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National Book Award for Fiction

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National Book Award for Fiction

National Book Award for Fiction
Awarded for Outstanding literary work by U.S. citizens.
Location New York City
First awarded 1950
Official website National Book Foundation

The National Book Award for Fiction is one of four annual National Book Awards, which recognize outstanding literary work by United States citizens. Since 1987 the awards have been administered and presented by the National Book Foundation, but they are awards "by writers to writers".[1] The panelists are five "writers who are known to be doing great work in their genre or field".[2]

General fiction was one of four categories when the awards were re-established in 1950. For several years beginning 1980, prior to the Foundation, there were multiple fiction categories: hardcover, paperback, first novel or first work of fiction; from 1981 to 1983 hardcover and paperback children's fiction; and only in 1980 five awards to mystery fiction, science fiction, and western fiction.[3] When the Foundation celebrated the 60th postwar awards in 2009, all but three of the 77 previous winners in fiction categories were in print.[4] The 77 included all eight 1980 winners but excluded the 1981 to 1983 children's fiction winners.[5]

The award recognizes one book written by a U.S. citizen and published in the U.S. from December 1 to November 30. The National Book Foundation accepts nominations from publishers until June 15, requires mailing nominated books to the panelists by August 1, and announces five finalists in October. The winner is announced on the day of the final ceremony in November. The award is $10,000 and a bronze sculpture; other finalists get $1000, a medal, and a citation written by the panel.[6]

There were 315 books nominated for the 2011 award in the fiction category.[7]

National Book Awards for Fiction

From 1935 to 1941 there were six annual awards for general fiction and the "Bookseller Discovery" or "Most Original Book" was sometimes a novel. From 1980 to 1985 there were six annual awards to first novels or first works of fiction. In 1980 there were five awards to mystery, western, or science fiction. There have been many awards to fiction in the Children's or Young People's categories.[8]

Finalists, general fiction

This list covers only the post-war awards (pre-war awards follow) to general fiction for adult readers: one annual winner from 1950 except two undifferentiated winners 1973 to 1975, dual hardcover and paperback winners 1980 to 1983.

For each award the winner is listed first followed by the runners up, currently (from 1987) four losing finalists.

1950 to 1959 [9]

Published 1949 to 1958

1950: Nelson AlgrenThe Man with the Golden Arm

No runners up were recognized. There were five honorable mentions in the non-fiction category only.[10][11]

1951: William FaulknerCollected Stories of William Faulkner

No runners up were recognized.[12]

1952: James JonesFrom Here to Eternity

1953: Ralph EllisonInvisible Man

1954: Saul BellowThe Adventures of Augie March

No runners up were recognized.[13]

1955: William FaulknerA Fable

1956: John O'HaraTen North Frederick

1957: Wright MorrisThe Field of Vision

1958: John CheeverThe Wapshot Chronicle

1959: Bernard MalamudThe Magic Barrel

1960 to 1969 [14]

Published 1959 to 1968

1960: Philip RothGoodbye, Columbus[15]

1961: Conrad RichterThe Waters of Kronos

1962: Walker PercyThe Moviegoer

1963: J. F. PowersMorte d'Urban

1964: John UpdikeThe Centaur

1965: Saul BellowHerzog

1966: Katherine Anne PorterThe Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

1967: Bernard MalamudThe Fixer

1968: Thornton WilderThe Eighth Day

1969: Jerzy KosinskiSteps

1970 to 1979 [16]

Published 1969 to 1978

1970: Joyce Carol Oatesthem

1971: Saul BellowMr. Sammler's Planet

1972: Flannery O'ConnorThe Complete Stories

The Complete Stories was named the "Best of the National Book Awards"[17] as part of the Fiction Award's 60th anniversary celebration in 2009, by internet visitors voting on a ballot of the best six award winners selected by writers associated with the Foundation.[18]

1973: John BarthChimera[19]

1973: John Edward WilliamsAugustus[20]

Split award.[1]

