Archive for the ‘Awards’ Category

National Book Awards Coverage

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Last night’s National Book Awards ceremony was filled with speeches giving generous praise to other writers. It lacked the challenges to the establishment offered last year by Ursula LeGuin (including a jab at her publisher for their ebook pricing to libraries). Happily, it also lacked the painful moment of casual racism by last year’s host (but why do hosts feel compelled to make fun of the proceedings, as did Andy Horowitz this year, who opened the evening by remarking that most people would say of the Awards’ sponsor, “What the fuck is the National Book Foundation?”).

The day-after reporting stresses the surprise win in fiction as well as diversity of authors.

9780812993547_85eb49780812997477_f06dd While most stories focus on Ta-Nehisi Coates’s expected honor in nonfiction for Between the World and Me (PRH/Spiegel & Grau), almost all highlight Adam Johnson’s less expected win for fiction with his short story collection Fortune Smiles: Stories (PRH/Random House).

Reporters such as Meredith Blake of the LA Times writes,

In a completely surprising outcome, Adam Johnson claimed the award for fiction with his short story collection, Fortune Smiles. Johnson, who beat out such favorites as Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life and Lauren Groff for Fates and Furies, appeared as stunned as anyone by the victory. “I told my wife and my kids, ‘Don’t come across America because this is not going to happen,’” said Johnson, who teaches at Stanford.

Johnson is no stranger to awards, however, having won a Pulitzer in 2013 for  The Orphan Master’s Son.

The second major theme of the reporting is the diversity of authors. Bustle offers this take:

In a world when we still (still!) have to call out award committees for having largely white, male longlists and shortlists, it was positively thrilling to see three out of the four awards handed out to black writers. Not only that, but the winners tackled issues like mental illness, racism in modern America, and the black female experience through history.

In summing up the night of bookish celebration, many reports quoted Don DeLillo’s acceptance speech for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters medal (basically, the National Book Foundation’s lifetime achievement award), in which he proclaimed, “Here, I’m not the writer at all, I’m the grateful reader.”

Below is a sample of the reporting. For those who have more of the NBA titles in their TBR piles than not, the VOX story is a particularly good resource, providing a librarian-friendly summary of  every nominee’s story line, appeal, and highlights.

National Book Awards, Live Stream

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

And the winners are:

Young People’s Literature:
Neal Shusterman, Challenger Deep (HarperCollins/HarperTeen)

Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus (PRH/Knopf)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (PRH/Spiegel & Grau)

Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles: Stories (PRH/Random House)

National Book Awards, Tonight

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015


Dress in your best and join the National Book Awards this evening, via live stream.

UPDATE: The site now says that live stream will begin at 7:40 p.m.

Yesterday, Jacqueline Woodson hosted the National Book Award Teen Press Conference (livestream, below, Woodson begins speaking at time stamp 16:35)

And at another event last night the finalists in all categories read from their books.

There’s been little speculation in the press on which books will win. We have to look to the U.K. for a look at the odds on the fiction and nonfiction categories. In a story today, The Guardian asks,”how obscure can the judges go?

The Washington Post examines the finalists in poetry and in Young People’s Literature.

Poetry Reigns Over The December Indie Next List

Monday, November 9th, 2015

9780544555600_bf0b5The Selected Poems of Donald Hall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) tops the December Indie Next list, the first time a book of poetry has led the list.

Hall, former US Poet Laureate, is one of the most beloved and respected poets writing today. This collection spans over seven decades of writing.

Katharine Nevins, of MainStreet BookEnds of Warner, Warner, NH says:

“This is a gift of honesty, intimacy, and the pure genius that is Donald Hall, as he hand-picks what he considers to be the best of his poetry from more than 70 years of published works. From this former U.S. Poet Laureate comes one essential volume of his works, where ‘Ox-Cart Man’ sits alongside ‘Kicking the Leaves’ and ‘Without.’ As he is no longer writing poetry, this ‘concise gathering of my life’s work’ is the perfect introduction to Hall’s literary contributions, as well as closure for his many ardent followers.”

December is traditionally a slow time for publishing as booksellers are up to their ears managing holiday sales. Perhaps as a consequence, just over half of the Indie Next December list features November titles including Umberto Eco’s Numero Zero, Mitch Albom’s The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, Carly Simon’s memoir Boys in the Trees, and Michael Cunningham and Yuko Shimizu’s A Wild Swan: And Other Tales.

