The finalists for the National Book Awards have been named. From 1,223 books submitted for the awards in 2011, the judges must name only five in each category.
Unlike the Pulitzer prize, the NBA judges are practitioners of the work they judge: only fiction writers decide fiction and only poets decide poets. This year’s fiction judges are Jerome Charyn, John Crowley, Victor LaValle, Yiyun Li and Dierdre McNamer. The non-fiction judges are Yunte Huang, Alice Kaplan, Jill Lepore and Barbara Savage.
Deborah Baker, The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism (Graywolf)
Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (Little, Brown)
Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W.W. Norton)
Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking)
Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie A Tale of Love and Fallout (It Books)
Analysis: Well, that’s a lot of biographies (only one book is not a biography) but an eclectic bunch: Ms. Baker’s book used an unconventional non-fiction method of recreating letters and diary entries, and Ms. Redniss’s book is the first time a graphic novel has been nominated.
Andrew Krivak, The Sojourn (Bellevue Literary Press)
Tea Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife (Random House)
Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic (Knopf)
Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories (Lookout Books)
Jesmyne Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury USA)
Analysis: Tea Obreht has already won a bunch of prizes so no surprise there. But what a showing for the smaller publishers! Bellevue usually publishes books that are “at the intersection of art and science” and Lookout is the literary imprint of the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.
Nicky Finny, Head Off and Split (Triquarterly)
Yusuf Komyunakaa, The Chameleon Couch (FSG)
Carl Phillips, Double Shadow (FSG)
Adrienne Rich, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007 – 2011 (W.W. Norton)
Bruce Smith, Devotions (University of Chicago Press)