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National Book Award

This article is for the National Book Award of the United 2 Current process
States. For other countries see National Book Awards
National Book Awards are currently given to one book
(author) annually in each of four categories: ction,
The National Book Awards are a set of annual U.S. nonction, poetry, and young peoples literature. There
literary awards.[1][2] At the nal National Book Awards have been awards in many other categories but they
Ceremony every November, the National Book Founda- have been retired or subsumed in the current four. The
tion presents the National Book Awards and two lifetime National Book Foundation also presents two lifetime
achievement awards each year: the Medal for Distinachievement awards to authors.
guished Contribution to American Letters and the LitThe National Book Awards were established in 1936 by
erarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American
the American Booksellers Association,
Literary Community.[9]
during World War II, and re-established by three book industry organizations in 1950. Non-U.S. authors and pub- Only publishers nominate books for the NBAs but panlishers were eligible for the pre-war awards. Now they elists may request particular nominations from publishare presented to U.S. authors for books published in the ers. Each panel comprises ve writers who are known to
be doing great work in their genre or eld[10] and publicUnited States roughly during the award year.
ity emphasizes awards by writers to writers in contrast
The nonprot National Book Foundation was established
to the 1980 to 1987 American Book Awards.[9]
in 1988 to administer and enhance the National Book
Awards and move beyond [them] into the elds of ed- Each panel considers hundreds of books each year in each
ucation and literacy, primarily by sponsoring public ap- of the four categories. Beginning with 2013, the Founpearances by writers.[5] Its mission is to celebrate the dation announced a longlist of 10 titles in each of the
best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to four categories in September (40 titles), followed by a
enhance the cultural value of good writing in America.[6] nalist list of 5 titles in October (20 titles), and then
the winners in November (4 titles).[11] Previous to 2013,
In 2010, there were 1,115 books nominated for the four
there was no longlist and only ve nalists per category
award categories, led by the Nonction category with 435
were announced in October. Panel chairs announce the
nominations. The 2011 ceremony was held on November
winners and present the awards at the National Book
16 in New York City.[7]
Awards Ceremony and Dinner held in New York City
each November. All nalists get $1,000, a medal, and a
citation written by the panel; winners gets $10,000 and a
bronze sculpture.[12]

Winners and nalists

List of winners of the National Book Award, winners only.[8]

3 History
3.1 Pre-war awards by booksellers

National Book Award for Fiction, winners and nalists.

The rst National Book Awards were presented in May

1936 at the annual convention of the American Book National Book Award for Nonction, winners and sellers Association, one month after The New York Times
reported institution of the new annual award. The winnalists.
ners were authors of four 1935 books selected by a vote
of ABA members. Virginia Kirkus chaired the cen National Book Award for Poetry, winners and naltral committee of seven including the ABA president,
three bookshops, Publishers Weekly, and American News
Company. Three were called the most distinguished
National Book Award for Young Peoples Literature, of 1935 (novel, biography, and general nonction) and
winners and nalists.
one the most original (novel).[3][4] Two of the books


were advertised by their publishers as The most distinguished autobiography of 1935 and The most distinguished general non-ction book of 1935 in NYTimes
on May 12, the same day that the newspaper reported
yesterdays awards.[lower-alpha 1]

would be recognized by three awards in March (at the annual convention?). There would be three distinct panels
of ve judges.[20]
That winter Harper placed several advertisements promoting the awards.