There were twelve winners in ten categories this year.[21]

1974: Thomas PynchonGravity's Rainbow[22]

1974: Isaac Bashevis SingerA Crown of Feathers and Other Stories[23]

Split award.[1] There were fourteen winners in ten categories this year.[24]

1975: Robert StoneDog Soldiers[25]

1975: Thomas WilliamsThe Hair of Harold Roux[26]

Split award.[1] There were twelve winners in ten categories this year.[27]

1976: William GaddisJ R

1977: Wallace StegnerThe Spectator Bird

1978: Mary Lee SettleBlood Tie

1979: Tim O'BrienGoing After Cacciato

1980 to 1989[28]

1980 to 1983 winners published 1979 to 1982.

For 1980 to 1983 this list covers the paired "Fiction (hardcover)" and "Fiction (paperback)" awards in that order. Hard and paper editions were distinguished only in these four years; none of the paperback winners were original; in their first editions all had been losing finalists in 1979 or 1981.

From 1980 to 1985 there was also one award for first novel or first work of fiction and in 1980 there were five more awards for mystery, western, and science fiction.[8] None of those are covered here.

1980 hardcover:[29] William StyronSophie's Choice

1980 paperback:[30] John IrvingThe World According to Garp
Paul BowlesCollected Stories
Gail GodwinViolet Clay
John UpdikeToo Far to Go
Marguerite YoungMiss MacIntosh, My Darling, Volumes 1 and 2

1981 hardcover:[31] Wright MorrisPlains Song: For Female Voices

1981 paperback:[32] John CheeverThe Stories of John Cheever
Thomas FlanaganThe Year of the French
Norman MailerThe Executioner's Song
Scott SpencerEndless Love
Herman WoukWar and Remembrance

1982 hardcover:[33] John UpdikeRabbit is Rich

1982 paperback:[34] William MaxwellSo Long, See You Tomorrow
E.L. DoctorowLoon Lake
Shirley HazzardThe Transit of Venus
Walker PercyThe Second Coming
[35] Alice WalkerThe Color Purple

1983 paperback:[36] Eudora WeltyThe Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
David BradleyThe Chaneysville Incident
Mary GordonThe Company of Women
Marilynne RobinsonHousekeeping
Robert StoneA Flag for Sunrise

1983 entries were published during 1982; winners in 27 categories were announced April 13 and privately celebrated April 28, 1983.[37]

1984 entries for the "revamped" awards in three categories were published November 1983 to October 1984; eleven finalists were announced October 17.[38] Winners were announced and celebrated November 15, 1984.[39]

1984: Ellen GilchristVictory Over Japan: A Book of Stories

1985: Don DeLilloWhite Noise

1986: E.L. DoctorowWorld's Fair

1987: Larry HeinemannPaco's Story

1988: Pete DexterParis Trout

1989: John CaseySpartina

1990 to 1999[40]

Published 1990 to 1999

1990: Charles JohnsonMiddle Passage

1991: Norman RushMating

1992: Cormac McCarthyAll the Pretty Horses

1993: E. Annie ProulxThe Shipping News

1994: William GaddisA Frolic of His Own

1995: Philip RothSabbath's Theater

1996: Andrea BarrettShip Fever and Other Stories

1997: Charles FrazierCold Mountain

1998: Alice McDermottCharming Billy

1999: Ha JinWaiting

2000 to 2009[41]

Published 2000 to 2009

2000: Susan SontagIn America

2001: Jonathan FranzenThe Corrections

2002: Julia GlassThree Junes

2003: Shirley HazzardThe Great Fire

2004: Lily TuckThe News from Paraguay

2005: William VollmannEurope Central

2006: Richard PowersThe Echo Maker

2007: Denis JohnsonTree of Smoke

2008: Peter MatthiessenShadow Country

2009: Colum McCannLet the Great World Spin

2010 to date[42]

Published during the award year.

