Best of the National Book Awards Fiction: The Complete Stories, by Flannery O’Connor
In celebration of “60 years of honoring great American books,” the National Book Foundation featured 77 fiction winners from 1950 to 2008 on their website. From this prestigious collection, 140 writers chose six finalists. The public was then invited to take part in an online poll to select the best of the best, marking the first time the Awards were opened to the public for voting. After counting over 10,000 responses, Flannery O’Connor’s collection was crowned the winner.
Young People’s Literature: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose
“How could we not know of this courageous teenager and her remarkable contribution to the U.S. civil rights movement? Phillip Hoose’s riveting and intelligent portrait incorporates photographs and other galvanizing primary source illustrations, as well as Claudette Colvin’s own voice, to draw the reader fully into 1950s Montgomery, Alabama. Compellingly written and skillfully structured, this important work captures a time and place of struggle, oppression, and resistance as it reaffirms Colvin’s hard-earned and nearly lost place in history.”
Poetry: Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, by Keith Waldrop
“If transcendental immanence were possible, it would be because Keith Waldrop had invented it; he’s the only one who could—and inTranscendental Studies he has. These three linked series achieve a fusion arcing from the Romantic to the Postmodern that demonstrates language’s capacity to go to extremes—and to haul daily lived experience right along with it: life imitates language, and when language becomes these poems, life itself gets more various, more volatile, more vital.”
Nonfiction: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, by T. J. Stiles
“With deep and imaginative research and graceful writing, T. J. Stiles’s The First Tycoon tells the extraordinary story of a brutally competitive man who was hard to love but irresistibly interesting as a truly pivotal historical figure. With few letters and no diaries, and with layers of legend to carve through, Stiles captures Cornelius Vanderbilt as a person and as a force who shaped the transportation revolution, all but invented unbridled American capitalism, and left his mark not only all over New York City but, for better or worse, all over our economic landscape.”
Fiction: Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
“Like the funambulist at the heart of this extraordinary novel, Colum McCann accomplishes a gravity-defying feat: from ten ordinary lives he crafts an indelibly hallucinatory portrait of a decaying New York City, and offers through his generosity of spirit and lyrical gifts an ecstatic vision of the human courage required to stay aloft above the ever-yawning abyss.”
To find more about the winners and finalists, as well as interviews with the authors, visit the National Book Foundation website.