For the next six years, 1937 to 1942, the awards were rst annual NBA dinner of the book industry in the
announced mid-February to March 1 and evidently preWaldorf-Astoria Hotel on Thursday [March 16] with
sented at the May convention.[13][14][15][16][17][18]
speakers Senator Paul Douglas, Eleanor Roosevelt, and
The Most Distinguished Nonction, Biography, and Frederick Lewis Allen. A one-half hour program from
Novel (for 1935 and 1936)[3][4][13] were reduced to two the Awards Dinner, including Mrs. Roosevelts address,
and termed Favorite Nonction and Fiction beginning was broadcast locally at 9:30 and again at 10:00pm.[21]
1937. Master of ceremonies Clifton Fadiman declined to The awards were administered by the National Book
consider the Pulitzer Prizes (not yet announced in Febru- Committee from 1950 to 1974, when the Committee disary 1938) as potential ratications. Unlike the Pulitzer banded after publishers withdrew support.[22][23]
Prize committee, the booksellers merely vote for their favorite books. They do not say it is the best book or the In 1950 and 1967, at least, the prize sponsors were three
one that will elevate the standard of manhood or woman- book-industry organizations American Booksellers Assohood. Twenty years from now we can decide which are ciation, the American Book Publishers Council and the
the masterpieces. This year we can only decide which Book Manufacturers Institute.
books we enjoyed reading the most.
In 1973 NYTimes still called the National Book CommitThe Bookseller Discovery ocially recognized outstanding merit which failed to receive adequate sales
and recognition (quoted by NYT)[15] Finally that award
stood alone for 1941 and the New York Times frankly
called it a sort of consolation prize that the booksellers
hope will draw attention to his work.[18]

tee a nonprot funded by publishers and by organizations

involved in the book trade[24] A temporary Committee
on Awards Policy handled 1975.[23]

Authors and publishers outside the United States were eligible and there were several winners by non-U.S. authors
(at least Lofts, Curie, de Saint-Exupry, Du Maurier, and
Llewellyn). The Bookseller Discovery and the general
awards for ction and non-ction were conferred six times
in seven years, the Most Original Book ve times, and the
biography award in the rst two years only.

In 1964 Nonction was divided in three.[25]

The winning authors and books were selected by a nationwide poll of booksellers (ABA members); during the
1937/38 cycle, ballots were received from 319 stores,
triple the number who voted in the rst rendition early
in 1936.[14] In a 1941 advertisement, the Booksellers described the signicance of the awards thus:[19]
In eect, his ballot says, Of all the books
of the year these are the three I enjoyed most
in two ways! I enjoyed reading them; and
I enjoyed selling them. And that to a bookseller means people who, on his recommendation, read and enjoyed and sent in other people who also read and enjoyed. The National
Book Awards give you perhaps a greater guarantee of reading pleasure than any other literary prizes.


Reestablished by the book industry

3.3 New categories and split awards

The National Book Award for Translation was introduced

in 1967 and split between two books,[26] the rst split.[24]
Childrens literature was rst recognized as one of seven
categories in 1969.[27]
Two awards were split in 1973 for the rst time.[24]
Publishers dropped their support after 1974 and the National Book Committee was disbanded.[23] In 1975 the
temporary administrator begged judges not to split
Three of 27 awards were split in 1983[28] before the drastic cutback that also required selection of a single winner
in all three categories for 1984.[29][30]

3.4 American Book Awards

In 1980 the National Book Awards were canceled and
replaced by American Book Awards on the lm industry model (Oscars). It will be run almost exactly the
way the Academy Awards are run, a spokesman told
reporters.[31] There would be nearly 30 awards presented
in an extravagant TV-friendly ceremony, to winners selected by a standing academy of more than 2,000 people in the book industry.[31] Implementation was poor, the
episode a disaster.[31]

In January 1950 three book industry organizations an- Most new categories survived only one to four cycles,
nounced that works by Americans published here 1980 to 1983. There were seven awards categories in

