Books Honored by the National Book Awards

National Book Award Medals

The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America. Since 1996, independent panels of five writers have chosen the National Book Award winners in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.

The first African-American writer to win a National Book Award was Ralph Ellison for Invisible Man.

Check Out AALBC’s Coverage of the National Book Awards:  20172016201520142013


3 Books Honored by the National Book Awards in 2013

Winner - Fiction

The Good Lord Bird
by James McBride




Publication Date:
List Price: $27.95 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: x432
ISBN13: 9781594486340
Imprint: Knopf
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC

Book Description: 

A 2013 National Book Award Winner!

Fleeing his violent master at the side of abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-nineteenth-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.

From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown's antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti and pro slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry's master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859--one of the great catalysts for the Civil War. An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.




Finalist - Poetry

The Big Smoke (Poets, Penguin)
by Adrian Matejka




Publication Date:
List Price: $18.00 (store prices may vary)
Format: Paperback
Classification: Poetry
Page Count: x128
ISBN13: 9780143123729
Imprint: Penguin Books
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC

Book Description: 
Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and the National Book Award in Poetry—a collection that examines the myth and history of the prizefighter Jack Johnson
The legendary Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved. Matejka’s book is part historic reclamation and part interrogation of Johnson’s complicated legacy, one that often misremembers the magnetic man behind the myth.


Longlist - Poetry

Bury My Clothes
by Roger Bonair-Agard




Publication Date:
List Price: $16.00 (store prices may vary)
Format: Paperback
Classification: Poetry
Page Count: x120
ISBN13: 9781608462698
Imprint: Haymarket Books
Publisher: Haymarket Books
Parent Company: Haymarket Books

Book Description: 
Bury My Clothes, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award for poetry, is a meditation on violence, race, and the place in art at which they intersect. Art?specifically in oppressed communities?is about survival, Roger Bonair-Agard asserts, and establishing personhood in a world that says you have none. Through poetry, we transform both the world of art and the world itself.

Roger Bonair-Agard is a Cave Canem fellow, two-time National Poetry Slam Champion, and author of Tarnish and Masquerade and Gully. He has appeared three times on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and is Co-founder and Artistic Director of the LouderARTS Project in New York.