The National Book Awards Well-Deserved Wins and Upsets
Here's who took home the trophies—expected or not.
Last night at the National Book Awards dinner, the results were a mixture of well-deserved wins (Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoir Between the World and Me) and a bit of an upset: Adam Johnson for his collection of short stories Fortune Smiles.
Though a Pulitzer-prize winning novelist (The Orphan Master's Son) securing the National Book Award might not seem like shocker, many had commented on the 13 out of 20 nominees this year being women (finally) and had hoped that a female writer would take home the prize for fiction. Alas, Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, one of the most critically-acclaimed novels of the year, did not take home the statue. Neither did Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, another favorite.
However, Coates’s excellent memoir on his experience of race in America, was certainly a shoe-in for the non-fiction category. The award for Young People’s Literature went to Challenger Deep, a novel inspired by author Neal Schusterman’s son, and the poetry award went to Robin Coste Lewis for her collection Voyage of the Sable Venus.
The National Book Awards are a decidedly swanky event. The 700-guest dinner was held at Manhattan’s Ciprani on Wall Street. Don DeLillo, who won the National Book Award for his novel White Noise in 1985, was given the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. The novelist James Patterson received the Literarian Award, given in thanks for “outstanding service to the literary community.” Apparently Mr. Patterson, whose work has sold over 300 copies, has donated $2.75 million to independent bookstores and school libraries. Commenting on his mass-market appeal in a room filled with literati, Patterson said his presence was “like a Big Mac at Ciprani.”