The 2014 National Book Awards were announced in a ceremony on November 19 in New York City. The National Book Awards, an American literary award established in 1936 and given annually since 1950, are administered by the National Book Foundation. The semi-finalists, finalists and winners are picked by a panel of esteemed judges from a list of nominees put forward by literary publishers, in four categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature.
And without further ado, the 2014 winners of the National Book Awards are:
From 2007 to 2008, Phil Klay served in Iraq as a public affairs officer in Anbar province. It was an experience he mined for this book of short stories about, among other things, an American billionaire who tries to bring baseball to Iraq and a Marine handling the bodies of soldiers who died in combat. “What I really want — and I think what a lot of veterans want — is a sense of serious engagement with the wars,” Klay tells NPR’s Linda Wertheimer, “because it’s important, because it matters, because lives are at stake, and it’s something we did as a nation.” (NPR Books)
Non-Fiction: Age of Ambition – Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos
Evan Osnos was the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker during a period of immense social and economic change. Age of Ambition documents what he calls China’s Gilded Age, and the personal stories of people trying to negotiate it, from a Taiwanese soldier who defected to China, to a peasant who started a dating website. “China’s transformation — its extraordinary economic growth — to put in perspective, is 100 times the scale and 10 times the speed of the first industrial revolution which transformed Britain,” Osnos tells NPR’s Fresh Air. (NPR Books)
Poetry: Faithful and Virtuous Night, by Louise Glück
Louise Glück has been writing poetry for more than four decades, and still her most recent collection feels like a departure. Much of Faithful and Virtuous Night takes place in the countryside and features an aging painter facing his own decline; the poetry itself is abstract and lovely. But as NPR critic Annalisa Quinn writes, “A mist has settled over these poems — they’ve become clouds in which you can divine whatever you like — ships or volcanoes or your mother’s nose — but there’s ultimately little to hold on to.” (NPR Books)
Young People’s Literature: Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
Newbery Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson uses poetry to tell the story of her childhood in Brown Girl Dreaming. Born in Columbus, Ohio, as the civil rights movement was gaining steam, she grew up in both the North and the South, experiencing both Jim Crow segregation and subtler forms of racism. Brown Girl Dreaming isn’t just for brown girls, Woodson tells NPR’s Code Switch: “There was something about ‘brown’ that felt more universal, and it was speaking to more people than myself. … I do believe that books can change lives and give people this kind of language they wouldn’t have had otherwise.” (NPR Books)
Thanks to NPR’s excellent literary coverage for giving us the synopsis of each book; follow their link to learn more about not only the winners, but also all the finalists. To read a report of the ceremony itself (which seems like it was quite lively, especially with Ursula K. Le Guin, who was given an award for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters, scolding Amazon and speaking up for science fiction writers in her acceptance speech), click over to NPR’s “The Two-Way”.
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!