National Book Awards 2013: The Shortlist (Fiction)

national book awards 2013 shortlist

Books awards season is in full bloom. The Nobel Literature Prize last week, the Man Booker Prize yesterday and, today, the announcement of the shortlist for the 2013 US National Book Award.

Some background on this award, if you’re new to it:

– Relatively speaking, this is a more recent award, having started in 1936 by the American Bookseller’s Association. Like the Nobel Prize, it was also halted during World War II. It started back up again in 1950 by 3 different book industry organizations. In 1988, the non-profit, National Book Foundation, was formed and took over the administration and publicization of the award.

– Pre-WWII, they accepted non-US authors. However, post-WWII, this award has been for US authors published in the US only.

– The process is not unlike that for the Man Booker, although there are a lot more judges involved. Also, there are more titles as there are more categories – fiction, non-fiction, Young People’s literature and poetry genres.

– For a while, they tried to be the “Oscars” of Book Awards. This did not last.

– However, there are two separate Academy-style annual awards categories:

– The Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters – started in 1988 and given for a lifetime of work

– The Literarian Award – started in 2005 and given for outstanding service to the American literary community

About the Shortlisted Books:

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The Lowland by Jhumpa LahiriTwo-for-the-price-of-one reviews by the L A Times Books

The Good Lord Bird by James McBrideOne of the best reviews thus far at The New York Times

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon – The book trailer is worth checking out as it was possibly written by Pynchon himself. But, if that doesn’t do much for you, this review by Jonathan Lethem in the New York Times (again) might be helpful.

Tenth of December by George Saunders – The most interesting review, of course, is the one that came out in January and declared it to be the best book of the year. For something a little less, well, over the top, try Michiko Kakutani’s review in, yes, again, the New York Times.

There you have it. For now. We’ll be back when the winner is announced on November 20 in New York at a big gala dinner.

Who are you betting on?