Judges for the National Book Award for nonfiction consider a wide world of subjects, but this year’s longlist of 10 finalists is heavily concentrated on works about America — and particularly American history.
Among the titles announced this morning for the $10,000 prize are a history of Florida, two about the history of American slavery, a biography of Benjamin Franklin’s sister, and a work of cultural analysis subtitled “An Inner History of the New America.” Three additional titles also focus on distinctly American subjects.
Regardless of who eventually takes home the prize on Nov. 20, the New Yorker can claim a remarkable three spots among the finalists: Jill Lepore, George Packer and Lawrence Wright are all staff writers, a striking indication of the magazine’s influence on American publishing.
Aside from the authors not nominated, the unhappiest group in America this morning might be the Church of Scientology, which will have to contend (again) with renewed publicity for Wright’s devastating exposé, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief.”
Here is the complete longlist for this year’s nonfiction prize:
T.D. Allman, “Finding Florida: The True Story of the Sunshine State” (Atlantic Monthly).
Gretel Ehrlich, “Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami” (Pantheon).
Scott C. Johnson, “The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA” (Norton). Reviewed here.
Jill Lepore, “Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin” (Forthcoming from Knopf on Oct. 1).
Wendy Lower, “Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields” (Forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Oct. 8).
James Oakes, “Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865″ (Norton). Reviewed here.
George Packer, “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America” (Farrar Straus Giroux). Reviewed here.
Alan Taylor, “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832″ (Norton).
Terry Teachout, “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington” (Forthcoming from Gotham on Oct. 17).
Lawrence Wright, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief” (Knopf). Reviewed here.
Former Book World deputy editor Jabari Asim is one of the five nonfiction judges this year, along with André Bernard, vice president and secretary of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; M.G. Lord, who teaches at the University of Southern California; and Lauren Redniss, who was a finalist for National Book Award in nonfiction in 2011 for “Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout.” Eric Sundquist, who teaches at Johns Hopkins University, is serving as chair of the committee.
These five judges considered a staggering 517 submissions in the nonfiction category.
The longlist for the fiction category will be announced on Thursday. The longlist for the prize in young people’s literature was released on Monday; the poetry list was announced on Tuesday.
All these longlists will be narrowed to five finalists in each category on Oct. 16. The winners will be announced on Nov. 20 in New York.