9780143128250_9f966Others on the list pubbing in December are paperback originals, including A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton (Penguin; Blackstone Audio), also our most recent Penguin Debut Authors Pick.

Sandi Torkildson, of A Room of One’s Own bookstore in Madison, WI says:

“An intimate look at the devastating effect of the bombing of Nagasaki on one family, this is a story of love — parental and sexual, selfless and selfish, and, in the end, healing. Amaterasu Takahashi opens the door of her home in the U.S. to a badly scarred man claiming to be her grandson, who supposedly perished along with her daughter during the bombing nearly 40 years earlier. The man carries a cache of letters that forces Ama to confront her past and the love affair that tore her apart from her daughter.”

There is not a LibraryReads list in December. Instead librarians will celebrate the full year of reading with a “Favorite of Favorites” list to be issued on Dec. 1.

Librarian picks published in December 2015 will appear together with the January 2016 picks on the January LibraryReads list.

Slate’s Audio Book Club Struggles with A LITTLE LIFE

Monday, November 9th, 2015

9780385539258_d6a46The November Slate book club is an intense conversation regarding Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (RH/Doubleday; OverDrive Sample).

Laura Bennett, Andrew Kahn, Dan Kois, and Katy Waldman, all of Slate, gathered to talk about Hanya Yanagihara’s novel just a few weeks before she discovers if the book wins the National Book Award (to be announced Nov.18).

In what might be the best expression of the group’s reaction, one of the panelists said she has never had as complicated a relationship with a novel, finding it both riveting and deeply unpleasant, a book she could not stop reading even as she found herself emotionally manipulated at every turn.

Another National Book Award finalist, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, will be the subject of the December discussion.

Andrew Carnegie Medal Shortlist

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

The finalists for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction have been announced.

The three fiction picks are:

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The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press; OverDrive Sample)

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard (PRH/Knopf; OverDrive Sample)

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (PRH/Doubleday; Brilliance Audio; OverDrive Sample)

The three nonfiction picks are:

9780802124739_85113 9780316247740_e81d9 9780385350662_dcee8






H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald (Grove Press; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample)

Hold Still by Sally Mann (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio and Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample)

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf (PRH/Knopf; HighBridge audio; OverDrive Sample)

The titles are selected by a committee consisting of members of the Reference and User Services Association of ALA and staff from Booklist magazine. The winners will be announced during the ALA Midwinter meeting along with the Notable Book List, The Reading List, The Listen List, the Dartmouth Medal, the Sophie Brody Medal, and other RUSA book awards.

National Book Awards Shortlist

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015


Winnowed down from longlists of ten titles in each category, The National Book Awards shortlists were announced today on NPR’s Morning Edition.

After her loss last night at the Booker Awards, Hanya Yanagihara sails through to the next round of the NBAs. Lauren Groff, whose book Fates and Furies is the current NPR Morning Edition Book Club pick, also makes the shortlist.

In what many may see as a surprise based on his earlier reception, Bill Clegg did not make the cut to the shortlist with Did You Ever Have a Family.

NPR book experts, providing color commentary on the announcements, highlighted Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, saying it is a “lovely, lovely book” that picks up on many of the themes in the entire fiction list as it is a domestic drama dealing with financial insecurity, children and parents, and grieving.

In nonfiction there were few surprises as the big names and buzzy books made the second round. NPR commentators remarked that Ta-Nehisi Coates’s best seller, Between the World and Me is a book notable for its “tone of implacable, fatalistic dread.” They also called attention to the two memoirs, written with grace and skill by non-memoirists, photographer Sally Mann and poet Tracy K. Smith.

Poetry also saw many of the big names make the shortlist although one of the few household-name poets of recent years, Jane Hirshfield, did not. NPR’s book experts especially liked Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things, calling it “a beautiful collection” and saying the lyrical and emotional poems lure one to read them aloud.

The Young People’s Literature list is called the “antidote to Frozen” by the NPR experts. They highlighted Nimona in particular, praising it as a “beautiful, goofy, charming graphic novel” that explores how we talk about girls and women and offers a grand mix of wistfulness and sadness that marks the best of YA literature.

The full shortlists are below. Winners will be announced on Nov. 18th.


Information on the longlist titles here.

