Friday, November 20, 2009

National Book Award winners

The National Book Award finalists have been narrowed down even more precisely - to the winners. The full list can be found here. And an observation: what long titles all the winners have. It makes it difficult to quote the whole list...

But in all seriousness, finally an award I can comment on. I've read the winning "Let the Great World Spin" and while I thought it was interesting and good (certainly very well written), I wasn't blown away. The book is like a collection of short stories except that the stories eventually connect to form a larger tale. A great tactic, sure, but there were too many stories. The book felt overly long and at times the connections were kind of pointless. That was my opinion, at least.

Should this have been the winning pick? I haven't read the other finalists (making it a little difficult to judge...), but I can't shake off the feeling that "Let the Great World Spin" doesn't deserve such honor. It's a good book; it isn't great. It seems like the award-givers wanted their audience to be pleased with the choice, rather than giving the audience a new and wonderful book choice. Perhaps it's just that it's been a very long time since I've read a book that later won an award. Perhaps it's my personal bias or an issue with my own taste. Either way, the judges have picked a well-written, interesting, and recommendable book for the fiction category (and most likely, equally [or better...] picks in the other categories as well).

Congratulations to all winners: McCann, Stiles, Waldrop, and Hoose.


  1. Well, chances are I won't read the McCann book anyway, as I tend not to read all that much contemporary fiction, so it's good to know it may not be all that great!

  2. I still want to read it. Sorry you weren't crazy about it.

  3. I saw the list and am interested to see what I will think of the winners. I like your comment about the committee not necessarily selecting a new and wonderful book to present to an audience, but choosing something the audience would be pleased with. There's a fine distinction there in terms of who needs to work harder - I like being handed a book for its internal merits and then trying to see if I can understand or appreciate them.

  4. It's sad to hear that you don't think this book deserved to win. I haven't read it, but I often feel that way about prize winners. They should make us the judges - we'd chose the best ones, not the ones the public would like us to chose!


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