The time has come again for us to prepare for the winners of the National Book Awards, but first we have to know who is on the longlist. The National Book Awards started in 1936 and through a long history of both awards and name changes, in 1987 was settled back into the National Book Award, given by the National Book Foundation. In addition to celebrating the “best” of American literature in the past year, they also celebrate a lifetime achievement award, given to such authors in the recent past as Don Delilo, Ursula LeGuin, Joan Didion, Adrian Rich, and so on.
The awards are generally given to authors who remain under the current of bestsellers, generally are lesser known, and yet write exciting and powerful prose. Some are established authors, like Colson Whitehead, Paulette Jiles, Lydia Millet, and Chris Bachelder. In the case of Jacqueline Woodson, an accomplished author already, the first adult novel she had written in 20 years won the NBA for Young Peoples’ Literature in 2014 and Brad Watson, also in a similar boat, was nominated in 2002 for The Heaven of Mercury. While for others like Karan Mahajan, Elizabeth McKenzie, and Adam Haslett, this is an honor that has come early in their writing careers, only having authored less a handful of books. And for Garth Greenwell, this is his first published book, quite a literary feat to have it be nominated for such an award.
The fiction longlist is always an exciting way to dive into both current and older authors who you might have missed and this year has some powerful authors and books on the list. Without further waiting here is the 2016 Longlist for the National Book Awards in Fiction:
1. The Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder
A startling look at the middle-aged man that is bound to make you both laugh and (almost) understand. Bachelder is able to turn a story of a football play gone wrong into a quest to understand each other and the rituals we all perform.
2. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
A breath-taking read on gender identity and the struggles in trying to both conform, and be ourselves. What Belongs to You displays our own abilities to take advantage of people, in the quest to find ourselves. A must-read.
3. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Haslett has created a story that realistically details the essence of what keeps families together, no matter how great the struggle may be. By throwing in humor and describing the pains and processes that come with growing up, Haslett makes us appreciate our family for all they do and are.
4. News of the World by Paulette Jiles
A story of how one widowed man grows to learn and bond with a young orphan whom he was entrusted to deliver to unknown relatives. A story that details our continuing abilities to grow and trust, even in the face of a harsh world.
5. The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
A novel that captures a family and a world torn apart through multiple bombings. Told with multiple stories, this is an important book to read.
6. The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
A look in the mirror, The Portable Veblen is a look at modern day life and the multiple binaries we are placed in. A true discussion of old money and new money, war, love, and how we manage to stay alive in the midst of it all.
7. Sweet Lamb of Heaven by Lydia Millet
Sweet Lamb of Heaven is a psychological, can’t stop reading book that has a strong female lead and and a not so faithful husband. A portrait of the depths of insanity, Millet somehow places us in an alternate mindset.
8. Miss Jane by Brad Watson
This novel, set in early twentieth century Mississippi, follows Miss Jane Chisolm, a woman who was left barren and therefore left without her proper functions. The book has a remarkable message in Chisolm’s ability to find beauty and energy in all that surrounds her.
9. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Set in the pre-Civil War era, Whitehead captures the intensity, the emotions, and the struggles that came with being a slave, while trying to escape through the Underground Railroad. A harrowing attempt at freedom, this book is bound to make you feel.
10. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
This book examines the feelings and fleeting memories of leaving your childhood behind and becoming an adult. Captivating and alluring, Another Brooklyn beautifully follows the roller-coaster of growing up and not knowing what exactly to expect.
Which book(s) have you read from this list? Which do you think will win?
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