Karen E. Bender, Refund: Stories (Counterpoint Press, dist. by Perseus/PGW)

Angela Flournoy, The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies (Penguin/Riverhead)

Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles: Stories (Random House)

Hanya Yanagihara,  A Little Life (RH/Doubleday)


Information on the longlist titles here.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (RH/Spiegel & Grau)

Sally Mann, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Hachette/Little, Brown)

Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (S&S/Atria; S&S Audio)

Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran (Macmillan/Holt)

Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light: A Memoir (RH/ Knopf; Recorded Books)

Marlon James Wins the
Booker Prize

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

[Note: we’ve made several additions to this story since we first posted it last night]

In the second year that American writers were eligible for the Booker, two made the shortlist, but ultimately did not win. The winner, however, lives in the U.S. and his books were originally published by U.S. publishing houses.

The9781594486005_04fae winner is the first Jamaican writer to win the award, Marlon James for A Brief History of Seven Killings (Penguin/Riverhead; HighBridge Audio; OverDrive Sample, 2014; released in trade paperback, Sept. 8, 2015). He lives in Minneapolis and teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul.

In his remarks, James said he was shaped by reading previous Booker winners and noted that ten years ago he nearly gave up on writing, thanking Johnny Temple at independent publisher Akashic Books in Brooklyn for publishing his debut, John Crow’s Devil, (9781936070107). He also thanked his editors at the Riverhead imprint of Penguin U.S. (see him give his acceptance speech here — the second video).

A Brief History of Seven Killings, published last year in the US, appeared on many of the year’s best books lists and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

James is scheduled to appear on Monday at Minneapolis bookstore Magers & Quinn. He is also scheduled for appearances at Hennepin County Public Library at the end of the month.

In March, he was interviewed on Late Night with  Seth Meyers:

Reviews — Michiko Kakutani, New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street JournalNYT Sunday Book Review.

The Guardian calls the winning novel “an epic, uncompromising novel not for the faint of heart. It brims with shocking gang violence, swearing, graphic sex, drug crime but also, said the judges, a lot of laughs.”

UPDATE: The Booker Bump strikes again. By Wed. morning, Oct. 14, A Brief History of Seven Killings rose to #20 on Amazon sales rankings in paperback and #137 in hardcover.

Svetlana Alexievich Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Voices from Chernobyl  Zinky Boys
Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarussian journalist and oral historian, won the Nobel Prize in Literature today for what the Swedish Academy describes as  “her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”

The New York Times reports Alexievich is “best known for giving voice to women and men who had lived through World War II, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that lasted from 1979 to 1989, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.” She is the 14th woman to win the prize.

Breaking recent precedent, Alexievich is a nonfiction writer, not a novelist or poet. However, Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, quoted in the NYT‘, says she has created “a history of emotions — a history of the soul, if you wish.”

Of her books in English translations, two are currently available,  Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (Norton; 9780393336863; 1992) and  Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster  (hardcover, Dalkey Archive Press; trade pbk Macmillan/Picador, 2006), which won the 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Her website lists a few other titles translated in English, likely to soon be released in the U.S.

Proving the bookies right for the first time in years, Alexievich was the odds on favorite to win the prize, beating out Haruki Murakami, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Banville who were all rumored to be in the running as well.

Nobel Prize in Lit: Murakami’s Year?

Monday, October 5th, 2015

The most prestigious lifetime award for literature, The Nobel Prize, will be announced on Thursday at 7 a.m. EST [UPDATE: We originally miscalculated the time difference. We THINK  we have it right now. The announcement is scheduled for 11 a.m. GMT and  Eastern Time  is GMT minus 4:00].

Famously hard to forecast, it is an award that often befuddles odds makers as names circle around in the wind days before the announcement.

Last year the favorite was Japan’s Haruki Murakami with Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and Belarusian author and journalist Svetlana Alexievich also in the running.

The winner? French novelist Patrick Modiano who had just 10/1 odds three days before the 2014 announcement.

Modiano had few books translated into English at the time. The Telegraph‘s news story was headlined “Patrick Modiano: the Nobel Prize-winner nobody had read.” Since, there has been a boom of translations, bigger publishing houses buying rights, and a string of articles focused on his work in such places as the L.A. TimesThe New Yorker, and The Millions.

The luckless odds makers at betting firms Ladbrokes and Paddy Power seem to be fully baffled this year. The Guardian reports the bookies are simply rearranging their 2014 picks, leading with Svetlana Alexievich and offering Haruki Murakami and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o as back up.

