Small Publisher, Big Prize

The winner for fiction of the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award is Gin Phillips for The Well and the Mine from Portland, Oregon indie publisher, Hawthorne Books. The prize is $10,000 and, more importantly, a full year of promotion by B&N. There are currently 20,000 copies of the book in print, which is respectable, particularly for a small press.

In a press release, B&N described the book this way,

The Well and the Mine, Gin Phillips’ debut novel set in 1930s Alabama, gracefully employs a chorus of narratives to reveal the racial and class divides that arise in the wake of a young girl’s testimony. 

The book received strong reviews in Publishers Weekly, the Portland Oregonian, the LA Times, and O, the Oprah Magazine and features an introduction by Fannie Flagg. It is owned in modest quantities by most libraries, with reserve lists in some (one midwestern library is showing 13 holds to one copy).

The Well and the Mine
Gin Phillips
Retail Price: $15.95
Paperback: 251 pages
Publisher: Hawthorne Books – (2008-01-21)
ISBN / EAN: 0976631172 / 9780976631170

The second-place winner, The Book of Getting Even, by Benjamin Taylor, is also from an indie publisher, Steerforth in Hanover, New Hampshire. The author will receive $5,000 (but not the year-long promotion). It is also owned in small quantities by most libraries. B&N describes it this way;

The coming of age of a college student is the theme of Benjamin Taylor’s second novel, The Book of Getting Even, which follows – with pathos and humor – an aspiring astronomer as he learns the limits of both mathematics and relationships.

The Book of Getting Even: A Novel
Benjamin Taylor
Retail Price: $14.95
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Zoland Books – (2009-02-10)
ISBN / EAN: 1581952325 / 9781581952322

The third-place fiction winner and all three of the nonfiction winners come from large publishers and are generally well-represented in libraries. Below are the titles, with the B&N annotations:

Fiction, Third-place:

Sway: A Novel
Zachary Lazar
Retail Price: $13.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Back Bay Books – (2009-02-10)
ISBN / EAN: 0316113115 / 9780316113113

Sway by Zachary Lazar (Little, Brown)

Zachary Lazar’s second novel, Sway, weaves together three storylines to form a dark, harrowing and kaleidoscopic portrait of the late Sixties. Fictionalizing the narrative voices of Brian Jones (of the Rolling Stones), avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and Charles Manson acolyte Bobby Beausoleil, Lazar probes the dark heart of a decade that began with peace-professing promise only to end in violence. 

Nonfiction

Winner: Beautiful Boy by David Sheff (Houghton Mifflin)

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction
David Sheff
Retail Price: $14.95
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books – (2009-01-06)
ISBN / EAN: 0547203888 / 9780547203881

Beautiful Boy is David Sheff’s devastating and personal account of his efforts to save his teenage son Nick from an addiction to methamphetamine.

Second-place: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner (Twelve)

 

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World
Eric Weiner
Retail Price: $13.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Twelve – (2009-01-05)
ISBN / EAN: 044669889X / 9780446698894

Having spent a fair amount of time in war torn regions, Eric Weiner’s quest to discover better environs led him to ferret out the undiscovered “happiest” places on earth. The result of his efforts is his hilarious and intelligent debut, The Geography of Bliss.

 

Third-place: Blue Sky July by Nia Wyn (Dutton)

Blue Sky July: A Mother’s Story of Hope and Healing
Nia Wyn
Retail Price: $23.95
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult – (2008-08-14)

Written as haiku-like journal entries, Nia Wyn’s personal memoir Blue Sky July is a haunting yet uplifting diary of her experience as the mother of a special needs child.

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