1979, twenty-eight in 1980, nineteen in 1983 (plus graph- The xed number ve nalists was retained through
ics awards, see below), three in 1984.[32][33]
2012,[10] while the number of book categories has douPoetry in 1991 and Young
In 1983 there were 30 award winners in 27 categories in- bled with the addition of [8]
Beginning with 2013, the
cluding 14 categories of literary achievement in writing
be a longlist of 10
for adults; in turn, ve for hardcover editions, six for patitles
September (40 ti[28]
perback editions, and three general.
tles), followed by a nalist list of 5 titles in October (20
1983 awards categories (27)
titles), and then the winners in November (4 titles).[11]
8 for graphics: Pictorial Design, Typographical Design, Illustration Collected Art, Illustration Original 4 Annual eligibility
Art, Illustration Photographs, Cover Design, Jacket
Design[lower-alpha 2]
Currently a book must be published between December
1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current
5 for childrens literature: (Childrens) Fiction hard- year. Its publisher must complete a nomination by June
cover and paperback, Nonction, Picture Books 15 and mail copies to the panelists by August 1. The panhardcover and paperback
elists read all the valid nominees over the summer and
the panels compile shortlists in September.[10]
14 for adults literature: General Nonction hardcover and paperback, History hardcover and paper- The pre-war awards were announced in the winter, usuback, Biography hardcover and paperback, Science ally February, and described with reference to the year of
hardcover and paperback, Translation, Fiction hard- publication, if any; for example, National Book Awards
The 1950 to
cover and paperback, Poetry, First Novel, Original for 1939 announced February 1940.
1983 awards, as the National Book Foundation now laPaperback
bels them, were presented in the spring to works published during the preceding calendar year.[28][37] From
Late that year, the AAP Board voted to fund a new ver- 1984 the NBAs are presented in the fall, usually Novemsion of the Awards, which had been close to expiring ber, to books published roughly during the current calenfrom lack of support. At the time, AAP and Harper dar year (November to October, in 1984).[29] It appears
& Row president Brooks Thomas anticipated probably that books published in the rst ten months of 1983 were
fewer than ten categories, including some only for origi- never eligible.
nal paperbacks, not reprints. Edwin McDowell reported
that many book-industry ocials hope ... [to] rank in
importance with the $15,000 Booker McConnell Prize
5 Medal for Distinguished Contrifor Fiction" (British).[34]
For 1983 publications (January to October) there would
be no awards. A committee comprising American Book
Awards executive director Barbara Prete and four publishers designed the new and improved program, implemented fall 1984 for a publication year beginning
November 1983. They cut the roster to merely three
(Nonction, Fiction, and First Work of Fiction), moved
the ceremony from early spring to late fall, and redened
eligibility to require publication during the calendar year
of the awards (roughly, see Annual eligibility).[29] There
were only ction and nonction awards in 1986.[35]

bution (lifetime)

The Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters is a lifetime achievement award presented
by the Foundation at the nal ceremony for the Book
Awards. The medal comes with a cash prize of $10,000.
It recognizes someone who has enriched [American]
literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of

Five of the seventeen medalists through 2004 were

previous National Book Award winners (Bellow, Welty,
In 1987 the National award returned in name. Cover- McCullough, Updike, and Roth, all but McCullough for
ing the November ceremony, Edwin McDowell of The ction). Between 2005 and 2014, all of the medalists exNew York Times remarked upon the recurring changes cept Leonard have been previous National Book Award
in format and contrasted 1983 in particular, when there winners.
were 96 nalists in 27 awards categories (listed above).
The surviving awards for general Fiction and Nonction,
now with precisely ve nalists each, were administered 6 Literarian Award for Outstandby National Book Awards, Inc., whose Chairman of the
ing Service (lifetime)
Board was the president of Hearst Trade Book Group.
He declaimed that Book people are really not actors, and
theres a realization now that we should not try to reward The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the
American Literary Community is a lifetime achievethings like who did the best book blurb.[36]


ment award presented by the Foundation annually from

2005. It recognizes an individual for outstanding service to the American literary community, whose life and
work exemplify the goals of the National Book Foundation to expand the audience for literature and to enhance
the cultural value of literature in America.[43]


Man Booker Prize

Gelett Burgess Childrens Book Awards
Commonwealth Writers Prize
Prix Goncourt

2005: Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Costa Book Awards, formerly the Whitbread Book


2006: Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein

Governor Generals Award

2007: Terry Gross

Literary festival

2008: Barney Rosset

Innovations in Reading Prize

2009: Dave Eggers

9 Notes

2010: Joan Ganz Cooney

2011: Mitchell Kaplan
2012: Arthur Sulzberger Jr.