2010: Jaimy GordonLord of Misrule

2011: Jesmyn WardSalvage the Bones

2012:[43] Louise ErdrichThe Round House[44][45]

2013:[46][47] James McBrideThe Good Lord Bird

2014:[48] Phil KlayRedeployment'[49]


Early awards for fiction

The National Book Awards for 1935 to 1940 annually recognized the "Most Distinguished Novel" or "Favorite Fiction" (one award). Furthermore, works of fiction were eligible for the "Bookseller Discovery" and "Most Original Book" (two awards); fiction winners are listed here. In 1937 and 1939 alone, The New York Times reported close seconds and runners up respectively.[50][51][52][53][54][55]

There was only one National Book Award for 1941, the Bookseller Discovery, which recognized a novel;[56] then none until their 1950 revival for 1949 books in three categories including Fiction.


1935:[50] Rachel Field, Time Out of Mind

1936:[51] Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind


1937:[52] A. J. Cronin, The Citadel

1938:[53] Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca

1939:[54] John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

1940:[55] Richard Llewellyn, How Green Was My Valley

Bookseller Discovery, 1936 to 1941
Works of fiction constituted four winners and the only other known finalists, 1937 and 1939.

1936:[51] Norah Lofts, I Met a Gypsy (short stories)

1937:[52] Lawrence Watkin, On Borrowed Time (novel)

1938: see nonfiction

1939:[54] Elgin Groseclose, Ararat (novel)

1940: see nonfiction

1941:[56] George Sessions Perry, Hold Autumn in Your Hand (novel)

Most Original Book, 1935 to 1939
Works of fiction constituted two winners and the only other known finalists, 1937 and 1939.

1935:[50] Charles G. Finney, The Circus of Dr. Lao (novel)

1936: see nonfiction

1937: see nonfiction

1938: see nonfiction

1939:[54] Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (novel)

Repeat winners

See Winners of multiple U.S. National Book Awards


  1. ^ a b c The Fiction panels split the 1973, 1974, and 1975 awards. Split awards have been prohibited continuously from 1984.
  2. ^ a b c d e Contemporary coverage by The New York Times lists four "close seconds" for the four awards, three of which were works of fiction. The third listed was nonfiction, but Nonfiction was the second listed award winner, so the allocation of "close seconds" to award categories is uncertain.


