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2009 National Book Awards - 60th Anniversary Celebration

Winners Announced at Gala Awards Dinner November 18th
The 20 Finalists for the 2009 National Book Awards were announced on October 14, 2009, representing a diverse group of authors of varied background, writing style, setting, and theme. Judges recognized both well-known and lesser-known writers, including one debut fiction writer, three previous National Book Award Finalists, and only the second graphic novel chosen as a Finalist in the Awards’ history.

Giving the Fiction list an international flavor, inalists include Daniyal Mueenuddin, who splits his time between the United States and Pakistan, the Irish-born writer Colum McCann, and Marcel Theroux, who was born in Uganda, lives in London, and is the son of 1981 and 1983 National Book Award Finalist Paul Theroux. This is the third nomination for poet Carl Phillips, a Finalist in 1998 and 2004, the second for poet Keith Waldrop, a Finalist in 1969, and the second for Young People’s Literature author Phillip Hoose, a Finalist in 2001.

The nonfiction list includes biographies of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Mithradates and two books on the natural environment. For its Young People's Literature list, the judges broke with fiction’s recent dominance by selecting two nonfiction books, the autobiographical graphic novel Stitches, and two works of fiction.

The winners in each category – Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature – were announced at the 60th National Book Awards Benefit Dinner and Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on Wednesday, November 18. Each winner received $10,000 and a bronze statue; each Finalist received a bronze medal and $1,000.

Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin was the big fiction winner. Read an excerpt.

See complete results at the National Book Awards website.

About 640 attendees (down slightly from last year) paid up to $12,000 per table. Satirist, comedian, and actor Andy Borowitz emceed the event.

Gore Vidal received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by actress Joanne Woodward. The Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Contribution to the American Literary Community went to Dave Eggers, presented by
novelist Samantha Hunt.

In her coverage of the event for The New York Times, Motoko Rich said, "Perhaps the most moving moment of the night came with the presentation of the award for Young People’s Literature, which went to Phillip Hoose for Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, a biography of Ms. Colvin, who as an African-American teenager in 1950s Montgomery, Ala., refused to give up her seat on a bus nine months before Rosa Parks took the same stand."

"Mr. Hoose brought Ms. Colvin onto the stage to accept the award. 'My job was to pull someone who was about to disappear under history’s rug,' he said."

The only independently published winner was the award for poetry, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, by Keith Waldrop, and published by University of California Press.