The 2012 National Book Award Nominees were announced this morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Five finalists were selected for each of four categories, including Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People's Literature.
Literary darlings Junot Díaz and Dave Eggers were selected in the Fiction category alongside two fairly decorated writers and a debut novelist. Unsurprisingly, Robert A. Caro was nominated in the Nonfiction category for the long-awaited next installment of his Lyndon Johnson saga.
Perhaps the most notable literary prize in America, the National Book Awards are in their 63rd year. Past winners have included both revered literary greats--William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison and Saul Bellow--and forgotten talents.
Whether the awards accurately predict which books will catch fire with the American public has been a point of contention among writers. Critic James Wood called literary awards "the new reviews," but Salon's Laura Miller has called the National Book Awards "irrelevant," calling the 2011 finalists "an assortment of low-profile and/or small-press offerings, with the exception of Tea Obrecht’s bestselling debut, 'The Tiger’s Wife.'"
Obrecht’s bestseller may have been a finalist last year, but it didn't take home the award in the fiction category. Instead, Jesmyn Ward, a relatively little-known author won for her mystical, Hurricane Katrina-inspired tale, Salvage the Bones. According to the New York Times, the eyebrow raising induced by the selection of less seasoned writers can be justified by the sales increases these young novelists see.
A member of the 2011 Fiction panel, Victor LaValle, denied accusations that he and other judges chose intentionally obscure and heady nominees, stating, "These five books worked some special kind of magic on us. In the end, what’s any good reader really hoping for? That spark. That spell."
Check out this year's nominees, as described by the National Book Award staff, and let us know what you think about the books in the comments!: