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order, by Joan Wickersham

When you kill yourself, you kill every memory everyone has of you. You’re saying “I’m gone and you can’t even be sure who it is that’s gone, because you never knew me.”

Fiction:

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Home, by Marilynne Robinson

Glory Boughton, aged thirty-eight, has returned to Gilead to care for her dying father. Soon her brother, Jack—the prodigal son of the family, gone for twenty years—comes home too, looking for refuge and trying to make peace with a past littered with tormenting trouble and pain. Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith.

Shadow Country, by Peter Matthiessen

Inspired by a near-mythic event of the wild Florida frontier at the turn of the twentieth century, Shadow Country reimagines the legend of the inspired Everglades sugar planter and notorious outlaw E. J. Watson, who drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the hands of neighbors who mostly admired him, in a killing that obsessed his favorite son.

The Lazarus Project, by Aleksandar Hemon

On March 2, 1908, nineteen-year-old Lazarus Averbuch, a recent Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe to Chicago, knocked on the front door of the house of George Shippy, the chief of Chicago police. When Shippy came to the door, Averbuch offered him what he said was an important letter. Instead of taking the letter, Shippy shot Averbuch twice, killing him. When Shippy released a statement casting Averbuch as a would-be anarchist assassin and agent of foreign political operatives, he all but set off a city and a country already simmering with ethnic and political tensions.

Now, in the twenty-first century, a young writer in Chicago, Brik, also from Eastern Europe, becomes obsessed with Lazarus’s story—what really happened, and why? In order to understand Averbuch, Brik and his friend Rora—who overflows with stories of his life as a Sarajevo war photographer—retrace Averbuch’s path across Eastern Europe, through a history of pogroms and poverty, and through a present-day landscape of cheap mafiosi and cheaper prostitutes. The stories of Averbuch and Brik become inextricably entwined, augmented by the photographs that Rora takes on their journey, creating a truly original, provocative, and entertaining novel.


Telex from Cuba
, by Rachel Kushner

Rachel Kushner has written an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro’s revolution — a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958.

The End, by Salvatore Scibona

A small, incongruous man receives an excruciating piece of news. His son has died in a POW camp in Korea. It is August 15, 1953, the day of a tumultuous street carnival in Elephant Park, an Italian immigrant enclave in Ohio. The man is Rocco LaGrassa, and his many years of dogged labor, paternal devotion, and steadfast Christian faith are about to come to a crashing end.

Poetry:

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Watching the Spring Festival, by Frank Bidart
Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems, by Mark Doty
Creatures of a Day, by Reginald Gibbons
Without Saying, by Richard Howard
Blood Dazzler, by Patricia Smith

Young People’s Literature:

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Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt
What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
The Spectacular Now, by Tim Tharp