2013: Maya Angelou[45]

2014: Kyle Zimmer[46]
2015: James Patterson[47]


Laura Miller, writing in Salon (October 12, 2011), said

the ction award has become a Newbery Medal for adults:
Good for you whether you like it or not. She said the impression has arisen that already-successful titles are automatically sidelined in favor of books that the judges feel
deserve an extra boost of attention. the nominated books
[often] exhibit qualities a poetic prose style, elliptical or
fragmented storytelling that either dont matter much
to nonprofessional readers, or even put them o. She
claims the NBA has become irrelevant to average readers and of more interest to professional writers.[48] Craig
Fehrman, writing in The New York Times (October 28,
2011), said the National Book Awards [are] known for
this sort of thing. They're awards for insiders.[31]
In response to these criticisms, the award has been taking a tough look at itself, hiring a consultant to survey
industry insiders booksellers, editors and even critics
to see if the award process itself needs to be reformed to
attract more attention.[49]

See also
Pulitzer Prize
Nautilus Book Awards
American Book Awards

[1] Both on page 21: Vincent Sheeans autobiography Personal History advertised by Doubleday, Doran; Anne
Morrow Lindbergh's North to the Orient advertised by
Harcourt, Brace & Co.
By 1937/38, if not earlier, there would be National Book
Award Editions of some books.
[2] Only seven graphics awards are listed here, as in the contemporary source. Multiple sources say 27 and 19.

10 References
[1] National Book Award, Infoplease: Arts and Entertainment: Awards: Book, Magazine, Newspaper Awards. Infoplease.com. Retrieved before 2011-10.
[2] Seattles Egan wins National Book Award, Mary Ann
Gwynn, The Seattle Times, November 15, 2006. Retrieved before 2011-10.
[3] Books and Authors, The New York Times, 1936-04-12,
page BR12.
[4] Lewis is Scornful of Radio Culture: Nothing Ever Will
Replace the Old-Fashioned Book ..., The New York
Times, 1936-05-12, page 25.
[5] National Book Foundation: Awards: Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Retrieved before 201201-07.
[6] National Book Foundation: History of the National Book
Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
[7] National Book Foundation: About Us: Frequently Asked
Questions. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
[8] National Book Foundation: Awards: National Book
Award Winners: 1950 2009. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
[9] National Book Foundation: About Us: History of the
National Book Awards. Retrieved before 2011-10.
[10] National Book Foundation: Awards: How the National
Book Awards Work. Retrieved 2012-01-05.

[11] National Book Foundation Announces Changes in the

National Book Awards Review and Selection Process.
National Book Award. January 15, 2013. Retrieved
[12] National Book Foundation: Awards: National Book
Award Selection Process. Retrieved before 2011-10.
[13] 5 Honors Awarded on the Years Books: Authors of
Preferred Volumes Hailed at Luncheon of Booksellers
Group, The New York Times, 1937-02-26, page 23.
[14] Booksellers Give Prize to 'Citadel': Cronins Work About
Doctors Their Favorite--'Mme. Curie' Gets Non-Fiction
Interested' in What Pulitzer Committee Thinks of Selections, The New York Times 1938-03-02, page 14.
[15] Book About Plants Receives Award: Dr. Fairchilds
'Garden' Work Cited by Booksellers, The New York
Times 1939-02-15, page 20.
[16] 1939 Book Awards Given by Critics: Elgin Grosecloses
'Ararat' is Picked as Work Which Failed to Get Due
Recognition, The New York Times, 1940-02-14, page 25.
[17] Books and Authors, The New York Times, 1941-02-16,
page BR12.
[18] Neglected Author Gets High Honor: 1941 Book Award
Presented to George Perry for 'Hold Autumn In Your
Hand'", The New York Times, 1942-02-11, page 18.
[19] The Booksellers of America Announce Their National
Awards, The New York Times, February 23, 1941, page
More than half of the advertisement featured the three
prize books of 1937, announced earlier that month. The
Discovery of the Year sported a dust jacket with stylized
First Prize ribbon axed and the Novel was promoted
in its National Book Award Edition (also advertised ten
days earlier: February 13, 1941, page 17).
[20] Book Trade Plans to Honor Writers: Industry Will
Award Annual Prizes for Poetry, Fiction ..., The New
York Times, January 22, 1950, page 68.
[21] PROGRAMS ON THE AIR (radio), The New York
Times, March 16, 1950, page 46.
[22] Book Award Goes to 'La Vida'; 'The Fixer' Wins Fiction
Prize: 3 Others Will Be Honored at a Cerem[ony] ..., The
New York Times, March 5, 1967, page 39.
[23] The Last of the National Book Awards?" (The Guest
Word), William Cole, The New York Times, May 4, 1975,
page 288.
[24] 2 Book Awards Split for First Time, Eric Pace, The New
York Times, April 11, 1973. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
[25] National Book Awards 1964. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-31. Compare 1963 (via menu at
top of page).
[26] National Book Awards 1967. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-31. Compare 1966 (via menu at
top of page).

