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National Book Awards finalists announced

Just a day after Richard Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize in London, the literary spotlight sweeps back to the United States for the announcement of the National Book Awards finalists.

This honored group includes some of the most critically acclaimed authors in America, such as Pulitzer Prize winners Marilynne Robinson and E.O. Wilson and former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück.

But it’s striking to note what luminaries were culled from last month’s longlist: Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley, former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand, National Book Award winner Richard Powers and MacArthur “genius” Edward Hirsch.

Instead, attention will shine on a young Marine who served in Iraq, a cartoonist at the New Yorker, the co-founder of a small literary press and a foreign correspondent, among others.

At the ceremony in New York on Nov. 19, $10,000 will be awarded to the winner in each category: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature. The finalists will receive $1,000 each.

The National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters will be presented to fantasy/sf writer Ursula K. Le Guin. The Literarian Award for Outstanding Contribution to the American Literary Community will be presented to Kyle Zimmer, co-founder of First Book, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that has delivered 100 million books to disadvantaged children. Daniel Handler, author of the darkly comic Lemony Snicket books, will be the host.

The finalists for the 2014 National Book Awards:


An Unnecessary Woman” (Grove), by Rabih Alameddine, a Lebanese American artist who lives in San Francisco and Beirut. His novel tells the story of a reclusive translator in Lebanon.

All the Light We Cannot See” (Scribner), by Anthony Doerr. This historical novel set during WWII has been on The Post’s bestseller list for months and appeared on The Post’s mid-year list of “10 books we love, so far.

Redeployment” (The Penguin Press), a debut collection of stories by Iraq War vet Phil Klay, who is one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 authors for 2014.

Station Eleven” (Knopf), by Emily St. John Mandel, a staff writer at the Millions. This post-apocalyptic novel about a flu epidemic is one of the very few sci-fi novels that have ever been finalists for the NBA.

Lila” (FSG), by Marilynne Robinson. This companion to “Gilead” and “Home,” which won a Pulitzer Prize, tells the story of Rev. Ames’s wife.

The fiction judges are Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists Geraldine Brooks and Adam Johnson, California bookseller Sheryl Cotleur, literary critic Michael Gorra and National Book Award-winning novelist Lily Tuck. They considered 417 submissions.


Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” (Bloomsbury), by Roz Chast, the first cartoonist to be a finalists in the Nonfiction category.

“No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes” (Metropolitan), by Anand Gopal, a foreign correspondent and a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” (Norton), by John Lahr, a former drama critic for the New Yorker and a Tony Award winner.

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China” (FSG), by Evan Osnos, a staff writer for the New Yorker and former Beijing bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune.

“The Meaning of Human Existence” (Liveright), by E.O. Wilson, the biologist who has won two Pulitzer Prizes.

The nonfiction judges are editor Robert Atwan, writer Gretel Ehrlich, Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Tom Reiss, former president of Brown University Ruth J. Simmons and two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Alan Taylor. They considered 495 submissions.

Young Adult Literature

“Threatened” (Scholastic), by Eliot Schrefer, who was an NBA finalist in 2012 for “Endangered.”

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights” (Roaring Brook), by Steve Sheinkin, who was an NBA finalist in 2012 for “Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” which was a Newbery Honor Book.

“Noggin” (Atheneum), by John Corey Whaley, who was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree for “Where Things Come Back” (2011).

Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book II” (Scholastic), by Deborah Wiles, who was an NBA finalist in 2005 for “Each Little Bird That Sings.”

Brown Girl Dreaming” (Nancy Paulsen), by Jacqueline Woodson, who was an NBA finalist in 2002 for “Hush” and in 2003 for “Locomotion.”

The YA judges are authors Sharon Draper, Sherri Smith and Rebecca Stead; librarian Starr LaTronica; and bookstore owner Dave Shallenberger. They considered 294 submissions.


“Faithful and Virtuous Night” (FSG), by Louise Glück, a former poet laureate of the United States and winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

“Second Childhood” (Graywolf), by Fanny Howe, who won the 2009 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.

“This Blue” (FSG), by Maureen N. McLane, a professor of English at New York Univeristy.

“The Feel Trio” (Letter Machine Editions), by Fred Moten, co-founder of the literary press Three Count Pour. Letter Machine Editions, in Tucson, was founded just seven years ago and has published only about a dozen books.

“Citizen: An American Lyric” (Graywolf), by Claudia Rankine, an English professor at Pomona College.

The poetry judges are poets Eileen Myles, Katie Peterson, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Paisley Rekdal and Robert Polito, who is president of the Poetry Foundation. They considered 219 submissions.

Books written by U.S. citizens and published in the United States from Dec. 1, 2013, to Nov. 30, 2014, are eligible for this year’s National Book Awards.