Americans Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates and 2005 Booker winner, Irish writer John Banville are also in the mix as are Korean poet Ko Un and Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai, winner of the Man Booker International award.

9780679775430_199d7  9780679743460_9b3f7   9780307593313_66750

It could be Murakami’s turn based on frequency alone. The Wall Street Journal says it has become “a seasonal event over the past few years for Mr. Murakami’s name to pop up as a frontrunner.”

He was a favorite in 2013 as well (the year the prize went to Alice Munro). Quite naturally Murakami finds the speculation and horse race aspects of the run up to the announcement “quite annoying,” reports the paper.

If this is finally Murakami’s year, readers will have plenty of his titles in English to choose from, so many that Matthew Carl Strecher, who has written 3 books on Murakami, was able to select “The 10 Best Haruki Murakami Books” for Publishers Weekly.

But Murakami might be annoyed for at least another year. The Guardian quotes one of the lead bookmakers, Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes, as saying, “literary speculators believe we’ll see the winner come from out of leftfield.”

It is no small prize to win. On top of the profound honor and a considerable cash award, it increases book sales.

Carnegie Medal Longlist Announced

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.18.19 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.19.46 AMHere’s your chance to test your book knowledge against the librarians on the committee for the Andrew Carnegie Medal. The 2016 Longlist has been released including some expected titles, big hitters, committee favorites, and a few esoteric choices.

Among the 20 fiction selections is former winner Anne Enright’s The Green Road (Norton), also on this year’s Booker longlist but not on the shortlist.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.33.16 AMOn the fiction list, titles that have already received widespread attention are Jonathan Franzen’s Purity (Macmillan/FSG), Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (RH/Doubleday), and Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread (RH/Knopf).

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.33.40 AMBuzzy titles such as Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire (Knopf, coming Oct 13), a LibraryReads pick for October, and Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family (S&S/Gallery/Scout), both a LibraryReads and Indie Next pick, also made the fiction cut.

Smaller publishers are recognized as well with Chantel Acevedo’s The Distant Marvels (Europa) and Joe Meno’s Marvel and a Wonder (Akashic).

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 9.20.12 AMIn nonfiction the 20 choices largely highlight big names such as Patti Smith’s M Train (RH/Knopf coming next week), the memoir by the recently departed Oliver Sacks, On the Move (RH/Knopf), Ta-Nehisi Coates’s best selling  Between the World and Me (RH/Spiegel & Grau), Simon Winchester’s Pacific (Harper, coming Oct. 27), and Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk (Grove), which received wide acclaim earlier this year.

The forty titles will be winnowed down to a shortlist on October 19.

The Carnegie committee, a joint project between RUSA and Booklist, is chaired this year by Nancy Pearl Nancy Pearl (who also chaired the first awards committee in 2012). The medals are part of the line up of book awards presented by RUSA which also includes The Notable Book List and The Reading List. All three awards, as well as the many others that RUSA bestows, will be announced during ALA’s Midwinter meeting at RUSA’s Book and Media Awards reception on January 10.


Monday, September 21st, 2015

Olive KitteridgeHBO had a good night at the Emmys, particularly for its book-based series, Olive Kitteridge and Game Of Thrones.

Olive Kitteridge, based on Elizabeth Strout’s 2009 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, took home a total of 8 Emmys, including one for best miniseries. A passion project for Frances McDormand, who bought the rights to the novel in 2010, she was rewarded by winning her first Emmys, as star and producer.

In accepting the award, McDormand gave full credit to the source, declaring twice, “It started as a book!” effectively refuting host Andy Samberg’s opening monologue, in which he inexplicably dissed books, saying, “The Emmy’s are all about celebrating the best of the year in television. So, sorry, books, not tonight,” as the words, “SUCK IT BOOKS” appeared on the screen.

McDormand signaled her interest in continuing the series, according to Deadline, telling reporters in the press room after the Awards, “It’s 13 short stories … it was infinitely exciting to read and I thought that it could be a great town to spend some time in,” adding, “We would love to do more and we would love for you all to start a social media campaign to do more.”

PBS’s Wolf Hall, based on the first two books in Hillary Mantel’s Tudors series, was nominated in several categories, but ended up with no wins


Thursday, September 17th, 2015


Days after being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Hanya Yanagihara’s  A Little Life (RH/Doubleday) is one of ten titles on the National Book Awards Longlist for Fction released today. The other US author on the Booker shortlist, Anne Tyler, for A Spool of Blue Thread, however, is not on the NBA Longlist.

