The National Book Award winners will be announced tonight in New York City. The closest thing U.S. publishing has to the Academy Awards, the prizes are voted on by expert panels of judges convened by the National Book Foundation.
Here's this year's shortlists, along with who we think will take home the big prizes:
Fiction, discussed by Zoë Triska, HuffPost Books Associate Editor
The fiction list is a hard call, as every author on it is great. We have several gigantic authors (Dave Eggers, Junot Diaz), some middle weights (Ben Fountain, Louise Erdrich) and a newbie, (Kevin Powers). None of the authors has won before, probably partially because prior to this, the judges had a tendency to pick more obscure titles, the ones that HADN'T gotten a lot of buzz. I think the fight probably comes down to Kevin Powers and Louise Eldrich. However, in the end, I think that Louise Erdrich will win for The Round House. I haven't stopped hearing how amazing that book is since it came out.
Non-Fiction, discussed by Andrew Losowsky, HuffPost Books Editor
Every ten years or so since 1982, Robert Caro has produced another volume in his epic biography of Lyndon Johnson. The previous volume, Master of the Senate, won the NBA in 1992, so it seems hard to see beyond volume four, The Passage of Power, from taking the prize again. Especially in a year when the Man Booker Prize proved that sequels can be winners too. But this is a strong shortlist, also featuring accomplished journalist Anne Applebaum's detailed look at the crushing of Eastern Europe by Russian forces in the 1940s and 50s; Domingo Martinez's first-person look at growing up in South Texas in the 1980s, and the late reporter Anthony Shadid's memoir of growing up in the Middle East. However, my money, if I were betting any, would be on New Yorker journalist and MacArthur Fellow Katherine Boo's first book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, a moving and intelligent look at life in an Indian slum. "Comparison to Dickens is not unwarranted," wrote The New York Times. Enough said.
Young People's Literature, discussed by Elizabeth Perle, HuffPost Teen Editor
While the heart-wrenching and beautiful Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick may seem like the shoe-in for this category (McCormick is a former National Book Award finalist for Sold), I'm going to go with the slightly less buzzy but equally well-reviewed Endangered by Eliot Schrefer as the winner. Schrefer's story follows 14-year-old Sophie who adopts a bonobo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and after a political rebellion ends up hiding out in the jungle with him for survival. According to a New York Times reviewer, "The descriptions of [the bonobo] are so visceral I sometimes felt I was holding a bonobo, not a book." (Note: One day I would like to believe a deeply imaginative fantasy book like Goblin Secrets will not be considered an underdog for this category, but alas, it is not this day.)
Poetry, discussed by Madeleine Crum, HuffPost Books Associate Editor
In comparison with the recent trend in nominating younger or debut fiction authors, the poetry category favors more seasoned writers. One nominee, David Ferry, is in his 80s; another, Alan Shapiro, has penned nine collections; while Susan Wheeler has appeared in numerous editions of The Best American Poetry series. Still, the committee seems to make selections based on individual works rather than an individual's entire career, so I'm guessing Cynthia Huntington's Heavenly Bodies, an examination of female sexuality in the 60s, might take home the prize.
See the complete shortlists below: