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Catching up with the National Book Awards

September 16, 2009 |  7:26 am


Have you read all the National Book Award-winning novels above? If, like me, you haven't -- and it might take some time to get through them all -- the National Book Foundation has been posting helpful mini-reviews and essays on all its winners to celebrate its 60th anniversary. By this time next week, it will have reached last year's winner ("Shadow Country" by Peter Matthiessen)  -- and then the fun begins.

Starting Monday, a shortlist of six favorites will be posted and opened to a monthlong public vote to select the Best of the National Book Awards. It's the first time such an honor has been given, and it follows in the spirit of last year's Best of the Booker -- which went to "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie -- awarded in celebration of 40 years of the Booker Prize.

Each Best of the National Book Awards voter will be entered in a sweepstakes to fly to the National Book Awards ceremony in New York on Nov. 18 -- an overnight hotel stay is included too. In addition to this year's winners, the book voted Best of the National Book Awards will be announced.

Once the six-book shortlist is announced, the dozens of other essays and reviews will become somewhat moot. But they're great reading, and a tour through the complete list will make you one erudite dinner party guest. "William Gaddis' 'JR' is the perfect novel for our new recession-driven world," you might drop, borrowing from Chad Post, or perhaps you'd note that Bernard Malamud could make more money selling a story to Esquire than teaching a semester-long creative writing class, but he taught creative writing anyway. No need to wait until there are only six: it's worth diving in now.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image credit: National Book Awards