NEW YORK — The subjects of this year's National Book Award nominees were better known than the authors.
Biographies about tycoons Henry Ford and Cornelius Vanderbilt were among the finalists announced Wednesday, along with two books relating to Charles Darwin. But judges also omitted such widely publicized releases as Lorrie Moore's "At the Gate of the Stairs," Richard Powers' "Generosity" and Blake Bailey's biography of John Cheever.
Five books from university presses were among the 20 chosen in four competitive categories. Fiction judges picked Bonnie Jo Campbell's story collection, "American Salvage," a paperback original released by Wayne State University Press, the publisher's first National Book Award nomination in its more than 60 year history.
"We're very pleasantly surprised. We nominate some of our best books each year and we've finally made it," said Wayne State Press director Jane Hoehner. "I don't think awards should just go to the big guns. There needs to be a combination, a willingness to look around and find talent."
Winners, each of whom receive $10,000, will be announced at a Nov. 18 ceremony in New York. Humorist Andy Borowitz will host and honorary medals will be presented to Gore Vidal and Dave Eggers.