This week’s surprise book announcements

Two major literary awards –the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award — announced some unexpected results this week.

On Tuesday, Man Booker judges gave the coveted British award to 68-year-old Howard Jacobson for The Finkler Question. It’s the first comic novel to win the Man Booker since the inception of the prize 42 years ago. While many believe the award for Jacobson has been long in coming, The Finkler Question didn’t get as much “predicted winner” buzz as did Emma Donoghue’s Room and Tom McCarthy’s C.  

On Wednesday, the National Book Foundation listed its 20 finalists for the 2010 National Book Awards (NBA), and guess who’s missing among the fiction finalists? “National Book Awards Snub Jonathan Franzen,” reports the Guardian

Author Pat Conroy announced the Freedom-less 20 finalists in Flannery O’Connor’s Savannah, Georgia, childhood home. They include so many books I haven’t read, which is my big sigh every year when the finalists are announced. But that’s the beauty of the National Book Award selections: They’re unpredictable, bringing to the forefront impressive books deserving a wider audience. Last year, Bonnie Jo Campbell’s story collection American Salvage published by Wayne State University Press rose into the literary limelight as an NBA fiction candidate. This year, Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel about Asian-Americans published by Coffee House Press, I Hotel, similarly rises.

Here is the full list of 2010 National Book Award finalists in the four categories. Two of the books aren’t available yet: James Richardson’s By the Numbers is set for publication November 1, and Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule is to be published November 15. Unless the publishing houses release them earlier, the reading public doesn’t have access to them until a few days before the winner is announced, which will be November 17.

Peter Carey, Parrot and Olivier in America
Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule
Nicole Krauss, Great House
Lionel Shriver, So Much for That
Karen Tei Yamashita, I Hotel

Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
John W. Dower, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq
Patti Smith, Just Kids
Justin Spring, Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward
Megan K. Stack, Every Man in This Village Is a Liar: An Education in War

Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City
Terrance Hayes, Lighthead
James Richardson, By the Numbers
CD Wright, One With Others
Monica Youn, Ignatz

Young people’s literature
Paolo Bacigalupi, Ship Breaker
Kathryn Erskine, Mockingbird
Laura McNeal, Dark Water
Walter Dean Myers, Lockdown
Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer