Everyone seems drawn to awards and prizes, so here for book lovers are the big works in fiction for 2015, just in time to put one or more your Christmas list.
Lifetime Achievement Honor
Don Delillo will receive the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters on November 18 in New York City at the 66th National Book Award ceremony. The award is give on the basis of Delillo’s “diverse body of work that examines the mores of contemporary modern American culture and brilliantly embeds the rhythms of everyday speech within a beautifully composed, contoured narrative.”
The 78-year-old Delillo hails from New York and says that “the kid from the Bronx is still crouching in a corner of my mind.” Delillo is most famous for his 1985 National Book Award-winning novel White Noise. Two of his other novels were finalists for the award: Libra and Underworld. White Noise won a spot in Time Magazine’s 110 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Delillo’s new book, Zero K, is scheduled to be published in May, 2016.
5 Under 35
If you’re on the lookout for new writers, add to your collection these books from the five honorees of the 2015 National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award:
- Angela Flournoy for The Turner House
- Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi for Fra Keeler
- Colin Barrett for Young Skins
- Tracy O’Neill for The Hopeful
Megan Kruse for Call Me Home
A celebration in honor of these five winners will kick off National Book Foundation week, November 16, which will be hosted by LeVar Burton.
MacArthur Genius Grant
Among the 24 lucky winners are three writers who will each receive $650,000 USD meted out over five years. They are Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the best-selling nonfiction book Between the World and Me; Ben Lerner, Brooklyn novelist, poet, and critic; and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and star of the Broadway musical hit “Hamilton.” The hefty prize money comes with no strings attached. The foundation’s managing director says, “They don’t have to report to us. They are to use the funds in any way they see fit.”
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The 2015 winner was awarded to Anthony Doerr for All the Light We Cannot See. The novel takes place during World War II and tells the stories of two young people, juxtaposed in alternating chapters. This book is beloved by many, leading me to believe I’m one of about two readers in the Western Hemisphere who didn’t care for it.
Man Booker Prize
The fortunate finalist who ultimately won is Marlon James for A Brief History of Seven Killings. James is the first Jamaican to win the 47-year-old prize. The 686-page, 75-character novel fictionalizes the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976. The New York Times calls it a “Tarantino remake of ‘The Harder They Come,’ but with a soundtrack by Bob Marley and a script by Oliver Stone and William Faulkner.” This is also the first Man Booker Prize for an independent publisher, Oneworld Publications.
Nobel Prize for Literature
This award took a surprise turn, though the gambling world gave Svetlana Alexievich the odds. “The Belarusian writer has transcended the format of journalism to develop a new literary genre that bears her trademark,” according to the Nobel Academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius. Danius recommends The Unwomanly Face of the War for first-time readers of Alexievich. (The book has been out of print since the 80s, but surely it will rapidly be put back into circulation. Voices of Chernobyl appears to be available though.) Previously, 13 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, starting with Selma Lagerlof in 1909. Doris Lessing, at age 88, holds the honor of being the oldest Nobel Laureate in Literature; there has been one laureate each from Latin America (poet Gabriela Mistral of Chile, 1945) and Canada (short-story author Alice Munro, 2013, and two from the U.S. (novelist Toni Morrison, 1993, and novelist Pearl Buck, 1938). The Nobel Prize, bestowed by Alfred Nobel, is awarded to “the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction.”
National Medal of Arts
Everyone’s favorite terror writer, Stephen King, received the National Medal of Arts award on September 10, 2015, from President Barack Obama and the First Lady in the East Room of the White House. The recipients of this award, which include Jhumpa Lahiri and Larry McMurtry, “have broadened our horizons and enriched our lives,” as well as “sparked our imagination, ignited our passion and transformed our cultural understanding,” according to the chairpersons of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities.
Known for its prepublication assessments, a Kirkus “star” is one of the most respected and coveted stars in the industry (in the manner of a Michelin star for restaurants). It also awards one of the largest prizes: $50,000. This year’s winner is Hanya Yanagihara for her novel A Little Life. Kirkus Reviews describes the style: “the phrase tour de force could have been invented for this audacious novel.” Claiborne Smith in an interview with the author earlier this year assures us that upon finishing the 720 pages you will feel worn out but wide awake, as you would upon completion of one of the 19th century Russian novels. Interestingly, this female author has given us four main male characters and one minor female in her “strange, moving novel.”
Kirkus named Ta-Nehisi Coates the winner of the Nonfiction Prize for his Between the World and Me: Notes on the First 150 Years in America. He surely walks away with award for most literary prizes won this year.