The Book Industry's Academy Awards
The National Book Awards in the publishing industry are basically equivalent to Hollywood's Academy Awards, Tinseltown's annual fete recognizing excellence in filmmaking. While perhaps a lower-profile crowd, authors and publishers are no less covetous of having their books selected as winners.
According to the National Book Foundation, the nonprofit that gives out the awards, these are our nation's 'preeminent literary prizes' and the dinner ceremony honoring winners is 'the most important event on our literary calendar.'
Book Awards with Benefits
While recognition of books is certainly nice in its own right, other benefits accompany winning a National Book Award. Authors receive a $10,000 prize and a crystal statue, as well as the expectation of a big increase in book sales. For this reason, authors and publishers alike look forward to the day when they can add the gold medallion of the National Book Awards to their book covers.
Even titles that don't win but are finalists typically experience a bump in sales. Just as film aficionados must see all of the nominees for Best Picture before the Oscars, bookworms throughout the nation want to make sure they've read books in a favorite genre before the winners are announced.
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An Award Determined by Peers
National Book Awards are awarded in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature. Winning authors in these four areas are chosen by independent judging panels. These panels are typically made of fellow writers who have published works in the respective categories. In this sense, the National Book Awards are viewed as recognition from peers, rather than the reading public.
Winners of the National Book Awards will be announced on Wednesday, November 17th. Get together some of your closest book-loving friends for a viewing party, and don't forget to check out some of the book finalists before the big night.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 National Book Award Finalists:
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
C.D. 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