Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Nominees Get Winnowed Down

The literary world's awards are being handed out or narrowed down this week. The Man Booker Prize was awarded Tuesday to Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Knopf). The novel is a World War II-era love story set in Burma about an Australian doctor in a Japanese POW camp as the Thailand-Burma Railway is being built. Flanagan told attendees, "I never expected to stand here before you in this grand hall in London as a writer, being so honored."

When the Man Booker shortlist was announced, I predicted Flanagan's book as the likely winner and immediately added it to my to-be-read list. For more on Flanagan's win, go here.

Stateside, the shortlists for the National Book Award were announced this morning on NPR's "Morning Edition." Three of the five fiction nominees are on my TBR, including Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner), which I've had pegged as an awards contender since reviewers started buzzing about it back in the spring. The other titles that made the cut were Phil Klay's Redeployment (Penguin Press) and Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven (Knopf) along with Marilynne Robinson's Lila (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press). Despite literature being a subjective art form, there has been universal praise for the fiction nominees from critics and readers alike. On Goodreads, Doerr's book ranks the highest with a 4.19 rating currently with Station Eleven and Lila not far behind.

The nonfiction side was missing my two TBR picks, Ronald Rosbottom's When Paris Went Dark (Little, Brown) and Walter Isaacson's The Innovators (Simon & Schuster). Instead, other works that mostly focused on contemporary topics got the nod. John Lahr's behemoth Tennessee Williams biography (Norton), Roz Chast's memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury), Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) explores modern China, No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal (Henry Holt) looks at Afghanistan and The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright/Norton) made it to the shortlist. I'm not surprised by Norton's dominance and at this point expect Lahr's biography to be the winner but I can't say I'd be disappointed with a Chast win.

The winners will be announced Nov. 19. For complete coverage of the award's shortlist, go here.

My sympathies to Richard Powers, whose book Orfeo did not win either the Man Booker or make it onto the shortlist for the National Book Award. It was on the longlist for both. I was also pulling for John Darnielle's Wolf in White Van, but it also did not make the National cut.

Is there a book you're rooting for? Did it make the cut?

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