National Book Award

Summer Reading 2013 - National Book Award Winners

The Round House by Louise ErdrichThe Round House  
Erdrich, Louise
Call Number: FICTION ERDR
2012
When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, 14-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.
Salvage the Bones: a novel by Jesmyn WardSalvage the Bones: a novel  
Ward, Jesmyn
Call Number: FICTION WARD
2011
 Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups.
Lord of Misrule: a novel by Jaimy GordonLord of Misrule: a novel  
Gordon, Jaimy
Call Number: FICTION GORD
2010
"Lord of Misrule" is a darkly realistic novel about a young woman living through a year of horse racing at a half-mile track in West Virginia, while everyone's best laid schemes keep going brutally wrong. With her first novel since her acclaimed "Bogeywoman" (1999), Jaimy Gordon bears comparison to other great writers of the American demimonde, such as Nathanael West, Damon Runyon, and Eudora Welty.
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCannLet the Great World Spin  
McCann, Colum
Call Number: FICTION MCCA
2009
In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann's stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people. Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author's most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s. Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth. Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann's powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city's people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the "artistic crime of the century." A sweeping and radical social novel, Let the Great World Spin captures the spirit of America in a time of transition, extraordinary promise, and, in hindsight, heartbreaking innocence. Hailed as a "fiercely original talent" (San Francisco Chronicle), award-winning novelist McCann has delivered a triumphantly American masterpiece that awakens in us a sense of what the novel can achieve, confront, and even heal. From the Hardcover edition.
Shadow Country: a new rendering of the Watson legend by  Shadow Country: a new rendering of the Watson legend  
Call Number: FICTION MATT
2008
2008 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER Peter Matthiessen's great American epic-Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man's River, and Bone by Bone-was conceived as one vast mysterious novel, but because of its length it was originally broken up into three books. In this bold new rendering, Matthiessen has cut nearly a third of the overall text and collapsed the time frame while deepening the insights and motivations of his characters with brilliant rewriting throughout. In Shadow Country, he has marvelously distilled a monumental work, realizing his original vision. Inspired by a near-mythic event of the wild Florida frontier at the turn of the twentieth century, Shadow Country reimagines the legend of the inspired Everglades sugar planter and notorious outlaw E. J. Watson, who drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the hands of neighbors who mostly admired him, in a killing that obsessed his favorite son. Shadow Country traverses strange landscapes and frontier hinterlands inhabited by Americans of every provenance and color, including the black and Indian inheritors of the archaic racism that, as Watson's wife observed, "still casts its shadow over the nation." Peter Matthiessen's lyrical and illuminating work in the Watson narrative has been praised highly by such contemporaries as Saul Bellow, William Styron, and W. S. Merwin. Joseph Heller said "I read it in great gulps, up each night later than I wanted to be, in my hungry impatience to find out more and more." Praise for Shadow Country " Shadow Country is altogether gripping, shocking, and brilliantly told , not just a tour de force in its stylistic range, but a great American novel, as powerful a reading experience as nearly any in our literature. This magnificent, sad masterpiece about race, history, and defeated dreams can easily stand comparison with Ralph Ellison''s Invisible Man and Robert Penn Warren''s All the King''s Men . Little wonder, too, that parts of the story of E.J. Watson call up comparisons with Dostoevsky, Conrad, and, inevitably, Faulkner . In every way, Shadow Country is a bravura performance, at once history, fiction, and myth-as well as the capstone to the career of one of the most admired and admirable writers of our time ." -- The New York Review of Books "Magnificent and capacious.... I''ll just say right here that the book took my sleeve and like the ancient mariner would not let go. Matthiessen has made his three-part saga into a new thing.... Finally now we have these books welded like a bell, and with Watson''s song the last sound, all the elements fuse and resonate....a breathtaking saga." -- The Los Angeles Times " Gorgeously written and unfailingly compelling, Shadow Country is the exhilarating masterwork of [Matthiessen's] career, every bit as ambitious as Moby Dick ." -- National Geographic Adventure magazine "Peter Mattiessen consolidates his epic masterpiece of Florida -- and crafts something even better...[He] deserves credit for decades of meticulous research and obsessive details and soaring prose that converted the Watson legend into critically acclaimed literature....Anyone wanting an explanation for what happened to Florida can now find it in a single novel, a great American novel ." -- Miami Herald "Matthiessen is writing about one man''s life in Shadow Country , but he is also writing about the life of the nation over the course of half a century. Watson''s story is essentially the story of the American frontier, of the conquering of wild lands and people, and of what such empires cost.... Even among a body of work as magnificent as Matthiessen''s, this is his great book. " -- St. Petersburg Times " Shadow Country is a magnum opus . Matthiessen is meticulous in creating characters, lyrical in describing landscapes, and resolute in dissecting the values and costs that accompanied the development of this nation." -- Seattle Times "Shadow Country" is an ambitious, lasting, and meaningful work of literature that will not soon fade away. It is a testament to Mr. Matthiessen's integrity as an artist that he felt compelled to return to the Watson material to produce this work and satisfy his original vision....a multifaceted work that can be read variously or simultaneously as a psychological novel, a historical novel, a morality tale, a political allegory, or a mystery. -- East Hampton Star "Matthiessen's Watson trilogy is a touchstone of modern American literature ...this reworking...is remarkable....Where Watson was a magnificent character before, he comes across as nothing short of iconic here; it's difficult to find another figure in American literature so thoroughly and confincingly portrayed. " -- Publishers Weekly , starred review, Pick of the Week "Matthiessen has reinvigorated and rejoined the trilogy's novels...a mosaic about the life and lynch-mob death of a turn-of-the century Florida Everglades sugar planter and serial killer named E. J. Watson -- into the 900-plus-page Shadow Country . This is no mere repackaging: Four hundred pages were cut from the novels, previous background characters now tromp to the foreground, and the books' rangy, Faulknerian essence is rendered more digestible. Deliciously digestible , that is; this is a thick porterhouse of a novel ." -- Men's Journal "The fiction of Peter Matthiessen is the reason a lot of people in my generation decided to be writers. No doubt about it. SHADOW COUNTRY lives up to anyone''s highest expectations for great writing ." -- Richard Ford "Peter Matthiessen is a brilliantly gifted and ambitious writer, an inspired anatomist of the American mythos. His storytelling skills are prodigious and his rapport with his subject is remarkable." -- Joyce Carol Oates "Peter Matthiessen''s work, both in fiction and non-fiction, has become a unique achievement in his own generation and in American literature as a whole. Everything that he has written has been conveyed in his own clear, deeply informed, elegant and powerful prose. The Watson saga-in-the-round, to which he has devoted nearly thirty years, is his crowning achievement . SHADOW COUNTRY, his distillation of the earlier trilogy, is his transmutation of it to represent his original vision. It is the quintessence of his lifelong concerns, and a great legacy ." -- W.S. Merwin From the Hardcover edition.
Tree of Smoke by Denis JohnsonTree of Smoke  
Johnson, Denis
Call Number: FICTION JOHN
2007
 Once upon a time there was a war . . . and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That's me. This is the story of Skip Sands - spy-in-training, engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong - and the disasters that befall him thanks to his famous uncle, a war hero known in intelligence circles simply as the Colonel. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert into a war in which the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, and its gritty, sympatheticportraits of men and women desperate for an end to their loneliness, whether in sex or death or by the grace of God, this is a story like nothing in our literature. Tree of Smoke is Denis Johnson's first full-length novel in nine years, and his most gripping, beautiful, and powerful work to date. Tree of Smoke is the 2007 National Book Award Winner for Fiction.
The Echo Maker by Richard PowersThe Echo Maker  
Powers, Richard
Call Number: FICTION POWE
2006
Mark Schluter, who repairs machinery at a meat-processing plant, suffers a head injury that prevents him from recognizing his sister Karin; he believes that she is a look-alike sent to spy on him. Karin, who has spent her life trying to escape their small Nebraska town, returns to old lovers and habits she thought she'd renounced. Stung by Mark's rejection, she sends a desperate plea to an Oliver Sacks-like neurologist, Gerald Weber, whose popular books have suddenly come under critical attack, causing fissures in his public persona and his seemingly perfect marriage.
