2010 National Book Award Finalists

The 2010 National Book Award Finalists have been announced.  What surprises many is that Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is not among the fiction finalists.  What surprises me is that Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squadis not among the fiction finalists.  I’m pleased, though, that Nicole Krauss’s Great House is there.  I haven’t read it yet, but the selection published in The New Yorker earlier this year was fantastic.  I have the book on hand and will be reading it soon.  I’m a bit surprised that Parrot and Olivier in America is there.  I liked it okay, but I didn’t think it was that great.  I haven’t read much about the other three fiction finalists.  As for the Young People’s Literature finalists, usually, thanks to my wife, I know a few of those.  She may have told me about some of these earlier this year, but none of them stuck with me so they are all new to me.

The winner will be announced November 17 (usually quite late in the evening).

Fiction

  • Peter Carey: Parrot and Olivier in America
  • Jaimy Gordon: Lord of Misrule
  • Nicole Krauss: Great House
  • Lionel Shriver: So Much for That
  • Karen Tei Yamashita: I Hotel

Nonfiction

  • Barbara Demick: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
  • John W. Dower: Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq
  • Patti Smith: Just Kids
  • Justin Spring: Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward
  • Megan K. Stack: Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War

Poetry

  • Kathleen Graber: The Eternal City
  • Terrance Hayes: Lighthead
  • James Richardson: By the Numbers
  • C.D. Wright: One with Others
  • Monica Youn: Ignatz

Young People’s Literature

  • Paolo Bacigalupi: Ship Breaker
  • Kathryn Erskine: Mockingbird
  • Laura McNeal: Dark Water
  • Walter Dean Myers: Lockdown
  • Rita Williams-Garcia: One Crazy Summer

15 thoughts on “2010 National Book Award Finalists”

  1. Mrs. Berrett says:

    One Crazy Summer was on my VCFA reading list. I had it marked as one I wanted to read, but never got around to it. Go check it out, I think you’d be impressed that someone is tackling it from a child’s point of view and also for children.

  2. Mrs. Berrett says:

    I just went and looked into the others. I’ve heard of One Crazy Summer, Lockdown, and Ship Breaker.
    Of them all, I think Ship Breaker has the least likely chance of winning. It’s classified as post-apocalyptice, and from what I’ve seen, since the Hunger Games trilogy ended people are a little burnt out on it.
    Furthermore, all of the other books are dealing with some heavy topics (racism, urban crime, school shootings) that, while integrated into Ship Breaker, take a back seat.

  3. What a strange list! I would want to say “oh, they are again drawing our attention to novelists who are overlooked” — and then Carey’s novel (where my opinion is much the same as yours) shows up. Except for the Krauss (and even then my enthusiasm comes mainly from your anticipation), I’m not inclined to read any of these just yet.

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks for looking into them, Mrs. Berrett. Will we be getting any of these for review?

    Kevin, as far as the fiction goes, I’m not sure if I’ll read the others either, though I am very much looking forward to the Krauss. Even without reading it, I had hoped it would make this list as it would give me more reason to read it soon. I’m still sad that A Visit from the Goon Squad didn’t make it. It surely deserves a place bove Parrot and Olivier, and Egan deserves more recognition.

    I do hear that the Shriver book is great, though I’m not inclined to read a take on health care. I admit I’ve never read one of her books. I’m sure she is a great writer, but it seems that she always takes some major contemporary issue and dramatizes it. I’m not attracted. Of the two small press novels, I’m interested most in Lord of Misrule. There isn’t a lot of information about it, and it doesn’t come out until November 1, but it apparently takes place on some race tracks in West Virginia. I Hotel looks a bit too long, but I’m attracted to it because I read somewhere that it reads like “primary sources.” Still, at nearly 700 pages, I doubt I’ll get to it before the winner is announced.

  5. Thanks for that Trevor. As a former race horse owner, and someone who loves the idea of scamming the system, Gordon’s book has just moved onto the must-read pile. I love racetrack books (and may reread one or two others in conjunction with this one).

  6. Joe says:

    I haven’t read any of the fiction nominees, but I’m delighted that Barbara Demick’s “Nothing to Envy” is listed among the nonfiction nominees. It is a fascinating book about life in North Korea. Really chilling and well-written. Usually about 95% of my reading is fiction, but “Nothing to Envy” is as much of a page turner as any novel I read in the past year. Highly recommended.

  7. Trevor says:

    Kevin, I thought that might get your interest!

    Joe, thanks for the tip!

  8. Liz says:

    Can you enlighten me? Why is an Australian author up for the National Book Award? Also, I agree with Joe about Nothing to Envy and I heartily recommend it. My book groups are reading it this season. It also won the Samuel Johnson prize–the UK’s “most prestigious non-fiction award.”

  9. Trevor says:

    Hi Liz. Now, I would never consider Carey an American author, even if this book is “in America,” but apparently Carey has U.S. citizenship, which is a requirement for the NBA. Shirley Hazzard, also Australian, won the NBA in 2003.

  10. Carey must have dual citizenship as he would need the Australian credentials for Booker eligibility.

  11. Trevor says:

    That must be the case, Kevin. Same with Hazzard who was Booker longlisted for The Great Fire too. Lucky writers, eligible for multiple big awards!

  12. Oh…that explains it–thanks so much. Makes one wonder if any literary prize will ever require residency of some length! :-)

  13. Joe says:

    The last few postings in this thread raise the question of whether national book awards make much sense these days. I can see restricting an award to all books published in English or some other language, but as people move around more and as the world becomes more “global,” it may get harder and harder to define what is a “British” book or what is an “American” one. And how relevant are those distinctions anyway? Having said that, I’m all in favor of any and all literary awards. Anything that shines a spotlight on books and authors is a good thing, in my opinion!

  14. tolmsted says:

    I haven’t read any of the finalists either. Though Lord of Misrule and I, Hotel both look like books I’ll want to pick up. (By the way, I’m with you on the length of I, Hotel being off-putting. I’m currently working my way through The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and just typing out the title gives me hand cramps. As much as I’m enjoying the book and the writing, part of me wishes it would move a little faster).

    I’m commenting because I’m really curious about so many people expecting Franzen to be nominated. Personally, I don’t get it. (Much like I don’t get why people thought McCarthy was going to win the Nobel). Where do these predictions come from? All I’ve ever read/heard about Franzen’s books has been the marketing hype and “drama” surrounding their release – very little about the quality of the writing. I tried a little bit of The Corrections, but in all honesty the Updike/Irving style family dramas have never been my thing. And if they were my thing, I’d probably read Updike or Irving. :)

  15. Trevor says:

    I didn’t like the Mitchell, tolmsted, so you have my sympathies when it feels long and my best wishes when it doesn’t.

    As for Franzen, I haven’t read Freedom yet, though I have a copy. I just couldn’t enter the hype. And it seems the book hasn’t been able to bear the early hype, though, to be fair, not many books could. There can only be one book of the century, after all. It is kind of a shame about the hype. I suppose it sold books, but now the book is wallowing, from my perspective.

    As for McCarthy, it looks like the rumors surrounding his Nobel chances came from what could have been a rather small bet at Ladbrokes. Once that bet pushed up his odds, it looked like maybe a leak had occurred, causing others to place bets until eventually enough money was placed that his odds were almost even, making it really look like a leak. And who knows? Maybe the leak did occur but it turned out to be for the shortlist and not the winner; perhaps McCarthy was a finalist. Or, perhaps the Nobel did close it’s leak. Or, perhaps the Nobel, to close it’s leak, leaked false information — maybe they were even the ones who placed the bets. I like that last possibility, personally ;).

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