The National Book Awards were announced last night, and the winners include several BookPage favorites:
Jesmyn Ward won for her second novel, Salvage the Bones, which takes place during Hurricane Katrina. Carla Jean Whitley reviewed the novel in the September 2011 edition of BookPage, writing:
The fictional world Ward creates sings with the speech of uneducated but wise people without stepping into caricature dialect. Though the characters in Salvage the Bones face down Hurricane Katrina, the story isn’t really about the storm. It’s about people facing challenges, and how they band together to overcome adversity.
Stephen Greenblatt, best known for his Shakespeare biography, Will in the World, won the nonfiction prize for The Swerve: How the Modern World Became Modern—a book that tells the story of a long-lost manuscript that helped to inspire the Renaissance. In a review in the October 2011 issue of BookPage, Henry L. Carrigan wrote that "Greenblatt elegantly chronicles the history of discovery that brought Lucretius’ poem ["On the Nature of Things"] out of the musty shadows of obscurity into an early modern world ripe for his ideas."
BookPage also interviewed Greenblatt about The Swerve. Here's a preview of the Q&A:
At the center of your book is the Roman philosopher and poet Lucretius and his poem De Rerum Natura (“On the Nature of Things”). What led you to focus on this poem?
I’m fascinated by the fact that the great ancient speculations about the nature of the material world—the existence of atoms, the creation of the universe through random collisions, the absence of a providential design, the absurdity of any fear of the gods—were carried by a magnificent poem.
In the Young People's Literature category (remember the controversy??), Thanhha Lai won for Inside Out & Back Again, which BookPage reviewed in March 2011. Reviewer Robin Smith wrote that this autobiographical novel-in-verse "captures one year in the life of 10-year-old Kim Hà," which begins and ends with the first day of the Vietnamese lunar calendar in the 1970s. Smith writes:
Lai’s spare poetry, full of emotion and infused with humor, is accessible to young children and adults alike. This moving and beautifully told story is a must-read for anyone who works with children new to the country.
Finally, Nikky Finney won in the poetry category for Head Off & Split, a collection that sustains "sensitive and intense dialogue with emblematic figures and events in African-American life." (Read more on the National Book Foundation's website.)
Have you read any of the National Book Award winners? Do you have a favorite National Book Award winner? (Anyone who knows me well knows I have a super-soft spot for Three Junes, the surprise fiction winner of 2002!)