The NBA finalists & my disappointment

It never fails. I’m always disheartened by the list of National Book Award fiction finalists. Rarely have I read all of them, and some years I don’t even recognize them.  This year is no exception.  

I’ve read two of the 20 finalists in the four categories announced earlier today:

  • One is Lark & Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, a novel I panned, citing too much atmosphere and character development and not enough connected drama. It’s on the fiction list. 
  • The other is Stitches, the extraordinary graphic memoir by David Small that I wrote about on TLC. It’s on the Young People’s list.  (I’m thinking the publishers submitted it in this category because, as a graphic childhood memoir, it had more of a chance here than in non-fiction.) 

Along with feeling disheartened, I also usually have no desire to rush out and read the fiction I’ve missed. I’m not sure what this annual lack of excitement is all about. Despite its return this year, I’ve decided to jump in and read two of the fiction nominees — American Salvage and Let the Great World Spin — and one poetry book, Speak Low, prior to the award announcement date, November 18.  

Visit the National Book Foundation’s site to get descriptions and more information about all 20 finalists. I’ve listed them here for quick reference:

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin
Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips
Far North by Marcel Theroux

Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook by David M. Carroll
Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species by Sean B. Carroll
Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin
The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy by Adrienne Mayor
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles

Versed by Rae Armantrout
Or to Begin Again by Ann Lauterbach
Speak Low by Carl Phillips
Open Interval by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy by Keith Waldrop

Young People’s Literature:
Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman 
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
Stitches by David Small
Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia