Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 National Book Award Finalists

FICTION

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.

Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. It is the 1960s, and Udayan—charismatic and impulsive—finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother’s political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family’s home, he goes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind—including those seared in the heart of his brother’s wife.

Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.

Other finalists...

  • Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers, Scribner/Simon & Schuster
  • James McBride, The Good Lord Bird, Riverhead Books/Penguin Group (USA)
  • Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge, The Penguin Press/Penguin Group (USA)
  • George Saunders, Tenth of December, Random House

NONFICTION

From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians, a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister and a history of history itself. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Unlike him, she was a mother of twelve.

Benjamin Franklin, who wrote more letters to his sister than he wrote to anyone else, was the original American self-made man; his sister spent her life caring for her children. They left very different traces behind. Making use of an amazing cache of little-studied material, including documents, objects, and portraits only just discovered, Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life in a way that illuminates not only this one woman but an entire world—a world usually lost to history. Lepore’s life of Jane Franklin, with its strikingly original vantage on her remarkable brother, is at once a wholly different account of the founding of the United States and one of the great untold stories of American history and letters: a life unknown.

Other finalists...

  • Wendy Lower, Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, W.W. Norton & Company
  • Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, Alfred A. Knopf/Random House

Visit the National Book Foundation for the finalist in the Poetry and Young People's Literature genres.

Sadly, David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing, which had been nominated in the YA genre, did not make the final list. Booooo.

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