November 14, 2016

Betting on books: National Book Award contenders for adult fiction and nonfiction

As my colleague Rebecca writes about in her post on the young people's literature category, the National Book Award winners will be announced on November 16, 2016. The adult finalists comprise a diverse group in terms of style and subject matter, yet all invite us to think and read deeply. The National Book Awards are one of the over 1000 awards we track here at NoveList.


Underground Railroad coverThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Winner!)

Colson Whitehead never writes the same book twice. Here he uses magical realism to explore the legacy of slavery in the United States, reimagining the Underground Railroad as a literal subterranean rail network.

Read-alike: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride


Another Brooklyn coverAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

This lyrical coming-of-age story follows a quartet of four African-American girls, documenting how their friendship evolves as they navigate the tricky terrain between childhood and adolescence.

Read-alike: Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones


Association of Small Bombs coverThe Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

This thought-provoking novel starts with a bang – literally – as it traces the intertwined fates of two families whose lives are forever transformed by a bombing in 1996 Delhi, India.

Read-alike: All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu


Throwback Special coverThe Throwback Special by Chris Bachelder

The rituals of masculinity and male bonding drive this slyly satirical novel about middle-aged football fans who gather each year to reenact a 1985 NFL game.

Read-alike: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach


News of the World coverNews of the World by Paulette Giles

Set in 1870, this character-driven novel follows a Civil War veteran as he escorts a 10-year-old girl, a “redeemed captive” of the Kiowa, to her relatives in Texas.

Read-alike: Bohemian Girl by Terese Svoboda




Strangers in their Own Land book coverStrangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

In this thoughtful book, Berkeley-based sociologist Hochschild spends five years in conservative Lake Charles, LA, documenting the United States’ widening cultural divide.

Read-alikes: (for this title) The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer; (for this author) Barbara Ehrenreich, especially Nickel and Dimed)


Nothing Ever Dies book coverNothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War by Viet Thanh Nguyen 

Following on the heels of the author's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer, the thought-provoking Nothing Ever Dies examines the profound psychological impact of the Vietnam War on combatants and civilians, in Vietnam and in the United States.

Read-alikes: The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars by Andrew X. Pham; Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey by G.B. Tran


Blood in the Water book coverBlood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson

This sobering account of an infamous 1971 prison riot chronicles not only the event itself, but its lasting effects on the criminal justice system and the implications of mass incarceration on the issue of civil rights.

Read-alike: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander


Stamped from the Beginning book coverStamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (Winner!)

Race has always been, and continues to be, a defining aspect of American life and culture. This impassioned history traces the roots of white supremacy back to the nation’s founding.

Read-alike: White Rage by Carol Anderson


The Other Slavery book coverThe Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez

As unpalatable as the notion may be, the United States would not exist in its current form without the institution of slavery. This eye-opening, often disturbing account examines the enslavement of America’s indigenous peoples by European colonists from the 15th through the 19th centuries.

Read-alike: Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America by Christina Snyder

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