The 65th National Book Awards ceremony was held on Wednesday evening, with winners named in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. Here are the winners:
Fiction: Phil Klay, Redeployment (The Penguin Press/ Penguin Group (USA))
Nonfiction: Evan Osnos, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Poetry: Louise Glück, Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Young People’s Literature: Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Group (USA))
The honorees were chosen from shortlists of five contenders, announced in October, which had been whittled down from longlists of 10. This was only the second year in which a longlist for the National Book Awards had been publicized, though other prominent awards have taken the step in previous years. The Man Booker Prize, for example, first announced a longlist in 2001 and has continued to do so.
This year, the nonfiction longlist, and shortlist, stirred up the most chatter. Not only did the nominees include Roz Chast's graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, the first comic book to be a finalist in the nonfiction category, the nonfiction list was otherwise entirely male. This significant gender imbalance drew heavy criticism, with Slate's Katy Waldman noting that "The skew is especially notable given that, in general, the NBA is recognizing more and more women."
The shortlists showed an eye toward variety in other respects, however; the fiction category included a postapocalyptic, dystopian novel, a debut short story collection focusing on the military, and two-time fiction nominee Marilynne Robinson's latest work.
Here are the shortlists:
2014 Finalists for the National Book Award for Fiction:
2014 Finalists for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature:
2014 Finalists for the National Book Award for Poetry:
2014 Finalists for the National Book Award for Nonfiction:
In addition to the long-awaited reveal of the winners of the National Book Awards for fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature, the evening honored Ursula K. Le Guin with the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Le Guin, a celebrated science fiction and fantasy writer who has experimented with form and genre while crafting exquisite and thought-provoking literature, previously won the 1973 National Book Award for Children’s Literature. The Foundation’s Medal recognizes her lifetime of contributions to the literary field, which range from short stories to novels, poetry to essays, adult fiction to children’s books, and which embrace the freedom of the human mind to explore the limitless expanses of fantasy as well as gritty realism.
Le Guin, who was introduced by author Neil Gaiman, gave a rousing acceptance speech that celebrated the power of fantasy and speculative fiction to capture an ever-changing modern world. "We will need writers who can remember freedom," she predicted. "Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality." Le Guin also spoke pointedly about the importance of literature as an art form, rather than as a commodity. She took indirect jabs at Amazon and even publishers, denouncing the practice of charging libraries more for e-books than customers. "I've had a good career," she said. "Here at the end of it, I really don't want to watch American literature get sold down the river." Le Guin's strong words drew applause and even, at one point, a yell of "We love you!" from a member of the audience.
The evening also honored Kyle Zimmer, the founder of First Book, a nonprofit that provides low-cost or free books to children, with its 10th Literarian Award. The award recognizes her work building First Book into a vital resource for underprivileged children with limited access to books.
The ceremony was hosted by the popular children’s author Daniel Handler, who is perhaps best known under the nom de plume Lemony Snicket.