[27] National Book Awards 1969. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-31. Compare 1968 (via menu at
top of page).
[28] American Book Awards Announced, Edwin McDowell,
The New York Times, April 14, 1983, page C30.
[29] 11 Nominated for American Book Awards, Edwin McDowell, The New York Times, October 18, 1984, page
[30] Three Writers Win Book Awards. The New York Times,
November 16, 1984, page C32.
[31] The Short, Unsuccessful Life of the American Book
Awards, Craig Fehrman, The New York Times, October
28, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
[32] National Book Awards 1979. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-04.
[33] National Book Awards 1980. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-04. Compare 1983 and 1984
(via menu at top of page).
[34] Publishing: New Life for American Book Awards, Edwin McDowell, The New York Times, November 4, 1983,
page C28.
[35] National Book Awards - 1986. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
[36] An Upset at the Book Awards, Edwin McDowell, The
New York Times, November 10, 1987, page C13.
[37] Book Publishers Make 3 Awards: ... Gold Plaques, The
New York Times, March 17, 1950, page 21.
[38] Alison Flood (September 20, 2012). Elmore Leonard
to be honoured by National Book Foundation. The
Guardian. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
[39] Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, 2013.
Retrieved 2014-01-04.
[40] Baker, Je (September 9, 2014). Ursula K. Le Guin
wins big honor from National Book Foundation. oregonlive.com. Retrieved 2014-09-09.
[41] The 2014 Medalist For Distinguished Contribution To
American Letters. September 9, 2014.
[42] Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. National Book Foundation. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
[43] National Book Foundation: Awards: Literarian Award
2005. Retrieved before 2011-10.
[44] Leslie Kaufman (November 14, 2012). Novel About
Racial Injustice Wins National Book Award. The New
York Times. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
[45] The Literarian Award, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
[46] Literacy advocate Kyle Zimmer to receive honorary National Book Award. Yahoo! News. Associated Press.
September 3, 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-03.
[47] The Literarian Award, 2015. National Book Foundation. Retrieved November 20, 2015.


[48] How the National Book Awards made themselves irrelevant, Laura Miller, Salon, October 12, 2011. Retrieved
[49] Leslie Kaufman (November 11, 2012). Book Awards
Seek a Bigger Splash, Red Carpet and All. The New York
Times. Retrieved 2012-11-12.

The New York Times.
One historical source is microlm, in many library holdings. Another is ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (18512007). Another is the New York Times online.
ProQuest and NYTimes.com both oer subscription services that some libraries purchase.


External links

Ocial website National Book Foundation top

page for the N.B.Awards
Interview with 2002 National Book Award winner
Julia Glass
List of African American writers honored with a
National Book Award



Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


National Book Award Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Book_Award?oldid=715942600 Contributors: Peter Winnberg,

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