Also on the list is a LibraryReads pick that has received much fanfare in advance of its publication this week (see our “Titles to Know and Recommend, the Week of Sept. 14“), and was just announced as the next title in NPR’s Morning Edition Book Club, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies (Penguin/Riverhead).

The shortlist will be announced October 15. The winners will be announced on Nov. 18.

Below is the list, with links to publisher information. All of the titles have been published (titles published between Dec. 1, 2104 through Nov. 30, 2015 are eligible).

The 2015 National Book Award for Fiction Longlist

Jesse Ball, A Cure for Suicide (RH/Pantheon Books)

Karen E. Bender, Refund: Stories (Counterpoint Press, dist. by Perseus/PGW)

Bill Clegg, Did You Ever Have a Family (S&S/Scout Press)

Angela Flournoy, The Turner House (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies (Penguin/Riverhead)

Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles: Stories (Random House)

T. Geronimo Johnson, Welcome to Braggsville (HarperCollins/Morrow; pbk released this month)

Edith Pearlman, Honeydew (Hachette/Little, Brown; pbk arrives next week)

Hanya Yanagihara,  A Little Life (RH/Doubleday)

Nell Zink, Mislaid (HarperCollins/Ecco)

The NBA Nonfiction Longlist

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015


Including best sellers by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sally Mann as well as titles that have received less attention, The National Book Awards longlist for Nonfiction was released today. The judging panel includes Paul Holdengräber host of the popular interview series, Live from the New York Public Library.

The shortlist will be announced October 15. The winners will be announced on Nov. 18.

The fourth and final 2015 NBA longlist, for fiction, will be released tomorrow morning.

The 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction Longlist

Cynthia Barnett, Rain: A Natural and Cultural History (RH/Crown; 4/21/15)

Starred by LJ and Booklist, this look at a common natural phenomenon was reviewed in many publications, including the NYT Sunday Book Review

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (RH/Spiegel & Grau; 7/14/15)

The most widely covered by the media of the books on the list, the author appeared on many shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

It is currently #2 on the NYT Hardcover Nonfiction Best Sellers list after eight weeks (it was #1 for three weeks)

Martha Hodes, Mourning Lincoln (Yale University Press; 2/24/15)

A look at how everyday Americans mourned Lincoln and how his assassination continues to affect the culture. It was reviewed, not particularly enthusiastically, in the NYT Sunday Book Review and the Wall Street Journal

Sally Mann, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Hachette/Little, Brown; 5/12/15)

An Indie Next pick, this memoir by the renowned photographer was starred by PW and Booklist and reviewed widely. In the daily NYT, Dwight Garner called it “weird, intense and uncommonly beautiful.” It appeared on several best seller lists, hitting a high of #9 on the NYT list.

Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness (S&S/Atria; S&S Audio; 5/15/15)

After reading this, you are unlikely to ever order grilled octopus again. It was reviewed appreciatively in the Seattle Times. The Wall Street Journal took a dimmer view of it.

Susanna Moore, Paradise of the Pacific: Approaching Hawaii (Macmillan/ FSG; 9/1/15)

More well known for her novels, Moore has written two previous books on Hawaii. In the NYT Sunday Book Review Jan Morris called it “an astonishingly learned summation of the Hawaiian meaning, elegantly written, often delightfully entertaining and ultimately sad.”

Michael Paterniti, Love and Other Ways of Dying: Essays (RH/Dial Press; Tantor Audio; 3/3/15)

By the author of The Telling Room, which received a great deal of attention in 2013, this follow-up has drawn less attention, only reviewed prepub by PW and Kirkus, which said, “carefully curated selection of features demonstrates the breadth of the author’s peculiar, personal style of storytelling.”

Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran (Macmillan/Holt; 4/2/15)

Reviewed by the Washington Post, which calls it, “an unusual book, simultaneously an exploration of faith and of Islam as it is lived by those who know it most intimately.”

Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light: A Memoir (RH/ Knopf, 4/25/15; Recorded Books)

The author won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Life on Mars.

The NYT Sunday Book Review clearly appreciated this coming-of-age memoir by the African-American poet, but that review offers no quotable lines. Carol Memmott in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, provides one, “Ordinary Light is as poetic as Life on Mars. Smith’s spare yet beautiful prose transforms her story into a shining example of how one person’s shared memories can brighten everyone’s world.”

