So, they announced the nominees for the National Book Award yesterday. Interesting choices. Here they are with some comments:
Drop City by T. C. Boyle: I read this one about a year ago. The book is definitely better than some of the, in my opinion, duds he has produced of late, but it does not come close to surpassing his three best books: The Tortilla Curtain, World’s End, and one of my all-time favorites, Water Music.
The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard: I haven’t read this one, but I have a copy. If you would like to read it and write a little review for this website, I will send the book to you at my expense. Any takers?
The Known World by Edward P. Jones: I have not read this one but I hear it’s quite good. It was extremely well-reviewed.
A Ship Made of Paper by Scott Spencer: This one came out a while back and was also well reviewed, although I only ever seemed to hear Scott Spencer fans talking about it.
Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins: this one slipped under my radar because this is the first I’ve heard of it. I know, not very helpful.
My pick to win: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
And the nominees for non-fiction are…. (drum roll):
Gulag by Anne Applebaum: I read this book and was completely floored by it. Applebaum was able to get to the heart of a multi-generational tragedy that affected literally tens of millions of people yet is curiously underrepresented in history books. Bravo to her for braving the horrors and writing an unflinching book.
The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt: this one was very well reviewed, and, though the subject matter is rather quaint and sentimental, it is pretty clever to follow the history of a house across many generations. Apparently, Colt does a good job of it.
Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D’Emilio: This one pretty much slipped under my radar as well. Rustin is the man responsible for organizing the historical Civil Rights March on Washington.
Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire: This one came out a while ago to not a whole lot of fanfare. It is pretty highly regarded, and is a must read for folks who are interested in Cuba.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson: This one was a huge seller. The book provides a healthy dose of historical true crime excitement as it traces the steps of a serial killer who terrorized the Chicago Worlds Fair at the turn of the century. Would love to read this one.
My pick: I hope Applebaum wins, but I think the award will go to Colt.
For all the details and author bios as well as the nominees in the childrens and poetry categories go to the National Book Award website.