Fun Facts about the National Book Awards

Library Resources | November 17, 2017

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The National Book Awards is largely considered one of the most prestigious events in the literary world. Here are five fun facts about the awards.

In a ceremony hosted by actor and activist Cynthia Nixon on November 15th, the National Book Foundation crowned this year’s winners of the National Book Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. A National Book Award is largely considered one of the most prestigious awards in the literary world. The librarians here at EBSCO did some digging to find fun facts about what goes on behind the scenes, and how these books are selected.,

  1. The juries in each of the four categories are made up of esteemed authors, past winners, and highly regarded members of the literary community. This year, the fiction judges included past winner Jacqueline Woodson, as well as Alexander Chee and Dave Eggers. The judges for Young People’s Literature included beloved young adult author Kekla Magoon, as well as other well-known authors such as Alex Sanchez and Meg Medina.
  2. The Young People’s Literature category started in 1996, after many incarnations of a Children’s Books category. Two books have won both the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and the prestigious Newbery Medal: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and Holes by Louis Sachar.
  3. According to the eligibility requirements, self-published books are not eligible for submission.
  4. This year, for the first time, about 75% of the finalists are attributed to women authors.
  5. Criticism of the National Book Awards has included statements like, “The National Book Awards has been corrupted by politics,” calling out this year’s finalist Democracy in Chains for including factual errors and distortions yet still being considered as a finalist. More criticism includes this op-ed which speculates that juries try to please the widest possible audience.

The National Book Awards is largely considered one of the most prestigious events in the literary world.

You can find the finalists and winners of the National Book Awards listed here and access some of the finalists through EBSCO eBooks™, including the highlights below, which are also included in EBSCO eBooks’ Adult Award Winners collection.

 The Leavers by Lisa Ko (Finalist in Fiction)

 “One morning, Deming Guo's mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon—and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he's ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents' desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind. Told from the perspective of both Daniel—as he grows into a directionless young man—and Polly, Ko's novel gives us one of fiction's most singular mothers. Loving and selfish, determined and frightened, Polly is forced to make one heart wrenching choice after another. Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid examination of borders and belonging. It's a moving story of how a boy comes into his own when everything he loves is taken away, and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of the past.” –  Publisher’s note

 Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Finalist in Nonfiction)

 “In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.” – Publisher’s note

In the Language of my Captor by Shane McCrae (Finalist in Poetry)

 “Acclaimed poet Shane McCrae’s latest collection is a book about freedom told through stories of captivity. Historical persona poems and a prose memoir at the center of the book address the illusory freedom of both black and white Americans. In the book’s three sequences, McCrae explores the role mass entertainment plays in oppression, he confronts the myth that freedom can be based upon the power to dominate others, and, in poems about the mixed-race child adopted by Jefferson Davis in the last year of the Civil War, he interrogates the infrequently examined connections between racism and love.” – Publisher’s note

What Girls are Made of by Elana K. Arnold (Finalist Young People’s Literature)

“When Nina Faye was fourteen, her mother told her there was no such thing as unconditional love. Nina believed her. Now she'll do anything for the boy she loves, to prove she's worthy of him. But when he breaks up with her, Nina is lost. What is she if not a girlfriend? What is she made of? Broken-hearted, Nina tries to figure out what the conditions of love are.” – Publisher’s note


For a ready-made list of award winners in several categories, check out EBSCO eBooksAdult Award Winners Collection.

View the Collection

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