2011 National Book Award Finalists Announced

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John Lithgow

John Lithgow to announce winners at Nov. 16 ceremony.

The National Book Foundation announced the twenty-one finalists for the National Book Awards, perhaps the most prestigious of the major American literary prizes.

There are five finalists in each of three categories: fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. There are six finalists in Young People's literature after the Foundation inadverntly added an extra book. Rather than remove one, the Foundation decided to break its own rules and stick with six.  Among the notable nominees in fiction are The Tiger’s Wife, the debut novel by Tea Obrecht who was featured on the New Yorker’s “20 under 40” list, and Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones about a fractured family facing down Hurricane Katrina.

In non-fiction the sentimental favorite might be Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, since Marable passed away just days before publication. The non-fiction nominees also include the first graphic novel ever to make the list: Radioactive by Lauren Redniss. Overall, female finalists outnumber men 12 to 8.

Two small presses are among the five fiction finalists. The awards will be presented Nov. 16 in New York City at a ceremony hosted by comedian John Lithgow. Winners receive $10,000.

The full list of nominees below:


Andrew Krivak, The Sojourn (Bellevue Literary Press)

Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife (Random House)

Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House)

Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision (Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington)

Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury USA)


Deborah Baker, The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism (Graywolf Press)

Mary Gabriel, Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (Little, Brown and Company)

Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (W. W. Norton & Company)

Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention(Viking Press, an imprint of Penguin Group USA)

Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout (It Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)


Franny Billingsley, Chime (Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, Inc. )

Debby Dahl Edwardson, My Name Is Not Easy (Marshall Cavendish)

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)

Albert Marrin, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy

(Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)

Lauren Myracle, Shine (Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS)

Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


Nikky Finney, Head Off & Split (TriQuarterly, an imprint of Northwestern University Press)

Yusef Komunyakaa, The Chameleon Couch (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Carl Phillips, Double Shadow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Adrienne Rich, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 (W.W. Norton & Company)

Bruce Smith, Devotions (University of Chicago Press)