The News from Paraguay: a novel by Lily TuckThe News from Paraguay: a novel  
Tuck, Lily
Call Number: FICTION TUCK
2004
For him it began with a bright blue parrot feather that fell from Ella Lynchs hat when she was horseback riding in the Bois de Boulogne. The year was 1854, and Francisco Solano Lopez -- "Franco," the future dictator of Paraguay -- began his courtship of the young, beautiful Irishwoman with a poncho, a Paraguayan band, and a horse named Mathilde. From Paris, Ella Lynch follows Franco to Asuncion, where she reigns as his mistress. Isolated and estranged in this new world, she embraces her lovers ill-fated dream -- one fueled by outsize imperial ambition and heedless arrogance, and with devastating consequences for Paraguay and all its inhabitants. A historical epic that tells an unusual love story, The News from Paraguay offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of nineteenth-century Paraguay, a largely untouched wilderness where Europeans and North Americans intermingle with both the old Spanish aristocracy and native Guarani Indians. The urgency of the narrative, the imaginative richness of its intimate detail, and the wealth of characters whose stories are skillfully layered and unfolded recall the epic novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. The News from Paraguay captures the devastating havoc wrought on both a countrys fate and a womans heart by ruthless ambition and war.
In America: a novel by Susan SontagIn America: a novel  
Sontag, Susan
Call Number: FICTION
"In America" is Susan Sontag's bold, brilliant bestselling novel -- a kaleidoscopic portrait of America on the cusp of modernity. As she did in her enormously popular novel The Volcano Lover; Sontag casts a story located in the past in a fresh, provocative light to create a fictional world full of contemporary resonance. In 1876 a group of Poles led by Maryna Zalezowska, Poland's greatest actress, emigrate to the United States and travel to California to found a "utopian commune". When the commune fails, Maryna stays, learns English, and -- as Marina Zalenska -- forges a new, even more triumphant career on the American stage, becoming a diva on par with Sara Bernhardt. Operatic in the scope and intensity of the emotions it depicts, richly detailed and visionary in its account of America, and peopled with unforgettable characters, In America is Susan Sontag's largest, most astonishing achievement.
The Corrections by  The Corrections  
Call Number: FICTION
2001
Winner of the 2001 National Book Award for Fiction Nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award An American Library Association Notable Book Jonathan Franzen's third novel, The Corrections , is a great work of art and a grandly entertaining overture to our new century: a bold, comic, tragic, deeply moving family drama that stretches from the Midwest at mid-century to Wall Street and Eastern Europe in the age of greed and globalism. Franzen brings an old-time America of freight trains and civic duty, of Cub Scouts and Christmas cookies and sexual inhibitions, into brilliant collision with the modern absurdities of brain science, home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental healthcare, and the anti-gravity New Economy. With The Corrections , Franzen emerges as one of our premier interpreters of American society and the American soul.Enid Lambert is terribly, terribly anxious. Although she would never admit it to her neighbors or her three grown children, her husband, Alfred, is losing his grip on reality. Maybe it's the medication that Alfred takes for his Parkinson's disease, or maybe it's his negative attitude, but he spends his days brooding in the basement and committing shadowy, unspeakable acts. More and more often, he doesn't seem to understand a word Enid says.Trouble is also brewing in the lives of Enid's children. Her older son, Gary, a banker in Philadelphia, has turned cruel and materialistic and is trying to force his parents out of their old house and into a tiny apartment. The middle child, Chip, has suddenly and for no good reason quit his exciting job as a professor at D - - - College and moved to New York City, where he seems to be pursuing a "transgressive" lifestyle and writing some sort of screenplay. Meanwhile the baby of the family,Denise, has escaped her disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man - or so Gary hints.Enid, who loves to have fun, can still look forward to a final family Christmas and to the ten-day Nordic Pleasurelines Luxury Fall Color Cruise that she and Alfred are about to embark on. But even these few remaining joys are threatened by her husband's growing confusion and unsteadiness. As Alfred enters his final decline, the Lamberts must face the failures, secrets, and long-buried hurts that haunt them as a family if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs.
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