Michael White, Travels in Vermeer: A Memoir (Persea Books, dist. by Norton; 3/5/15)

The one paperback on the list, the only consumer review it received was from Shelf Awareness for Readers, which called it an “unusual and riveting memoir” in which White, reeling from a divorce, goes to Amsterdam and becomes entranced with Vermeer.

The NBA Poetry Longlist

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015


The ten titles on the The National Book Awards longlist for poetry released today prove poetry is still being published by the Big Five publishers. Over half the titles are published by three of them, RH/Knopf (3 titles), Penguin (2) and Macmillan/FSG (1). W.W. Norton, a large independent publisher that is  bastion for poetry, published one of the nominees as did a university press and two independents.

The list includes two prior National Book Award winners, Marilyn Hacker and Terrance Hayes; previous National Book Award finalist Lawrence Raab; and two Cave Canem Fellows, Ross Gay and Robin Coste Lewis.

All but one of the titles were reviewed in the pre-pub journals with half the list receiving starred reviews.

The shortlist will be announced October 15. The winners will be announced on Nov. 18.

The 2015 National Book Award for Poetry Longlist

Ross Gay, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (Pitt Poetry Series/University of Pittsburgh Press)

Reviewed by Booklist and Publishers Weekly, which said “these simple, joyful poems read like a litany of what’s good in the world.” The Rumpus featured Gay in one of its Late Nite Poetry Shows.

Amy Gerstler, Scattered at Sea (Penguin)

Reviewed by Library Journal and starred by Publishers Weekly. The Washington Post, picked the title as one of the “Best new poetry collections for July” saying it “throws convention and familiarity overboard and asks us to consider what remains. The work mixes salty humor, invigorating rhythms and sharp-edged wisdom.”

Marilyn Hacker, A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2014 (W. W. Norton)

Reviewed by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and starred by Library Journal. Lambda Literary says the collection “demonstrates Hacker’s continued formal mastery; she effortlessly spins one sonnet into two, then three, then seven, leaving readers always breathless for more.”

Terrance Hayes, How to Be Drawn (Penguin)

Reviewed by Booklist, Library Journal, and starred by Publishers Weekly. NPR says Hayes is “A vital voice that explores race and art and the roving power of language … [his] fifth book is slippery with riddles … full of puns and fake outs, leads and dodges, all encased in muscular music.”

Jane Hirshfield, The Beauty (RH/Knopf)

The only book on the list to receive two starred reviews, from Booklist and Publishers Weekly (LJ also reviewed)., Hirshfield was interviewed in March on NPR. As an introduction they called her “one of our country’s most celebrated poets. She’s been a Guggenheim fellow [and] The Academy of American Poets bestowed her a fellowship for her “distinguished poetic achievement,” an honor shared with Robert Frost and Ezra Pound.”

Robin Coste Lewis, Voyage of the Sable Venus (RH/Knopf)

The trade reviews did not cover Lewis but that does not mean libraries do not know her. The Los Angeles Public Library featured her in a program with last year’s NBA poetry finalist Claudia Rankine, saying Lewis “lyrically catalogs representations of the black figure in the fine arts.”

Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions)

Starred by Library Journal and reviewed by Publishers Weekly, LJ says “Generous of heart, intricate and accessible, the poems in this book are wondrous and deeply moving.” The editors of the Tahoma Literary Journal agree, saying “Limón’s playful language is coupled with a tendency to flow, almost dreamily, into dark content—she moves seamlessly from spiders in the magnolia tree and zucchini in the kitchen to a woman floating dead in a water tank.”

Patrick Phillips, Elegy for a Broken Machine (RH/Knopf)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly. An interview in storySouth opens with this description of Phillips writing: “You write in what one might call a plain style. Your language is straightforward, uncomplicated. Your tone is always level, even quiet. Your lines are taut, stanzas sparse. And your subject matter is realistic, accessible. Yet the accumulative effect of your poems is astonishing. Their art, it would seem, is concealed in plain view.”

Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Heaven (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviewed Phillips with PW making his collection one of their “PW Picks: Books of the Week, June 15, 2015.”  It was also one of The Washington Post‘s picks of “Best new poetry collections for July” along with Scattered at Sea.

Lawrence Raab, Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts (Tupelo Press)

Booklist reviewed Rabb, calling his most recent volume “A wonderful, mature, sweeping collection.” His book What We Don’t Know About Each Other was also a finalist for the NBA in 1993.