  1. ^ "History of the National Book Awards". National Book Foundation (NBF): About Us. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
  2. ^ "How the National Book Awards Work". NBF: Awards. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
  3. ^ "National Book Award Winners: 1950 – 2009". NBF: Awards. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
  4. ^ "A Celebration of the 60th National Book Awards" (2009 online poll). NBF: Awards: Best of the NBAs Fiction. Retrieved before 2011-10.
  5. ^ "79 Fiction Winners"60 Years of the National Book Awards – (2009). NBF: Awards: Best of the NBAs Fiction. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
  6. ^ "National Book Award Selection Process". NBF: Awards. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
  7. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". NBF: About Us. Retrieved 2014-08-28.
  8. ^ a b NBF: Awards: "National Book Award Winners: 1950 – 2009". Retrieved 2012-01-05.
  9. ^ "National Book Awards – 1950". NBF. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (Select 1950 to 1959 from the top left menu.)
  10. ^ 1950.
  11. ^ "Book Publishers Make 3 Awards: ... Gold Plaques", The New York Times, March 17, 1950, page 21. Available online by subscription, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
  12. ^ 1951.
    Having won the Nobel Prize for Literature fifteen months earlier, Faulkner reportedly said, "I could have written a cookbook this year and they would have given me the National Book Award."
  13. ^ 1954.
  14. ^ "National Book Awards – 1960". NBF. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (Select 1960 to 1969 from the top left menu.)
  15. ^ 1960.
    This was Roth's first published book.
  16. ^ "National Book Awards – 1970". NBF. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (Select 1970 to 1979 from the top left menu.)
  17. ^ Alice Elliott Dark, et al. "1972". 60 Years of Honoring Great American Books (book-a-day blog, later updated to identify this book as the winner) July 28, 2009. NBF. Retrieved 2012-01-25.
  18. ^ "A Celebration of the 60th National Book Awards" (2009 online poll). NBF: Awards: Best of the NBAs Fiction. Retrieved before 2012-01-25.
  19. ^ 1973 (one of two).
  20. ^ 1973 (one of two).
  21. ^ "2 Book Awards Split for First Time: ...", Eric Pace, The New York Times, Apr 11, 1973, page 38. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). (Alternative (pay for entire article): Retrieved 2012-01-25.)
  22. ^ 1974 (one of two).
  23. ^ 1974 (one of two).
  24. ^ "Books Presents Its Oscars: Audience Wonders", Steven R. Weismann, The New York Times, Apr 19, 1974, page 24. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007).
  25. ^ 1975 (one of two).
  26. ^ 1975 (one of two).
  27. ^ "The Last of the National Book Awards?", The Guest Word by William Cole, The New York Times, May 4, 1975, page 288. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007).
    • The Committee on Awards Policy, temporary administrator, "begged" judges not to split awards.
  28. ^ "National Book Awards – 1980". NBF. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (Select 1980 to 1989 from the top left menu.)
  29. ^ 1980 hardcover.
  30. ^ 1981 paperback.
  31. ^ 1981 hardcover.
  32. ^ 1981 paperback.
  33. ^ 1982 hardcover.
  34. ^ 1982 paperback.
  35. ^ 1983 hardcover.
  36. ^ 1983 paperback.
  37. ^ "American Book Awards Announced". Edwin McDowell. The New York Times, April 14, 1983, page C30. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007).
  38. ^ "11 Nominated for American Book Awards". By Edwin McDowell. The New York Times, October 18, 1984, page C25. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007).
  39. ^ "Three Writers Win Book Awards". The New York Times, November 16, 1984, page C32. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007).
  40. ^ "National Book Awards – 1990". NBF. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (Select 1990 to 1999 from the top left menu.)
  41. ^ "National Book Awards – 2000". NBF. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (Select 2000 to 2009 from the top left menu.)
  42. ^ "National Book Awards – 2010". NBF. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (Select 2010 or a later year from the top left menu.)
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ "2013 National Book Awards". NBF. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  47. ^ Julie Boseman, "Finalists for National Book Awards Announced", New York Times, October 16, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-16.
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ a b c "Lewis is Scornful of Radio Culture: Nothing Ever Will Replace the Old-Fashioned Book, He Tells Booksellers", The New York Times, 1936-05-12, page 25. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).
  51. ^ a b c "5 Honors Awarded on the Year's Books: Authors of Preferred Volumes Hailed at Luncheon of Booksellers Group", The New York Times, 1937-02-26, page 23. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).
  52. ^ a b c "Booksellers Give Prize to 'Citadel': Cronin's Work About Doctors Their Favorite--'Mme. Curie' Gets Non-Fiction Award TWO OTHERS WIN HONORS Fadiman Is 'Not Interested' in What Pulitzer Committee Thinks of Selections", The New York Times 1938-03-02, page 14. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).
  53. ^ a b "Book About Plants Receives Award: Dr. Fairchild's 'Garden' Work Cited by Booksellers", The New York Times 1939-02-15, page 20. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).
  54. ^ a b c d "1939 Book Awards Given by Critics: Elgin Groseclose's 'Ararat' is Picked as Work Which Failed to Get Due Recognition", The New York Times, 1940-02-14, page 25. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).
  55. ^ a b "Books and Authors", The New York Times, 1941-02-16, page BR12. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).
  56. ^ a b "Neglected Author Gets High Honor: 1941 Book Award Presented to George Perry for 'Hold Autumn In Your Hand'", The New York Times, 1942-02-11, page 18. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).

External links

  • The Contenders: 61 Years of National Book Award Fiction Finalists, special exhibit, June 2012. "Down Memory Lane With the National Book Awards (and Not Just the Winners), New York Times, June 22, 2012.
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